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The introduction will offer an overview of American cultural values, and how those values have come into conflict with older schools of thought such as the Stoic movement of Ancient Greece. It will delineate how Stoicism has fallen out of vogue over the centuries, despite the revival of Neostoicism in the 16th century, and how much of what we perceive to be societal ills can be addressed through a return to this older school of thought.
It will then discuss Modern Stoicism in brief, outlining major academic proponents of the discourse, while mentioning its use in modern psychotherapy.
Chapter 1: The History of Stoicism
- Zeno of Citium and his school of thought
- Stoicism Moving forward: a look at some prominent historical figures
Chapter 2: Stoicism Through the Ages
- Seneca the Younger
- Marcus Aurelius and the Unfortunate Rise of Christianity
Chapter 3: The Tenets of Philosophy
- The Ethics of Virtue; determining right and wrong
- The Strength of Fortitude in Battling Negative Emotions
- Naturalism and the Stoic Worldview
Chapter 4: Modern Stoicism
- Not Everything Can be Controlled, and what to do about that
- Making the Best of the Worst: Conforming to Your Reality
- The Role of Free Will in Determining Emotional Response
Chapter 5: Implementing Stoicism
- Neuroplasticity and Your Changing Brain
- Affirmations and the Power of Positivity
Chapter 6: Stoicism in Practice
- How can You Embrace 2500 year old teachings in the modern world
- Stoicism in Action: reevaluating our reactions to adversity
The conclusion of this book will affirm that by controlling one’s emotions, one controls the negativity allowed in one’s mind and heart. It will also affirm that the teachings of the Ancient Greeks formulated the basis of Western philosophical discourse, and by straying from the original teachings, we have allowed ourselves to become encumbered by the inevitable emotional strife that accompanies current American individualistic ideologies.
Sample Content From the Book
Chapter 2: Stoicism Through the Ages
Following the death of Zeno, Stoicism emerged as a primary philosophy practiced first by the Greeks contemporary to Alexander the Great, and subsequently by the Roman Empire and various thinkers to the west of the Hellenistic homeland. From slaves to senators, emperors and early Christians, the ideals of Stoicism and the belief in rational thought’s supremacy provided a counterbalance for intellectuals in a time where social change swept the entire known world and the commonly asserted customs and beliefs of the Roman republic gave way to the less predictable whims of a host of Roman emperors.
Learned leaders of the world, such as Marcus Aurelius, embraced the moral stance first proposed by Zeno, and mad rulers like Nero persecuted its practice and drove it away from the common ground of accepted intellectual thought during his reign. Regardless of how Stoicism was viewed by the early Roman empire, one thing remains clear: the school of thought did not die on the marble steps of ancient Athens with its progenitor. Whether underground or in the light of day, scholars continued to preach temperance, virtue, and respect for the supremacy of human logic in the natural order of the world that seemed so tumultuous in the time of Christ and the Roman land acquisitions of the first century AD.
In this chapter, we will delve into the lives of the proponents of Stoicism, and unpack the manner in which their intellectual debates and theories helped to shape the ideologies that would become central to western thought for the remainder of antiquity. From the freed slave Epictetus to the lofty heights of Marcus Aurelius’ throne in Rome, the spread and survival of Stoicism speaks to its adaptability and the rigor with which its adherents pursue their love of virtue in accordance with nature.
Why Bother? The Point of Stoicism
As modern Stoics, we seek to apply our own rational thoughts and tempered emotions to a world that is anything but rational. The efforts can be futile, and they can be exhausting, and for long periods of time, they can be fruitless. But when we succeed in implementing the stoic way of life in our own daily actions we offer the world an example of how to step back and appreciate the complexities of life for what they are: a web of relationships, a series of interconnected circumstances and stimuli that act upon us and ensnare us like spider webs. Only the way of the stoic sage can prepare us for the hectic and frantic trials of the modern world, strengthening our will and freeing us from the emotional entanglements that drag so many into the mire of lost potential.
Being a stoic means accepting failure. Being a stoic means releasing your control, and, more importantly, your desire for control. It means that you are willing to look at a chaotic, ill-planned and uncaring universe and smile at the conflagration, grateful for the visual spectacle and the wild ride. Many of the sages of the previous eras have remarked about the sage’s inability to get angry, or the sage’s steadfast determination in the face of stunning horrors and tragedy. Now more than ever, their teachings of old are becoming a prerequisite for life in a world that seems to only speed up, grow more cluttered, and drive people further apart.
We have no control over that, though, as we now know. We are on our way to becoming stoics, and the implications of our teachings remind us that the tangled web of the world and its passions are a snare that will tighten around our necks if we allow it and that we have no control over the knot.
What we do control is whether or not we stick our necks into it. This is what matters. This is what we must accept if we are to live the way of the Stoic sage, walk in the footprints of Zeno and Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius the Philosopher King and Justus Lipsius. We don’t need to fix the world, and we don’t need to fix ourselves. Both of these things are as they are, preordained or not, deterministic or free. The only thing that we do have power over is the course of thought through our mind and the direction that thought takes. And who knows? Perhaps by setting the example of the Stoic sage, we can enact change in the world, and we can implement the philosophies of Zeno of Citium in a manner that will bring about, if not a perfect world, at least a tempered one, a world in which rationality exercises its will over emotions, and in which we as a society have given up on our lofty expectations of greatness, content rather, to spend our days in contemplation and meditation.
So in order to reach that level of sagely wisdom, we will breakdown some of the ways in which Stoicism has already been applied, and possibly work toward some modal synergy that will give rise to a unified, coherent definition of what it means to be a sage in the modern era, and how that wisdom can change your life for the better.