Advice for a Student of Stoicism

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Advice for a Student of Stoicism

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Mon May 22, 2017 5:39 am

Salvete Philosophi!,

I would like to know if anyone can point me to what is, in their opinion, the optimal reading order for who wishes to delve into the philosophy of the Stoics.

What I would like in this case is a comprehensive reading list for a newcomer on Stoicism, in the order you believe most wise. As well as any suggestion or advice besides books.

Valete bene,
Philo
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Re: Advice for a Student of Stoicism

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Mon May 22, 2017 7:38 pm

Salve Philo Aureliane!

Actually I am not sure what to recommend. The standard answer that you will get from a Stoic would probably be "Meditationes" by Marcus Aurelius or the "Enchiridion" (Ἐγχειρίδιον = handbook) by Epictetus. But I do not think that is the best start for a modern student of Stoicism who comes from a totally different time.
A better way to start is probably the community "Stoicism Today".. They started as a group at the University of Exeter, but have grown a lot due to the ever increasing interest in Stoic philosophy in recent years.
Personally I am a little bit skeptical to their approach. Sometimes the seem to equal Stoicism with CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and you feel like in a therapy session. Stoicism is not supposed to be a therapy for mental instability, but a way to make mentally healthy people even more efficient. Some Stoic practices like the suppression of negative emotions and negative visualization might really not be suited for people with a mental disorder and cause more harm than good. In my opinion metal stability is rather a prerequisite for Stoicism and will not be helpful to acquire it.
Nevertheless "Stoicism Today" or "Modern Stoicism", as they call themselves now, is still a good source for Stoic teachings. Maybe you will find them helpful. They have the annual "Stoic Week" event, a Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training course, a mailing list and their own books(even in Portuguese).

I also hope we can make this collegium helpful for those who are interested in one of the most important schools of Western philosophy that has at least as much to teach as Buddhism and is probably closer to the Western way of thinking than Eastern philosophies like Buddhism, Hinduism or Taoism. It is however striking how many similarities we can find between Buddhism and Stoicism, exempli gratia the practice of "mindfulness meditation". I just hope we can get this tedious bylaws-thing done soon, so we can focus more on the actual purpose of the collegium.

This is what I can say about it. Appius Claudius Tuscus is a Stoic, as you can tell from his avatar. He is also a member of this collegium and you might get more helpful recommendations from him.

Vale, amice!
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Re: Advice for a Student of Stoicism

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Mon May 22, 2017 7:59 pm

For me the notion that Philosophy cannot bring a troubled mind to peace rather makes the entire concept strange and untrue. Because if Philosophy is a guide to Truth, if it is a search for correct action and virtue, than It is not reasonable to say that it is inadequate to help people with mental instability. It of course can be better suited for someone mentally stable, but that can be said about any good thing in life.
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Re: Advice for a Student of Stoicism

Postby Mania Aurelia Apollonia » Mon May 22, 2017 10:46 pm

I am also interested in Stoicism, but if the case of suppressing negatives is a part of some of it, I have to be careful. I do struggle with OCD, I am not ashamed to say.

However, I will take a gander at some of the stuff listed. All knowledge is good to me.
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Re: Advice for a Student of Stoicism

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Tue May 23, 2017 1:54 am

OCD should not be a problem. Depressions would be a problem, because negative visualization includes imagining the worst case scenario. So if you have already experienced it in your mind, it helps to remain calm in critical situations. But of course it could really make things worse, if one is inclined towards depressions.
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Re: Advice for a Student of Stoicism

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Tue May 23, 2017 2:33 am

In general I feel Stoicism focuses a lot on coming to terms with possible negative outcome. It has the idea that you must accept what comes of bad and anticipate it. By anticipating it and preparing mentaly for it, and by accepting that no matter what happens you will be able to pull through in the end (and if you don't, you'll be dead so it doesn't really matter), Stoics try to calm their minds and find peace.

I sometimes like to say that Stoics are the ultimate Pessimists AND the ultimate Optimists at the same time. There's an inherent Positivity in Stoic pessimism.
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C. Curtius L. f. Vot. Philo Aurelianus
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Re: Advice for a Student of Stoicism

Postby Mania Aurelia Apollonia » Wed May 24, 2017 3:16 am

Well, in my particular case, imagining and visualizing the worst case scenario is my specialty. But, then the problem becomes moving past, and not obsessing over it.

Still, worth a look deeper. It sounds interesting.
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Re: Advice for a Student of Stoicism

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Wed May 24, 2017 4:46 am

Mania Aurelia Apollonia wrote:Well, in my particular case, imagining and visualizing the worst case scenario is my specialty. But, then the problem becomes moving past, and not obsessing over it.

Still, worth a look deeper. It sounds interesting.


I highly recommend it. Stoicism has very much helped me come to terms with much of my fears. It has granted me a bit more calmness and serenity in the face of danger. Stoicism is truly a lot about Confronting the possibility of failure and defeat, but it is also just as much about ACCEPTING these conditions as part of Nature and coming to terms with them. It is accepting that the natural order presents itself with many things that to us seem harmful, but it is important to understand that these things are only harmful if we LET them be harmful. Stoicism tries to help people gain back Control over their pain and anguish. Make them be able to see hardship and think "you know what, I think I'll be ok."
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C. Curtius L. f. Vot. Philo Aurelianus
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