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Stoicism On Fire

Religion & Spirituality Podcasts

The practice of Stoicism as a philosophical way of life and rational form of spirituality

The practice of Stoicism as a philosophical way of life and rational form of spirituality


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The practice of Stoicism as a philosophical way of life and rational form of spirituality




Exploring Encheiridion 4 – Episode 34

The meaning of this profoundly important passage may be more relevant and applicable to us in modern times than it was to the young students of Epictetus almost two thousand years ago. The remainder of the podcast transcript will be available soon.


Exploring Encheiridion 3 – Episode 33

This famous passage from Encheiridion 3 highlights the fact that this handbook is intended for practitioners who are already familiar with Stoic theory and practice. I say that because passages like this one, read in isolation, without an adequate understanding of Stoic teachings, can easily leave one with the wrong impression. In fact, absent the larger context of Stoic theory and practice, this passage in particular can appear inhumane or even pathological, and has turned people away from...


Exploring Encheiridion 2 – Episode 32

Encheiridion 1 focuses on what is up to us and contrasts the tranquil psychological state of those who focus their attention and impulse only on those things and events within their control with the troubled mind of those who attempt to control what is not in their power. The second chapter of Encheiridion further defines the concepts of desire and aversion and adds another important concept: things contrary to Nature. Encheiridion 2 opens with the following advice: Keep in mind that desire...


Exploring Encheiridion 1 – Episode 31

The Path to Freedom vs the Path to Slavery As I noted in the last episode, the focus of this podcast series exploring the Encheiridion will be Epictetus’ concept of freedom, which is not the same as the commonly held concept of freedom as a human right or political entitlement. Epictetus designed his Stoic training program to free us from the judgments, desires, and impulses that enslave us psychologically. This program works even if we are bound in real physical chains, constrained by...


Exploring Encheiridion (Introduction) – Episode 30

This episode of Stoicism On Fire kicks off an exploration of the powerful, poignant, and perennially inspiring Encheiridion of Epictetus. The fifty-three chapters of this Stoic handbook will provide the primary content and plan for this exploration of Stoic theory and practice. However, I will incorporate other Stoic texts and the insights of scholars where appropriate for the subject at hand. In this introductory episode, I will provide some background on the Encheiridion. Then, in the next...


Characteristics of Good and Bad People (Part 3) – Episode 29

In the last episode of Stoicism On Fire, I focused on the Stoic doctrine of an excellent human life and the fact that such a life requires agreement with both human nature and cosmic Nature. The corollary of that doctrine is that human reason alone is not enough to lead us toward an excellent moral character; we must bring our human reason (logos) into agreement with universal Reason (Logos). As I pointed out, the concept of human reason as a fragment of the Logos permeating the cosmos...


Characteristics of Good and Bad People (Part 2) – Episode 28

The last episode closed with a thought-provoking passage from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius that places our human reason into the proper Stoic perspective. It reads: to have the intellect as a guide towards what appear to be duties is something that we share with those who do not believe in the gods, with those who betray their country, with those who will do anything whatever behind locked doors. (Meditations 3.16) As a transition to this episode, I will highlight the important point...


Characteristics of Good and Bad People (Part 1) – Episode 27

In Meditations 3.16, Marcus Aurelius notes three different capacities of the human psyche and the corresponding character traits of bad people who are controlled or guided by them. He writes: To receive impressions by means of images is something that we share even with cattle; and to be drawn this way and that by the puppet-strings of impulse, we share with wild beasts, with catamites, and with a Phalaris or a Nero; and to have the intellect as a guide towards what appear to be duties is...


Tending the Stoic Orchard – Episode 26

Stoic practice is distinct from academic philosophy because it is a way of life—an art of living—supported by a holistic philosophical system. The Stoics never intended their system to be a primarily intellectual endeavor. Nor was it created as a quick fix, self-help program. This is obvious from the surviving Stoic texts. Unlike academic philosophical tomes, the writings of Seneca, Discourses of Epictetus, and Meditations of Marcus Aurelius challenge and inspire us. It is quite apparent...


Epictetus’ Prescription for Psychological Resilience – Episode 25

From everything that happens in the universe it is easy to praise providence, if one has within him two things: the faculty of taking a comprehensive view of the things that happen to each person and a sense of gratitude. For, otherwise, one will either fail to recognize the usefulness of what has come about, or else fail to be truly grateful if one does in fact recognize it. (Discourses 1.6.1-2) Psychological resilience is a by-product of Stoic practice; it is part of the good flow or...


Step out of the Epicurean Garden and into the Stoic Cosmopolis – Episode 24

Our modern world is bursting with angst. News of an impending environmental crisis, worldwide political turmoil, gratuitous violence, wars, and human suffering are delivered instantaneously, twenty-four hours a day, to the smart devices in the palms of our hands. It seems there is no escape from the incessant stream of allegedly newsworthy catastrophes short of ignoring the news, abandoning all forms of social media, and sequestering ourselves in some form of safe space, far away from the...


What Is Important in Life? Day 7 – Episode 23

Prepare for Death to Discover Freedom What is most important? Having your soul on your lips. This makes you free not according to the law of the Quirites, but according to the law of nature. A free person is one who escapes enslavement to himself, which is constant, unavoidable, oppressing by day and by night equally, without break, without respite. Enslavement to oneself is the most severe enslavement, but it is easy to shake it off if you stop expecting a lot from yourself, if you stop...


What Is Important in Life? Day 6 – Episode 22

The Good Fight Against Fortuna What is most important? Raising your spirits high above chance events; remembering your human status, so that if you are fortunate, you know that will not last long, and if you are unfortunate, you know you are not so if you do not think so. (Natural Questions III, praef. 15) Fortuna—fortune in English—is a prevalent theme in Seneca’s writing. He uses some form of the word more than two hundred times in his Lettersand more than twenty times in Natural...


What Is Important in Life? Day 5 – Episode 21

A Contented Mind and Pure Hands What is most important? Refusing to let bad intentions enter your mind; raising pure hands to heaven; not seeking any good thing if someone else must give it or must lose it so that it may pass to you; wishing for a sound mind (something that can be wished for without competition); regarding the other things rated highly by mortals, even if some chance brings them into your home, as likely to exit by the door they entered. (Natural Questions III, praef. 14)...


What Is Important in Life? Day 4 – Episode 20

A Courageous Mind for Courageous Action What is most important? A mind that is brave and defiant in the face of calamity, not just opposed but hostile to luxury, neither courting nor fleeing danger; one that knows not to wait for fortune but to create it, to go to face both forms unafraid and undismayed, unshaken either by the turmoil of the one or the glitter of the other. (Natural Questions III, praef. 13) As practicing Stoics, our equanimity is not derived from passivity, inaction, or...


What Is Important in Life? Day 3 – Episode 19

Love of Fate (Amor Fati) What is most important? Being able to endure adversity with a glad mind, to experience whatever happens as though you wanted it to happen to you. For you ought to have wanted it to, if you had known that everything happens according to god’s decree. Crying, complaining, and moaning are rebellion. (Seneca, Natural Questions III, praef. 12) From the perspective provided by the cosmic viewpoint (Day 2), we can learn to love what happens in our lives. The Stoics propose...


What Is Important in Life? Day 2 – Episode 18

The Cosmic Viewpoint What is most important? Raising your mind above the threats and promises of fortune, thinking that nothing is worth hoping for. For what have you to desire? Whenever you sink back from engagement with the divine to the human level, your sight will go dim, just like the eyes of those who return from bright sunlight to dense shadow. (Natural Questions III, praef. 11) The cosmic viewpoint is a central theme of Stoicism, and Seneca’s Natural Questions highlights that theme....


What Is Important in Life? Day 1 – Episode 17

Seven Days with Seneca What is most important in human life? That is a perennial question that almost all of us ask ourselves, in one form or another, at some point in our lives. Unfortunately, many of us neglect to confront that question until late in life or when unforeseen circumstances force the question upon us. There, amid the faintly glowing embers of a long life approaching its end, or within the smoking and smoldering embers of a cataclysmic life event, we are more likely to listen...


Purpose in the Universe with Tim Mulgan – Episode 16

From the back cover of professor Tim Mulgan's book: Two familiar worldviews dominate Western philosophy: materialist atheism and the benevolent to God of the Abrahamic faiths. Tim Mulgan explores a third way. Ananthropocentric Purposivism claims that there is a cosmic purpose, but human beings are irrelevant to it. Purpose in the Universedevelops a philosophical case for Ananthropocentric Purposivism that is at least as strong as the case for either theism or atheism. Those who are...


The Religious Nature of Stoicism – Episode 15

Many people who were introduced to Stoicism by popular books that were written in the twenty-first century are surprised by the religious nature of Stoic philosophy when they first encounter it in the surviving Stoic texts and scholarship on those texts. That is because none of these popular authors address the deeply religious nature of Stoicism positively. Instead, they either ignore it or attempt to discredit it as the unwarranted beliefs of ancient philosophers who lacked our modern...