Simple Stoic Advice

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The beautiful thing about Stoic philosophy is the advice contained within it is just as applicable today as it was when it was first written all those many years ago. We can learn a great deal from interpreting the advice provided and using it to our advantage as we go throughout our own lives.

Today’s quote comes to us courtesy of Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 12.9:


“The student as boxer, not fencer. The fencer’s weapon is picked up and put down again. The boxer’s is part of him. All he has to do is clench his fist.”


Marcus Aurelius is said to have loved sports growing up, including boxing. He uses the metaphor of the boxer to philosophy as it is inherent that we need to have our philosophy constantly at the ready. A boxer stands in the ring in both an offensive and defensive position; hands are raised to protect the face and head, light on his toes so he can quickly move around, hips at the ready to turn into or roll out of a situation. The boxer uses his entire body to win a match and is constantly at the ready.

The fencer, on the other hand, has to pick up and put down his sword. If he is attacked and doesn’t have his sword, he is in trouble.

Philosophy is no different to Marcus. We must always be training ourselves in the ways of philosophy. We do not attempt to live a virtuous life when it is convenient, and we should not turn to philosophy only in times of need. On the contrary, we should always be studying philosophy, keeping the boxer within you alive and ready. By continually studying philosophy, your tools are constantly at your disposal regardless of the situation at hand.

Seneca, writing to his friend Lucilius, states:

“I am sure you realize, Lucilius, that no one can live a truly happy life, or even a bearable life, without philosophy; also, that while it is complete wisdom that renders a life happy, even to begin that study makes life bearable.”

Study philosophy and keep it at the ready. You can and will need it in both times of need and times of peace.

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