Does Theodore Roosevelt believe in Stoicism? How did Roosevelt view Stoicism?

One of the argued Stoic leaders was Theodore Roosevelt. From his life, it can be seen that he studied the works of a Stoic emperor named Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. However, how Stoic is Theodore Roosevelt and can Stoicism be seen in his quotes? That’s what we will talk about in this blog post.

Theodore Roosevelt believes and practices Stoicism in his daily life. This is apparent as he is a virtuous man that lived according to Stoic virtues. However, Roosevelt doesn’t always follow Stoic principles as he also encourages people to take challenges in changing one’s fate.

This blog post will talk about Theodore Roosevelt’s view of Stoicism. We will find out if he follows the Stoic ideologies from his thinking and action.

Was Theodore Roosevelt a Stoic?
Was Theodore Roosevelt a Stoic?

Was Theodore Roosevelt a Stoic?

Like many famous people, it is apparent that Theodore Roosevelt practised many Stoic principles in his daily life.

For one, he believes that you should focus on your current abilities to solve your problems rather than relying on the past or the future. This is apparent in his quote where he advocated doing what you can with what you have.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt

The Stoics believe in focusing on the present moment because we can’t control the past or the future. The Stoics believe that we can’t change the past, and many variables can change the future. That means it is close to impossible changing these.

Instead, the Stoics advocated focusing and being grateful for what you currently have.

Theodore Roosevelt also believes in the importance of focusing on what you have made him follow Stoic principles.

But that’s not all. I have more quotes from Roosevelt to prove my point and see his Stoic view.

“We cannot avoid meeting great issues. All that we can determine for ourselves is whether we shall meet them well or ill.”

Theodore Roosevelt

In this quote, he believes that we can’t avoid meeting great issues. This is the same as my explanation above that we can’t control the future.

Since many variables can change, it is better to accept the future, whether it is good or bad. Furthermore, the Stoics believe that it is not the incident that makes the thin good or bad. Instead, it is our perception of the incident.

For example, if we fail an exam, we might take it as bad because we failed. However, if we look at it as a sign that we need to prioritize studying, we can use it to be better in the future.

Thus, we shouldn’t expect that everything will go our way. Instead, we should prepare for the unexpected issues that may arise, as Theodore Roosevelt pointed in his quote.

But that’s not all. In some of his quotes, he showed some Stoic virtues, such as the following quote.

“We must show, not merely in great crises, but in the everyday affairs of life, the qualities of practical intelligence, of courage, of hardihood, and endurance, and above all the power of devotion to a lofty ideal, which made great the men who founded this Republic in the days of Washington, which made great the men who preserved this Republic in the days of Abraham Lincoln.”

Theodore Roosevelt

This quote emphasizes the importance of justice to live a good life. The Stoics believe that living a virtuous life is essential to being happy.

I will expand on this in the next quote since they are related.

But here’s the thing.

I don’t believe that Roosevelt is a pure Stoic. Instead, he took some Stoic thoughts he also believed in and applied them to his life.

The next quote lies in the middle zone, where he followed Stoic virtues but defied the dichotomy of control.

“A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage… For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.”

Theodore Roosevelt

While this demonstrates one of the Stoic virtues, this quote from Roosevelt defies one of the Stoic principles of the dichotomy of control.

Let’s first start with the four Stoic virtues.

The Stoics believe that living a virtuous life is the key to happiness. This is what separates Stoicism from other philosophies such as Epicureanism.

The Stoics believe in four virtues: courage, wisdom, temperance, and justice.

The quote above emphasized the importance of daring to be great, demonstrating the importance of courage. Furthermore, at the end of the second sentence, he specifically said high courage.

So, while this quote may defy one of the core Stoic beliefs, it understands the importance of courage to achieve a happy life or what Stoics call Eudaimonia.

However, while it looks good following the Stoic virtues, the last portion defies the dichotomy of control. To be specific, the part where he said, “let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.”

The Stoics believe in fate and believe that our fate is outside our control. Therefore, when things are outside our control, we shouldn’t care about them.

It seems, running the risk is against this belief.

Stoics are deterministic. This means they believe in fate or what they call nature.

This reminds me of this quote by Zeno of Citium, the Father of Stoicism.

For a blog post giving a deeper discussion on the Stoic’s understanding of fate, feel free to check this blog post: What is nature according to the Stoics?

“When a dog is tied to a cart, if it wants to follow, it is pulled and follows, making its spontaneous act coincide with necessity. But if the dog does not follow, it will be compelled in any case.

Zeno of Citium

In Zeno’s quote, he emphasizes the importance of following one’s fate. Trying to control what you can’t control only causes harm and won’t give any benefits.

While this belief of Stoicism is being questioned by many critiques such as Nietzsche, it is still one of the core fundamentals of Stoic philosophy.

Thus, we can say that Roosevelt is not a Stoic. However, he appreciates the philosophy and uses it to live a virtuous life.

If Roosevelt doesn’t fully show Stoic qualities, does he believe in Epicureanism? To give a clearer view, Epicureanism is one of the opposing thoughts to Stoicism. That’s what we’ll talk about in the next section.

Was Theodore Roosevelt an Epicurean?

Theodore Roosevelt is not an Epicurean because he believes in achieving great things through sheer determination and hard work. Furthermore, he believes in living a virtuous life to achieve happiness which is different from Epicureans since Epicureans believe in materialism. Roosevelt lies more on Stoicism because he personally studied Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and Enchiridion by Epictetus.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Epicureanism believes in staying away from pain and seeking pleasure. This is different from Stoicism which believes that virtues make a happy life.

If we look at Roosevelt’s quote, he’d rather have some difficulty in order to live a happy life. Furthermore, he believes in living a virtuous life, as I’ve shown above, where he demonstrated Stoic virtues.

Thus, Theodore Roosevelt is more of a Stoic than an Epicurean.

What did Theodore Roosevelt believe?

Theodore Roosevelt believes in the importance of virtues such as justice and courage to live a happy life. He advocates the value of working hard to reach people’s dreams. That’s why he supported regulations to achieve social and economic justice.

In summary, Theodore Roosevelt, like other great minds, doesn’t follow all Stoic principles. However, it is apparent that they applied some helpful Stoic principles in their life.

What’s excellent about Stoicism is you can follow what you think suits you best.

What’s Next? I made a blog post comparing Stoicism to Empiricism, Atomism, Rationalism, and Materialism. This will give you a broader perspective on what Stoicism is compared to these ideologies. If you’re interested, check this blog post: Stoicism’s relationship to Empiricism, Atomism, Rationalism, and Materialism.

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