Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Stoics, The Stoics or Stoicism NULL

A School of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium, Stoics were concerned with the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is in accord with nature.

"Prior events are causes of those following them, and in this manner all things are bound together with one another, and thus nothing happens in the world such that something else is not entirely a consequence of it and attached to it as a cause... From everything that happens something else follows depending on it by necessity as cause."

"You know yourself what you are worth in your own eyes; and at what price you will sell yourself. For men sell themselves at various prices. This is why, when Florus was deliberating whether he should appear at Nero's shows, taking part in the performance himself, Agrippinus replied, 'Appear by all means.' And when Florus inquired, 'But why do not you appear?' he answered, 'Because I do not even consider the question.' For the man who has once stooped to consider such questions, and to reckon up the value of external things, is not far from forgetting what manner of man he is. [Epictetus]"

"It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable. [Seneca]"

"God is not separate from the world; He is the soul of the world, and each of us contains a part of the Divine Fire. All things are parts of one single system, which is called Nature; the individual life is good when it is in harmony with Nature. In one sense, every life is in harmony with Nature, since it is such as Nature’s laws have caused it to be; but in another sense a human life is only in harmony with Nature when the individual will is directed to ends which are among those of Nature. Virtue consists in a will which is in agreement with Nature. The wicked, though perforce they obey God’s law, do so involuntarily; in the simile of Cleanthes, they are like a dog tied to a cart, and compelled to go wherever it goes. In the life of an individual man, virtue is the sole good; such things as health, happiness, possessions, are of no account. Since virtue resides in the will, everything really good or bad in a man’s life depends only upon himself. He may be poor, but what of it? He can still be virtuous. He may be sentenced to death, but he can die nobly, like Socrates. Other men have power only over externals; virtue, which alone is truly good, rests entirely with the individual. Therefore every man has perfect freedom, provided he emancipates himself from mundane desires. [Zeno of Citium]"

"All things are parts of one single system, which is called Nature; the individual life is good when it is in harmony with Nature. [Zeno of Citium]"

"Stoicism teaches .. 1. One to live in accord with Nature; worldly Nature and human nature. 2. The Unity of All; all gods; all substance; all virtue; all mankind into a Cosmopolis (Universal City). 3. That the external world is maintained by the natural interchange of opposites (poioun / yin, paskhon / yang) 4. That everyone has a personal, individual connection to the All; a god within. 5. That every soul has Free Will to act and that the action of the soul is opinion. 6. Simple Living through moderation and frugality. 7. That spiritual growth comes from seeking the good. 8. That Virtue is the sole good, Vice the sole evil, and everything else indifferent. 9. That the Cardinal Virtues are Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. 10. That the path to personal happiness and inner peace is through the extinguishing of all desire to have or to affect things beyond ones control and through living for the present without hope for or fear of the future; beyond the power of opinion. 11. The sequential reabsorption and recreation of the Universe by the Central Fire; the Conflagration."

"I see nothing but Becoming. Be not deceived! It is the fault of your limited outlook and not the fault of the essence of things if you believe that you see firm land anywhere in the ocean of Becoming and Passing. You need names for things, just as if they had a rigid permanence, but the very river in which you bathe a second time is no longer the same one which you entered before. [Heraclitus]"

"The Stoic is not virtuous in order to do good, but does good in order to be virtuous. It has not occurred to him to love his neighbour as himself; love, except in a superficial sense, is absent from his conception of virtue. When I say this, I am thinking of love as an emotion, not as a principle. As a principle, the Stoics preached Universal Love; this principle is found in Seneca and his successors. [Bertrand Russell]"

"According to them some presentations are data of sense (aisthêtikai) and others are not: the former are the impressions conveyed through one or more sense-organs; while the latter, which are not data of sense, are those received through the mind itself, as is the case with incorporeal things and all other presentations which are received by reason. [Diogenes]"

"Every person must deal with each thing according to the opinion that he holds about it. [Epictetus]"

"Do not tie a ship to a single anchor, nor life to a single hope. [Epictetus]"

"But are plants and our bodies so bound up and united with the whole, and are not our souls much more? And our souls so bound up and in contact with God as parts of Him and portions of Him; and does not God perceive every motion of these parts as being His own motion connate with Himself? Now are you able to think of the divine administration, and about all things divine, and at the same time also about human affairs, and to be moved by ten thousand things at the same time in your senses and in your understanding, and to assent to some, and to dissent from others, and again as to some things to suspend your judgment; and do you retain in your soul so many impressions from so many and various things, and being moved by them, do you fall upon notions similar to those first impressed, and do you retain numerous arts and the memories of ten thousand things; and is not God able to oversee all things, and to be present with all, and to receive from all a certain communication? And is the sun able to illuminate so large a part of the All, and to leave so little not illuminated, that part only which is occupied by the earth's shadow; and He who made the sun itself and makes it go round, being a small part of Himself compared with the whole, cannot He perceive all things? [Epictetus]"

"Everything is right for me, which is right for you, O Universe. Nothing for me is too early or too late, which comes in due time for you. Everything is fruit to me which your seasons bring, O Nature. From you are all things, in you are all things, to you all things return. [Marcus Aurelius]"

"Before a pleasure, beware of representation, to represent the weight of regret to be sold and in return the ephemeral nature of this pleasure. If pleasure always seems tempting, it can then indulge. [Epictetus]"

"Do not expect that events happen as you wish and decides to try what happens and you are happy. [Epictetus]"

"Everywhere and at all times it is in your power to accept reverently your present condition, to behave justly to those about you, and to exert your skill to control your thoughts, that nothing shall steal into them without being well examined. [Marcus Aurelius]"

"Get rid of the judgment ... get rid of the 'I am hurt,' you are rid of the hurt itself. [Marcus Aurelius]"

"Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of one's desires, but by the removal of desire. [Epictetus]"

"God is one and the same with Reason, Fate, and Zeus; he is also called by other names. In the beginning he was by himself; he transformed the whole of substance (pasan ousia) through air into water, and just as in animal generation the seed has a moist vehicle, so in cosmic moisture God, who is the seminal reason (spermatikon logon) of the cosmos, remains behind in the moisture as an agent, adapting matter to himself with a view to the next stage of creation. [Diogenes]"

"I am formed by nature for my own good: I am not formed for my own evil. [Epictetus]"

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. [Epictetus]"

"How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life! [Marcus Aurelius]"

"Happiness is not to acquire and enjoy, but nothing to be desired, as it is to be free. [Epictetus]"

"If we just tell you that someone has spoken ill of you say: “We must ignore all my other faults, to mention only those which are known.” [Epictetus]"

"If you want to advance the study of wisdom, does not refuse on external things, to pass for stupid and foolish. [Epictetus]"

"If you are distressed by any external thing, it is not this thing which disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now. [Marcus Aurelius]"

"If, therefore, any be unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone. [Epictetus]"

"If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in thy power to wipe out this judgment now. But if anything in your own disposition gives you pain, who hinders you from correcting your opinion? And even if you are pained because you are not doing some particular thing which seems to you to be right, why do you not rather act than complain?—But some insuperable obstacle is in the way?—Do not be grieved then, for the cause of its not being done depends not on you.—But it is not worthwhile to live if this cannot be done.—Take your departure then from life contentedly, just as he dies who is in full activity, and well pleased too with the things which are obstacles. [Marcus Aurelius]"

"In a word, neither death, nor exile, nor pain, nor anything of this kind, is the real cause of our doing or not doing any action, but our opinions and the decisions of our will. [Epictetus]"

"If you would not fail of what you seek, or incur what you shun, desire nothing that belongs to others; shun nothing that lies beyond your own control; otherwise you must necessarily be disappointed in what you seek, and incur what you shun. [Epictetus]"

"If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure, as if you were bound to give it back immediately; if you hold to this, expecting nothing, but satisfied to live now according to nature, speaking heroic truth in every word which you utter, you will live happy. And there is no man able to prevent this. [Marcus Aurelius]"

"It is in our power to refrain from any opinion about things and not to be disturbed in our souls; for things in themselves have no natural power to force our judgments. [Marcus Aurelius]"

"It does not depend on you to be rich, but it depends on you to be happy. [Epictetus]"

"Let Nature deal with matter, which is her own, as she pleases; let us be cheerful and brave in the face of everything, reflecting that it is nothing of our own that perishes. [Seneca]"

"No man is free who is not master of himself. [Epictetus]"

"It is the mark of a small mind to attack others when they fail in what he undertook, he who carries on itself a spirit[Epictetus]ual work takes them to himself: he that complete this work nor does it take to oneself or to others ."

"Nobody will harm you, unless you consent, evil will come only when you deem it hurts . [Epictetus]"

"Let there be freedom from perturbation with respect to the things which come from external causes, and in actions whose cause lies in yourself, be just; that is, let impulse and action terminate in social acts, for this is according to your nature. [Marcus Aurelius]"

"Nothing happens to any man which he is not framed by nature to bear. [Marcus Aurelius]"

"Our salvation and our loss is in ourselves. [Epictetus]"

"Outward things cannot touch the soul, not in the least degree; nor have they admission to the soul, nor can they turn or move the soul; but the soul turns and moves itself alone. [Marcus Aurelius]"

"Remember that the ruling faculty is invincible, when self-collected it is satisfied with itself, if it does nothing which it does not choose to do, even if it resist from mere obstinacy. What then will it be when it forms a judgment about anything aided by reason and deliberately? Therefore the mind which is free from passions is a citadel, for man has nothing more secure to which he can fly for, refuge and for the future be inexpugnable. He then who has not seen this is an ignorant man; but he who has seen it and does not fly to this refuge is unhappy. [Marcus Aurelius]"

"Nothing outside the will can hinder or harm the will; it can only harm itself. If then we accept this, and, when things go amiss, are inclined to blame ourselves, remembering that judgment alone can disturb our peace and constancy, I swear to you by all the gods that we have made progress. [Epictetus]"

"Permit nothing to cleave to you that is not your own; nothing to grow to you that may give you agony when it is torn away. [Epictetus]"

"The mind in itself wants nothing, unless it creates a want for itself; therefore it is both free from perturbation and unimpeded, if it does not perturb and impede itself. [Marcus Aurelius]"

"The point is, not how long you live, but how nobly you live. [Seneca]"

"That which Fortune has not given, she cannot take away. [Seneca]"

"The cosmos, they hold, comes into being when its substance (ousia) has first been converted from fire through air into moisture and then the coarser part of the moisture has condensed as earth, while that whose particles are fine has been turned into air, and this process of rarefaction goes on increasingly till it generates fire. Thereupon out of these elements animals and plants and all other natural kinds are formed by their mixture. [Diogenes]"

"The essence of philosophy is that a man should live so that his happiness depends as little as possible from external causes. [Epictetus]"

"The primary duty is that the creature should maintain itself in its natural constitution; next, that it should cleave to all that is in harmony with nature and spurn all that is not; and when once this principle of choice and rejection has been arrived at, the next stage is choice, conditioned by inchoate duty; next such a choice is exercised continuously; finally, it is rendered unwavering and in thorough agreement with nature; and at that stage the conception of what good really is begins to dawn within us and be understood. Man's earliest attraction is to those things which are conformable to nature, but as soon as he has laid hold of general ideas or notions and has seen the regular order and harmony of conduct, he then values that harmony far higher than all the objects for which he felt the earliest affection and he is led to the reasoned conclusion that herein consists the supreme human good. In this harmony consists the good, which is the standard of action; from which it follows that all moral action, nay morality itself, which alone is good, though of later origin in time, has the inherent value and worth to make it the sole object of choice, for none of the objects to which earlier inpulses are directed is choiceworthy in and of itself. [Cicero]"