What can we learn from the intersection between the fundamental tenets of Stoicism and military heroism? Author and professor Nancy Sherman uses her extensive experience in both subjects to discuss why there’s much to gain from examining ancient Greek and Roman philosophies and how to use their teachings today. On this episode Sherman explores how to gain control of your emotions, Stoic techniques for decision making, building resilience, the difference between honor and virtue, and much more.
Sherman is a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University, and she is also the inaugural Distinguished Chair in Ethics at the United States Naval Academy. She has written extensively during her career on the Stoics, and her most recent book is Stoic Wisdom: Ancient Lessons for Modern Resilience.
Here are a few highlights from the conversation:
I interviewed Stockdale very late in his life, you know, and he could kind of still memorize this little booklet by heart. It was quite remarkable to me. He really had internalized it. All this resonated with me and I had to think which stoic lessons are really the ones I want to endorse or promote.
Maybe move on, don’t get pissed off by it or something of that sort. I think of it as you’re not stuck on the object of anger. You’re not stuck on the object of desire. You’re not stuck on the threat out there. You have a kind of healthy aversion to threat.
If you put words on your thought and you actually articulate them a bit, and you drill that articulation into your head, they have actual practices. You know, they’re not just ‘meditate at the end of the day’, but think in advance, pre-rehearse some of the bad things that could happen to you during this day.
We know there’s a gap between what you think and say and what you actually do. There’s not a perfect go-to there at all.
I think the best of philosophy suggests that when you are seeing the world, it has so many facets and you have to keep a pretty complex picture in your head.
Whereas virtue is never situationally good, it is always good. They want to draw that stripe brightly, so brightly they will actually say your virtue as the good is the only one that matters for happiness.
It is very hard in a world driven by how many likes you have on a Facebook page or how many followers you have if you’re a social media person to remember that these metrics are not really a measure of your worth. Your worth has to do with something much different. The story really is that goodness is virtue or virtue is wisdom.
And so much more.