I just finished reading this (draft) article by John Sellars, “Philosophy as Medicine: Stoicism and Cognitive Psychotherapy”. It’s a good read even as a draft, and came to me at an opportune time. I don’t think this counts as a citation in his notes, but I will point you to the original publication link. He begins by touching on the history of philosophy as a therapeutic, not for philosophy itself by for our minds, souls. This is be written for a non-Stoic audience, and will probably touch much ground that we have covered here, and I would suspects all my readers have covered elsewhere.
The core part of the article extracts three practices of Stoic therapy:
I: Assigning Value
II: Assuming the Worse
III: Good out of Bad
I won’t steal his’ thunder by going into depth here, but these must surely look familiar to the practicing Stoic as The Discipline of Assent, Premeditatio Malorum, and … well, most of Seneca. The paper is twenty-five pages long, and also briefly touches on some Epicurean doctrine. There are a few things I might take issue with at nit-picky level, but considering it’s for a non-specialized audience it’s very good. One such thing being, “The ideal Stoic life is thus not one completely devoid of emotion, but it is one free from unpleasant emotions.” This does a good job at refuting the misconception that Stoics are Vulcans, but doesn’t quite get us to “virtue is the only good.”
I would like to share one short but excellent pull quote, however (with the smallest of editorial license):
“[I]n life, it is only through apparent adversity that we get to prove our character.”
For a little more on the “good passions,” see this older post here: https://mountainstoic.com/2017/06/22/good-passions/
I have my issues with The Daily Stoic, but this crossed my transom, and I think it is a useful help regarding our perspective. I myself have been experiencing some anxiety over COVID-19, but more so due to the second and third tier consequences of it.
Some time ago, I pre-ordered a reprinting of Musonius’ lectures and sayings, which is now available. The Cora Lutz translation is one of my favorites, and the versions available online are bi-lingual in Koine and English. I assumed that would be the case with this reprint, but I was quite disheartened to find it is English-language only. Lutz was a monster of 19th century translation work, and all modern Stoics are indebted to her.
I am pleased to have this translation in print. The hardcover format is nice, as I tend to be a bit rough on books. They go many places, get tossed in bags, etc. My Loeb copy of Meditations has been in four countries, had flowers and leaves pressed between its pages, and been banged around quite a bit.
I suspect that Musonius will get a similar treatment.
The price has already been reduced from its pre-order and new-sale price, coming in at just under $20 USD. I would recommend this to you for no other reason than a physical version of Lutz’s work is nice to have, with the caveat that is English-only.
Thanks to the readers of this blog, since it is very likely without you I would not have been able to reach the point where I was included in Stoicism Today’s compendia, and from there to Wikipedia!
I remember some time back, Donald Robertson made a post in his Facebook group for a draft article for Wikipedia. I don’t recall seeing anything about it thereafter, but today while I was puttering around the intertubes, I saw that it indeed has been published.
Which, frankly, is pretty cool. So thanks again for helping to get me there.
I do note that the article doesn’t point back to this blog. If I recall correctly, Wikimedia has rules about editing things you’re involved in, so if someone wanted to link my name as an external link back to the blog’s main page, that would be much appreciated.
Longtime readers will remember that I’ve written about Socratic Meditation in the past. I recently came across this paper, and am in the process of reading it. I can’t speak to its conclusions or methods (as I haven’t read them yet) but I thought I would share it with you in case you’re also interested in this avenue of exploration.
Here’s the paper: “Socratic Meditation And Emotional Self-Regulation: A Model For Human Dignity In The Technological Age,” Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 24 (2013): 1-29. (with Paul Carron). This link may require registration to download, but should be readable without logging in.
I would like to devote more time in the coming weeks to developing a meditation practice. While I wrote about it previously, I haven’t done much of it of this sort. I’ve been reading a bit about different meditation types, and this hint about Socrates’ practice keeps nagging at me, and really merits some further investigation.
If any readers of the blog have a formal meditation practice, I’m interested in your findings experiences, and thoughts in this regard. Please let me know in the comments or privately as you choose.
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After reading the paper, this isn’t too much here as far as non-technical information that I didn’t cover in my first description. It was nice to see some of my conclusions and inferences supported. I don’t have the technical background to speak to the section on research and brain states, but it was interesting.
My overall conclusions remain the same: that this is a practice which merits further exploration.
I’ve read a good bit by Jocko Willink, I own one or two of his books. Recently he was asked about Stoicism, and I’m always leery when I see questions about our school, since almost invariably they’re talking about little-s stoicism, rather than our School as it was or is today.
However, in this video, Jocko begins by saying he’s not well read on these topics. I appreciate this. He notes that the distinction between ivory tower academics and the kinds of people he respected. A younger version of him set that aside, he had nothing to learn from them.
An older, wiser Jocko has changed his mind somewhat on that, but still hasn’t waded into it as deeply as most readers of this blog. While he may have come to some similar conclusions, his course room was the battlefield, and a hard life.
That leads to an interesting observation: that the sorts of things we’re discussing are perennial, and a true human universal. They are tested outside the ivory tower by many, daily.
So while slightly tangential to the tone this blog usually takes, it was nice to see someone speak near our topics of interest respectfully and with self-awareness.
I don’t always agree with the content of the thinkers highlighted by The School of Life, nor indeed with their interpretation of those thoughts. However, this video came across the transom recently, and I thought it was a well-handled take on what is one of the more contentious aspects of Stoicism.
Epictetus’ reminder that the door is always open is probably the most meme-like distillation of the Stoic position on suicide. There are few others positions which get such a heated debate by newcomers to the school and outsiders alike. I spoke about this once before, and it still holds I think.
It is difficult to carefully handle such a topic, when emotions are high and the results seems to affect others sharply as they do the subject. There is an opportunity to whitewash this position for the modern, and I think The School of Life did a good job of avoid that.
The traditional festival culminating in the winter solstice is upon us. Massimo, my friend Yannos, and a few others have shared this article, and I thought you might like to see it also. I would recommend Yannos’ post especially, (you may need to use FB’s translate function) for a more in-depth look at the festival than the linked article provides.
Yannos is a wealth of knowledge, and the online Stoic community is fortunate to have him.
How to Celebrate the Saturnalia!