Fun divergence: Four theologians meme


There’s a trend going around social media, that so far I’ve seen restricted only to Christian posters, that seemed like a fun divergence.  The premise of the meme is to post pictures of four theologians who have shaped your worldview.  I thought I’d try my hand at it.  Stoicism is at its core, like most ancient philosophies a religious philosophy.  It is not possible in my opinion to discuss it properly if you’ve excised that component.  That doesn’t mean that you must adopt the view of the ancients wholesale, but if you do, you will be missing an integral piece.

That being said, I tried to narrow down which of the classical Stoics and modern philosophers most informed my outlook.  I did not include Musonius, for his bent (or what we have of it) is more practical.  He does touch of some cosmological points, but not to the extent of his student, Epictetus, who decidedly made my list.

Heraclitus is the foundation of Stoic theology in my opinion.  The Fragments of his work speak to me in a less analytical and more emotional way that is a needed component for me.  The Weeping Philosopher then, also makes my list.

Skipping ahead a few thousand years, I’ve included Pierre Hadot, who more than any other modern writer reframed ancient philosophy for me, and made it much less foreign to my way of thinking.  I also included Thomas Merton, whose quiet, devotional work dovetails nicely with my own inclination of philosophical practice, even if outside my immediate belief system.

If I had another spot in this meme, I’d include Alfred North Whitehead.  I’m more and more inclined to the ideas of panpsychism which I think is an excellent way of parsing the axiom that “the cosmos is both rational and providential.”

Please share your list of four theologians who have shaped your worldview, and why.  I’m interested in seeing what sorts of things help build this big tent of ours.

4 thoughts on “Fun divergence: Four theologians meme

  1. I just found your site today as I was doing searches for stoic retreats or camps. I am early in my stoic way of life, officially, but upon learning about it feel as though I had been living it for many years already, unbeknownst to me. I am only a couple of years into this, so my four are still emerging, but there goes: Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Tom Morris, and yeah, Ryan Holiday (if to just expose me to the Stoics of the past).

    I plan to dig deeper and go further to gain greater exposure, but there is already enough for me to read from Seneca, soon also Epictetus, that exploring others will obviously take me a lifetime (I guess that’s the point!).

    What would you recommend from Heraclitus for me to try first?

    Thank you!


  2. I’m going to have to go with four philosophers instead of theologians. Epictetus is absolutely number one. I understand that some don’t see Marcus Aurelius as a philosopher, but I do, and I’m inspired by his practice to remind himself of Stoic principles. Seneca would be the third on my list as he touches on some subjects that Epictetus does not. If Epictetus is the strict college professor or drill sergeant, Seneca is the friend or favorite wise uncle. But I’m less inclined toward his work than Epictetus, simply because Epictetus cuts to the heart of the matter. My fourth would be philosophy professor William O Stephens, just because I like his thematic review in his books on both Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

    I realize my list is rather boring… but not because I haven’t “been around the block” philosophically… I’ve spent the last 26 years searching for a coherent philosophical worldview with which to approach life… from Christianity (of all flavors), Judaism, Buddhism (In all three big schools), Hinduism (advaita Vendanta), even some pagan Religious beliefs. Then I looked to the modern philosophers (mostly Nietzsche)… but in all of them, nothing really fit as much as Stoicism has for me in the last four years of serious study. And I still feel like I’m covering the basics.

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