Rob Cook

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Lessons in stoicism


Recently en-vouge thanks to the likes of professor Jordan Peterson, Stoicism is a welcome bedrock for those lost in the turbulence of the modern world. In Lessons in Stoicism John Sellars does a sterling job dispelling the myths surrounding this age old philosophic tradition. Drawing on the writings of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurellius, this is a highly accessible text featuring a minimum of jargon and plenty of practical interpretation of these teachings.

The central tennants of Stoicism are concerned with developing a good character. It views things such as money, fame, and reputation as mere "indifferents", not to be pursued for their own ends. These things don't make a person good, but someone of good character can use them to do good in the world.

This attitude stems from the belief that the only thing within our control is how we react to the things that happen to us. Everything else is outside our control - left to fate. This may seem pessemistic, but Stoic fate is more akin to nature, or a natural ordering of things. Events happen for a reason, it is up to us to make the most of them, learn from them.

Often portrayed as remote and unfeeling, Stoicism has much to say about how we interact with the world around us and the people in it. Indeed, the writings referenced make sure to point out that we automatically belong to many social groups simply by being born. Ultimately we are all part of humanity, a social grouping that encompassas the world's population.

At less than a hundred pages, and only seven chapters, this is a perfect book to read in one sitting or a handful of short bursts. It is practical and simply written, with plenty of suggestions for further reading to those so inclined.

If you are curious about Stoicism and how it may apply to your life, this is the perfect starting point.