A Little Intro to Stoicism

A Philosophy of Repression?

So, what is Stoicism exactly? Is it the quiet, sullen pessimist who has a cynical perspective of the world and represses all emotional reactions and moods as irrational or rather as unhelpful? Well, not quite.  Antiheroes like Wolverine are commonly described as “stoic,” but this is a stereotype; Logan detaches himself from any sort of feeling for his comrades, the X-Men, because of trauma and his own murderous animal rage, and he copes with heavy drinking and various drugs. Mostly this is out of fear, but this attitude and the word used to describe it, is a far cry from the Ancient Greek philosophical school that bears the name Stoicism. So, again what is Stoicism?

Where Did It Come From?

No it was not founded by a Vulcan, it was founded by Zeno of Citium around 300 BCE, Stoicism was influenced by the legendary philosopher Socrates in the sense that virtue was the chief good in order to live a fulfilling life. Zeno established three things to study in order to live this philosophy which included Physics, Logic and Ethics. Physics in the ancient world meant the natural world, today this would be the findings in modern science, Logic was the study of epistemology and how to use reason to combat automatic judgement of things both external and internal. Ethics was the principle by how you led your life in “accordance with Nature.” What is meant by “Nature” is related to the Stoic’s view of the universe as orderly and rational and that human beings are by nature rational and social creatures.  These three principles are interconnected so accumulation of knowledge, using one’s reason to figure out what is virtue and what is not and formulating a way of life that is beneficial not only to yourself, but to your fellow human beings. The three topics are usually bundled together as an image: Physics is the fertile soil of a plot of land, Logic is the fence or wall that protects that soil and Ethics is the fruit of that soil.   

 

Virtue Ethics

The concept of virtue has existed for millennia, and in Ancient Greece it was hailed as the chief good by which one should live their life. In Stoicism, virtue is held in high esteem and its cultivation necessary to live a eudaimonic life. Since the time of Socrates and Plato, four aspects of virtue called the Cardinal Virtues were identified as components to the good life:

  • Wisdom or Prudence
  • Justice; (includes how parents treat children)
  • Temperance or Moderation
  • Courage or Fortitude

It must be noted that these are translated from Ancient Greek terms and that you should not define these words as they are understood today. For example, according to Don Robertson, Justice is to be understood as one’s relationship to their society, parents or the gods (piety) and has two sub-virtues, kindness and fairness. We won’t delve deeply into the Cardinal Virtues in this post, but stay tuned for more articles on these essential cultivations.

Conclusion

These are the broad strokes of Stoicism as a school of thought, but we hope that this introduction was a good taste of what is to come from these Socratic Buffoons. Our goal with these writings about Stoicism is not to delve into its theories and whether it is the “right path” (as philosophy is not to be taken as religious dogma); our goal is to share personal experience and frame it from the Stoic perspective. In the Ancient days philosophy was used as therapy for the human psyche, not just an attempt to explain the universe or imagine what the perfect society would be, philosophy is a toolkit and we want to show you what you could do with these tools. It is through exposing our own examined pieces of life that we hope to inspire some rational inquiry into your own soul.

Welcome to the Socratic Buffoons!

Hey Guys! I’m retiring Musings of a digital Vagabond.  I’ll be putting that content up on another blog soon.  Nothing will change for you guys, I’ll be posting everything from The Armchair of the Socratic Buffoons right here.  And I’ll be migrating my work with disability to a new site. Hope you guys keep reading

A Blog on Philosophy by Non-Philosophers? Why Are You Doing This?

Photo of bloggers wearing clown noses

The answer to that is a fairly straightforward one, at least for us. We were both introduced into philosophy in a way that caused us to examine our own beliefs, and in a way that made us feel as though philosophy was entirely practical. Especially for me, (Ronald Brady). When I was about 15 years old, I met a homeless man at a shopping mall who noticed that I was reading the dialogues of Plato. I soon found out that he was a retired philosophy professor who fell on hard times for various reasons but even then, he couldn’t give up on philosophy. So we made a deal: he would walk me through Plato’s dialogues, teaching the key philosophical concepts in exchange for a couple of meals a week. Needless to say, I readily agreed. My partner in crime (deviant jester a.k.a. Joey), received much the same treatment of philosophy as I did mostly because it was the only thing I knew how to do. And so here we are! We still think philosophy is a really important way, for us to test what we believe, examine our assumptions, and live fuller lives. We try our very best to bear in mind “the unexamined life is not worth living.” That’s why we’re here doing this.

What Is Philosophy?

Quote from Socrates

That’s a sticky and tricky question. As many philosophers as there are in the world both professional and informal, there are probably an equal or greater number of definitions of what philosophy is. To borrow one of my former philosophy professor’s definitions, “philosophy is that discipline primarily concerned with formulating, asking, and answering fundamental questions insufficiently addressed by either science or religion.” If I may add to that, philosophy is a way of life to both of us, and philosophy is made fully alive when the things we learn from it can be put into practice.

Why Stoicism?

Quote from Marcus Aurelius

Well, I would say because it’s old. But that’s not even close to the reason. Many of the philosophies we learn about are old, or at least older than us. Without explaining too much about what Stoicism is (because that’s coming in the next post), we chose to begin our exploration of practical philosophy with Stoicism because it is probably one of the easiest philosophies to understand with little to no philosophical training, and many of the techniques that the ancients used for modulating one’s more fiery emotions line up quite well with modern cognitive behavioral therapy practices. For that reason, we decided to start there. Later on, we will be talking about other philosophers and other schools of thought like Plato, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill and utilitarianism generally, and probably a lot of others. There are no set plans yet as to who we’ll cover, what topics, or when we will cover which things, but were going to keep plugging away. We hope you enjoy it.

Conclusion

We feel that philosophy matters. For us, it is a fundamental part of the human experience. Whether you know it or not, every time you sit down and wonder about the fundamental parts of something abstract, or you ask the very basic question of why something is the way it is, or you ponder the meaning of life and existence, you are in some sense, engaging in philosophy. So we hope you enjoy the beginning of our own very personal explorations of Stoic philosophy. Just as a treat, I’ll leave you with a Ted talk by that very same philosophy professor whose definition of philosophy I just happened to borrow. Thank you, Dr. Schubert.

Chess Reflecting Life

I was doing some Chessmaster tutorials yesterday, and it taught me something. I grew up in a way where manipulation was the only way that I could get what I thought I needed from people outside the family, and sometimes inside. Not because my childhood was extraordinarily traumatic, or because there’s anyone to blame in my estimation, but because my upbringing but socially strict. I wasn’t really allowed to have friends over, almost ever. So, in order to maintain relatively normal looking social relationships when I was at school, I learned to keep people at arms length through some tools of social engineering, let’s call them.
Because of having to do that, I feel guilty now, so in chess, I am afraid to sacrifice a piece to get a better position because there is a strong fear of needing any piece later on. This reflects how I have sincere people leaving me when I need support the most.  I didn’t know it got that deep inside of me. It’s interesting how a game can often elucidated things outside it’s Amelia domain. I’ll never be a Chessmaster, but I will always love the game, for the puzzles, but also for the lessons.

Ode to Your Pale Light (Missing the Moon)

Tonight is a sea of navy,
Where once there floated a river of light,
Noticeably absent, is your smiling face,
And your pale light,
Your twinkling tributaries barely aglow,
Maybe perhaps, another day,
In some other way I’ll find,
A Way to coax you out,
To fix your presence and etch it permanently upon my mind.
And once more my dear Luna ,
Perhaps I will bathe in your pale light,
And be reminded of all the mystery that lies deep within the night.

So, it is finished…

So, as I’m sure you guys know, I have finished my lent posts. Over the last 40 days, I have found that creativity on demand is something I often underestimate the difficulty of. For the time being, I’m thinking of starting up again on Monday with an exploration of my poetry in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet, maybe a villanelles, quatrains, or whatever. I would just like to take some time to explore various poetic forms, rather than being restricted by subject matter like I did with The haiku.

For those of you who are inclined to comment, what subjects interest you the most? I’m currently working on another book, but I was thinking about beginning work on LWG (Loving While Gimpy) which focuses on love of all kinds in intermingles it with challenges that disability may present. But let me know what you guys think. See you next week!

Lent Post #40: Digital Haiku 9

Being that this is the home stretch, I’d like to do something a little different. The next nine pieces are gong to take the form of haiku and reflect some aspect of our modern digital lifestyle. Technology is a tool that can either hurt or heal.

The tide of change sweeps
across the globe in few words
it’s etched forever