09 July 2018

The Integrated Chinese Philosophies - Stoicism

It may surprise you, as it has surprised me, that an Ancient Greek philosophy could integrate the key aspects of 3 Ancient Chinese Philosophies of Dao, Ru, and Art of War. That Western philosophy is Stoicism.

The most common understanding, or rather misunderstanding, of Stoicism, is given in the dictionary as:
"The endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint." So we have the idea that Stoicism is about being cold-blooded, emotionless. On the contrary, Stoicism is not emotionless but the right emotional management and is actually emotional maturity. 

From Dictionary.com again, It is "an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge; the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain."

Relationships with Chinese Philosophies

Sun Zi's Art of War teaches us to go only by evidence, facts, and insider knowledge, and never rely on fortune-telling, superficial events, nor even past experience. Every decision must be based on calculations, evaluations, and planning must be done first before action. Never start a war to gain glory nor be instigated and angered to get even. Leaders must always be calm and bold to go by the cold evidence and clear thinking. This agrees with part 1 virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge; of the above definition.

Lao Zi's Dao School of Philosophy teaches us to follow after the Way of Dao - the Way of the Created Order - the Nature and Heaven. We are to live in harmony with Dao and never go against it. This is part 2,  "the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature"

Confucianism teaches us to have aspirations. To grow up to be an independent and contributive person. 己欲立而立人,己欲达而达人。One must be able to stand up(successful) and then help others to stand up and successful too. Mencius, the 2nd to Confucius, in Confucius' Ru School of philosophy defines what is a mature or great man. 富貴不能淫,貧賤不能移,威武不能屈。此之謂 大丈夫。He is the one who is not corrupted by wealth and honor (and the pleasures they bring), not move by poverty nor low standing in society, and not threatened by force. That is part 3 " indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain."

More on Stoicism:
A search on the teaching of Stoicism on the internet will give us more details. A good one is from https://www.njlifehacks.com/what-is-stoicism-overview-definition-10-stoic-principles/ The content is great. It says a true Stoic Person looks like:

1. He is serene and confident no matter what you throw at him.
2. She acts out of reason, not emotion.
3. He focuses on what he controls and does not worry about what he can’t control.
4. She accepts fate graciously and tries to make the best of it.
5. He appreciates what he has and does never complain.
6. She is kind, generous, and forgiving towards others.
7. His actions are prudent and he takes full responsibility.
8. She is calm and not attached to external things.
9. He possesses practical wisdom, justice & benevolence, courage & self-discipline.
10. She lives in harmony with himself, mankind, and nature.

We can see that Stoicism is not without emotion but with managed emotion. He is not easily stirred up by events nor the actions of others. He always maintains his composure and reasoning ability. He is bold and will act on the right course of action from his reasoning. He has true moral standards defined by the Creator and lives in harmony with those standards.

Lim Liat (c) 9 Jul 2018
Update 14-May 2021

Recently, Ryan Holidays, https://ryanholiday.net/50-short-rules-for-life-from-the-stoics/, has a 50-short rules that provide greater details on how to do Stoicism. Since 50 is too many to start, I regroup them in a mind-map below:

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