Stoic Meditations

Massimo Pigliucci


Occasional reflections on the wisdom of Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers with Prof. Massimo Pigliucci. Complete index by author and source at (cover art by Marek Škrabák; original music by Ian Jolin-Rasmussen). Support this podcast:

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1087 episodes

1087. Conversation and company

When you’re called upon to speak, then speak, but never about banalities like gladiators, horses, sports, food and drink – common-place stuff. Above all don’t gossip about people, praising, blaming or comparing them. Avoid fraternizing with non-philosophers. If you must, though, be careful not to sink to their level; because, you know, if a companion is dirty, his friends cannot help but get a little dirty too, no matter how clean they started out. --- Support this podcast:

Aug 12
1086. Grief and loss

When somebody’s wife or child dies, to a man we all routinely say, ‘Well, that’s part of life.’ But if one of our own family is involved, then right away it’s ‘Poor, poor me!’ We would do better to remember how we react when a similar loss afflicts others. --- Support this podcast:

Aug 11
1085. Money

If I can make money while remaining honest, trustworthy and dignified, show me how and I will do it. But if you expect me to sacrifice my own values, just so you can get your hands on things that aren’t even good – well, you can see yourself how thoughtless and unfair you’re being. --- Support this podcast:

Aug 10
1084. On insults

Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation. … Take a moment before reacting, and you will find it is easier to maintain control. --- Support this podcast:

Aug 09
1083. Do not groan inwardly

When you see anyone weeping for grief, either that his son has gone abroad or that he has suffered in his affairs, take care not to be overcome by the apparent evil, but discriminate and be ready to say, "What hurts this man is not this occurrence itself — for another man might not be hurt by it — but the view he chooses to take of it." As far as conversation goes, however, do not disdain to accommodate yourself to him and, if need be, to groan with him. Take heed, however, not to groan inwardly, too. --- Support this podcast:

Aug 08
1082. The fundamental tradeoff

You have to realize, it isn’t easy to keep your will in agreement with nature, as well as externals. Caring about the one inevitably means you are going to shortchange the other. --- Support this podcast:

Aug 05
1081. Your reservoir of virtues

Provoked by the sight of a handsome man or a beautiful woman, you will discover within you the contrary power of self-restraint. Faced with pain, you will discover the power of endurance. If you are insulted, you will discover patience. In time, you will grow to be confident that there is not a single impression that you will not have the moral means to tolerate. --- Support this podcast:

Aug 04
1080. The path to peace

Don’t hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace. --- Support this podcast:

Aug 03
1079. The use of impressions

What quality belongs to you? The intelligent use of impressions. If you use impressions as nature prescribes, go ahead and indulge your pride, because then you will be celebrating a quality distinctly your own. --- Support this podcast:

Aug 02
1078. Facts vs value judgments

It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them. --- Support this podcast:

Aug 01
1077. You should always have two goals in mind

When you’re about to embark on any action, remind yourself what kind of action it is. If you’re going out to take a bath, set before your mind the things that happen at the baths, that people splash you, that people knock up against you, that people steal from you. And you’ll thus undertake the action in a surer manner if you say to yourself at the outset, ‘I want to take a bath and ensure at the same time that my choice remains in harmony with nature.’ --- Support this podcast:

Jul 28
1076. Remember, we are all mortals

If you kiss your child or your wife, say to yourself that it is a human being that you're kissing; and then, if one of them should die, you won't be upset. --- Support this podcast:

Jul 27
1075. Question your impressions

So make a practice at once of saying to every strong impression: ‘An impression is all you are, not the source of the impression.’ Then test and assess it with your criteria, but one primarily: ask, ‘Is this something that is, or is not, up to me?’ --- Support this podcast:

Jul 26
1074. The fundamental rule of life

Some things are up to us, while others are not. Up to us are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not up to us are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing. --- Support this podcast:

Jul 25
1073. Virtue is the only good

Despise poverty; no man lives as poor as he was born: despise pain; either it will cease or you will cease: despise death; it either ends you or takes you elsewhere: despise fortune; I have given her no weapon that can reach the mind. I have taken care that no one should hold you captive against your will: the way of escape lies open before you: if you do not choose to fight, you may fly. For this reason, of all those matters which I have deemed essential for you, I have made nothing easier for you than to die. --- Support this podcast:

Jul 22
1072. What Nature has given us

I have placed every good thing within your own breasts: it is your good fortune not to need any good fortune. Yet many things befall you which are sad, dreadful, hard to be borne. Well, as I have not been able to remove these from your path, I have given your minds strength to combat all: bear them bravely. --- Support this podcast:

Jul 21
1071. The Stoic deterministic universe

The fates guide us, and the length of every person’s days is decided at the first hour of their birth: every cause depends upon some earlier cause: one long chain of destiny decides all things, public or private. Wherefore, everything must be patiently endured, because events do not fall in our way, as we imagine, but come by a regular law. --- Support this podcast:

Jul 20
1070. We should seek out life's challenges

To be always prosperous, and to pass through life without a twinge of mental distress, is to remain ignorant of one half of nature. You are a great human being; but how am I to know it, if fortune gives you no opportunity of showing your virtue? I think you unhappy because you never have been unhappy: you have passed through your life without meeting an antagonist: no one will know your powers, not even you yourself. --- Support this podcast:

Jul 19
1069. It doesn't matter what you bear, but how you bear it

Good people ought to act so as not to fear troubles and difficulties, nor to lament their hard fate, to take in good part whatever befalls them, and force it to become a blessing to them. It does not matter what you bear, but how you bear it. --- Support this podcast:

Jul 18
1068. No evil can befall a good person

The pressure of adversity does not affect the mind of a brave person; for the mind of someone brave maintains its balance and throws its own complexion over all that takes place, because it is more powerful than any external circumstances. --- Support this podcast:

Jun 17
1067. The Stoic argument from design

Seneca presents an argument from design to conclude that the universe is rationally and providentially arranged, just like Cleanthes, Chrysippus, and Cicero had done before him, and like Epictetus will do afterwards. Of course, from a modern scientific perspective, such argument does not hold water. --- Support this podcast:

Jun 16
1066. Stoic R&R

It does good also to take walks out of doors, that our spirits may be raised and refreshed by the open air and fresh breeze. Sometimes we gain strength by driving in a carriage, by travel, by change of air, or by social meals and a more generous allowance of wine. --- Support this podcast:

Jun 15
1065. Democritus vs Heraclitus

We ought therefore to bring ourselves into such a state of mind that all the vices of the vulgar may not appear hateful to us, but merely ridiculous, and we should imitate Democritus rather than Heraclitus. The latter of these, whenever he appeared in public, used to weep, the former to laugh. --- Support this podcast:

Jun 14
1064. Stoic non-attachment

Zeno, the chief of our school, when he heard the news of a shipwreck, in which all his property had been lost, remarked, “Fortune bids me follow philosophy in lighter marching order.” --- Support this podcast:

Jun 13
1063. The reserve clause

He who does many things often puts himself in Fortune’s power, and it is safest not to tempt her often, but always to remember her existence, and never to promise oneself anything on her security. I will set sail unless anything happens to prevent me; I shall be praetor, if nothing hinders me; my financial operations will succeed, unless anything goes wrong with them. --- Support this podcast:

May 31
1062. The problem with busyness

We must limit the running to and fro which most people practice, rambling about houses, theaters, and marketplaces. They mind other peoples’ business, and always seem as though they themselves had something to do. If you ask them as they come out of their own door, “Whither are you going?” they will answer, “By Hercules, I do not know: but I shall see some people and do some things.” --- Support this podcast:

May 30
1061. What do we labor for?

The next point to these will be to take care that we do not labour for what is vain, or labour in vain: that is to say, neither to desire what we are not able to obtain, nor yet, having obtained our desire too late, and after much toil, to discover the folly of our wishes: in other words, that our labour may not be without result, and that the result may not be unworthy of our labour. --- Support this podcast:

May 27
1060. The premeditatio malorum

For by looking forward to everything which can happen as though it would happen to us, we take the sting out of all evils, which can make no difference to those who expect it and are prepared to meet it. … Disease, captivity, disaster, conflagration, are none of them unexpected: I always knew with what disorderly company Nature had associated me. … Ought I to be surprised if the dangers which have always been circling around me at last assail me? --- Support this podcast:

May 26
1059. It's a matter of attitude

In every station of life you will find amusements, relaxations, and enjoyments; that is, provided you be willing to make light of evils rather than to hate them. --- Support this podcast:

May 25
1058. How many books? How many authors?

What is the use of possessing numberless books and libraries, whose titles their owner can hardly read through in a lifetime? A student is over-whelmed by such a mass, not instructed, and it is much better to devote yourself to a few writers than to skim through many. --- Support this podcast:

May 24