The Daily Stoic: January 11, 2021

Filed in PhilosophyTags: Clarity, Daily Stoic, Epictetus, Perception

Reflections on The Daily Stoic:

  • The Discipline of Perception
  • January's Theme: Clarity
  • Topic: If You Want to be Unsteady
  • Stoic: Epictetus

Today's quote:

For if a person shifts their caution to their own reasoned choices and the acts of those choices, they will at the same time gain the will to avoid, but if they shift their caution away from their own reasoned choices to things not under their control, seeking to avoid what is controlled by others, they will then be agitated, fearful, and unstable.

- Discourses, 2.1.12

We cannot find serenity by hiding from the world and its tribulations. As Christians, we are called to go into the world, to preach the gospel, and to be the body of Christ in the world - indeed, not to be of the world, yet to be in the world.

The stoics were not recluses as we might imagine a monk or a Zen Buddhist. They were fully participants in the world, engaged with the world - and in that context, grappled with how to live virtuously. The same is true of the early church. In fact, the Apostle Paul met with the Stoics in Athens, and debated with them in the Areopagus (Acts 17).

What I find interesting about this passage is that Paul - who very well may have been influenced by Stoic philosophy and who at least echoed some tenets of Stoic philosophy in his epistles - articulates some of the fundamental differences between Christian belief and Stoic philosophy in his debate at the Areopagus. One of the primary differences is that the Stoics were not inherently theistic; the philosophy is more agnostic, equally attributing the influence/control of fate, luck, nature, or God. The main point of Paul's debate is that God exists, has made Himself known to the world, and has revealed Himself as the basis for virtue.

As the Stoics taught, we cannot live the life we are intended by avoiding the world. Christians today must be in the world, which means we, too, must grapple with how to live virtuously, without avoiding the evils and temptations of the world. "I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." (John 17:14-18)