We can find out what Stoicism is by searching for summaries of the philosophy, reading the many books written on the subject or even listening to the podcasts now being produced regularly. There are even courses, groups and conferences at our disposal to allow us to get to the root of what we need to know.
However, Stoicism is a philosophy of personal ethics that seeks to make a “good life” attainable, so hearing first-hand from people, modern Stoics trying to implement these ethics, what Stoicism means to them, is invaluable.
For that reason, I always ask interview guests the following question:
In terms of what the philosophy means to you, what is Stoicism?
On this page I’ll compile all the answers as new interviews take place.
Answers from modern Stoics
Stoicism is a philosophy, which literally means “love of wisdom” — it’s a methodology, that is, for seeking practical wisdom in life. That requires working through some basic philosophical insights but also training ourselves in corresponding psychological practices. It’s a world view and set of moral values, which are designed to be consistent with reason and also happen to be beneficial for our emotional wellbeing.Donald Robertson, author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor
Picking up on one of my earlier comments, I think it’s about understanding our place in Nature, and our relative insignificance compared to the vastness of Nature. It is, if you like, an antidote to the egotism that we are all prone to from time to time. It turns out that the world doesn’t revolve around us after all, and if we are to live a smooth life, we need to learn to live in harmony with it, rather than expect it to bend to our will.John Sellars, author of Lessons in Stoicism
The idea of antifragility was what got me hooked on Stoicism. This simple idea that you can use stressors to improve, rather than just things to survive. This is captured in Marcus Aurelius’ well known line:Caleb Ontiveros, Creator Of The Stoa Meditation App
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” When someone asks, what Stoicism is, I start there. Then I move to the Stoic disciplines and the importance of virtue.
Stoicism is a philosophy that calls us to ask one very important question: “What does it mean to be a human being?” This is the question that I hope to answer every day for the rest of my life, and I have Stoicism to thank for getting me into the mindset that allows me to ask it.Simon Drew, host of The Practical Stoic podcast
Stoicism helps us decide what matters to us and who we want to be. We don’t want our character or our happiness to depend on external events. We don’t want to be reactive, disordered, or small-minded. Instead, we want to be strong, resilient, and, as Epictetus puts it, “noble-minded, great-hearted, and free.” The Stoics give us very specific guidance about how to become that sort of person. We can reach our full potential not by chasing pleasure or wealth, but by striving to become virtuous. It takes a lot of hard work, but the benefits—a sense of well-being and a meaningful life—are well worth it!Brittany Polat, Stoic Author And Blogger
Stoicism is a beautiful and pragmatic philosophy of life. As a lived philosophy, it provides answers to the questions, “What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be happy? And how can I be more of both?” Stoicism reveals that the answers to these questions lie in living and serving with integrity and intention with and for others.Scott Perry, Difference Maker At Creative On Purpose
To me, Stoicism is an “operating system for life”. A set of teachings and practices that will help to improve the quality of your life. If you follow Stoic practices to any degree, your life will definitely improve. I am not saying that practicing Stoicism today will make your life drastically better. But, by practicing Stoicism daily, you will begin to enjoy the “compounding interest” benefits. That is where the Stoic magic happens. Through daily practice and investment in yourself. I look forward to enjoying more and more “compound interest” benefits of Stoicism as I continue my daily practice.Michael McGill, Chief Information Officer with Medical Service Company