Stoicism Definition [Things You Didn’t Know About Stoic Philosophy]

Stoicism, a philosophy that emerged in ancient Greece, is a practical, actionable philosophy of life.

Its powerful principles can bring tranquility, virtue, and wisdom, fostering a life marked by resilience and contentment.

It is not just an abstract, theoretical construct but a dynamic blueprint for life.

Here are a few aspects of Stoic philosophy you may not be familiar with, expanding on the traditional definition.

The Origins of Stoicism

Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC.

Dissatisfied with the popular philosophies of his time, Zeno set out to create a new approach to life that emphasized resilience, moral virtue, and inner peace.

Stoicism drew heavily from the teachings of Socrates, and it soon attracted a large following.

It later spread to Rome, where it was further developed by Epictetus, Seneca, and the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who is often referred to as the last of the “Five Good Emperors.”

The Four Cardinal Virtues

Stoicism is built on what are known as the “four cardinal virtues”:

  • Wisdom
  • Courage
  • Justice, and
  • Temperance

These are considered the primary virtues to cultivate for a good, meaningful life.

Wisdom refers to the knowledge and understanding necessary to make good decisions.

Courage is the quality of facing adversity and difficulty without fear.

Justice involves treating others fairly and acting with integrity, while Temperance is about self-restraint and balance in all aspects of life.

The Philosophy of Stoicism – Massimo Pigliucci

Stoic Practices

Stoicism is not just about theoretical knowledge but also involves practical exercises and daily practices.

Some of the key Stoic practices include journaling, premeditatio malorum (premeditating on potential adversities), and the dichotomy of control.

This latter practice involves recognizing the difference between things that are within our control (our own actions and responses) and things that are not (events in the world around us).

By focusing on what we can control and accepting what we cannot, we can live more peaceful, fulfilled lives.

Stoicism and Emotion

Contrary to popular belief, Stoicism does not advocate for the elimination of emotions.

Instead, it suggests that we should strive to maintain a tranquil mind, not disturbed by destructive emotions.

It encourages awareness and understanding of our emotional reactions, with the goal of modifying our responses to maintain our inner peace.

Stoicism in Modern Times

Stoicism continues to influence modern times, with its principles underlying many contemporary psychotherapy techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

It is increasingly being recognized for its applicability to today’s stressful, fast-paced world.

From business leaders to athletes, many people are turning to Stoic philosophy to build resilience and cultivate a positive mindset.

Stoicism’s emphasis on self-reflection, self-control, and personal responsibility makes it a powerful tool for personal development.

Its teachings about accepting what we cannot control and focusing on what we can have never been more relevant.


While it was conceived thousands of years ago, Stoicism remains a potent philosophy that can guide us toward a life of tranquility, resilience, and virtue.

By learning and applying its principles, we can become better equipped to face the challenges of modern life.

From understanding its origins and cardinal virtues to practicing its key principles and recognizing its ongoing influence, we can see that Stoicism offers far more than a simple definition—it offers a path to a more peaceful, fulfilled life.

FAQ: Stoicism Definition [Things You Didn’t Know About Stoic Philosophy]

What is Stoicism?

Stoicism is a philosophical school of thought that originated in ancient Greece around the 3rd century BC.

It teaches individuals how to live a good life through the cultivation of virtue, inner strength, and the practice of self-control.

Stoicism emphasizes the importance of focusing on what is within our control and accepting the things that are not.

Who were the notable Stoic philosophers?

Some of the most well-known Stoic philosophers include Zeno of Citium, Seneca the Younger, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.

These philosophers contributed significantly to the development and spread of Stoic philosophy.

What are the core tenets of Stoicism?

Stoicism revolves around a few fundamental principles:

  • Virtue: The ultimate goal of life is to live virtuously and in accordance with reason.
  • Acceptance: Stoics advocate accepting the natural order of the universe and focusing on what is within our control.
  • Inner Freedom: True freedom lies in our ability to control our thoughts, emotions, and desires.
  • Amor Fati: Embrace and accept everything that happens in life, treating it as necessary and inevitable.
  • Memento Mori: Remember that life is transient and that death is an inescapable reality, motivating us to live fully.

How does Stoicism view emotions?

Stoicism encourages individuals to develop emotional resilience by recognizing that emotions are within our control.

Stoics believe that while we may not have control over external events, we can choose our response to them.

They advocate for training our minds to respond to situations with calmness, rationality, and virtue.

How does Stoicism relate to happiness?

Stoicism defines happiness as the tranquility and peace that comes from living virtuously and in harmony with nature.

It teaches that external circumstances or possessions do not determine true happiness.

Instead, individuals can find joy and contentment by focusing on their inner virtues and living in accordance with reason.

Is Stoicism compatible with other belief systems or religions?

Stoicism is not inherently tied to any specific religion or belief system.

It can be practiced by individuals of different faiths or even those without religious affiliations.

Stoic principles can complement various belief systems, as they primarily focus on personal development, ethics, and self-improvement.

How can Stoicism be applied in daily life?

Stoicism offers practical guidance for navigating life’s challenges. Some key practices include:

  • Differentiating between what is within your control and what is not, and focusing your energy on the former.
  • Cultivating self-awareness and monitoring your thoughts and judgments.
  • Practicing gratitude and maintaining perspective in difficult situations.
  • Engaging in reflective journaling to gain insight into your own emotions and behaviors.
  • Embracing the impermanence of life and meditating on the concept of mortality.

Does Stoicism promote indifference or apathy?

Contrary to popular misconceptions, Stoicism does not advocate for indifference or apathy toward life.

Instead, it encourages individuals to engage fully in life and fulfill their duties and responsibilities.

Stoics believe that by accepting the natural order of things and focusing on what is within their control, individuals can lead a life of purpose and virtue.

Can Stoicism help with anxiety and stress?

Stoicism provides effective tools for managing anxiety and stress.

By adopting a Stoic mindset, individuals can learn to focus on what they can control, detach themselves from external outcomes, and find solace in their inner virtues.

Stoic practices such as negative visualization and the premeditation of adversity can also help individuals build resilience and reduce anxiety.

Is Stoicism still relevant today?


Stoicism’s principles are timeless and can be applied to various aspects of modern life.

Its emphasis on self-improvement, resilience, and finding tranquility in the face of adversity remains highly relevant.

Many people find solace and guidance in Stoicism’s teachings as they navigate the complexities of the modern world.

Stoicism is a rich and nuanced philosophy, and exploring the works of Stoic philosophers directly can provide a deeper understanding of its concepts and practical applications.

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