Nov 14, 2020
In this episode, my focus is on how to find peace of mind amidst turmoil and persistent uncertainty. So many things that are directly affecting our lives are also out of our direct control - and it can be maddening.
The Ancient Greeks used the term ataraxia, which means a state of serene calmness. Steven Gambardella writes in the Sophist, "Ataraxia is not a positively-defined state such as "happy" or "excited" It was believed by the Hellenistic philosophies to be a "resting" state of serenity."
To achieve this state, the Stoics taught the need to discern between "things not up to us" vs. "things up to us."
"Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing." - Epictetus in the Enchiridion
Herein lies the key to much of our neurosis, not understanding what's in your control and what's not. Crazy is treating outcomes as objects; to paraphrase psychoanalyst Leslie Farber, where you can directly move an object, you cannot directly will an outcome - and your goals can distort your psyche when confusing the two.
My guest is philosophy professor Massimo Pigliucci.
Massimo has a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Tennessee. He is currently the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. His research interests include the philosophy of science, the nature of pseudoscience, and the practical philosophy of Stoicism.
He is also the author or editor of 14 books, including the bestselling How to Be A Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life. Other titles include Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk and his just published A Field Guide to a Happy Life.
Some of or talking points on this episode
Massimo was great as usual so - take a break from the insanity out there, put your earphones on, go for a walk and listen.
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