Stoicism

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Bankai
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Stoicism

Post by Bankai » Fri Aug 23, 2019 12:57 pm

I'm doing deep dive into stoicism over the next few weeks and while searching for books/videos I found this excellent old-school (not a ted talk) lecture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5897dMWJiSM

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Re: Stoicism

Post by jacob » Fri Aug 23, 2019 1:39 pm

There are only four books to find: Epictetus, Aurelius, Seneca, and Rufus. If we go by how affinity or reviews mostly reflects the limits of the reader rather than the author, they each cater to different socioeconomic/temperaments.

From these four, there are a bunch of derivatives. Irvine's Guide to the good life is semi-famous on the internet, but I think Stock is better https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7514 (maybe that's just my socioeconomic temperament). There are probably more books out by now?

Of course, just because there's not a lot to read (unlike the 700k word bible), it doesn't mean that there's not a lot to think about.
I think Stock provides a very good perspective/framework/big picture view, so I recommend that as a starting point.

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Bankai
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Re: Stoicism

Post by Bankai » Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:09 pm

Thanks, Jacob. Stock looks fairly basic introduction. I'm 20% through Irvine and getting through to practical bits. As for classics, any recommendations for best translations? My experience with 19th/early 20th century translations is that they tend to be unnecessarily format and dry.

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Re: Stoicism

Post by Seppia » Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:39 pm

Do you speak any Latin language? French/Spanish/ Italian?
Because if that’s the case, original Marcus Aurelius is not so hard.
There are original versions in Latin with translation in the side, where you can try read in Latin and should you struggle, you’ve got backup.

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Re: Stoicism

Post by chenda » Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:59 pm

Great lecture. Marcus Aurelius must have been on the autistic spectrum.

I used to like Greek philosophy until I discovered Indian and Iranian philosophy, and see now the Greeks were really just a bunch of amateurs.

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Bankai
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Re: Stoicism

Post by Bankai » Fri Aug 23, 2019 4:10 pm

@Seppia: no, but I did have 2 semesters of Latin at Uni. Can't say I know it but was OK reading bits of Caesar ('Galia est omnis divisa in partes tres' is quite obvious for example). It would be pretty cool to be able to read it in original, quite sure I'm not at that level though (yet?).

@chenda: I'm very rational so some (religious) bits of Buddhism put me off a bit, however I always wanted to dive into it as well. Might be that I'm just wired to be receptive more towards stoicism.

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Re: Stoicism

Post by chenda » Fri Aug 23, 2019 4:31 pm

@bankai - yes I expect there is a lot of personal preference in these things. IIRC, several Greek philosophers travelled to India (Iran formed a continuous land bridge then) and studied at Buddhism. The Epicurean idea of happiness through minimal wants may have come from the Buddhist idea of detachment from desire. That said, FWIW, I found Hindu philosophy easier to grasp than Buddhism.

And of course a lot of Greek ideas came from Iranian Zoroastrianism, which as a westerner I found extremely easy to understand as it went on to hugely influence Christianity.

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Re: Stoicism

Post by fiby41 » Fri Aug 23, 2019 9:18 pm

Bankai wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:09 pm
I'm 20% through Irvine and getting through to practical bits.
Let us know how it goes. I couldn't finish A Guide to the Good Life.

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Re: Stoicism

Post by Redo » Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:07 am

chenda wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:59 pm
Great lecture. Marcus Aurelius must have been on the autistic spectrum.

I used to like Greek philosophy until I discovered Indian and Iranian philosophy, and see now the Greeks were really just a bunch of amateurs.
What do you recommend reading?

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Re: Stoicism

Post by chenda » Sat Aug 24, 2019 12:10 pm

What do you recommend reading?
For Iran D.J Irani's translation and short commentary on the Gathas is a good starting point. Available here Also the interviews with his son Kaikhosrov D. Irani online are very interesting.

For India Jeffery D Long from the Elizabethtown College has written some excellent books on Dharmic religion, pitched I would say at undergraduate level. (Not to be confused with a Jeffery Long who conducts some dubious afterlife research on youtube)

For a more spiritual take see any lecture by Swami Sarvapriyananda, one of the finest teachers of Vedic philosophy today. And any good translation and commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, you can find the good bits of Stoicism in there with lots more good stuff.

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Re: Stoicism

Post by steveo73 » Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:59 pm

I just finished this book:- https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/392 ... earch=true and it was good. Small and easy to read but a good message.

I loved A Guide to the Good Life.

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Re: Stoicism

Post by Sabaka » Mon Aug 26, 2019 2:44 pm

Personally, the same as you Bankai, I prefer the Stoics and other ancient Greek philosophies to those of the East. That's not to disparage those of the East (I do not though enough about them to do so), but they tend to be surrounded in much more mysticism than the Greek ones.

A new book you might wish to check out is "How to think like a Roman Emperor" by Donald Robertson. He is one of the founders of the Modern Stoicism movement and a CBT focused psychologist, so there's lots of good stuff regarding practical exercises in the book.

As for translations of the ancients, I tend to find that most recent "Penguin Classics" editions been good for all of the main texts. I've also heard the Oxford World Classics tend to produce good translations also.

Out of interest, which is your favourite out of Epictetus, Aurelius and Seneca? Personally, I really love how matter-of-fact Epictetus is. However, I also really love parts of Seneca, his writing is certainly (imo) the most aesthetically pleasing of all of them. As for Aurelius, I tend to find him more of a chore. But then again, his Meditations were not intended to be released, so this is understandable.

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Re: Stoicism

Post by Campitor » Mon Aug 26, 2019 7:53 pm

I've read Aurelius and Seneca and find both useful and try to practice stoicism in my daily life. I haven't read any Epictetus yet. I also read some eastern philosophy such as taoism and buddhism. I've also lightly touched on Indian philosophy. I find eastern and western philosophy pertinent in many ways and complementary to each other; ying-yang so to speak. I think anything that helps you live in a virtuous manner and makes you feel "whole" is a plus.

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Re: Stoicism

Post by classical_Liberal » Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:30 am

I prefer Aurelius. Not because of his writings, @Sabaka is correct in his assessment. Rather, I like the person behind the philosophy. I tend to fall into this thinking with most people & ideas. I want to know what experiences generate their thoughts. What are they overcoming or not. I tend to think it's easier for someone who was born a slave or forced to serve under an insane/murderous ruler to preach stoicism. In many ways people like that need something like Stoicism to stay sane in bad circumstances. Someone who was groomed for royalty and had the capability to live in excess beyond imagination, for a person like that to live the life of an honorable stoic, that person is interesting and worth listening to.

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Re: Stoicism

Post by chenda » Tue Aug 27, 2019 2:24 pm

Has anyone read Plotinus ? I have the Enneads but have yet to read them.

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Bankai
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Re: Stoicism

Post by Bankai » Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:33 pm

Finished 'A Guide to the Good Life' and I'm quite impressed.

It was an easy read and full of practical advise i.e. how to actually practice stoicism. Irvine believes that that the biggest danger in life is to 'mislive' it, that is, chase the wrong things (i.e. fame and fortune or more generally social status - sounds familiar?). He's advice on how to avoid 'misliving' is to adopt a philosophy of life, that is a set of guiding principles or strategies (sounds familiar?). He suggests several alternatives to stoicism, but obviously focuses on stoicism itself; he doesn't think stoicism is the best philosophy of life for everyone (this is personal i.e. rationals find stoicism attractive thanks to its requirement to reason though things while emotionals might find Buddism more attractive) but is best for some people in some circumstances and is certainly better than no philosophy/strategy.

He also suggests practising 'stealth stoicism' (sounds familiar? stealth wealth anyone?). How to practice? The book offers a detailed description of several stoic practices, like negative visualisation, trichotomy of control, internalising goals, voluntary hardship (sounds familiar?), fatalism about past and present, self-deprecating humour, facing your fears, rejecting pleasures, daily contemplation and more. I'll write more about them later on, but the book is well worth a read just for the practical part alone. Stoicism and ERE overlap quite a lot; both also appear to be best suited for persons with certain personality traits and seem to complement each other.

I also started reading Stock but so far it's quite dry.

Complete Seneca letters published by Tim Ferris (free ebooks): http://www.openculture.com/2017/10/thre ... rriss.html

@Sabaka: I only read bits of Marcus and Seneca and some random quotes from Epictetus so a bit too early for me to make my pick, however so far Seneca appears to be most accessible of the bunch. I'm starting his letters today so will have more to say soon.

Also, there seems to be a lot of books on stoicism, certainly it exploded in popularity over the last decade or so. Probably there's a lot of overlap between them and it might not be worth it to read more than maybe 2-3 before going to actual sources. However, many of them are highly rated on amazon (4+).

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Bankai
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Re: Stoicism

Post by Bankai » Tue Aug 27, 2019 5:18 pm

jacob wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 1:39 pm
Of course, just because there's not a lot to read (unlike the 700k word bible), it doesn't mean that there's not a lot to think about.
So true! First three letters of Seneca (six pages total) got me contemplating for an hour. Very interesting how these ideas were re-discovered in later times and also how many other applications they possibly have. Digesting and internalising those four authors seems like a task for few years if not decades.

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Re: Stoicism

Post by Sabaka » Wed Aug 28, 2019 4:50 pm

@classical_Liberal

That's a really good point. Quite often, those who renounce something completely (eg. wealth, power, etc) quite often have never really experienced them. That doesn't make their opinions invalid necessarily, but certainly less strengfull. Aurelius "walked the walk", which adds to his appeal greatly I think.

@Bankai

Personally, I wish I'd spent much more time actually trying to practice certain stoic techniques rather than just reading the various books. Currently, although I have read various texts, I don't feel I practice a stoic lifestyle as much as I should. So I'd recommend trying to practice them as early as possible, avoid my mistake!

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Re: Stoicism

Post by theanimal » Wed Aug 28, 2019 11:10 pm

Ryan Holiday's books The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy are more or less books on stoicism. I found both to be very good and well worth reading.

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