Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Practical Stoic Tips

One of the members of the International Stoic Forum, Steve Marquis, has just posted some practical tips for seeking to further our virtue even while we wait for full understanding of virtue. Some of the terms may not be familiar to non-Stoics, but the general message is fairly easy to get. Thanks to Steve for this!

1. Move away from pathos. Work to reduce and eliminate those emotions that we can readily identify as counter productive to our peace of mind. We can do this without accepting the eradication of all pathos idea, if we view that as an extreme. Just start with hitting the high spots, the most obvious problems.

2. Get some paper and pencil, take some time, and make a list. On one side list roles such as father, student, member of my neighbourhood, citizen of my country, friend, etc. On the other side list what we think are appropriate duties for all those roles (affection shown to my children might be an appropriate duty, for example). And don’t forget duty to oneself (sleep, exercise, the right food, taking a break from other duty, all that stuff). Next prioritise and integrate. Resolve conflicts. Do this beforehand and on a regular basis. Being ready for the day and the week will eliminate a lot of potential for pathos right out the gate.

3. Make another list. Identify those that you know that you respect for aspects of their character. Seek to emulate. If it is appropriate, open a discussion with them about how they got where they are.

4. Seek to habituate critical thinking. Take a class if that is possible. Learn to be more objective and carful in making decisions and less flippant.

5. Integrate (all of the above). Moving one’s reasoning process from a local in the moment concern to the week to the year and finally to ones life as a whole will stabilize the whole thing and give one that all-seeing perspective that trivializes the small setbacks and results in quiet confidence.

6. Be honest with yourself. This is different than 5. Inner harmony (ie, integrity, the lack of internal conflict) requires self-honesty to be achieved but the two are not synonymous.

7. Consider the cardinal virtues of wisdom / prudence (critical thinking with moral purpose is how I see it), moderation (with respect to desire), courage (with respect to aversion), and justice (the harmonious interplay of the parts, either one’s own integrity or that of a community). There is a lot that can be made from applying these four practically. These virtues are utilized in bridging the gap between what we have reasoned we ‘ought’ to do (from 1, 2, and 3 above as normative propositions) from what we are inclined to do.

8. Try to be more aware of the moment. If we are not paying attention we miss all the opportunities to apply our hard work. Attention will automatically go up as pathos is reduced.

Now, when you’re done with all the above come back and ask what virtue is. You won’t have to, will you, for you will know what it is.