The original Stoic role model
Living like Socrates
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.
Socrates is the essential role model for Stoics.
In chaotic Athens, war, and unjust trials, he lived well.
Socrates's story begins with a challenge from the Delphic oracle. In ancient times, many would visit this priestess of the Apollo in order to receive guidance by means of a cryptic utterance.
The Delphi oracle exclaimed that he was the wisest of all men. In confusion, he rushed to find wiser men. He discovered that those who claim to have wisdom often do not. Socrates's virtue was simply manifest in the fact that he neither hide his ignorance nor pretended to knowledge.
His life was not purely intellectual or cerebral.
Socrates pursued knowledge and cultivated deep relationships. For the Stoics, we’re ultimately rational and social creatures. So, by seeking and applying knowledge (practical and intellectual) and serving his friends, family, and city he fulfilled his purpose.
That doesn’t mean that he provides a life we can copy and paste into our own circumstances. He lived in a specific time, and place, and possessed particular talents. But the fundamental ideas his life communicates are universal. That’s why the Socratic dialogues recorded by Plato and Xenophon are still read today.
Pause today and bring to mind one way you pretending, to yourself or others, to possess knowledge you do not.
💬 Nietzsche once said that Socrates possessed “a joyful kind of seriousness and that wisdom full of roguishness that constitutes the finest state of the human soul.”
🎧️ Listen to my and Michael’s discussion of The Socratic Method. It serves as a core of philosophy and is an essential tool for thinking well.
on Socrates' self-appraisal:
— Caleb Ontiveros (@calebmontiveros)
Feb 23, 2021
🗺️ One of the best Socratic dialogues to begin with is the Euthyphro. It is a contentious discussion on the nature of the good – through the question of whether something is good because the Gods say it is or whether it is good independent of the Gods.
💰️ I have an upcoming conversation with Alexandra Hudson, founder of Civic Renaissance, on her book The Soul of Civility. She’s running a great deal for anyone who preorders: you'll get an ebook, course, toolkit, membership to monthly calls, and a free 1-year subscription to Civic Renaissance. Check out the book, and if it looks like something you’d like, put in the order and take advantage of the deal. Or, perhaps, check out the course and Civic Renaissance, and if you'd like to join either of them, buy the book instead (it's cheaper!).
What did you think about today's letter?