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Stoic Virtue 

Living a virtuous life is central to being a Stoic. Stoic virtue is comprised of reason, courage, justice and temperance.

Reason (Wisdom)

  • Identify truth and determine right from wrong.

  • Gather evidence to make the best decision.



  • Do what's right. Regardless of the consequences.

    • What's "right" is established after an appropriate assessment of
      the issue using our unique ability to reason.



  • Moral wisdom: to be social and benevolent, as nature intended us to be.

  • Use reason to build the best society possible, whilst being fair and
    impartial to everyone.



  • Practice moderation and restraint. 

  • Enjoy what life has to offer, but take nothing for granted.

  • Contemplate life without certain blessings and creature comforts, like health, wealth, influence and fame.

Bronze Statue of Seneca the Younger, Rom

Stoic Discipline

Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius reference three areas of stoic training that have relevance to stoic virtue. 

Discipline of Assent 

  • Reserve your judgement - your initial impression - of an event/situation.

  • Evaluate event/situation objectively - without value judgements.

  • Should your initial impression be accepted or rejected?

    • Grant assent if it should be accepted.

    • Withhold assent if it should be rejected.


Discipline of Action

  • Act in accordance with your role in the natural world and do the right thing in the service of your fellow man.

  • Act in good faith, while acknowledging that fate can intervene to disrupt the outcome

  • Accept the outcome. Your intentions were just. You did your best.


Discipline of Desire and Aversion

  • Endure irrational fears or things we are averse to (e.g. sickness).

  • Abstain from irrational, unhealthy desires.

  • Accept indifferent things (poverty/wealth; sickness/health; fame/misfortune) with indifference.

Quote of the Roman philosopher Seneca (4

Seneca on Self Discipline


Seneca cautions us about the need for moderation when partaking in pleasure, (e.g. drinking, gambling, sex, etc. ) advising us to make pleasure our servant - not our master: "For the sake of pleasure I do nothing, you do everything".


Pleasure should never be the guide, but the companion of a "right thinking mind". We should not become obsessed with pleasure, as it (like anger) can overpower reason. Those that allow pleasure to overwhelm reason, are at risk of being "...tortured by its absence, or choked by its excess." Seneca doubts that those - possessed by pleasure - "can endure the hardships of life, when they are already a slave to such a feeble antagonist".

In one example (from his letters to Lucillus), Seneca encourages moderation and self-discipline whilst partaking of celebratory festivities: remain sober while those around you are "puking drunk". You can do this without drawing attention to yourself by participating in the "same events", but not in the "same manner". Practice restraint while celebrating! 

Profile of a woman with the cosmos as a

Reserve judgement.


Think it through.


Use Reason.

Do the right thing.

Practise self-discipline.


Build strength of body

and mind.


Be resilient.

So, what to do? Self discipline (moderation) is the key, and a integral part of stoic virtue (temperance). Seneca tells us that "the pleasures of wise men are kept under restraint and are hardly noticeable." Bottom line: enjoy your pleasures, but don't let them run your life - into ruin.

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