Think like a Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for Today's World

Discover how to think and act like a Stoic with this eye-opening introduction to one of the ancient world's most important-and practical-schools of philosophy.
Think like a Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for Today's World is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 26.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Though a Bit Repetitious This is a well-organized, clearly explained course on the ancient Stoics and contemporary applications of their philosophy. For me, this built on a previous Great Courses series called "Practical Philosophy: The Greco-Roman Moralists," which also discussed the Stoics along with other philosophical movements and institutions in the same era. Two sections of this course stood out for me. First was a section near the beginning where the professor described several practical daily exercises that would help one achieve the kind of well-balanced good life that the Stoics aimed at. Now that I've finished listening to the course, I plan to go back and use the course handbook to do those exercises. Second, in the last five lectures the professor outdid himself. A lecture on Nelson Mandela and Susan Fowler as Stoic role models was brilliantly informative. The lecture where he took down the Silicon Valley version of Stoicism and criticized what he called "Broicism" was funny and illuminating. And the last lecture, consisting of what advice Stoicism would have for contemporary real-life problems, was an excellent wrapup for the whole course. The professor has a slight Italian accent that involves some mispronounced consonants and misplaced syllable emphasis, but that didn't really detract from my understanding or my enjoyment of the course. I did mind his overuse of repetition, though. He needlessly told several of the same stories or background information again and again in different lectures. But again, that was a minor annoyance.
Date published: 2021-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very practical! I just finished the course Think like a Stoic. Professor Massimo Pigliucci explains in a clear and practical manner the philosophical framework of stoicism, using real examples of how it can applied in our daily lives. I truly enjoyed this course from the beginning to the end!
Date published: 2021-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! Excellent course to understand the stoic philosophy and how practise it in everyday life, the course presented the whole aspects of the philosophy and gave good concrete examples about each aspect.
Date published: 2021-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Think like a stoic This course was nicely done. The instructor did a great job.
Date published: 2021-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course even though it's common sense Many people have ideas of what stoicism is, but the Professor points out that it's a lot more than just withstanding pain, keeping a stiff upper lip, etc. Stoicism is a beautiful philosophy with a long tradition. Dr. Pigliucci quotes substantially from the great stoic thinkers, Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius (the philosopher king). They have great advice on many subjects. I felt that to a degree, the advice as a whole was not very different from common sense advice in a modern advice column. You can summarize much of it with phrases such as "don't worry, be happy", "be all you can be", "don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff", "everything is change", and "you can't change someone (or something), you can just change your reaction to it". I don't mean to minimize stoicism, but even the Professor agrees it has many similarities to Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Christianity. However, despite my categorization of much of stoic wisdom as common sense, watching the course was a great experience to me, as it brought together all these ideas, and gave me valuable insights in how to live my life. I highly recommend this course, and you should definitely go through the whole thing, even if there is some repetition. The professor is very organized, calm but enthusiastic, and gives personal examples of how he himself practices stoicism. Excellent course.
Date published: 2021-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! I have been a customer of this company for over a decade, and I have been a reader of the ancient Stoics for longer than that. I love that the two are now combined in this interesting and thought-provoking course. To be honest, I thought Dr. Pigliucci might have to oversimplify the material for those new to Stoicism, but that is not the case. It is approachable for those who have never engaged with Stoicism before, but I am impressed that there is so much to revisit and think about in new ways for those who have lived with the Stoics for many years. I would highly recommend this thorough, educational (and sometimes, considering Dr. Pigliucci's wit, quite funny) series of lectures to those new to the Stoics, to those interested in furthering their philosophies for life, or to those who have been interested in the Stoics for years who are looking for a different approach to thinking about the school of philosophy that allows one to be a better human being and a better cosmopolitan.
Date published: 2021-05-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Philosophy Made Useful Dr. Pigliucci approaches Stoicism as a religion. In the introductory biography, it is said that he “practices” Stoicism. In his first lecture, he gives a personal testimony about how he came to adopt Stoicism. Occasionally he compares Stoicism with Christianity and Buddhism. However, despite how enthusiastic he is about Stoicism and despite how often he shows its benefits, he never seems “pushy” about it. I had heard about Stoicism in other philosophy courses but Dr. Pigliucci makes it much more real and useful than anything else I’ve ever heard. He conflates classical Stoic philosophers and modern social conflicts, thus showing the personal relevance of what he is teaching. In addition to the standard 24 half-hour lectures, he tosses in a 20-minute bonus lecture that walks through four actual case studies that he has addressed in real life. I wish he could have developed the connections between Stoicism and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and existentialism but I guess that would require more background than should be assumed for this course. Perhaps that could be done in a sequel to this course. I used the video version. However, the visual aids added little. This course would be perfectly accessible in audio-only such as while jogging or while commuting in a car.
Date published: 2021-05-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learn the best way to live I finally got to the end of this course and I can honestly say it has just massively strengthened so much of what I try to practice in my daily life through vipassana meditation. So much of the stoic philosophy is in tune with my meditation practice which I didn't know when I started this course. There's some really helpful practical insights into how to live an authentic, compassionate and happy life. Anyone looking to live better (even if you consider yourself to be materially successful), should watch, learn and practice the lessons taught in this course. Thank you sincerely Massimo!
Date published: 2021-05-09
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Overview

Discover how to think and act like a Stoic with this eye-opening introduction to one of the ancient world's most important-and practical-schools of philosophy.

About

Massimo Pigliucci
Massimo Pigliucci

I would like to invite you to join me on an engaging journey to discover the heart of stoicism, one of the most fascinating and eye-opening philosophies you can study.

INSTITUTION

The City University of New York

Massimo Pigliucci is the K. D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at The City University of New York. He holds a PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which recognized him for his major contributions to studies of gene-environment interactions and his educational efforts to counter widespread pseudoscientific beliefs.

Massimo has published more than 170 peer-reviewed papers and authored or edited 14 books, including Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk and Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem (with Maarten Boudry). He studies and practices Stoicism and is the author of several books on the subject, including How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

Massimo has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and he has been interviewed by PBS, BBC World Service, NBC News, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Newsweek, The Economist, Forbes, WIRED, and Scientific American. He has also made a guest appearance on The Colbert Report. He produces a podcast called Stoic Meditations, and his writings and musings can be found at massimopigliucci.com.

By This Professor

Think like a Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for Today's World

Trailer

How to Live like a Stoic Sage

01: How to Live like a Stoic Sage

Start with an introduction to the basics of Stoic philosophy, which puts an emphasis on living reasonably and pro-socially, and which teaches us to live according to nature. You’ll also get a taste of the two pillars of this ancient school of thought: the four cardinal virtues and the dichotomy of control.

29 min
Stoicism from Heraclitus to Thoreau

02: Stoicism from Heraclitus to Thoreau

How has Stoic philosophy evolved over time? First, you’ll place Stoicism among its rivals and influences, including major Hellenistic schools of thought like Epicureanism and Cynicism. Then, follow the course of Stoic philosophy and themes through minds like Seneca, Thomas Aquinas, Baruch Spinoza, and the transcendentalism of Henry David Thoreau.

28 min
The Stoic Garden: Physics, Ethics, Logic

03: The Stoic Garden: Physics, Ethics, Logic

The ancient Stoics used a number of metaphors to get their points across, including the metaphor of the garden, whose elements were physics, ethics, and logic. Here, compare how Aristotle and the Stoics thought of logic, and use a story that dates back to the 2nd century BCE to see how Stoic epistemology and psychology are intertwined.

26 min
How Stoics Understand Providence

04: How Stoics Understand Providence

Stoics’s thoughts on providence were much different than Christians would later think of it. Consider three interrelated notions of Stoic thinking that constitute three important aspects of their metaphysics: materialism, cause-effect, and determinism. In the process, you’ll gain a new perspective on an old chestnut in metaphysics and moral philosophy: the problem of free will.

27 min
Using Stoic Ethics to Achieve Happiness

05: Using Stoic Ethics to Achieve Happiness

In this lesson, examine what is arguably the most important part of Stoic philosophy: ethics. How do we differentiate between ancient and modern conceptions of what is ethical? How do we define the cardinal virtues of practical wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance, and how can we translate them into everyday practice today?

27 min
The Stoics on Desire and Discipline

06: The Stoics on Desire and Discipline

In the first of three lessons on how to practice Stoicism as described by Epictetus, learn through a series of engaging exercises how to train your desires and aversions. By bringing attention to the issues outlined here, you’ll help realign your wants with what’s important—and what’s truly within your control.

25 min
The Stoics on Interacting with Others

07: The Stoics on Interacting with Others

Human beings are eminently social creatures; we have no choice but to negotiate relationships with other human beings. Explore the Stoic discipline of action through exercises that train you how to “keep your peace of mind in mind,” how to deal with insults, how to handle difficult people, and more.

24 min
The Stoics on Decision-Making

08: The Stoics on Decision-Making

According to Epictetus, the discipline of assent, concerned with arriving at correct judgments, is the most difficult to master. Exercises in this lesson draw on examples from Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and other thinkers to highlight tactics for overcoming mental weakness, controlling outbursts of anger, and bringing urges under control.

25 min
Seneca’s Letters to Lucilius

09: Seneca’s Letters to Lucilius

Explore in detail some of the 124 letters Seneca wrote in his last years to his friend Lucilius, which offer an informal curriculum on Stoic philosophy. Through these writings, you’ll consider eye-opening thoughts on managing time, on the high standards of friendships, on feeling joy, on judging others, and on coming to terms with death.

27 min
Seneca on Anger Management

10: Seneca on Anger Management

First, examine the categories into which Stoics divided emotions: involuntary emotional reactions, reactive emotions (like fear), and positive emotions (such as joy). Afterward, turn to what Seneca says about anger, which the Stoics considered the quintessential example of a negative emotion, and uncover an anger management exercise that has helped people for millennia.

27 min
Seneca on Grief and Distress

11: Seneca on Grief and Distress

One crucial test of any philosophy of life is whether it’s helpful in unpleasant, unavoidable situations. Learn how Stoicism passes this test by looking at what Seneca (in three powerful letters of consolation he wrote to friends and family) has to say about the fundamental subjects of grief and distress.

26 min
Epictetus on the Importance of Reason

12: Epictetus on the Importance of Reason

Epictetus is a practical, humorous, no-nonsense philosopher. Get to know this ancient Stoic through the first volume of the Discourses, a major treatise on Stoic philosophy written by one of his most illustrious students. Explore, specifically, Stoic views on cosmopolitanism: the notion that we are all members of the same cosmopolis, or world-city.

26 min
Epictetus on Overcoming Fear

13: Epictetus on Overcoming Fear

Take an in-depth look at the second volume of Discourses, written by Epictetus, with an aim to apply its insights to your own life. What does Epictetus tell us about what’s under our complete control? How do we make sense of the trade-off between material things and family relations? What pieces of wisdom can we use to manage our everyday anxieties?

26 min
Epictetus on Desire, Action, and Judgment

14: Epictetus on Desire, Action, and Judgment

Epictetus employed the concepts of desire, action, and assent as disciplines to understand the entirety of Stoic philosophy. Place these concepts in the historical context during the tyrannical reign of Roman Emperor Domitian, then learn how to use them as a powerful framework through which to lead a better, more meaningful life.

25 min
Epictetus on How to Be Free

15: Epictetus on How to Be Free

According to the Stoics, if you want to live a free life, you have to be the master of your own desires—chiefly by eliminating them. Get philosophical tips on how to do that. This lesson focuses on the fourth and last surviving book of the collected teachings of Epictetus.

28 min
A Manual for the Good Life: The Enchiridion

16: A Manual for the Good Life: The Enchiridion

Epictetus wrote Enchiridion (“a little thing in the hand”) as a practical manual for living how to live what the Greco-Romans considered a worthwhile life. Enchiridion was a well-known text throughout the Middle Ages, into the Renaissance, and beyond. Get to the core of its teachings on how to change your desires and aversions.

28 min
Marcus Aurelius on Being Thankful

17: Marcus Aurelius on Being Thankful

Marcus Aurelius’s mastery of Stoic philosophy helped him navigate frontier wars, a rebellion, and a plague. Examine the first four chapters of Meditations, which describe exercises in gratitude and contemplations on adversity and death. His most interesting— and misunderstood—idea was: “The universe is transformation; life is opinion.”

28 min
Marcus Aurelius, Virtue, and the Vineyard

18: Marcus Aurelius, Virtue, and the Vineyard

Now, turn to highlights from the next four chapters of Meditations. You‘ll consider the Stoic sense of duty, an analogy involving vineyards that captures our desire for praise and our fear of criticism, the inevitability of change, the lust for fame, and other human traits.

28 min
Marcus Aurelius on Managing Turmoil

19: Marcus Aurelius on Managing Turmoil

How can we best practice Stoicism during times of turmoil in our lives? This lesson describes the last four chapters of Meditations. Explore how not to catastrophize, how to be mindful of labels, and how to practice a sunrise exercise that goes back to the 6th century BCE.

27 min
From Stoic Self-Mastery to Cosmopolitanism

20: From Stoic Self-Mastery to Cosmopolitanism

What do the Stoics say about our diets, or the furniture in our houses, or the proper lengths of a man’s beard? These are some of the many topics you’ll explore in this fascinating conversation that revolves around one of the most influential of Stoics, and least-known: Gaius Musonius Rufus.

27 min
Drawing Inspiration from Stoic Role Models

21: Drawing Inspiration from Stoic Role Models

Role models are a crucial aspect in the practice of Stoicism. First, meet two individuals Seneca suggested his contemporaries should model themselves after: Cato and Gaius Laelius Sapiens. Then, consider contemporary role models—real and imagined—who fit the Stoic concept, including Nelson Mandela and Spider-Man.

28 min
How Stoics Bear Responsibility and Conflict

22: How Stoics Bear Responsibility and Conflict

We all play different roles throughout our lives, each of which naturally produces conflict, such as, the role of parent or friend. Learn how to recognize the call for different roles in your life by following four criteria laid down by Epictetus, including considering your social relations and listening for a “divine” sign.

29 min
Misusing and Misunderstanding Stoicism

23: Misusing and Misunderstanding Stoicism

Do Stoics move through life with stiff upper lips? Is Stoicism all about suppressing emotions? Can Stoicism help make you rich and famous? Here, look at some of the common misconceptions about Stoicism, how they diverge from the philosophy’s intent, and what we can learn from them.

29 min
Stoicism for Everyday Life

24: Stoicism for Everyday Life

Why would anyone living today wish to become a Stoic? Professor Pigliucci answers this question by comparing Stoicism with three other philosophies of life you’ve probably heard of: Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. He then reveals how his own practice of Stoicism has helped him in his life.

30 min
Four Family Problems and Stoic Solutions

25: Four Family Problems and Stoic Solutions

In this final lesson, unpack four examples of personal crises in contemporary life that reveal just how helpful Stoicism can be in guiding our everyday thoughts and practices. What can you learn from a struggling adult child, a home-maintenance mishap, a tormented married couple, and a father’s terminal illness?

19 min