Stoicism and why it is a philosophy for all is an important topic to address. As human beings, we deal with a lot of the same issues. The details might be different, but there are far more similarities. That’s why a philosophy like Stoicism is beneficial for all if applied in the proper way. There is a distinction we have to make and we will throughout this text. This is the difference between stoicism and Stoicism. Among certain groups of people, mainly men, stoicism is used to find power over themselves, without examining what or where the true issues lie. They label this kind of stoicism to apply to men alone, which is contradicting core concepts of Stoicism.
This article could be summed up in one sentence: Stoicism is a philosophy for all, for men and women. But, since Stoicism is becoming more popular and it’s not always represented in the correct way, it’s time for a deeper dive. We will look at the masculine movement claiming stoicism is the way to be a man. A real man in fact, which is an interesting claim in itself. How would one define a real man? We will look at how emotions are addressed in stoicism and Stoicism. And we will look at what it means to apply the Stoic philosophy to life.
Virtue for all
“Virtue is the same for women as for men.”Antisthenes, Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, book 7.12
We can read the words from Antisthenes, as documented by Diogenes Laertius. Antisthenes was the one who inaugurated the Cynic way of life. A philosophy of which Zeno of Citium would later become a student and use for Stoicism. Both philosophies state that Virtue is the only good. That’s why the words by Antisthenes ought to be enough to disprove claims that Stoicism can only be good for men. It is a philosophy for all because Virtue is good for all. If Stoicism is a philosophy with Virtue as the highest good, then how can it not help both men and women? As rational beings, humans share reason and logic with the Logos. In that we are all equal and we should therefore all be able to benefit from Stoicism.
Stoicism isn’t a quick-fix solution, it is a way of life. It requires hard work and deep introspection to get to the root of the obstacles one faces. Unfortunately, this doesn’t sell as well as stoicism does. That’s where the sound bites present ways to ignore what is going on inside and focus on acting on some of the emotions we feel. It promotes using them rather than asking where they are coming from. The difference is that this option skips the rational mind and avoids looking for the right action. Which is a core component of Stoicism. It is this rational aspect that we can control; which are, in part, our own actions. By ignoring where they are coming from, and by not looking at their true nature, we can make the wrong judgments. Approving the wrong impressions can lead to actions that are not virtuous.
The conversation around Stoicism often boils down to emotions. In stoicism, lowercase -s, there are some emotions we should use and act upon, while others we are not allowed to show. That is if you want to be seen and perceived as a man. Our anger should be channeled into exercise such as in the gym or a martial art while crying is taboo. What sort of emotions are we promoting here? This makes it sounds like anger is a good emotion and sadness or grief a bad one. While the Stoics are clear on these points, they are quite the opposite. I’ve written about anger before, which you can read here. Marcus Aurelius shares this with us about it:
“When you start to lose your temper, remember: There’s nothing manly about rage. It’s courtesy and kindness that define a human being—and a man. That’s who possesses strength and nerves and guts, not the angry whiners. To react like that brings you closer to impassivity—and so to strength. Pain is the opposite of strength, and so is anger. Both are things we suffer from, and yield to.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 11.8 ix
There is nothing manly about rage, Marcus reminds himself and, across the centuries, us. It is far more impressive to be a good person. How can we be kind and courteous? First, we must know what that means and then ask ourselves where we are lacking in these aspects. This quote by Marcus Aurelius outlines it for us. We can learn to be stronger and yet kind. It takes far more courage to examine where the anger is coming from than to give in to it. The introspection can lead to finding the source and inner peace.
Stoicism vs stoicism
Where it comes down to, when looking at the difference between Stoicism and stoicism, are the external and internal. stoicism focuses on the external aspects of what a man should be like. Strong, tough, rich, commanding, unemotional, yet emotional in manly ones such as anger. Whereas the goal of Stoicism is to find inner peace, to live in accordance with Nature, and be the best version one can be for the whole. There are some examples of people who say they adhere to stoicism and they show how well they live. They do so by highlighting all the external possessions that we often link to being successful. Then tips and tricks are shared on how this can be done by anyone and within a certain time span. The moral sacrifices one has to make to obtain all these things aren’t included in these explanations.
Stoicism is a philosophy for all because it is obtainable for all. It looks at the internal, at our guiding principle, and how we can live well if we know what that means. The one obstacle it has for most people is that it is hard work. There are no shortcuts, no loopholes. It’s a matter of being good as Marcus Aurelius reminds us in his Meditations.
“To stop talking about what the good man is like, and just be one.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 10.16
No room for excuses with Stoicism, which makes it a challenging philosophy to adopt. But because it is so direct and pragmatic, and when applied in the right way, it will last. Moreover, we are reminded that the work is never finished. Not until we reach the final destination.
Stoicism: A Philosophy for all
Forget about masculinism or feminism, we are looking at humanism here. Even in Plato’s Republic, he puts men and women on equal footing. And as long as well all live in accordance with our nature, then society as a whole can benefit most from us. But to do so, we need to put the work in. The inner work that is. To ask ourselves the right questions and for that we need courage. There is no difference here between men and women. We all have our struggles, our obstacles to overcome. They will look different on an individual level, but that doesn’t make them any less important to us. And when we learn to overcome these obstacles, by understanding their underlying beliefs, we will see fewer obstacles on our path ahead. Because now we know their nature.
It is our duty to educate people and show them the proper way. The most effective way is to live it ourselves. People don’t like being told how to live, but if they see others live well, that can open their minds. Stoicism is often seen as a selfish philosophy, and stoicism can fit that description. But how can Stoicism be selfish if becoming a better person will also improve the whole? If it inspires the people around us to be a little bit better. Here we can make the gains. They’re not fast, not sexy, and won’t sell well in social media posts, but it works in the long run. Man or woman, we all can benefit from this philosophy. It’s our responsibility to live well ourselves and in the process improve the community.