Cover art for podcast Stoic Meditations

Stoic Meditations

1089 EpisodesProduced by Massimo PigliucciWebsite

Occasional reflections on the wisdom of Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers with Prof. Massimo Pigliucci. Complete index by author and source at https://philosophyasawayoflife.blog/stoic-podcast/. (cover art by Marek Škrabák; original music by Ian Jolin-Rasmussen). Support this podcast: https://anc… read more

1089 Episodes | 2017 - 2022

1089. Of insults and logic

August 16th, 2022

3:05

Whenever anyone criticizes or wrongs you, remember that they are only doing or saying what they think is right. They cannot be guided by your views, only their own; so if their views are wrong, they are the ones who …

1088. Wrong priorities

August 15th, 2022

2:28

As you are careful when you walk not to step on a nail or turn your ankle, so you should take care not to do any injury to your character at the same …

1087. Conversation and company

August 12th, 2022

2:49

When you’re called upon to speak, then speak, but never about banalities like gladiators, horses, sports, food and drink – common-place stuff. Above all don’t gossip about people, praising, blaming or comparing them. …

1086. Grief and loss

August 11th, 2022

2:20

When somebody’s wife or child dies, to a man we all routinely say, ‘Well, that’s part of life.’ But if one of our own family is involved, then right …

1085. Money

August 10th, 2022

2:17

If I can make money while remaining honest, trustworthy and dignified, show me how and I will do it. But if you expect me to sacrifice my own values, just so you can get your hands on things that aren’t even good – …

1084. On insults

August 9th, 2022

2:18

Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, …

1083. Do not groan inwardly

August 8th, 2022

2:42

When you see anyone weeping for grief, either that his son has gone abroad or that he has suffered in his affairs, take care not to be overcome by the apparent evil, but discriminate and be ready to say, "What hurts …

1082. The fundamental tradeoff

August 5th, 2022

2:30

You have to realize, it isn’t easy to keep your will in agreement with nature, as well as externals. Caring about the one inevitably means you are going to shortchange the other.

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1081. Your reservoir of virtues

August 4th, 2022

2:46

Provoked by the sight of a handsome man or a beautiful woman, you will discover within you the contrary power of self-restraint. Faced with pain, you …

1080. The path to peace

August 3rd, 2022

2:38

Don’t hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace.

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1079. The use of impressions

August 2nd, 2022

2:37

What quality belongs to you? The intelligent use of impressions. If you use impressions as nature prescribes, go ahead and indulge your pride, …

1078. Facts vs value judgments

August 1st, 2022

2:42

It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them.

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1077. You should always have two goals in mind

July 28th, 2022

2:46

When you’re about to embark on any action, remind yourself what kind of action it is. If you’re going out to take a bath, set before your mind the things that happen at the baths, that people splash you, that people …

1076. Remember, we are all mortals

July 27th, 2022

2:38

If you kiss your child or your wife, say to yourself that it is a human being that you're kissing; and then, if one of them should die, you won't be …

1075. Question your impressions

July 26th, 2022

2:33

So make a practice at once of saying to every strong impression: ‘An impression is all you are, not the source of the impression.’ Then test and assess it with your criteria, but one primarily: ask, ‘Is this something …

1074. The fundamental rule of life

July 25th, 2022

4:26

Some things are up to us, while others are not. Up to us are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not up to us are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a …

1073. Virtue is the only good

July 22nd, 2022

3:02

Despise poverty; no man lives as poor as he was born: despise pain; either it will cease or you will cease: despise death; it either ends you or takes you elsewhere: despise fortune; I have given her no weapon that can …

1072. What Nature has given us

July 21st, 2022

2:49

I have placed every good thing within your own breasts: it is your good fortune not to need any good fortune. Yet many things befall you which are …

1071. The Stoic deterministic universe

July 20th, 2022

3:04

The fates guide us, and the length of every person’s days is decided at the first hour of their birth: every cause depends upon some earlier cause: one long chain of destiny decides all things, public or private. …

1070. We should seek out life's challenges

July 19th, 2022

2:52

To be always prosperous, and to pass through life without a twinge of mental distress, is to remain ignorant of one half of nature. You are a great human being; but how am I to know it, if fortune gives you no …

1069. It doesn't matter what you bear, but how you bear it

July 18th, 2022

2:39

Good people ought to act so as not to fear troubles and difficulties, nor to lament their hard fate, to take in good part whatever befalls them, and …

1068. No evil can befall a good person

June 17th, 2022

3:17

The pressure of adversity does not affect the mind of a brave person; for the mind of someone brave maintains its balance and throws its own …

1067. The Stoic argument from design

June 16th, 2022

3:14

Seneca presents an argument from design to conclude that the universe is rationally and providentially arranged, just like Cleanthes, Chrysippus, and Cicero had done before him, and like Epictetus will do afterwards. Of …

1066. Stoic R&R

June 15th, 2022

3:53

It does good also to take walks out of doors, that our spirits may be raised and refreshed by the open air and fresh breeze. Sometimes we gain strength by driving in a carriage, by travel, by change of air, or by social …

1065. Democritus vs Heraclitus

June 14th, 2022

2:51

We ought therefore to bring ourselves into such a state of mind that all the vices of the vulgar may not appear hateful to us, but merely ridiculous, …

1064. Stoic non-attachment

June 13th, 2022

2:33

Zeno, the chief of our school, when he heard the news of a shipwreck, in which all his property had been lost, remarked, “Fortune bids me follow …

1063. The reserve clause

May 31st, 2022

2:49

He who does many things often puts himself in Fortune’s power, and it is safest not to tempt her often, but always to remember her existence, and never to promise oneself anything on her security. I will set sail unless …

1062. The problem with busyness

May 30th, 2022

2:51

We must limit the running to and fro which most people practice, rambling about houses, theaters, and marketplaces. They mind other peoples’ business, and always seem as though they themselves had something to do. If …

1061. What do we labor for?

May 27th, 2022

2:25

The next point to these will be to take care that we do not labour for what is vain, or labour in vain: that is to say, neither to desire what we are not able to obtain, nor yet, having obtained our desire too late, and …

1060. The premeditatio malorum

May 26th, 2022

3:10

For by looking forward to everything which can happen as though it would happen to us, we take the sting out of all evils, which can make no …

1059. It's a matter of attitude

May 25th, 2022

2:32

In every station of life you will find amusements, relaxations, and enjoyments; that is, provided you be willing to make light of evils rather than to hate them.

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1058. How many books? How many authors?

May 24th, 2022

2:43

What is the use of possessing numberless books and libraries, whose titles their owner can hardly read through in a lifetime? A student is over-whelmed by such a mass, not instructed, and it is much better to devote …

1057. The real value of things

May 23rd, 2022

2:31

Let us accustom ourselves to set aside mere outward show, and to measure things by their uses, not by their ornamental trappings.

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1056. Whereby Seneca praises Diogenes

May 20th, 2022

2:44

The best amount of property to have is that which is enough to keep us from poverty, and which yet is not far removed from it.

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1055. The problem with too much wealth

May 19th, 2022

2:41

If you compare all the other ills from which we suffer—deaths, sicknesses, fears, regrets, endurance of pains and labors—with those miseries which our money inflicts upon us, the latter will far outweigh all the others.

1054. Be careful the company you keep

May 18th, 2022

2:40

We should choose for our friends those who are, as far as possible, free from strong desires: for vices are contagious, and pass from someone to …

1053. What we do is a preferred indifferent, how we do it is not

May 17th, 2022

2:36

No good is done by forcing one’s mind to engage in uncongenial work: it is vain to struggle against Nature.

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1052. Careful about what and why you commit yourself to

May 16th, 2022

2:39

We ought first to examine our own selves, next the business which we propose to transact, next those for whose sake or in whose company we transact it.

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1051. Consider how much or how little you can do

May 6th, 2022

2:18

We ought therefore, to expand or contract ourselves according as the state of things presents itself to us, or as Fortune offers us opportunities.

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1050. Be a good citizen

May 5th, 2022

2:33

The services of a good citizen are never thrown away: he does good by being heard and seen, by his expression, his gestures, his silent determination, and his very walk.

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1049. Wisdom and age

May 4th, 2022

2:11

Often a man who is very old in years has nothing beyond his age by which he can prove that he has lived a long time.

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1048. Serving the cosmopolis

May 3rd, 2022

2:38

Seneca explains that there are many ways to help improve the human cosmopolis: one can be a candidate for public office, a defense lawyer, or a …

1047. A very good question

May 2nd, 2022

2:14

How long are we to go on doing the same thing?

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1046. Don't flee from yourself

April 28th, 2022

2:24

Hence men undertake aimless wanderings and travel along distant shores, trying to soothe that fickleness of disposition which always is dissatisfied with the present. As Lucretius says: “Thus every mortal from himself …

1045. Is tranquillity of mind really a good thing?

April 27th, 2022

2:49

What you desire, to be undisturbed, is a great thing, nay, the greatest thing of all, and one which raises a man almost to the level of a god.

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1044. On public service

April 26th, 2022

2:51

I will obey the maxims of our school and plunge into public life, not because the purple robe attracts me, but in order that I may be able to be of …

1043. Seneca's life style

April 25th, 2022

3:19

Seneca explains that he prefers simple cloths and easily prepared food, not the kind that "goes out of the body by the same path by which it came in."

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1042. Chrysippus' cylinder

April 22nd, 2022

3:00

Cicero introduces Chrysippus' example of a rolling cylinder as an analogy for the inner workings of the human will. This results in a defense of …

1041. The three basic positions on free will

April 21st, 2022

2:55

Cicero explains that the Greco-Romans were divided on free will along three possible positions, which turn out to be the very same that still characterize the modern debate on the subject.

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1040. Carneades on free will

April 20th, 2022

2:57

Cicero presents Carneades' response to Chrysippus' argument about free will and determinism. Though interesting, this time it is the Skeptics who got it wrong and the Stoics who are on target.

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1039. Co-causality

April 19th, 2022

2:50

Cicero explains Chrysippus' theory of co-causality, which plays a crucial role in his rejection of the so-called lazy argument concerning free will.

1038. The lazy argument

April 15th, 2022

3:03

Cicero summarizes the so-called lazy argument about the nature of faith, explaining why it doesn't make any sense. Fate, according to the Stoics, just is the universal web of causes and effects.

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1037. Self-caused free will?

April 14th, 2022

2:17

No external cause need be sought to explain the voluntary movements of the mind; for voluntary motion possesses the intrinsic property of being in …

1036. The Epicurean swerve

April 13th, 2022

2:54

Cicero nails the Epicureans for their ad hoc theory of the so-called swerve, a sudden lateral movement of atoms meant to preserve the notion of free will in an otherwise mechanistic universe.

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1035. Different kinds of causality?

April 12th, 2022

3:33

Is the fact that Carneades went to the Academy on a given day the result of necessary causes determined from the beginning of time, or of local …

1034. On free will: Chrysippus vs Cicero

April 11th, 2022

3:01

For it does not follow that if differences in people’s propensities are due to natural and antecedent causes, therefore our wills and desires are …

1033. Ethics and morality are the same thing

April 8th, 2022

2:24

Because it relates to character, called in Greek ethos, we usually term that part of philosophy ‘the study of character.’ But the suitable course is to add to the Latin language by giving this subject the name of ‘moral …

1032. On magnanimity

April 7th, 2022

2:18

It is no proof of a great mind to give and to throw away one’s bounty; the true test of a great mind is to throw away one’s bounty and still to give.

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1031. The importance of memory

April 6th, 2022

2:55

Consider within yourself, whether you have always shown gratitude to those to whom you owe it, whether no one’s kindness has ever been wasted upon you, whether you constantly bear in mind all the benefits which you have …

1030. Socrates' cloak

April 5th, 2022

2:35

Seneca tells the story of when Socrates asked his friends for money to buy a cloak, and reminds us of our duty to bestow benefits on our friends before they even ask.

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1029. The problem with being ultra-wealthy

April 4th, 2022

3:10

Wretched is he who can take pleasure in the size of the audit book of his estate, in great tracts of land cultivated by slaves in chains, in huge …

1028. Useful vs leisure knowledge

April 1st, 2022

3:02

There is nothing which is hard to discover except those things by which we gain nothing beyond the credit of having discovered them. Whatever things tend to make us better or happier are either obvious or easily …

1027. Memorize reminders to be ready to act

March 31st, 2022

3:17

The cynic Demetrius had an admirable saying about this, that one gained more by having a few wise precepts ready and in common use, than by learning many without having them at hand.

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1026. Gratitude irrespective of reputation

March 30th, 2022

2:26

You do wrong if you are grateful only for the sake of your reputation, and not to satisfy your conscience.

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1025. A long list of dangerous fools

March 29th, 2022

3:58

Do you not see how powerful people are driven to ruin by the want of candor among their friends, whose loyalty has degenerated into slavish …

1024. Some things are worth much more than the asking price

March 28th, 2022

3:06

Some things are of greater value than the price which we pay for them. You buy of a physician life and good health, the value of which cannot be estimated in money; from a teacher you buy the education of a gentleman …

1023. You don't own anything

March 25th, 2022

3:00

That which you esteem so highly, that by which you think that you are made rich and powerful, owns but the shabby title of “house” or “money;” but …

1022. Ungrateful politicians

March 24th, 2022

2:32

Seneca discusses the widespread ingratitude of politicians toward their country and fellow citizens. Which raises the obvious question: why is it so …

1021. Sick stomach, sick mind

March 23rd, 2022

2:50

Just as the stomach, when disordered by disease, turns every kind of sustenance into a source of pain, so whatever you entrust to an ill-regulated …

1020. Instinctive vs conscious actions

March 22nd, 2022

2:25

A benefit is a voluntary act, but to do good to oneself is an instinctive one.

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1019. Diogenes and Alexander

March 21st, 2022

2:14

Diogenes was far more powerful, far richer even than Alexander, who then possessed everything; for there was more that Diogenes could refuse to …

1018. The reserve clause

March 18th, 2022

2:35

The wise person begins everything with the saving clause, “If nothing shall occur to the contrary.”

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1017. Seneca, the Skeptic?

March 17th, 2022

2:32

We proceed in the way in which reason, not absolute truth, directs us.

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1016. Of sages and torture

March 16th, 2022

3:10

A good conscience is of value on the rack.

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1015. The two fundamental human strengths

March 15th, 2022

2:41

While all other animals have sufficient strength to protect themselves, man is covered by a soft skin, has no powerful teeth or claws with which to …

1014. Even bad people appreciate virtue

March 14th, 2022

2:45

Nature bestows upon us all this immense advantage, that the light of virtue shines into the minds of all alike; even those who do not follow her, …

1013. The duty to help others and the providential nature of the universe

March 11th, 2022

2:54

Seneca makes an argument that we have a duty to help others based on the providential nature of the universe. But the universe does not have a providential nature. Fortunately, there is a way to rescue Seneca's …

1012. God = Nature = Fate = Cause & Effect

March 10th, 2022

2:48

If you were to call God Fate, you would not lie; for since fate is nothing more than a connected chain of causes, he is the first cause of all upon …

1011. Two criticisms of Seneca

March 9th, 2022

2:54

Seneca, though he acknowledges that women are perfectly capable of virtue, characterizes Epicureans as "effeminate." And in today's passage he comes across as far more critical of Epicurus than he is usually regarded to …

1009. On slavery

March 7th, 2022

2:47

Whereby Seneca displays a bit too casual of an attitude toward slavery, a particular instance of a broader problem for Stoicism when it comes to …

1008. No deadline for gratefulness

March 4th, 2022

2:13

No day is appointed for repayment of a benefit, as there is for borrowed money; consequently he who has not yet repaid a benefit may do so hereafter: for tell me, pray, within what time a person is to be declared …

1007. Virtue and the law

February 28th, 2022

2:43

Seneca explains why it makes no sense to pass laws to enforce virtuous behavior, such as some modern laws against marital infidelity.

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1006. Contentedness vs ambition

February 25th, 2022

2:17

Being always intent upon new objects of desire, we think, not of what we have, but of what we are striving to obtain. Those whose mind is fixed entirely upon what they hope to gain, regard with contempt all that is …

1005. Should we complain to the gods?

February 24th, 2022

2:53

They call the gods neglectful of us because we have not been given health which even our vices cannot destroy.

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1004. The sources of ingratitude

February 23rd, 2022

2:46

Ingratitude is caused by excessive self-esteem, by that fault innate in all mortals, of taking a partial view of ourselves and our own acts, by …

1003. When we should decline a benefit to help a friend

February 22nd, 2022

2:38

Someone may be a worthy person for me to receive a benefit from, but it will hurt them to give it. For this reason I will not receive it, because they are ready to help me to their own prejudice, or even danger.

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1002. Benefits should be freely received

February 21st, 2022

2:44

No one incurs any obligation by receiving what it was not in his power to refuse; if you want to know whether I wish to take it, arrange matters so that I have the power of saying ‘No.’

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1001. Sometimes the right thing to do is to say no

February 18th, 2022

2:47

As we refuse cold water to the sick, or swords to the grief-stricken or remorseful, so must we persist in refusing to give anything whatever that is …

1000. Be an anonymous benefactor

February 17th, 2022

2:22

You should be satisfied with the approval of your own conscience; if not, you do not really delight in doing good, but in being seen to do good.

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999. Don't let generosity degenerate into extravagance

February 16th, 2022

2:46

Since no impulse of the human mind can be approved of, even though it springs from a right feeling, unless it be made into a virtue by discretion, I …

998. A hierarchy of needs and benefits

February 15th, 2022

2:45

The next point to be defined is, what kind of benefits are to be given, and in what manner. First let us give what is necessary, next what is useful, …

997. Do we make moral progress?

February 14th, 2022

2:35

Our ancestors before us have lamented, and our children after us will lament, as we do, the ruin of morality, the prevalence of vice, and the gradual deterioration of mankind; yet these things are really stationary.

996. Why are you doing what you are doing?

February 11th, 2022

2:46

Seneca reminds us that virtue ethics is about motivations and the improvement of one's character, not just about material help, as much as the latter may be needed.

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995. It is the thought that counts

February 10th, 2022

2:23

What value has the crown in itself? or the purple-bordered robe? or the judgment-seat and car of triumph? None of these things is in itself an honour, but is an emblem of honour.

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994. The many forms of benefits

February 9th, 2022

2:10

Do not grow weary, perform your duty, and act as becomes a good person. Help one with money, another with credit, another with your favor; this one with good advice, that one with sound maxims.

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993. The book-keeping of benefits is simple

February 8th, 2022

2:44

The book-keeping of benefits is simple: it is all expenditure; if any one returns it, that is clear gain; if he does not return it, it is not lost, I gave it for the sake of giving.

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992. Good deeds, or their fruits?

February 7th, 2022

2:18

It is the property of a great and good mind to covet, not the fruit of good deeds, but good deeds themselves.

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991. The right attitude for gift giving

February 4th, 2022

2:21

Let us bestow benefits, not put them out at interest.

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990. The importance of benefits

February 3rd, 2022

2:42

Among the numerous faults of those who pass their lives recklessly and without due reflexion, I should say that there is hardly any one so hurtful to …

989. The story of Marcus Atilius Regulus

February 2nd, 2022

3:14

Marcus Atilius Regulus in his second consulship was taken prisoner in Africa by the stratagem of Xanthippus, a Spartan general serving under the …

988. Apply the rule! What follows?

February 1st, 2022

2:37

Pray, tell me, does it coincide with the character of your good person to lie for their own profit, to slander, to overreach, to deceive? Nay, verily; anything but that!

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987. Let's hear it from Chrysippus

January 31st, 2022

3:01

“When a man enters the foot-race,” says Chrysippus with his usual aptness, “it is his duty to put forth all his strength and strive with all his might to win; but he ought never with his foot to trip, or with his hand …

986. What are we born for?

January 28th, 2022

3:23

Cicero presents the Stoic argument that we are born to be virtuous, meaning prosocial. The Epicureans thought we are born to seek pleasure and avoid pain. They both had a point.

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985. The axioms of your ethics

January 27th, 2022

2:53

Cicero explains that ethical reasoning is akin to mathematics: it begins with certain axioms that are taken for granted. Which axioms does your ethical thinking assume to be true?

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984. How to treat so-called foreigners

January 26th, 2022

2:30

Those who say that regard should be had for the rights of fellow-citizens, but not of foreigners, would destroy the universal brotherhood of mankind.

983. Justice is instrumental to good living

January 25th, 2022

2:40

Injustice is fatal to social life and fellowship between people. For, if we are so disposed that each, to gain some personal profit, will defraud or injure his neighbor, then the bonds of human society must of necessity …

982. Tyrannicide and friendship

January 24th, 2022

3:02

If your friend were a tyrant, would you kill him? That is the situation that Brutus faced with respect to Caesar, and which Cicero analyzes in this …

981. Socratic vs ataraxic schools

January 21st, 2022

3:16

There were, broadly speaking, two major clusters of Hellenistic philosophies: the Socratic ones and, for lack of a better term, the ataraxic ones. Let's take a look at the differences.

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980. The conflict between virtue and benefits

January 20th, 2022

2:47

Whether moral goodness is the only good, as the Stoics believe, or whether, as the Peripatetics think, it is the highest of many goods, it is beyond question that expediency can never conflict with moral rectitude.

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979. Self-seeking politicians

January 19th, 2022

2:35

But the chief thing in all public administration and public service is to avoid even the slightest suspicion of self-seeking. For to exploit the state for selfish profit is not only immoral; it is criminal, infamous.

978. We must apologize for our offenses

January 18th, 2022

2:59

We must apologize also, to the best of our ability, if we have involuntarily hurt anyone’s feelings, and we must by future services and kind offices …

977. The duty to help the poor

January 17th, 2022

2:40

Relieving the poor is a form of charity that is a service to the state as well as to the individual.

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976. Political theory, not just virtue

January 13th, 2022

2:47

The reason for making constitutional laws was the same as that for making kings. For what people have always sought is equality of rights before the …

975. Virtue and human society

January 12th, 2022

3:04

Think of the aqueducts, canals, irrigation works, breakwaters, artificial harbors; how should we have these without the work of people?

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974. The morally right vs the expedient

January 11th, 2022

3:05

It is nowadays accepted that a thing may be morally right without being expedient, and expedient without being morally right. No more pernicious …

973. Dogmatists vs Skeptics

January 10th, 2022

3:03

As other schools maintain that some things are certain, others uncertain, we, differing with them, say that some things are probable, others …

972. Philosophy, the most useful pursuit

January 5th, 2022

2:53

And if someone lives who would belittle the study of philosophy, I quite fail to see what in the world they would see fit to praise.

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971. If you can't do politics, do philosophy

January 3rd, 2022

2:47

And since my mind could not be wholly idle, I thought that the most honourable way for me to forget my sorrows would be by turning to philosophy.

970. Practical duties

December 28th, 2021

2:43

If wisdom is the most important of the virtues, as it certainly is, it necessarily follows that that duty which is connected with the social …

969. The virtue of temperance

December 24th, 2021

2:26

Moderation is the science of doing the right thing at the right time.

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968. Making important decisions early in life

December 22nd, 2021

2:44

We are called to make important decisions about our life and career when we are young and immature. That's why engaging in critical philosophical reflection as soon as possible is crucial for our happiness.

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967. Four aspects of our character

December 20th, 2021

2:59

Cicero relates that the Stoic Panaetius thought there are four fundamental aspects to our character, and that they shape our roles in society.

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966. What about sports and play?

December 16th, 2021

2:48

Here is how to balance the serious and the playful components of your life, what psychologists call the eudaimonic and hedonic aspects of existence.

965. The harmony of character and behavior

December 15th, 2021

2:48

Cicero tells us that there is a harmonious beauty in the relationship between one's virtuous character and that person's actions. The relationship being analogous to that between physical beauty and health.

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964. Justice and anger are incompatible

December 14th, 2021

2:19

In administering punishment it is above all necessary to allow no trace of anger. It is to be desired that they who administer the government should …

963. The two rules of good government

December 13th, 2021

2:33

First, keep the good of the people so clearly in view that regardless of your own interests you will make your every action conform to that; second, …

962. On running for political office

December 10th, 2021

2:38

Those whom Nature has endowed with the capacity for administering public affairs should put aside all hesitation, enter the race for public office …

961. On money

December 9th, 2021

2:32

There is nothing more honourable and noble than to be indifferent to money, if one does not possess it, and to devote it to beneficence and liberality, if one does possess it.

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960. The right kind of courage

December 8th, 2021

2:28

The Stoics, therefore, correctly define courage as "that virtue which champions the cause of right." For nothing that lacks justice can be morally right.

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959. The art of a duty calculator

December 7th, 2021

2:42

Eric Weiner, the author of The Socrates Express, put it nicely: “Duty [is] not obligation. There is a difference. Duty comes from inside, obligation from outside.”

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958. The most powerful fellowship

December 6th, 2021

2:36

Of all the bonds of fellowship, there is none more noble, none more powerful than when good people of congenial character are joined in intimate …

957. Is your act truly a kind one?

December 3rd, 2021

2:48

Cicero reminds us that in virtue ethics intentions are fundamental. If you do an act of kindness in order to receive a favor, then you have done no kindness at all.

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956. How to do acts of kindness

December 2nd, 2021

2:59

Cicero argues that we ought to consider what is the best way for us to engage in acts of kindness. And that the fundamental criterion by which to judge their soundness is justice.

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955. Don’t be a traitor to social life

December 1st, 2021

2:47

There are some also who claim that they are occupied solely with their own affairs. They are traitors to social life, for they contribute to it none …

954. A cautious defense of private property

November 30th, 2021

2:29

I do not mean to find fault with the accumulation of property, provided it hurts nobody, but unjust acquisition of it is always to be avoided.

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953. How to become more human

November 29th, 2021

2:37

We ought to follow Nature as our guide, to contribute to the general good by an interchange of acts of kindness, by giving and receiving, and thus by …

952. Two common errors

November 23rd, 2021

2:56

If we truly want to become better human beings, Cicero counsels, we should avoid two common mistakes. Let's take a look at what they are, and reflect …

951. The four sources of morality

November 22nd, 2021

2:43

Cicero argues that there are four fundamental concerns of morality: truth; the organization of society (including our duties toward others); the development of our character; and doing everything while exercising …

950. Living according to reason

November 19th, 2021

2:51

Nature by the power of reason associates man with man in the common bonds of speech and life; she also prompts men to meet in companies, to form public assemblies, and to take part in them themselves.

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949. Three types of moral question

November 18th, 2021

2:41

Consider if what you are doing is: (i) morally right; (ii) conducive to your happiness; and (iii) whether you may be rationalizing doing something wrong simply because it brings you comfort.

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948. Practice must accompany theory

November 17th, 2021

2:46

Every treatise on duty has two parts: one, dealing with the doctrine of the supreme good; the other with the practical rules by which daily life in …

947. Virtue vs pleasure

November 16th, 2021

3:01

Brave he surely cannot possibly be that counts pain the supreme evil, nor temperate he that holds pleasure to be the supreme good.

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946. The importance of moral duties

November 15th, 2021

2:58

On the discharge of our duties depends all that is morally right, and on their neglect all that is morally wrong in life.

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945. Let your character be brave, not harsh

November 11th, 2021

2:50

I know that there are some, whose wisdom is of a harsh rather than a brave character, who say that the sage never would mourn. They have never  been …

944. Write about your loved ones

November 10th, 2021

2:25

Prolong the remembrance of your brother by inserting some memoir of him among your other writings: for that is the only sort of monument that can be …

943. Loss as a universal equalizer

November 9th, 2021

2:35

For it is not human not to feel our sorrows, while it is unvirtuous not to bear them.

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942. The universe is not after you, personally

November 8th, 2021

2:31

Fortune has not chosen you as the only person in the world to receive so severe a blow: there is no house in all the earth, and never has been one, that has not something to mourn for.

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941. Redirect your thoughts

November 5th, 2021

2:32

Turn yourself away from these thoughts which torment you, and look rather at those numerous and powerful sources of consolation which you possess: …

940. No such a thing as a premature death

November 4th, 2021

2:39

"But," you say, "he was taken away unexpectedly." Every man is deceived by his own willingness to believe what he wishes, and he chooses to forget that those whom he loves are mortal.

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939. On loan from the universe

November 3rd, 2021

2:32

You need not think for how much longer you might have had him, but for how long you did have him. Nature gave him to you, as she gives others to …

938. The dead do not suffer

November 2nd, 2021

2:32

If the dead retain no feeling whatever, my brother has escaped from all the troubles of life. What madness then for me never to cease grieving for one who will never grieve again?

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937. Literature will save your soul

November 1st, 2021

3:04

At such times let literature repay to you the debt which your long and faithful love has laid upon it, let it claim you for its high priest and …

936. What would your loved one who passed away wish for you?

October 28th, 2021

2:54

If your brother wishes you to be tortured with endless mourning, he does not deserve such affection; if he does not wish it, dismiss the grief which affects you both.

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935. Do not let grief fester

October 27th, 2021

2:37

I would force some drops to flow from these eyes, exhausted as they are with weeping over my own domestic afflictions, were it likely to be of any …

934. The wish for immortality is the height of selfishness

October 26th, 2021

2:57

Who can be so haughtily and peevishly arrogant as to expect that this law of nature by which every thing is brought to an end will be set aside in his own case, and that his own house will be exempted from the ruin …

933. On universal impermanence

October 25th, 2021

2:26

What, indeed, have mortal hands made that is not mortal? The seven wonders of the world, and any even greater wonders which the ambition of later ages has constructed, will be seen some day leveled with the ground.

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932. The dangers of superstition

October 22nd, 2021

2:45

Speaking frankly, superstition, which is widespread among the nations, has taken advantage of human weakness to cast its spell over the mind of almost every man.

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931. Methodological naturalism

October 21st, 2021

3:02

Which is more consonant with philosophy: to explain these apparitions by the superstitious theories of fortune-telling hags, or by an explanation based on natural causes?

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930. Never underestimate the power of chance

October 20th, 2021

2:48

We sleep every night and there is scarcely ever a night when we do not dream; then do we wonder that our dreams come true sometimes?

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929. On the vagueness of prophecy

October 19th, 2021

2:28

It was clever in the author to take care that whatever happened should appear foretold because all reference to persons or time had been omitted.

928. Heredity, not stars and planets

October 18th, 2021

2:55

Surely, no one fails to see that the appearance and habits, and generally, the carriage and gestures of children are derived from their parents, not by the phases of the moon and by the condition of the sky.

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927. On astrology

October 15th, 2021

3:12

Is it not evident that these astrologers, these would-be interpreters of the sky are of a class who are utterly ignorant of the nature of the sky?

926. The nature of philosophy

October 14th, 2021

2:37

Myths would have no place in philosophy. It would have been more in keeping with your role as a philosopher to consider, first, the nature of …

925. On cherry picking

October 13th, 2021

2:39

‘Flaminius,’ you say, ‘did not obey the auspices, therefore he perished with his army.’ But a year later Paulus did obey them; and did he not lose …

924. Two common explanations of “extraordinary” events

October 12th, 2021

2:53

The incidents may have been fictitious; if not, then the fulfillment of the prophecy may have been accidental.

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923. On epistemic humility

October 11th, 2021

2:46

Explore the cause, if you can, of every strange thing that excites your astonishment. If you do not find the cause be assured, nevertheless, that …

922. Ordinary explanations for extraordinary events

October 8th, 2021

3:05

In periods of fear and of danger, stories of portents are not only more readily believed, but they are invented with greater impunity.

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921. The scientific turn in understanding the world

October 7th, 2021

2:36

In the case of things that happen now by chance, now in the usual course of nature, it is the height of folly to hold the gods as the direct agents …

920. Follow Hannibal, not a piece of ox-meat

October 6th, 2021

2:40

While Hannibal was in exile at the court of King Prusias he advised the king to go to war, but the king replied, ‘I do not dare, because the entrails forbid.’ ‘And do you,’ said Hannibal, ‘put more reliance in a piece …

919. Sometimes coincidences as just that

October 5th, 2021

3:03

You say, ‘Jupiter’s statue was being set up at the very time the conspiracy was being exposed.’ You, of course, prefer to attribute this coincidence to a divine decree rather than to chance.

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918. Philosophy vs pseudoscience

October 4th, 2021

2:36

Upon my word you Stoics surrender the very city of philosophy while defending its outworks! For, by your insistence on the truth of soothsaying, you …

917. The proper place of sarcasm

October 1st, 2021

2:44

Don’t you think, rather, that the bull lost his heart when he saw that Caesar, in his purple robe, had lost his head?

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916. How, exactly, do you know that?

September 30th, 2021

2:52

How did the soothsayers manage to agree among themselves what part of the entrails was unfavourable, and what part favourable; or what cleft in the liver indicated danger and what promised some advantage?

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915. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

September 29th, 2021

3:01

You ought to have employed arguments and reason to show that all your propositions were true and you ought not to have resorted to so-called occurrences — certainly not to such occurrences as are unworthy of belief.

914. Trust science, not mysticism

September 28th, 2021

2:40

Science, argues Cicero, makes reliable predictions of events based on the laws of nature. No such reliability is possible for mysticisms like divination.

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913. When the problem is real, you don't go to a soothsayer

September 27th, 2021

2:47

Cicero says that nobody actually takes soothsayers seriously, because when we want to actually accomplish something, we go to an expert in that domain, like a doctor, and not a to a seer or a prophet.

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912. The proper attitude of a Skeptic

September 24th, 2021

2:42

Cicero is gearing up to respond to his brother's defense of the Stoic notion of divination. He will do so, however, while putting forth probable arguments, not declarations of certainty. As a good critical thinker ought …

911. Why write about philosophy

September 23rd, 2021

2:53

Cicero explains the main reason he writes philosophy: to be helpful to other people. But we also know he was helping himself to overcome the grief he …

910. The Stoics and Laplace's demon

September 22nd, 2021

2:59

Quintus, Cicero's brother, makes one last - and pretty good - argument in favor of divination, an argument that anticipated a famous idea by the astronomer Pierre-Simon de Laplace.

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909. The world is regulated by cause and effect

September 1st, 2021

2:54

Nothing has happened which was not bound to happen, and, likewise, nothing is going to happen which will not find in nature every efficient cause of its happening.

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908. Socrates' daimon

August 31st, 2021

2:42

Quintus, Cicero's brother, mentions Socrates' famous daimon as evidence of divine influence. But it is more likely that Socrates himself simply meant the concept as a way to represent his conscience.

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907. Two problems with Stoicism

August 30th, 2021

2:54

Cicero makes reference to two problems, as we moderns may see them, with Stoic philosophy: the notion of an intelligence permeating the universe, and the idea that the body is a drag on the mind.

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906. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

August 27th, 2021

2:51

Quintus, Cicero's brother, relies on other people's testimony to establish the reality of divination. But as his brother, David Hume, and Carl Sagan observed, that sort of evidence is insufficient to establish his …

905. Epicurus was right after all!

August 26th, 2021

2:44

Quintus, Cicero's brother, delivers yet another fallacious argument in defense of divination, one that implies that Epicurus got at least one thing right, despite how much Cicero obviously didn't like him or his …

904. The argument from celebrity

August 25th, 2021

2:37

Quintus, Cicero's brother, puts forth yet another bad argument in favor of divination, one that unfortunately is still used by many today: if celebrity so-and-so says X, then X must be true...

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903. One problem with Stoic epistemology

August 24th, 2021

2:40

Cicero's brother, Quintus, uses a qualitative argument in defense of the notion of divination. The argument appears valid, but it is flawed because of the lack of quantification, which - to be fair - was invented only …

902. The Venus throw

August 23rd, 2021

3:16

Cicero's brother, Quintus, invokes an analogy between a dice game and the structure of the universe to deploy what we today recognize as an argument from intelligent design. Which doesn't work.

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901. Good and bad reasons to reject a claim

August 20th, 2021

2:49

Cicero rejects the notion of divination on the grounds that there is no mechanism to explain it. He was wrong on the general epistemological …

900. Stoic disagreements

August 19th, 2021

2:51

Cicero tells us that some Stoics disagreed with the majority opinion within the Stoa on the topic of divination. Indeed, there were multiple opinions …

899. Shall we accept the opinion of the many?

August 18th, 2021

3:19

Cicero's brother, Quintus, presents one Stoic argument in favor of divination: everyone knows it's true. This is an obvious logical fallacy. And yet, there are cases when it is justified to believe a majority opinion.

898. The best days of our lives

August 17th, 2021

2:56

These days are my best, because my mind is at leisure to attend to its own affairs, and at one time amuses itself with lighter studies, at another eagerly presses its inquiries into its own nature and that of the …

897. The proper attitude toward grief

August 16th, 2021

2:40

The best middle course between affection and hard common sense is both to feel regret and to restrain it.

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896. Use virtuous reason as your shield

August 13th, 2021

2:33

If you regard the end of your days not as a punishment, but as an ordinance of nature, no fear of anything else will dare to enter the breast which has cast out the fear of death.

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895. On over-consumption

August 12th, 2021

2:19

Why do you amass fortune after fortune? Are you unwilling to remember how small our bodies are? Is it not frenzy and the wildest insanity to wish for so much when you can contain so little?

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894. On gourmet food

August 5th, 2021

2:37

How unhappy are they whose appetite can only be aroused by costly food! And the costliness of food depends not upon its delightful flavor and …

893. Two precious things we always carry with us

August 4th, 2021

2:57

Whithersoever we betake ourselves two most excellent things will accompany us, namely, a common Nature and our own special virtue.

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892. Don't get cocky with Fortune

August 3rd, 2021

2:15

No one loses anything by the frowns of Fortune unless they have been deceived by her smiles. The one who has not been puffed up by success, does not …

891. Look out for Fortune's blows

August 2nd, 2021

2:28

Always stand as it were on guard, and mark the attacks and charges of Fortune long before she delivers them; she is only terrible to those whom she catches unawares.

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890. Happiness regardless of circumstances

July 30th, 2021

2:45

External circumstances have very little importance either for good or for evil: wise persons are neither elated by prosperity nor depressed by adversity.

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889. What really makes us wiser

July 29th, 2021

2:48

You have gained nothing by so many misfortunes, if you have not learned how to suffer.

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888. On the last path to freedom

July 28th, 2021

2:52

Cicero reminds us that - when life is truly unbearable and we can no longer act virtuously - we have one last escape route, the guarantor of our …

887. What to do if you are deaf

July 27th, 2021

2:54

We are all truly deaf with regard to those innumerable languages which we do not understand. Then, as I before referred the blind to the pleasures of …

886. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can't

July 26th, 2021

2:49

The reply of Antipater the Cyrenaic to some women who bewailed his being blind, though it is a little too obscene, is not without its significance. “What do you mean?,” said he, “do you think the night can furnish no …

885. On exile and cosmopolitanism

July 23rd, 2021

3:18

Cicero explains why being sent out of one's country is not a hardship worth worrying about, and tells us that Socrates regarded the whole world as …

884. The time Plato almost lost his life

July 22nd, 2021

2:41

Cicero tells us about a letter written by Plato during his stint in Syracuse, explaining why temperance is the most fundamental of the four cardinal virtues.

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883. On walking before dinner

July 21st, 2021

2:36

They relate, too, of Socrates, that, once when he was walking very fast till the evening, on his being asked why he did so, his reply was that he was purchasing an appetite by walking, that he might sup the better.

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882. Socrates the non-consumerist

July 20th, 2021

2:45

Socrates, when on one occasion he saw a great quantity of gold and silver carried in a procession, cried out, “How many things are there which I do …

881. Three kinds of goods

July 19th, 2021

2:46

There are three kinds of goods: the greatest being those of the mind; the next best those of the body; the third are external goods, as the Peripatetics call them, and the Old Academics differ very little from them.

880. Many schools, many takes

July 16th, 2021

3:05

Cicero gives us a rundown of the major Hellenistic schools, which differed in the way they understood eudaimonia, the life worth living.

--- …

879. The philosophical problem with pain

July 15th, 2021

2:51

Shall virtue, then, yield to pain? Shall the happy life of a wise person succumb to it? Good Gods! How base would this be! Spartan boys will bear to …

878. Damocles' sword and the nature of happiness

July 14th, 2021

3:28

Cicero tells the famous story of Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse, and one of his flatterers, Damocles, who learns the hard way that what may look like a happy life is actually nothing of the sort.

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877. An argument in favor of virtue as guarantor of a happy life

July 13th, 2021

3:09

Cicero makes one of a number of arguments for why virtue is the only guarantor of a happy life. Let's examine the validity of the argument's structure and the soundness of its premises.

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876. How to evaluate philosophical systems

July 12th, 2021

2:46

We are not, therefore, to form our judgment of philosophers from detached sentences, but from their consistency with themselves, and their ordinary manner of talking.

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875. Why virtue is necessary and sufficient for happiness

July 9th, 2021

4:04

Cicero makes a strong argument, based on Socratic and Stoic positions, for why virtue is necessary and sufficient for "happiness," if we translate the Greek word eudaimonia as "the life worth living."

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874. The importance of Socrates

July 8th, 2021

3:01

Socrates was the first who brought down philosophy from the heavens, placed it in cities, introduced it into families, and obliged it to examine into life and morals, and good and evil.

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873. The first philosopher

July 7th, 2021

3:53

Cicero tells us that Pythagoras was the first to use the word philosopher and to explain what philosophy consists of. The Stoics will partially agree with Pythagoras' definition, but the disagreement is crucial.

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872. Do not catastrophize

July 6th, 2021

2:57

We, who increase every approaching evil by our fear, and every present one by our grief, choose rather to condemn the nature of things than our own errors.

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871. Is virtue sufficient for a happy life?

July 5th, 2021

3:42

If virtue were but the slave of fortune, I am afraid that it would seem desirable rather to offer up prayers, than to rely on our own confidence in …

870. If anger is natural, what's wrong with it?

July 2nd, 2021

2:55

Where, then, are they who say that anger has its use? Can madness be of any use? But still it is natural. Can anything be natural that is against reason?

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869. Redirect your mind toward useful things

July 1st, 2021

2:56

Whenever we catch ourselves being too focused on trivial or unimportant things, we can willfully redirect our attention on the sort of activities …

868. The meaning of true love

June 30th, 2021

2:22

The Stoics, in truth, say, not only that their wise person may be a lover, but they even define love itself as an endeavor to originate friendship out of the appearance of beauty.

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867. Your (mature) emotional response is up to you

June 29th, 2021

2:58

One thing alone seems to embrace the question of all that relates to the perturbations of the mind—the fact, namely, that all perturbations are in …

866. Think about how others endure adversity

June 28th, 2021

3:00

Cicero advocates a standard Stoic technique: when facing adversity, remind yourself that many others have experienced something similar and have endured it. So can you.

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865. Philosophy is the cure

May 31st, 2021

3:28

Certainly the most effectual cure is to be achieved by showing that all perturbations are of themselves vicious, and have nothing natural or necessary in them.

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864. The problem with grief

May 28th, 2021

2:40

We should not take sorrows on ourselves upon another’s account; but we ought to relieve others of their grief if we can.

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863. Anger is good only when it's fake

May 27th, 2021

2:49

Anger is in no wise becoming in an orator, though it is not amiss to affect it. Do you imagine that I am angry when in pleading I use any extraordinary vehemence and sharpness?

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862. Virtue is a kind of knowledge

May 26th, 2021

2:47

What is Chrysippus’s definition? Fortitude, says he, is the knowledge of all things that are bearable, or an affection of the mind which bears and supports everything in obedience to the chief law of reason without fear.

861. Courage does not require anger

May 25th, 2021

2:39

Take care how you make courage to depend in the least on rage. For anger is altogether irrational, and that is not courage which is void of reason.

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860. Why Aristotle was wrong about moderating vice

May 24th, 2021

2:59

For whoever prescribes bounds to vice admits a part of it, which, as it is odious of itself, becomes the more so as it stands on slippery ground, and, being once set forward, glides on headlong, and cannot by any means …

859. Virtue is right reason

May 21st, 2021

3:05

There is an important distinction to be made between instrumental reason, which is morally neutral, and what the Stoics call "right" reason, or virtue, which comes with a built-in moral prescription.

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858. Disharmony of the mind

May 20th, 2021

2:51

Cicero says that our mind becomes sick when our opinions and judgments are not coherent with each other, just like our body becomes sick when one of its parts is in disharmony with the rest.

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857. Apply the Socratic remedy

May 19th, 2021

2:45

Money, fame, and sexual pleasure are not problematic per se. They may be preferred or dispreferred, so long as they don’t control us and lead us away …

856. The importance of temperance

May 18th, 2021

2:59

Intemperance, which is in opposition to reason, inflames, confounds, and puts every state of the mind into a violent motion. Thus, grief and fear, …

855. Envy, malevolence, and delight

May 17th, 2021

2:46

Cicero continues his classification of the emotions as seen by the Stoics. Envy, for instance, is a type of grief generated by the mistaken belief that the prosperity of another is an injury to ourselves.

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854. Challenging your incorrect emotions

May 14th, 2021

2:41

Cicero gives a nice rundown of the Stoic theory of emotions, which holds up well according to modern cognitive science. Emotions have cognitive …

853. The nature of fear

May 13th, 2021

2:42

If our concerns are in agreement with reason, they are healthy; but fear is not in agreement with reason, and it is therefore unhealthy.

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852. The nature of volition

May 12th, 2021

2:50

Where this strong desire is consistent and founded on prudence, it is by the Stoics called volition. And this they define it thus: volition is a …

851. Perturbations of the mind

May 10th, 2021

3:02

Zeno’s definition, then, is this: “A perturbation” (which he calls “pathos”) “is a commotion of the mind repugnant to reason, and against nature.”

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850. What is apatheia?

May 7th, 2021

2:55

The sage will achieve a state of apatheia, meaning lack of disturbance from unhealthy emotions like fear, anger, and hatred. But she will also experience healthy emotions, like love, joy, and a sense of justice.

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849. Five philosophical takes on grief

May 6th, 2021

3:54

Cicero very clearly and succinctly explains the difference among five Hellenistic takes on grief, including two Stoic ones, one by Cleanthes (the second head of the Stoa) and one by Chrysippus (the third head).

--- …

848. Grief is an opinion

May 5th, 2021

2:47

Grief arises from an opinion of some present evil, which includes this belief, that it is incumbent on us to grieve.

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847. Philosophical contradictions

May 4th, 2021

2:55

Most people appear to be unaware what contradictions these things are full of. They commend those who die calmly, but they blame those who can bear …

846. Willing grief away

May 3rd, 2021

3:12

Cicero gives an example of people suddenly setting grief aside because they are absorbed in an urgent task. He infers that, therefore, grief is a matter of opinion, not of nature.

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845. Facts vs judgments

April 30th, 2021

2:51

You see, the evil is in opinion, not in nature.

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844. Comfort by comparison

April 29th, 2021

2:37

[We can point] out that nothing has happened but what is common to human nature; [which] does not only inform us what human nature is, but implies …

843. Cicero vs the Epicureans, part II

April 28th, 2021

3:30

Cicero presents three major objections to Epicureanism, which he argues is a fundamentally incoherent philosophy. See if you agree with his analysis.

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842. Cicero vs the Epicureans

April 27th, 2021

2:29

I should agree with Epicurus that we ought to be called off from grief to contemplate good things, if we could only agree upon what was good.

--- …

841. Music or Socrates?

April 26th, 2021

2:38

Cicero says that if one is distraught she should read Socrates rather than listen to music. I disagree. Music may be soothing in the long run. …

840. Should we contemplate future adversity?

April 23rd, 2021

2:47

There are two ways to think about potential future setbacks: emotionally, and rationally. The first approach only causes perpetual distress. The second one prepares our mind to deal with what may be coming.

--- …

839. Being prepared for anything

April 22nd, 2021

2:32

Cicero tells us that Anaxagoras, the Presocratic philosopher, was ready to accept the death of his son, because he had always known he was a mortal. This isn't lack of care, it's mental preparedness.

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838. Why and how to overcome grief

April 21st, 2021

3:12

Grief, Cicero tells us, is a highly destructive emotion. While we shouldn't go around telling others not to grieve, we ourselves should take care to …

837. The four fundamental disturbances of the mind

April 20th, 2021

3:24

Cicero gives us a classification of disturbances of the mind: when we think that something is good (now or in the future) but it actually isn't. And when we think that something is bad (now or in the future) but it …

836. Pity vs envy

April 19th, 2021

2:54

Cicero makes an argument that the ideal Stoic, the sage, should feel neither envy nor pity. He was spectacularly wrong, and directly contradicted by …

835. The absurdity of envy

April 16th, 2021

2:36

The word envy comes from Latin for "looking too closely into other people's fortune." Let us see why this is most definitely not a thing that a Stoic …

834. Is grief a form of cowardice?

April 15th, 2021

3:11

Cicero presents an argument according to which grief is the result of lack of courage. As a modern Stoic, I beg to differ. Overcoming grief requires …

833. Lust and anger

April 14th, 2021

2:30

They who are run away with by their lust or anger have quitted the command over themselves.

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832. Everyone but the sage is mad

April 13th, 2021

3:10

Cicero explains the Stoic "paradox" that everyone but the sage is mad. In the sense of not being reasonable. The good news is that we can work on being less mad, every day.

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831. Diseases of the mind

April 12th, 2021

2:44

There are more disorders of the mind than of the body, and they are of a more dangerous nature. And what disorders can be worse to the body than these two distempers of the mind, weakness and desire?

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830. On fame

April 9th, 2021

2:33

Popular fame is hasty and inconsiderate, and generally commends wicked and immoral actions, and throws discredit upon the appearance and beauty of …

829. Natural virtue?

April 8th, 2021

3:03

The Stoics put forth the notion that we are naturally virtuous (i.e., prosocial), and that it is society that leads us astray. Modern science confirms their intuition only in part. The fact remains, though, that the …

828. Who we really are

April 7th, 2021

3:11

What reason shall I assign, O Brutus, why, as we consist of mind and body, the art of curing the body should be so much sought after, but the …

827. The power of acting right

April 6th, 2021

2:45

If you are satisfied with yourself when you have approved of what is right, you will not only have the mastery over yourself (which I recommended to you just now), but over everybody, and everything.

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826. Posidonius talks about pain

April 5th, 2021

3:22

Posidonius was once afflicted by severe pain, and yet invited Pompey to discuss philosophy. He said: “Pain, it is to no purpose; notwithstanding you are troublesome, I will never acknowledge you an evil.”

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825. Dionysius the Renegade

April 2nd, 2021

3:27

Cicero tells the story of how Dionysius quit Stoicism because he was experiencing chronic pain, and how Cleanthes, the second head of the Stoa, chastised him for not understanding the Stoic take on the issue.

--- …

824. Epaminondas, one of the most excellent men who ever lived

April 1st, 2021

2:52

Cicero refers to the story of the Theban general Epaminondas, who sacrificed his life to free his people from the Spartan yoke. If he was capable of that, surely we can withstand the pains and setbacks of ordinary life.

823. When Zeno bit the tyrant

March 31st, 2021

2:16

Cicero tells the story of Zeno of Elea, a philosopher who withstood torture and faced death in order to overthrow tyranny. Remember that, the next time you complain about a toothache...

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822. Pain and mental attitude

March 30th, 2021

2:27

While physical pain may be inevitable, our mental attitude makes a significant difference — for better or worse, depending on how we choose to see things.

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821. Better to be a sick person with integrity than a healthy lier

March 29th, 2021

2:56

Health has value, and is therefore preferred in the Stoic system. However, it is not an intrinsic good, and if in order to stay healthy you have to …

820. How to learn to bear pain

March 26th, 2021

2:16

Cicero suggests that getting used to one kind of discomfort or pain will allow us to more easily bear another kind. This is the basis for some modern …

819. The crucial importance of patience

March 25th, 2021

2:33

I do not deny pain to be pain—for were that the case, in what would courage consist?—but I say it should be assuaged by patience, if there be such a …

818. Courage vs pain

March 24th, 2021

3:15

For the Epicureans virtue is instrumental in achieving ataraxia, a life of tranquillity. For the Stoics ataraxia is a byproduct, a result of the fact …

817. Should we ban the poets?

March 23rd, 2021

2:47

Poetry and fiction tug at our emotions. They are pleasant and powerful, but they may also be manipulative. While Plato's solution to ban poets is not …

816. On bearing pain

March 22nd, 2021

2:37

I cannot allow the wise person to be so indifferent about pain. If they bear it with courage, it is sufficient. For pain is, beyond all question, sharp, bitter, against nature, hard to submit to and to bear.

--- …

815. Pleasure, pain, virtue

March 19th, 2021

2:58

Cicero on Epicureanism: "What disgrace, what ignominy, would he not submit to that he might avoid pain, when persuaded that it was the greatest of …

814. Is pain the worst of all evils?

March 18th, 2021

2:41

Cicero and Brutus begin a conversation on the nature of pain. Brutus immediately concedes that pain isn't the worst possible evil. Infamy, which indicates a bad character, is to be avoided even at the cost of pain.

--- …

813. The real philosophical life

March 17th, 2021

2:46

How few philosophers will you meet with whose life is conformable to the dictates of reason! Who look on their profession, not as a means of …

812. The benefits of the philosophical life

March 16th, 2021

2:47

Some people have a natural talent for music. But everyone can learn to play an instrument, even if they don't get to perform at Carnegie Hall. The same goes for philosophy: everyone can benefit from it, but not everyone …

811. Philosophers should be open to being wrong

March 15th, 2021

2:30

We who pursue only probabilities, and who cannot go beyond that which seems really likely, can confute others without obstinacy, and are prepared to be confuted ourselves without resentment.

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810. Philosophy underlies everything else

March 12th, 2021

3:07

Cicero explains to his friend Brutus why he writes about philosophy, and why in order to do so well he has to be acquainted with a large variety of fields of inquiry. Philosophical knowledge leads to the good life.

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809. Others are coping, so can you

March 11th, 2021

2:56

How can that be miserable for one, which all must of necessity undergo?

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808. Be careful what you wish for, especially with Apollo

March 10th, 2021

2:57

Cicero recounts an anecdote involving Trophonius and Agamedes, who built the temple of Apollo at Delphi. They asked the god for whatever was best, …

807. Rites for the dead, care for the living

March 9th, 2021

2:58

People carry out all sorts of rites to "take care" of the dead, even though there is no one to take care of. How about, instead, taking care of the people you love while they are still alive?

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806. A Cynic reason to donate your organs after you die

March 8th, 2021

2:39

Diogenes the Cynic famously didn't care what happened to his body after death, since he believed there would be no sensation. That's an excellent …

805. The tiny insects that live one day

March 5th, 2021

2:57

Aristotle discovered some insects whose entire life lasts one day. Compared to the vastness of time, our lives are not much longer. The question is …

804. The deal Nature has struck with us

March 4th, 2021

2:40

Away, then, with those follies, such as that it is miserable to die before our time. What time do you mean? That of nature? But she has only lent you …

803. The difference between facts and judgments

March 3rd, 2021

2:30

The process of nature is this: that in the same manner as our birth was the beginning of things with us, so death will be the end; and as we were not concerned with anything before we were born, so neither shall we be …

802. As happy as Metellus?

March 2nd, 2021

3:00

It never occurs to a man that such a disaster may befall himself. As if the number of the happy exceeded that of the miserable; or as if there were any certainty in human affairs.

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801. The right time to die

March 1st, 2021

3:10

Cicero argues that sometimes people live too long for their own good. Which makes the Stoic point that life itself is not an intrinsic good, but the means by which we exercise virtue.

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800. The real reason we are afraid of death

February 26th, 2021

3:02

Death, says Cicero, overtakes us quickly, and it is therefore endurable. It is the thought of leaving people and things behind that is painful. But …

799. What Socrates said about death

February 25th, 2021

2:30

For the whole life of a philosopher is, as [Socrates] says, a meditation on death.

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798. On the rationality of grief

February 24th, 2021

3:27

Why exactly to we grieve when loved ones are gone? Is it about them, about us? Does it depend on what we think will happen to them after death?

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797. Two possibilities for the afterlife

February 23rd, 2021

2:43

How, then, can you, or why do you, assert that you think that death is an evil, when it either makes us happy, in the case of the soul continuing to …

796. On the nature of the soul

February 22nd, 2021

3:28

Cicero mentions a number of accounts of the nature of the soul, explaining that the Stoic take is that the soul is a physical attribute responsible …

795. Nature's bargain

February 19th, 2021

3:19

Nature has presented us with this bargain: either not being born at all, or being born a mortal. Everything else is the fantasy of priests bent on …

794. The symmetry argument

February 18th, 2021

3:21

We seem to be awfully bothered by the fact that we will one day no longer exist. And yet, we didn't suffer from the equally true fact that for a long …

793. Are you so silly as to believe in Cerberus and Sisyphus?

February 17th, 2021

3:29

Cicero disputes with his friend about whether we should be afraid of the afterlife, and concludes that we will not exist, and therefore we will not …

792. On true friendship

February 16th, 2021

2:55

Just prove to me that you are trustworthy, high-minded and reliable, and that your intentions are benign, and you’ll find that I won’t even wait for you to open your heart to me, I’ll be the first to implore you to lend …

791. Get better today, not tomorrow

February 15th, 2021

2:39

As it is, you say, 'I will fix my attention tomorrow': which means, let me tell you, 'Today I will be shameless, inopportune, abject: others shall have power to vex me: today I will harbor anger and envy.'

--- …

790. You are not perfect, so what?

February 12th, 2021

2:32

Is it possible to escape error altogether? No, it is impossible: but it is possible to set one's mind continuously on avoiding error.

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789. Just pay attention, will you?

February 11th, 2021

3:05

Now if such postponement of attention is profitable, it would be still more profitable to abandon it altogether: but if it is not profitable, why do …

788. How would you like death to find you?

February 10th, 2021

2:50

For my part I would be found by death busy with some humane task, whatever it be—something noble, beneficent, advancing the common weal.

--- …

787. The real value of things

February 9th, 2021

2:47

You were shameless and shall be self-respecting, you were untrustworthy and you shall be trusted. If you look for greater things than these, go on doing as you do now: not even a god can save you.

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786. Pay attention to the cosmic trainer

February 8th, 2021

2:39

'Get up', says the trainer, 'and wrestle again, until you are made strong.' Let this be your attitude; for know that nothing is more amenable than the mind of a human being.

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785. What sort of thirst do you have?

February 5th, 2021

3:00

Epictetus draws a distinction between natural and greedy desires, reminding us that the first ones are part of a virtuous life, while the second ones …

784. Take care of your prohairesis

February 4th, 2021

2:40

What then is the subject-matter of the philosopher? Is it a cloak? No, it is reason. What is his end? Is it to wear a cloak? No, but to keep his reason right.

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783. The distinctiveness of philosophy

February 3rd, 2021

2:57

Philosophy has been criticized since antiquity, and Epictetus explains why some of this criticism misses the point, and indeed shows that such …

782. Be charitable toward other people's shortcomings

February 2nd, 2021

2:41

'This man washes hastily.' Does he do evil then? Not at all. What is it he does then? He washes hastily.

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781. Do you have the skills?

February 1st, 2021

2:22

When I hear a man called happy because he is honored by Caesar I say, 'What is his portion?' 'A province.' Does he also get a judgement, such as a …

780. Don't use fancy words, describe the facts

January 29th, 2021

2:41

'But now the time is come to die.' What do you mean by 'die'? Do not use fine words, but state the facts as they are. 'Now is the time for your material part to be restored to the elements of which it was composed.'

779. Pretend you are in exile

January 28th, 2021

2:45

'Exile?' Wherever I go, it will be well with me: for even here it was not the place that made me well off, but my judgements, and these I shall carry away with me, for no one can rob me of them.

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778. The judgment of others

January 27th, 2021

2:34

Those who pity me shall take their own views: I have neither hunger nor thirst nor cold, but their own hunger or thirst makes them imagine the same …

777. Are you a fox or a lion?

January 26th, 2021

2:47

Although we are capable of writing and reading these sentiments, although we can praise them as we read, yet they do not bring conviction to us, nor anything like it.

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776. The difference between an amateur and a craftsman

January 25th, 2021

2:33

How will those who know despise one who is gentle and self-respecting? By those who do not know? What do you care for them? No craftsman cares for those who have no skill!

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775. The real value of people, and apples

January 22nd, 2021

2:25

Is everything judged by its outward form alone? On that principle you must call your waxen apple an apple. No, it must smell and taste like an apple: the outward semblance is not enough.

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774. Developing a better understanding of things

January 21st, 2021

2:58

Either you’re going to be depressed when your wish is not realized or foolishly pleased with yourself if it is, overjoyed for the wrong reasons.

--- …

773. Our obsession with control

January 20th, 2021

2:29

The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.

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772. Just pay attention

January 19th, 2021

2:44

Very little is needed for everything to be upset and ruined, only a slight lapse in reason. It’s much easier for a mariner to wreck his ship than it is for him to keep it sailing safely.

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771. What did you lose, and what did you gain?

January 11th, 2021

3:06

If you forfeit an external possession, make sure to notice what you get in return. If it is something more valuable, never say, ‘I have suffered a loss.’

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770. Changing friends

January 8th, 2021

2:52

Formerly, when you were devoted to worthless pursuits, your friends found you congenial company. But you can’t be a hit in both roles. To the extent …

769. The problem with hyper-consumerism

January 7th, 2021

2:57

Freedom is not achieved by satisfying desire, but by eliminating it.

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768. Natural goodness

January 6th, 2021

2:53

A plant or animal fares poorly when it acts contrary to its nature; and a human being is no different. Well, then, biting, kicking, wanton imprisonment and beheading–is that what our nature entails? No; rather, acts of …

767. What truly belongs to you

January 5th, 2021

2:59

Whoever told you, ‘Walking is your irrevocable privilege’? I said only that the will to walk could not be obstructed.

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766. Learning the art of living

January 4th, 2021

2:31

What makes for freedom and fluency in the practice of writing? Knowledge of how to write. The same goes for the practice of playing an instrument. It …

765. The true nature of freedom

January 1st, 2021

2:41

So you admit that you have at least one master. And don’t let the fact that Caesar rules over everyone, as you say, console you: it only means that …

764. Not bad person lives a happy life

December 31st, 2020

2:48

Who wants to live with delusion and prejudice, being unjust, undisciplined, mean and ungrateful? ‘No one.’ No bad person, then, lives the way he …

763. The purpose of philosophizing

December 30th, 2020

2:12

Everyone is fond of contemplation. Some make it the object of their lives: to us it is an anchorage, but not a harbor.

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762. The three types of philosophy of life

December 29th, 2020

2:39

There are three kinds of life, and it is a stock question which of the three is the best: the first is devoted to pleasure, the second to contemplation, the third to action.

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761. Do something for posterity

December 28th, 2020

2:54

What is the sage’s purpose in devoting themselves to leisure? They know that in leisure as well as in action they will accomplish something by which they will be of service to posterity.

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760. Achieve balance in life

December 24th, 2020

2:43

It is by no means desirable that one should merely strive to accumulate property without any love of virtue. Similarly, virtue placed in leisure …

759. Put to practice your inquiring disposition

December 23rd, 2020

2:43

We have a habit of saying that the highest good is to live according to nature: now nature has produced us for both purposes, for contemplation and for action. … Nature has [also] bestowed upon us an inquiring …

758. How to better serve the human cosmopolis

December 22nd, 2020

2:58

We are born by accident into a specific nation, but we naturally belong to the human cosmopolis. Reflecting on the nature of virtue and practicing it …

757. Just do your part

December 21st, 2020

2:27

The duty of a human being is to be useful to his fellow human beings; if possible, to many of them; failing this, to a few; failing this, to oneself: …

756. The axiom of futility

December 18th, 2020

2:35

If the state is so rotten as to be past helping, if evil has entire dominion over it, the wise man will not labour in vain or waste his strength in unprofitable efforts.

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755. Should we get involved in politics?

December 17th, 2020

2:37

Epicurus says, “The wise man will not take part in politics, except upon some special occasion.” Zeno says, “The wise man will take part in politics, …

754. Stoicism is not written in stone

December 16th, 2020

3:05

Would that all things were already known, that truth were unveiled and recognized, and that none of our doctrines required modification! but as it is …

753. There are different ways to be useful to the human cosmopolis

December 15th, 2020

2:37

Our Stoic philosophers say we must be in motion up to the very end of our life, we will never cease to labour for the general good, to help individual people, and when stricken in years to afford assistance even to our …

752. Set your own priorities, don't slavishly follow other people's

December 14th, 2020

2:35

We oscillate between desire and remorse, for we depend entirely upon the opinions of others, and it is that which many people praise and seek after, not that which deserves to be praised and sought after, which we …

751. How much leisure time do you have, and what do you do with it?

December 11th, 2020

3:13

Leisure is important to be able to pursue the good life, and yet by itself it is not sufficient. Without proper education, we are far more likely to waste our time than to use it to good effect.

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750. Everything changes, act accordingly

December 10th, 2020

2:29

A brief existence is common to all things, and yet you avoid and pursue all things as if they would be eternal.

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749. No point in finding faults

December 9th, 2020

2:19

When you are offended at any one’s fault, immediately turn to yourself and reflect in what manner you yourself have erred: for example, in thinking …

748. Putting things, and people, in perspective

December 8th, 2020

2:41

Consider what men are when they are eating, sleeping, coupling, evacuating, and so forth. Then what kind of men they are when they are imperious and …

747. Theory and practice

December 7th, 2020

2:31

No longer talk at all about the kind of person that a good person ought to be, but be such.

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746. Always use reason and you'll achieve serenity

December 4th, 2020

2:39

He who follows reason in all things is both tranquil and active at the same time, and also cheerful and collected.

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745. How to become magnanimous

December 3rd, 2020

2:42

Acquire the contemplative way of seeing how all things change into one another, and constantly attend to it, and exercise yourself about this part of philosophy. For nothing is so much adapted to produce magnanimity.

744. Just pay attention, will you?

December 2nd, 2020

2:32

When you have assumed these names—good, modest, truthful, rational, a person of equanimity, and magnanimous—take care that you do not change these …

743. We are part of the universe and have duties toward fellow human beings

December 1st, 2020

2:22

Whether the universe is a concourse of atoms, or nature is a system, let this first be established: that I am a part of the whole that is governed by …

742. How to engage people in a discussion

November 30th, 2020

2:14

If someone is mistaken, instruct them kindly and show them their error. But if you are not able, blame yourself, or not even yourself.

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741. The link between rationality and sociability

November 27th, 2020

2:56

Marcus Aurelius says that the rational animal is consequently also a social animal. Not exactly. And yet, he was onto something.

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740. The Stoics got divination wrong, but cause-effect right

November 25th, 2020

3:14

The ancient Stoics believed in divination, because the world works by cause-effect. They were wrong on the specifics, but correct about the general idea, which is what still today underpins modern science.

--- …

739. Isn't the eye the most sophisticated thing you've ever seen?

November 24th, 2020

2:44

The ancient Stoics used their knowledge of human, animal, and plant anatomy to argue for the intelligence and wisdom of the universe. Similar arguments were still advanced at the beginning of the 18th century.

--- …

738. The universe is not the result of random events

November 23rd, 2020

2:51

The ancient Stoics advanced an argument for the intelligence of the universe very similar to the one deployed by modern creationists. The difference is that - given the advances of science - creationists ought to know …

737. Reason and wisdom, or chance and necessity?

November 20th, 2020

2:35

The Stoics make an argument against the Epicureans about the nature of the universe. For once, it is the Epicureans who got closer t the truth.

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736. Is the universe governed by wisdom?

November 19th, 2020

3:09

The Stoics put forth a three-pronged argument to arrive at the conclusion that the universe is governed wisely and providentially. Unfortunately, their argument is both invalid and unsound.

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735. Different conceptions of the gods

November 18th, 2020

3:10

The Stoics rejected the gods of the Olympian pantheon as obvious projections of human psychology. But modern thinking leads to doubts even about the …

734. On the movement of the planets

November 17th, 2020

3:03

The complex patterns drawn by the planets in the sky seem to indicate the existence of a higher intelligence. But of course modern physics has other ideas.

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733. The cosmos is neither living nor endowed with mind

November 16th, 2020

2:47

Cicero has one of his Stoic characters very explicitly state a notion about the nature of the cosmos that does not hold up to modern philosophical …

732. Is the world wise?

November 13th, 2020

3:39

Cicero summarizes a beautiful argument by the Stoics to the effect that the world itself is wise. Unfortunately, the argument is based on unsound …

731. Like from like, nothing from nothing

November 12th, 2020

2:55

Zeno claimed that life can only come from life, and reason from reason, so he concluded that the universe was alive and endowed with reason. It's a …

730. Zeno tries to demonstrate that the cosmos are capable of reason

October 30th, 2020

2:57

Zeno of Citium puts forth a compact argument to conclude that the universe as a whole, as distinct from individual beings within the cosmos, reasons. …

729. Chrysippus accepts a faulty premise

October 29th, 2020

3:04

Chrysippus, the third head of the Stoa, constructs an argument for the existence of god that is unsound, that is, based on a faulty premise.

--- …

728. Four (bad) arguments for the existence of the gods

October 28th, 2020

3:30

Cleanthes, the second head of the Stoa, advances four bad arguments for the existence of the gods.

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727. Two bad arguments for the existence of gods

October 27th, 2020

3:40

We need to demystify the Stoics somewhat. We moderns should value and respect ancient wisdom, but not to the point of mindless worship. This episodes …

726. Divination, anyone?

October 26th, 2020

2:45

The ancient Stoics believed in divination. They were obviously mistaken about it. And yet the general principle they adopted was very much akin to the one underlying modern science.

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725. Obviously, the universe is guided by an intelligence. Or is it?

October 23rd, 2020

2:52

We begin the study of book II of Cicero's On the Nature of the Gods, and we see that the Stoics begin with deploying what is nowadays known as an argument from design.

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724. Look less critically at others, and a bit more critically at yourself

October 22nd, 2020

2:44

Do you look at other people’s pimples while yon yourselves are covered with countless ulcers?

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723. Careful not to underestimate the power of Fortune

October 21st, 2020

2:45

You are rendered over-proud by a fine house, as though it could never be burned, and your heads are turned by riches as though Fortune has not …

722. Ready for bad stuff to happen, but preferring the good stuff

October 20th, 2020

2:35

I shall make whatever befalls me become a good thing, but I prefer that what befalls me should be comfortable and pleasant and unlikely to cause me …

721. Be at ease wherever you find yourself

October 19th, 2020

2:53

A Stoic finds herself at ease both in a fancy house where food is served on silver plates and under the bridge sharing the fare with beggars.

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720. Why wealth is not a good

October 16th, 2020

2:35

Riches, I say, are not a good thing; for if they were, they would make people good: now since that which is found even among bad people cannot be …

719. People's social status doesn't matter

October 15th, 2020

2:26

Nature bids me do good to mankind. Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a benefit.

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718. On rational giving

October 14th, 2020

2:29

He who believes giving to be an easy matter, is mistaken: it offers very great difficulties, if we bestow our bounty rationally, and do not scatter …

717. No one condemned wisdom to poverty

October 13th, 2020

3:16

The philosopher may own wealth, but will not own wealth that has been torn from another, or which is stained with another’s blood: her must be obtained without wronging anyone, and without it being won by base means.

716. On the desirability of wealth

October 12th, 2020

2:36

Do not, then, make any mistake: riches belong to the class of desirable things. But if my riches leave me, they will carry away with them nothing except themselves.

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715. Tall or short, it doesn't matter

October 9th, 2020

2:41

Health, for Aristotle, is a necessary requirement for a eudaimonic life. For the Stoics, it is preferred, other things being equal, but a life worth living is within grasp of everyone, regardless of their specific …

714. Rich, and yet a philosopher?

October 8th, 2020

2:51

Wealth ought to be despised, not that we should not possess it, but that we should not possess it with fear and trembling: we do not drive it away …

713. The basic precepts of a good Stoic life

October 7th, 2020

2:43

Seneca gives us a handy list of fundamental goals to live a life worth living.

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712. When an Epicurean goes Stoic

October 6th, 2020

3:18

Diodorus has said what you do not like to hear, because you too ought to do it. “I’ve lived, I’ve run the race which Fortune set me.”

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711. Aspiring to a life of virtue while being a fallible human being

October 5th, 2020

2:49

I shall continue to praise that life which I do not, indeed, lead, but which I know I ought to lead, loving virtue and following after her, albeit a …

710. I'm not a sage, but I get better every day

October 2nd, 2020

2:47

I am not a wise man, so do not require me to be on a level with the best of men, but merely to be better than the worst: I am satisfied, if every day …

709. Between Cynicism and Aristotelianism

October 1st, 2020

2:36

Why, then, do you talk so much more bravely than you live? Why do you pay regard to common rumor, and feel annoyed by calumnious gossip? Why do you …

708. Are you controlling your pleasures, or the other way around?

September 30th, 2020

2:42

Let virtue lead the way and bear the standard: we shall have pleasure for all that, but we shall be her masters and controllers; she may win some …

707. The real problem with Epicureanism

September 29th, 2020

3:06

Seneca strikes a sympathetic note toward Epicureanism, suggesting that it is a misunderstood philosophy, just like, in some respects, modern Stoicism turns out to be.

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706. The balance between pleasure and virtue

September 28th, 2020

2:30

You devote yourself to pleasures, I check them; you indulge in pleasure, I use it; you think that it is the highest good, I do not even think it to …

705. Why are you asking for more?

September 25th, 2020

2:45

Does this not appear great enough, when I tell you that the highest good is an unyielding strength of mind, wisdom, magnanimity, sound judgment, freedom, harmony, beauty? Do you still ask me for something greater?

--- …

704. Virtue is its own reward

September 24th, 2020

2:45

If exercising virtue is pleasurable, aren't the Stoics a kind of Epicureans in disguise? Not at all, because the pleasure of virtue is a byproduct, not the main goal.

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703. Harmonize your mind

September 23rd, 2020

2:42

A mind in harmony with itself is a virtuous one, because it is the vices that are at war with each other.

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702. Pleasure is the companion, not the essence, of life

September 22nd, 2020

2:17

The ancients bade us lead the highest, not the most pleasant life, in order that pleasure might not be the guide but the companion of a right-thinking and honorable mind.

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701. The difference between pleasure and virtue

September 21st, 2020

2:26

If pleasure and virtue were entirely inseparable, we should not see some things to be pleasant, but not honorable, and others most honorable indeed, …

700. Reason is the only thing that will make you truly happy

September 18th, 2020

2:39

That person is happy, whose reason recommends to them the whole posture of their affairs.

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699. There is no happiness without truth

September 17th, 2020

2:58

For no one can be styled happy who is beyond the influence of truth.

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698. Do away with hope and fear

September 16th, 2020

2:46

A person may be called “happy” who, thanks to reason, has ceased either to hope or to fear: but rocks also feel neither fear nor sadness, yet no one …

697. Fortune vs virtue

September 15th, 2020

2:22

The highest good is a mind which despises the accidents of fortune, and takes pleasure in virtue.

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696. Pursue the pleasures of life, in moderation

September 14th, 2020

2:36

A happy life must also set due value upon all the things which adorn our lives, without over-estimating any one of them, and must be able to enjoy the bounty of Fortune without becoming her slave.

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695. Don't follow blindly what other say, no matter how famous they are

September 11th, 2020

2:40

When I say “our opinion,” I do not bind myself to any one of the chiefs of the Stoic school, for I too have a right to form my own opinion.

--- …

694. Don't go after fool's gold

September 10th, 2020

2:53

These good things which men gaze at in wonder, which they crowd to see, which one points out to another with speechless admiration, are outwardly brilliant, but within are miseries to those who possess them.

--- …

693. Living by reason, not by imitation of others

September 9th, 2020

2:23

Nothing gets us into greater troubles than our subservience to common rumor, living not by reason but by imitation of others.

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692. What is happiness anyway?

September 8th, 2020

2:39

Seneca advises his brother, and us, not to listen to the random "shouts and clamors" of people, but to reflect carefully on what happiness is and how …

691. Do not wish for impossible things

September 7th, 2020

2:21

We know that certain things are features of the world. Like the existence of annoying people. Do not wish them away, because that is impossible. Rather, teach them, or bear with them.

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690. Do not wait for Plato's Republic

September 4th, 2020

2:27

Do not expect Plato’s Republic: but be content if the smallest thing goes on well, and consider such an event to be no small matter.

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689. Either god or randomness

September 3rd, 2020

2:21

In a word, if there is a god, all is well; and if chance rules, do not also be governed by it.

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688. Do not concern yourself with other people's opinions

September 2nd, 2020

2:23

Other people's opinions are not under your control, so focus instead on your own judgments and decisions to act or not to act.

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687. Negative and positive actions on behalf of the cosmopolis

September 1st, 2020

2:44

As you yourself are a component part of a social system, so let every act of yours be a component part of social life.

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686. Everything changes

August 31st, 2020

2:16

All things are changing: and you yourself are in continuous mutation and in a manner in continuous destruction, and the whole universe, too.

--- …

685. The importance of our ruling faculty

August 28th, 2020

2:36

Things stand outside of us, themselves by themselves, neither knowing anything of themselves nor expressing any judgment.

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684. Objective situations and subjective judgments

August 27th, 2020

2:28

Today I have got out of all trouble, or rather I have cast out all trouble, for it was not outside, but within and in my opinions.

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683. Apply reason to social improvement

August 26th, 2020

2:31

Labor not as one who is wretched, nor yet as one who would be pitied or admired; but direct your will to one thing only: to act or not to act as …

682. Teach them or bear with them

August 25th, 2020

2:17

If you are able, correct by teaching those who do wrong; but if you cannot, remember that indulgence is given to you for this purpose.

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681. When peope do wrong they hurt themselves first

August 24th, 2020

2:31

He who does wrong does wrong against himself. He who acts unjustly acts unjustly to himself, because he makes himself bad.

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680. Pain, pleasure, and injustice

August 21st, 2020

2:26

Our fear of pain and our desire for pleasure sometimes lead to injustice. Let that not be the case.

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679. The nature of injustice

August 20th, 2020

3:02

Marcus Aurelius thinks injustice is a type of impiety against the cosmos. Modern Stoics have updated the concept, since we don't believe the universe to be a sentient living being.

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678. Setting up again what chance has overthrown

August 19th, 2020

2:22

From a Stoic point of view, there is absolutely nothing more important in life than to exercise our virtue in order to help our fellow brothers and …

677. Help, instead of pity, others

August 18th, 2020

2:13

The wise person will not pity others, but will help them and be of service to them, seeing that he is born to be a help to all people and a public benefit.

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676. The ideal ruler

August 17th, 2020

2:46

Seneca details the characteristics of the ideal ruler. We should look for the same in the people who govern us. And in ourselves.

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675. Stoicism in the service of all

August 14th, 2020

2:27

No school of philosophy is more gentle and benign, none is more full of love towards man or more anxious to promote the happiness of all.

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674. The opposite of mercy is cruelty

August 13th, 2020

2:25

The virtues are never in contradiction with each other. The vices are never good for the people who indulge them.

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673. The nature and importance of mercy

August 12th, 2020

2:49

We should all follow Seneca's advice, resisting the urge for revenge and punishment, and practicing mercy and forgiveness.

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672. When cruelty becomes pleasure

August 11th, 2020

2:42

Both rulers and ordinary people sometimes turn cruelty into a pleasure. It seriously undermines the most precious thing we all have: our character.

671. Let us be more forgiving

August 10th, 2020

2:26

Seneca reminds us that the human animal is a delicate thing, forgiveness for his mistakes is often in order.

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670. The right and the wrong times to use violence

August 7th, 2020

2:49

Turns out that, when the proper criteria are followed, it is almost never the time to use violence, either as a society, or as individuals.

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669. People can change, and so can we

August 6th, 2020

2:52

Seneca provides a historically accurate analysis of the life of Octavian Augustus, the first Roman emperor. With implications for how to live our own lives.

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668. The tyrant will not be able to hide

August 5th, 2020

2:26

A cruel reign is disordered and hidden in darkness, and while all shake with terror at the sudden explosions, not even he who caused all this disturbance escapes unharmed.

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667. Beware of the corruption of the justice system

August 4th, 2020

2:36

Seneca reminds us that prosecutors and judges might be corrupted, and that we have to take this into account when we act.

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666. Do not support leaders who drag their office into the mud

August 3rd, 2020

2:31

Seneca issues a stern reminder to Nero about the responsibilities of government. It can all too easily be applied today.

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665. War is cruelty on a massive scale

July 31st, 2020

2:28

Seneca warns that the cruelty of people in charge of government can have massive consequences.

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664. When you hurt others, you hurt yourself

July 30th, 2020

2:37

Seneca reminds Nero, and us, that not doing the right thing is first and foremost injurious to ourselves.

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663. Seneca and the Peter Parker principle

July 29th, 2020

2:48

With great power comes great responsibility, as both Seneca and Spider-Man agree.

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662. Let us err on the side of clemency

July 28th, 2020

2:42

Seneca makes an epistemic argument to convince us that it is better to err on the side of clemency, rather than punishment.

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661. Clemency helps the innocent and the virtuous

July 27th, 2020

2:53

Seneca makes an argument in favor of a broad conception of clemency, not just on behalf of the guilty, but of the innocent and the virtuous.

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660. Is Nero going to "forget" his character?

July 24th, 2020

2:31

Seneca flatters Nero at the same time as he issues veiled threats to the new emperor, in case he steers from the right path.

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659. Seneca offers himself as a mirror for Nero's soul

July 23rd, 2020

3:04

We begin the study of the controversial On Clemency, through which Seneca tried to steer Nero's course for the good of the Roman people.

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658. Overcome your fear of death and you will be free and powerful

July 22nd, 2020

2:49

Epictetus and Seneca agree: our own death is the ultimate test of our character, and philosophy is a long journey to prepare us for it.

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657. What is and is not up to us

July 21st, 2020

2:51

'What then, if I fall ill?' You shall bear illness well. 'Who shall tend me?' God, and your friends. 'I shall lie on a hard bed.' But you can do it like a man.

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656. Consider how much control you have, and what follows from that

July 20th, 2020

2:46

When you think about it, it turns out that we have far less control over things and people than we think, and therefore far less blame.

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655. You can get better immediately, it's up to you

July 17th, 2020

2:44

Epictetus says that our moral improvement is not like the Olympic Games: when we fail, we can resume immediately, not having to wait four years.

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654. If you are in Gyara, live as one who is in Gyara

July 16th, 2020

2:47

Epictetus advises us to live the life we have, in the place we are, rather than indulge in regret for what we may have lost.

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653. How to practice and what to practice

July 15th, 2020

2:35

Epictetus gives us a very practical pointer about how to incorporate Stoic precepts in our lives.

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652. Do not wish for figs in winter

July 14th, 2020

2:48

There is a proper time for everything, including enjoying your loved ones. Keep it in mind, before they're gone.

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651. Stoics have a duty to work toward social and political change

July 13th, 2020

2:41

Epictetus tells us what happens when a person is truly free. Tyrants begin to tremble.

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650. Why should we be good?

July 10th, 2020

2:36

At Olympia you do not want anything else; you are content to have been crowned at Olympia. Does it seem to you so small and worthless a thing to be noble and good and happy?

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649. Enjoy figs in the summer, don't wish for them in the winter

July 9th, 2020

2:30

How can you wish at the same time to grow old and not to see the death of any that you love?

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648. Practicing philosophy is like going to the doctor's office

July 8th, 2020

2:24

Friends, the school of a philosopher is a hospital. When you leave, you should have suffered, not enjoyed yourself.

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647. Focus on the deed, not the praise

July 7th, 2020

2:37

‘He’s a clever young man and a fan of rhetoric.’ ‘How do you know?’ ‘He praises me.’ Oh, well, that proves it, of course.

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646. Your roles in life

July 6th, 2020

3:05

Let us play our roles in life well. Not acting lik a sheep, gently but at random; nor destructively, like a wild beast.

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645. The ultimate locus of your freedom

July 3rd, 2020

2:38

Look, can you be forced to assent to what appears to you wrong?’ ‘No.’ ‘Or to dissent from the plain truth?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then you see you do have within you a share of freedom.’

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644. Who are you, anyway?

July 2nd, 2020

3:07

My mind represents for me my medium – like wood to a carpenter, or leather to a shoemaker. The goal in my case is the correct use of impressions.

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643. It's about deeds, not words

July 1st, 2020

2:42

So you can talk the right talk about Stoicism. But do you also walk the right walk?

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642. A philosophy needs to be digested properly, not just vomited

June 30th, 2020

2:25

Those who have learnt precepts and nothing more are anxious to give them out at once, just as men with weak stomachs vomit food.

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641. Reframing problems into training exercises

June 29th, 2020

2:32

I have a bad neighbor – bad, that is, for himself. For me, though, he is good: he exercises my powers of fairness and sociability.

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640. When the universe sends you a sparring partner

June 26th, 2020

2:25

A boxer derives the greatest advantage from his sparring partner – and my accuser is my sparring partner. He trains me in patience, civility and even temper.

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639. Don't make yourself a salve of others

June 25th, 2020

2:15

For God’s sake, stop honoring externals, quit turning yourself into the tool of mere matter, or of people who can supply you or deny you those …

638. What is truly good or bad

June 24th, 2020

2:19

‘Being healthy is good, being sick is bad.’ No, my friend: enjoying health in the right way is good; making bad use of your health is bad.

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637. Examine your values carefully

June 23rd, 2020

2:21

When people say that the unjust person is better off because he has more money, what exactly is their system of values?

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636. The character gap

June 22nd, 2020

2:17

Keep well out of the sun, then, so long as your principles are as pliant as wax.

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635. The fine trappings of a horse

June 19th, 2020

2:23

Are you proud of things for which you don't really deserve credit? Or for things that are not important? Reflect on this, and set your priorities straight.

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634. Are you alone or lonely?

June 18th, 2020

2:23

Epictetus reminds us to draw a distinction between our objective situation and the way we feel about it.

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633. Ask your impressions for the right password

June 17th, 2020

2:36

We should always examine our impressions and ask whether they pass the test: are they in according with reason?

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632. How to deal with a difficult relative

June 16th, 2020

2:49

'My brother ought not to have behaved so to me.' No, but it is his business to look to that; however he may behave, I will deal with him as I ought.

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631. What is always within your power

June 15th, 2020

2:27

If now is the time for fever, take your fever in the right way; if for thirst, thirst in the right way, if for hunger, hunger aright. Is it not in your power? Who will hinder you?

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630. Philosophical journaling

June 12th, 2020

2:39

Epictetus explains one of the most powerful techniques in the Stoic toolkit for a better and more meaningful life.

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629. The problem with wealth is that it doesn't guarantee you a sound mind

June 11th, 2020

2:28

You have vessels of gold, but your reason--judgements, assent, impulse, will--is of common clay.

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628. That is tyranny, not government

June 10th, 2020

2:52

Epictetus argues that rational creatures will always oppose tyrannical governments.

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627. Argue less, practice more

June 9th, 2020

2:30

Epictetus draws a distinction between philosophy pursued for its own sake and philosophy as the art of life.

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626. What do you like to tend to?

June 8th, 2020

2:44

Socrates liked to daily monitor his moral self-improvement. How can we do the same?

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625. Contemplating your final activity

June 5th, 2020

2:10

Epictetus asks us to think about what we'd like to be doing when death will overtake us. It's an interesting exercise in self-knowledge.

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624. Facts don't come with judgments attached to them

June 4th, 2020

2:56

What, after all, are sighing and crying, except opinions? What is ‘misfortune’? An opinion. And sectarian strife, dissension, blame and accusation, ranting and raving – they all are mere opinion.

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623. The raw material of the good person

June 3rd, 2020

2:38

Epictetus reminds us that to become a better person we need to apply our reasoning faculty to arrive at better judgments.

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622. We need to be human beings, not statues

June 2nd, 2020

2:34

Epictetus puts to rest the notion that Stoics are supposed to suppress their emotions.

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621. The three disciplines of Epictetus

June 1st, 2020

2:59

There are three areas of training in Stoic ethics: to desire the proper things, to act properly in the world, and to arrive at the best possible judgments.

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620. Socrates and Alcibiades

May 29th, 2020

2:32

Epictetus stresses the difference between physical and inner beauty.

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619. Give yourself a break (from externals)

May 28th, 2020

2:41

Seneca notices that people fear old age in part because they fear irrelevance. But no one is irrelevant so long as they keep striving to be better …

618. Free yourself from the fickleness of others

May 27th, 2020

2:56

People who seek external goods become the slaves of those who happen to have the power to grant such goods.

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617. Pay attention to the ledger of your life

May 26th, 2020

2:28

What sort of things are truly important in your life, and why? Should you be reconsidering your current priorities?

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616. How to avoid a wretched life

May 25th, 2020

2:36

People with misguided priorities live a wretched life, so let's get our priorities straight and aim for a serene existence instead.

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615. On the futility of war

May 22nd, 2020

3:14

Seneca writes a poignant passage reminding us of the futile waste of human life that war is.

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614. Past, present, and future

May 21st, 2020

2:48

Seneca reminds us what is the proper Stoic attitude toward past, present, and future.

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613. The immortality of philosophy

May 20th, 2020

2:45

Honors, statues, and wealth, don't last much after one's death. Philosophy is forever.

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612. Try some true friends instead

May 19th, 2020

2:54

The philosophers of the past are your true friends: they give wisdom without asking for money, or imperiling your life.

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611. Have a conversation with Socrates or Epicurus

May 18th, 2020

2:53

Seneca reminds us of the span of philosophical inquiry, and of how delightful it is to engage with the greatest minds from across time and cultures.

610. Spend time in good company

May 15th, 2020

3:00

Read the great minds of humanity, those that have insights on how to live a meaningful life.

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609. On the treatment of humans and animals

May 14th, 2020

2:57

Seneca criticizes the slaughter of people and animals for the sake of entertainment. Today, the suffering continues, in slaughterhouses.

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608. How to properly go to the barber

May 13th, 2020

2:39

Thought experiment: if you knew you were to die soon, what sort of things would you prioritize, and what let go of entirely?

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607. The three periods of life

May 12th, 2020

2:32

The mind that is untroubled and tranquil has the power to roam into all the parts of its life.

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606. How to get to old age

May 11th, 2020

2:42

Old age surprises people while their minds are still childish, and they come to it unprepared and unarmed, for they have made no provision for it.

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605. Live in the here and now

May 8th, 2020

2:40

The greatest hindrance to living is expectancy, which depends upon the morrow and wastes to-day.

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604. Postponement is the greatest waste of life

May 7th, 2020

2:36

Life will follow the path it started upon, and will neither reverse nor check its course; it will make no noise, it will not remind you of its …

603. Are you on a voyage, or just tossed about by the currents of life?

May 6th, 2020

2:49

There is no reason for you to think that any man has lived long because he has grey hairs or wrinkles; he has not lived long — he has existed long.

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602. Learning how to live, and how to die

May 5th, 2020

2:29

It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and — what will perhaps make you wonder more — it takes the whole of life to learn how to die.

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601. Set aside time to better yourself

May 1st, 2020

2:38

Are you not ashamed to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business?

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600. Time to change your plans, right now

April 30th, 2020

2:47

Examine how you spend your time, decide how to improve, and don't wait until tomorrow to chance.

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599. Time vs money

April 29th, 2020

2:21

We are very careful with the management of our money, but far less so with that of our most precious commodity: time.

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598. Much of your life is not up to you

April 28th, 2020

2:16

The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.

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597. Life is long enough

April 27th, 2020

2:35

It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it.

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596. On the shortness of life

April 24th, 2020

2:44

Is life too short? Depends on what you do with it.

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595. We ought to take care of everyone

April 23rd, 2020

2:34

To do philosophy means to reason and act correctly toward others.

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594. The problem with luxury

April 22nd, 2020

2:31

While wealth is a preferred indifferent, luxury is more problematic, from a Stoic perspective.

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593. The importance of experience and self-control

April 21st, 2020

2:30

Musonius Rufus says that the combination of experience and self-control allow us to do what is right by others and ourselves.

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592. Think about the long term consequences of your actions

April 20th, 2020

2:26

Musonius Rufus contrasts the short duration of a shameful pleasure with the lingering regret that will follow.

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591. The philosophy school is like the doctor's office

April 17th, 2020

2:33

The philosopher’s school is a doctor’s office. You must leave not pleased, but pained, because you do not come in healthy.

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590. You made the only mistake you could possibly make

April 16th, 2020

2:40

A rare glimpse into the life of young Epictetus, when he gets criticized by his teacher, Musonius Rufus.

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589. What we should concern ourselves with

April 15th, 2020

2:44

Musonius Rufus clearly states how to implement the dichotomy of control in our lives.

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588. How to save $1000 by challenging impressions.

April 14th, 2020

2:47

Musonius Rufus reminds us that our most precious faculty is our ability to challenge impressions

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587. Patterning ourselves after Zeus

April 13th, 2020

3:00

Musonius Rufus is confronted by a critic about what it means to live according to Zeus, or Nature.

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586. Don't try to reason with those who can't hear

April 10th, 2020

2:37

Words of advice and warning administered when a person’s emotions are at their height and boiling over, accomplish little or nothing.

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585. Take care of your mind just like you do of your body

April 9th, 2020

2:25

In order to protect ourselves we must live like doctors and be continually treating ourselves with reason.

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584. Practice what you preach

April 8th, 2020

2:21

Don’t expect to tell others what they should do when they know that you do what you shouldn’t.

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583. On being useful to others

April 7th, 2020

2:30

It is not proper for one to die who is helpful to many while he is alive, unless by dying he is helpful to more.

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582. Make your last choice while you still can

April 6th, 2020

2:41

Choose to die well while you can; wait too long, and it might become impossible to do so.

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581. Shameful speech undermines your character

April 3rd, 2020

2:25

If we speak badly, we think badly, and we are more likely to act badly.

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580. Pain vs pleasure

April 2nd, 2020

2:44

Musonius Rufus reminds us to be on guard concerning the effects that both pain and pleasure may have on our character.

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579. The importance of self-control

April 1st, 2020

2:50

Self-control, often referred to as the fourth cardinal virtue of temperance, is crucial to Stoicism and other philosophies of life.

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578. Criticizing tyrants is not enough

March 31st, 2020

2:44

Musonius Rufus reminds us that we might have the same bad inclinations as other people, so we should start working on ourselves first.

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577. Live in the here and now

March 30th, 2020

2:28

Musonius Rufus reminds us that we can, and should, only live in the present.

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576. The interplay between nature and wisdom

March 27th, 2020

2:56

Cicero deploys a beautiful metaphor to encapsulate the Stoic theory of moral developmental psychology.

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575. What wisdom is for

March 26th, 2020

2:40

Wisdom is what allows us to use everything well. Things like money or education have no intrinsic value, they become valuable if we use them correctly.

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574. Live according to nature

March 25th, 2020

3:02

Cicero provides three interpretations of the famous Stoic motto, live according to nature.

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573. The virtues of sound reasoning and scientific understanding

March 24th, 2020

3:19

The Stoics adopted four ethical virtues, but also two epistemic ones: good reasoning and scientific understanding.

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572. On friendship

March 23rd, 2020

2:32

Friendship is intrinsically choice-worthy, going beyond just instrumental value.

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571. Our social duties

March 20th, 2020

3:17

Cicero explains how the wise person is supposed to be involved in society, politics, and family.

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570. On private property

March 19th, 2020

2:37

The Stoic take on private property is that it isn't really property: it's on temporary loan from the universe.

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569. Sociability, not pleasure

March 17th, 2020

2:23

Cicero proposes a simple argument for why sociability, not pleasure, is the ultimate human desire.

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568. Expanding our circle of concerns

March 16th, 2020

3:18

We learn the rudiments of ethics within our family. But we cannot stop there.

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567. On suicide

March 13th, 2020

3:03

Cicero explains what criterion the Stoic uses to decide whether to walk through the open door.

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566. On fame: Chrysippus agrees with Diogenes

March 12th, 2020

2:33

Despite the fact that Stoics and Cynics treated externals differently, apparently both Chrysippus and Diogenes thought fame not worth stretching a finger for.

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565. Why some indifferents are preferred

March 11th, 2020

3:17

Cicero tells us that some indifferents are preferred for their own sake, some for the results they bring, some for both reasons.

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564. Stoicism, Cynicism, and Aristotelianism

March 10th, 2020

3:41

Stoicism occupies a logical space between the kin philosophies of Cynicism and Aristotelianism.

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563. The drowning man metaphor

March 9th, 2020

2:46

Virtue is all or nothing, and yet we can make progress toward it. How does this Stoic paradox work?

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562. More on Aristotelians vs Stoics

March 6th, 2020

3:35

Cicero explains how Aristotelians and Stoics treat externals, such as health, wealth, and so on.

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561. On pain and mind

March 5th, 2020

2:37

Cicero reminds us that how we experience pain -- both physical and emotional -- in part depends on how we mentally approach the experience.

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560. Aristotelianism vs Stoicism

March 4th, 2020

3:10

Aristotelianism and Stoicism differ in their conceptions of eudaimonia, the kind of life we should pursue. In a sense, they are both right.

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559. Intentions vs consequences

March 3rd, 2020

3:33

Unlike much modern thinking in moral philosophy, Stoicism is about intentions. Which doesn't mean Stoics don't care about consequences.

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558. Living according to nature

March 2nd, 2020

2:43

Cicero reminds us of the quintessential Stoic motto: we should live in accordance with nature. It's a crucial concept, spanning the arc of ancient …

557. Why a good life is a moral life

February 28th, 2020

3:24

Cicero articulates a Stoic syllogism aiming at demonstrating that the good life is a moral life. We look at whether the syllogism is valid and sound.

556. The chief good is the moral good

February 27th, 2020

2:46

The wise person is happy because she is in complete control of the chief good in life: the moral good. Everything else is a preferred or dispreferred …

555. The metaphor of the archer

February 25th, 2020

3:15

Cicero explains the notions of preferred indifferents and of the dichotomy of control by means of one of the most famous metaphors in Stoic …

554. The mixed roots of virtue

February 25th, 2020

2:53

According to Stoic moral developmental psychology we begin life as self centered organisms, whose prosocial behavior develops initially by instinct, …

553. Things that have value outside of virtue

February 24th, 2020

2:56

Things like health and wealth are choiceworthy. But what gives them value is, specifically, that they are the raw materials through which we exercise our chief good: virtue.

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552. Our natural delight in the use of reason

February 20th, 2020

3:07

Cicero explains that human beings are naturally drawn to the use of reason, beginning when they are children. He also talks about the Stoic concept of katalepsis, the kind of impression so strong that it is undeniable.

551. The root of virtue: self love

February 19th, 2020

3:11

Cicero has Cato the Younger explain a fundamental concept of Stoic developmental psychology: how virtue is rooted in innate self love, and how we do …

550. The crucial importance of technical words

February 18th, 2020

2:59

Cicero explains why philosophy needs a technical vocabulary, and we look at the sort of issues this may cause when talking to people who are …

549. Virtue vs pleasure

February 17th, 2020

3:01

At the onset of book III of Cicero's De Finibus, Cato the Younger explain the difference between the Epicurean and Stoic positions on the respective values of pleasure and virtue.

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548. Teach or endure

February 14th, 2020

2:46

People exist for the sake of one another. Teach them then or bear with them.

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547. Two scenarios for the after-death

February 13th, 2020

2:52

Marcus Aurelius contemplates two possible scenarios for what happens after we die. Neither one of which justifies our fears on the matter. Better to focus instead on the fact that we are alive, here and now.

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546. What is properly ours and what is not

February 12th, 2020

2:28

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that just as we do not control other people's bodies, so we do not control their opinions and judgments. We should, …

545. Of bitter cucumbers and thorny briars

February 11th, 2020

2:17

“A cucumber is bitter.” Throw it away. “There are briars in the road.” Turn aside from them. This is enough. Do not add, “And why were such things made in the world?”

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544. The inner citadel

February 10th, 2020

2:41

The mind that is free from passions is a citadel, for we have nothing more secure to which we can fly for refuge and repel every attack.

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543. The courage to stay

February 7th, 2020

2:32

Marcus Aurelius reminds himself that if life is unbearable, one has the option to leave. But we have a duty, toward ourselves and others, to stay, if at all possible.

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542. Value judgments are not inherent in things

February 6th, 2020

2:27

If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.

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541. Achieving ataraxia

February 5th, 2020

2:32

Take me and cast me where you will; for there I shall keep my divine part tranquil, that is, content, if it can feel and act conformably to its proper constitution.

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540. On fame, posthumous or not

February 4th, 2020

2:36

Those who rather pursue posthumous fame do not consider that the people of tomorrow will be exactly like these whom they cannot bear now; and both are mortal.

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539. Three things to care about

February 3rd, 2020

2:15

It is my delight to keep the ruling faculty sound without turning away from any of the things that happen to people, but looking at and receiving all …

538. The nuanced conflict between pleasure and virtue

January 31st, 2020

2:32

I see no virtue that is opposed to justice; but I see a virtue that is opposed to love of pleasure, and that is temperance.

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537. How not to get overwhelmed by problems

January 30th, 2020

2:46

Do not let your thoughts at once embrace all the various troubles that you may expect to befall you: but on every occasion ask yourself, What is …

536. A prepared mind is a mark of wisdom

January 29th, 2020

2:22

All things happen in a more endurable fashion to people who are prepared for them.

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535. The true meaning of human freedom

January 28th, 2020

2:15

Freedom consists in raising one’s mind superior to injuries and becoming a person whose pleasures come from himself alone.

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534. When it comes to people insulting you, you are in complete control

January 27th, 2020

2:14

It is a sort of revenge to spoil a man’s enjoyment of the insult he has offered to us … the success of an insult lies in the sensitiveness and rage …

533. The insult conundrum

January 24th, 2020

2:10

Do these things befall me deservedly or undeservedly? If deservedly, it is not an insult, but a judicial sentence; if undeservedly, then he who does …

532. The best way to respond to insults

January 23rd, 2020

2:39

When insulted, Cato did not flare up and revenge the outrage, he did not even pardon it, but ignored it, showing more magnanimity in not …

531. Rich people are worse than beggars

January 22nd, 2020

2:24

The wise man will not admire himself even if many rich men admire him; for he knows that they differ in no respect from beggars — nay, are even more wretched than they; for beggars want but a little, whereas rich men …

530. On the invulnerability of the wise person

January 21st, 2020

2:33

Wise persons are without anger, which is caused by the appearance of injury. And they could not be free from anger unless they were also free from …

529. Is sagehood possible?

January 20th, 2020

2:56

Seneca argues that Cato the Younger was a sage, but a modern biography casts some doubt on that. Do sages ever walk the earth? Who would you put …

528. How to react to both prosperity and adversity

January 17th, 2020

2:16

Bear adversity with calm and prosperity with moderation, neither yielding to the former nor trusting to the latter.

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527. The simplified dichotomy of control

January 16th, 2020

2:18

Fortune can take nothing away save what she gave. Now fortune does not give virtue; therefore she does not take it away.

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526. The meaning of invulnerability

January 15th, 2020

2:27

Invulnerable is not that which is never struck, but that which is never wounded. In this class I will show you the wise person.

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525. We are free no matter what

January 14th, 2020

2:31

"For Cato did not outlive freedom, nor did freedom outlive Cato." On the Stoic conception of suicide.

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524. The path to virtue is not as steep as some may think

January 13th, 2020

2:33

“But the way by which we are asked to climb is steep and uneven.” What then? Can heights be reached by a level path? Yet they are not so sheer and precipitous as some think.

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523. The joke's on the thief

January 10th, 2020

2:47

Nobody wants to do what is bad for them. So when the thief steals, he is under the wrong impression about what is and is not good for him. We should …

522. The importance of logic

January 9th, 2020

2:52

A student asks Epictetus whether we should really bother to learn logic. "Would you like me to provide you with an argument?" Yes. "How would you …

521. Humanity's problems stem from ignorance

January 8th, 2020

2:40

According to Epictetus, the root of our problems is that we don't know, or refuse to acknowledge, how the world works. As opposed as to how we wished it worked.

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520. Practice, practice, practice

January 7th, 2020

2:28

If someone gets the habit of writing ungrammatically, their art is bound to be destroyed and perish. In the same way the person of honor keeps their character by honest acts and loses it by dishonest.

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519. Don't behave like a sheep or a wild beast

January 6th, 2020

3:04

What sets aside human beings from the rest of the animal world is our ability to reason and our propensity to be pro-social. So let's reason well, …

518. The power of using impressions

January 2nd, 2020

2:20

Since plants do not even have the power of perception, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are not applicable to them. Evidently, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ presume the power of using impressions.

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517. What if you were sent to Gyara?

December 30th, 2019

2:38

The island of Gyara was the exile place of choice for troublesome people during the Roman Empire. How would you handle being sent into exile?

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516. The wonder and curse of consciousness

December 27th, 2019

2:13

Because we’re the only animals who not only die but are conscious of it even while it happens, we are beset by anxiety.

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515. Microcosm and macrocosm

December 26th, 2019

2:20

Because what is a human being? Part of a community – the community of gods and men, primarily, and secondarily that of the city we happen to inhabit, which is only a microcosm of the universe in toto.

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514. The true nature of humanity

December 23rd, 2019

2:33

Human beings are neither mindless drones in a beehive nor entirely self-contained individuals. We are highly social animals, and a number of ethical …

513. Going on a trip? Here's what's up to you (and what isn't)

December 20th, 2019

2:44

A nice analogy from Epictetus between our choices in life and those we have when we go on a trip. Even when the trip doesn't end well...

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512. What really matters

December 19th, 2019

2:10

Material things per se are indifferent, but the use we make of them is not indifferent.

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511. The crucial importance of trust

December 18th, 2019

2:40

Trust is crucial for intimate relationships, for friendships, and even among fellow citizens. Research shows that nations with the highest degree of self-reported happiness among its citizens are those in which people …

510. Prosoche, or Stoic attention

December 17th, 2019

2:25

We know how to analyze arguments, and have the skill a person needs to evaluate competent logicians. But in life what do we do? What today we say is good, tomorrow we'll swear is bad. That's because we don't pay …

509. Better swallow the bitter pill from the get go

December 16th, 2019

2:31

When I see that one thing, virtue, is supreme and most important, I cannot say that something else is, just to make you happy.

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508. Don't get lost in the details and miss the big picture

December 13th, 2019

2:27

Some become captivated by all these things and don’t want to proceed further. One is captivated by deductive or equivocal arguments, someone else by yet another ‘inn’ of this kind; and there they stay and rot as if …

507. Don't confuse a rest stop with your destination

December 12th, 2019

2:20

People act like a traveller headed for home who stops at an inn and, finding it comfortable, decides to remain there. You’ve lost sight of your goal, man. You were supposed to drive through the inn, not park there.

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506. Anger is a waste of time

December 11th, 2019

2:30

Why should we, as though we were born to live forever, waste our tiny span of life in declaring anger against any one? Life is a matter which does …

505. The simplest and bets trick in life: be prepared

December 10th, 2019

2:19

Is anyone surprised at being cold in winter? At being sick at sea? Or at being jostled in the street? The mind is strong enough to bear those evils …

504. How to keep a philosophical journal

December 9th, 2019

3:45

Seneca gives us a rationale and detailed instructions on how too keep a philosophical journal. And modern cognitive science confirms that it works in order to improve self-analysis and let go of negative emotions.

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503. The problem is money

December 6th, 2019

2:25

Money is what wearies out the law-courts, sows strife between father and son, concocts poisons, and gives swords to murderers just as to soldiers: it …

502. Examine your balance sheet of giving and receiving

December 5th, 2019

2:21

Do you ask, what is your greatest fault? It is, that you keep your accounts wrongly: you set a high value upon what you give, and a low one upon what …

501. Envy is the root of much unhappiness

December 4th, 2019

2:18

A person will never be well off to whom it is a torture to see any one better off than themselves. Have I less than I hoped for? Well, perhaps I hoped for more than I ought.

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500. Treat fools like fools, don't get angry with them

December 3rd, 2019

2:10

It makes no sense to get angry with children or non-human animals, because they can't reason. So why get angry with an adult who has temporarily lost …

499. The futility of revenge

December 2nd, 2019

2:24

Revenge takes up much time, and throws itself in the way of many injuries while it is smarting under one. We all retain our anger longer than we feel our hurt.

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498. Understand and forgive

November 29th, 2019

2:21

Let us  be more gentle one to another: we are bad people, living among bad people. There is only one thing which can afford us peace, and that is to agree to forgive one another.

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497. I have entrusted the guidance of my life to reason

November 27th, 2019

2:32

Say to fortune: Do what you will, you are too feeble to disturb my serenity: this is forbidden by reason, to whom I have entrusted the guidance of my …

496. On magnanimity

November 26th, 2019

2:42

Seneca runs us through a long list of reasons why people do us wrong. And then concludes that we should be magnanimous, not vengeful, toward them, in …

495. Act the opposite of anger

November 25th, 2019

2:28

Let us replace all of anger’s symptoms by their opposites; let us make our countenance more composed than usual, our voice milder, our step slower. Our inward thoughts gradually become influenced by our outward demeanor.

494. Abstain from action when under the spell of anger

November 22nd, 2019

2:26

While you are angry, you ought not to be allowed to do anything. Why?, do you ask? Because when you are angry there is nothing that you do not wish to be allowed to do.

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493. Humor, not anger

November 21st, 2019

2:38

It is said that Socrates when he was given a box on the ear, merely said that it was a pity a man could not tell when he ought to wear his helmet out …

492. Practical steps to curb your anger

November 20th, 2019

2:45

Do something that relaxes you, change your environment to make it soothing, and most importantly don't engage in anything major if you are tired, stressed, or hungry.

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491. Be careful with the company you keep

November 19th, 2019

2:31

We should live with the quietest and easiest-tempered persons, not with anxious or with sullen ones: for our own habits are copied from those with …

490. Anger betrays what is best in humanity

November 18th, 2019

2:37

Anger pays a penalty at the same moment that it exacts one: it forswears human feelings. The latter urge us to love, anger urges us to hatred: the latter bid us do good, anger bids us do harm.

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489. The difference between anger and other negative emotions

November 15th, 2019

3:09

Other vices affect our judgment, anger affects our sanity. Its intensity is in no way regulated by its origin: for it rises to the greatest heights …

488. The awful things we do when angered

November 14th, 2019

2:28

Men, frantic with rage, call upon heaven to slay their children, to reduce themselves to poverty, and to ruin their houses, and yet declare that they are not either angry or insane.

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487. It takes two to have a fight

November 13th, 2019

2:30

If anyone is angry with you, meet their anger by returning benefits for it: a quarrel which is only taken up on one side falls to the ground: it takes two people to fight.

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486. On revenge and retaliation

November 12th, 2019

2:23

Revenge and retaliation are words which men use and even think to be righteous, yet they do not greatly differ from wrong-doing.

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485. Think of everything, expect everything

November 11th, 2019

3:01

People think some things unjust because they ought not to suffer them, and some because they did not expect to suffer them: we think what is unexpected is beneath our deserts.

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484. Don't rush to judgment, give time to reason to do its work

November 8th, 2019

2:36

Is it a good person who has wronged you? Do not believe it. Is it a bad one? Do not be surprised at this; by their sin they have already punished themselves.

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483. We have other people’s vices before our eyes, and our own behind our backs

November 7th, 2019

2:51

Someone will be said to have spoken ill of you; think whether you did not first speak ill of them; think of how many persons you have yourself spoken ill.

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482. It is foolish to be angry at your computer

November 6th, 2019

2:55

We are so foolish that we actually get angry at inanimate objects, who neither deserve nor feel our anger. But in fact, no one deserves our anger: …

481. Fake anger vs real anger

November 5th, 2019

2:28

Often the pretense of passion will do what the passion itself could not have done. Sometimes, it may be effective to fake anger. Just don't make the …

480. Reason and goodness are candles in the dark

November 4th, 2019

2:58

We need a long-breathed struggle against permanent and prolific evils; not, indeed, to quell them, but merely to prevent their overpowering us.

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479. Forgiveness first and foremost

November 1st, 2019

2:28

To avoid being angry with individuals, you must pardon the whole mass, you must grant forgiveness to the entire human race.

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478. The nature of emotions

October 31st, 2019

2:57

The Stoics’ opinion is that anger can venture upon nothing by itself, without the approval of mind. It follows that we are in charge, not whatever …

477. The difference between reason and anger

October 30th, 2019

2:21

Reason wishes to give a just decision; anger wishes its decision to be thought just.

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476. Anger is not a weapon, it's a liability

October 29th, 2019

2:29

Seneca uses Aristotle's own analogy between negative emotions and weapons to show that it is flawed: we control our weapons, but destructive emotions …

475. A good judge condemns wrongful acts, but does not hate them

October 28th, 2019

2:24

People who do wrong should be treated like sick patients. By all means, restrain them if they are liable to hurt others. But do not be angry with …

474. Don't be angry, be useful

October 25th, 2019

2:25

When someone is wandering about our city because they have lost their way, it is better to place then on the right path than to drive them away.

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473. Anger is like drunkenness, it doesn't help

October 24th, 2019

2:30

Seneca responds somewhat sarcastically to the Aristotelian suggestion that a bit of anger is good because it makes soldiers more willing to fight. So …

472. Why are love and a sense of justice not enough?

October 23rd, 2019

2:28

Defenders of the right to be angry say that we should be angered by injustice. But why is it that positive emotions, like love, concern for others, …

471. The three movements of anger

October 22nd, 2019

2:36

The best plan is to reject straightway the first incentives to anger, to resist its very beginnings, and to take care not to be betrayed into it: for if once it begins to carry us away, it is hard to get back again into …

470. Anger is a short madness

October 21st, 2019

3:00

Anger is very like a falling rock which breaks itself to pieces upon the very thing which it crushes. That you may know that they whom anger possesses are not sane, look at their appearance.

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469. Receive wealth or prosperity without arrogance; and be ready to let it go

October 18th, 2019

2:21

Stoics have no problem with wealth. We are not Cynics, after all. So long as it is not ill-gotten, or ill-used, it represents yet another preferred indifferent, yet another occasion to exercise virtue.

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468. The difference between impressions and assent

October 17th, 2019

2:47

An eye, when open, has no option but to see. The decision whether to look at a particular man’s wife, however, and how, belongs to the will.

--- …

467. Begin to reckon age, not by years, but by virtues

October 16th, 2019

2:18

To have lived 60 years, or 70, or 100 is an interesting factoid, but the real question is: have you lived well?

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466. No one dies too soon

October 15th, 2019

2:53

Unless you believe in miracles, you agree that events are regulated by cause and effect. In which case the notion that someone dies "too soon" is …

465. Go through life like a traveler stopping at an inn

October 14th, 2019

2:53

Life is short, and we should thread lightly, mindful of the fact that it is up to us to leave the place in good conditions, so that the next …

464. Sometimes people live too long for their own good

October 11th, 2019

2:33

If sickness had carried off that glory and support of the empire Gnaeus Pompeius, at Naples, he would have died the undoubted head of the Roman …

463. On the nature of death

October 10th, 2019

3:04

If anyone pities the dead, he ought also to pity those who have not been born. Death is neither a good nor a bad thing, for that alone which is something can be a good or a bad thing.

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462. Do not fear the netherworld, don't listen to the fantasies of poets and priests

October 7th, 2019

2:34

He who dies need fear no darkness, no prison, no blazing streams of fire, no river of Lethe, no judgment seat before which he must appear, and that Death is such utter freedom that he need fear no more despots.

--- …

461. Nature is fair in her bargains

October 4th, 2019

2:18

Whenever we decide to do something, we enter in a bargain with the cosmic web of cause-effect. The decision and effort is up to us, the outcome not so.

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460. The common lot of mortals

October 3rd, 2019

2:32

Every time we lose a loved one it means that we have, in fact, loved. So we should not be resentful for what the universe has taken, but rather …

459. Women are just as capable as men of achieving eudaimonia

October 2nd, 2019

3:05

Believe me -- says Seneca to Marcia -- [women] have the same intellectual power as men, and the same capacity for honorable and generous action.

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458. Which is the better lot, to be happy for a short time or not at all?

October 1st, 2019

3:18

Seneca reminds his friend Marcia, who had lost a son a couple of years later, that it is better to be thankful for what she had, rather than …

457. No regrets, only thankfulness

September 30th, 2019

2:39

Everything we think we have is actually on loan from the universe, so to speak, and we need to be ready to give it back whenever the universe recalls the loan, no matter in what form it does it.

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456. Pay attention to the setbacks of others

September 27th, 2019

2:44

One way to prepare for setbacks in life is to pay attention when they happen to others. We are not exceptions to the fabric of the universe, we are an integral part of it. What happens to others may or will happen to us.

455. Reasonable vs unreasonable grief

September 26th, 2019

2:24

Feeling grief and sorrow at the loss of a loved one is natural and inevitable. Dwelling on it to the point of becoming paralyzed and not being able …

454. Everyone is a good pilot if the weather is fair

September 25th, 2019

2:37

In consoling Marcia, Seneca reminds her that one's virtue is on display when the universe challenges with adversity, not when life glides easily with …

453. Challenging the cognitive component of our emotions

September 24th, 2019

2:52

Our feelings may end up feeding upon their own bitterness, until the unhappy mind takes a morbid delight in grief. But we can challenge the cognitive component of our own emotions and move forward.

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452. The path to a life worth living

September 23rd, 2019

2:41

Stoicism leads us to a life of benevolence toward other human beings, in pursuit of a constant refinement of our  judgments and understanding of how …

451. The first rule of Stoic Club

September 20th, 2019

2:39

Plato said that "every soul is deprived of the truth against its will." Which means that we need to treat people who make mistakes with sympathy, not …

450. Stoic epistemology and humility about knowledge

September 19th, 2019

3:07

Cicero's reports a famous metaphor used by Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism, to explain the progression from perception to assent to comprehension to knowledge. Which is then used as a reminder about the limits …

449. Chrysippus on the various philosophies of life

September 18th, 2019

2:35

According to Chrysippus, when it's all said and done, there are only three conceptions of the chief good for human beings.

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448. Aristo, the Stoic dissenter

September 17th, 2019

3:20

Aristo of Chios disagreed with the founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Citium, in pretty fundamental ways. A powerful reminder that Stoic philosophy isn't …

447. Always challenge your impressions

September 15th, 2019

3:03

The basic Stoic psychological account of our desires and actions is a powerful guide to willfully change our behavior for the better.

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446. Panaetius, the dissident Stoic

September 13th, 2019

3:10

Let's learn why the middle-Stoic Panaetius disagreed on a major point of "physics" with the early Stoics: he didn't believe in divination!

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445. Skeptics vs Stoics

September 12th, 2019

2:58

The Academic Skeptics were one of the major rival schools to Stoicism. Yet, on the nature of human knowledge, and on what it means in practice, for …

444. Chrysippus and the logic of paradoxes

September 11th, 2019

3:10

If you have some sand and you start adding grains, when do you have a heap? Chrysippus' answer to this sort of paradox will leave logicians frustrated and the rest of us with something to think about.

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443. Ignorance, knowledge, and things in between

September 10th, 2019

3:14

The wisest approach is to not commit to opinions until we have strong evidence in their favor, or to hold opinions very lightly, and not attach our …

442. Stoic materialism

September 9th, 2019

2:47

The Stoics are materialists, in the sense that they believe that anything that has causal powers must be made of stuff, whatever that stuff turns out to be.

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441. Four interesting Stoic doctrines

September 6th, 2019

4:11

Virtue can only be perfected by reason; all virtues are really just one, namely, wisdom; virtue is intrinsically good; and one needs to continuously practice in order to be virtuous.

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440. What Zeno said

September 5th, 2019

3:45

Zeno of Citium, the founder of the Stoic sect, says that there are three sets of things in the world: virtue, things according or contra to nature, …

439. The importance of Socrates

September 4th, 2019

2:44

Socrates was the first to draw philosophy away from matters of an abstruse character, in which all the philosophers before his time had been wholly …

438. The consolations of philosophy

September 3rd, 2019

2:40

Cicero begins his treatise Academica by seeking a medicine for his sorrows in philosophy.

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437. Gods or atoms, you should blame no one

September 2nd, 2019

2:47

Blame is not a Stoic thing. We bear responsibility for what we do, of course, but to blame people isn’t particularly useful. As Marcus Aurelius says, …

436. The problem with Paris (not the city)

August 30th, 2019

3:01

Paris stole Menelaus' wife, Helen, thereby starting the Trojan War. He did that because he assented to the impression that it was good to pursue the …

435. That which is according to nature is the beginning of the good

August 29th, 2019

2:53

And what is this Good? I shall tell you: it is a free mind, an upright mind, subjecting other things to itself and itself to nothing.

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434. Stoics vs Epicureans

August 28th, 2019

3:08

Avoiding pain and seeking pleasure comes natural to human beings. But, so argue the Stoics, being prosocial is even more fundamental to our nature as social animals.

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433. Bad thoughts are like catchy tunes

August 27th, 2019

2:32

Just like a catchy tune won't leave your mind easily, once it has gained access, so with thoughts of unvirtuous actions. So don't grant them entrance in the first place.

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432. Stoicism is not good for consumerism

August 23rd, 2019

2:45

How many things are superfluous; we merely used them not because we needed them, but because we had them. How much do we acquire simply because our neighbors have acquired such things, or because most people possess …

431. How to tell a Stoic

August 22nd, 2019

2:47

Finding yourself at a party and want to know if someone else is practicing Stoicism? Ask them what they think is the chief good and the chief bad. 

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430. The right attitude about the world

August 21st, 2019

3:06

To have whatsoever they wish is not in people's power; it is in their power not to wish for what they have not, but cheerfully to employ what comes …

429. Everything tastes good if you are hungry

August 20th, 2019

2:31

“Bad bread!” you say. But just wait for it; it will become good. Hunger will make even such bread delicate and of the finest flavor. And the same goes for any other external thing, whether a necessity or a luxury.

--- …

428. Anger is a self inflicted wound

August 19th, 2019

2:40

Nothing need provoke our anger if we do not add to our pile of troubles by getting angry.

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427. A simple way to go right, many ways to go wrong

August 16th, 2019

2:30

It's relatively easy to stay on the right track by following simple methods, but there are countless ways to go wrong if we don't pay attention. Here …

426. The balance between inner and outer resources

August 15th, 2019

2:48

How do we strike a good balance between cultivating externals, like wealth, and focusing on the improvement of our own character? Different …

425. Ethics and human nature

August 14th, 2019

2:54

Philosophers have debated for millennia the nature of ethics. Is it arbitrary? Or are there universal moral laws that we can apprehend through reason? Neither, say the Stoics. Theirs is a thoroughly naturalistic …

424. What the virtues are for

August 13th, 2019

2:43

Desires have to be reined in, fear to be suppressed, proper actions to be arranged, debts to be paid; we therefore include self-restraint, bravery, prudence, and justice among the virtues – assigning to each quality its …

423. The difference may be subtle

August 12th, 2019

2:39

There are, as you know, vices which are next-door to virtues. Carelessness looks like ease, and rashness like bravery.

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422. Of friendship, dogs, and meat thrown in the middle

August 9th, 2019

2:34

No doubt you have seen dogs playing with, and fawning before, each other, and thought, ‘Nothing could be friendlier.’ But just throw some meat in the …

421. The analogy between physical and mental health

August 8th, 2019

2:58

The Stoics understood what bodily health is, and from that they deduced the existence of a certain mental health also. They knew about bodily strength, and from that they inferred the existence of mental sturdiness.

420. Nothing is good which can be put to wrong use by any person

August 7th, 2019

2:53

The Stoics regard nothing as good which can be put to wrong use by any person. And we can all see for ourselves to what wrong uses many people put their riches, their high position, or their physical powers.

--- …

419. The difference separating Aristotelians, Stoics, and Cynics

August 6th, 2019

2:38

Externals — such as money, possessions, and the like — are how we exercise our virtue, which cannot be expressed in a vacuum. And one of the four cardinal virtues is temperance.

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418. Where's your stopping point?

August 5th, 2019

2:35

He who has much, desires more – a proof that he has not yet acquired enough; but he who has enough has attained that which never fell to the rich man’s lot – a stopping-point.

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417. Three disciplines to live a better life

August 2nd, 2019

2:24

In order to live a meaningful life (ethics) we need to reason well about things (logic), and we need to have a good grasp of how the world works …

416. A starving man despises nothing

August 1st, 2019

2:43

We take a lot of things for granted, when life is going well for us. But — fools that we are — we really appreciate what we had only once we’ve lost …

415. Are you conducting yourself virtuously in your profession?

July 31st, 2019

2:39

Here is a basic Stoic equation: external thing or activity + virtue = good, while its opposite is: external thing or activity + vice = bad. So, is your profession good or bad, according to this approach?

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414. The hedonic treadmill will not make you happy

July 30th, 2019

2:21

People think that externals are good, and then, after having won their wish, and suffered much, they find them evil, or empty, or less important than they had expected.

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413. Fortune, I ask no favors of you

July 29th, 2019

2:31

Fortune sometimes favors villains and turns against good people. That's why our happiness should depend on our own decisions, not the vagaries of …

412. The playthings of children and the shackles of adults

July 26th, 2019

2:37

External goods like fine clothing, gourmet food, and nice houses ought to be regarded as the playthings of children, not the shackles of adults.

--- …

411. The importance of not wasting time

July 25th, 2019

2:39

Nature has not given us such a generous and free-handed space of time that we can have the leisure to waste any of it.

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410. The value of money, beauty, and high social position

July 24th, 2019

2:37

The Stoic concept of preferred and dispreferred indifferents always gets people confused or, the other common human response to lack of understanding, scoffing.

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409. Rationalizing is not the same thing as reasoning

July 23rd, 2019

2:20

We are in love with our vices; we uphold them and prefer to make excuses for them rather than shake them off. The reason is unwillingness, the …

408. How to tell whether you have achieved wisdom

July 19th, 2019

2:37

Do you find yourself in the thralls of fear, jealousy, or anger? Do you act inconsistently in life? Then you ain't wise yet.

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407. Negative emotions are diseases, they are not good even in small measure

July 18th, 2019

2:53

One of the major differences between Stoics and Aristotelians has always been the treatment of disruptive emotions, such as anger and fear. They are …

406. The true value of things

July 17th, 2019

3:08

We have become alternately merchants and merchandise, and we ask, not what a thing truly is, but what it costs.

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405. Are you a slave, a fool, or what?

July 16th, 2019

2:50

From the point of view of someone who has managed to overcome his attachment for externals, people going after riches and luxuries look like fools. …

404. The problem with fame, wealth and power

July 11th, 2019

2:23

Seneca reminds us that in the time of Nero - just like today - famous, rich and powerful people are hiding much evil under a thin coating of titles.

403. The problem with excessive wealth

July 10th, 2019

3:11

Seneca, who knew a thing or two about wealth, warns us about pursuing it. A mind that revels in luxury, he says, is a mind that has lost its balance.

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402. Why are you doing what you are doing?

July 9th, 2019

2:31

Seneca reminds us that striving to be a better person is an end in itself, not to be pursued in order to boast to others of our accomplishments.

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401. What brought down Alexander the Great

July 8th, 2019

2:43

Seneca reminds us that Alexander the Great conquered everything, except his own destructive emotions, which led to endless grief for him and his friends. Beware, therefore, of reacting in anger to your problems.

--- …

400. Who's got the time?

July 5th, 2019

2:31

Doesn't it take time to practice Stoicism? We are all so busy! Here is Marcus Aurelius' response to that question. A response that applies also if you are a Christian, or a Buddhist, among other things.

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399. What's the difference between useful and useless?

July 4th, 2019

2:40

Epictetus argues that things are useless or useful not in themselves, but as a result of what we do with them. As usual in Stoicism, the answer comes …

398. The definition of courage

July 3rd, 2019

2:43

Seneca explains that courage has little to do with rushing into battle to face an enemy. It's about how we handle the good and the bad that Fortuna throws our way. Also, wanna play ball with Socrates?

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397. What are we talking about, and why?

July 2nd, 2019

2:32

Human beings have an unparalleled ability to communicate with each other. And yet, Seneca suggests, much of the time we talk about things that are neither improving ourselves, nor making the world a better place.

--- …

396. On the vanity of mental gymnastics

July 1st, 2019

2:25

Philosophers can be clever. Too clever for their own sake, suggests Seneca. Indeed, one measure of wisdom is precisely the ability to tell the …

395. Have you changed your mind yet?

June 28th, 2019

2:19

Epictetus bluntly tells us that if we have not been affected by philosophy and have not changed our mind about something important as a result of it, …

394. Have you taken the easy step yet?

June 27th, 2019

2:17

Seneca says that being able to do without luxuries is but a small and easy step toward virtue. And yet so many of us have much trouble taking that  step. Have you?

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393. The difference between thinking and worrying

June 26th, 2019

2:53

Seneca advises Lucilius to think, but not to worry, about the future. It is reasonable to plan for things to come and to act in the best way possible. So long as we don't delude ourselves into thinking that we actually …

392. In a little time you will be like Hadrian and Augustus

June 24th, 2019

2:39

Marcus Aurelius takes the long view of things in order to remind himself that whatever troubles us so much right now will soon be over, one way or another. This isn't nihilism, but rather the conscious adoption of a …

391. Pick your virtue buddy

June 21st, 2019

2:28

Think of practicing philosophy as going to the gym: sure, you can do a lot on your own. But if you choose a good partner to keep you focused on the task, you'll see more steady improvement. So, who's your virtue buddy?

390. Thus the study of wisdom has become the study of words

June 20th, 2019

2:42

Seneca says that some people are interested in studying philosophy not to improve their souls, but to sharpen their wits. Time to reflect on what, …

389. Consider vegetarianism

June 19th, 2019

2:56

Seneca says that we have enough sustenance without resorting to blood, and that a habit of cruelty is formed whenever butchery is practiced for pleasure. Something to meditate on a bit.

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388. On the best way to resist temptation

June 18th, 2019

2:58

Seneca and Epictetus agree: the best way to resist temptation is to avoid it altogether, because it's hard to practice temperance, at least initially. Modern cognitive science agrees.

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387. The fortune of everyone is molded by their character

June 17th, 2019

3:06

Cicero explains a classic Stoic paradox: only the wise person is free, while everyone else is a slave. To what? To externals that they think are …

386. The true hearer is ravished and stirred by the beauty of the subject matter, not by the jingle of empty words

June 14th, 2019

2:42

Seneca briefly tells us both how to approach philosophy, and how not to. Are you a passive consumer of the stuff, or are you looking to become a better human being?

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385. Philosophy rubs off of you

June 13th, 2019

2:55

Seneca says that associating ourselves with a philosopher we cannot help but learning something that may change our lives. So today try to get a friend or relative into philosophy. You'll be doing some good for the …

384. That which you cannot reform, it is best to endure

June 12th, 2019

2:42

Is Stoicism about going through life with a stiff upper lip? No, but enduring what cannot be changed is part of the philosophy. Modern Stoic Larry Becker called it the "axiom of futility."

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383. No matter what trouble you mention, it has happened to many

June 11th, 2019

2:38

Seneca reminds us that, regardless of how terrible a problem or event appears to be right now, plenty of others have gone through something similar before. They can be an inspiration to us to overcome whatever is …

382. What illusion about myself do I entertain?

June 7th, 2019

2:51

Without knowing about modern psychological research, Epictetus figured out that we all too easily fool ourselves. Here are three Stoic techniques to …

381. What things you can be robbed of, and what things you can't

June 6th, 2019

2:36

Cicero explains that we may lose any external good, because it isn't truly ours, but rather on loan from the universe. However, our judgments, …

380. How to do a premeditation of adversity

June 5th, 2019

3:15

Seneca talks about the premeditatio malorum, an exercise that allows us to be mentally prepared for possible negative outcomes of our action. The key …

379. Life is like a journey: some things that you don't like will be thrown at you

June 4th, 2019

2:35

Seneca uses a metaphor of life as a journey, or as a trip to the thermal baths, to make the point that obstacles will be thrown our way, either on purpose or by accident. The question is: how do we deal with them?

--- …

378. "Busyness" is no proof of happiness

June 3rd, 2019

2:36

Seneca anticipates modern social psychological research in arguing that keeping oneself busy for the sake of being busy does not lead to happiness. …

377. People will do the same things even though you would burst with rage

May 31st, 2019

2:45

Marcus Aurelius joins Seneca in his rejection of anger as a valid or effective motivator of human action. We should, instead, be moved to act by …

376. The most important contribution to peace of mind is never to do wrong

May 30th, 2019

2:43

Seneca explains why not doing wrong is your best bet toward achieving serenity of mind. Of course, it's also the virtuous thing to do.

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375. What goads people into destroying other people?

May 29th, 2019

2:27

Seneca gives a disturbing list of reasons why we kill each other. Most of them are precisely the kind of negative emotions that Stoic training is attempting to move away from.

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374. No need to be Cato in order to practice virtue

May 28th, 2019

3:19

Seneca discusses the grand example of Cato the Younger, his favorite role model. But even in ordinary life we can be courageous and just, if we pay …

373. The answer is always going to be "it depends"

May 24th, 2019

3:04

Cicero reminds us that in virtue ethics the answer to moral questions is always going to depend on circumstances, a striking contrast with modern - …

372. Spend some time with Zeno and Socrates instead

May 23rd, 2019

2:50

Want to become a better person? Forget about traveling, since you will bring with you the same problems you are trying to flee. Read a good book instead, enter in conversation with the best minds humanity has produced …

371. The problem is that you are travelling with your emotions and are followed by your afflictions

May 22nd, 2019

2:53

Seneca continues his analysis of the relationship between traveling and self-improvement. While there are good reasons to travel (leisure and learning), self-improvement isn't one of them, because that requires critical …

370. If you travel in order to escape yourself, don't

May 21st, 2019

2:49

As Socrates said to someone who was complaining that traveling brought him no benefits: "It serves you right! You travelled in your own company!"

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369. We must suffer for the sake of those we love

May 20th, 2019

2:29

Seneca dispels the stereotype of Stoics going through life with a stiff upper lip by explicitly advocating suffering for those we love. What marks the Stoic is not that she doesn't suffer, but how she handles suffering.

368. Theory is fine, but useless if you don't practice

May 17th, 2019

2:50

Epictetus complains about something that hasn't changed much in two millennia: people who are happy to discuss the fine logical points of ethical dilemmas, but are apparently not that interested in becoming better human …

367. Remember what you should offer and what you should withhold

May 16th, 2019

2:31

Seneca reminds us how to behave with fellow human beings, but also that, from a Stoic perspective, what is and is not to be valued (one's good and bad judgments) is not quite what most people value, focused as they …

366. Humanity is what it is, not what we would like it to be

May 15th, 2019

2:40

Seneca reminds us that our fellow human beings aren't always trustworthy or well intentioned. Nevertheless, we have a duty to treat others, and …

365. Your role model may be closer than you think

May 14th, 2019

2:38

In which I compare my adoptive grandfather to Cato the Younger. Not because he fought battles against tyrants, but because he was a decent and kind human being.

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364. Virtue is all-or-nothing, and yet, we can make progress

May 13th, 2019

2:59

Cicero talks about one of the classic Stoic paradoxes: virtue is all-or-nothing, and yet one can make progress toward it. How is this possible? In this episode we explain, by way of a geometrical analogy.

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363. Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do

May 10th, 2019

2:35

Marcus Aurelius argues that when we do something right we shouldn't expect either recognition or a return. Otherwise, we are doing the right thing …

362. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s account every day.

May 9th, 2019

2:37

Seneca reminds us that we do not actually know when "the remorseless law of Fate" has fixed the time of our death. Therefore, we should prioritize …

361. No sensation of evil can reach one who is dead

May 8th, 2019

2:39

Seneca agrees with Epicurus: there is no sense in fearing what happens after death, since we won't be there to experience it. Therefore, we should …

360. Not feeling pain would make us inhuman, not sages

May 7th, 2019

2:59

Seneca talks to his friend Lucilius about how to console the bereaved, dispelling the stereotype of Stoics as individuals who go through life with a …

359. The universe is morally neutral

May 6th, 2019

2:16

Seneca says that good and evil are not in the world per se, but in our judgments about the world, and the actions we take as a consequence of those judgments. Which is why training ourselves to arrive at better …

358. Challenge your impressions, don't "just do it"

May 3rd, 2019

3:11

Epictetus tells us about a fundamental Stoic technique: never act on first impressions and implied judgments. Always pause, challenge your impressions, make the judgments explicit, and see whether they were on target or …

357. The view from above, Seneca style

May 2nd, 2019

2:46

Here is Seneca's version of an exercise most often associated with Marcus Aurelius: when you feel overwhelmed by your problems, take a minute to consider a broader perspective. When your mind is calmer, come back to …

356. What ought to be done must be learned from one who does it

May 1st, 2019

2:47

Seneca suggests we pick a role model to help us become better persons. This ancient practice actually gets some empirical confirmation from modern …

355. If someone can withstand fire or exile, surely you can overcome something...

April 30th, 2019

3:37

Seneca lists an impressive gallery of ancient Roman role models, who have done brave things to safeguard their ideals. Surely, then, we can find the …

354. Don't suffer before it is necessary

April 29th, 2019

2:32

Seneca reminds us that the future is not under our control, and that the best way to prepare for it is to act here and now, where we actually have …

353. The skill of the pilot is independent of the value of the cargo

April 26th, 2019

2:21

Cicero uses a metaphor involving ship pilots and their cargo to remind us that a more or less valuable "cargo" doesn't make us better or worse …

352. The universe is morally neutral

April 25th, 2019

2:48

Seneca, differing from Epictetus in a metaphysical sense, says that the universe is - as we would put it - morally neutral to us. What matters, then, …

351. A long life is like a long journey: there is bound to be rain and mud on the way

April 24th, 2019

2:44

Seneca uses a colorful analogy between life and a journey. Sure, we'd like to live longer, but when the journey is longer a number of unpleasant …

350. Want to be alive? Pay the taxes of life

April 23rd, 2019

2:52

Seneca uses an interesting economic analogy to remind us that the privilege of being alive comes with the tax of suffering setbacks and losses. Understanding this helps us to cope with problems and even to look forward …

349. Expand your circles of concern

April 22nd, 2019

3:33

Seneca says that it is natural for us to be virtuous. Modern scientists say that it is natural for us to be prosocial. Either way, it is reason that allows us to expand our instinctive circles of ethical concern.

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348. It's far easier to change yourself than others

April 19th, 2019

2:23

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that we spend far too much time trying to change other people, which is outside of our control, and too little time …

347. The problem with expensive meals

April 18th, 2019

2:47

Seneca echoes the advice of Musonius Rufus when he says that we don't need to pay for extravagant meals with ingredients brought from all over the world. Every time we sit at the table to eat we have a chance to …

346. We should prosecute our politicians and generals

April 17th, 2019

2:29

Continuing his criticism of the state's war machine, Seneca exhorts us to prosecute our politicians and generals for the crimes they commit in our …

345. Seneca on war as human folly

April 16th, 2019

1:25

Seneca writes words about the foolishness of war that were surprisingly modern for his time, and unfortunately very much still pertinent to us today.

344. A surprisingly difficult simple precept

April 15th, 2019

2:34

Seneca tells us something that may appear to be a no-brainer, and yet is difficult to apply: never believe that you can be happy through the …

343. Happiness is an inside job

April 12th, 2019

3:07

Cicero reminds us that happiness - meaning our satisfaction with our own life - is guaranteed if we don't hitch it to external events, but only to our own reasoned judgments.

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342. The proximity of good people is good for you

April 11th, 2019

2:46

Seneca reminds us that it is important to associate with good people. Their goodness is both an inspiration and a guide to make ourselves better human beings.

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341. Repetition is useful

April 10th, 2019

2:50

Seneca says that we should remind ourselves of things we know, because all too often we don't pay attention to them.

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340. Approach your life all things considered

April 9th, 2019

3:17

Modern Stoic Larry Becker, building on Seneca, advises us to approach the problems we encounter not one at a time, but within the context of our life …

339. Seneca agrees with Ricky Gervais on the afterlife and the meaning of existence

April 8th, 2019

2:49

Seneca points out that it doesn't matter if there is no continuation of life after death. Just like British comedian Ricky Gervais did recently in his series, aptly entitled "After Life."

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338. Cut off anger at its inception

April 5th, 2019

2:53

Epictetus treats anger as an addiction: we should suppress the urge as soon as we begin to feel it, and celebrate the days we have managed to stay …

337. How long you live is not up to you, how you live is

April 4th, 2019

3:00

Seneca uses the dichotomy of control to get us to move away from our obsession with living longer, and toward paying attention to living better.

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336. Marcus Regulus and the hard core of Stoicism

April 3rd, 2019

3:24

A good Stoic can be "happy" even on the rack. This phrase happened to be true in the case of the Roman general Marcus Regulus. And his story is worth …

335. Virtue is like the sun behind a cloud

April 2nd, 2019

3:15

Seneca says that when negative developments affect our lives, virtue is like the sun behind a cloud: it keeps shining, and eventually dissipates the clouds.

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334. The fanciness of your scabbard says nothing about the effectiveness of your sword

April 1st, 2019

2:51

Seneca uses the analogy of a scabbard and a sword to remind us that external goods, like wealth or health, are indeed preferable, but only in a …

333. What does it mean to live every day as if it were your last?

March 29th, 2019

3:08

Marcus Aurelius advises us to live by avoiding both violent emotions and torpor, and by not being a hypocrite. But also, to treat every day as if it …

332. The importance of sound judgment

March 28th, 2019

3:04

Seneca provides a very clear explanation of the Stoic distinction between virtue and external things, leading to the surprising conclusion that even health is not an unquestionable good.

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331. How to achieve serenity

March 27th, 2019

2:33

Seneca talks about a major "side effect," so to speak, of the Stoic stance: achieving tranquillity of mind through the development of an attitude of equanimity.

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330. Virtue is the only good, naturally

March 26th, 2019

2:54

Cicero asserts the standard, and apparently paradoxical, Stoic position that virtue is the onyl true good. Let's see why.

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329. Be aware of what you can and cannot change

March 25th, 2019

3:13

Seneca says that Nature does not discriminate, it hands out suffering and death to everyone, eventually. But we can still make our life better by developing equanimity toward what we cannot change while trying to change …

328. How to shape your character

March 22nd, 2019

2:36

Epictetus reminds us that character is a matter of habit. Willfully change your habits, and you will be on your way toward becoming a better human …

327. Welcoming Cicero to our line up

March 21st, 2019

3:07

This episode features our first discussion of Cicero. While not a Stoic (he considered himself an Academic Skeptic), he was sympathetic to Stoic philosophy, and frequently borrowed from it to create his own eclectic …

326. These are your choices

March 20th, 2019

3:14

Seneca, building on the Stoic concept of universal causation, reminds us that we don't get to say how the universe works. Our only choices are to accept it (and work within it), or take "the open door," as Epictetus …

325. Can we really improve ourselves?

March 19th, 2019

3:41

Seneca reminds us that although some people are naturally more virtuous than others, and that much depends on our family upbringing, we are capable …

324. Wisdom as a better filter to examine your life

March 18th, 2019

2:55

Seneca provides us with one of the best definitions of wisdom. Let's see what it means, and how to apply it to our daily life.

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323. Marcus Aurelius and the chocolate cake

March 15th, 2019

3:04

Marcus Aurelius exhorts us to not just do it, but slow down, think about it, and then see if we really want to do it.

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322. Stoicism and war

March 14th, 2019

3:09

Seneca says it no uncertain terms: it is not wisdom that contrives arms, or walls, or instruments useful in war; nay, her voice is for peace, and she …

321. The three parts of philosophy

March 13th, 2019

3:21

Seneca summarizes the reasons why to live a good life (the domain of Ethics) one has to learn how to reason well (Logic) and how to better understand the world (Physics).

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320. Concern yourself with careful living

March 12th, 2019

3:07

Seneca criticizes the tendency of some philosophers to spend a lot of time trying to develop more careful ways of speaking, at the expense of …

319. Here's your top priority in life

March 11th, 2019

2:37

Seneca says that it causes far too much discomfort to the ears of others to be recognized as a learned person. Better for us and everyone else to be recognized as a good person.

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318. In order to learn something new you need to forget what you think you already know

March 8th, 2019

2:43

Epictetus advises his students, and all of us, to drop our preconceptions and actually open our minds to new notions. Try to practice that the next time you engage in a "conversation" on social media.

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317. Seneca criticizes the institution of war

March 7th, 2019

3:08

In a rather forceful passage Seneca makes a strong political statement, referring to Roman imperialism as "sacrilege on a grand scale." …

316. Wealth doesn't make you a better person

March 6th, 2019

2:32

Seneca constructs another logical argument to make the point that wealth is not an intrinsic good. Rather, it is how it is used that can be good or bad. Know any virtuous billionaires, by chance?

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315. Chance events are not good for you

March 5th, 2019

3:02

Seneca builds a simple argument to show that random events, like winning a lottery, are actually not good for you, despite appearances to the contrary.

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314. Much of what we have is superfluous

March 4th, 2019

2:54

Seneca says that his life's journey taught him that much of what we possess is superfluous, and indeed positively gets in the way of living a good life. He ought to know, as we discuss in this episode.

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313. When to care, or not, about other people's opinions

March 1st, 2019

2:42

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that all too often we care far too much about the opinions of people we do not actually hold in high esteem. If they judge …

312. Make your life the best it can be given the materials you are given

February 28th, 2019

2:57

Seneca brings up a parallel between the life of virtue and the art of a sculptor like Phidias. Just like a good sculptor will make the best art that …

311. Everyone is a good pilot on a calm sea

February 27th, 2019

2:36

Seneca uses a sailing metaphor to remind us that hardship in life, just like a storm at sea, is what truly tests our virtue, as the storm tests the …

310. Treat yourself as you would a sick friend

February 26th, 2019

2:48

Seneca dispels the stereotype of Stoics as going through life with a stiff upper lip. Stoic training doesn't insulate us from sufferings. It gives us …

309. Moderate insanity is not a good thing

February 25th, 2019

2:55

Seneca directly takes on the Peripatetics, followers of Aristotle, and criticizes their notion that virtue always lies in the middle. Some things, …

308. Planning is more important than worrying about outcomes

February 22nd, 2019

2:54

Epictetus wonders why people pay attention to outcomes, which are outside of their control, and not so much to planning, which very much is under …

307. The orchestra of your mind

February 21st, 2019

3:12

Seneca draws a beautiful analogy between the harmonious sounds of an orchestra and the harmonious thinking of a well structured mind.

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306. If you want to understand things, write them down

February 20th, 2019

2:48

Seneca suggests that we should alternate between reading and writing in order to truly understand and internalize new concepts. Which, of course, is …

305. Read books, it's good for you

February 19th, 2019

2:57

Seneca gives this most sensical of advices: read books by others, especially if they disagree with you. Turns out, it's a good way to improve our judgments of things, a major goal of Stoic training.

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304. Pay attention to the past in order to tackle the future

February 18th, 2019

2:45

Seneca reminds us that -- although we live in the here and now -- we profit from reflecting on our mistakes, so long as we do not indulge emotionally …

303. Life is more like wrestling than dancing

February 15th, 2019

2:59

We take a look at one of the most famous metaphors in Stoicism, the notion put forth by Marcus Aurelius that life is a bit like wrestling: we need to be prepared and alert, because the next move may be unexpected.

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302. Too much logic is not good for your health

February 14th, 2019

3:06

Seneca reminds us that logic is crucial in order to figure out how to live a good life. But logic chopping is actually deleterious to it.

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301. Not all indifferents are created equal

February 13th, 2019

3:16

Seneca reminds us that there is a difference among the so-called indifferents. Life, health, and education, for instance, are a bit more highly ranked than your favorite gelato flavor.

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300. The difference between Stoicism and stoicism

February 12th, 2019

3:00

In our 300th episode we look at how Seneca very clearly separates Stoicism (the philosophy) from stoicism (the attitude of going through life with a stiff upper lip).

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299. Be magnanimous toward others

February 11th, 2019

3:00

Seneca reminds us that we should interpret other people's actions and words in a generous manner, instead of conjuring the worst possible scenario. …

298. Do you still need somebody to wipe your nose?

February 8th, 2019

3:02

Epictetus, with his sarcastic sense of humor, reminds a student that he doesn't need to pray to deal with a bad situation. He already has all the …

297. Virtue is its own reward

February 7th, 2019

3:17

If the Pope or the Dalai Lama say that being good is its own reward, usually people take it at face value. But if a Stoic says it, they demand logical proof. Let's discuss this.

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296. How much are you worth?

February 6th, 2019

2:52

Seneca gets to the bottom line of Stoic philosophy: If you wish to set a value on yourself, put away your money, your estates, your honors, and look into your own character.

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295. Get rid of fear of death and poverty

February 5th, 2019

3:23

Seneca agrees with Epicurus: fear of death and poverty is crippling, and we need to work toward overcoming it. 

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294. Three simple steps to live a good life

February 4th, 2019

3:16

Seneca reminds us that the tools for becoming a better person are simple and inexpensive. In this episode we discuss the three basic tools of the …

293. Why we need to focus on our own improvement

February 1st, 2019

2:47

A quote from Marcus Aurelius sounds a lot like what Ayn Rand would say. But it couldn't be further from it.

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292. Fortuna is your sparring partner

January 31st, 2019

2:49

Seneca reminds us that it may be just as difficult to deal with good fortune as with the bad variety. Regardless, everything life throws at us is an …

291. Practical exercises in self-deprivation

January 30th, 2019

3:16

Seneca says that doing without things for a while renews our appreciation for them. In this episode we examine five exercises in mild self-deprivation guaranteed to reset your hedonic treadmill.

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290. Are you sick? You can be brave about it

January 29th, 2019

2:59

Seneca reminds us that courage is not just for the battlefield, but for the everyday difficulties of life, like being sick.

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289. Pay attention to the good parts of your life

January 28th, 2019

2:41

A contemporary theory of consciousness, proposed by philosopher Jesse Prinz, recalls Seneca's treatment of the emotions, and teaches us how to avert …

288. Your "happiness" is up to you, really

January 25th, 2019

2:24

Epictetus reminds us that the only things that are truly good or bad for us are our judgments, which are under our control. It follows that …

287. What's a good reason to endure hardship?

January 24th, 2019

2:16

Seneca reminds us that athletes willingly subject themselves to harsh regimes in order to succeed. But when it comes to becoming a better person most …

286. Turn regrets into learning opportunities

January 23rd, 2019

2:15

Seneca reminds us that to indulge in regret is irrational, as the past is outside of our control. That doesn't mean we can't learn from it, though.

285. Everything depends on opinion

January 22nd, 2019

2:22

Seneca tells us that our happiness, or lack thereof, is a matter of our own opinion. No, he's not making a relativist or post-modernist argument on the nature of knowledge.

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284. 40 years or 10,000, makes little difference

January 21st, 2019

2:24

Marcus says that once we have observed human affairs for 40 years, it's the same as having observed them for 10,000 years. Surely he is wrong? Not necessarily...

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283. On the importance of friendship

January 18th, 2019

1:57

The Stoics, the Epicureans, and Aristotle all agreed on one thing: friends are important. In this episode we talk about why, and how the Stoics …

282. Life's a play, act well

January 17th, 2019

2:09

Seneca uses a metaphor that later became famous with Shakespeare: life is like a play, so what counts is not its length, but how well we act our parts.

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281. The asymmetry of being dead

January 16th, 2019

2:03

Seneca points out that people regret not being alive a thousand years from now, and yet are not bothered by the thought of not having been alive for the past thousand years.

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280. Distribute your wealth like after a banquet

January 15th, 2019

2:13

Seneca recalls an ancient Roman custom according to which the host of a banquet would distribute gifts to his friends at the end. Consider doing the …

279. A little philosophy is a dangerous thing

January 14th, 2019

2:48

Epictetus warn us that a little knowledge of philosophy, without proper guidance, can actually turn us onto even more stubborn fools than we were …

278. Every good life is complete

January 11th, 2019

1:48

Seneca argues that life is not like a journey. Whenever it is interrupted it is a whole life, if we have been living it virtuously.

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277. A prepared mind tackles adversity better

January 10th, 2019

2:11

Today's quote from Seneca is the root of the modern Stoic technique of premeditatio malorum, a meditation in which we try to get mentally prepared to tackle adversity.

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276. The real stature of people

January 9th, 2019

2:08

Seneca uses a beautiful analogy to argue that some people may look impressive while they aren't, and other people truly are impressive and yet remain …

275. Navigating between good and bad fortune

January 8th, 2019

2:04

Seneca tells us that virtue is useful not just in order to handle bad fortune, but also, counter intuitively, to deal with good fortune.

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274. We are all going to die, but until then?

January 7th, 2019

2:25

Marcus Aurelius takes for granted that death is a natural and unavoidable end. The real question is what you are going to do between now and then.

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273. Would you buy a car based on its color?

January 4th, 2019

2:39

Seneca explains that there are certain attributes of things and people that are important, and others that are irrelevant. Somehow, we keep focusing on the irrelevant ones.

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272. Why virtue is the only good

January 3rd, 2019

2:44

In this episode we explore a quote from Seneca presenting the Stoic argument for why virtue is the only true good. And if it is, then shouldn't you …

271. Virtue will not fall upon you by chance

January 2nd, 2019

2:13

Seneca already understood two millennia ago that there is no such thing as a self-made man, because luck is needed for externals. But not in order to be virtuous.

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270. Bad judgment is a disease, Stoic practice is the cure

January 1st, 2019

2:02

Seneca says that people arrive at wrong judgments about what is valuable or desirable, and a major goal of Stoic training is, accordingly, to make us less unwise about values and desires.

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269. Change your mind, if reason prompts you

December 31st, 2018

2:37

Epictetus chastises one of his students for wanting to stick with a decision just because he said he would. Which leads us to a discussion of the …

268. Practice, practice, practice

December 28th, 2018

3:02

Stoicism is a practical philosophy, but how does that work, exactly? Not very differently from the practice of religions like Christianity and Buddhism. Find out in this episode!

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267. Here and now

December 27th, 2018

2:06

Seneca reminds us that the past is not under our control, and neither is the future. Our only locus of action is the present, and that's where our …

266. How to behave during a storm at sea

December 26th, 2018

2:11

Seneca reminds us that those who study philosophy are human beings, subject to the physiological responses and emotions of the case. The difference …

265. Retreat into your Inner Citadel

December 24th, 2018

2:32

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that, when we need to regain serenity, we may retreat into ourselves and recharge our batteries. In this episode, learn …

264. Virtue, virtue, everywhere!

December 21st, 2018

2:22

Seneca tells us that virtue can be present at all levels, from nations to individuals, and in all circumstances, from wealth to poverty. Let's find out what, precisely, the Stoics meant by virtue and why it's so …

263. The length of a virtuous life does not matter

December 20th, 2018

2:08

Seneca reminds us that a life can be virtuous regardless of its length. And since we have no idea how long we are going to live, the question is: what are you going to do between now and then?

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262. Love reason!

December 19th, 2018

2:40

Seneca warmly invites us to love reason, which will arm us against the greatest hardships. These days, though, reason doesn't have a great …

261. Don't be proud of things you didn't accomplish

December 18th, 2018

2:32

Seneca gives a splendidly clear and cogent description of the Stoic concept of preferred "indifferents," external things that are not under our …

260. And off they go, alleging slander!

December 17th, 2018

2:35

Epictetus notes that nobody tells a doctor that they are rude if the doctor says they are sick and need medicine. But if the philosopher does that with one's moral health...

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259. What are you going to do with your luck?

December 14th, 2018

2:22

Seneca conjures a vivid image of the goddess Fortuna showering mortals with gifts, which are ruined by the eager crowd, or badly used, and that at any rate do not produce happiness. That's because people lack wisdom, …

258. Try inward happiness

December 13th, 2018

2:15

Seneca explains that if our happiness depends on externals, like fame or money, we are in the hands of Fortuna, who could take those things away at …

257. Don't judge a pilot by the size of her ship

December 12th, 2018

2:04

Seneca states very clearly that wealth is an indifferent, in Stoic terms. It can be pursued if it allows us to do good, but it should be avoided if …

256. It is either extinction or change

December 11th, 2018

2:11

Marcus Aurelius contemplates whether death is a resolution of atoms or a final annihilation. He doesn't seem bothered by either possibility.

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255. Ambition is not a Stoic value

December 7th, 2018

2:03

Seneca warns us against ambition, understood not as the will to accomplish things, but as the pursuit of fame, money, and power. Modern politicians …

254. Avoid busyness

December 6th, 2018

2:19

Seneca advises us to be careful how we spend our time, and especially how we respond to other people's demands for it. Life is short, surely you …

253. Don't be like a dog waiting for another morsel of meat

December 5th, 2018

2:22

Seneca says that people are like dogs who eagerly await the next tasty morsel from Fortuna, swallow it quickly, then eagerly await the next one. Don't be like a dog, that way lies perennial dissatisfaction with life.

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252. Of sickness and wisdom

December 4th, 2018

2:39

Seneca says that lacking wisdom is like being sick. Although we can imagine what it would be like to be perfectly healthy, in reality we can be happy …

251. Theory is easy, practice requires effort

December 3rd, 2018

2:36

Epictetus reminds us that one does not become a good carpenter, or pilot, by simply studying the theory of carpentry or piloting. Mindful, repeated …

250. Philosophy is a lifelong commitment

November 30th, 2018

2:29

Seneca makes the startling claim that philosophy is a lifelong commitment that cannot be indulged only in our spare time. He doesn't mean academic …

249. Instead of conquering the world, conquer yourself

November 29th, 2018

2:31

Seneca says that he hasn't conquered any enemy but his own greed, ambition, and fear of death. If more people, especially the leaders of the world, …

248. In order to make progress you have to desire progress

November 28th, 2018

2:18

The goal of Stoic training is to become a better person, not a perfect one. But the first step, as always in life, is to want to make progress. If you wish to better yourself, the game is afoot, you need to start now.

247. In a few words: virtue is the only good

November 27th, 2018

2:03

Seneca provides us with a very short and to the point summary of Stoic philosophy: virtue is the only good, it depends on our ability to reason correctly, and it leads to good judgment.

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246. Be grateful for what you have, but don't get too attached to it

November 26th, 2018

2:53

Marcus Aurelius reminds himself to be grateful for the things he has, which he would long for if he didn't have them. At the same time, everything is …

245. Sagehood is rare, but progress is up to us

November 23rd, 2018

2:07

Seneca tells Lucilius that he himself is far from being a wise person, which is as rare as the mythical phoenix. Nevertheless, we can all be …

244. Stoicism is not a "manly" philosophy

November 21st, 2018

1:58

We hear a lot of nonsense about Stoicism being tough and therefore only for men. But Seneca clearly explains that virtue doesn't make us invulnerable …

243. Dining with a tyrant, are you?

November 20th, 2018

2:42

Seneca gives us another Stoic "paradox": it may be better to be tortured than to sit at the dinner table. Well, not normally, but surely if you are being tortured to protect innocent lives, or sit at dinner with a …

242. No need to be anxious even in front of a king

November 19th, 2018

2:21

Epictetus explains why king Antigonus was anxious to meet Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, and not vice versa. The king had not yet internalized the …

241. Take the view from above

November 16th, 2018

2:32

A quote from Seneca leads us into a discussion of the difference between Stoicism and modern philosophies of despair. For the Stoic, knowledge of the vastness of time and space is no excuse for nihilism, but simply a …

240. Not just endurance, but tranquillity of mind

November 15th, 2018

2:15

Seneca tells Lucilius how Cato, after losing an election, went out to play; and how, before taking his own life, he retired to his room to read a book. Stoicism isn't just about enduring things, it's about achieving …

239. Philosophy is serious business

November 14th, 2018

2:09

Seneca invites his friend Lucilius to consider that philosophy is too serious a business to be left only to professional philosophers, especially those who engage in clever wordplay and logic chopping just to show how …

238. Decide on the big picture, the details come later

November 13th, 2018

1:40

Seneca makes an argument for why we should adopt a philosophy of life (be it Stoicism or something else). It provides us a framework to make …

237. Seneca on suicide

November 12th, 2018

2:48

Seneca elaborates on how the Stoics see suicide: nature gave us one entrance into life, but many exits. And it is the existence of these exits that guarantees our freedom.

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236. The Stoic argument for the right to suicide

November 9th, 2018

2:00

Seneca continues his discussion of suicide with his friend Lucilius, arguing that maintaining agency and exercising our judgments are fundamental …

235. Life: it isn't about length, it's about quality

November 8th, 2018

2:14

Seneca makes a point that is still controversial two millennia later. The important thing about life is not its length, but its quality. And it is up to the individual to judge the quality of her own life.

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234. How to avoid temptation and practice virtue

November 7th, 2018

3:18

Seneca gives some very commonsensical advice, backed up by modern psychological research, on how to best avoid temptation. Which leads us to a …

233. We are all sick, but we can help each other

November 6th, 2018

2:27

Seneca says to his friend Lucilius that he is no wise man or doctor, but rather an unwise and sick person. Which brings us to a discussion of Stoic humility and how it is that we can all make progress toward wisdom.

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232. The difference between tranquillity and flat calm

November 5th, 2018

2:02

Seneca argues that tranquillity of mind is the result of an active, but realistic, engagement with the problems posed by life. By contrast, refusing …

231. Racism and Stoic compassion

November 2nd, 2018

2:35

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that people do and say things not because they are evil, but because they are mistaken. The proper response, then, is education and pity, not hatred.

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230. Gelato and the Cynic wing of Stoicism

November 1st, 2018

2:36

Musonius Rufus advises us to follow a minimalist life style, closer to the so-called "Cynic" wing of the Stoic movement. Why is that? Because …

229. The most important mental trick of your life

October 31st, 2018

2:42

Epictetus says that a lyre player plays beautifully when he practices on his own. But gets very nervous in front of an audience. That's because he …

228. The unity of virtue thesis

October 30th, 2018

2:04

Seneca argues that the four cardinal virtues are a tightly coordinated council, which makes the best possible decisions for us. In this episode we explore the Stoic concept of the unity of virtue, and make sense of it …

227. Tackle illness with virtue

October 29th, 2018

2:08

Illness is not something to look forward to, as Stoics are not mad. But it is a fact of life, and so it becomes a question of how we deal with it: by kicking and screming, or as a test of our virtue of temperance?

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226. Be prepared to endure prosperity

October 26th, 2018

1:58

Seneca argues that, strange as it may seem, prosperity is to be endured, just as bad times are. It's yet another Stoic "paradox," of which we make sense in this episode.

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225. Epictetus gets punched on the nose

October 25th, 2018

2:05

Epictetus tells the story of when he first started preaching, instead of teaching, philosophy. It did not go well, and he got punched on the nose. He quickly learned the difference between preaching and teaching.

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224. The last day of Epicurus

October 24th, 2018

2:15

Seneca recounts the last, painful day, of the life of the rival philosopher Epicurus, who claimed that even that day he was happy. Which leads us …

223. All good people are equally worthy

October 23rd, 2018

2:29

Seneca states the fundamental Stoic principle that the measure of a person has nothing to do with externals like wealth, health or good looks. It depends on one thing and one thing only: goodness of character.

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222. Virtue is nothing but right reason

October 22nd, 2018

2:10

Seneca gives a straightforward, simple, yet rich definition of virtue to his friend Lucilius. It has huge consequences for every one of us, every day.

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221. Be charitable toward others

October 17th, 2018

2:43

Marcus Aurelius says that other people do wrong out of lack of wisdom, and so do we, which means we should be forgiving toward others. Besides, life …

220. Do like Socrates, have a dialogue instead of a dispute

October 16th, 2018

1:56

Epictetus reminds us that Socrates made an effort to talk to people while avoiding rudeness and invectives. Imagine if we did the same today, instead …

219. Love requires virtue, not externals

October 15th, 2018

2:13

Seneca says that one shouldn't love a person because they are rich, or strong, but because they are virtuous. Which gets us into a discussion of the …

218. Rich vs poor

October 12th, 2018

2:00

Seneca says that being rich does not make you a good person, nor does being poor make you a bad one. We then use this quote to explore the relationship between externals and virtue.

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217. Joy vs pain

October 11th, 2018

1:58

Seneca says that it is natural to seek joy and avoid pain. But the virtue involved in both cases is the same. In the quote we examine today, then, …

216. What is virtue, anyway?

October 10th, 2018

2:27

Seneca tells us that virtue lies in how you handle things, both good and bad. If you are sick, be gentle with those who are taking care of you. If …

215. Talk to people like Socrates would

October 9th, 2018

2:35

Epictetus reminds us that it is senseless to talk to others just in order to score points. That way we don't learn, understand, or persuade; we just puff ourselves up and waste opportunities.

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214. All virtues are related

October 8th, 2018

2:29

Seneca states the classic Stoic view that all virtues are aspects of a single underlying one: wisdom. In this episode we explore what that means in practice, every day.

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213. What matters is how you handle things

October 5th, 2018

2:16

Seneca tells us of one of the well known Stoic paradoxes (i.e., uncommon opinions): it is equally good to be joyful or to endure torture. How can we …

212. Death is change and not to be feared

October 4th, 2018

2:22

Seneca is at peace with the notion of death, and in this episode we talk about why the Stoic attitude toward this natural process of cosmic recycling makes a lot of sense.

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211. Let us celebrate those truly worth celebrating

October 3rd, 2018

2:14

Seneca suggests that we should remember and honor the people that have made positive contributions to humanity, and I add that perhaps, conversely, …

210. I want something on which I may test my endurance

October 2nd, 2018

2:24

Seneca is asking for trouble. Well, not exactly. But he reminds us that Stoicism is about constant practice, so we shouldn't just be prepared to meet …

209. Whatever can happen at any time can happen today

October 1st, 2018

2:35

Seneca says that we have no idea when Fortuna will take friends and loved ones away from us, so the sensible way to live our lives is to take full …

208. Make friends, oppose Fortuna

September 28th, 2018

1:51

Seneca says that making friends is one way to counter the doings of Fortuna, because having friends is one of the great consolations in life, no …

207. Nothing good comes out of a static universe

September 27th, 2018

2:10

Marcus Aurelius reflects on the famous concept the Stoics inherited from the pre-Socratic Heraclitus: panta rhei, everything changes. What would …

206. Don't make fun of others, be helpful

September 26th, 2018

2:00

Epictetus says that if we encounter someone who is lost we don't make fun of him, but give him directions. Why, then, do we engage in sarcasm against people who disagree with us?

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205. Practice self control to become more virtuous

September 25th, 2018

1:56

Musonius Rufus reminds us that self control is a crucial component of the cardinal virtue of temperance. This doesn't mean we cannot enjoy pleasures, …

204. Enjoy your friends and loved ones, now

September 24th, 2018

2:04

Seneca says that we should greedily enjoy our loved ones, right now. Because we have no idea how long we will enjoy the privilege of their company …

203. The Stoic approach to grief

September 21st, 2018

2:15

Stoicism is often accused of counseling to suppress emotions. This quote from Seneca clearly shows it doesn't. Then again, we don't want to wallow in grief and let it paralyze us, because we have duties toward the …

202. Converse with the best minds, read a book

September 20th, 2018

2:18

Seneca reminds us that one of the simplest and cheapest of pleasures is to engage in a continuous conversation with the best minds humanity has ever produced. By reading a (good) book.

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201. Are you really that busy?

September 19th, 2018

2:29

Seneca suggests that we should change our attitude toward being busy: don't surrender yourself to your affairs, but loan yourself to them and you …

200. Greed leads to unhappiness

September 18th, 2018

2:31

Seneca says that for many people the furnishings of their lives are more than enough, but they keep wanting more, thus dooming themselves to unhappiness and turmoil.

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199. How to think about life and death

September 17th, 2018

2:29

Seneca clarifies one of the famous Stoic paradoxes: no, you shouldn't live every day as if it were your last. But you should live every day to the …

198. Are you dead before the time, by your own choice?

September 14th, 2018

1:48

Seneca reminds Lucilius that a full human life is about being useful, and particularly about helping others. Sure, you can withdraw from the world …

197. No matter what, keep your emerald color

September 13th, 2018

1:50

Marcus tells us that, regardless of how people around us behave, we should keep following our moral compass, just like an emerald keeps its color …

196. Epictetus asks a student a trick question...

September 12th, 2018

2:02

Epictetus engages in a short dialogue with one of his students, asking him a trick question. How would you answer the question of whether pleasure is …

195. The right thing to do is often painful

September 11th, 2018

1:44

Musonius Rufus articulates the Stoic equivalent of "no pain, no gain," in part as a rebuke to the Epicureans. Engaging in social and political life …

194. On exotic food consumption

September 10th, 2018

2:09

Seneca is critical of the fact that many ships are required to convey the requisites for a single meal, bringing them from no single sea. Still today …

193. That which Fortuna has not given, she cannot take away

September 7th, 2018

2:34

Let's talk about the ancient Roman goddess Fortuna, or what the Greeks called Tyche, to whom Seneca often refers in his letters to Lucilius. Why does …

192. We all want lasting joy

September 6th, 2018

2:35

Seneca argues that we want joy in life, and we want it to last. And yet, we insist in seeking it in all the wrong places, from ephemeral pleasures to the fickle praise of others.

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191. Beware of flattery, it gets in the way of genuine progress

September 5th, 2018

2:28

Seneca claims that flattery is a subtle enemy of our work toward becoming better persons. Too readily we agree with those who tell us that we are …

190. Practicing philosophy is like going to spiritual gym

September 4th, 2018

1:55

Seneca reminds Lucilius that we can't relegate our quest for becoming better persons to intervals between indulgences. It's like going to the gym: …

189. Adversity is just a gym to exercise your virtue

September 3rd, 2018

2:02

Seneca says that the wise person (and, by extension, the practitioner of Stoicism) will deal with poverty, sorrow, disgrace or pain, because she is alert and fortified, ready to treat adversity as a way to improve her …

188. Old age, frail and not

August 31st, 2018

2:31

Seneca tells Lucilius that old age is natural and to be welcomed. So long as it maintains our mind in working order. If that's not the case, then the …

187. Take care of your body, with temperance

August 30th, 2018

1:48

Seneca reminds us that we have some power to make our body last longer, by exercising temperance in our pleasures. Enjoy your next meal, just don't over do it. And remember, Stoics drink wine, but they don't get drunk.

186. How to excel at being human

August 29th, 2018

2:05

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that there is no difference between acting according to nature and according to reason. What did he mean?

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185. Where philosophy begins

August 28th, 2018

2:09

According to Epictetus philosophy gets started when we are genuinely interested in why people disagree about things. Not in terms of factual matters, which empirical evidence can settle, but about values and how we …

184. We should study broadly in order to increase understanding

August 27th, 2018

2:03

Seneca tells Lucilius that he welcomes knowledge from all fields, not just philosophy. That's why he wrote books on natural questions, including on the nature of comets, earthquakes, thunderstorms, and the causes of the …

183. Choose your entertainment virtuously

August 24th, 2018

2:04

Seneca tells Lucilius that we need rest and relaxation, but we can exercise virtue even in our choice of how we relax and entertain ourselves. Consider how you refresh your mind, the next time you pick a movie or …

182. Everything flows, so don't get attached

August 23rd, 2018

2:52

Seneca quotes the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus to the effect that everything changes all the time, panta rhei. It follows that it is futile to …

181. Always do what is in harmony with the common interest

August 22nd, 2018

2:11

Marcus Aurelius talks about being helpful to society. And yet he was an emperor who waged war and presided over slavery. How do we reconcile his …

180. Do you think you know the difference between good and bad?

August 21st, 2018

3:24

A splendid example of Epictetus' sarcasm by way of a bit of dialogue with one of his students. In the course of which we learn about the virtue of …

179. The difference between proto-emotions and fully formed ones

August 20th, 2018

2:32

Seneca nicely explains what a proto-emotion is, and we discuss how proto-emotions can then develop into fully formed healthy or unhealthy emotions. …

178. How to get a good night's sleep

August 17th, 2018

2:07

Seneca reminds us that real tranquillity comes from a relaxed mind with a clear conscience. Which is why Stoics engage in an evening meditation on the major events of the day, learning from their mistakes, and filing …

177. Self-sufficiency comes from inside, not from externals

August 16th, 2018

1:48

Seneca challenges the common assumption that someone is self-sufficient if he has enough money, a nice place to live, and so forth. True self-sufficiency requires serenity, which comes from inner strength, not from …

176. Death is like pre-birth: there is nothing to be feared

August 15th, 2018

1:46

Seneca agrees with Epicurus: death is a state of non-existence, therefore we do not feel anything, and there is nothing to be afraid of. Moreover, it is no different from the aeons before we were born, and we don't …

175. Practice philosophy constantly, life doesn't stop

August 14th, 2018

2:14

Seneca tells us that philosophy, understood as a way of life, cannot be relegated to spare moments. Just like someone can't be a Christian only on Sunday mornings, so a Stoic applies her principles at every opportunity, …

174. Learn from teachers who do, not just talk

August 13th, 2018

1:39

Seneca advices his friend Lucilius to pay attention to people who act right, not just talk right. When we pick a role model to improve our character, …

173. Compel Fortuna to play on equal terms

August 10th, 2018

2:03

Seneca argues that we can force Fortuna, the goddess of luck, to deal with us on equal terms, by not being slaves to external things we cannot …

172. Pay attention to what others say, inhabit their minds

August 9th, 2018

1:49

Marcus Aurelius gives some commonsensical advice on how to interact with other people, which leads us to a brief discussion of what counts as "Stoic" advice in the first place.

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171. Revenge is not justice

August 8th, 2018

1:55

Epictetus reminds his students that engaging in a wrong act, even one done in response to an injustice, stains our own character, and therefore hurts us first and foremost. Stoics don't favor retributive justice systems.

170. What's the problem with the passions?

August 7th, 2018

2:05

Seneca reminds us of the distinction between unhealthy and healthy emotions: being overwhelmed by the first ones tears us apart internally, while …

169. No pain no gain, says Musonius

August 6th, 2018

2:16

Musonius Rufus, in an implicit rebuttal to the Epicureans, reminds us of all the things that is worth experiencing pain to achieve, most importantly being a good, just, and temperate person.

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168. You should live neither in a place of torture nor in a cafe

August 3rd, 2018

2:11

Seneca gives rare advice on one's abode. It should be a place that does not get in the way of practicing virtue, which means neither too …

167. Philosophy may be painful or a pleasure, but it's worth it

August 2nd, 2018

2:44

Seneca disagrees with Epictetus: the first says that philosophy is a pleasant medicine, the second that it is a painful one. And yet they agree that …

166. Is the problem with the place, or with you?

August 1st, 2018

1:57

Seneca says that more often than we realize we blame our problems on the time and place we live in, without understanding that the fault may be with …

165. You want to change the world? Begin by changing yourself

July 31st, 2018

2:12

Seneca argues that we are born with the ability to reason and to improve our reasoning. We are also naturally social, and prefer virtue over vice. Hard to believe, right? And yet, he's got a point.

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164. A good life depends not on length, but on our use of it

July 30th, 2018

2:18

Seneca argues that it is the quality, not the duration, of one's life that is important, and that we often live long when measured in years, and yet too little in terms of what we accomplish.

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163. What's really important in your life?

July 27th, 2018

2:22

A straightforward quote by Epictetus allows us to reflect on what a philosophy of life is, and why everyone needs one.

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162. On the difference between philosophy and logic chopping

July 26th, 2018

1:38

Seneca says that he'd prefer to be told how to help people, rather than how many different meanings of the word "people" there may be.

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161. Things themselves have no power to form our judgments

July 25th, 2018

2:22

Life is hard as it is, says Marcus Aurelius, there is no need to make ourselves more miserable by adding unnecessary opinions that increase our suffering.

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160. Reflect on the roles you play, and play them well

July 24th, 2018

3:27

Epictetus introduced a major innovation in Stoic ethics with his theory of roles. We are first and foremost members of the human cosmopolis. But also …

159. Won't you be my neighbor?

July 23rd, 2018

2:10

Seneca reminds us that we can't live happily if we transform everything into a question of our own utility. We must live for your neighbour in order to live for ourselves.

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158. What do you think is truly good for you?

July 20th, 2018

1:40

Marcus provides us three options for what sort of thing is truly good for you, and argues that a person of understanding will go for the third one. …

157. On family matters, take the high moral ground

July 19th, 2018

1:45

Epictetus advises us to forgo issues of material resources and remember that family relationships in great part define who we are. After all, if we can't practice virtue with our brothers, sisters, and parents, with …

156. Everyone who craves externals is a slave to them

July 18th, 2018

1:41

Seneca says that if we are going after the satisfaction of lust, greed, ambition, and so forth, we make ourselves slaves to fortune. Not so if we regard what we have as loans from the universe, which the universe can …

155. Calibrate your desires, achieve serenity

July 17th, 2018

2:04

Musonius Rufus reminds us that it is far easier to curb our desire for our neighbor's wife than to pursue it Not to mention that it is the right thing to do.

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154. Don't buy a horse on the basis of its saddle

July 13th, 2018

2:13

Seneca reminds us that all too often we judge people on the basis of what they wear, or of their social rank, mistakenly assuming that those are good indicators of their character.

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153. “They are slaves,” nay, rather they are people

July 12th, 2018

2:28

Seneca reminds his contemporaries that slaves are human beings like everyone else. In this episode, we talk about slavery in the ancient world, what …

152. Beware of the difference between friendship and flattery

July 11th, 2018

2:14

Seneca warns us to be careful with people who pretend to be our friends, or simply feed our narcissism. Like, you know, most of the "friends" you …

151. Philosophy did not find Plato a nobleman, it made him one

July 10th, 2018

2:13

Seneca reminds us that philosophy is open to all, no matter what our background and means. Engage the philosophical life and you will get to converse …