A lot has been written on Stoicism over the last decade, and the philosophy has been steadily gaining traction in the minds of us wanting to develop a way of life that naturally leads to a tranquillity and resilience that helps navigate day to day life.

The ultimate goal of Stoicism is to develop the mind to such an extent that the practitioner would reach a state of being called eudaimonia.

Eudaimonia is a Greek term that roughly translates as a state of flourishing, prosperity or happiness; a state in which the Stoic is free, as much as possible, from the shackles of needless suffering. A state in which Stoics depend only on their internal frame of mind for well-being, not on the uncontrollable external.

“It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable.”
– Seneca

The Stoics had a word for one who had achieved the state of eudaimonia, they called such a person a sage. The Stoic sage was one who, through virtue and reason, had made themselves impervious to the suffering caused by external circumstances. Their well-being depends entirely on that which was within their control, i.e. their actions, beliefs, values, and perceptions. Not, wealth, reputation, respect, constant comfort etc

The ideas of the Stoic sage is an ideal, it’s unlikely that philosophers can really achieve this level of self mastery for more than a few hours at a time, however it’s serves as an important target to aim for to guide our practice.

Stoicism teaches us that to goal of reaching eudaimonia is achieved through acting in the world with virtue, and perceiving the world with logic and reason.

In this article, we shall explore the essence of Stoic philosophy and the noble aims it sets before us. Drawing from the wellspring of knowledge bequeathed by luminaries such as Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, we will delve into the heart of Stoicism, illuminating its guiding principles and uncovering the secrets to living a life of wisdom, virtue, and tranquility.

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Stoic Virtue:

To the Stoics, the path to eudaimonia a pursuit that surpassed all others. For us to walk it the Stoics believed that we a required to align our thought, behaviours and action with virtue and, to the Stoics, virtue is the highest form of good.

Stoic virtue serves as the foundation for a life of wisdom, inner peace, and resilience. Rooted in the teachings of the ancient thinkers, the concept of virtue embodies the ideals and principles that enable us to navigate life’s challenges with peace of mind and resilience.

The four cardinal virtues of Stoicism – wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance – form the pillars of a robust ethical framework.

  • Wisdom empowers us to discern life’s true priorities, separating the essential from the trivial, and to make sound judgments based on reason and understanding.

  • Courage grants us the strength to face adversity with resilience and to stand up for our principles despite fear or external pressures.

  • Justice guides our interactions with others, ensuring that we treat our fellow human beings with fairness, compassion, and respect.

  • Temperance teaches us the art of self-mastery, enabling us to strike a harmonious balance between desire and self-discipline.

By embracing these virtues, we develop a life that is in alignment with the Stoic pursuit of eudaimonia, a state of flourishing and well-being achieved through living in accordance with reason, nature, and virtue itself.

In essence, Stoic virtue serves as the moral compass that steers us toward a life of purpose, self-mastery, ultimately helping us find an enduring happiness and navigate the complexities of our lives.

So, in order to follow the path of virtue we first have to develop and understanding for the understanding of virtue. The Stoics believed that the goal of a happy life can be achieved through 4 Stoic virtues.


Wisdom is your ability to define what is good, what is not good, and what is indifferent. It is also the ability to view the world objectively, as it is, rather than warping your view of the world because of what you want it to be.

For example:

Good: Acting with virtue. Showing courage in the face of fear, showing moderation despite the desire to be greedy or indulge in addictive behaviour.

Bad: Lying to someone to avoid responsibility. Ignoring moderation and choosing laziness, greed, bad habits. Ignoring justice and taking advantage of other people, or the community, to get ahead.

Indifferent: Money, possession, fame etc. These things are indifferent. They are not good or bad, but they can amplify good or bad in the people who have access to them.

The Stoics believed that virtue is the path to good and to a happy life; eudaimonia.

They believed that virtue leads to happiness while vice pulls us further from it. Wisdom is simply our ability to know what is what, seeing it honestly and objectively, and use our understanding to guide our actions more deliberately and constructively.

Preferred indifference: The Stoics perceived things like money, possessions and fame as indifferent. They were not inherently good or bad, they simply were.

However, Stoicism does split up indifference a little further.

There are some things that are indifferent but preferred. Wealth is preferable to poverty because it can prevent worry, poor health, and allow us to focus on adding value to our lives and our communities rather than fighting to survive.

Friends are preferable to solitude, health is preferable to illness etc. These things are not necessarily good or bad, but they are preferred.

Judgements of good or bad generally come only from a persons actions and intent. Virtue is generally good, vice is generally bad. Good intention, and bad intention is the same.


Courage is the opposing force of cowardice.

Courage is not the elimination or fear, desire or anxiety, it is acting in the right way despite our fear, desire and anxieties.

Seneca once wrote:

“There are misfortunes which strike the sage – without incapacitating him, of course – such as physical pain, infirmity, the loss of friends or children, or the catastrophes of his country when it is devastated by war. I grant that he is sensitive to these things, for we do not impute to him the hardness of a rock or of iron. There is no virtue in putting up with that which one does not feel.”

By this, he means that a person who does not feel fear cannot conquer it, and therefore does not show courage.

Courage is our ability to overcome feelings that threaten to cause cowardice, and as a result prevent us in acting in the correct way. It is doing the right thing even if we are afraid to do so.

There is an ancient story of a Stoic teacher on a boat in a terrible storm:

Travelling across the waters of the Ionian sea, a violent storm began to beat at the hull and the sails of a ship. The waves grew higher and began to fill the ship with water.

Among the passengers was a Stoic teacher from Athens. During the storm his face turned white and the look of fear was strewn across the details of his face.

When the skies cleared and the sea calmed, another passenger approached the Stoic and asked him, “What does this mean, Sir philosopher, that when we were in danger you were afraid and turned pale, while I neither feared nor changed colour?”

The Stoic dismissed the man because of his disrespectful tone.

Later in the journey another passenger approached the Stoic and respectfully asked him the reason for his fear.

The Stoic responded differently to this curious man and offered him a part of Epictetus’ work. Specifically related to fear.

In this work Epictetus explains that the first stages of fear are unavoidable. The initial reaction to a falling building or a sinking ship is to panic and feel the grips of fear. A grip that can threaten to take hold of rational thought and a clear mind.

However, Epictetus explains that the wise man does not entertain these initial reactions. He does not consent to them, he condemns them.

Epictetus said:

“And they say that there is this difference between the mind of a foolish man and that of a wise man, that the foolish man thinks that such ‘visions’ are in fact as dreadful and terrifying as they appear at the original impact of them on his mind, and by his assent he approves of such ideas as if they were rightly to be feared, and ‘confirms’ them …. But the wise man, after being affected for a short time and slightly in his colour and expression, ‘does not assent,’ but retains the steadfastness and strength of the opinion which he has always had about visions of this kind, namely that they are in no wise to be feared but excite terror by a false appearance and vain alarms”

So, courage is the ability to retain strength of character and our morals in the face of the fear and desire not to do so.


Justice in Stoicism is broader than justice in our language and legal systems today. For the Stoics, justice is our duty to our fellow man, and to our society. It’s the morality behind how we act, specifically in relation to our community and the people within it.

Are we kind, courteous, understanding, respectful, fair, and generous? Do we provide support when people need it? Do we give back to our community, or do we just take?

Cicero, the Roman statesman and philosopher said:

“Justice is the crowning glory of the virtues.” 

Justice guides all other virtues because it is your moral compass. It serves to focus your actions towards the betterment of the whole, rather than just the self.

Marcus Aurelius wrote:

“What is not good for the beehive, cannot be good for the bees.”

If we damage our community, we ultimately damage ourselves. Justice then, is our ability to benefit the hive.


“Pleasures, when they go beyond a certain limit, are but punishments.”


Temperance can also be called moderation. It relates to self restraint, self discipline and self control. It is our ability to choose long term well-being over short term satisfaction.

It is the opposite of gluttony, greed, instant gratification, addictive behaviour, laziness, and procrastination.

Temperance helps us detach our well-being from extremes like a dependence on material goods, drink, drugs, social media, video games, porn etc.

Now, I’m not saying you should sell your TV and your car, and move into the mountains to raise goats. But, I think you’ll agree with me when I suggest that moderation of comfort and pleasure is normally a good thing.

Seneca wrote about being over indulgent with our possessions:

“Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realise how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.”  

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Stoic Logic & Reason:

Our lives are made up of hundreds of little responses we make to everyday events. When someone speaks to us, we take what they say, we process it, and we respond based on what we’ve heard.

When we experience someone cutting us up in traffic, missing out on a promotion, change, loss, or any other number of life events, big or small, we process what we experience and we respond in kind.

The use of logic and reason are commonly promoted in philosophy as ways to live better life.

This is because we have two main ways of perceiving the world:

  1. We use logic and reason to try and deduce what is real.

  2. We use emotion and belief to assume what is real.

The problem with using our emotions and beliefs to view the world is that the often don’t align. We have biases, inaccurate beliefs, and unrealistic expectation about the world around us. If we only use these things to perceive the world, we are bound to suffer. We suffer because we have projected what we believe the world should be, rather than seeing it for what it is, and often this mismatch causes resistance, and resistance limits our ability to enjoy a peaceful mind.

On the other hand, when we try and use logic and reason, we put aside our own personal biases and we try and look at the world objectively. In turn, we have a more realistic world view and we are more easily able to accept it as it is, rather than resist it because it’s not what we believe it should be.

For example:

Rain: Logically we know that rain is part of our planets weather cycle. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it doesn’t. So, when it rains on a special day, the philosopher accepts rain as a natural part of life and nature, it is to be accepted. Additionally, it is outside of our control, so no amount of suffering can change it. We can however choose how we respond, and continue to enjoy the day.

Conversely, when this situation is approached emotionally it’s easy to project our expectations onto it, rather than look at it reasonably: “It shouldn’t rain on my special day”, “Why does this always happen to me?” etc. We suffer as a result.

Traffic: If we approach traffic logically, as a driver, we know that traffic is part of driving. It’s unrealistic to expect never to encounter traffic, it’s simply the nature of being on the road. Logically we can accept this. We can also accept that stress and anger won’t make the cars in front of us move any faster, and knowing that we are responsible for our response we can make the most of the time and listen to that podcast we’ve been looking forward to, or that audio book that’s been sitting in our phone for a few weeks.

On the other hand, responding emotionally will likely result in anger, frustration, and suffering.


Hopefully, you have a better understanding of the goals of Stoic philosophy.

The Stoics, with their unwavering pursuit of virtue, wisdom, and inner tranquillity, offer us a compass to navigate the tumultuous waters of our contemporary lives, providing guidance and solace in a world beset by challenges and uncertainties.

The Stoics practiced their philosophy not as an abstract intellectual exercise but as a practical means to develop a life of purpose, resilience, and robust happiness. If we choose to embrace the tenets of Stoicism, we too can embark on a transformative journey toward self-mastery, learning to weather life’s storms with equanimity, and ultimately, discovering the path to inner peace and contentment.

As we part ways with the ancients and step into the story of our own lives, we can carry with us the lessons of Stoic philosophy, embracing the wisdom of the past as we chart our own course toward a life of meaning and purpose.

While we may not ever achieve the highest ideal of the Stoic sage, I believe we can all use Stoicism to make our lives more resilient, happier, with a set of rough guidelines on how to act and behave. I think we can all get a little closer to the Stoic goal of eudaimonia.

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