Stoicism: The Foundation and Pillars Upholding Peace (Part 1)


Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

Parental guidance is recommended for minors

“Humanity in the 21st Century is typified by an ethos and functional operability of “The I, Me, Supreme Me, and the I Specialist” philosophies, resulting in the negation of inner tranquility and global peace, as exemplified by world leaders.”[1]

“Last Words of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius” is an 1844 painting by the French artist Eugène Delacroix, now in the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon. A preliminary sketch of the painting that was given to Delacroix’s student Louis de Planet is also kept in the museum.

24 Jun 2023 – This paper, in a two-part series, discusses the philosophy of Stoicism from the time of its founding, and the author sets the background to propose a new strategy of peace building to be reflected upon and how it could be utilised in our daily lives to encounter peaceful interactions, not only internally and inherently, but also externally, in the general, global environment of extreme belligerence, in the present era of insecurity.

As a background, it is relevant to examine, the odyssey of the STOICS, the original founders and propagators of the STOIC PHILOSOPHY[2], as well as expand on the term STOIC[3], which as an adjective derives from the philosophy of Stoicism, which was developed by ancient Greek philosophers in the 3rd century BCE. The word “stoic” is derived from the Greek word “Stoicos,” which means “follower of the Porch.” The Stoics used to gather and hold their philosophical discussions on a stoa[4], which was a covered colonnade or porch in ancient Greek architecture. The Stoic Philosophers, such as Zeno of Citium[5], Cleanthes[6], and Epictetus[7], were known for their teachings on virtue, reason, self-control, and resilience in the face of adversity. Over time, the term “stoic” came to be associated with someone who exhibits similar qualities of:

  • Emotional calmness[8],
  • Endurance[9],
  • Self-discipline[10],

Even in challenging, external circumstances. Therefore, a stoic, in the contemporary era, can be described as an emotionless individual, like a patient with Parkinsonism, where the affected patient has expressionless facies because of the nervous system pathology. However, this is not an accurate understanding of Stoicism or a stoic individual. Stoicism does not advocate for complete suppression of emotions or a lack of expression. Instead, it emphasises the cultivation of inner strength, resilience, and the ability to respond to challenges with wisdom and virtue. Stoics acknowledge and experience emotions, but they strive to maintain a sense of calm and rationality in the face of difficulties. They seek to align their thoughts and actions with reason and virtue, understanding that they have control over their own attitudes and choices, even when external circumstances are beyond their control. Stoicism encourages individuals to live in accordance with nature, to focus on what is within their power, and to develop a mindset that promotes peace of mind and personal growth. So, a stoic individual is not emotionless, but rather someone who seeks to cultivate emotional well-being and respond to life’s challenges with equanimity.

Let us consider the famous, fictious, Hollywood character of Mr Spock, a Vulcan in Star Trek [11]odyssey. He is the perfect stoic and an example of stoicism due to his logical and rational approach to decision-making and his ability to suppress or control his emotions. While there are similarities between Spock’s demeanour and some aspects of stoicism, it’s important to note that his portrayal is fictional and idealised, also remembering that Mr Spock as ably portrayed in the actor Leonard Nimoy, with his long-pointed pinnae of his ears, and trademark eyebrows, as a Vulcan[12].

Stoicism, as a philosophical school, emphasises the cultivation of virtues such as wisdom, courage, justice, and moderation. It encourages individuals to acknowledge and understand their emotions but also to develop resilience and maintain inner peace through reason and virtue. Stoics aim to live in accordance with nature and accept the things they cannot control while focusing on what they can control; their own attitudes and choices. While Mr Spock may exhibit some stoic qualities, such as his logical thinking and emotional control, it’s worth remembering that his character was created for entertainment purposes and may not fully adhere to the principles of ancient Stoic philosophy. Nonetheless, Mr. Spock’s portrayal has contributed to popularising the idea of stoicism and its association with emotional restraint and rationality.

Before the important individuals in the group of the original stoics are listed, let us examine some important physical facilities and structures as well as unique terminology, relevant to the emergence of the STOIC PHILOSOPHY in ancient Greece, in order to contextualise the “humanistically” advanced the Greek civilisation was at the time.  The term “Athenian porch[13]” typically refers to a specific architectural feature known as a stoa or stoop. In ancient Greece, a stoa was a covered walkway or portico supported by columns, often located in public spaces like marketplaces or city centers. The Athenian porch specifically refers to the stoas found in Athens, the capital city of ancient Greece and a center of philosophy, culture, and public life. These stoas served various purposes, including providing shelter from the elements, serving as meeting places, and hosting philosophical discussions. The most famous example is the Stoa of Attalos in the Ancient Agora of Athens, which has been reconstructed and stands as a significant historical site today.  The Ancient Agora of Athens, also known as the Agora of Athens[14] or simply the Agora, was a central public space in ancient Athens, Greece. It was the heart of the city-state’s civic, commercial, and social life. The word “agora” in Greek means “gathering place” or “assembly.” The Agora served as a marketplace where merchants and traders conducted business, but it was also a place for political discussions, public meetings, and the administration of justice.

The Ancient Agora of Athens was situated northwest of the Acropolis, near the foot of the hill of Areopagus. It encompassed a large area and featured various structures and buildings, including temples, stoas (covered walkways), shops, administrative buildings, and open spaces for gatherings. Notable structures within the Agora included the Stoa of Attalos[15], the Temple of Hephaestus[16] (also known as the Hephaisteion), the Bouleuterion[17] (council chamber), and the Tholos.  The Agora was not only a bustling commercial and political centre but also a place where philosophers, including Socrates[18] and Plato[19], engaged in philosophical discussions and debates. It played a significant role in the development of democracy in Athens and the flourishing of ancient Greek culture. Presently, the Ancient Agora of Athens is an important archaeological site and a popular tourist destination. Visitors can explore the ruins of the ancient buildings, walk through the ancient marketplace, and gain insights into the life and activities of ancient Athenians.  In a manner of contemporary terminology, the Ancient Agora of Athens can be likened to a present-day central business district (CBD) or downtown area with a shopping mall. It was a bustling hub of commercial activity, where merchants and traders gathered to buy and sell goods. The Agora also had various structures and buildings, including shops, where people could engage in commercial transactions.

However, the Agora was not solely focused on commerce, as it was a multifunctional, multipurpose city centre space, in Greek antiquity, which served as an epicentre of civic and social life in ancient Athens. In addition to being a marketplace, it was also a venue for political discussions, public meetings, and the administration of justice. Philosophers and intellectuals would engage in philosophical debates and conversations in the Agora as well.  So, while the Agora had elements of a bustling commercial centre, it was much more than just a shopping mall. It was a vibrant and dynamic space that played a crucial role in the daily life and development of ancient Athens.  It is this integrated environment that was conducive to the development of the philosophy of stoicism, in that era in the fertile, non-materialistic minds of certain Greek citizens, who were the founding members of this rationalised philosophy, leading to peace, during the period, of Greek history.  Furthermore, the philosophy so formulated, in that golden era of Greek history, serves as a foundational legacy, for the basis of both inner and external peace for humanoids in the 21st century.

The philosophical discussions that took place in the Agora covered a wide range of topics, including politics, religion, physics, logic, and ethics. The Agora served as a meeting place for intellectuals, philosophers, and scholars who engaged in dialogues and debates on various subjects of intellectual and practical significance. Political discussions were certainly prominent in the Agora. Athenian citizens would gather to discuss matters of governance, propose laws, and debate political issues. Philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle[20], who frequented the Agora, would often participate in these discussions and offer their insights on political theory, justice, and the ideal forms of government.  Religious matters were also a topic of interest in the Agora.  Ancient Greek religion and mythology were deeply ingrained in the culture of Athens, and discussions about gods, rituals, and religious beliefs would often take place. Philosophers would explore the nature of the divine, the existence of gods, and the relationship between religion and morality.  Additionally, the Agora was a hub for intellectual pursuits and philosophical inquiries. Philosophers engaged in debates about metaphysics, epistemology, and the nature of reality. They discussed the principles of logic, the nature of knowledge, and the methods of inquiry. Ethical questions, such as what constitutes a virtuous life and how one should act ethically, were also part of the philosophical discourse in the Agora.  The Agora provided a physical platform for a diverse range of philosophical discussions, encompassing topics related to politics, religion, physics, logic, and ethics. It was a space where ideas were exchanged, arguments were presented, and knowledge was advanced in ancient Athens.

In ancient Athens, the state of knowledge in physics and logic was characterised by the foundational contributions of influential philosophers and thinkers. While the understanding of these subjects may not have been as advanced as in modern times, ancient Greek philosophers made significant progress in laying the groundwork for future developments.

Physics, as understood in ancient Greece, focused on understanding the natural world and explaining the fundamental principles governing it. The pre-Socratic philosophers[21], such as Thales[22], Anaximander[23], and Heraclitus[24], proposed various theories to explain the nature of the universe, the elements, and the processes at work. For example, Thales suggested that water was the basic substance from which all things originated, while Heraclitus emphasized the concept of constant change and flux.

However, it was primarily with the works of Aristotle, who taught and conducted research in Athens, that physics began to be systematically studied and classified. Aristotle’s approach emphasized empirical observation and categorization of natural phenomena. His work “Physics” explored concepts such as motion, causation, time, and space. While some of Aristotle’s theories have been refined or superseded by modern physics, his contributions laid the foundation for the study of physics as a distinct field of inquiry.

In terms of logic, ancient Athens was a significant centre for its development. The pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides is considered one of the early contributors to logical reasoning. However, it was with the works of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle that logic gained prominence and systematic study. Socrates employed a method of questioning and dialogue to reveal contradictions in arguments, leading to the development of critical thinking.

Plato, in his dialogues, explored topics related to logic, reasoning, and the nature of knowledge. He emphasized the importance of rational inquiry and the pursuit of truth through philosophical discourse. Aristotle further expanded on these ideas and formalized the study of logic with his work “Organon[25].” He developed a system of syllogistic reasoning, which became the foundation of classical logic and deductive reasoning.

While the state of knowledge in physics and logic in ancient Athens was limited compared to contemporary understanding, the contributions of ancient Greek philosophers laid the groundwork for future advancements in these fields. Their ideas and methodologies formed the basis for further exploration and discoveries, shaping the development of physics and logic throughout history.

Side Profile drawings of great Greek Philosophers:  Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras, Aristotle & Zeno by François-Charles-Hugues-Laurent Pouqueville. Grèce. Paris, Firmin Didot, MDCCCXXXV (1835) Legend: 1 Socrate 2 Platon 3 Pythagore 4 Aristote 5 Zenon,  Created 01st January 1835.

It is relevant to present the chronological list of some prominent ancient Greek philosophers, starting from the earliest to the later ones:

  1. Thales of Miletus (624-546 BCE)
  2. Anaximander of Miletus (610-546 BCE)
  3. Pythagoras of Samos (c. 570-495 BCE)
  4. Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535-475 BCE)
  5. Parmenides of Elea (515-450 BCE)[26]
  6. Empedocles of Acragas (c. 490-430 BCE)[27]
  7. Zeno of Elea (c. 490-430 BCE)[28]
  8. Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (c. 500-428 BCE)[29]
  9. Protagoras of Abdera (c. 490-420 BCE)[30]
  10. Democritus of Abdera (c. 460-370 BCE)[31]
  11. Socrates (469-399 BCE)
  12. Plato (428/427-348/347 BCE)
  13. Aristotle (384-322 BCE)

Zeno of Citium[32], the founder of the philosophical school of Stoicism, came later in the Hellenistic period, around the 3rd century BCE. He lived from 334-262 BCE. Zeno of Citium is often associated with a different philosophical tradition known as the Stoics rather than the pre-Socratic philosophers mentioned above. His teachings were influential during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.  The Hellenistic era refers to the period of Greek history that followed the conquests of Alexander the Great and lasted from the 4th century BCE to the 1st century BCE. During this time, Greek culture and influence spread throughout the vast empire that Alexander had created. The Hellenistic period can be further divided into several distinct periods:

  1. Early Hellenistic Period (323-281 BCE)[33]: This period begins with the death of Alexander the Great and the subsequent division of his empire among his generals (the Diadochi). It is characterized by political instability and the establishment of Hellenistic kingdoms, such as the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt and the Seleucid Empire in Asia.
  2. High Hellenistic Period (281-168 BCE[34]): This period saw the rise of powerful Hellenistic states and the flourishing of Hellenistic culture. It was marked by the reign of important rulers such as the Ptolemaic pharaohs in Egypt (including Cleopatra) and the Seleucid kings in the East.
  3. Late Hellenistic Period (168-31 BCE): [35]This period is dominated by the Roman Republic’s expansion and eventual conquest of the Hellenistic kingdoms. It culminated in the Battle of Actium [36]in 31 BCE, when Octavian (later known as Augustus) defeated Mark Antony[37] and Cleopatra[38], effectively marking the end of the Hellenistic era.

The Hellenistic era is often considered a golden age due to its significant cultural and intellectual achievements. It witnessed advancements in fields such as art, literature, philosophy, and science, blending Greek traditions with influences from the diverse cultures within the empire.

It is necessary to explain some descriptive terminology for the purposes of developing the concept that stoicism can lead to sustainable peace.

  1. Rhetoric and dialectic are two important concepts in ancient Greek philosophy and education. They are closely related but have distinct meanings and purposes.

Rhetoric: Rhetoric refers to the art of persuasive communication, particularly in public speaking and writing. It involves the skilful use of language and techniques to influence or persuade an audience. Rhetoric focuses on the effective use of arguments, appeals, and rhetorical devices to convey one’s message and convince others. It encompasses various elements such as style, delivery, organization, and emotional appeal. Rhetoric was highly valued in ancient Greece, where public speaking and persuasion played a significant role in politics, law, and education. Prominent philosophers like Plato and Aristotle devoted considerable attention to the study and teaching of rhetoric.

Dialectic: Dialectic, also known as the Socratic method, is a method of inquiry and philosophical discourse aimed at reaching truth and understanding through reasoned dialogue and questioning. It involves a process of inquiry and debate in which participants engage in critical thinking, analyzing arguments, and examining underlying assumptions. Dialectic emphasizes logical reasoning, examination of ideas, and the pursuit of knowledge through questioning and dialogue. It seeks to uncover contradictions, resolve conflicts, and arrive at a deeper understanding of concepts and truth. The Socratic dialogues, written by Plato, exemplify the use of dialectic in philosophical inquiry.

While rhetoric focuses on persuasive communication and the art of presentation, dialectic is more concerned with critical thinking, logical reasoning, and the search for truth. Rhetoric aims to persuade and influence, while dialectic aims to inquire, challenge, and arrive at reasoned conclusions. Both rhetoric and dialectic were important components of education in ancient Greece, with rhetoric being more prevalent in public discourse and dialectic being valued for philosophical inquiry and intellectual development.

  1. Syllogistic refers to a logical system developed by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. It is a deductive reasoning method that involves drawing conclusions from two premises that are presented in a specific structure called a syllogism. The syllogistic form consists of two premises, one major and one minor, and a conclusion that follows logically from the premises.

The syllogistic method is based on the idea that certain relationships exist between classes or categories of things. These relationships are expressed through statements or propositions. Each proposition consists of a subject term and a predicate term, connected by a copula (e.g., “All humans are mortal”).  The syllogistic system uses various rules and principles to determine the validity of an argument based on the structure of the syllogism. These rules involve terms, quantity, quality, and distribution. By applying these rules, one can assess whether the conclusion of a syllogism logically follows from the premises.

An example of a syllogism, can be illustrated as follows:

Premise 1: All mammals are animals. Premise 2: All cats are mammals. Conclusion: Therefore, all cats are animals.

In this example, the conclusion follows logically from the premises, adhering to the rules of the syllogistic system.

Syllogistic reasoning has been influential in the field of logic and has shaped the development of logical systems throughout history. It provides a structured and systematic approach to analysing and evaluating arguments based on their logical form.

  1. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that deals with the study of knowledge, including its nature, scope, sources, and validity. It explores questions such as “What is knowledge?” “How is knowledge acquired?” and “What are the limits of knowledge?”

Epistemology seeks to understand the nature of knowledge and how we come to know things. It examines the different ways in which knowledge can be obtained and evaluates the reliability and justification of beliefs and claims. Epistemology explores the relationship between the knower and the known, and it investigates the methods, processes, and criteria used to distinguish between justified beliefs and mere opinions.

Some key concepts in epistemology include:

  1. Rationalism and Empiricism: These are two major theories regarding the sources of knowledge. Rationalism emphasizes the role of reason and innate ideas, while empiricism focuses on sensory experience and observation as the foundation of knowledge.
  2. Scepticism: Scepticism questions the possibility of attaining certain knowledge and often involves doubting or suspending judgment on various claims. It challenges the reliability of our senses, reasoning, and evidence.
  • Justification and Warrant: Epistemology explores how beliefs can be justified or warranted. It investigates the criteria and conditions necessary for a belief to be considered valid or well-founded.
  1. Truth and Correspondence: Epistemology examines the relationship between truth and knowledge. It asks whether knowledge is simply justified true belief and delves into different theories of truth, such as correspondence theories that assert truth as a correspondence between beliefs and reality.

Epistemology is a fundamental area of study in philosophy and has implications for many other disciplines, including science, ethics, and metaphysics. It helps us understand the nature and limits of human knowledge and provides a framework for evaluating and critically examining our beliefs and claims about the world.  Therefore, in the ancient times it was believed that the Earth was flat, as categorically stated by the Church. If you disagreed or proved the contrary, then you were executed, using some brutal technique for the demise of the doomed intellectual, for heresy. This would be an example of Epistemology.  The belief in a flat Earth during ancient times and the persecution of individuals who held contrary views does touch upon epistemological questions, particularly in terms of how knowledge is acquired, justified, and accepted.  However, in the context mentioned, the prevailing belief in a flat Earth was largely based on religious and cultural traditions, as well as limited observational evidence. It was considered part of the accepted knowledge of the time, often supported by religious authorities.

However, the development of scientific methods and exploration gradually challenged the flat Earth belief. Through empirical evidence, such as circumnavigation voyages, lunar eclipses, and observations of the Earth’s curvature, the understanding of Earth’s shape shifted towards a spherical model.

The conflict between the established belief in a flat Earth and the emerging evidence of a spherical Earth can be seen as an epistemological issue. It raises questions about the sources and criteria for accepting knowledge, the role of evidence and observation, and the acceptance of new ideas that challenge existing beliefs.  Epistemology examines how knowledge is acquired, evaluated, and justified. In the case of the flat Earth belief, the dominant epistemology was rooted in tradition, authority, and religious dogma. The shift towards accepting a spherical Earth required a re-evaluation of the criteria for knowledge, including the incorporation of empirical evidence, scientific methods, and logical reasoning. The persecution of individuals who contradicted the prevailing view can be seen as an attempt to suppress dissent and protect the established knowledge system. It reflects a struggle between competing epistemological frameworks and the resistance to accepting new evidence and ideas.  In summary, the belief in a flat Earth and the persecution of dissenters can be considered in the context of epistemology, as they involve the acquisition, justification, and acceptance of knowledge, as well as the resistance to change in the face of new evidence.

  1. Oikeiôsis is a philosophical concept that originated in ancient Stoic philosophy. It is often translated as “appropriation” or “familiarisation” and refers to the process by which individuals extend their sense of self and identify with others and the world around them.

In Stoic philosophy, oikeiôsis is closely linked to the idea of living in accordance with nature and developing a sense of kinship and harmony with the broader universe. It involves recognizing our inherent interconnectedness with other people, animals, and the natural world.

According to the Stoics, oikeiôsis begins with our natural inclination towards self-preservation and self-interest: the dictum of “I, Me, Supreme Me and the “I” Specialist”, the centre of the entire universe.  However, through reason and moral development, individuals are encouraged to expand their sphere of concern beyond themselves and develop a sense of empathy and compassion towards others. This process of extending one’s sense of self is seen as essential for achieving wisdom, virtue, and living a good life.

Oikeiôsis involves recognising the shared experiences and common humanity that we have with others. It encourages us to treat others with fairness, kindness, and respect, and to cultivate a sense of justice and benevolence. Through oikeiôsis, individuals strive to align their values and actions with the well-being and flourishing of the wider community and the natural world. In summary, oikeiôsis is a philosophical concept that emphasizes the expansion of one’s sense of self to include a deep connection and identification with others and the broader universe. It encourages empathy, compassion, and a recognition of our shared humanity as essential components of leading a virtuous and fulfilling life.

Main Picture: The original equestrian statue of The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius The original was in the nearby Capitoline Museum, is now located in the Palazzo dei Conservatori
Inset, Top Right Picture: The inscription on the plinth of the replica statue, commissioned by Pope Paul III, is sited in the Piazza Campidoglio, Rome, Italy. The plinth translated, reads: To the Imperator Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (son of the deified Antoninus, grandson of the deified Hadrian, great-grandson of the deified Trajan conqueror of the Parthians, great-great-grandson of the deified Nerva), pious, august, conqueror of the Germans and Sarmatians, Supreme Pontiff, invested for 27 years with the Tribunician power, acclaimed as Imperator 6 times, elected Consul 3 times, Father of his Country, the Roman Senate and People [dedicate this].  
Inset, Bottom Right Picture:  A replica of the statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, sited in the Piazza Campidoglio, Rome, Italy. There are numerous replicas of this statue, for outdoor displays.
Inset, Top Left Picture: A carved, marble bust of the Roman Emperor and protagonist of the Stoic Philosophy: Marcus Aurelius

Let us examine the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius[39], the Roman emperor from 161 to 180 AD, is often regarded as one of the greatest Stoic philosophers in history. He not only ruled the Roman Empire[40] but also dedicated significant time to personal reflection and the development of his philosophical beliefs. His writings, particularly his “Meditations,” provide valuable insights into Stoic philosophy and his own application of its principles. It is necessary to delve into the life of Marcus Aurelius, as a Stoic and his contributions to the field.

Marcus Aurelius’ reign as emperor was marked by numerous challenges, including wars, political conflicts, and the pressure of governing a vast empire. Despite these external pressures, he remained committed to his Stoic beliefs and sought to apply them in his everyday life and leadership. His writings, which were never intended for public consumption, reveal his introspective thoughts and reflections on Stoic principles.

  • One of the central, most important themes in Marcus Aurelius’ philosophy, is the importance of He believed that true happiness and fulfilment come from living in accordance with reason and moral excellence. Virtue, according to Marcus Aurelius, lies in cultivating qualities such as wisdom, justice, courage, and self-discipline. He saw virtue as the ultimate goal of human life and emphasized its significance in guiding one’s actions and choices. Marcus Aurelius also emphasized the acceptance of nature and the understanding that everything happens according to a divine plan. He encouraged individuals to align their will with the natural order of the universe and to accept their fate, even in the face of adversity. This acceptance was not passive resignation but a recognition that individuals have the power to control their responses and attitudes towards external events. In his “Meditations,” Marcus Aurelius often reflected on the transient nature of life and the importance of living in the present moment. He urged individuals to focus their attention on the here and now, rather than dwelling on the past or anxiously worrying about the future. This mindfulness and presence allowed for greater appreciation of life and a deeper connection to the present reality.
  • Another significant aspect of Marcus Aurelius’ Stoic philosophy was his emphasis on self-discipline and self-mastery. He recognized that individuals have the ability to control their thoughts, emotions, and actions. By practicing self-discipline, one could overcome negative emotions, desires, and attachments that hindered their inner tranquillity and virtuous living.
  • Marcus Aurelius’ Stoic teachings extended beyond personal ethics to matters of leadership and governance. He believed that leaders should rule with wisdom, justice, and compassion, placing the well-being of their subjects above their own interests. He emphasized the importance of fairness, integrity, and impartiality in decision-making, and he advocated for the use of reason and rationality in leadership.

The influence of Marcus Aurelius’ Stoic philosophy extends beyond his own lifetime. His writings, especially the “Meditations,” have become a cornerstone of Stoic literature and have continued to inspire and guide individuals seeking wisdom and inner peace. His emphasis on self-discipline, mindfulness, and the pursuit of virtue resonates with people from various walks of life.  Marcus Aurelius’ contributions to Stoicism lie not only in his personal embodiment of its principles but also in his articulation and reflection on its teachings. His writings serve as a practical guide for applying Stoic philosophy to everyday life and offer insights into the challenges and rewards of living a virtuous and fulfilling existence.  Marcus Aurelius stands as a prominent figure in Stoic philosophy, exemplifying the ideals of virtue, self-discipline, and acceptance of nature. His writings, particularly the “Meditations,[41]” continue to be a source of inspiration and guidance for individuals seeking a path to wisdom, inner peace, and ethical living. Through his insights and reflections, Marcus Aurelius has left a lasting legacy in the field of Stoicism, reminding us of the timeless wisdom and practical guidance that Stoicism offers for navigating the complexities of life, cultivating inner strength, and finding tranquility amidst the uncertainties of the world. His contributions serve as a reminder of the enduring relevance of Stoic philosophy and its potential to shape our perspectives, actions, and character, for the better.

The large painting, a copy of which heads this paper, depicts the last hours of the life of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, as the artist, Delacroix[42], admired the Stoics and particularly Marcus Aurelius. The character is represented in the center of the painting as an old, sick man who grabs the arm of a young man dressed in red, namely his son Commodus (Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus[43]). Commodus seems not to pay attention to what his father wants to say and has a haughty look. Around them, Marcus Aurelius’ philosopher friends who are present around the bed are portrayed as sad men dressed in black[44]  The painting captures the solemnity and introspection of the moment.

While there is no historical record of Marcus Aurelius’s exact last words, there are writings attributed to him that reflect his philosophical outlook on life and death. In his book “Meditations,” Marcus Aurelius contemplates mortality and the transient nature of existence. One of his famous quotes on the subject is: “Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.”  This quote reflects his recognition of the inevitability of death and the importance of living a virtuous life in the present moment. In the context of the painting, the artist portrays Marcus Aurelius in a contemplative state, perhaps reflecting on his life’s journey, the wisdom he has gained, and the legacy he will leave behind. The painting captures the emotional and philosophical depth of the moment rather than depicting his literal last words. Thus, the painting represents the end of the Roman Empire. Delacroix, who was fascinated by the red color after his travel to North Africa in 1832, draws the viewer’s attention to Commodus by garbing him in bright red. It appears that the painting has no moral aspect, as the message that Delacroix wanted to convey in this work remains unknown.[45]  The title “The Last Words of Marcus Aurelius” is a conventional title given to the painting by Eugène Delacroix. While the painting does not depict the actual moment of Marcus Aurelius’s last words, as there is no historical record of his precise final words.  The title is likely symbolic and metaphorical, representing the contemplative state and the nearing of death that Marcus Aurelius would have experienced during his final days. It reflects the theme of mortality and the philosophical reflections on life and existence that were characteristic of Stoic philosophy. However, the painting by Delacroix offers a visual interpretation of the introspective nature of Marcus Aurelius’s philosophy and his contemplation of mortality.

As for the motivation of the artist, Eugène Delacroix was known for his romantic and historical paintings. He was inspired by classical themes and historical figures, seeking to evoke emotional and introspective responses from the viewer. The painting of Marcus Aurelius on his deathbed aligns with this artistic inclination, allowing Delacroix to explore themes of mortality, introspection, and the passage of time.  The painting, created in the 1840s, was part of a larger series by Delacroix titled “Romans of the Decadence.” This series depicted various scenes from ancient Rome, exploring themes of decline, introspection, and the human condition. The depiction of Marcus Aurelius in his final moments fits within the broader context of this series, capturing the mood and spirit of a pivotal figure in Roman history and philosophy.  “The Last Words of Marcus Aurelius” is a symbolic representation of the contemplative state of the philosopher-emperor towards the end of his life. The painting reflects the artist’s exploration of philosophical and emotional themes, as well as his broader interest in depicting historical and classical subjects.

To illustrate the contributions, Marcus Aurelius[46],[47]  made to the philosophy of Stoicism, it is appropriate to quote a few wise statements of the Roman Emperor, which  reflects his Stoic philosophy:

  1. “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.”
    • This quote emphasizes the Stoic principle of focusing on what is within our control, namely our own thoughts and actions, rather than being consumed by external circumstances.
  2. “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
    • Marcus Aurelius emphasises the importance of cultivating positive and virtuous thoughts as a key to living a fulfilling life.
  3. “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
    • This quote captures the Stoic concept of turning obstacles into opportunities for growth and transformation, emphasizing the power of our mindset in overcoming challenges.
  4. “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
    • Marcus Aurelius encourages individuals to focus on embodying virtue and living a morally upright life rather than engaging in theoretical debates about morality.
  5. “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
    • This quote highlights the Stoic idea that our perception of reality is subjective and influenced by our own interpretations, urging us to cultivate a mindset of scepticism and critical thinking.
  6. “Accept the things to which fate binds you and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”
    • Marcus Aurelius emphasises the importance of accepting the inevitable and embracing our connections with others, advocating for a mindset of love, compassion, and acceptance. The concept of “AMOR FATI”: Be in love with your fate,.  This was sadly demonstrated on Thursday 23rd June, 2023, when the US Coastguard confirmed the tragedy, using top secret deep ocean monitoring devices,  like the fate six passengers, of death, the moment the hatch of the doomed submersible, Titan, embarked on the deep underwater dive to the cursed site of the White Star ocean liner “Titanic” which sank on 15th April 1912 after hitting an iceberg on 14th April 1912.  This biggest maritime disaster led to the loss of 1503 lives.  The depth of the stern section of the Titanic is approximately resting at 3,784 meters, while the bow section rests at a depth of about 3,840 meters.. It is sad to note that another six young,li ves, including that of a 19-year-old teenager, who accompanied his father, reluctantly, on the trip based on his father’s obsession with the sinking of the Titanic”, are lost This, as per his fate, led to his pre-destined demise, for both himself and his young son, eradicating a family heritage, by an implosion of the Titan, on a trip, arranged at the cost of US$250, 000 per person by the undersea, deep diving, company Oceangate, which organises extreme tourism to underwater depths of 3800metres, in the middle of the North Atlantic, nearly 600 kilometers, southeast of  Newfoundland, Canada.
  7. “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
    • This quote reflects the Stoic belief that true happiness is not dependent on external possessions or circumstances, but rather on our internal attitudes and perspectives.

These quotes encapsulate some of the core teachings of Stoicism as espoused by Marcus Aurelius and demonstrate his profound understanding of human nature, ethics, and the pursuit of inner harmony.

In the context of Stoicism, taxonomy refers to the classification and categorization of various aspects of philosophical concepts and principles. It involves organizing and systematizing different ideas, doctrines, and teachings within Stoic philosophy into distinct categories or classifications. Taxonomy in Stoicism helps to provide a structured framework for understanding and studying the philosophical principles, virtues, and practices advocated by Stoic thinkers. It aids in the exploration of different aspects of Stoicism and allows for a more comprehensive and organised understanding of its teachings. The author proposes the mechanics as diagrammatically illustrated in the graphic below, of how to achieve sustainable Peace.

See: The Taxonomy of Stoicism TMS SLIDE

Stoicism is a philosophical school of thought that originated in ancient Greece and later flourished in the Roman Empire. It offers a practical philosophy for living a virtuous and fulfilling life. Here are the main elements of Stoicism:

  1. Logic (Dialectic): Logic is seen as the foundation of Stoic philosophy. It involves critical thinking, rationality, and the study of philosophy itself. The Stoics emphasized the importance of using reason to understand the world and make wise decisions.
  2. Physics (Natural Philosophy): Stoic physics explores the nature of the universe and our place within it. It teaches that the universe is governed by rational principles and that everything happens according to a divine plan. The Stoics believed in the interconnection of all things and the existence of a divine, rational force they called “Logos.”
  3. Ethics (Ethical Philosophy): Ethics is a central aspect of Stoicism. It focuses on personal development and living in accordance with nature. Stoics believed that virtue is the highest good and that living virtuously leads to inner tranquility and eudaimonia (flourishing). Key virtues in Stoicism include wisdom, justice, courage, and self-discipline.
  4. Virtue: Stoics consider virtue as the sole good and vice as the sole evil. Virtue is not only moral excellence but also the perfection of one’s character. It is within an individual’s control and can be cultivated through reason and practice. Stoics believed that living virtuously leads to a good and fulfilled life.
  5. Acceptance of Fate: Stoicism teaches acceptance of the natural order of the universe and one’s fate. It emphasizes the distinction between what is within our control (our thoughts, attitudes, and actions) and what is beyond our control (external events and other people’s actions). Stoics advocate for focusing on what is within our control and accepting the things we cannot change.
  6. Inner Tranquillity: Stoicism aims to cultivate inner tranquillity by freeing oneself from negative emotions, attachments, and desires. The Stoics believed that true happiness comes from within and can be attained by living in harmony with reason, accepting the present moment, and practicing self-discipline.
  7. Amor Fati: Amor Fati, meaning “love of fate,” is the Stoic practice of embracing and loving whatever happens in life, both the positive and the negative. It involves seeing every event as an opportunity for growth and development, even in the face of adversity.

The above elements form the foundation of Stoicism and provide a framework for leading a virtuous and meaningful life in accordance with reason, nature, and the pursuit of inner tranquillity.

Main picture:  Marble Bust of a Stoic Philosopher, Zeno of Citium, The father of stoicism.
Inset picture, right bottom: Ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium, depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle.  The Nuremberg Chronicle is an illustrated encyclopedia consisting of world historical accounts, as well as accounts told through biblical paraphrase.
Inset picture, left bottom: Modern day bust of Zeno of Citium in Athens.

The Bottom Line is that while the aforementioned background formed the basis of the formulation of the Stoic Philosophy in ancient Greece, humanity has conveniently forgotten about stoicism as a basis to engender and promote not only inner peace and tranqulity in humanoids, but global harmony as well. However, the Greek Dark Age which followed the Mycenaean civilisation, represents a period of decline of philosophical thoughts and cultural transition in ancient Greek history, like it is happening in the 21st century, in which the global belligerence has negated peace and has resulted in the inevitable appearance of the humanistic Dark Age of the modern civilisation, quite apart from the technological advances humanoids, have collectively made in Information Technology (IT) , transportation, medicine, exploration: invading the darkest depths of the oceans, such as the maximum known depth of 10,984 ± 25 meters  deep, The Mariana Trench[48], which is the deepest known part of the world’s oceans, and its deepest point is called the Challenger Deep. The Challenger Deep reaches a depth of approximately 36,070 feet (10,994 meters).  At the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the pressure is immense. It is estimated to be around 1,086 bars or 15,750 pounds per square inch (psi), which is roughly 1,000 times atmospheric pressure at sea level. The extreme pressure is a result of the immense weight of the water column above it. Only specially designed submersibles are capable of reaching such depths and withstanding the extreme pressure.  On the other hand humanoids have landed on the Moon and launched spacecrafts over “trinormous” distances to the planet Mars[49], landing an uncrewed craft.  The first successful landing on Mars was achieved by the NASA spacecraft Viking 1 on July 20, 1976.[50] However, as global citizens instead of promoting Peace, have become war mongers, causing political and civil destabilisation of regions, principally to further the covert agenda of pursuing materialism and financial gains in the process, either by colonisation or creating dissension in a targeted country.

In Part 2 of this paper, the author will expand on how the renaissance of the Stoic Philosophy can rejuvenate the clouded minds of humanoids, in causing a paradigm shift, a mindset change, from “I, Me, Supreme Me and I Specialist”, to the all-inclusive betterment of “Us” and improve the values, rekindling the higher attributes of ethics, justice, equity and humanity, with an overarching framework and ethos of virtue, to form an integral part of the mental attitude of all humanoids, including global leaders.


[1] Personal quote by the author, June 2023




















































Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.

Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Jun 2023.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Stoicism: The Foundation and Pillars Upholding Peace (Part 1), is included. Thank you.

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