What Makes Stoicism Radical

The philosophical blueprint

Welcome to The Stoa Letter, the newsletter on Stoic theory and practice.

Every week we share two emails to help you build resilience and virtue with ancient philosophy. Each email includes one meditation on Stoic theory, one action to do in order to become more Stoic, and links to the best resources we’ve found.

🏛️ Theory

What makes Stoicism different?

It’s a philosophical blueprint for living well. It defines what a good life is and provides the playbook to attain it.

According to Stoicism, the good life is nothing more than a virtuous one. If we develop excellent character, that’s enough for happiness.

At first glance, this idea is commonplace. Of course, a good life isn’t a matter of wealth, power, reputation, or pleasure. It’s got to be something more. Living a life full of justice, courage, moderation, and wisdom.

But this is truly a revolutionary answer. Virtue is enough. The Stoics really mean it.

Neither Poverty, powerlessness, or pain can stand in the way of happiness. The only obstacle – is you.

Once you release the desires for things outside of yourself and clear the illusions you’ve internalized, turn your attention to self-mastery. 

In each moment, concentrate on fulfilling your role to the best of your ability. Make excellent judgments and decisions. Do this again and again. Nothing else is needed.

Stoicism is radically egalitarian. Everyone has the opportunity for happiness. As long as we can think, no circumstance or trait can prevent us from living in accordance with nature.

Yet, it also calls for radical responsibility. Only we control the levers of our happiness.

It’s not easy, but progress is possible.

Do not think that what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; but if a thing is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach.

Meditations, 6.19

🎯 Action

Spend a few moments meditating on the Stoic idea that virtue is all you need for happiness. Progress.

🔗 Resources

💬 Stoic happiness is not subject to the vicissitudes of chance. As Seneca wrote:

“That which Fortune has not given, she cannot take away.”

Moral Letters, 59

💬 Marcus Aurelius captured the simplicity of Stoicism:

Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn't matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honored. Dying . . . or busy with other assignments.

Meditations, 6.2

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