Musonius Rufus

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The Daily Stoic: January 16, 2021

Filed in PhilosophyTags: Clarity, Daily Stoic, Musonius Rufus, Perception

Reflections on The Daily Stoic:

  • The Discipline of Perception
  • January's Theme: Clarity
  • Topic: Never Do Anything Out of Habit
  • Stoic: Musonius Rufus

Today's quote:

So in the majority of other things, we address circumstances not in accordance with the right assumptions, but mostly by following wretched habit. Since all that I've said is the case, the person in training must seek to rise above, so as to stop seeking out pleasure and steering away from pain; to stop clinging to living and abhorring death; and in the case of property and money, to stop valuing receiving over giving.

- Lectures, 6.25.5-11

The Daily Stoic title's today's topic "never do anything out of habit" and states that "we are studying philosophy precisely to break ourselves of rote behavior." Asserted as an absolute, I disagree - and I think Rufus, the Stoic quoted, disagrees as well. Here, Rufus admonishes against wretched habit.

Habit is not inherently bad. In reality, the human brain is wired to gain efficiency of decision and action through habit. God designed us to be creatures of habit! The problem is not with habit itself, but rather when we allow a non-beneficial habit loop (cue -> routine -> reward) to develop, that results in a detrimental "reward". From the Stoic perspective, I think the key is to apply reason in understanding the relationship from cue to routine to reward, to apply judgment to discern whether the reward is desirable, and to apply the power of choice under our control to avoid cues and/or to create new routines when necessary.

As Christians, we should strive to develop habits of applying God's Word to resist evil and temptation: "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11

We should also strive to develop habits of doing good: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Galatians 6:9-10) "And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good." (II Thessalonians 3:13) "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds..." (Hebrews 10:24) "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (Hebrews 13:16) "Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives." (Titus 3:14)