What Ancient Stoic Philosophers Can Teach Us About Happiness (& The Skills It Needs)
Our way of life needs a skills upgrade, to reinstall certain old stoic ideas. Using your rights well needs "happiness bootcamp" skills.
1. The best we can hope for is “life, liberty and the pursuit of” stoic happiness. And that means we all need “happiness bootcamp” (to learn how harmful equating “happiness” with what’s beyond your control is).
2. That’s one key lesson from How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life by Massimo Pigliucci (—>focus on your locus of control).
3. Stoics taught that we should desire the game, not only the win (the effort, not the goal). They were better “connoisseurs of human psychology” than many later experts (e.g., economists of the “unbehavioral” kind).
5. Stoics trained themselves in “virtues.” But virtue meant something different in Greco-Roman wrestling with life’s challenges (we typically see the term through 2,000 years of Christian accretions).
6. Early Christianity was strongly influenced by stoic ideas—for instance, the Gospel’s “In the beginning was the Word,” uses the word Logos, the stoic term for that which organizes nature (~Einstein’s god).
7. Stoic training involves three disciplines (of desires, actions, and reactions) and four capabilities (“courage, temperance, justice and practical wisdom” (—>the “cardinal” virtues—>logical life skills).
8. Stoics aimed to live “according to nature.” And human nature is driven to pursue “eudaimonia“ often loosely translated as “happiness.” Eu = good, daimon = demon/spirit, eudaimonia = good-spirited, flourishing (well-doing).
10. That founding phrase “pursuit of happiness” is poorly grasped now. Gary Wills has shown that Jefferson didn’t mean private hedonic happiness, but a public, scientific, measurable notion (from the Scottish Moral Sense school). It resembled virtue-skill-requiring eudaimonia more than a personal feelgood-now faith (—>Bentham’s bucket error).
11. Stoics held virtue to be “necessary and sufficient” for eudaimonia (=the good skilled life). Other approaches defined different virtues (e.g., Aristotle’s 12 included externals like wealth and wittiness) but modern studies converge on these six core, stoic-like, traits.
12. Worry only about what is in your power. Stoics treat all else with “indifference” (an indifferent can be preferred or dispreferred). By nature many projects have outcomes beyond your control. Enjoy success if it comes. If not, be content with having made your best effort.
13. Stoicism’s genius is to democratically bring a good (skilled) life within reach of all (wellborn or not, win or lose).
14. Skilled living grants an untroubled mind (“ataraxia”).
15. A win-centric life is folly for all but a lucky few (—>democracy ≠ “for the top people”).
16. Unhappy are they who ignore nature’s empirical limits.
17. Wise are they who use their liberty to pursue skillful living (—>“all skill is joyful”).
Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
Even some teachers suffer from anxiety about math.
I teach people how to teach math, and I've been working in this field for 30 years. Across those decades, I've met many people who suffer from varying degrees of math trauma – a form of debilitating mental shutdown when it comes to doing mathematics.
She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.
- For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
- These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
- Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
The legacy of Felix Dzerzhinsky, who led Soviet secret police in the "Red Terror," still confounds Russia.
- Felix Dzerzhinsky led the Cheka, Soviet Union's first secret police.
- The Cheka was infamous for executing thousands during the Red Terror of 1918.
- The Cheka later became the KGB, the spy organization where Russia's President Putin served for years.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.