The Daily Stoic: January 4, 2021

Filed in PhilosophyTags: Clarity, Daily Stoic, Marcus Aurelius, Perception

Reflections on The Daily Stoic:

  • The Discipline of Perception
  • January's Theme: Clarity
  • Topic: The Big Three
  • Stoic: Marcus Aurelius

Today's quote:

All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way.

- Meditations, 9.6

Today's quote and reading introduce the three Disciplines of stoic philosophy: Perception, Action, and Will.

In stoic philosophy, the discipline of perception, also referred to as mindfulness or assent, correlates to the field of logic (derived from logic, reason, rhetoric, and truth) and is expressed through the virtues of courage and temperance. The stoics taught that we must control our perceptions - to live in harmony with our nature as rational beings, and in accord with reason and truth in thoughts and speech. This principle may be described as prosochê: attention to the faculty of our own minds, withholding our assent so as not to get carried away by irrational and unhealthy passions and vices.

From a biblical perspective, we are called to the same discipline. As Paul instructs the church as Ephesus: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:29-32) And as Paul encourages the church at Philippi: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

In stoic philosophy, the discipline of action, also referred to as philanthropy, correlates to the field of ethics (derived from our understanding of what is morally good, bad, and indifferent) and is expressed through the virtue of justice. The stoics taught that we must direct our actions properly - that they should be taken with hupexairesis (fate permitting or God willing), with koinônikai (for the common welfare), and with kat’ axian (in accord with value). This principle may be described as "love of mankind."

From a biblical perspective, we are called to the same discipline. "Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”" (Matthew 22:37-40) "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35) "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:16-18)

In stoic philosophy, the discipline of will, also referred to as acceptance or desire, correlates to the field of physics (derived from our understanding of the laws of Nature - natural science, metaphysics, and theology) and is expressed through the virtue of wisdom. The stoics taught that we must willingly accept that which is outside of our control. The principle may be described as amor fati: the love of one's fate.

From a biblical perspective, we are called to the same discipline. "“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”" (Jeremiah 29:11) "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34) "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7) "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)

As Christians, we know that our ultimate happiness (the stoic concept of eudaimonia) is a matter of eternity. Because of this understanding, we can accept with hope and grace whatever earthly fate befalls us. "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)