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  • Daniel Vargas

Living with and for the Stoic virtues

“The man who has virtue is in need of nothing whatever for the purpose of living well” - Marcus Tullius Cicero

A stoic believed that to live with the “ highest good”, you must live through the 4 virtues: Wisdom, Courage, Temperance, and Justice

Let's break each one down simply.

Wisdom: knowledge of what is good and evil, and what is neither good or evil. knowledge of what we ought to choose, what we should be aware of, and what is indifferent. knowledge of this inevitably informs action.

Courage: Courage to face misfortune. Courage to face death. Courage to risk yourself for the sake of your fellow man. Courage to hold to your principles, even when others get away with or are rewarded for disregarding theirs. Courage to speak your mind and insist on truth. Each fight, even if somewhat futile, required enormous amounts of courage. Each required resisting the comfort of the status quo and coming to one’s own judgment.

Temperance: Temperance is the knowledge that abundance comes from having what is essential. The Stoics often used temperance interchangeably with “self-control.” Self-control, not just towards material goods, but self-control, harmony, and good discipline always—in pleasure or pain, admiration or contempt, failure or triumph. Temperance is guarded against extremes, not relying on the fleetingness of pleasure for happiness nor allowing the fleetingness of pain to destroy it.

Justice: A sage would say this is the most important virtue to have since they intertwined within one another. Marcus Aurelius said justice was the most important. To him, it was “the source of all the other virtues.” After all, how impressive is courage if it’s only about self-interest? What good is wisdom if not put to use for the whole world? Justice, he explains, is “the principle which constitutes the bond of human society and of a virtual community of life.”

Because when faced with anything in life: albeit the scary, worried, and bad, living through these 4 virtues will bring you: happiness, success, meaning, reputation, honor, and love.

We will go into greater detail in each virtue in a later podcast. Life, as a stoic would say, cannot be controlled and will only do you harm by attempting or wishing it would change by your hand or someone else hand. Our sole duty is how we respond. Utilizing these virtues in everyday life when you encounter strife or difficulty will aid you in your personal development. It is important to understand that we cannot proclaim that we are virtuous and “understand” these virtues when we do not use them in everyday practice. In other words, we should welcome life’s difficulty so that whatever life brings us we may act and practice being virtuous.

To practice, it can be helpful to give these virtues not only to yourself to live by, but to a mentor, or your future self. Essentially what you want to do is give the problem you are encountering to someone with an outside viewpoint. Doing this allows you to understand the bigger picture of what you are trying to solve. Ask yourself, what would this mentor do? What would my future self tell me? Utilizing the 4 virtues as tools, you can aid yourself in solving the problems you face.

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