The Stoic Legacy
Stoicism didn’t survive because of its principles, dogmas or well-elaborated sentences. But because the vivid example of good men and women that lived according to Stoic disciplines.
Obs.: this is a refined thought from my personal notes, and was originally published here — https://www.timelesscraft.org/stoic-legacy
Stoicism is an ancient philosophy. But, unlikely most ancient things, this philosophy survived time. Time is a river and it doesn’t take much for something to get lost in it. And, still, Stoicism made it. It crossed the centuries, came across The best and the bravest men and made it to today.
Though it is something fascinating, it is not surprising that Stoicism is still relevant and useful.
Cognition craves meaning, so only what is meaningful keeps being used, remembered and reinforced. If Stoicism survived, it is because we needed it to survive.
But its legacy is not in its principles, teachings or writings. This philosophy, in particular, could do what others could just dream in their wildest dreams: it has survived due to the example of the people who lived it.
Stoic philosophers, and others along history that adopted this philosophy, had a peculiar aspect: they were exemplar in their attitudes — or, at least, they sought for correctness in every attitude. They wore coherency and walked on their own shoes. They lived and died The death of a martyr, what has inspired next generations.
Century after century, stoicism has met great men and women, and they have found their way in it. That’s why today we discuss less what the Stoic philosophers meant and more what they did. Marcus’ deeds are more worth of our attention than the meaning of his words in his Meditations.
Generation after generation, stoicism has formed better people, and these better people have kept the philosophy alive. They added their experiences and added the learnings of their own times. That’s why modern stoicism is different from Epictetus’ version, that differs from Chrysippus of Soli’s and Zeno of Citium’s conceptions — because today we know some truths that weren’t available centuries ago. And Stoics aren’t looking to be right, they look after the truth, despite where it may be.
This philosophy may lack the poetry, the fine thoughts, and the beautiful words that other academic schools of thoughts have. But it is truthful as no other could be. It teaches us The hero’s path, The hero’s choice and present us The common virtues of the heroes.
And when you find your way, you can’t help but be grateful for those who taught and helped you. That’s why all translators from Meditations seem to share this same feeling. Reading Long’s words on Marcus, it’s clear how grateful and in debt he feels regard the emperor. The philosopher king for sure has influenced his thoughts in a way that he can’t really tell.
So, this is the Stoic legacy: not words, not books; but deeds, and the vivid example of good men and women.