Lessons in Stoicism Book Summary - Lessons in Stoicism Book explained in key points
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Lessons in Stoicism summary

John Sellars

What Ancient Philosophers Teach Us about How to Live

4.7 (46 ratings)
18 mins
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    Lessons in Stoicism
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    Stoicism teaches you how to live well

    Stoicism is an ancient Greek school of thought that emphasizes self-control and resilience to overcome negative emotions. It’s not just about enduring tough times, though. Stoicism also teaches us how to transform our approach to life and how we respond to challenges. 

    At its core, Stoicism is a set of lessons that revolve around one simple yet profound idea: that our happiness hinges more on our character than on anything external.

    Imagine Stoicism as a toolkit for the soul. Its designer was a Greek thinker called Epictetus. He was born into slavery in the ancient city of Nicopolis in today’s Turkey in the first century CE. After obtaining his freedom around the age of 18, Epictetus became a respected teacher, describing the philosopher’s role as similar to that of a physician – a healer of the soul. His teachings, preserved by his students, argue that a philosopher’s school is essentially a hospital for our inner selves, where mental and emotional health are nurtured.

    Stoicism teaches that caring for our souls is crucial. This echoes the beliefs of an earlier philosopher, Socrates, who taught that the condition of our soul profoundly affects our life's quality. Socrates, and later the Stoics, believed that real wealth comes from a virtuous character, not material possessions. Wealth is neutral – it’s neither good nor bad – and reflects the character of its holder. A virtuous person might use wealth to do good, while someone less virtuous could cause harm with it. Moral value, in other words, resides within us, not in the things we own or our social status.

    Epictetus warned against focusing too much on wealth and status at the expense of moral growth. He encouraged shifting our attention from external achievements to internal development. Stoics introduced the concept of “indifferents” – things like wealth, health, and reputation that should not determine our core happiness or moral integrity. They made a clear distinction between “preferred indifferents” and true “goods,” which are attributes of a virtuous character – the only real good.

    Stoicism suggests that chasing money or fame for their own sake is misguided. Instead, it champions aligning personal desires with ethical and moral values, ensuring our actions reflect a virtuous character. Stoics aim to live in harmony with their nature and with the external world.

    To cultivate a virtuous character, Stoicism promotes the development of the cardinal virtues: wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation. These virtues define what it means to live well as a human being. Focusing on these qualities allows individuals to not only lead good lives themselves but also to positively impact their communities. So, what does that look like in practice? That’s what we’ll be exploring next. 

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    What is Lessons in Stoicism about?

    Lessons in Stoicism (2020) encapsulates the enduring wisdom of ancient Stoic philosophers, focusing on the practical application of their ideas to managing emotions, confronting adversities, and contemplating mortality. Distilling these ancient teachings into guidance that’s relevant to contemporary life, it shows how Stoicism can help you make the most of your time.

    Lessons in Stoicism Review

    Lessons in Stoicism (2019) explores the ancient philosophy of Stoicism and its relevance in today's world. Here's why this book is a valuable read:

    • It provides practical wisdom for navigating life's challenges, offering timeless guidance on resilience, self-control, and finding inner peace.
    • By delving into Stoic principles through historical contexts and modern examples, it helps readers apply these teachings to their daily lives with ease.
    • Through insightful reflections on virtue, acceptance, and gratitude, the book presents Stoicism as a path to cultivate a more fulfilling and balanced life.

    Who should read Lessons in Stoicism?

    • Individuals seeking practical guidance on emotional resilience
    • Philosophy enthusiasts interested in ancient wisdom for modern living
    • Self-improvers looking for strategies to boost their daily quality of life

    About the Author

    John Sellars is a professor of philosophy at King’s College London. Renowned for his work on Stoicism, Sellars has written several influential books on the practical aspects of Stoic philosophy, exploring its relevance to modern life and its teachings on ethics.

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    Lessons in Stoicism FAQs 

    What is the main message of Lessons in Stoicism?

    The main message of Lessons in Stoicism centers on applying ancient Stoic principles to modern life.

    How long does it take to read Lessons in Stoicism?

    The estimated time to read Lessons in Stoicism is a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in under 15 minutes.

    Is Lessons in Stoicism a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Lessons in Stoicism is a valuable read, offering practical wisdom for navigating life's challenges and finding inner peace.

    Who is the author of Lessons in Stoicism?

    John Sellars is the author of Lessons in Stoicism.

    What to read after Lessons in Stoicism?

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