As the popularity of Stoicism has grown it’s begun to reveal its truths slowly to the public. Unfortunately, misconceptions of Stoicism since the time of its founding to now are beginning to grow as well. Some people have this misconception that Stoicism is about being tough and having a stiff upper lip (this is now being rightly characterized as “stoicism-lowercase-s” among experts in the Stoic community). I thought I’d write why Stoicism is better than stoicism-lower-case-s.
1. Stoicism is a robust philosophy that emphasizes getting to know one’s passions and learning to heal the negative passions that can cause us to be irrational. Lowercase stoicism is not a philosophy but just an attitude people express when they’re doing unhealthy things like repressing their emotions.
2. Stoicism involves having courage, which means doing the right thing despite having fear. Lowercase stoicism involves an unhealthy form of courage, usually bravado, which involves denying that one has fear.
3. Stoicism involves developing compassion and conquering one’s anger/hatred. Lowercase stoicism involves a stunted development of compassion and concealing one’s anger/hatred.
4. Stoicism is about being your brother’s keeper and loving everyone and seeing everyone regardless of race, creed, and gender as a brother and a sister. Lowercase stoics usually complain about people being too compassionate and how they should just be indifferent to the daily injustices in the world.
5. Stoicism is about achieving eudiamonia through virtue which means a state of apatheia, which means freedom from negative passion. Lowercase stoicism misunderstands this point and thinks that individuals should be apathetic to the concerns of others and remain unengaged in society and politics.
Jordan Peterson is the psychology professor from the University of Toronto who has become something of a celebrity intellectual. Men’s Rights Activists and Alt Righters everywhere are absolutely happy to flock to this guy. He’s popular because he opposed a Canadian law that will supposedly destroy your career as a professor for not using gendered pronouns that go beyond two. Oddly, even though he’s opposed this law, his career is perfectly safe and he benefits greatly for his opposition to this law. Here are 5 Reasons Stoicism Is Greater than Him.
1. Jordan Peterson famously compared human beings to lobsters. As bizarre as this might sound it’s particularly pernicious. Jordan Peterson is saying that human beings have hierarchies like the lobster and that these hierarchies are not artificially created by global capitalism but just the natural order of things. Jordan Peterson is essentially saying that the terrible ways our system is is because we’re just designed that way and it’s not just that we’re designed that way but it’s good. So you should be happy being at the bottom. Stoicism just observes humans the way they are. There have been hierarchies throughout all time but they’re never exactly the same hierarchies. There used to be master-slave hierarchies, feudal hierarchies, and now we have capitalist hierarchies. Nothing is static. The Stoics knew the universe was change. The Stoics also believed everyone ultimately deserved equal status in the world of things. No one was a Sage, so everyone was in the same boat. No one was really any better than anyone else.
2. Jordan Peterson uses the theory of evolution in a way to justify his Jungian archetypal theory. Unfortunately he engages in evolutionary psychology, which most forms of it are pseudoscientific since we have no idea what were in the heads of our distant ancestors. It’s speculation at best, pseudoscience at worst. And Jordan Peterson should know better than to consider Carl Jung an important psychologist. Stoicism is always updating closely with the current science. Stoicism used techniques back in its ancient days that were a lot like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In fact, CBT owes quite a bit of its development to Stoicism, which is pretty much Stoic psychological techniques being tested in the lab.
3. Jordan Peterson may have won that interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News but he can’t win an argument against a Stoic. Why is that? A true Stoic is adept at logic and rhetoric and knows when someone is using rhetoric as opposed to logic. Jordan Peterson is an excellent rhetorician but if challenged by an actual professional philosopher or psychologist like Massimo Pigliucci or Donald Robertson, he’d have to eat his hat. The problem is Jordan Peterson is used to being interviewed by people who don’t have expertise. But how would he do with an expert in his same field or in his crossover field: philosophy?
4. Jordan Peterson Lobster Lobster Jordan Peterson. Stoicism doesn’t use lobsters to justify its philosophy. Any questions?
5. Finally, Jordan Peterson doesn’t calm down his rabid followers. Zeno of Citium is known for reprimanding his followers whenever they became too uncontrollable. Jordan Peterson seems to make a killing out off having a fervent crowd of young pissed off white males. Stoicism has no place for any amount of fervent followers, even if a few.
The autumn is the best season. The days are growing shorter and the intensely hot days draw to an end. All the wasps and spiders go away and the trees look magnificent with their bright yellow, red, orange colors shining as the beta carotene shines through the decayed chlorophyll of their leaves. Here are 5 reasons Stoicism is better than that.
Fall unfortunately is just one season and so it’s not always in season. Stoicism is always in season. In fact if you bought Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic, you’ll find that there’s a quote by a notable Stoic to help you through the day for 365 days of the year.
The Fall reminds us that all things must come to an end. The leaves of the deciduous trees begin to die, the insects begin to die, as the air cools outside activities begin to cease, and gardening comes to an end. Stoicism reminds us throughout the year that all things must come to an end. Everything is born, sustains, and then dies. Fall only reminds us of the ending of things for 3 months. Stoicism reminds us not to take anything for granted 365 days of the year.
In the late Fall, the air grows uncomfortably cold, especially in late November. Stoicism teaches you to bear the cold. It teach you all year round how to learn to bear uncomfortable truths, hardships, anything and everything dire. When you practice Stoicism after a while, you begin to quote Queen Elsa of Frozen, “the cold never bothered me anyway.”
The Fall is a great season for pyromaniacs. It’s that time of the year when you have bonfires and you get to stack your wood in the fireplace/hearth and let it burn. The ancient Stoics believed in a divine fire that existed in each of us that burned throughout the year. Surely Stoicism is the true answer to all fire lovers everywhere.
In the Autumn many throughout the Western world participate what is called Halloween. Halloween is a great holiday that celebrates the pivotal point in the year of harvest. While it’s a fun holiday where people dress up like witches and warlocks, it doesn’t compare to Stoicism which creates joy throughout the year for those who practice virtue.
There is some indication that at least a few of the ancient Stoics might’ve had polytheistic beliefs, invoked divination, and prayed to the gods. Despite this, Stoicism as a philosophical system does not hold any beliefs in the power of prayer or wishful thinking. Here are 5 reasons Stoicism is better than prayer and wishful thinking.
1. Stoicism uses reason to try to understand the world realistically and adapt to the world practically. Prayer and wishful thinking don’t look at the world from an honest perspective. Prayer and wishful thinking generally is in denial that fortune can just manifest positively or negatively at random times. Prayer and wishful thinking fundamentally believe that things can be changed for the better when there’s really no actual evidence that this can be the case. Stoicism is just more honest.
2. People waste a lot of time praying and thinking wishfully. When instead they can use Stoicism, which helps them deal with hardship and loss. Why waste so much time wanting things to be a certain way when you can just use Stoicism to adapt your mind to the way things are?
3. People trick themselves into believing in the power of prayer through confirmation bias. They remember all the times when prayer seemed to work and forget all the times when it didn’t work. Stoicism doesn’t rely on confirmation bias. What you put into Stoicism, you get out. So if you’re trying to be more virtuous and work at it, you’ll become more virtuous. You just have to try. In fact, people will begin to notice how you’ve changed and maybe want to emulate you.
4. Stoicism helps you use your reason and senses to help you anticipate future events. For instance, if you get to know people realistically rather than what you wish they were, you can judge their characters easier if you’re close to them. You can tell who might be trying to scam you or exploit you and you can easily adapt to that. But if you’re using wishful thinking, you wish a person was a certain way, and so you don’t get to know them the way they really are. So then those people just use you and abuse you.
5. Finally, Stoicism helps you learn from the past and prepare for the future by living in the present. Wishful thinking and prayer just makes you live in the future or the past but never lets you learn from the present. You’re always thinking of how you wish things used to be but you’re not learning how to make things great now for yourself. Or you’re praying for a nice sports car but you’re not thinking about how nice your car is now.
Toxic waste in science fiction or fantasy can do a lot of amazing things when, for one example, turtles or a rat are exposed to it like in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It basically gives anyone super powers; well, when it’s the right toxic waste, usually it glows green. Stoicism though says the only thing truly in our power is our judgment, opinions, goals, aversions, and desires. In fact, since they’re really the only thing in anyone’s power, Stoics have become much greater masters of their rational faculties and thus have the real superpowers.
In real life, toxic waste can make you really sick. Stoicism doesn’t seem to do that. Stoicism might make you practice some discomfort but generally doesn’t require you to go overboard and certainly wouldn’t make you expose yourself to toxic waste by eating it or swimming in it.
Toxic waste, when not stored properly, can really harm the environment. Though ancient Stoics did not discuss the environment (that I know of), in the modern age Stoics, using their reason, would find it important to preserve or conserve natural environments and resources.
Toxic waste usually contains elements like arsenic or mercury or molecules like cyanide or PCBs. These elements and molecules can harm you if ingested or harm the environment. But if you ingest Stoicism through your mind, it tends to heal your mind and provide benefit. Also if you release Stoicism into the environment, for example, you tell a tree or a river about Epictetus, the tree doesn’t get harmed nor does the river’s aquatic wildlife.
Toxic waste doesn’t feel very good. If you get it on your skin, you’ll likely feel yucky but you could also feel like your skin is on fire as the chemicals eat away your epidermis. Stoicism never seems to feel yucky or eat your skin. You can’t even really bathe in it or drink it. But you can definitely consume it. Using negative visualization wrong can have ill effects. But if you use it right, you will find a lot of benefit.
I was recently in the hospital because somewhere inside of my gastrointestinal tract I had a bleed. So I’d like to share why Stoicism is so much better than a bleed in your long ass digestive snake organ.
1. You can die from a gastrointestinal bleed. You can also die from practicing Stoicism. But dying for Stoicism will make you a badass martyr.
2. Gastrointestinal bleeds can be very difficult to locate and fix. You can easily find Stoicism with a quick google search and if you find Stoicism’s metaphysics to be broken you can easily replace the metaphysics with modern scientific materialism. Its ethics adapts well to a variety of possible metaphysics.
3. GI bleeds are sometimes painful. Stoicism can sometimes mean enduring discomfort. But man is the eudaimonia worth it!
4. GI bleeds often means staying in the hospital which can be quite expensive. Stoicism is only somewhat expensive if you buy all that ridiculous memento mori merchandise and spend money covering your body with Seneca quotes.
5. GI bleeds often happen unexpectedly. Stoicism is all about expecting the unexpected. It usually means preparing for the worst. In fact, GI bleeds aren’t even the worst. There are so many worse things you can imagine happening to yourself while you imagine yourself simultaneously unperturbed.
When Communism has been tried, it’s killed between 85 to 100 million people. When Stoicism has been tried, it’s killed less than 85 million people.
Communism believes in the utopian vision that one day we can have a classless society of everyone contributing their fair share and receiving their fair share and there would be no more exploitation of the working class by anyone for profit. Stoicism has never made such promises. Zeno’s Republic was an idealized vision that Stoics could live in communal harmony but there’s no evidence that it made any promises that all societies would or could live in communal harmony.
Communism believes in a power struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie. Stoicism puts the power in your hands by declaring that the only thing in your power is your judgment, opinion, goal, and desire.
While some people have claimed that Communism has yet to be tried successfully, Stoicism has been tried successfully for thousands of years.
Communism, like capitalism, is about your freedom to work. It’s a philosophy that emphasizes your freedom to work. Capitalism and Communism of course have major differences in how to go about this but they care ultimately about human beings as working animals. Stoicism is much cooler than this. Stoicism believes you should have the freedom to philosophize. You are a rational animal and a social being so the emphasis is on your freedom to live an analytical life, a life worth living.
Stoicism already includes feminism but feminism doesn’t necessarily include Stoicism. The ancient Stoics were similar to Plato in believing that women were just as equal to men in the ability to use reason and be virtuous. Stoicism is a big tent philosophy that include feminism and many other elements. Feminists aren’t always Stoics though. Stoicism is larger in scope than feminism.
Feminism mainly cares about power relationships between men and women. Stoicism believes that the only thing in your power is your own opinions, desires, and goals, and everything else is indifferent. But Stoicism does care about the virtue justice which means caring about a whole host of issues like wealth inequality, gender inequality, the environment, economic greed, and mental health issues.
Feminism has several waves. 1st through 4th through I don’t know what but Stoicism is just Stoicism and always has been. You don’t have to be a 3rd wave Stoic, you’re just a Stoic. Being a Stoic means you believe in virtue as the end goal, which amazingly leads to eudaimonia. And that’s that. It’s easier to be a Stoic.
While it’s good to be a feminist now (depending on your definition), it’s always good to be a Stoic (which is much more easily defined). Stoicism is timeless and ahistorical. It doesn’t depend on the history of the patriarchy and the historical changing dynamics of powers of one sex or gender over the other. Stoicism is always about being virtuous which means helping the downtrodden no matter who they are or who they will be in the future.
To be a proper academic Stoic you don’t need any college, you just need books by three main writers, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca. To be an academic feminist though, you need a 4 year degree in feminism and gender studies and that can be quite expensive, you also need to know a whole host of writers (way more than 3) to comprehend feminism and be well versed in it. Stoicism requires very little cognitive investment.
Buddhism is one of the major 5 religions of the world and it has 520 million followers. Buddhism is older than Stoicism but you’d think with all these followers and how long Buddhism has been around, Buddhism would be a lot more coherent. But it’s not. There are two major branches, Theravada and Mahayana and there might even be a third branch separate from the two: Vajrayana, depending on who you ask. And to complicate it further these 2 or maybe 3 branches divide even further into a large multiplicity of schools with their own dogmas and precepts. But with Stoicism, there’s just one: Stoicism. Nothing complicated about that. Virtue is the only good and if you follow virtue you’ll find eudaimonia.
Depending on who you ask (seriously there’s very little agreement on anything), Buddhism depends on a belief in reincarnation, continuous death and rebirth, until you achieve enlightenment and break the cycle. This involves also a belief in karma, that if bad things happen to you in this life it could be because you lived a bad former life. None of this stuff actually can be empirically proved so it is what it is. Stoicism believes when you die nobody really knows what happens to your soul. So you might as well bet it just ends 2 meters under the ground and you should focus on this life. Buddhism does stress living in the moment and in this life. But so does Stoicism, it just doesn’t assume all this other complicated metaphysical mess.
Buddhism offers enlightenment. But it requires an unnecessary amount of effort to become enlightened with no real guarantee. Your whole life is devoted to an escape from an illusion created by your ego. Many people sacrifice their whole life for enlightenment and then they die never having it (but at least they have a next life to pursue it or so they hope). Stoicism doesn’t offer enlightenment. Stoicism says just try to be a good person and if you work a little at mastering some of important virtues you’ll be pretty content. No heavenly bliss or pie in the sky nirvana. You’ll just have a more rational level head. Stoicism is much much more realistic. You get out of Stoicism what you put in.
Buddhism requires an unnecessary amount of meditation that involves clearing one’s mind of distractions. Often times coupled with a focus on breathing. On point #4 some Buddhist is going to argue that this is not the case but like I said no two Buddhists ever really agree on anything. Stoicism doesn’t require this impractical attempt at emptying one’s mind. Stoicism just says focus on your own virtue, focus on what is truly in your power: your own judgment and that no event external to you is truly bad or good. It doesn’t involves hours of sitting in front of a candle in the dark investing in the impossible mental task of clearing your mind of all your thoughts.
Finally, if you follow Buddhism to the letter you’ll have to eliminate all intoxicants from your life. No more drinking alcohol, no mind altering drugs, no nicotine, no unnecessary luxuries, no caffeine. All you get are some herbal teas with no caffeine benefits. Stoicism says if it’s in moderation and your liver can easily detoxify it from your blood, then have at it.