[image: Photo by Sebastian Voortman from Pexels; this is essay #310 in the Figs in Winter series]

D. writes: I’m in the early days of a new relationship and have had so many opportunities to apply the Stoic teachings that the difference between this and my last previous one is a step change. My partner isn’t Stoic or Stoic-inclined, but she very much appreciates the results (she describes it as “maturity”). On my part, I do my best to practice stealth Stoicism. I don’t always manage but the intention is always present.

Often however, what I struggle with is not the restraint part, but the “groaning outwardly” bit. Not for serious things, but for mundane, day to…


[image: Aristotle teaching Alexander, Wikimedia; this is essay #309 in the Figs in Winter series]

“What else would be more serviceable to a king who wished to be good than the study of philosophy? How better or how otherwise could a man be a good ruler or live a good life than by studying philosophy?”

Plato famously said that philosophers should be in charge of the State. He is often misunderstood on this point, as he certainly wasn’t saying that academic professionals like myself should guide a nation. He meant that people who are in charge of the lives of others should be as wise as possible, that is, they should be “philosophers” in the…


[image: modern Mytilenè, the capital of Lesbos in the north Aegean, Wikipedia; this is essay #308 in the Figs in Winter series]

For the past couple of years I’ve been fascinated with the relationship between philosophy and politics, and particularly by the complex intercourse between one of the greatest philosophers of all time, Socrates, and one of the greatest scoundrels of all time, his student and friend, Alcibiades. I’m just about to complete a book on the topic, to be published by Basic next year. As is often the case when you write a book, the early drafts turn out to be significantly longer than what the publisher likes, so you are bound to cut some stuff out. You know, like editing…


[image: Wikimedia; this is essay #307 in the Figs in Winter series]

I have a close relative, A., who is a smart woman, with college degree, and who has been able to make a good life for herself in a foreign country, against many odds. In other words, not the stereotypical country bumpkin. And yet, a few years ago I discovered that A. accepts all sorts of conspiracy theories and is now an anti-vaxxer. In the middle of a pandemic. How is this possible?

The first shocking revelation about A.’s, shall we say, unsanitary epistemic habits came when we met for lunch at her mother’s home in Rome a few years ago…


[image by Inzmam Khan from Pexels; this is essay #306 in the Figs in Winter series]

A. Writes: A friend of mine has been sexually assaulted and battered quite severely. Whilst he reported it to the authorities, and is seeking therapy, he is in shock over the fact that it was done by women, and although they were arrested, he was briefly in deep fear that he would not be taken seriously by the authorities because the women threatened to blame him. Thankfully, it didn’t turn out that way.

I wanted to know how a Stoic (barring therapy, as my friend is seeking it and is on his way to mental recovery) copes with such a…


[image: virtuous knives? Gerlach kitchen knives, Wikimedia; this is essay #305 in the Figs in Winter series]

J. writes: I have seen Stoic virtue (arete) defined in a number of different ways: Human excellence, following Nature, living rationally, acting for the benefit of all mankind, acting with wisdom, justice, courage, moderation, etc.. In “Build Your Resilience” Donald Robertson even defines it as “acting in accord with our true personal values,” bringing Stoicism in line with modern ACT.

But surely all of these definitions are open to interpretation and individual differences. A soldier may kill many people, believing that this is necessary for the greater good. A pacifist may campaign fervently against the soldier, believing that killing is…


[image: photo by Lukas Rodriguez from Pexels; this is essay #304 in the Figs in Winter series]

People have been wondering about what makes life good and worth living probably ever since human beings have been able to wonder about something that they could articulate to themselves and others, i.e., since the evolution of language. For the past two and a half millennia we have a record of such musings, chiefly to be found among the world’s religious and philosophical traditions. It is therefore from the point of view of my chosen philosophy of life that I will attempt to answer the question.

I grew up Catholic, but left the Church when I was a teenager because…


Should I hustle in order to publicize my work, and if so, in what measure?

[image: UBER Eats delivery cyclist riding through a busy Oxford road in Manchester, UK (Wikimedia); this is essay #303 in the Figs in Winter series]

Recent years have seen two new kinds of informal economies rise to prominence: the gig economy, and the hustle economy. The first term refers to the exploitation of countless people by companies such as Uber, Lyft, and similar, who promise independence and flexibility while in fact delivering low pay and an utter lack of benefits.

The second term has to do with the fact that “content providers,” such as musicians, journalists, writers, and others are increasingly expected not just do produce new music, articles, books, etc., …


[image: Stockdale exiting his A-4 fighter-bomber weeks before becoming a POW (Wikipedia); this is essay #302 in the Figs in Winter series]

The day is August 2nd, 1964. The destroyer USS Maddox has been sent on a mission near the coast of North Vietnam, in the Gulf of Tonkin, with the express purpose of provoking an armed response. Which it did. The outcome of the brief encounter was four dead and six wounded North Vietnamese sailors. No American casualties. The Johnson administration will later falsely claim that the confrontation was unprovoked and that it occurred in international waters.

Lyndon Johnson was up for reelection that year, and he wanted to escalate things in Vietnam to be seen as tough on communism. Apparently…


[image: by Keenan Constance from Pexels; this is essay #301 in the Figs in Winter series]

Nobody enjoys hardship. Or, at least, that’s what people are likely to say if asked: do you prefer to work hard or to dedicate yourself to some pleasure? But the issue is only superficially so straightforward. Let me prove to you right here that sometimes people prefer hardship to pleasure.

Consider again the question I have just posed: do you prefer to work hard or to dedicate yourself to some pleasure? The answer will depend on what kind of work and for what purpose I would have to carry it out, as well as on what sort of pleasure we…

Figs in Winter

by Massimo Pigliucci. Stoicism, ethics, and philosophy of science. Complete index, by subject, at https://figsinwinter.blog/essays/

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