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Stoicism and the Art of Self-Mastery

Stoicism and the Art of Self-Mastery
Dr Kurt Lampe, University of Bristol, BRLSI, 5th July 2016
Notes by William Gaskell

Dr Kurt Lampe has a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley.
Image of Eris Dippis who dumps his fortune overboard during a journey by ship as his shipmates seemed unsavoury, his idea was that he would rather destroy his wealth than for it to fall into the hands of the unsavoury shipmates – Zero Sum Game – Stoicism.
Period of classical philosophy C280BC to 250AD. Stoa Poikile “Painted Colonnade” in Athens.
Epicurean philosophers dissipate from their usual haunts and classical stoicism comes to an end.
Modern Anglo-American neo stoicism
B. Continental
This is now a philosophic/therapeutic movement. It was considered to be pilfering ideas from Plato and Aristotle but since 1970 has come into its own.
Stoic philosophy is full of metaphor: “freedom as opposite of slavery.”
The internal conflict of decision making: “shouldn’t do it” but you do and get fired from your job because of your self-doubt, you are enslaved by your fear. Self-mastery requires you to act wholeheartedly.

Marcus Aurelius described as The Stoic Emperor as he was the card carrying stoic type – reading stoic writings. Rather than Caesar who was a stoic at a time Epicureanism was the dominant philosophy amongst the Roman elite. Brutus for examples was an Epicurean who converted to Stoicism.
Stoic philosophers attempted to see the natural order from the divine perspective enduring much hardship and great trouble to do so. They thought that autonomy was being part of the universal governing body.
“People subject to defects, malicious and treacherous because they misunderstand what is good and what is bad [from this perspective]” which was the essence of Marcus Aurelius’ personal philosophy, and he was often heard to utter something like that.
No one is beyond being taught something better in stoic philosophy. Stoics believe mind/soul I heart. They do not believe in irrational thoughts but believe in learning about better ideas – sometimes because of the situation some ideas come about which may not seem right in the future – this is different to Plato who thought people are capable of having irrational thoughts and were mad.

Michel Foucault

French philosopher who died of AIDS. 1926-1984. He proposed the idea that power will alienate you from yourself. We can compare this to Voltaire: “With great power comes great responsibility,” and Winston Churchill: “The price of greatness is responsibility.”
Dr Kurt Lampe’s insight is make people get involved in regulation as a polity to avoid the alienation.
Seneca: “People should not be hypocrites to be wise.” Symptomatic of Seneca.
Dr Kurt Lampe seeks to deliver the best Stoicism Philosophy lecture so that the audience would love him. But he may gout cut up if it doesn’t work out and cry himself to sleep. To rise about this type of situation he conformed to a certain set of behaviours to be his own best friend and be worthy of having that expectation of himself in the first place. He had to catch the train to get to the lecture but missed the one he intended to take as his bike couldn’t be accommodated and so there were obstacles that almost prevented him from getting here but he arrived just in time.
The point is:
·         Establish relationships – what one controls oneself and what others have control over

Bernard Stiegler

He talks about digital dementia type of issues; reliance on smartphones.
·         Acknowledge how they are good/bad for us
·         Keep mind agile with mindfulness type exercises, working on discipline and independent mental skill set
Great quote (he got the voice just right):

“Why are kids these days messing around with their smartphones?” 


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