“Virtue is the only true good in life”. Interview with Gregory Lopez for Ukrainian stoics

In 2023, the The Sto­ic Fel­low­ship offered our PSYSK com­mu­ni­ty the oppor­tu­ni­ty to cor­re­spond with famous mod­ern sto­ics, includ­ing Gre­go­ry Lopez. Thanks to this, we had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­mu­ni­cate with Gre­go­ry in a ques­tion-and-answer for­mat. In Feb­ru­ary, we col­lect­ed more than 20 ques­tions in the telegram chan­nel and received answers to all of them with­in a week.

You can read the first part of the inter­view in Ukrain­ian here. The sec­ond part is here.

Gregory Lopez (center) and Massimo Pillucci (right) with the New York Stoics welcome the Ukrainian PSYSK community

Gre­go­ry Lopez (cen­ter) and Mas­si­mo Pil­luc­ci (right) with the New York Sto­ics wel­come the Ukrain­ian PSYSK com­mu­ni­ty

What sto­ic advice will be use­ful for peo­ple who have had a baby, espe­cial­ly for women who are strug­gling with post­par­tum depres­sion with­out med­ica­tion?

I tend not to give advice about spe­cif­ic sit­u­a­tions, since each sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent, so I’m afraid I can­not offer gen­er­al advice here. 

How­ev­er, for depres­sion, the Sto­ic advice is a lit­tle more clear. Sto­icism works best when it’s prac­ticed when things are going okay for you to pre­pare for tougher times. But Sto­ics back to Chrys­sip­pus rec­om­mend­ed not prac­tic­ing Sto­icism when depres­sion has tak­en hold of you, but to do what­ev­er helps with the depres­sion. Once things are bet­ter for you, you can then prac­tice Sto­icism to pre­pare for tougher times.

In today’s world, that means doing what­ev­er you can find that helps with post­par­tum depres­sion. That means try things that work in gen­er­al and find some­thing that works for you. Med­i­cine helps with post­par­tum depres­sion, but depres­sion-focused ther­a­py with a trained ther­a­pist can also be very effec­tive. Exer­cise and mas­sage have also shown some ben­e­fits.

So don’t wor­ry about Sto­icism for now. Take care of your­self, and come back to Sto­icism when the depres­sion is bet­ter!

Грегорі Лопес

Gre­go­ry Lopez

Is it pos­si­ble to com­bine Sto­icism with Chris­tian­i­ty? Even if we reduce Sto­icism to prac­ti­cal advice, there is still a cer­tain con­flict with the texts of the Bible. The con­cepts of good and evil are also some­what dif­fer­ent.

That’s a tough ques­tion going back cen­turies, and I don’t have a firm answer. There was an attempt to com­bine Sto­icism and Chris­tian­i­ty in the 16th Cen­tu­ry. The per­son at the fore­front of this move­ment was Jus­tus Lip­sius, and the move­ment was called Neosto­icism. You may want to look at that move­ment for advice. There is also a book by Kevin Vost called “The Porch and The Cross” that may help. The book is in Eng­lish, though.

I encour­age you to explore what past writ­ers have said and attempt to answer the ques­tion for your­self!

Sto­icism and War: How to keep calm, stay true to sto­ic virtues, and not lose faith in a bet­ter future in dif­fi­cult times?

Keep­ing calm and stay­ing true to the Sto­ic virtues go hand-in-hand: remem­ber that the Sto­ics think fear and sor­row come from think­ing exter­nal things are more valu­able than your virtue. If you focus on virtue, calm­ness fol­lows. 

To focus more on virtue, remem­ber what the virtues focus on:

- Prac­ti­cal wis­dom: know­ing the dif­fer­ence from what’s real­ly valu­able (your char­ac­ter) and what’s not as valu­able (every­thing else). Ask­ing your­self “how can I improve my char­ac­ter with this?” for every sit­u­a­tion, whether pleas­ant or painful, can help you focus on how you can ben­e­fit in any sit­u­a­tion, since your char­ac­ter is some­thing you always car­ry with you. — Jus­tice: treat­ing peo­ple fair­ly. Ask your­self if you can be more fair every day, and if you see a time you’re unfair due to hard cir­cum­stances, try to cor­rect your­self next time. If you see an injus­tice you can help try to cor­rect, make an effort to do so. — Courage: this prob­a­bly requires lit­tle expla­na­tion giv­en the war, and you are quite like­ly more famil­iar with courage than I am! — Tem­per­ance: not overindulging. You can overindulge in many things, not just food and drink. You can also overindulge in hate­ful or unhelp­ful thoughts. If so, try to bal­ance them.

By focus­ing on your char­ac­ter by try­ing your best to act accord­ing to virtue, you may be calmer and also work toward a bet­ter future… no faith need­ed! In short: focus on what’s up to you and the rest will fol­low. 

Is it pos­si­ble to com­plete­ly elim­i­nate neg­a­tive emo­tions with the help of sto­icism prac­tices? (I read Aure­lius — it works, but only par­tial­ly and tem­porar­i­ly)

The Sto­ics are some­what clear on this. The Sto­ics had a con­cept of the per­fect Sto­ic called the sage. Only the sage has com­plete­ly elim­i­nat­ed all neg­a­tive emo­tions. And the Sto­ics claimed either that a sage has nev­er exist­ed or is very, very, very rare.

So to answer your ques­tion: prob­a­bly not. But that does­n’t mean we can’t improve.

How did the Sto­ics per­ceive the Ego and how did they con­trol it?

The Ego is some­thing that comes from Sig­mund Freud. The Sto­ics did­n’t quite have a con­cept sim­i­lar to the Ego, so they would­n’t real­ly speak to how to con­trol it.

Some peo­ple have tried to equate the Sto­ic con­cept of the hege­monikon (“Rul­ing fac­ul­ty”) to the Ego, but I don’t agree with that equa­tion. Freudi­an psy­chol­o­gy and Sto­ic psy­chol­o­gy or two dif­fer­ent, pret­ty incom­pat­i­ble the­o­ries. 

There’s no way to con­trol the hege­monikon in Sto­icism, because you are your hege­monikon and the Sto­ics thought you had free will. So all your con­scious actions are nat­u­ral­ly a result of the hege­monikon. 

But if by “ego” you just mean being full of your­self, a brag­gart, or being con­ceit­ed, there are many exer­cis­es the Sto­ics had to deal with that. From inten­tion­al­ly refrain­ing from talk­ing about your­self to inten­tion­al­ly embar­rass­ing your­self.

In Sto­icism, the notion of the dichoto­my of con­trol is per­haps the most impor­tant among the oth­er con­cepts of this phi­los­o­phy. This is the start­ing point of your work­shop book The New Sto­ics. Ques­tion: When a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion occurs, under­stand­ing what is in my pow­er and what is not is not enough for me to calm down. How can I start to devel­op this let­ting go of things that I don’t con­trol? In my opin­ion, this can be done through a ratio­nal dis­cus­sion with your­self using the CBT tech­nique. What else do you think can be done to get real relief from the real­iza­tion that you have no con­trol?

Epicte­tus clear­ly diag­noses why peo­ple are not calm when in stress­ful sit­u­a­tions: because they believe deep down that they will either endure some­thing they think is bad, or lose some­thing they think is good. But Sto­icism states that the only good thing is virtue, and the only bad thing is vice. No one or no sit­u­a­tion can ever take away your virtue or make you evil: it’s always up to you.

So any prac­tice that helps to con­vince you deep down that virtue is the only real good in life can help.

I don’t know what spe­cif­ic prac­tice can help you get real relief, though. One of the main assump­tions of Mas­si­mo’s and my book is that not every exer­cise will work equal­ly well for every­one; that’s why we give you a bunch of dif­fer­ent ones to try and col­lect the best ones that work for you in par­tic­u­lar in the appen­dix. I would sug­gest going to the appen­dix and try­ing out the exer­cis­es that are in the Dis­ci­pline of Desire under aver­sion and try a few and see what works best for you!

Can the Sto­ic con­cept of the Logos be con­sid­ered God?

Yes. The Sto­ics explic­it­ly claimed that the Logos, God, Zeus, and prov­i­dence were all one and the same.

What are the 3, 5 or 10 pro­vi­sions of mod­ern sto­icism that can be the basis, the com­mand­ments? So that you can remind your­self of them every day and feel con­fi­dent?

Hav­ing phras­es to con­stant­ly tell your­self is a very impor­tant Sto­ic prac­tice. I think it’s actu­al­ly best for you to come up with your own, that way there are your own spe­cial phras­es that work for you.

My favorite phrase I tell myself is “how can I sharp­en my char­ac­ter on this?” It’s not a state­ment, but a ques­tion that prompts me to think of ways I can improve my char­ac­ter, whether it’s some­thing for­tu­nate or unfor­tu­nate that’s occur­ring. I sug­gest you come up with your own phrase that’s focused on one of the main Sto­ic prin­ci­ples. Here are 5 that I can think of off the top of my head:

  1. No one does evil inten­tion­al­ly; every­one is try­ing to do good, but they often don’t know what the good is!
  2. Virtue is the only good
  3. Be a good human being first (which means using rea­son and act­ing for the bet­ter­ment of all when pos­si­ble)
  4. Every­thing that goes on in the world and much of what goes on in your head is not up to you: only your goals, inten­tion­al thoughts and opin­ions, and what you want to phys­i­cal­ly do are up to you.
  5. The uni­verse will do what it will regard­less of whether you want it to hap­pen or not.

How did you real­ize that Sto­icism and phi­los­o­phy are what you want to study? Did you con­sid­er oth­er ancient philoso­phies?

I dis­cov­ered Sto­icism through its con­nec­tion to the first form of cog­ni­tive behav­ioral ther­a­py, called Ratio­nal Emo­tive Behav­ior Ther­a­py (REBT). I was pres­i­dent of an orga­ni­za­tion in New York City that taught REBT to peo­ple with addic­tions. I had an inter­est in phi­los­o­phy at the time, but did­n’t think it was prac­ti­cal. But then I dis­cov­ered that the founder of REBT was very influ­enced by Sto­icism. I decid­ed to learn more about it, and found peo­ple around the world were try­ing to prac­tice Sto­icism today. Because I appre­ci­at­ed log­ic and rea­son, the log­i­cal empha­sis of REBT res­onat­ed with me.

How­ev­er, before I dis­cov­ered Sto­icism, I prac­ticed Bud­dhism, and I still prac­tice it today. I think Sto­icism allows me to be more active in the world, but find that Bud­dhis­m’s tech­niques fill a role that Sto­icism can­not fill.

I’ve also read oth­er ancient philoso­phies, but none real­ly res­onate with me. Tao­ism is some­what inter­est­ing to me, and I have respect for the Epi­cure­ans as well. But I don’t think they’re a good fit for me.

Who is pop Sto­icism aimed at? Is it pos­si­ble to delve deeply into phi­los­o­phy in this way? Is it enough to lim­it your­self to mod­ern authors to improve your life?

It seems to me that pop Sto­icism is aimed at peo­ple look­ing to solve a spe­cif­ic prob­lem in their lives, like being more pro­duc­tive or resilient or over­com­ing anx­i­ety. Non-pop Sto­icism is also look­ing to solve a spe­cif­ic, but much larg­er prob­lem: how to craft a worth­while life. I sus­pect many peo­ple who are attract­ed to pop Sto­icism think they know what a worth­while life is (being suc­cess­ful, feel­ing hap­py, being wealthy, etc.), but are just hav­ing trou­ble achiev­ing it. A Sto­ic, how­ev­er, has to buy into what the Sto­ics taught was actu­al­lya worth­while life: a vir­tu­ous one.

I find that some peo­ple who are into pop Sto­icism ulti­mate­ly look to the full phi­los­o­phy for some­thing deep­er, so pop Sto­icism is a good “on-ramp” to Sto­icism as a phi­los­o­phy of life.

As for lim­it­ing your­self to mod­ern authors, I think it depends on the author. I think there are a lot of mod­ern writ­ers who both under­stand Sto­icism deeply and who offer ways to live a worth­while life. I actu­al­ly sug­gest most peo­ple start with mod­ern authors because it’s very easy to mis­un­der­stand the ancient writ­ers.

Sto­ics believed in dreams but did not believe in div­ina­tion (Mar­cus Aure­lius writes about this), do you know any­thing about this issue? How did they use what they dreamed of?

Mar­cus takes the tra­di­tion­al Gre­co-Roman reli­gious view that the gods may speak to you through dreams, which is the oppo­site of the Epi­cure­an view who thought that the gods were uncon­cerned with humans. 

But I’m not sure I agree that the Sto­ics did not believe in div­ina­tion. The Sto­ic the­o­ry of div­ina­tion is laid out most clear­ly in Cicero’s On Div­ina­tion. The Sto­ic argu­ment for it is giv­en in 1.82–83.

If the Sto­ics believed in the deter­min­ism of the Uni­verse, how does this relate to our per­son­al choice of virtues and moral­i­ty?

The Sto­ics were what mod­ern day philoso­phers would call “com­pat­i­bilists” — they believed that free will makes no sense with­out deter­min­ism.

For exam­ple, imag­ine if your desires did­n’t deter­mine your actions. You want to drink a beer, and instead you cluck like a chick­en! Free will with­out deter­min­ism means that our wants are dis­con­nect­ed from our actions. That sounds nei­ther real­is­tic nor desir­able. Our desires should deter­mine our actions. And how the world actu­al­ly is should deter­mine our beliefs. 

Deter­min­ism is relat­ed to per­son­al choice because our actions can cause us to take future actions: they make things eas­i­er. If you get angry, you’re more like­ly to be angri­er over time. If you’re kind, you’re more like­ly to be kind over time. If there’s no deter­min­ism, you can’t reli­ably become a bet­ter per­son. Virtue would not be teach­able and the Socrat­ic-Sto­ic project to be a vir­tu­ous, moral per­son would be incor­rect and impo­tent. 

So I’d think that deter­min­ism is not only not a prob­lem, it’s nec­es­sary for moral­i­ty and virtue.

How do you com­bine Sto­icism and Bud­dhism? What do these teach­ings have in com­mon that you use for your­self? Mar­cus Aure­lius wrote in Book 3.6 that if one finds some­thing bet­ter than pru­dence, wis­dom, courage, and tem­per­ance, one should choose that one. Does­n’t this mean that we should­n’t com­bine dif­fer­ent teach­ings?

How do I com­bine Sto­icism and Bud­dhism? Bad­ly. 🙂

Actu­al­ly, I have a method, but I don’t rec­om­mend com­bin­ing things because it makes it hard­er to choose how to prac­tice depend­ing on what’s going on in your life. 

How I com­bine the two would take a long essay for me to explain, but here are the key aspects of how I com­bine them:

  • Sto­icism almost com­plete­ly replaces the sila por­tion of the Eight­fold Noble Path
    • This is because the eth­i­cal acts the Bud­dha rec­om­mends are some­what sparse and not near­ly as fleshed out as the Sto­ics’ ethics
    • Also, Bud­dhism has a hard time jus­ti­fy­ing going out into the world to make it a bet­ter place. It’s much more Epi­cure­an, where to make progress they sug­gest hid­ing your­self away from the world
  • The first foun­da­tion of mind­ful­ness in Bud­dhism serves as an excel­lent start­ing point for bet­ter prac­tic­ing The Dis­ci­pline of Assent
    • I find that if I focus on the body while going about my day, I’m much more like­ly to be able to catch (and there­fore ana­lyze) my impres­sions
  • Bud­dhist psy­chol­o­gy is much more accu­rate that Sto­ic psy­chol­o­gy in my view
  • How­ev­er, while my prac­tice Bud­dhist prac­tice is firm­ly Ther­avadin, I reject the goal of ear­ly Bud­dhism and feel more sym­pa­thy toward the Sto­ic-style Bod­hisatt­va goal of the Mahayana: I’d pre­fer to trade men­tal tran­quil­i­ty for try­ing to make the world at least a lit­tle bit bet­ter if I’m able and capa­ble.

Over­all, I spend more time doing Bud­dhist prac­tices than Sto­ic prac­tices. How­ev­er, when it comes to polit­i­cal action and being a kinder, bet­ter per­son, Sto­icism plays a larg­er role.

Final­ly, I’m afraid I dis­agree with your inter­pre­ta­tion of Mar­cus’s 3.6. Remem­ber the con­text of the Med­i­ta­tions: they are jour­nal entries to him­self try­ing to remind him­self of Sto­ic prin­ci­ples he for­got while out in the field. In 3.6, it seems like Mar­cus found him­self valu­ing some­thing else besides the virtues. Maybe he got angry. Maybe he was mis­er­able because he was uncom­fort­able. 3.6 looks to me to be a reminder to him­self that he should put virtue over these things. But–in typ­i­cal fashion–Marcus is being very kind to him­self. He knows that Sto­icism is a phi­los­o­phy, not a reli­gion, and he adopt­ed it for spe­cif­ic rea­sons. In 3.6, he gen­tly allows him­self to go pur­sue com­fort (or anger, or what­ev­er else) if it real­ly is a good. In fact, he should if it’s bet­ter than virtue! But is it? He then asks him­self to exam­ine what he was pur­su­ing and if he finds it cheap or triv­ial com­pared to virtue, he should go back to virtue. In short: 3.6 is a gen­tle debate with him­self, not a demand to the read­er of his pri­vate jour­nal not to com­bine philoso­phies.

Keep in mind that many of the Sto­ics bor­rowed heav­i­ly from oth­er philoso­phies. Seneca talks fond­ly on occa­sion about aspects of Epi­cure­anism. The Mid­dle Stoa of Posi­do­nius and Panaetius put a lot of effort into to har­mo­nize Sto­icism with oth­er philoso­phies of the time. And–importantly– Sto­icism itself was cre­at­ed through Zeno of Citium com­bin­ing at least three philoso­phies: Cyn­i­cism, Megar­i­an­ism, and Pla­ton­ism. And some key Sto­ic ideas were also bor­rowed from oth­ers: the impor­tance of the fire ele­ment from Her­a­cli­tus, the essen­tial aspect of Sto­ic psy­chol­o­gy call “pre­con­cep­tions” (pro­lep­seis) from the Epi­cure­ans, and even quin­tes­sen­tial sup­pos­ed­ly Sto­ic exer­cis­es like pre­me­di­a­tio mal­o­rum seem to be bor­rowed from the Cyre­naics! 

So I think there’s a lot of evi­dence to sug­gest the Sto­ics were not averse to bor­row­ing from oth­er philoso­phies.

Do you have a Sto­ic book club? How do you run it?

Yes! It’s online and any­one can join. You can see when we hold our meet­ings here: https://www.meetup.com/New-York-City-Stoics/ And you can see what we’ve read in the past here.

For the past sev­er­al years, I’ve had a theme to tie things togeth­er. Last year’s theme was “alter­na­tives to Sto­icism”, and we cov­ered the ancient schools that com­pet­ed with the Sto­ics. This year’s theme is “Sto­icism in the aca­d­e­m­ic lit­er­a­ture” where we’re read­ing aca­d­e­m­ic papers on Sto­icism and focus­ing on what prac­ti­cal take­aways we can get out of them.

If you were a Ukrain­ian pub­lish­er, what books on Sto­icism would you pro­mote? Which ones do you think deserve atten­tion in 2024?

Sto­icism and the Art of Hap­pi­ness by Don­ald Robert­son, which pro­vides a great overview of Sto­icism with a nice infu­sion of mod­ern cog­ni­tive-behav­ioral psy­chol­o­gy.

Sto­ic War­riors by Nan­cy Sher­man, which goes over the rela­tion­ship between Sto­icism and the mil­i­tary

The Prac­tic­ing Sto­ic by Ward Farnsworth, which is a very nice­ly orga­nized selec­tion of ancient texts orga­nized by theme and ideas.

Seneca wrote in Let­ter 1 that time is the most impor­tant thing we have. This is a fun­da­men­tal thing in Sto­icism. How do you orga­nize your time? How do you plan your day, week, and month? What goals do you set for your­self if Sto­icism involves focus­ing only on the present moment?

I’m not great with time orga­ni­za­tion, but I do some things to orga­nize it.

Right now, I start every work day by putting what I will do for the day into time blocks on my cal­en­dar and try to respect those blocks. I also des­ig­nate each time block as “deep” (where I work for a long stretch on some­thing that’s a hard project that requires a lot of thought) or “shal­low” (things like meet­ings, quick chats, check­ing email), etc.

I also have set times where I go to the gym, med­i­tate, or read. If I do these things the same time every day (or at least sim­i­lar times), I’m more like­ly to do them.

I also try to have spe­cif­ic times set to myself. I try to keep week­ends free to do what­ev­er I want in an unstruc­tured way besides basic house­hold chores.

I don’t usu­al­ly plan beyond the week, though.

Sto­icism is not just about focus­ing on the present moment; it sug­gests look­ing at your thoughts and real­iz­ing deeply that the present moment is the only thing that you can have some con­trol over. So I don’t have a prob­lem set­ting goals. How­ev­er, my goals are flex­i­ble and based on the prob­lems I’m cur­rent­ly fac­ing. And those prob­lems change over time.

What are your hob­bies besides Sto­icism and Bud­dhism? What do you do besides writ­ing books? What kind of books do you like to read besides phi­los­o­phy? Who is your favorite author? What would you rec­om­mend for peo­ple from Ukraine to read dur­ing the war?

My hob­bies include cin­e­ma, danc­ing (most­ly swing danc­ing), doing things with friends, tak­ing in cul­tur­al events and con­certs, and trav­el­ling. I also am polit­i­cal­ly active, try­ing to get a bill passed in New York State. Final­ly, I work remote­ly so I try to work in a dif­fer­ent coun­try for a month or two every year. This year I plan to work from Roma­nia and Moldo­va. 

I am trained as a phar­ma­cist, and my main job is with Examine.com, where I spend read­ing and ana­lyz­ing sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­ture about nutri­tion and sup­ple­men­ta­tion. I also do con­sult­ing for a com­pa­ny that runs rapid psy­cho­log­i­cal stud­ies and dis­sem­i­nates most­ly free tools and infor­ma­tion. Right now I am work­ing on try­ing to see if there are dif­fer­ent kinds of anx­i­ety that may ben­e­fit from dif­fer­ent ther­a­pies.

Out­side of phi­los­o­phy, I like to read non­fic­tion books involv­ing sci­ence, math, and his­to­ry. I also read some fic­tion, which is usu­al­ly lit­er­ary fic­tion. The last fic­tion book I read was The Passenger/Stella Maris by Cor­mac McCarthy. The next book on my list is Right­eous Vic­tims by Ben­ny Mor­ris, about the ori­gins of the Israeli/Palestinian con­flict.

I can’t say I have a favorite author. There are too many tal­ent­ed ones!

And I’m afraid I can’t rec­om­mend a sin­gle book for peo­ple from Ukraine. It would depend on the per­son and what their needs are!

How old were you when you start­ed to get inter­est­ed in Sto­icism? When did you write your first arti­cle? When did you decide to become a book author and how did it hap­pen? Do you remem­ber the first book on Sto­icism that you read?

I start­ed to get inter­est­ed in Sto­icism in my ear­ly 30s.

If I recall cor­rect­ly, my first Sto­ic arti­cle was this one for Mod­ern Sto­icism.

I nev­er decid­ed to become a book author: it hap­pened by acci­dent! Mas­si­mo Pigli­uc­ci came to one of my mee­tups and we start­ed col­lab­o­rat­ing, run­ning once-a-year Sto­ic Camps in New York. From work­ing on those camps, we had a big pile of Sto­ic exer­cis­es we got from the ancient Sto­ic lit­er­a­ture, and he sug­gest­ed we write a book on it. So we did!

The first Sto­ic I ever read was Let­ters from a Sto­ic which are select let­ters from Seneca. How­ev­er, I read it as part of a course in ancient Greece in col­lege when I was 18, and it did­n’t real­ly res­onate with me. The first book that set me off on my Sto­ic jour­ney was around 10 years lat­er, and that was William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life. I now dis­agree with a lot of what’s in that book, but it’s very well writ­ten and a good on-ramp to Sto­ic prac­tice.

While read­ing your book “A Hand­book for New Sto­ics: How to Thrive in a World Out of Your Control—52 Week-by-Week Lessons” (in Ukrain­ian trans­la­tion), I found some inac­cu­ra­cies.

In the Ukrain­ian trans­la­tion of your book, there are sim­i­lar phras­es:

  1. a) Accord­ing to the Sto­ics, it is more impor­tant to devel­op com­pas­sion than empa­thy.
  2. b) You should not wish for your part­ner to love you, you can strive to be the per­son you want to be loved.
  3. c) When your desires and aver­sions are “in accor­dance with nature” (i.e. with what you ful­ly con­trol), you are guar­an­teed not to be unhap­py.

These phras­es raise sev­er­al ques­tions for me:

  1. Do prac­tic­ing Sto­ics real­ly have to feel com­pas­sion for any­one? As far as I know, the Sto­ics con­demned com­pas­sion as a pas­sion­ate and base state of mind, because if some­one is suf­fer­ing (for exam­ple, drown­ing), it is fool­ish to sym­pa­thize with them (drown with them), instead of help­ing them rea­son­ably. In case of need, help is a con­scious choice, not com­pas­sion.
  2. As I under­stand it, love is con­sid­ered a vice in Sto­icism that caus­es lust. Is there a bal­ance between love that can pre­vent a prac­tic­ing Sto­ic from falling into vice and becom­ing self­ish?
  3. The dis­ci­pline of desires includes your atti­tude towards human nature. But we can­not con­trol our own nature as a whole, but only improve our­selves. In that case, what does it mean to live in com­plete har­mo­ny with nature (Sto­ic physics)?

It depends on what you mean by “com­pas­sion”. If you mean feel­ing upset when some­one’s upset, then I’d agree: the Sto­ics would not rec­om­mend this. How­ev­er, if you mean sym­pa­thiz­ing for oth­ers’ point of view cog­ni­tive­ly, then it can be impor­tant some­times as an exer­cise. For exam­ple many of the sug­ges­tions Mar­cus tells him­self in Medi­a­tions 11.18 and Mas­si­mo and I cov­er in Week 25’s exer­cise can be seen as exer­cis­es in com­pas­sion. And if by “com­pas­sion” you mean car­ing about oth­ers’ wel­fare, then it’s essen­tial. So I think the word “com­pas­sion” is a bit slip­pery, but once we clar­i­fy what we mean, we’re prob­a­bly in agree­ment.

  1. “Love” is a slip­pery word, too. You’re cor­rect that some forms of love are a pas­sion that should be avoid­ed (for instance, see Dio­genes Laer­tius VII.113). But there are also good forms of love (for exam­ple, see Dio­genes Laer­tius VII.130). The good form of love is defined as “an effort toward friend­li­ness due to vis­i­ble beaty appear­ing, tis sole end being friend­ship, not bod­i­ly enjoy­ment.” Sto­ics would not say you can bal­ance these two sens­es: that would be a more Aris­totelian view. Instead, the Sto­ics would say to avoid aspects of love that lead to using the oth­er per­son for enjoy­ment or plea­sure, and have your rela­tion­ship aim toward the end goal of friend­ship. Of course, sex will play a role for roman­tic love, but using some­one just for that pur­pose is the prob­lem. For then you’re aim­ing more for plea­sure than friend­ship.
  2. To live in com­plete har­mo­ny with nature means:

–Accept­ing phys­i­cal nature: under­stand how the world works, and accept that the uni­verse will act in the ways it sees fit, not how you see fit. Why wish for things to be oth­er than they are since every­thing is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to prac­tice virtue!

–Accept­ing human nature: what makes humans unique is the way we social­ize and the way we think. Thus, get­ting bet­ter at work­ing with and help­ing oth­ers and get­ting bet­ter at think­ing clear­ly and well are the main aims of a Sto­ic

–Accept­ing per­son­al nature: there are lots of ways to be vir­tu­ous, so you should play to your own strengths. Not every­one is suit­able for every role. Look at your own strengths and try to be vir­tu­ous in a way you’re par­tic­u­lar­ly good at. 

🎁 Знайшли щось корисне для себе? Підтримайте PSYSK.

“Практичний стоїцизм” — авторський курс з персональною підтримкою протягом місяця. Складається з 33 листів (7 відеолекцій, 6 практик та щоденні роздуми). Заглиблення у сучасний стоїцизм, налаштування світосприйняття та корисних звичок.

📖 Короткий та змістовний опис ключових ідей стоїцизму та деякі рекомендації про принципи мислення у скрутні часи в форматі PDF. Завантажуйте безплатно!

Сергій Коноплицький

Засновник спільноти сучасного стоїцизму PSYSK.

You may also like...