We still pay homage to one of the most relevant philosophies ever devised when we call someone ‘stoic’ for the way they handle the challenges in their lives with resilience and calm. Originating in Greece around 300 BCE, Stoicism was for many centuries the most popular philosophy in the Western world, teaching people practical advice on how they could flourish in uncertain times and overcome their anxieties.
This box of cards gathers together the best insights and sayings from the great Stoic thinkers and marries them up with commentaries that bring out their applicability to our own lives. This is both an elegant summary of ancient philosophy and a route to self-knowledge, serenity and strength of mind.
53 cards | 70mm x 100m x 25mm
How to Use the Cards
- On one side, we find quotations from its leading proponents: among them, the ex-slave Epictetus, the politician and dramatist Seneca, and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
- On the reverse, we learn more about the history, beliefs, and practice of Stoicism from its origins to the present day.
“Do you really want to know what philosophy offers humanity? Philosophy offers wisdom.” – Marcus Aurelius
The Stoics saw philosophy rather differently from how the discipline is conceived today. For them, it wasn’t merely an intellectual framework or a dispassionate collection of ideas, but a whole way of life (askêsis), something closer to what we would now think of as a religion, yet without the superstition: a guide to how one should think, act and behave. Stoicism wasn’t meant to be confined to the classroom, it was to be put to use during the most challenging moments of our lives. Montaigne, a profound follower of the Stoics, neatly summarised the scale of the Stoic ambition: “To philosophise is to learn to die.” “Friendship is always helpful, yet too often love causes harm.” – Seneca
The Stoics far preferred friendship to romantic love, for they felt that it is in friendship that we properly honour the ambitions that our societies falsely associate with relationships. With our friends, we can be calm, nonpossessive, reasonable, generous and empathetic; in other words, properly kind and giving, whereas love finds us agitated, frequently mean and too often self-righteous. Being asked to be someone’s friend should be deemed the greatest honour; by contrast, an invitation to be someone’s lover should – given what too often happens in couples – be the very poor consolation prize.