The Ultimate One Page Guide To Stoicism: While I have lots of ideas and thoughts about Stoicism, it occurred to me that I tend to jumble them together. When trying to describe the main concepts and themes they often blur together. This conspires to make Stoicism sound more complex than it needs to be.
In the past I’ve tried to guide my understanding of stoic philosophy in seven key points. I’ve then used this guide as a springboard to further research and to leading to a happier, calmer life. In this post I’ll expand slightly on these points. But I’ll try to write out a guide to the main principles in just one page. And here’s the result …..
Part 1 of the Guide: Live a Virtuous Life
Life pans out in the way that it does, without your control, based on natural laws. While its not self-evident that the universe can be explained rationally, its a good starting point. These rational laws allow life to flow and give us a foundation for pursuing equality to all humans (see Social Duty below). As we go thought life, we make choices. We use can reason when making these choices. And we can choose to select the best possible moral option to which leads to virtue. Yet, only what is within our power can virtuous. Why? Because virtue comes from within, from reason. And this is a decision which is up to us alone, a decision which emanates from a reasoned choice. I’ll explore this further in the next section below.
Part 2 of the Guide: Use Reason
Morally speaking, anything that isn’t virtuous is irrelevant. So bearing this in mind nothing can harm you. The only way something can affect your character is if you let it. Stoicism removes the constraints and fears that irrationality brings. However, sometimes we (and others) make irrational choices. We mistake what we wish to happen, versus reality. In other words what is actually happening. Reason helps us to to see things for how they are, instead of how we want them to be.
Part 3 of the Guide: Embrace Your Social Duty
Humans are social beings and we have a social duty. We should try to be kind and compassionate towards others. To live in accordance with nature. To use reason to learn and to expand our awareness and knowledge. But remember that while others (and ourselves) can be rational, this doesn’t always happen. By keeping this in mind, then it will help reduce anxiety and stress. It also allows us to show empathy. Imagine putting yourself in the mind of another person, and consider what they’re going through. Generally, we are wrong about what they’re going through, because we can’t know. But without this imaginative process we can’t have compassion, or understanding.
Once we’ve empathised, and feel their suffering, the second half of compassion is wanting to end that suffering. We can also choose to take action to ease that suffering in some way. We must get our self importance out of the way, and think of the other person. Think of the Golden Rule , and try to embody it.
In the end, none of this is easy. But if you know what is virtuous and how to achieve it then strive for it. There is no need to delay or put it off until tomorrow. There is no guarantee that you’ll be here tomorrow. Make a move towards virtue now, start today. But perhaps the last word should go to Seneca:
For what prevents us from saying that the happy life is to have a mind that is free, lofty, fearless and steadfast – a mind that is placed beyond the reach of fear, beyond the reach of desire, that counts virtue the only good, baseness the only evil, and all else but a worthless mass of things, which come and go without increasing or diminishing the highest good, and neither subtract any part from the happy life nor add any part to it?
A man thus grounded must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since he finds delight in his own resources, and desires no joys greater than his inner joys.
What do you think of this exercise? What would you include? Have I missed an important points? Why not leave a comment below: