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Stoic Meditations

Stoic Meditations

By Massimo Pigliucci
Occasional reflections on the wisdom of Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. More at Please consider supporting Stoic Meditations. (cover art by Marek Škrabák; original music by Ian Jolin-Rasmussen,
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737. Is the universe governed by wisdom?

Stoic Meditations

737. Is the universe governed by wisdom?

Stoic Meditations

772. What did you lose, and what did you gain?
If you forfeit an external possession, make sure to notice what you get in return. If it is something more valuable, never say, ‘I have suffered a loss.’
January 11, 2021
771. Changing friends
Formerly, when you were devoted to worthless pursuits, your friends found you congenial company. But you can’t be a hit in both roles. To the extent you cultivate one you will fall short in the other.
January 8, 2021
770. The problem with hyper-consumerism
Freedom is not achieved by satisfying desire, but by eliminating it.
January 7, 2021
769. Natural goodness
A plant or animal fares poorly when it acts contrary to its nature; and a human being is no different. Well, then, biting, kicking, wanton imprisonment and beheading–is that what our nature entails? No; rather, acts of kindness, cooperation and good will.
January 6, 2021
768. What truly belongs to you
Whoever told you, ‘Walking is your irrevocable privilege’? I said only that the will to walk could not be obstructed.
January 5, 2021
767. Learning the art of living
What makes for freedom and fluency in the practice of writing? Knowledge of how to write. The same goes for the practice of playing an instrument. It follows that, in the conduct of life, there must be a science to living well.
January 4, 2021
766. The true nature of freedom
So you admit that you have at least one master. And don’t let the fact that Caesar rules over everyone, as you say, console you: it only means that you’re a slave in a very large household.
January 1, 2021
765. Not bad person lives a happy life
Who wants to live with delusion and prejudice, being unjust, undisciplined, mean and ungrateful? ‘No one.’ No bad person, then, lives the way he wants, and no bad person is free.
December 31, 2020
764. The purpose of philosophizing
Everyone is fond of contemplation. Some make it the object of their lives: to us it is an anchorage, but not a harbor.
December 30, 2020
763. The three types of philosophy of life
There are three kinds of life, and it is a stock question which of the three is the best: the first is devoted to pleasure, the second to contemplation, the third to action.
December 29, 2020
762. Do something for posterity
What is the sage’s purpose in devoting themselves to leisure? They know that in leisure as well as in action they will accomplish something by which they will be of service to posterity.
December 28, 2020
761. Achieve balance in life
It is by no means desirable that one should merely strive to accumulate property without any love of virtue. Similarly, virtue placed in leisure without action is but an incomplete and feeble good thing, because she never displays what she has learned.
December 24, 2020
760. Put to practice your inquiring disposition
We have a habit of saying that the highest good is to live according to nature: now nature has produced us for both purposes, for contemplation and for action. … Nature has [also] bestowed upon us an inquiring disposition.
December 23, 2020
759. How to better serve the human cosmopolis
We are born by accident into a specific nation, but we naturally belong to the human cosmopolis. Reflecting on the nature of virtue and practicing it every day is one way to serve both our fellow citizens and humanity at large.
December 22, 2020
758. Just do your part
The duty of a human being is to be useful to his fellow human beings; if possible, to many of them; failing this, to a few; failing this, to oneself: for when we help others, we advance the general interests of humanity.
December 21, 2020
757. The axiom of futility
If the state is so rotten as to be past helping, if evil has entire dominion over it, the wise man will not labour in vain or waste his strength in unprofitable efforts.
December 18, 2020
756. Should we get involved in politics?
Epicurus says, “The wise man will not take part in politics, except upon some special occasion.” Zeno says, “The wise man will take part in politics, unless prevented by some special circumstance.”
December 17, 2020
755. Stoicism is not written in stone
Would that all things were already known, that truth were unveiled and recognized, and that none of our doctrines required modification! but as it is we have to seek for truth in the company of the very men who teach it.
December 16, 2020
754. There are different ways to be useful to the human cosmopolis
Our Stoic philosophers say we must be in motion up to the very end of our life, we will never cease to labour for the general good, to help individual people, and when stricken in years to afford assistance even to our enemies.
December 15, 2020
753. Set your own priorities, don't slavishly follow other people's
We oscillate between desire and remorse, for we depend entirely upon the opinions of others, and it is that which many people praise and seek after, not that which deserves to be praised and sought after, which we consider to be best.
December 14, 2020
752. How much leisure time do you have, and what do you do with it?
Leisure is important to be able to pursue the good life, and yet by itself it is not sufficient. Without proper education, we are far more likely to waste our time than to use it to good effect.
December 11, 2020
751. Everything changes, act accordingly
A brief existence is common to all things, and yet you avoid and pursue all things as if they would be eternal.
December 10, 2020
750. No point in finding faults
When you are offended at any one’s fault, immediately turn to yourself and reflect in what manner you yourself have erred: for example, in thinking that money is a good thing, or pleasure, or a bit of reputation, and the like.
December 9, 2020
749. Putting things, and people, in perspective
Consider what men are when they are eating, sleeping, coupling, evacuating, and so forth. Then what kind of men they are when they are imperious and arrogant, or angry and scolding from their elevated place.
December 8, 2020
748. Theory and practice
No longer talk at all about the kind of person that a good person ought to be, but be such.
December 7, 2020