Saturday, February 28, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Robert Solomon on the emotions and responsibility

Our emotions involve more than  evaluations, they also ascribe responsibility, praise for gains, blame for losses. 

Robert Solomon, The Passions (p.213 "The Logic of Emotions 7. Responsibility)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Epictetus on what you can control and what you can't control

Some things are up to us and some are not up to us. Our opnions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions - in short, whatever is our doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our posessions, our reputionas, or our public offices, or , that is, whatever is not our doing.
Handbook of Epictetus, 1.  (translation White)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Seneca on a daily habit to increase virtue and reduce anger

Sextius had this habit, and when the day was over and he had retired to his nightly rest, he would put these questions to his soul: ‘What bad habit have you cured today? What fault have you resisted? In what respect are you better?’ Anger will cease and become more controllable if it finds that it must appear before a judge every day. Can anything be more excellent than this practice of thoroughly sifting the whole day? And how delightful the sleep that follows this self-examination – how tranquil it is, how deep and untroubled, when the soul has either praised or admonished itself, and when this secret examiner and critic of self has given report of its own character! I avail myself of this privilege, and every day I plead my cause before the bar of self. When the light has been removed from sight, and my wife, long aware of my habit, has become silent, I scan the whole of my day and retrace all my deeds and words. I conceal nothing from myself, I omit nothing. For why should I shrink from any of my mistakes, when I may commune thus with myself?

            ‘See that you never do that again; I will pardon you this time. In that dispute, you spoke too offensively; after this don’t have encounters with ignorant people; those who have never learned do not want to learn. You reproved that man more frankly than you ought, and consequently you have not so much mended him as offended him. In the future, consider not only the truth of what you say, but also whether the man to whom you are speaking can endure the truth. A good man accepts reproof gladly; the worse a man is the more bitterly he resents it.’

Seneca, On Anger, 3.36.1-4

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Seneca on anger management

I arrived at my house in Alba completely exhausted by the journey, which was thoroughly uncomfortable for an old man like me, thrashed about in that heaving carriage. And what do you know? Nothing was ready for my arrival, apart from myself. So I’m writing to you from my old man’s bed (which is of course unmade), resting, unbathed (for there’s no water) and so tired that I’m not all that sorry that the baker and the cook (now that we’ve located them!) are slower than snails.
All these difficulties have made me aware again of how calm life is if you don’t take its inconveniences to heart, and how we wear ourselves out by magnifying them. It is indeed true that my baker has no bread — but perhaps the farm manager will have some, or a tenant, or the steward. “Not very nice bread, though,” you’ll say. But wait a minute: it will soon transform itself by hunger into food fit for a king. So I’ll wait to eat until I have my own bread, or hunger makes me less picky.
We must teach ourselves to bear things. You could be enormously rich, with a flotilla of servants, and still be mown down by obstacles thrown your way arbitrarily. None of us can have everything we want, but we can refrain from wanting what we haven’t got and cheerfully make the best of what’s to hand. Tonight’s culinary improvisation just might be more tasty, and will certainly be less monotonous, than the dinner I had anticipated. 
Perhaps freedom consists of a stomach that knows when to be quiet.

Seneca: On Luxury (Letters from a Stoic)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Irvin Yalom, existential psychotherapist, on the most important aspects of the human condition

The four “givens” of existence which I have found of most practical relevance in my [Yalom's] work as an existential psychotherapist are as follows: the inevitability of death for each of us and for those we love; the freedom to make our lives as we will; our ultimate aloneness; and finally, the absence of any obvious meaning or sense to life. 

Irvin Yalom, Love's Executioner

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Marcus Aurelius on life and death

Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what's left and live it properly.
                                     Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.56. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Marcus Aurelius on doing what we can, now

 'Don't wait for Plato's Republic! Rather, be content if one tiny thing makes some progress, and reflect on the fact that what results from this tiny thing is no tiny thing at all!' 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Albert Camus on how to respond to the absurdity of human existence

“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain. .... The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

Seneca on being in the present

Both [fear and hope] are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present.
Foresight, the greatest blessing humanity has been given, is transformed into a curse. Wild animals run from the dangers trey actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented aloke by what is past and what is to come.  A number of our blessings do us harm, for memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely. No one confines his unhapiness to the present.

From Seneca Letters From a Stoic , Letter V