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PHILOSOPHY AS A WAY OF LIFE

I see in myself, Lucilius, not just an improvement
The Spirit of Stoic Serenity - Introduction

but a transformation.

(Seneca, Moral Letters 6.1)

Why Study Philosophy?
Philosophy is more than a matter of reading books to understand and
appreciate the views of their authors (and to examine and
challenge those views, just as philosophers have always done), it is
also an exercise in changing the way we look at life, and finding new
and improved perspectives on our specific concerns, to arrive
eventually at a point where our worries are defeated, or our fears
abolished, and our passions tempered.1 This process of discovery,
and the attempt to live by the insights we gain, is what the ancients

1
These lessons are adapted, with his gracious permission, from Keith
Seddon's book 'Stoic Serenity.' This book comes highly recommended, and
although it is not necessary to own a copy for these lessons, we hope that
students will find enough value in the lessons that they will be encouraged to
buy their own copy, and support one of the few voices for the practice of
Stoicism today.

I tried to persuade each of you to concern himself less with what he has than with what he is. What Stoicism Offers The promise of Stoic philosophy is to give to the student a sense of profound tranquility. In ancient times it was the job of the philosopher- teacher to show the student how this can be done. party organizations. having a comfortable home. said this during his trial in Athens: I did not care for the things that most people care about – making money. individually and in private – what I hold to be the greatest possible service. some schools accepted residential students who would actually have lived with their philosopher-teacher throughout the duration of their studies. In the most general of senses. but the person aiming to live the philosophical life. so as to render himself as excellent and rational as possible. which go on in our city… I set myself to do you – each one of you. secret societies. Socrates is famed for his assertion that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ (Apology 38a). The term ‘philosopher’ was not reserved so much for the teacher or author. Socrates. Thus the students would have been able to see how their teacher managed their . One of philosophy’s most important figures. what Socrates wanted to examine is the system of values we adopt to justify what we find of importance. political appointments. high military or civil rank. Indeed.called living as a philosopher. especially) – and then he set about encouraging others to do the same. and all the other activities. And this is what we shall be doing in these discussions. The teacher would do this simply by living the philosophic life. (Plato. which the student could witness on a daily basis simply as they attended their daily lessons and through personal contact at other times. Apology 36b–c) What Socrates did for himself was to find out how to make himself ‘excellent and rational’ – which in part at least resulted in his not caring about the sorts of things that people usually regard as of supreme importance (wealth and status.

About This Course Each of these lessons will have an introduction. requiring reflection and application the principles discussed during the lesson. Read Seneca2 Letter 48. You may also choose to purchase your own more modern . ancient and modern. the teacher was a model for their students. These will be our teachers for the next 6 months or so. Though relatively scarce. Epictetus. although some of these translations are fairly old. Now the reality of studying Stoic philosophy today is that there are no philosophical residential schools. as well as a wealth of additional material. which will focus on a specific Stoic practice or principle. Lessons build on each other. and we would be hard pressed to find a teacher of the caliber seen in those ancient times. Let's start applying some of these ideas right away by asking ourselves what we are expecting out of this course. with occasional references to other teachers. In short. so skipping around is probably not a good idea. 7-8 starting at "Would you really know what philosophy offers to humanity?" Seneca is warning his friend. and how they faced the sorts of evils that in some shape or form eventually touch the lives of everyone.com/site/thestoiclife/the_teachers). Nevertheless. and as students we can actively put that teaching into practice. how they coped with crises and lesser troubles.everyday affairs. usually from the writings of Seneca. Finally each lesson will conclude with one or more exercises. there are enough remaining writings from teachers and students of Stoic philosophy. to 2 The works of Seneca. the text is understandable. and Marcus Aurelius. Lessons will also refer to outside sources.google. Nevertheless the philosopher-teacher can still guide and can give advice. All of the text for these lessons may also be found at (https://sites. and the principles stand out regardless of the date of publication. Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius are available at no cost in several places on the Internet. Lucilius.

and participating in the discussion forums. Write Read section 7 again.stay away from logic games. make a list of the things that are troubling you. The image on page 1 is Marcus Aurelius. there are many among your friends and family who might benefit from such teaching. after 170 CE) currently held at the Louvre Museum. find a friend or family member (not studying these lessons) who is willing to discuss these things with you. Discuss Read section 8 again. that we will begin to see real.wikipedia. which were what was passing for popular philosophy in his day (we could substitute pop-psychology today). so you can see how much progress you have made to free yourself from these worries and concerns. fragment of a bronze portrait (Roman artwork.' . Try to engage with the lessons as if you really were having a conversation with your philosopher-teacher. things that you would like to be free of. If Stoic philosophy delivers what it promises. More details of the image can be found here: (http://en. Paris. For this exercise. In your journal3. and recording your thoughts on paper. tangible growth in a Stoic 'art of living. and these will also serve you well as you start to build your own Stoic Library. It is by doing the writing assignments. France. adjusting your list as you encounter new situations. challenges and questions in your journal. He then goes on to tell him what philosophy is really for. it is well known that the best way to learn and practice something. 3 Participants are strongly urged to complete the short ‘in your journal’ assignments. and what Lucilius should be doing with it. is to try to teach the principles to another. or on a computer. Keep track of your progress.jpg) translations. Additionally. Try to keep regular track of your list for the next week or so.org/wiki/File:Bronze_Marcus_Aurelius_Louvre_Br 45. as you prefer. Keep this list for the end of the course.