Stoicism with Heart (55+)

With its origins in ancient Greece, stoicism can still offer psychological insight and philosophical practice to enrich our lives today. Often misunderstood to mean merely denying emotion or “being tough,” stoicism actually seeks practical answers to fundamental questions about how to live reasonably, ethically, joyfully and in harmony with the world around us. Stoicism can generate psychological resilience, clarity of purpose, acceptance and optimism. Contemporary philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb says a stoic “transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.”

We’ll explore stoic thought by discussing original texts, scholarly and popular secondary sources, current research on the psychological dimensions of stoicism, and modern thinkers such as Victor Frankl and Martha Nussbaum.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

Week 1: Introduction to Stoicism

As an introduction to stoic philosophy, we’ll discuss the many myths its recent popularization has engendered, review a cursory history of stoicism, and consider the basic principles and themes of stoicism, particularly in terms of their relevance for the older adult.

Week 2: Stoic Concept of Logic

Stoics valued the uniquely human capacity to reason about the world, both as an expression of their belief in a unifying cosmic intelligence, the logos, as well as a means to distinguish between mere impressions or opinions and true knowledge.

Week 3: Stoic Concept of Physics

Beginning with an overview of stoic cosmology, we’ll explore the philosophical implications this has for the stoic concepts of causation, free will and acceptance (amor fati).

Week 4: Stoic Concept of Ethics

The Stoics believed that one of the main purposes of our capacity to reason was to develop virtue in service of the common good; we will discuss stoic values and ethical reasoning, and their application to living harmoniously with nature, ourselves and our communities. 

Week 5: Concepts and Practices of Stoic Joy

Joy and human thriving are central themes in stoic philosophy, and an extensive series of practices were developed to cultivate the attitudinal wisdom on which these states were believed to be predicated. We will consider the application of these practices, including the dichotomy of control, negative visualization, emotional self-regulation, and perspective taking, as they pertain to our life stage development.

Week 6: Contemporary Developments and Applications of Stoicism

In our final class, we will discuss contemporary developments of stoic thought as expressed in Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy, Albert Ellis’ rational behavior therapy, and Martha Nussbaum’s capability ethics.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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