Walk into a Barnes & Noble and check out the philosophy section; you've never seen so many copies of Marcus Aurelius's Meditations
in your life. Or stick your head into the world of the tech and entrepreneurial elite on Twitter and you'll find that @dailystoic
is a big favorite.
Stoicism is sexy because it's a philosophy for and by the rich (e.g., Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca) who wanted to behave less so. That wasn't bad. Nowadays, though, it implies the axiom: Be rich first, then be virtuous.
A stoic renaissance in America makes some sense. We're a tremendously wealthy and powerful nation. Moreover, we revere our business leaders as our most influential—and frankly, our most reliable and trustworthy—thought leaders. Stoic ideas provide a healthy corrective to excesses in wealth, not only in terms of morality, but also practically. Cultural influencers find in stoicism a method to be "mindful" about last things while also creating higher profit margins and improving quality of life.
I'm not mad about the stoic revival. But stoicism is a philosophy for the elite, and it doesn't translate well outside of that. In the ancient world, Christian philosophy and culture picked up where stoicism (and many other ways of thinking) let off.
We should capitalize on an expanded interest in philosophical vocabulary to learn from, and appeal to, the modern stoics.
Andrew M. Haines is editor and founder of Ethika Politika
, and co-founder and chief operating officer at Fiat Insight