The Stoics say straight out that practical wisdom (phronêsis), which is knowledge of things which are good and bad and neither, is an art relating to life, and that those who have gained this are the only ones who are beautiful, the only ones who are rich, the only ones who are sagesMatthew Sharpe quoting Sextus Empiricus
Hi, we are committed to a philosophical art of living. We are mindful fans of the Ancient and Modern sages. We seek to create and live by our own art of living by practicing philosophical exercises, including reflection on the philosophies of liberation articulated by Seneca, Sartre and Wittgenstein.
Taking to heart Seneca’s advice to concentrate on few texts those three philosophers are the core of our art of living. However, the range of Philosophy available to us today is huge in its scope. So we also ponder some of the work by Aristotle, Martha Nussbaum, Gregory Bateson, Charles Taylor, Ian Hacking, Nancy Cartwright and Thomas Kuhn. The last three are the foundation for work in what were the Stoics logic and physics branches of philosophy, a necessary complement to work in ethics.
Seneca’s take on Stoicism is our main guide to a framework for an art of living life in a time of ecological catastrophe. The Stoics relied on science to shape their worldview and philosophy, and Seneca at least, was in tune with how a culture and environment shapes our character. After 2000 years the Stoics still offer a useful framework for an art of living. Much of the content of their philosophy needs to change in light of the many changes in our understanding of the Cosmos, planet and humanity since CE 62, which was about when Seneca wrote the letters to Lucilius.
One thing that does not change is the Stoic belief that intellectual development is required for moral progress, and that philosophy provides the best means for intellectual development. If you are seeking information about Stoicism or philosophy, and think having to deal with some heavy theory is rubbish utterly unnecessary for practical philosophy, you will be disappointed with many of our posts, and all of our aims. Intellectual development is the bedrock of a practical philosophy, always has been, always will be.
Some of the changes to emerge since CE 62 include a holistic constellation of ideas captured in Gregory Bateson’s books Steps to an Ecology of Mind, and Mind and Nature: a necessary unity. Bateson was 20th century thinker who made a significant contribution to our understanding of the ecological crisis. He also paved the way for a better understanding of ecological intelligence and how the Tech industry has undermined many people’s capacity to develop and exercise practical wisdom in the 21st century.
The articles on this site are a guide to using Seneca’s masterpiece as a guide to ethical, resilient and ecological living in today’s world. That masterpiece is variously known as Letters of a Stoic, Letters to Lucilius, The Moral Epistles, and in what is becoming my favorite translation Letters on Ethics.
It would of course be simpler to just follow the art of living Seneca has mapped out for us in the letters and his other philosophical works. However, to actually be a Stoic in the 21st century if you grew up in a an English speaking nation is more challenge than most need. And the result would be pretty weird, truth be told. Just for starters Stoics do not value the christian virtue of hope. That orientation of the human spirit just was not part of their remit.
If you grew up in a christian culture, especially one of the new world English speaking nations, living without the concept and psychological habit of hope might be a bridge too far for psychological well-being.
There are many other difficulties with the Stoic system of philosophy for a practical art of living today. For these reasons we focus more on Seneca’s philosophy of freedom and cast around through Sartre, Wittgenstein and other important philosophical innovations over the last 500 years to formulate an art of living that is practical in the 21st century.
So if the Stoic philosophy is so problematic why start there? Firstly, the do provide a solid framework. They also take as the central object of our philosophy to be our life. This is more than most contemporary philosophy in English speaking nations.
Secondly, much of what Stoicism is trying to foster compares favorably with core characteristics of psychological well-being. They are a life purpose, self-acceptance, autonomy, personal growth, environmental mastery, and better relations with others.
Hi, I’m Mike, site owner and writer. My education includes a B.A. (Hons) in Philosophy and five years Ph.D. research in applied philosophy: mostly the ethic of authenticity and philosophical counseling (but did not finish the degree).