How to Live the Stoic Philosophy

There are literally hundreds of books and articles regarding ancient Stoicism. Some are very accurate, others wildly speculative (I have created Recommended Reading list of good books on Stoicism to get you started). 

Stoic philosophy though, practiced as it was created to be, is more than a matter of reading books to understand and appreciate the views of their authors (and to examine and challenge those views, just as philosophers have always done). It is a way of living, of discovering our inner potential and developing consistent habits of mind and body to uncover and realize it. This process of discovery, and the attempt to live by the insights we gain, is what the ancients called living as a philosopher, or ‘lover of wisdom.’ We don’t claim to be ‘wise’ (sophos), but we are in active pursuit of the Art of Living well. The term ‘philosopher’ was not reserved so much for the teacher or author, but the person aiming to live the philosophical life. 

In ancient times it was the job of the philosopher-teacher to show the student how this could be done. The teacher would do this simply by living the philosophic life, which the student could witness on a daily basis simply as they attended their daily lessons and through personal contact at other times. Indeed, some schools accepted residential students who would actually have lived with their philosopher-teacher throughout the duration of their studies. Thus the students would have been able to see how their teacher managed their everyday affairs, how they coped with crises and lesser troubles, and how they faced the sorts of trials that in some shape or form eventually touch the lives of everyone. In short, the teacher was a model for their students.

Now the reality of studying Stoic philosophy today is that there are no philosophical residential schools, and we would be hard pressed to find a teacher of the caliber seen in those ancient times. Nevertheless the ancient philosopher-teachers can still guide and can give advice, and as students we can actively put those teachings into practice. Though relatively scarce, there are enough remaining writings from teachers and students of Stoic philosophy, as well as a wealth of additional material, to form a personal understanding, and more importantly, a personal practice.

To learn to live the Stoic life requires study and practice. There are several avenues open to you, if you are curious:

There are many ways to learn. In the end however, the practice is up to you.