Stoicism 101: The Stoic view of the role of virtue in achieving happiness
The Stoic philosophy emphasizes the importance of living a virtuous life to achieve happiness. According to the Stoics, virtue is the only true good, and all external things, such as wealth, power, and fame, are ultimately indifferent. This means that they do not inherently contribute to happiness, but it is how we perceive and respond to these things that determine our happiness.
According to the Stoic view, the key to achieving happiness is to cultivate virtues such as wisdom, justice, courage, and self-control. These virtues allow us to live in accordance with reason and cultivate a rational, objective perspective on the world. By living in this way, we can free ourselves from negative emotions such as anger, fear, and envy, which the Stoics believe are caused by irrational desires and attachments to external things.
For the Stoics, happiness is not the absence of suffering or the attainment of pleasure, but a state of inner peace and tranquillity that arises from living a virtuous life in accordance with reason. This means that even in the face of suffering or hardship, a Stoic can maintain a sense of peace and contentment because they are not swayed by negative emotions or attached to external things.
In order to cultivate virtues and achieve happiness, the Stoics recommended a practice known as “the discipline of desire,” which involves training oneself to desire only what is within one’s control and to let go of attachment to things that are outside of one’s control. This allows us to focus on what we can control and to act virtuously in all circumstances.
The Stoic view of the role of virtue in achieving happiness can be seen as a response to the more hedonistic philosophy of Epicurus, which emphasized the pursuit of pleasure as the ultimate goal. The Stoics believed that this approach was ultimately self-defeating, as pleasure is often fleeting and can be disrupted by external events. In contrast, the Stoic focus on virtue, as the path to happiness provides a more stable and enduring foundation for a happy life.
The stoic view of the role of virtue in achieving happiness emphasizes the importance of living a virtuous life in accordance with reason as a means to achieve inner peace and tranquillity. By cultivating virtues such as wisdom, justice, courage, and self-control, and practising the discipline of desire, we can free ourselves from negative emotions and achieve a sense of contentment and happiness that is not dependent on external circumstances.