3 video suggestions for exploring ideas from Roman philosophers Seneca and Marcus Aurelius: 

"The philosophy of Stoicism" with Massimo Pigliucci

Seneca on Angerwith Alain de Botton.

Notable ancient Stoics you may want to explore: 

Zeno of Citium (Cyprus)

Epictetus (Greece) 

Seneca (Rome)

Marcus Aurelius (Rome)


1. Recognize the difference between what’s under my control and what isn’t under my control, and don’t worry about

   what isn’t under my control (because it isn’t under my control!). Focus on my reactions, because I can control those

   with my mind. Don’t attach my identify or happiness to the uncontrollable: externals such as my body, possessions,

   reputation, death.

2. Be content – but not passive – with what I have, rather than constantly seeking to fulfill new desires. Work hard to

   make the world a better place, but don’t base my happiness on the results. The results are beyond my control. My

   efforts are within my control. In short: Live in harmony with the universe: conform my desires to reality, rather than

   try to conform reality to my desires. This will lead to peace of mind, happiness, and virtue.

Epictetus: “Don’t demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you

will go on well.” (Enchiridion, 8)

3. Understand my emotions. Don’t repress or assent to all emotions. Master my emotions with my mind (my capacity to

   think rationally). Understand that most destructive emotions are based on false beliefs or unrealistic expectations

  (most emotions are errors in judgement). Think about the emotion I’m experiencing before assenting to it. Think

  about the thinking that created the emotion.

Epictetus: “Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning

things.” (Enchiridion, 5)

4. Do what’s right no matter the cost, and don’t complain about it. I only control my own mind, so take care of it by

   living with integrity. Do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing, not because it brings about happiness or

   reward, not because it’s in my short or long term self-interest. Create habits of thought that are realistic (Stoic virtue

   is a form of training). Focus on acting from a good motive.

Marcus Aurelius: “An emerald shines even if it is not spoken of.”

5. Understand that events themselves are not problematic; it’s my thinking about them as problematic that makes them

   problematic. Adjust my beliefs and expectations to fit reality: prepare my mind so I don’t lose it!

6. Live with compassion and respect for human rights (we’re all connected).

7. Cultivate right thinking through daily activities like meditation, contemplation, reflecting, journaling, etc. 

8. Understand that what is external (outside the mind) is determined, and remember that I have the inner freedom to

   choose my attitude towards external, determined events. Cultivate a more forgiving attitude towards others because

   they are controlled by forces beyond their understanding.

9. Be calm in the face of adversity. Remain disciplined by using my mind (not pleasure or pain) to guide my behavior.

10. Stop whining: turn adversity into advantage. Think of ways I can fail, then consider how can I turn those failures

     into something good.

View the "The philosophy of Stoicism," then respond to the following questions and discussion prompts.


1. Which of the following is not a Stoic virtue:

A. Courage

B. Justice

C. Faith

D. Temperance

2. Around what time was Stoicism founded, by Zeno of Citium?

A. 700 BCE

B. 300 BCE

C. 150 CE

D. 1450 

3. What is the Stoic idea of logos?

A. The law of universal reason

B. What the universe is made of

C. It means "the word"

D. One of the Stoic virtues

4. Which of the following historical figures was not a Stoic?

A. Epictetus

B. Seneca

C. Marcus Aurelius

D. Epicurus

5. Which of these philosophies and schools of personal therapy do not have strong commonalities with Stoicism?

A. Freudian psychoanalysis

B. Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

C. Buddhism

D. Logotherapy


1. Why is it that practicing virtue—trying to live with moral integrity—is a key to a life well lived?

2. The Stoics distinguished what is under our control from what is not under our control, focusing on the first and ignoring 

the latter. This means to internalize one's goals, so that our satisfaction does not depend on things we cannot control. 

Develop 2 practical examples where this distinction can be usefully applied.

3. Stoicism has many things in common with other philosophical traditions, such as Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, and

Christianity. Discuss why.

Questions on Seneca, Stoicism, and "On Tranquility of Mind"

1. Who was Seneca?

2. The Stoics maintained that excellence of character (virtue) was the only thing in life of real value. Explain. 

3. Stoics maintained that one's disciplined use of a very specific human capacity was vital to one's peace of mind. What 
was that capacity?

4. What was the primary criticism Stoics made about emotions?

5. What did the Stoics say about "externals" such as power, monetary wealth, success, etc.?

6. Is Stoic philosophy anchored in the past, the present, or the future? Explain.

7. According to Seneca, why is it important to know one's strengths and weaknesses?

8. What advice does Seneca give about the people with whom we chose to associate?

9. What qualities does Seneca suggest we seek in our friends?

10. What specifically does Seneca name as the "greatest source of affliction to humanity"? Why?

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