top of page

The stoic coach - a brief history

Episode 5a of the energy series


To accompany my blogpost on the modern application of stoicism here is a little of the history and theory behind stoicism.


The origins

Stoicism originated around 300 BC by the Hellenistic philosopher Zeno in Athens and evolved over the centuries to the Roman era with the diaries and teachings of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus directing the later phase of the philosophy. Stoicism is a survival guide, an essential toolkit, a barometer to live life by. In understanding

the timeless messages in its philosophy we can carry Stoicism forward in our own lives.


By definition stoics believed that virtue is the only good and to be virtuous is to experience eudaimonia, a Greek term which has no one word translation in English but it's essence can be captured as follows:

"the condition of human flourishing or of living well." Encyclopaedia Britannica.

This ideal mode of living is supported by four core virtues (prudence, justice, courage and temperance) in a theory that is broken down into elements that form a mode of practice all of which have been analysed over thousands of years by various philosophers and historians. The theory is an intricate web of concepts and I have a long way to go to understand the detail fully.


The three aspects and the three disciplines

The Stoics didn't expend energy unnecessarily. They understood the key to a good life to be virtue. Their energy was spent on living a true life.


“Or, again, they liken Philosophy to a fertile field: Logic being the encircling fence, Ethics the crop, Physics the soil or the trees.” (DL, VII.40)

The theory is underpinned by three pillars, each one having attached to it a stoic practice - a way to live out the theory it is attached to.


1) LOGIC

Applying logic helps a person to see through confusion or misunderstanding to the natural truth that is at the centre of everything - using rational mind.

ASSENT – Connected to logic. avoiding making hasty judgements


2) PHYSICS

The natural processes of how the universe works and what happens is out of our control but the control is within how humans deal with events and challenges.

Desire feeds into this because the stoics believed that we should train ourselves to desire what the universe allows rather than chase after that which it does not allow.


3) ETHICS

If logic helps us in how to think about the world and physics helps us understand how the world works, ethics helps us live in the world.

ACTION – STOIC PHILANTHROPY – related to the field of ethics - always engaging appropriately towards others


The four virtues

The stoics believed that the three pillars were supported by certain virtues:

Courage: confidence, endurance, industriousness

Justice : honesty, equity

Temperance: moderation or self discipline

Wisdom: the knowing that guides the other three virtues. Knowing what situations call for courage, justice and temperance and how to apply them.


I finish with a quote on wisdom from Zeno:

We have two ears and one mouth, therefore we should listen twice as much as we speak. Zeno


My blog on modern applications of stoicism accompanies this post


 

Other blog posts in the energy series



Further reading

For a brilliant modern take on stoicism I highly recommend the books by Ryan Holiday

The obstacle is the way

The Daily stoic





bottom of page