The three rules of Stoic Club
A modest proposal
As is well known: “The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.” This, of course, comes from the homonymous 1999 movie directed by David Fincher, starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter, and based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk.
Stoicism is not Fight Club. We can talk about it. And it doesn’t have rules, per se, since it falls into the class of virtue ethics, not deontology. Still, let me perhaps immodestly suggest three informal “rules” that may be wise to adopt.
Rule #1: Don’t tell people who don’t follow Stoicism that they are not being Stoic
When you see anyone weeping for grief, either that his son has gone abroad or that he has suffered in his affairs, take care not to be overcome by the apparent evil, but discriminate and be ready to say, ‘What hurts this man is not this occurrence itself—for another man might not be hurt by it—but the view he chooses to take of it.’ As far as conversation goes, however, do not disdain to accommodate yourself to him and, if need be, to groan with him. Take heed, however, not to groan inwardly, too. (Epictetus, Enchiridion, 16)
The first part of this quote from Epictetus reminds us of a fundamental Stoic doctrine: the distinction between objective facts (e.g., my daughter has moved overseas) and value judgments (e.g., it’s a terrible thing that my daughter has moved overseas).
Judgments are not in the world as such, they are human constructs. And a crucial technique in Stoicism is to reframe things so that we may reduced our own suffering and focus on what is really important: improving our own judgments (our faculty of prohairesis).
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial