Stoic Friday LII

Last Week


How to Be a Stoic

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor

Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic

If you have anger issues, this one is a great tool (h/t mindyourbusiness)

This week’s book:

Discourses and Selected Writings

Disclaimer: I’m not your Supervisor. These are my opinions after reading through these books a few times.

Epictetus was born a slave around 50 ad. His owner was Epaphroditus, a rich freedman who was once a slave of Nero. Though he was a slave Epictetus was sent to study philosophy under Musonius Rufus.

Epictetus was lame and there are some stories it was caused by his master and others that it was caused by disease.

He was a freedman when all philosophers were banished from Rome in 89 by the Emperor Domitian. He then started his school in Greece, and had many students. He did not leave any writings from his lessons, but one of his students, Flavius Arrian, took notes and wrote the Discourses.

Epictetus did not marry, had no children, and lived to be around 80-85. In retirement, he adopted a child that would have been abandoned and raised him with a woman.

He died sometime around AD 135.

He might be my favorite Stoic teacher. I love his bare bones and very straight forward approach.

Following is a paragraph-by-paragraph discussion of one of his lessons. Epictetus’s text appears in bold, my replies are in normal text.

How ought we adjust our preconceptions to individual instances? Part I

What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of thinking that one knows[1]; for it is impossible to get a man to begin to learn that which he thinks he knows.

I learned this in the Marines. It was harder for me to learn anything if I thought I knew how to do it. Shooting is the one I remember the most. I thought that because I hunted and shot guns prior to joining, that I knew how to shoot. Turns out there is a big difference between shooting with a scope from a supported position and shooting iron sights using a sling for support. After I embarrassed myself the first day, I decided to do exactly what the instructor was telling us to do. I shot pretty good for the rest of my career.

However, as we go to the philosophers we all babble hurly-burly about what ought to be done and what ought not, good and evil, fair and foul, and on these grounds assign praise and blame, censure and reprehension, passing judgement on fair and foul practices, and discriminating between them. But what do we go to the philosophers for? To learn what we do not think we know. And what is that? General principles. For some of us want to learn what the philosophers are saying, thinking it will be witty and shrewd, others, because they wish to profit thereby.

I started studying Stoicism because I was having problems dealing with a few issues. If I had known how to deal with them, I wouldn’t have started studying. The general principles have helped me, and I am glad that I studied and actually try to apply it to my daily life.

5But it is absurd to think that when a man wishes to learn one thing he will actually learn something else, or, in short, that a man will make progress in anything without learning it. But the multitude are under the same misapprehension as was Theopompus of Chios, the orator,[2] who actually censures Plato for wishing to define every term. Well, what does he say? “Did none of us before your time ever use the words ‘good’ or ‘just’? Or, without understanding what each of these terms severally mean, did we merely utter them as vague and empty sounds?” Why, who tells you, Theopompus, that we did not have a natural conception of each term, that is, a preconceived idea of it?

There are preconceived meanings to words, but they shift over time. Sometimes through natural usage and sometimes through cynical arguments. See the current definition of “right”. The “right” to feel safe, the “right” to free healthcare. This is why, if a serious discussion is to be had, the definitions need to be agreed on.

But it is impossible to adjust our preconceived ideas to the appropriate facts without having first systematized them and having raised precisely this question—what particular fact is to be classified under each preconception. Suppose, for example, that you make the same sort of remark to the physicians: “Why, who among us did not use terms ‘healthy’ and ‘diseased’ before Hippocrates was born? Or were we merely making an empty noise with these sounds?” For, of course, we have a certain preconception of the idea “healthy.” But we are unable to apply it. That is why one person says, “Keep abstaining from food,” and another, “Give nourishment”; again, one says, “Cut a vein,” and another says, “Use the cupping-glass.” What is the reason? Is it really anything but the fact that a person is unable properly to apply the preconceived idea of “healthy” to the specific instances?

10So it stands here also, in the affairs of life. Who among us has not upon his lips the words “good” and “evil,” “advantageous” and “disadvantageous”? For who among us does not have a preconceived idea of each of these terms? Very well, is it fitted into a system and complete? Prove that it is. “How shall I prove it?” Apply it properly to specific facts. To start with, Plato classifies definitions under the preconception “the useful,” but you classify them under that of “the useless.” Is it, then, possible for both of you to be right? How can that be? Does not one man apply his preconceived idea of “the good” to the fact of wealth, while another does not? And another to that of pleasure, and yet another to that of health? Indeed, to sum up the whole matter, if all of us who have these terms upon our lips possess no mere empty knowledge of each one severally, and do not need to devote any pains to the systematic arrangement of our preconceived ideas, why do we disagree, why fight, why blame one another?

All people are not the same. I value peace in my off time more than I value trying to get my boss’s job if he quits. He asked me and seemed surprised that I had no desire to be a manger. Other people value getting as much money as they can, and are willing to make more sacrifices.

And yet what need is there for me to bring forward now our strife with one another and make mention of that? Take your own case; if you apply properly your preconceived ideas, why are you troubled,[3] why are you hampered?

If I can tune out the things that are outside of my control, then nothing can truly bother me. Other people like to live differently than me, and that doesn’t effect my mental state at all.

15Let us pass by for the moment the second field of study[4]—that which has to do with our choices and the discussion of what is our duty in regard to them. Let us pass by also the third—that which has to do with our assents. I make you a present of all this. Let us confine our attention to the first field, one which allows an almost palpable proof that you do not properly apply your preconceived ideas. Do you at this moment desire what is possible in general and what is possible for you in particular? If so, why are you hampered? Why are you troubled? Are you not at this moment trying to escape what is inevitable? If so, why do you fall into any trouble, why are you unfortunate? Why is it that when you want something it does not happen, and when you do not want it, it does happen? For this is the strongest proof of trouble and misfortune. I want something, and it does not happen; and what creature is more wretched than I? I do not want something, and it does happen; and what creature is more wretched than I?

This wretchedness is caused by not understanding and applying the concept of what is in my control and what is outside of it. When I worry about things that I have no control over, then I waste time and energy. If there is nothing I can do about the outcome once I have tried to do something, as long as I am happy with my effort, I have nothing to worry about.

Medea, for example, because she could not endure this, came to the point of killing her children. In this respect at least hers was the act of a great spirit. For she had the proper conception of what it means for anyone’s wishes not to come true. 20“Very well, then,” says she,[5] “in these circumstances I shall take vengeance upon the man who has wronged and insulted me. Yet what good do I get out of his being in such an evil plight? How can that be accomplished? I kill my children. But I shall be punishing myself also. Yet what do I care?” This is the outbursting of a soul of great force. For she did not know where the power lies to do what we wish—that we cannot get this from outside ourselves, nor by disturbing and deranging things. Give up wanting to keep your husband, and nothing of what you want fails to happen. Give up wanting him to live with you at any cost. Give up wanting to remain in Corinth, and, in a word, give up wanting anything but what God wants. And who will prevent you, who will compel you? No one, any more than anyone prevents or compels Zeus.

Hurting yourself and others, mentally or physically,  as an act of revenge is one of the most harmful ways of dealing with not getting what you want. I read somewhere that being angry at someone is like carrying around a red hot piece of iron, hoping it would burn the other person.

When you have such a leader as Zeus and identify your wishes and your desires with His, why are you still afraid that you will fail? Give to poverty and to wealth your aversion and your desire: you will fail to get what you wish, and you will fall into what you would avoid. Give them to health; you will come to grief; so also if you give them to offices, honors, country, friends, children, in short to anything that lies outside the domain of moral purpose.

If I think of externals as simply preferred and not preferred outcomes, then I am able to deal with whatever fate sends to me. If I insist on treating them as important things then I will be much more vulnerable if fate goes against me. In the latter case, I would be more likely to go around lamenting the unfairness then I would be able to deal with the circumstances and still live in accordance with nature.

25But give them to Zeus and the other gods; entrust them to their keeping, let them exercise the control; let your desire and your aversion be ranged on their side—and how can you be troubled any longer? But if you show envy, wretched man, and pity, and jealousy, and timidity, and never let a day pass without bewailing yourself and the gods, how can you continue to say that you have been educated? What kind of education, man, do you mean? Because you have worked on syllogisms, and arguments with equivocal premises? Will you not unlearn all this, if that be possible, and begin at the beginning, realizing that hitherto you have not even touched the matter; and for the future, beginning at this point, add to your foundations that which comes next in order—provision that nothing shall be that you do not wish, and that nothing shall fail to be that you do wish?

Learning flowery rhetoric without learning the basic principles that Stoicism is founded on would be a waste of time for me. I have tried to stick to that as I have studied and haven’t really learned any fluff.

Give me but one young man who has come to school with this purpose in view, who has become an athlete in this activity, saying, “As for me, let everything else go; I am satisfied if I shall be free to live untrammeled and untroubled, to hold up my neck in the face of facts like a free man, and to look up to heaven as a friend of God, without fear of what may possibly happen.” 30Let one of you show me such a person, so that I can say to him: Enter, young man, into your own, for it is your destiny to adorn philosophy, yours are these possessions, yours these books, yours these discourses.

This is where I am currently. I haven’t been able to put all of the ideas into practice daily, but my goal is to be free in myself. If I can truly live without worrying about outside forces because my inner fortress is strong enough, then I can say that I have learned enough. Until that day, I will keep working on myself, because I still am not there.

Part II will be next week.

Music this week is from Candlemass’s 2nd album Nightfall. It is my favorite album from them. Messiah Marcolin became their singer after hearing Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and learning they needed a singer, he moved to the town they lived in and constantly sent them postcards until they gave him an audition. To me, his voice really adds to the uniqueness of the band. He sings with an operatic voice, which really fits their heavy and slow style.

Bewitched-This video is awesome and cracks me up every time. I really love the guitar solo from a guy in a thumb cast.

At the Gallows End– One of my favorite songs of theirs. About a man contemplating his evil life as he awaits hanging.

Samarithan– Almost a religious song about helping a poor man and then being blessed by angels upon dying.

Mourner’s Lament– A song exploring the anger and sadness of having a dying child.

Dark Are the Veils of Death– When we die, we have no idea if we are going to heaven or hell.

I have met very few people that like them as much as I do, most people can’t stand them, but I don’t care.

I hope some of you actually listen to the songs and tell me what you think.

About The Author


What I told my wife when she said my steel Baby Eagle .45 was heavy, "Heavy is good, heavy is reliable, if it doesn't work you could always hit him with it."-Boris the Blade MOLON LABE


  1. R.J.

    Still waiting on the wife, she did her colonoscopy. I will listen to the songs when I get in the car.
    She’s getting SMITHed right now.

    • R.J.

      Is this another one of those times when the entire Glibertariat went to lunch?

      • Nephilium

        Well, it is lunchtime.

        • robc

          I like early lunch, but even I think 10:30 is too early.

      • ron73440

        My Stoic Friday posts are usually when comments come to a screeching halt.

        I think because it’s Friday and a lot of people leave after lunch.

        • Riven

          I have always assumed it’s because people are taking the time to consider the post, which is why I don’t usually participate.

          Don’t feel like I have anything to add until I’ve mulled it over for a couple days.

          • UnCivilServant

            I had a Noontime meeting.


        • Not Adahn

          It’s less “leave” and more “all the fab engineers dump their special projects at lunch on Friday and I’ve either got to get them all set up now or I’ll have tom come in on the weekend.”

        • DEG

          Lunch, meetings, work for me.

        • juris imprudent

          As of the moment, my next Nietzsche post is scheduled for lunch on Tues. I will be on the road, so I’ll only get to see comments much later. But the last one didn’t spur much discussion, so who knows.

          • Ownbestenemy

            Sometimes I need to chew on those and by the time I think of responding, we’ve moved on.

            • slumbrew

              ^^^ This ^^^

              I’m busy at work and just dipping in while I wait for a job to finish – these deserve more than me just skimming them but we’ll have moved on by then.

              Don’t think they’re not appreciated, Ron.

    • Fourscore

      Hopefully the colonoscopy will be a big fat zero. The first one is the worst, the fear, not of the possible results, just someone tinkering with things I didn’t want tinkered with. After that it was a walk in the park.

      Thanks Ron, the trials and tribulations of life . We’re lucky to be able to lurch from one crisis to another and not suffer too much.

  2. Riven

    Dense stuff this morning, Ron. Gonna be thinking about it all weekend, which is also how long I’m gonna have to wait to listen to those songs–but I’m looking forward to it. Спасибо.

    Sorry about the scheduling snafu last week. Someone got too drunk and mischeduled it. Won’t happen again.

    • ron73440

      I hate when people get too drink.

      • Riven

        Uh, same.

  3. kinnath

    Interesting that the Mann verdict is not showing up in Google News.

    I figured that would be prime propaganda fodder.

    • UnCivilServant

      The facts are so bad that drawing any attention is likely to backfire.

      • DEG

        They’ll just claim Mann was fully exonerated like what some folks did after Penn State investigated him.

        It’s been quite a while since I read that Penn State report. My recollection is all they did was talk to Mann and run the hockey stick graph program. Mann of course said he did the right thing. The hockey stick graph program produced a hockey stick. Therefore, he’s cleared of all wrongdoing.

        If you were someone who knew the claims against Mann when the Climategate e-mails came out, you knew this report did nothing to exonerate Mann. But, how many people knew that? They just parroted the talking point that the report fully exonerated Mann.

        • The Gunslinger

          According to what I heard discussed at trial, Spanier at Penn State inserted himself in the investigation of Mann and told the independent committee what their determination would be. One of the members of the committee updated Spanier that they were going to advise censuring Mann and Spanier sent an email with “recommendations”. Surprise, surprise there was no censure.

          • DEG


            • The Gunslinger

              Also interesting that Mann continues to thank Graham Spanier in his books to this day. Despite the fact that Spanier went to prison for his role in the cover-up of child rape by Sandusky.

      • ron73440

        Regardless of the facts, now the true believers can say that the courts have verified that global warming is real and to argue otherwise is heresy.

        • UnCivilServant

          We can have separate but equal facts then. Let the true beleivers go live in their mud hovels without fossil fuels and eating bugs, we can carry civilization without them.

          • UnCivilServant

            If you’re not willing to become an anchorite hermit and instead expect me to shoulder the burden of your faith, I have no respect for you or your hypocracy.

  4. The Late P Brooks

    Interesting that the Mann verdict is not showing up in Google News.

    It showed up for me, unfortunately.

    I can’t help wondering if the judge instructed the jury to disregard any evidence presented which contradicted the warming narrative.

    • UnCivilServant

      If he did, that’s grounds for an appeal.

      Not sure how well it would go.

      • kinnath

        Stein has to have enough money to go through with an appeal.

    • Ownbestenemy

      Well some have learned it makes a case much more easier if you just preclude certain evidence that you personally don’t like. Don’t you want judges to go home safely at the end of the day?

      • UnCivilServant

        Don’t you want judges to go home safely at the end of the day?


        I want judges to abide by the rule of law.

    • The Gunslinger

      Mann has a climate sugar daddy covering his lawyer fees. I’ve been thinking maybe they were hoping for/ expecting an Alex Jones type verdict. Closer to a $Billion than the $Million they got.

  5. DEG

    Learning flowery rhetoric without learning the basic principles

    This reminds me of a Progressive law student I used to know. All his arguments were massive wall-of-text word salads. You try to pin him down on anything, and you get another wall-of-text word salads.

    • kinnath

      If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with bullshit.

      • ron73440

        That was my Dad’s favorite T-shirt when I was a kid and my Mom HATED it.

      • Fourscore

        As soon as I read DEG’s comment I immediately thought that but Kinnath beat me to it and Ron reinforced it. Thanks, Guys

  6. kinnath

    I wonder if average ordinary people understood what was happening in the years leading to the Civil War.

    • creech

      Still don’t. Buchanan still regarded as our “worst” president but no one can say what he realistically could have done to prevent secession.

  7. The Late P Brooks

    all they did was talk to Mann and run the hockey stick graph program. Mann of course said he did the right thing. The hockey stick graph program produced a hockey stick. Therefore, he’s cleared of all wrongdoing.

    According to my model, my model is correct.

  8. The Late P Brooks

    Regardless of the facts, now the true believers can say that the courts have verified that global warming is real and to argue otherwise is heresy.

    And Trump’s objections to the election were total bullshit because the courts refused to listen to them.

  9. kinnath

    I haven’t been paying attention. How did the Mann/Steyn trial wind up in DC? Mann was a Penn when the “defamation” occurred. Mark Steyn is from Canada.

    • DEG

      Mann was still at Penn State when Steyn wrote the article. He left Penn State for Penn sometime afterwards.

      Steyn at some point moved to NH.

      Steyn wrote the piece in question for National Review. Simburg worked for CEI. National Review and CEI were listed as defendants along with Steyn and Simburg. NR is based in New York. CEI is in DC.

      I think CEI being in DC is the key to why the suit was filed in DC.

      • kinnath

        Thanks for the summary.

        So, Steyn and Simburg were doomed from the beginning.

        One buck in actual damages.

        One million in punitive damages. Bad dog, bad dog.

        • UnCivilServant

          If there were any real justice, The judge should have to pay.

          And Mann should be mocked out of any institution he approached.

        • Sean

          Are those damages taxable?

        • DEG

          You’re welcome!

          So, Steyn and Simburg were doomed from the beginning.

          Sadly, yes.

  10. The Late P Brooks


    The Fed’s work to control inflation was always billed as tough medicine, and there’s growing frustration with it.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic senators told policymakers in a letter Sunday that they also have a duty to acknowledge that “astronomical” mortgage rates are fueling a housing affordability crisis.

    “We urge you to consider the effects of your interest rate decisions on the housing market and to reverse the troubling rate hikes that have put affordable housing out of reach for too many,” Warren and fellow Democratic Sens. John Hickenlooper, Jacky Rosen and Sheldon Whitehouse wrote.

    The real estate market is a giant dumpster fire because of astronomical interest rates. Sure it is.

    • JaimeRoberto (carnitas/spicy salsa)

      It has nothing to do with demand (Hello new migrant neighbor!) and restricted supply much of which is pushed by the green lobby.

    • The Gunslinger

      They love affordable housing until it’s time to put their own house on the market. Ask Lizzie how far below market value she is willing to list her own property to help end the affordable housing crisis.

  11. Suthenboy

    From the last thread:

    My friend Pie – “you banged 800 chicks in one year? nice

    Well no, not quite that many.I didn’t really keep count. Triple digit starting with a 1, Second digit 5 to 1. Just a rough guess.
    Every man’s dream, right? No. It wasn’t. If I had it to do over again I would go down a completely different road.
    My brother married young and is still married to the same woman. He used to be very envious of me over my ‘exploits’.
    No matter how I tried I could not explain so I just left it at “Trust me. I am not the one that missed out.”
    I think it finally sunk in and like me, he wouldn’t trade one second with his wife for all the money or pussy in the world.

    • Suthenboy

      Ugh. “I am the one who missed out.”

      Not even 1:00 yet and I am exhausted.

      • Dr. Fronkensteen

        We get it. Your married sex life is great. You don’t need to brag about being exhausted by 1pm

        • slumbrew

          *golf clap*

        • Suthenboy

          I was laying alright, since dawn. Sadly it was not the Mrs. but bricks. It is harder than it looks.

          • JaimeRoberto (carnitas/spicy salsa)

            Does this Bricks lady have a sister?

          • trshmnstr

            Sadly it was not the Mrs. but bricks. It is harder than it looks. </em(

            I, uhm…. I don't think those holes are meant for that.

          • R C Dean

            What, no “that’s what she said”?

  12. Ownbestenemy

    What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of thinking that one knows[1]; for it is impossible to get a man to begin to learn that which he thinks he knows.

    This applies in my world. While many of the techs we hire come from the military and the theory carries over, the application of that theory and maintenance practices do not. So its a retrain in many instances. Some embrace knowing their knowledge is still intact but they must do things a bit differently. Then there are those that just cannot get with the program and don’t grow and just complain rather than, I don’t know, explain why your way would be better and present the case.

    • ron73440

      Sometimes retraining is harder than learning from scratch.

      • Mojeaux


        1. I just could not adjust to different martial arts styles after the one I learned.

        2. I don’t fix ebooks that come to me. I re-do them from scratch. It’s less effort. However, if there ever comes a day when someone else has to dig into mine, they will see nice, clean, explanatory markup.

        • Nephilium

          The times I’ve gotten roped into supporting custom reports my general take is to just start from scratch instead of trying to piece together the undocumented garbage that “was working fine”.

  13. UnCivilServant

    I’m stuck here for another hour.


    • ron73440