As scholars, we are imbued with the ethos of seeking out the truth. Either for itself, or for the benefits which “facing up to reality in the cold hard light of day” generally confers.
This search, on most views, is considered to involve a fearlessness and independence from the passing fashions that come and go in the world outside of the academy’s hallowed walls.
So, it can seem strange that intellectual fashions are “a thing”. Yet a thing they are.
Twenty years ago, people in the humanities were all reading Jacques Derrida. “Deconstructing” texts was touted as the finally-uncovered promise…
For modern Stoic readers, the idea that philosophy is a way of life will seem obvious. They might find it surprising when they hear people repeating how strange the idea still is within most academic institutions, although happily new initiatives are growing all the time. But modern Stoicism, which has emerged so wonderfully in the last two decades, was something few people could have predicted even a little while ago.
John Sellars is a founding member of Modern Stoicism. He is also the author of many influential books on Stoic philosophy, led by The Art of Living: The Stoics on the Nature and Function of Philosophy (2003), Stoicism (2006), and Lessons in Stoicism (2019). His lucid prose and ability to present complex philosophical ideas with patient clarity will be known to many readers.
At the start of July 2021, John and I were able to catch up on Zoom, across continents, to discuss John’s most recent work. This is his 2020 book on Marcus Aurelius, which I had had the…
“Cunning men”, says the philosopher Francis Bacon in his Essays, “are like haberdashers of small wares”. So, “it is not amiss to set forth their shop.”
Although today Bacon is feted as an inspiration of modern scientific culture, in his own day he was widely known for these Essays, first published in 1596.
The subjects of the Essays are exclusively “civil and moral”. They concern how to live well (“moral”), but also how to fare well in “civil” life: that is, business, administration, or politics.
The French have a saying: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Aristotle’s Sophistical Refutations [SR] is over 2500 years old, yet you can still read it and find yourself chuckling about its relevance today.
SR is rightly famous for its identification of 13 forms of “sophistical” arguments. These “sophisms” are true-seeming arguments which are in fact false. So they pull the wool over many, less careful peoples’ eyes.
Think of claims like that, since in the Italian renaissance, great art was produced in times of war and instability, that war and instability must be necessary for great artists…
Picture this. It’s the first time you’ve ever travelled overseas, to go to a work conference on the other side of the world. Your long haul flight goes well enough. But once you arrive, you start to get bad stomach pains. You make it to a preconference social event, but can’t stay too long. The pain is now coming in rising waves.
You find yourself laid out on the concrete outside, in acute agony, a circle of concerned passers-by around you. Some well-meaning Samaritans give you a lift back to your host’s place. But the pain doesn’t subside. …
Our (post-)modern world prided itself on having overcome plagues like those which horrified many of us in our high-school history classes. The last two centuries have also seen the widespread separation of the home from the workplace, and the spread of dedicated educational institutions for our kids.
With 2020’s hindsight, however, we can now see that many of us were a bit too hasty in assuming that all this progress was irreversible. In ways most of us couldn’t have imagined, the world has since been widely ‘locked down’ by a pandemic that has now killed several million human beings. …
Christopher Gill is a now-retired Professor of Classics at Exeter whose house backs onto open countryside. He uses his leisure in the ancient, Senecan or Ciceronian way, by writing books on philosophy.
Professor Gill was the inaugural editor of ‘Plato’, the internet Journal of the International Plato Society in 2000–3, and after that, co-editor of Phronesis journal until 2008. He is the author of celebrated studies on the self in ancient thought, The Structured Self in Hellenistic and Roman Thought (2006), and Personality in Greek Epic, Tragedy, and Philosophy: The Self in Dialogue (1996). …
As an admirer of and advocate for Stoicism, I want to say that I am not sure that Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy is a friend to Stoicism. This confession is controversial, not least since many people I like are also Nietzscheans, at least in their theoretical thinking.
So, I’d better explain.
Nietzsche, with Karl Marx, is probably the most influential Western philosopher of the last two hundred years. After being central to the ideologies of fascism and National Socialism, his work has been rejuvenated in the liberal Western academy since 1945, and his ideas have flooded into pop culture.
The following text continues an interview with Donald Robertson, author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor (2018) and other works, and one of the founders of modern Stoicism. In international anti-bullying week in mid-November, 2020, we talked at length about Stoicism, ancient and modern, and a range of issues surrounding bullying, and how to respond to it.
Matt Sharpe teaches philosophy & critical thinking in Melbourne, Australia, and works on classical and modern ideas