Why Study The Stoics On The Virtues?

Stoicism is a philosophy that is not just studied but also lived out in practice, and one of its most central aspects is the conception of virtue as one of the main genuine goods for human beings. Classical authors we learn authentic Stoicism from, like Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius were crystal clear about this point. If you want to be a Stoic, you must learn and practice virtue.

So, if you take Stoicism seriously, sooner or later you have to study what the Stoic texts and authors (as well as other helpful guides, like Cicero) told us about virtue. And after learning what Stoics think about virtue, you have to put it into practice as best as you can.

That necessity is why I created this class for you students. I had done some earlier preliminary work along these lines, specifically in some of my conference and invited presentations and in my online writings, as well as in a mini-course I did through YouTube live on "Stoic Saturdays". But I wanted to go deeper, and put together a course of study that would be even more helpful for students of Stoicism for learning, thinking about, and incorporating the fullness of what Stoic authors tell us about the virtues.

The Stoics were convinced that we human beings need virtue, not only in order to be ethically good people, but also in order to be genuinely happy in our lives, and to fulfill our potential as human beings. And they thought there were four main kinds of virtue that we needed to understand and to develop within ourselves. These are the four cardinal virues

Wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance - each of these main categories of virtue or human excellence plays its own important role as we develop and better our characters. None of them can substitute for the other, Stoics would say, and so we need to work on all of them.

Each of these cardinal or "main" virtues, which is a part of virtue more generally, in turn encompasses a number of sub-virtues, which we need to identify, understand, and cultivate, if we want to develop any one of the cardinal virtues, let alone virtue as a whole.

The Stoic teachings about these virtues are spread across a number of texts by a variety of authors, and so if you want as full understanding of the Stoic conception of virtue as is available, it requires either you doing a considerable amount of work on your own, or following along with a guide who has done that work. The second one is what this class is designed to provide you

Complete and Continue