Author Topic: Question about stoicism  (Read 4202 times)


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Question about stoicism
« on: June 20, 2013, 02:22:12 PM »
In this article:

Mr. Money Mustache says that Stoics teach themselves to want what they already have.  What if what they already have is taken away from them?  Do they just convince themselves they don't want it anymore?  Wouldn't that be quite a difficult mental process to put yourself through?

I know this question probably stems from a misunderstanding about stoicism that I must have, so would you guys mind explaining it to me? 

Thanks so much in advance.  I love this site!


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Re: Question about stoicism
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2013, 02:36:28 PM »
Stoics are happy with what they have, but they want nothing.

Indeed, it's the exact opposite, they learn to not care for what they have because it could be taken away.  (Not that they don't "care for" in terms of taking care of, but they aren't attached to what they have.)

From The Enchiridion by Epictetus:
With regard to whatever objects give you delight, are useful, or are deeply loved, remember to tell yourself of what general nature they are, beginning from the most insignificant things. If, for example, you are fond of a specific ceramic cup, remind yourself that it is only ceramic cups in general of which you are fond. Then, if it breaks, you will not be disturbed. If you kiss your child, or your wife, say that you only kiss things which are human, and thus you will not be disturbed if either of them dies.

Hope that clears up your misunderstanding.  Feel free to post if you have any more questions, and welcome to the forums!  :)
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Lans Holman

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Re: Question about stoicism
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2013, 02:41:09 PM »
I was on board with the ceramic cup example, but I think he got a little carried away after that.


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Re: Question about stoicism
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2013, 03:20:12 PM »
I was on board with the ceramic cup example, but I think he got a little carried away after that.

It's not that a Stoic won't grieve for the loss of a loved one. A Stoic will still grieve but a Stoic will also realize much quicker that life goes on and that there are still good things out there that are worth living for. For a philosophy that is grounded in negative contemplation the end result is quite positive because there is always a bright side as long as you contemplate the negative.

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Re: Question about stoicism
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2013, 04:09:36 PM »
Based on memory, from what I remember of "A Guide to the Good life" (the book MMM talks about in that article), a Stoic does various things to reduce anxiety (achieve tranquility). 

Among other things, the stoic:
1. Engages in negative visualization.  This is how you learn to love what you have. Imagine yourself without the things that you currently have, and you will learn to appreciate them more.  In modern psychology terms, this is an attempt to reverse hedonic adaptation. 
2. Engages in self-denial.  The Stoic occaissionaly goes without (such as underdressing for the weather, or walking instead of driving).  This enables the Stoic to handle future hardships more easily.
3. Learns to distinguish between the things he can and cannot control, and focuses on those things that he can control.  This is fatalism. By focusing only on what you can control, you avoid worrying over those things you cannot control, thereby reducing anxiety.

So, in case someone loses what they have, a Stoic might tell that person to focus his or her energies on those things he can control (like finding somewhere safe and warm to sleep and finding food), and not to dwell on the things they can't, such as lamenting the loss of their possessions, assuming that they are gone forever.  Ideally, the Stoic would have already engaged in self-denial, allowing them to realize that they will be able to handle the loss of their possessions.