Yesterday, while I was writing my journal, the concept of freedom and Stoicism suddenly came to my mind. I realized that this was an exciting topic so, I decided to research and put my thoughts into it. I found many interesting things when it comes to Stoicism, freedom, and free will from the explanation of Epictetus, Chrysippus, Cleanthes, and Arrian. Thus, let’s discuss what freedom for a Stoic is?
For a Stoic, freedom is living according to their virtues. This means not being subjected to passion or by other people. Stoic’s actions are considered free if they react according to what they see as rational. Lastly, doing things only according to their ability and capability encompasses freedom.
In this blog post, we will cover the concepts of freedom and free will to Stoicism. We will also see how free will can be a bit complicated for Stoicism because of determinism. Generally speaking, you will see both sides on Stoicism where it talks about the concept of fate and free will.
What is freedom for a Stoic?
Freedom for Stoics is acting according to our virtues. This means not letting passion interrupt how we react to things around us.
Passion, according to Stoics, is extreme emotion that can harm our logical thinking.
For example, Lashing out at people who are innocent simply because they’re annoyed is passion.
That’s why regrets are common to people controlled by their passion.
Another example of how passion controls us is when we start panic buying because of some fake news. Because of extreme fear, we can act illogically, which we later regret.
The Stoics believe that freedom is about living according to your virtues while being free from passion.
Let’s briefly discuss each of them.
Stoicism talks about freedom as living according to our virtues. This means not living according to other people’s virtues.
Remember that other people’s values or virtues might be different from our virtues. That’s why trying to satisfy other people is a bad idea.
Instead, Stoics follow their virtues whenever they can. Then, they try to act and be virtuous according to their conscience.
This is why they always follow conscience since they see conscience as a guide in doing good.
If you need a guide on what virtues do Stoics usually follow, the Stoics believe in the four virtues are Courage, Justice, Temperance, and Wisdom.
That’s what freedom is for Stoics. It is living according to our virtues, being free from passion, and controlling others.
However, freedom and Stoicism are not that easy since there is a balance necessary. While being free is good, being too free or practicing too much freedom can be harmful.
We will talk about this in the next section.
What is Epictetus’ concept of freedom?
Epictetus believes that the concept of freedom is about living according to your values and capabilities and not according to your passion and other people’s expectation. This means not forcing yourself to satisfy other people’s expectations and letting emotions control your actions.
To give some context, Epictetus was a slave that had a chance to learn philosophy. After quite some time, he became a teacher of Stoicism.
Epictetus is an inspiring story of someone who is a slave that became a well-respected philosopher worldwide with people looking at texts relating to his understanding of Stoicism.
However, the truth is, Epictetus didn’t write the lessons he has learned. So, instead, historians look at the texts written by his students.
One of them is Arrian, who made the Encheiridion of Epictetus. As the name implies, it is his notes on what he learned from Epictetus.
I am explaining this because we have to understand that the quotes we see from Epictetus are not really from his writings.
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t get Epictetus’ understanding about freedom.
The truth is, I already discussed Epictetus’ explanation of freedom. As I explained above, freedom is about living according to our values while not being controlled by our emotions and other people.
However, there is a limit.
If we tend to only practice freedom, then some of our actions will be useless.
There are times where we aren’t as free as we thought. An example is if we practice freedom too much, we can force others to do what we want.
However, as you can see, this is not the right way of practicing freedom.
In practicing freedom, balance is necessary. We should practice freedom in ways it could benefit us and not harm others.
But what is the right balance? For that, we need to understand the concept of free will.
Do Stoics believe in free will?
The Stoics believe in free will because they inspire people to act and be responsible for their lives. This means improving themselves and reacting to things they can control. However, Stoics also believe in determinism or fate, which they believe that there are things we can’t control and instead let fate do its job.
It is common to see people having different views when it comes to Stoicism and free will.
I can’t blame them since the concept can be pretty confusing.
However, that’s why I’m here to make things clear.
To start, we see self-help experts talking about Stoicism because it is ideal in coping with stress.
Furthermore, Stoicism teaches about being responsible for your actions. This means they inspire people to do their best in improving their personal life and relationships.
However, there is a contradicting concept to Stoicism, which discusses fate and determinism, which Cleanthes and Chrysippus discuss.
In context, Cleanthes succeeded Zeno. Zeno is considered the first leader of Stoicism.
After Cleanthes, the third leader of Stoicism is Chrysippus.
Chrysippus, unlike his predecessors, made some texts which survived. Thus, we based what Zeno and Cleanthes taught on Chrysippus’ texts.
I am saying this because the ancient Stoics believe in fate or what we call determinism.
As the name implies, determinism states that there are predetermined aspects in our lives over which we have no control over.
Due to determinism and responsibility, it can be pretty hard to identify what Stoicism wants of us.
However, as I said in the introduction, I pondered these texts to understand what they mean.
The answer is to understand the locus of control. The Stoics believe in the dichotomy of control.
The Stoics believe that things that happen to us can be classified into two things which are things outside and inside our control.
Reacting and trying to solve things outside our control only wastes our time, energy, and money. So instead, the Stoics believe we should only focus our attention on the things within our control.
As an example, we can’t control other people. So instead of stressing how they should act according to what we want, we should instead focus on our actions and what we can do to make ourselves happy.
This means there is no one size fits all. It depends on your situation.
If the situation is something within your control, then you could be responsible and practice free will. However, if the situation is outside our control, we have no choice but to accept it as a part of life.
Sometimes, life throws terrible things at us. That’s life. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.
However, if we can classify which we can control and can’t manage, we can still be empowered despite the facts of life.
Epictetus was a slave Epaphroditus. This Epaphroditus owns him. However, this limitation didn’t remove his free will and freedom.
Knowing his limitations, Epictetus practiced his free will and freedom on the things he could control. Despite his limitations, like being physically disabled, he was able to feel free. He was able to accept life as it is.
Stoicism helps us feel free and practice free will despite the reality that there are things we can’t control. What we need to do is to know the things we can’t control and accept the reality.
That way, we won’t only feel free physically through our actions but also feel free emotionally.
We need to understand that things will always be outside our control because life is unpredictable.
What’s next? I know how disappointing it can feel to see the unpredictability of life. Furthermore, it can be hard to accept things happening to us. Thus, I prepared a blog post talking about ways Stoic can deal with disappointment. Here is the link: How do Stoics deal with disappointment?
“Only the things I love.“
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If you’re following me, you’ll know that I believe it is essential to have some tools, whether it’s for personal development or lifestyle in general.
So, here are the things I love.
If you want to learn things for free, then I recommend you to watch my YouTube Channel. Click the Button Below to go straight into my Channel. 🙂
Okay, let me first explain my Channel.
I believe that I really can’t explain everything too well on my blog. That’s why I created a YouTube Channel so I can easily explain a lot of things. Plus, I believe that Video Sharing is the future.
The next thing is books. Books are, for me, one of the cheapest ways to get invaluable information. We can learn personal development, finance, career, relationships, and many more from books.
Here, I will be listing my favorite books in different categories.
- For Beginners – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – Personal development has a lot of concepts and ideas to learn. Thus it can be really hard for beginners to know where to start. Thus, I recommend this book since all the basic concepts of personal development are here(except finance, check what I recommended for that)
- Productivity – The One Thing by Gary Keller – This book teaches us the power of focusing on one thing which is the ultimate source of productivity. The concepts taught are what I am using to constantly publish YouTube videos while maintaining this website.
- Busy? – Make Time by Jack Knapp – This book teaches us how to make time for the things we love. The concept is really simple but I think that makes it a book worth reading.
- Health – Lifespan by Dr.Sinclair – This Book teaches about the latest scientific research on lifespan. In his book, he has shared numerous things he is doing to slow down his aging process. This can be as easy as eating less which he recommends.
- Finance – The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason – Perhaps one of the first books I’ve read about Finance, this book for me is the best if we are talking about learning basic finance such as basic saving and investing. The concepts are very simple but effective.
Take this advice as a grain of salt.
I don’t recommend buying Audiobooks one by one. I mean, audiobooks can be quickly finished by listening while working out or doing some mindless tasks.
So here is to save you some money. Just go for a monthly subscription to Audible. I believe that you will save a lot of money with that plus, they usually give freebies to anyone starting.
My Audiobook Recommendation will always be the same as my book recommendations, but I personally like The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. I like how she is so casual while reading her book.