Though the Stoic philosophers had their golden epoch for around 600 years, from 300 BCE to 300 CE, they still have an unbelievably strong fan-following all across the world. After all, the Greco-Roman philosophy has always been an ideological source for ordinary people like you and me.
Stoicism taught virtue-based living and came across as a practical tool to find purpose in life and meaning in human experience. And these are the same tools we need for living successfully today, just as twenty-four hundred years back.
Why Is Stoicism Important Today?
Stoicism is important even today as it takes a timeless and unpretentious approach to philosophy. Its proponents conceived and propagated it in a way that people from across millennia and social classes could use it in their daily lives.
The present-day influence of Stoicism is helped by the following 4 factors:
- Philosophy For The Common People: The classical Stoic teachers preached in ways that the commonest of the common person could always drop by to listen. They preached from open public places and wrote books anyone could copy, quote, and distribute freely. They did not bother much about attributions or copyrights. It had the result that most of their preachings were widely printed, quoted, and distributed. And they are still available easily for just about anyone who is eager to learn and practice it.
- User-Friendly And Practical Approach: Their lectures were practical and easy-to-grasp. Even today, anybody at all can understand their teachings with only a little effort and apply them to their daily life. Although some original masters never put down a single word for the historical record, and some of their original texts got lost or destroyed, the students of those Stoic preachers took the utmost care to preserve their teachings into books we can read today.
- Free To Access For All: The main Stoicism books by the ancient authors always remained free to access. More so in our internet-powered world of altruistic repositories like Project Gutenberg. Stoicism was a philosophy designed for the masses, and so it remains to this day.
- Backed By Modern Cognitive Science: Some core beliefs of Stoicism find evidence and use in modern science. A tenet of Stoicism turned out to be an effective solution to anxiety and depression. In fact, it became the precursor of counseling therapies like CBT (which says our negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors cause difficulties) and REBT (which says our thinking about events leads to emotional and behavioral upset).
How Is Stoicism Relevant Today?
Stoicism is relevant today as it helps modern men and women to put their lives in better order. A practicing Stoic today is seen as a calm, satisfied person, and is often sought for wise counsel and just advice. The ancient philosophy still inspires people to re-think and re-organize their lives to achieve eudaimonia.
Eudaimonia is a Greek word (Greek: εὐδαιμονία) that, when translated, can mean human flourishing, prosperity, and contentedness.
Successes and failures ride together in the entrepreneur world today. Any business, a startup, or a giant corporation, cannot have one of these without the other. And any businessperson, at whatever level, can get mired too deep into the feelings resulting from either success or failure, and from the pressure to stay relevant.
Recently, Stoicism has reappeared among the large and small business owners, who want their way of thinking to match the practical aspects of the ancient philosophy. So they could tackle their busy and often uncertain lives with equanimity.
The Stoics have a positive influence on people around them and help to make the world a less materialistic and more peaceful place to be. Stoicism tries to instill and fulfill two features in us: happiness and potential.
Stoicism taught the ultimate aim of human life was to look back on a virtuous life when dying. For a happy life, one must live with wisdom, and in accordance with nature.
At its core, Stoicism is a philosophy that aims to minimize our negative reactions, thoughts, and feelings in life. And to maximize contentment, happiness, and mindfulness.
The Stoics believed in an egalitarian society. To a Stoic, everyone was equal, and the Emperor was not better than a commoner, as the commoner was not better than a slave.
The Stoics also held they were a citizen of the universe more than of any country. This idea of Stoic cosmopolitanism was humanistic and based on the universal ability to reason. Epictetus advised his followers,
“Do as Socrates did, never replying to the question of where he was from with, ‘I am Athenian,’ or ‘I am from Corinth,’ but always, ‘I am a citizen of the world.’” (Discourses I, 9.1)
We can use the principles of Stoicism to bring peace and happiness, and equality and cosmopolitanism into our modern lives.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, chief editor of its blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
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