Here’s an ancient philosophy so simple even a 5-year-old could understand it

Originally published at:


I’m a Venomist myself.*


  • Peter Brock (Spider-Man 3): “I come before you today, humbled and humiliated, to ask you for one thing… I want you to kill Peter Parker.”

It’s only simple as long as you are careful not to poke it too hard.

Even if you ignore the Stoics who bolted on a full metaphysics(never a recipe for simplicity); the fact that you can’t talk about the core concepts without stumbling into questions about how ‘the will’ works; and what the deal with introspectively visible phenomena vs. external phenomena is.

The ‘will’ has some strong intuitive appeal, because we frequently feel ourselves to be exercising it; but what manner of curious thing it is that is not merely a product of prior events in a causal chain(since the will would have all the freedom of a billiard ball if it were that); but also not merely random; but some sort of vaguely defined uncaused-cause. Messy business.


I’m curious how soon it’ll be that, aside from my comment here, a discussion of Trump makes its way into this thread.

Honestly, I’m surprised it wasn’t the very first one…


I always thought Stoicism was: if you assume everything will suck you’ll never be disappointed.


I can state from personal experience that to operate along the lines of this philosophy makes for a less stressful and more serene lifestyle, which is counterintuitive given Stoicism’s rather dark and cold assumptions about the nature of the universe and human beings.

“Hope for the best, expect the worst” is a part of it, to be sure. Stoicism does allow that life offers up small pleasures here and there and that one should enjoy them (all the more, given their exceptional nature).

Well it isn’t exactly a co-incidence that late 2016 sees a resurgence of interest in Stoicism.


With not-all-that-much power comes not-all-that-much responsibility?


Please, please, please pick anyone else to learn about Stoicism from than someone who just re-paraphrases other, better authors. (And no, I don’t mean Tim Farris.)

William Irvine’s “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” is a good general introduction that doesn’t require a background in philosophy and won’t go off on metaphysical tangents.

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I think that was intended for our resident Venomist, @Modusoperandi. Given that the most famous adherent of Stoicism was also one of Rome’s most effective emperors and that Bill Clinton read his Meditations once a year when POTUS, I don’t know how much that reverse Marvel-ism applies to Stoicism. It’s not a recipe for fatalism and inaction, but is more about not sweating the small stuff and the petty BS so you have more mental bandwidth and energy for the truly critical battles that life forces you to fight.


‘But I wonder if I might call your attention to an observation of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He said: “Does aught befall you? It is good. It is part of the destiny of the Universe ordained for you from the beginning. All that befalls you is part of the great web.”’

I breathed a bit stertorously.

‘He said that, did he?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Well, you can tell him from me he’s an ass.’

—P.G. Wodehouse, The Mating Season.


Jeesh! Is this the birth of Donwin’s Law?


in the course of my life i have hurt myself more by worrying too much than i have ever hurt myself by not worrying enough. i realized that when i was 30. at that time i made myself a promise that i would only worry about things over which i had at least 50% control over. over the 25 years since then i have kept that promise as faithfully as i could and only broken it on a few occasions when i overestimated how much control over a particular situation i actually had. on the whole, the past 25 years have been more satisfying and overall happier than the 15 that preceded my realization.


“Philosophy is simply one thing: a guide to the good life” you’re a pseud trying to hawk a mediocre book, please go back to the TED talk where you were spawned

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The Irvine book is a good suggestion. So, when it comes to learning how to live a good and satisfying life, is @SheiffFatman’s recommendation of Wodehouse.


A better version of “The Serenity Prayer”:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Just because I can change something doesn’t mean I should.

(Just one of my minor gripes… :wink: )




“Stoicism is for losers.”

  • D.J. Trump

that was pathetic. a non-philosopher tells philosophers they don’t know what they’re doing, then proceeds to show them how it should be done with that joke of an account of stoicism.

if philosophy is so simple, then you what’s the excuse for such a lazy, ham-fisted, incomplete and inaccurate account of stoicism?


Oh I don’t mind bringing Trump in at all, or at least the darkness he represents. Stoicism has this common senseness about it that is hard to argue with. As a philosophy by which to live life though it pulls up short I think. It’s part of the serenity prayer that invites us to change the things we can: the philosophy is agnostic about what we might want to play a part in changing to better the world, other’s lives. Compassion for others, treating all people as worthy of dignity and respect, even when they seem to do all they can to throw it away, or they seem so different from us to be not relatable or understandable…to still care and try to understand, and if they are the weaker in a struggle for basic human rights, to champion them. Any philosophy that does not carry into such considerations seems narcissistic. We may be heading into dark times here in the US, where prejudice, xenophobia, fear, division all loom large. It’s trite but still contains wisdom, the story of the little girl walking along the sea shore throwing sand dollars back into the ocean, who is chided by the grown man who tells her that she can’t really be making a difference. Her reply, that maybe not for the survival of all sand dollars, but for certain it makes a difference for the one she just threw back.


One vital part got left out of that explanation, and that’s what Acceptance means. For instance, if some person is always mean to you, you don’t have control over that, so you should accept it. But does that mean to accept that your life is always going to be bad because someone is hurting you? No, in this situation, it can mean accepting that that person is mean a lot - just acknowledging that it’s true. At that point, you have more than one choice - tolerating it, avoiding that person, bringing a friend when you have to interact with them, etc. I would be very careful not to leave a child with the impression that it’s best to just passively accept everything that is done to them.