Dr JC Coetzee Clinical Psychologist in Ponsonby & Parnell, Auckland Book Sessions

Why It Is Important to Read the Stoics If You Want to Practice Stoicism

Stoicism, an ancient philosophy rooted in the teachings of thinkers such as Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, offers profound insights into living a life of virtue, resilience, and tranquility. To truly practice Stoicism, it is essential to immerse oneself in the original texts and ideas of these foundational Stoic philosophers. Here’s why reading the Stoics is crucial for anyone wishing to embody this timeless philosophy:

1. Understanding the Core Principles

The primary reason to read the Stoics is to gain a thorough understanding of the core principles and doctrines of Stoicism. These texts lay the groundwork for the philosophy, elucidating concepts such as the dichotomy of control, the importance of virtue, and the practice of mindfulness and rationality. By studying these writings, you can develop a solid foundation in the essential tenets of Stoicism.

2. Learning from the Masters

The works of Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius offer invaluable wisdom and practical guidance. These philosophers not only articulated Stoic principles but also demonstrated how to apply them in daily life through their own experiences and reflections. Reading their works allows you to learn directly from the masters, providing insights that are both timeless and deeply personal.

3. Gaining Practical Tools for Everyday Life

Stoic texts are rich with practical advice for navigating life's challenges. From Epictetus’ "Enchiridion" (Manual) to Seneca’s letters, these works offer concrete strategies for managing emotions, making ethical decisions, and maintaining inner peace. By reading and reflecting on these texts, you can acquire practical tools to implement Stoic practices in your everyday life.

4. Cultivating a Stoic Mindset

Immersing yourself in Stoic literature helps cultivate a Stoic mindset. The repetitive engagement with Stoic ideas reinforces habits of thought that align with Stoic virtues. Regular reading and reflection on Stoic texts encourage the development of resilience, self-discipline, and equanimity, making these qualities second nature in your daily interactions.

5. Building a Philosophical Framework

Reading the Stoics helps you build a coherent philosophical framework that guides your actions and decisions. This framework is crucial for applying Stoic principles consistently and effectively. Without this deep understanding, there is a risk of misinterpreting or oversimplifying Stoic teachings, which can undermine their effectiveness.

6. Connecting with a Philosophical Tradition

By reading the Stoics, you connect with a rich philosophical tradition that has influenced countless thinkers and practitioners throughout history. This connection not only enriches your own practice but also situates you within a broader community of individuals who seek wisdom and virtue through Stoicism. Engaging with this tradition fosters a sense of belonging and continuity.

7. Inspiring Personal Growth

The Stoic texts are not merely intellectual exercises but are designed to inspire personal growth and transformation. The wisdom of the Stoics challenges you to examine your beliefs, confront your fears, and strive for continuous self-improvement. This process of growth is at the heart of practicing Stoicism, and reading the Stoics is a catalyst for this journey.

To practice Stoicism effectively, it is essential to read and engage with the works of the original Stoic philosophers. These texts provide the foundational principles, practical guidance, and inspiration necessary for embodying Stoic virtues in daily life. 

Stoicism Recommended Reading

Stoicism: A Very Short Introduction

by Brad Inwood

In this concise introduction to Stoicism, Inwood provides an accessible overview of the philosophy's key concepts, history, and relevance to contemporary life.

The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User's Manual 

by Ward Farnsworth

Farnsworth offers a practical guide to Stoicism, presenting key Stoic principles and exercises for applying them in everyday life.

Stoicism and the Art of Happiness 

by Donald Robertson

Robertson provides a comprehensive overview of Stoicism and its relevance to modern psychology, offering practical exercises and techniques for applying Stoic principles in daily life.

Musonius Rufus: Lectures and Sayings 

translated by Cynthia King

Musonius Rufus, a lesser-known Stoic philosopher, offers valuable insights into topics such as ethics, virtue, and the importance of philosophy in daily life.

Meditations 

by Marcus Aurelius

Written by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, this classic work offers a series of personal reflections and philosophical insights on Stoic principles such as virtue, resilience, and acceptance.

Letters from a Stoic 

by Seneca

Seneca, a prominent Stoic philosopher and statesman, shares his thoughts on topics ranging from ethics and morality to adversity and tranquillity in this collection of letters.

Discourses and Selected Writings

by Epictetus

Epictetus, a former slave-turned philosopher, offers practical advice on living a virtuous life and maintaining inner peace in the face of adversity.

The Enchiridion 

by Epictetus

Also known as the "Handbook," this concise manual distils Epictetus' teachings into a practical guide for living according to Stoic principles.

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy 

by William B. Irvine

In this modern interpretation of Stoicism, Irvine explores how Stoic philosophy can help individuals find tranquillity, resilience, and happiness in today's world.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius 

by Donald Robertson

Robertson explores Marcus Aurelius' life and writings to uncover the Stoic practices that helped him navigate the challenges of ruling an empire and maintaining personal integrity.

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

 by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

This daily devotional offers a year's worth of Stoic wisdom and reflections, drawing on the writings of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus.

That One Should Disdain Hardships

by Musonius Rufus

A collection of lectures on stoicism by Musonius Rufus. It emphasises the importance of self-discipline, virtue, and the rejection of worldly pleasures to achieve true happiness.

How to Be a Stoic

by Massimo Pigliucci 

Whenever we worry about what to eat, how to love, or simply how to be happy, we are worrying about how to lead a good life. No goal is more elusive. In How to Be a Stoic, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci offers Stoicism, the ancient philosophy that inspired the great emperor Marcus Aurelius, as the best way to attain it. 

The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

 by Pierre Hadot

Written by the Roman emperor for his own private guidance and self-admonition, the Meditations set forth principles for living a good and just life. Pierre Hadot probes Marcus Aurelius's guidelines and convictions and discerns the hitherto unperceived conceptual system that grounds them. 

Contact Dr JC Coezee

Send me an email to find out more about Stoic mentoring.