The Art of Stoic Perception

The Art of Stoic PerceptionPocketStoic is a project which I’m following with great interest. The team has released a free book: The Art of Stoic Perception: 24 Ancient Techniques for Creating an Invincible Mind. 

Stoicism reached its height of popularity in Imperial Rome. The fall of the empire resulted in the destruction of the majority of Stoic works. The book does a great job of picking 24 Stoic techniques as passed down by this Greco-Roman tradition.

The Art of Stoic Perception

The book below explores the surviving texts of three Roman Stoic philosophers:

  1. Seneca,
  2. Epictetus, and
  3. the last of the “Good Emperors of Rome” Marcus Aurelius.

Mastering the art of Stoic perception takes practice and hard work. So as you move through these techniques, remember to put them into action in your daily life.

Perception and Grasping

The book is about perception. This reminds me of the concept of katalepsis (Greek: κατάληψις, “grasping”). In Stoic philosophy this meant comprehension. To the Stoic philosophers, katalepsis was about a persons ability to grasp philosophical concepts.

According to the Stoics, impressions (phantasiai) bombard the mind. Some of these impressions are true and some false. Affirm an impression then they are true. They are false if they are wrongly affirmed. An example of this is if you believe an oar dipped in the water to be broken because it appears so. The Stoics said that just because you perceive something, you shouldn’t always give credit to it. Rather consider only those perceptions which contain some special mark of those things which appeared. Stoics called such a perception a kataleptic phantasia (Greek: φαντασία καταληπτική), or comprehensible perception. The kataleptic phantasia is that which is impressed by an object which exists, which is a copy of that object and can be produced by no other object.

Cicero relates that Zeno would illustrate katalepsis as follows:

he would display his hand in front of one with the fingers stretched out and say “A visual appearance is like this”; next he closed his fingers a little and said, “An act of assent is like this”; then he pressed his fingers closely together and made a fist, and said that that was comprehension (and from this illustration he gave to that process the actual name of katalepsis, which it had not had before); but then he used to apply his left hand to his right fist and squeeze it tightly and forcibly, and then say that such was knowledge, which was within the power of nobody save the wise man


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