Pragmatism and Stoicism

Do our thoughts mirror reality?  Or are they just a tool for prediction, problem solving or action?  Well the pragmatists think it’s the latter.  In fact, pragmatists aren’t necessarily interested in whether they think ideas correspond to reality but more in whether they serve practical purposes in our daily life.

Does Stoicism, as a system of thought, mirror reality?  Or is it a narrative that helps us struggle in our daily lives against the worst?  It could mirror reality but I think it’s definitely a useful system as a whole.  In fact, it’s a system that bound up with other systems like Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  CBT is a good scientific therapy that produces results.

Stoicism as a whole is a useful system of thought.  It helps its practitioners view all externals without morally judging them.  This allows them to free their minds from the concerns of externals being either truly good or truly bad.  The practitioners of Stoicism instead believe virtue is the only good and vice the only bad.  So then they’re focused on things that are more manageable.  Their cognitive resources are freed up significantly by not having to worry about externals.

Stoicism is also very adaptable because it is willing to change its metaphysics wherever a scientific naturalist framework will take it.  As Marcus Aurelius once aptly stated, “whether providence or atoms” one could adjust to these circumstances by continuing to live by the maxim that virtue is the only good.  In fact, somewhat radically Marcus Aurelius has suggested that if something comes across his mind that is better than virtue, he’ll follow it, which makes Stoicism open to falsifiability.

From a pragmatist perspective, it doesn’t matter whether Stoicism truly corresponds to reality-with-a-capital-R but whether it works or not: Whether it produces scientific results through its sister-system CBT or whether it results in practical living.  That’s all that matters.  Stoicism as a system appears to work and is adaptable and somewhat falsifiable even.  To a pragmatist like me, it passes the test.

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