My Journey to Stoicism (PIII)

This is part 3 of my 4 part series on ‘My Journey to Stoicism.’ Link to Part I

To better understand the Stoics, I started reading more on Socrates, who was a source of inspiration for the founder of Stoicism. Zeno founded Stoicism after reading Xenophon’s ‘Memorabilia’, a dialogue of Socrates. An interesting perspective I heard is to recognize that the founder of Stoicism was inspired by a student of Socrates who was a military leader. How might Stoicism have been different if Zeno had read Plato rather than Xenophon? 

Plato is our other best source of information on what Socrates taught. Socratic Dialectics can be summarized “finding truth often comes from dialogue (dia-logos).” One person makes a statement (the thesis), the other person makes strong arguments for the opposite (the anti-thesis), and some greater truth is often found between those two extremes (a synthesis). 

Dialectics. Some greater truth is found between two extremes: a synthesis. 

Is Fate predetermined or do we have free will? The Stoic position is “soft-determinism”. It’s something between those two extremes. It depends on what point of view you are taking (your internal conscious view or an external, historical point of view; see my Between Two Ravens blog ‘On Fate’)

This dialectic perspective on Truth is helpful, both for learning to understand other people who have different viewpoints, and coming to gain an understanding on the most difficult questions in life for yourself.

What is the meaning of life? Either it has a singular meaning or it is meaningless. Or maybe it has a different meaning for different people and at different life stages.

What is the nature of the human soul (the psyche)? It is a question Plato asked and his thinking had a profound influence on psychoanalysis. Does the soul exist or not exist? It cannot be observed externally, but it is something we can experience by looking within (subjectively).

Does God exist? Either God exists or does not exist. Or can you believe (have belief or faith) in something that cannot be observed objectively?

In Part IV I will discuss how studying Stoicism led me to asking questions where Jungian Psychology helped me to find answers.

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David Alexander

Psychotherapist | Writer

David Alexander is a practising psychotherapist based in New Mexico, USA. He started studying Greek Stoicism in 2020 as part of a journey of self-discovery and searching for answers about how to practically help myself and others endure the challenging times we are living in. He found Stoic Philosophy to be a useful jumping-off point to explore important questions: What is Human Nature? What is your Nature? It is towards this goal, to “know thyself,” that David started studying Carl Jung’s theories regarding the structure of the psyche (soul) and the workings of the unconscious mind. His goal in studying integrative disciplines of psychology, philosophy, and mythology is to better understand the self, thereby learning to better understand others.

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