24 Stoic Spiritual Exercises: How to Become a Better Human Being, Day after Day - Massimo Pigliucci

24 Stoic Spiritual Exercises: How to Become a Better Human Being, Day after Day

By Massimo Pigliucci

  • Release Date: 2021-04-17
  • Genre: Philosophy
Score: 4
4
From 43 Ratings

Description

Stoicism is a practical philosophy of life, and while I enjoy writing about its history and theory, it is the practice that has had a significant impact in my life. I assume it is the same for most readers too. That’s why in this booklet I collect a number of passages from the ancient Stoics where they explicitly advise certain practices or exercises. (Thanks to my friend Greg Lopez for helping curating the collection, on the occasion of one of our jointly hosted Stoic Camps). The first list is distilled from Epictetus’ Enchiridion (the aptly titled “Manual”), while the second list is derived from Marcus’ Meditations (again aptly, a diary that the emperor wrote for his own personal use). The idea here is to step back for a moment from decidedly more modern “Stoic” exercises, which are actually derived from recent developments in psychology, such as Victor Frankl’s logo-therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy. There is, of course, nothing wrong with attempting to update both Stoic theory (as I’ve done elsewhere) and practice. But it is also, I think, good to keep in mind what the ancients actually said and not mix it so thoroughly with modern perspectives that the two become indistinguishable. Specifically, as we shall see, ancient Stoic techniques were decidedly leaning on the cognitive/verbal side of things, not so much on the visualization approach promoted by modern CBT. This isn’t intrinsically bad or good. It just is, and some people will likely respond better to cognitive approaches (myself included, it seems), while others will do well with visualization exercises. Nothing crucial hinges on this, except, again, the need to have present in one’s mind what counts as an ancient Stoic vs a modern Stoic exercise, for the sake of historical clarity, if nothing else. The way I decided to organize the entries below is simply in order of appearance in the Enchiridion or the Meditations. For each entry I give the original passage followed by a brief description or comment. I hope this modest effort will be both enjoyable and especially useful.

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