The Stoics were a sect of ancient Greek philosophers who shared a common belief that the world is not only knowable but also rational and governed by natural law. To live in accordance with nature, they advocated living a life of social virtue and indifference to either pleasure or pain. However, why do they do this? What is their primary goal? That’s what we will be talking about in this blog post.
The Stoics believe that the main goal of humans is to live a good life or what they call eudaimonia. They believe that a good life can be achieved by building a person’s character, living a virtuous life, and being rational in our actions.
This blog post will discuss the goal of the Stoics, what they call the people who achieved this goal, how they achieved that goal, and compare their goal to Epicureanism.
What was the goal of the Stoics?
The goal of the Stoics is to achieve eudaimonia or what they call a good life. Eudaimonia means living a happy life, and the Stoics believe that living a happy life can be done by being virtuous in our thinking and actions.
Stoics have a simple goal which is to achieve eudaimonia or happy life.
They believe that living a happy life means being virtuous and building our character.
It is living in the present and cherishing what we have.
The Stoics believe that the people who are virtuous and achieve eudaimonia are called sage or Stoic sage.
In Greek, eudaimonia means “good spirit.” In the present, this translates to a good or happy life.
The Stoics believe that it is not the material things that make us happy. Instead, it is our perception of our surroundings.
The Stoics argue that our perception of things makes it good or bad, and the key to a happy life is having a positive perception.
That’s why Stoicism is about building our character to see the good side of things. They are training their perception to live a happy life.
However, Stoicism is far from being very optimistic. They also know that there will be times where life throws lemons, and they believe that living a happy life on these times is to accept it as our fate.
I talked about the balanced view of Stoics in another blog post about the Stoic mindset. You can find the blog post here: What is a Stoic mindset?
What you need to know is that the goal of Stoicism is to achieve a happy life. However, we still need to ask ourselves. How do Stoics achieve eudaimonia or a happy life? That’s what we’ll talk about in the next section.
What did Stoics argue?
The Stoics argue that acceptance of nature or fate is key to happiness. They believe that going against nature is illogical and can harm us. They think that since nature is logical in its flow and to be rational means living according to nature.
The Stoics had a straightforward goal: Embrace the world as it is, rather than wishing it to be different. This concept is known by many as living in the present.
They believed that by focusing on what is happening right now, rather than what happened or might happen in the future, one could live with contentment.
As discussed earlier, a person who does this is called a sage or Stoic sage. But how do they accept nature and live in the present moment?
How do they live according to Stoic virtues and achieve their main goal?
The Stoics do this by following a 3-step process.
Here are the Stoic’s three-step process to handling life’s situations.
1. Acceptance of the Situation
Everything that happens to us is part of nature or fate.
Stoics are deterministic, and they believe that we need to accept things as a part of life.
Some Stoics call this “Amor fati,” or loving one’s fate.
Instead of rejecting what’s happening around us, we need to handle them logically. Remember that Stoics believe in logic.
However, we can’t handle things logically if we don’t accept them in the first place.
So, we need to accept what life throws at us instead of running away. That way, we can examine them with the basic Stoic concept known as the dichotomy of control which we will discuss in the next section.
2. Examine the Situation
Now that we’ve accepted our fate, it is time to handle it in a Stoic’s eyes. Instead of being too pessimistic or optimistic in our way of examining, a Stoic would take things with logic.
We need to handle things logically to have a better view of life.
To do that, we need to understand the dichotomy of control.
The Stoics believe that everything that happens around us can be divided into two things we can and can’t control. This is called the dichotomy of control.
So, examining in the Stoic’s eyes means checking if the things happening around us are within our control or not.
For example, when we are experiencing rain, think of what we can do. Then, we can either complain about how uncomfortable it is to go outside or do what we can control, preparing raincoats or an umbrella.
Trying to control the rain is irrational since we have no control over whether it rains or not. However, we have control over our actions, which is to prepare for the rain.
Examining the situation is essential for the last step, which is to do or act. But how can we react rationally, as we’ve seen in the example? So that’s what we’ll talk about in the last step.
3. Do According to Stoic Virtues
Now that we’ve talked about accepting and examining, let’s go to the final step, which is doing.
Since we are all different, we might handle things differently. But, the excellent news is that Stoic has some simple guidelines on how to act to have a happy life.
These simple guidelines are what they call the 4 Stoic virtues, which are wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance.
We can react appropriately to live a happy life using these four virtues.
When doing this, we need to ask ourselves these questions:
- Are we doing things with wisdom?
- Are we being courageous to stand on what we believe in?
- Are we just in our actions?
- Are we doing this just because of temptations?
Asking these things is essential if we want to act according to the four Stoic virtues.
Right now, you have a basic understanding of how Stoics achieve their goal of living a happy life.
However, did you know that Stoics have the same goal as other philosophies like Epicureanism? We’ll talk about that in the next section.
What was the common goal of the Stoics and the Epicureans?
The common goal for the Stoics and Epicureans is to achieve happiness. However, their way of achieving a happy life is different. The Stoics believe that we can live a good and happy life by being virtuous and accepting fate, while Epicureans think we can live a happy life by seeking pleasure.
While having a different view of life, the Stoics and Epicureans have the same goal, which is to achieve eudaimonia or happy life.
However, they have a different way of achieving this.
The Stoics believe that living a good and happy life means following nature since it is all rational. Therefore, when we follow nature, since it is all rational, we are being rational.
Furthermore, they believe that achieving happiness means being virtuous. This means developing our character and living according to the four Stoic virtues I discussed above.
Epicureans, on the other hand, are about having pleasures. However, it is not about accepting all pleasures like what people believe them to be.
Like Stoics, Epicureans had a bad reputation because of misunderstanding.
Much like Stoics aren’t emotionless, Epicureans don’t seek all types of pleasure.
This is a misunderstanding.
While the Stoics believe that virtue and logic are essential to achieve a happy life, Epicureans believe in chasing natural and necessary pleasures.
This means unnatural and unnecessary forms of happiness aren’t what they seek.
Of course, Epicureans also believe in achieving happiness by staying away from pain, while Stoics believe in changing our perception of pain.
Another common goal of Stoics and Epicureans is not to break the law or cause harm to others. While this is not their primary goal, they share the same idea.
Furthermore, they believe in making the most of your day. They call it “Carpe diem.” For the Stoics, this means knowing that everything has an end, and we should make the most of what we have.
For the Epicureans, this means seizing your day and making the most of what you have by gaining pleasure and avoiding pain.
As you can see, their main goal is the same. It’s their approach that’s different.
Remember that the primary goal of Stoicism is to achieve eudaimonia or happy life. People who accomplish this are called sage, and they achieve it by following basic Stoic principles such as the dichotomy of control, 4 Stoic virtues, and acceptance of fate.
What’s next? Now that you know the main goal of Stoicism, it is a good idea to know their flaws. If you’re interested, feel free to check this blog post: Is Stoicism Flawed or Naive?