A Handbook for New Stoics
In a world that’s increasingly uncertain, how can we lead a good life?
We live in a modern society characterized by breathtaking scientific discoveries and technological innovations. Yet despite improvements in our material lives, we are an anxious species – faced with impending political, environmental and economic disaster, we can’t help but worry even as we lead lives of relative comfort and ease.
In this accessible guide, philosophers and Stoic practitioners Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez locate an answer in the ancient philosophy of Stoicism. Stoicism is a pragmatic philosophy that teaches us to focus our attention on what is possible and give us perspective on what is unimportant. Many of our modern woes can be traced to our lack of ability to understand what we can truly control. In A Handbook for New Stoics the authors offer an introduction to the philosophical underpinnings of Stoicism through a yearlong programme of 52 weekly exercises that train us to master this idea of the dichotomy of control, as well as the disciplines of desire, action and assent.
The exercises teach us how to grapple with such topics as:
- Control – Stoicism helps us discern things that are and are not under our control, internalize the idea of internal goals versus external objectives and apply this principle in our everyday lives;
- Fear of disaster – by mentally rehearsing the possibility that whatever we put our minds to in a given day may go wrong, we can learn to cultivate resilience and gratitude;
- Death – we should not focus on the end and when it may come, but rather on whatever span we are allotted and how to make the best use of it;
- Self-improvement – Stoicism is a philosophy of self-improvement, in the best sense. If you want to make the world a better place, stop criticizing others and set the example.
According to Stoicism, our judgments about what’s worthwhile in life are ultimately the only thing under our control. This, in turn, shapes our character and can make us better people. A Handbook for New Stoics is an essential guide for practicing Stoicism, with the goal not only of improving oneself but also of creating a more just world.