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Meditations on the Rise of Stoicism

by January 6, 2021

Written by Alex Barrientos, Associate Editor, Classical Wisdom
Stoicism, as a philosophy of life, has become increasingly popular amongst the general public.
With practical lessons on how to control our temper, how to have good friendships, prioritizing what’s important, facing death, avoiding the pitfalls of consumer culture, and how to live the good life, it is no surprise that Stoicism would have much to offer those of us living in the 21st century.
I myself have improved much in my life due to my readings of Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius.
Though there is some excitement at this reemergence of Stoicism, there is room for concern as well. Excitement, because there is indeed much that the Stoics said that can and should be applied in our daily lives; concern, because perhaps behind this reemergence is the fact that people are feeling less and less in control of the world around them.
In the political realm, for instance, the feeling that “my individual actions won’t make a difference anyways” is becoming more widespread, especially amongst youths who notoriously fail to turn out to vote as it is.

Bust of Marcus Aurelius

This feeling is, of course, a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you believe you can’t make a difference anyways, and so don’t do anything at all, you will, in fact, not make a difference… shocking!
Whether all individual actions in the political realm really make a difference or not, and to what extent they make a difference is beside the point; it is not some well-reasoned, statistical analysis that leads people to feel this way, but the feeling of impotence itself.
They emphasized what they sometimes referred to as a retreat into the self. In other words, focus on what’s in your power and be indifferent toward what is not. All that is in our power are our thoughts and actions and, even in the case of being physically restrained, they argued, a free mind is never in chains.
Epictetus

Artistic impression of Epictetus, including his crutch

“Of all existing things some are in our power, and others are not in our power. In our power are thought, impulse, will to get and will to avoid, and, in a word, everything which is our own doing. Things not in our power include the body, property, reputation, office, an, in a word, everything which is not our own doing.”
This is, on the surface and for the most part, helpful advice for many people. In our modern world we do often get tossed about too much: bombarded by social media and television, concerned about having the latest technology, running to the stores to buy the latest fashion.
These are all things which the Stoics thought cause us much inner tumult and which we should be far less concerned with. Their main concern was with living a tranquil and virtuous life, and they saw focusing too much on external things as inherently opposed to tranquility and virtue.
Here are just several examples of some of the advice the Stoics had to offer:
“What disturbs men’s minds is not events but their judgments on events… And so when we are hindered, or disturbed, or distressed, let us never lay the blame on others, but on ourselves, that is, on our own judgments.” Epictetus, Enchiridion, 5
“Ask not that events should happen as you will, but let your will be that events should happen as they do, and you shall have peace.” Enchiridion, 8

Artistic impression of Epictetus

“What difference does it make how many masters a man has? Slavery is only one, and yet the person who refuses to let the thought of it affect him is a free man no matter how great the swarm of masters around him.” – Seneca, Letter XXVIII, Letters from a Stoic
“…how pleasant it is to ask for nothing, how splendid it is to be complete and be independent of fortune.” Letter XV
“Everything hangs on one’s thinking” Letter LXXVIII
“A man is as unhappy as he has convinced himself.” Letter LXXVIII
 “Remove the judgment, and you have removed the thought ‘I am hurt’: remove the thought ‘I am hurt’, and the hurt itself is removed.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 4:7
“Withdraw into yourself. It is in the nature of the rational directing mind to be self-content with acting rightly and the calm it thereby enjoys.” Book 7:28
“If your distress has some external cause, it is not thing itself that troubles you, but your own judgment of it – and you can erase this immediately.” Book 8:47
“That all is as thinking makes it so – and you control your thinking. So remove your judgements whenever you wish and then there is calm…” Book 12:22
As we can see from these passages, much of what the Stoics had to say was often deeply inspiring and memorable. They are the type of sayings that you keep with you throughout your life. But the underlying assumption the Stoics made—their stark distinction between what is and is not in our power—can, and often does, lead people to apathy and seems in some cases to provide an excuse for those who feel they have no obligation to be concerned with the state of society or political matters.
Death of Seneca

The Death of Seneca by Domínguez Sánchez, Manuel

Furthermore, and this is the heart of the concern, in a political climate where people feel helpless and powerless as it is, Stoicism becomes a philosophical justification for inaction and retreating into the self.
Stoicism seems to reveal itself as a practical philosophy when it is no longer practical or no longer feels practical to change the things around us. Striving to change the things we can no longer accept gives way to accepting the things we cannot change.
But what we can and cannot change, what depends and what does not depend on us, and what is and is not in our control are difficult lines to draw.
The Stoics, Simone de Beauvoir thought, were at least right in acknowledging that we are not oppressed by things. As she wrote,
“[M]an is never oppressed by things; in any case, unless he is a naïve child who hits stones or a mad prince who orders the sea to be thrashed, he does not rebel against things, but only against other men.”
de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir, 1946 (Photograph: Henri Cartier-Bresson)

She continues,
“Certainly, a material obstacle may cruelly stand in the way of an undertaking: floods, earthquakes, grasshoppers, epidemics and plague are scourges; but here we have one of the truths of Stoicism: a man must assume even these misfortunes, and since he must never resign himself in favor of anything, no destruction of a thing will ever be a radical ruin for him, even his death is not an evil since he is man only insofar as he is mortal: he must assume it as the natural limit of his life, as the risk implied by every step.”
Indeed, this is one of Stoicism’s greatest strengths. Some of the most beautiful and useful passages the Stoics have to offer are on accepting the natural limits of life and the things that are out of our control.
Yet, if we have established that the natural world and the limits set on us by nature do not oppress us, and furthermore that we must learn to accept these events and limitations rather than thrash the sea, what is it, then, that we should concern ourselves with?
What can, in fact, oppress us and deserve to be given our attention, maybe even our resentment and hatred?
Only man can be an enemy for man,” de Beauvoir writes,
“It is here that the Stoic distinction between ‘things which do not depend on us’ and those which ‘depend on us’ proves to be insufficient: for ‘we’ is legion and not an individual; each one depends upon others, and what happens to me by means of others depends upon me as regards its meaning; one does not submit to a war or an occupation as he does to an earthquake: he must take sides for or against, and the foreign wills thereby become allied or hostile. It is this interdependence which explains why oppression is possible and why it is hateful.”
beauvoir

Second thoughts … Simone de Beauvoir at home in 1957.
Photograph: Jack Nisberg/Sipa Press/Rex Features

In other words, our interdependence on others interferes with any Stoical distinction between things that do and do not depend us; in our relations with others, all depend on us and we depend on all. Oppression by our fellow human beings is not some natural order of the world that we must assent to; the tyrant who rides into town declaring himself ruler is not akin to a flood or an earthquake, and thus need not be accepted as such.
Hegel also had a critique of Stoicism which gets even more at the heart of my concern. As noted so far, the Stoics praised an inward freedom, a retreat into the realm of thought and individual action. Herbert Marcuse, quoting Hegel, explains that,
“‘The essence of this [Stoic] consciousness is to be free, on the throne as well as in fetters, throughout all the dependence that attaches to individual existence…’ Man is thus free because he ‘persistently withdraws from the movement of existence, from activity as well as endurance, into the mere essentiality of thought.’”
As Marcuse explains, Hegel did not view Stoic freedom as real freedom, but rather as “the counterpart of ‘a time of universal fear and bondage.’” This analysis is important, and can help partially explain the reemergence of stoicism. It is no coincidence, Hegel would argue, that as wealth, and thus power, have become concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, many have turned to a philosophy that encourages retreat from the external world.
Hegel

Portrait by Jakob Schlesinger, 1831

Be indifferent to that which is indifferent; only your own thoughts and actions are within your control, therefore that is all you should concern yourself with; accept all that happens to you since it is not under your control. What philosophy conforms more perfectly to the feeling of impotence in modern democratic societies? What surprise, then, that it should become so popular.
We cannot entirely blame this failure entirely on the Stoics themselves, since all philosophical thought is situated within a certain time and place. And though it is a rather unfair criticism to accuse Stoicism of leading to political apathy (considering that many of the Stoics themselves, notably Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, lived very political lives), encouraging people to only focus on what is under their control—defining that as being simply our own thoughts and actions—can have an apathetic effect.
What is and is not in our control is blurrier today than it was for those living under the aristocracies, oligarchies, dictatorships, and slave societies of ancient Rome and Greece. This aside, as I mentioned above, some of the finest lessons and teachings undoubtedly can be found amongst the writings of Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus. I myself have been profoundly impacted by their words. But we are not without justification to pause and wonder: why now? Perhaps the rise of stoicism will be a positive thing. But perhaps Hegel is right, that it is also indicative that we are living in “a time of universal fear and bondage.”

Aristotle and the chatbot

by November 19, 2020

Written by Justin Osborne, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom

Whenever you surf the Internet, you‘re likely to bump into chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI). They serve all sorts of purposes: to provide website guidance, pinpoint products, answer your questions, and much more.

Chatbots are reportedly capable of answering 80% of standard questions. Research shows that nearly 70% of consumers prefer to use chatbots because they allow them to communicate quickly with a brand or company. Finally, 90% of companies report faster complaint resolution with chatbots.

But did you know that we probably wouldn’t even have chatbots were it not for Aristotle?

That’s right: modern technology owes a lot to the ancient rules of logic. Here’s why…

What’s A Chatbot?

Before we delve deeper into the topic, we need to explain what a chatbot is. By definition, a chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation through voice commands or text chats, or both.

There are several types of chatbots in use today, but it is the most complex one – AI-driven chatbots – which owe a large debt to the ancients. AI-driven chatbots use multiple techniques to analyze and resolve user inquiries using language processing, rules and machine learning, As such, they are able to contextualize conversations and identify customers’ specific needs and interests.

Their functionality is based on a few key principles of Aristotelian logic more than 20 centuries old. What are these key principles? Keep reading to learn more about it!

aristotle

Roman copy in marble of a Greek bronze bust of Aristotle by Lysippos, c. 330 BC, with modern alabaster mantle

How Formal Logic Powers AI-Based Chatbots

Aristotle was the first to formally identify and organize the rules of logic in the fourth century BC. In his pivotal work, Organon, Aristotle says a conclusion can be derived from a group of mutually corresponding premises.

Called a syllogism, this represents a logical argument based on deduction. The other two forms of formal logic are induction and abduction. All three types are in contrast with purely mathematical principles of logic.

The reason for this is simple – purely mathematical logic rarely ever applies to human interactions, so it’s better to use principles that reflect everyday conversations between people. These principles – taken from Aristotle – developed into term logic, a system that takes into account the context of the conversation and adjusts to a given communication pattern.

The fundamental assumption behind term logic theory is that we use words to make a point — in term logic this is called a “proposition” — which, in turn, be considered true or false. The system works to discern the veracity of simple statements based on various factors.

For example, formal logic could claim something like this:

  • All dogs are animals → All dogs have four legs → All animals have four legs

The example is very simple, but it shows how formal logic can sometimes mislead chatbots. In term logic, such inconsistencies are less likely because both fallible and infallible reasoning are taken into account when a statement is evaluated.

Image source: The Atlantic

Such a system can perform all three types of conclusion-making processes: deduction, induction, and abduction. But once the first step is done, an AI-powered chatbot has to evaluate the truth value of each statement in order to identify which answer is best-suited to a given conversation.

The latest AI-based platforms react like human beings because of how they assess and respond when communicating. The response they judge the most natural and logical (via algorithms, of course) then becomes the answer to the user’s inquiry.

Bearing in mind that chatbots contain massive data libraries, it is clear that the system can almost instantly process and analyze millions of different terms and factor them into an ongoing conversation. As the result, chatbots can quickly come up with an answer that seems to be most logical in a given situation.

The Bottom Line

Chatbots have taken the online world by storm in the last few years, but it turns out that their roots go back all the way to Ancient Greece and Aristotle. In this article, we explained how Aristotle’s rules of logic make AI more human.

Have you ever talked with a chatbot? Did you like the answers? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

Justin is a blogger from Leicester, England, UK. He enjoys sharing his thoughts and opinions about education, writing for academic writing help and scholarship essay writing service.

Ancient Philosophy: A Crash Course

by October 28, 2020

1. Metaphysics
Metaphysics is the very broad and very profound branch of ancient philosophy that attempts to makes sense of Thalesthe universe around us. Metaphysics asks ‘what is the universe?’ What is it made of? How does it behave? And what about the universe makes toast always land butter side down? This was a subject that was very popular with the early Greek philosophers, who are also known as the pre-Socratic philosophers.
It was kicked off by Thales of Miletus who made the bold claim that the entire world was made of water in one form or the other. Other early philosophers such as Heraclitus, Parmenides, and Pythagoras all took a swing at metaphysics and all came up with different answers.
We could go into detail about each of their theory’s about the nature of the universe. It would all be very informative, profound and enlightening. However, instead I am going to tell you some shortcuts that you can use to surprise your friends and impress pretty people you might me on the town tonight.
How and when to use metaphysics…
The next time you are out taking in the night air, make an off handed comment about how beautiful the night sky is. You companions will look up and concur with you. Perhaps somebody will pose a question about the beauty of the universe and what it all means. This is where you spring into action.
Explain that you believe that the universe is commanded by a divine reason and that, from your perspective, the only thing that that remains consistent is the fact that everything is always changing. After all, you can never step in the same river twice! (Heraclitus)
Point out that the universe appears to be governed by mathematical principles. Isn’t it interesting how our universe can be aptly explained by complex mathematical formulas that have been developed in the fields of calculus and physics? (Pythagoras)
Assert that the universe is unchanging. After all, the laws of conservation of matter and energy have shown that substances can not go out of being. The universe has always existed in a state that is incapable of fundamental change. (Parmenides)
2. Epistemology

Aristotle and Plato
Epistemology is the study of knowledge and the best way to attain true knowledge. It is a pursuit of knowledge about knowledge that ultimately gives you more questions than answers. Epistemology can be a bummer because the more you explore, the more you learn that you actually don’t know anything. Almost every philosopher in the history of philosophy has had some sort of opinion on epistemology.

However for our purposes, we will simplify.
When you get right down to it, we learn that there are essentially two types of epistemologists. Empiricists believe that true knowledge comes from experience and from the information that we gather through our senses. Rationalists says that we can only gain true knowledge through rational thought.
The two superstars of epistemology of ancient Greece were Plato (a rationalist) and Aristotle (an empiricist). These two camps have been expanded upon over the years and almost every philosopher after Plato and Aristotle have fallen into one of these two categories.
How and when to use epistemology…
The next time you are at a cocktail party and are confronted with a question that you obviously have no experience with, best to use a rationalist approach. If your friend asks if you think intelligent life exists somewhere in the universe, drop some rational thinking on them. Explain that, from a purely rational perspective, we know that there are countless stars floating about in an untold number of galaxies. It would be rational therefore to conclude that somewhere there must exist some form of life that has evolved into a conscious being. So yes, now excuse me while I order another Tom Collins.
If a friend of yours was to ask you a profound question like “do you think that that woman over there would ever date me?” Go right ahead and break down your knowledge like a true empiricist. You could explain that your senses tell you that the woman is exceedingly beautiful. Your senses also tell you that your friend is short, fat, balding and lives with his mother. And from your experience, beautiful women don’t usually date your short, fat friend. Feel free to tell your friend “fat chance charlie, and excuse me while I order another Tom Collins”.
3. Ethics
Ethics is the philosophical study of what makes an action either good or bad. This leads to the rather important question of “How should I lead my life?”
EpicurusEthics became rather popular not long after the death of Aristotle. While much of the other Greek philosophers had tried their hand at ethics, they are often remembered for other things. The general conclusion, and this was supported by the likes of Aristotle and Socrates, was that humans should spend their lives pursuing the truest form of wisdom, whatever that means.
Zeno of Citium and Epicurus of Samos were two philosophers who came up with two seemingly contradictory theories of ethics during the Hellenistic age of Greece. You are an avid reader of Classical Wisdom Weekly, so I won’t bore you with the specifics.
Essentially, Epicurus says that we should spend our lives purging ourselves of fear and pain and instead should focus on enjoying subtle happiness found through friendship and love of family. This is the basis of what is known as Epicurianism.
Zeno was the founder of Stoicism and wrote that the best life is one that attempts to be one with nature. Stoicism tells us to accept the world and do our best to change our thinking to live content lives. The stoics often denied themselves physical pleasure and pursued a life of virtue, duty and wisdom.
How and when to use ethical philosophy…
Ethical philosophy is good for any question that begins with “Do you think it’s a good idea for us to…”. If you were perhaps confronted with a question like “Do you think it is a good idea for us to go to this party tonight?” You will have to come to some sort of ethical conclusion and determine if going to a party would be a good or bad action.
If you want to follow Epicureanism, you could explain to your friend that we are all going to die eventually. There is no sense worrying about that because it is unavoidable. So yes, let us par take in some sensual pleasures and go to this party so that we can drink, dance and carry on like it’s Freshman year in college. That might be a bit overkill, but you get the idea.
If you want to be a true stoic, then you might take a different position. It might be fun for tonight to go to this party, but that joy would be temporary. You have work tomorrow and being exhausted and hungover will not benefit you in the long run. Best to not go. We should focus on attaining virtue and committing ourselves to our duties. Doesn’t that sound like so much fun?
4. Asking ‘Why?’

Philosophers and children are excellent at doing this. You may have been confronted by your child who Socrates
will ask a question. You will give an answer and they will promptly ask ‘why?’ I have seen this game play out between children and parents and it usually ends with little Johnny being sent to nap time and Mommy popping a few aspirins.

It can be a bit of a headache for those on the receiving end of that infernal ‘why?’ Nobody was better at doing this than Socrates. Socrates would hold public lectures where he would challenge ordinary citizens of Athens to explain concepts that were seemingly obvious yet rather confounding when someone was pressed to explain them.
Socrates might ask a citizen ‘what is beauty?’ Most people would probablly give an example of a beautiful thing, a rose perhaps. However, an example of a beautiful thing is not a concise understanding of Beauty. And so we see that while we may think we know true beauty, we are actually rather clueless.
This is philosophical excercise of question and answer is known as “Socratic dialogue” or “the Socratic method”. The purpose of this is to distinguish between what we know and what we simply believe in. Here we see that philosophy, in fact, is something you learn to do rather than something that you come to know.
Socrates believed that wisdom was the ultimate end for any human. We, as responsible citizens of the world, should make an effort to truly examine our lives and bring to light all our pre conceived notions that fall flat when put under severe scrutiny.

How and when to play the “why” game…

This is a cool party trick and is a pretty good default move if you simply want to appear intelligent. It is very simple as well. Whenever somebody asks you a question, tilt your head to the side, look off into the distance thoughtfully, stroke your chin as if you are deep in thought, and then answer their question with another question.
The purpose of this could be to attempt to attain a truer form of knowledge by examining the root of something. Or you could do this to annoy everybody around you and make them stop asking questions. Your choice really.
If a friend of yours were to confront you with a question like ‘do you love your wife?’ You could simply respond ‘What is love?’ They will undoubtedly think you are weird and wander off to talk to somebody who knows how to hold a conversation.
I would encourage you to remember that wisdom is asking, ‘what is love?’ but intelligence is knowing not to say this if your wife is the one you are speaking to.
5. Knowing Our Limitations
This is the part of the newsletter where I wrap things up and end with a thoughtful remark. Use this advice to fool people into believing that you know your stuff, or actually attempt to pursue knowledge. I would lean toward the latter rather than the former. Socrates was considered wise because he accepted that he knew very little.
By understanding that we don’t know everything, we make ourselves wiser. Go forth my friends! Enjoy your endless pursuit of wisdom, knowledge and philosophical insight. I’ll be doing the same…
 

Be sure you read part 2 here!

Do Philosopher Queens Exist?

by October 17, 2020

You know how it goes… all ancient men hated women. Right?
And Socrates… well, he was a terrible husband. So surely that means he wouldn’t have anything nice to say about the ‘fairer’ sex.
And then, there is the Woman Question...
It’s a scene in Plato’s Republic…. The debate between Glaucon and Socrates is over what women’s nature, role, and political position in the human community is or ought to be.
The solution is notoriously unsatisfying.
Painting of Socrates

Aspasia and Socrates

Indeed, most readers across time and space have found reasons to quarrel with it, whether by attempting to explain that Plato did not mean women to study philosophy after all, or by considering that the caveat of women’s relative weakness undermines the whole of the text’s treatment of women.
But what if…. Socrates (aka Plato) actually wished to educate women?
Perhaps even… gasp… with the goal of creating a Philosopher Queen?
It is this point that one of our Classical Wisdom Symposium speakers – the Assistant Professor at St. John’s University, Department of Philosophy, Mary Townsend – addresses in her excellent book The Women Question in Plato’s Republic.
It’s a book that may make you rethink your views on the Republic… and indeed Plato himself!
In the words of Emily Wilson, Professor in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania and British Classicist famous for her Odyssey translation:
“Townsend’s book should be required reading not only for classicists and ancient philosophy scholars but also for political theorists and people interested in gender studies more broadly.”
Listen to Mary speak live on… Pleonexia.
What is Pleonexia??
First, let me ask – why are we humans almost never satisfied with what they have?
Even after major successes, why do we continue to find new avenues of desire?
The examples of this are endless… but we know in our hearts of hearts that we are all guilty of this.
Well, fortunately for us, Plato wrote many works that explore aspects of our desire for more, always more, the kind of wanting that was known as “pleonexia” in ancient Greek.
In fact, Plato shows us a way to transform our Pleonexia into a pursuit for the highest possible version of what we want: the Good Itself.
Make sure to sign up for our upcoming Symposium (One Week Away!) to learn all about Pleonexia and our desire for more…
NB: Our wine option has closed, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out! In fact, you can get either the One Day or Two Day Pass HERE (now discounted!)
IMMERSE Yourself in the Ancient World… For a Weekend of Wit & Wisdom

Is Aristotle Relevant to Democracy?

by October 15, 2020

It’s time to take a philosophical deep dive…
We all know Aristotle is one of the great pillars of ancient philosophy… we also know that’s he’s not particularly easy to read.
Nonetheless, his Politics stands as one the seminal works on the topic… but two and half thousands years later, we have to ask:
Is Aristotle relevant to modern democracy? Is it time for a revival of Aristotle’s Political philosophy and theory?
Aristotle at Freiburg

Bronze statue, University of Freiburg, Germany, 1915

This is what Adriel M. Trott, Chair and Associate Professor in Philosophy at Wabash College, Indiana and one of our Classical Wisdom Symposium speakers, has set out to prove.
While the history of political philosophy is a series of configurations of nature and reason, Aristotle’s conceptualization of nature is unique because it is not opposed to or subordinated to reason.
Adriel M. Trott, who focuses on ancient, continental and political philosophy, uses Aristotle’s definition of nature as an internal source of movement to argue that he viewed community as something that arises from the activity that forms it rather than being a form imposed on individuals.
Using these definitions, Trott develops readings of Aristotle’s four arguments for the naturalness of the polis, interprets deliberation and the constitution in Politics as the form and final causes of the polis, and reconsiders Aristotle’s treatment of slaves and women.
And she does this all to show that Aristotle is relevant for contemporary efforts to improve and encourage genuine democratic practices.
Something, I think we can all agree, is a very important topic at this time.
You can discover for yourself Adriel’s insights and Aristotle’s relevancy in her latest book: Aristotle on the Nature of Community.
Described as, “a fresh, substantial, and engaging contribution to the ongoing Aristotle revival in political philosophy and theory” by Stephen Salkever, Journal of the History of Philosophy – Aristotle on the Nature of Community is a thoughtful and provocative re-reading of Aristotle.
You can get your Own Copy Here.
But wait! There’s More! Adriel M. Trott has written extensively on Aristotle…
In her first book, Aristotle on the Matter of Form: A Feminist Metaphysics of Generation, Adriel M. Trott allows us to think anew with Aristotle… not just about form and matter, but also body and soul, male and female, and much else. Informed by and responding to feminist engagements with these issues, Trott challenges binary models of these couplets, often attributed to Aristotle, to show us innovative possibilities for thinking how we come to be and what we might become.
All Classical Wisdom Symposium Attendees will get an additional 30% OFF “Aristotle on the Matter of Form”
You can also catch Adriel M. Trott LIVE at the Inaugural Classical Wisdom Symposium… Make sure to check out all the details below!
(You may have noticed that the option to buy the Wine Included ticket has now closed… but don’t worry! You can still enjoy the full two day conference, watch the presentations and panel discussions with our One Day or Two Day pass.)

Can Marcus Really Help?

by October 8, 2020

Marcus Aurelius is a pop icon. Well, almost
Don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely a fan of this up and coming trend. I like to think of him as a gateway drug to philosophy and the classics.
I’m also not one of ‘those’ classics lovers who only like obscure references and lesser known historical figures. Just because Marcus Aurelius is popular, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something to contribute. In fact, I think he is enjoying success for the very reason that he is so relevant, despite being basically a king who died over 1800 years ago.
I know some ask, how can a Roman emperor be helpful to us in the here and now? What does his life have to do with ours?
Well, more than you might first imagine.
It’s actually something that cognitive psychotherapist and one of our keynote speakers at Classical Wisdom’s Inaugural Symposium, Donald Robertson, explains eloquently in his widely successful book, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor.
As many of you know, Marcus Aurelius was the final famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world and The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time.
Marcus Real

Modern super realistic depiction of Marcus Aurelius from https://cesaresderoma.com/

In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, Donald Robertson weaves the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius together seamlessly to provide a compelling modern-day guide to the Stoic wisdom followed by countless individuals throughout the centuries as a path to achieving greater fulfillment and emotional resilience.
How to Think Like a Roman Emperor takes readers on a transformative journey along with Marcus, following his progress from a young noble at the court of Hadrian―taken under the wing of some of the finest philosophers of his day―through to his reign as emperor of Rome at the height of its power.
An impressive feat, of course… but what does his life have to do with us, you may ask?
Robertson does an excellent job in showing just how Marcus used philosophical doctrines and therapeutic practices to build emotional resilience and endure tremendous adversity…. He goes even further to guide readers by applying the same methods to their own lives.
Combining remarkable stories from Marcus’s life with insights from modern psychology and the enduring wisdom of his philosophy, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor puts a human face on Stoicism and offers a timeless and essential guide to handling the ethical and psychological challenges we face today.
And let’s be honest… we could all use a bit more emotional resilience these days!
You can also watch Donald speak LIVE at the Classical Wisdom’s Online Symposium, taking place October 24-25.
Donald Robertson will be speaking LIVE at our Classical Wisdom Symposium both in his own presentation on Politics and Anger in Marcus Aurelius and on the panel discussion: What power does the individual have in Politics?
Make sure to check out all the details of our Symposium below!