Stoicism, originating in 3rd century BCE Athens under Zeno of Citium, advocates for living in accord with the universe’s rational structure. The philosophy centers on controlling internal judgments and actions, understanding that negative emotions derive from misjudgments, and prioritizes virtues like wisdom and courage.


  • Founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BCE.
  • Influenced by Socrates and the Cynics.

Basic Philosophical Tenets

  • Nature: Emphasizes living in accordance with Nature (understood as the rational structure of the universe).
  • Logos: The universal reason inherent in nature. Everything happens due to this reason, and understanding this helps us accept life as it unfolds.
  • Virtue: The highest good. Defined as a form of knowledge. The four cardinal virtues are:
    • Wisdom: Sound judgment and discernment.
    • Courage: Facing life’s challenges and understanding what’s worth standing up for.
    • Justice: Treating others fairly and ensuring social harmony.
    • Temperance: Exercising restraint and moderation in all things.

Dichotomy of Control

  • Some things are within our control (our judgments, actions, desires), and some things are not (external events, reputations, others’ opinions).
  • Focus on what is within one’s control and accept or remain indifferent to what is not.

Emotions and Desires

  • Negative emotions arise from errors in judgment, not from external events.
  • External events are neither good nor bad inherently; it’s our judgments and perceptions of them that give them value.
  • By refining our judgments and understanding the natural order of things, we can mitigate negative emotions.

Death and Impermanence

  • Recognizing the transient nature of life and all things. This leads to valuing the present moment.
  • Death is a natural part of the life cycle and shouldn’t be feared.

Practices and Exercises

  • Reflective Meditation: Morning and evening reflection on actions, thoughts, and behaviors.
  • Negative Visualization: Imagining worst-case scenarios to cultivate gratitude and diminish the impact of potential losses.
  • View from Above: Envisioning oneself from a broader perspective (e.g., from space) to understand the smallness and fleeting nature of individual concerns.

Notable Stoic Figures

  • Seneca: Roman statesman, wrote essays and letters highlighting stoic practices and the human condition.
  • Epictetus: Born a slave, became a prominent Stoic teacher. Emphasized the dichotomy of control in his teachings.
  • Marcus Aurelius: Roman Emperor who penned “Meditations”, a series of personal writings on Stoic philosophy.

Stoicism’s Global Influence

  • Incorporated into Christian thought and ethics, notably in the works of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.
  • Resurgence in modern self-help, psychology, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • Adopted by various leaders, sportspeople, and entrepreneurs globally for its practical approach to challenges and setbacks.