I have now studied and practiced Stoicism seriously for more than a year and a half. I still have a long way to go on both theory and praxis, but I have gradually accumulated a number of favorite Stoic reminders, as well as developed my own summaries of Stoic doctrine and list of concepts I find particularly useful. Here they are, presented as a vademecum, a handy reminder that one can bookmark or print out and keep in one’s pocket. (a downloadable pdf version is here)
Virtue is the highest good, everything else is “indifferent.” The Stoics got the first part from Socrates, who argued that virtue is the chief good because it is the only thing that is good under all circumstances, and indeed helps us make proper use of things like health, wealth, and education. Everything else is “indifferent” in the specifically Stoic sense that it is not to be traded against virtue. The Stoic can pursue the preferred indifferents and try to stay away from the dispreferred ones, so long as this doesn’t interfere with virtue. In economics, this is called a system of lexicographic preferences.
Follow nature, that is, apply reason to social life. The Stoics thought that we should get a hint from the cosmos (studying what they called physics) to figure out how to live our lives (ethics). Since human beings are social animals capable of reason (logic), it follows that we should strive to apply the latter to the former.
- Dichotomy of control: some things are under our control, others are not (though we may be able to influence them). Under our control — if we are mentally healthy — are our decisions and behaviors. Outside of our control is everything else. This means that we should concern ourselves with the first category, and accept everything else with equanimity.
Four virtues to practice: