Are You Stoic or Epicurean? Ancient Wisdom for Today's World
Freedom. Ambition. Diet. Frustration. Exercise. Anxiety. Grief.
These are concerns we recognize as central to the shape and scope of contemporary American life, especially life in the Bay Area. At times they seem so overwhelming as to be unique to our present moment—but they are not. In fact, much of ancient philosophy was committed to addressing and alleviating them.
Ancient Athens and imperial Rome were in many ways quite similar to 21st century America. Antiquity was a world that included slaves and immigrants, plutocrats and exiles, political strife and crushing poverty. Beginning in the 4th century B.C., philosophers began to develop teachings and schools that addressed the freedom life promised and the constraints under which it unfolded.
The names of two of these schools—the Stoics and the Epicureans—have so endured as to have entered the common lexicon. Along the way, however, they have lost much of their original force: We now tend to equate Stoicism with a kind of John Wayne-inflected, flat-bellied machismo. Epicureanism has become synonymous with an unbridled appetite for food, wine and “the good life.” This is a mistake. There is much we could learn and from which we could benefit by a renewed consideration of ancient thought.
Please join us as we host Tony Long and Jim Porter, two of the world’s leading authorities on classical thought, in a conversation that will make relevant to our own time the teachings of ancient philosophy. Their conversation, which will touch on everything from climate crises to religion to gratitude and human dignity, will be moderated by Amanda Goldstein.
Do you consider yourself a Stoic or an Epicurean? Or perhaps a Cynic, a skeptic or a Pythagorean? Join us, and experience the strength and relevance of ancient thought.
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Professor of the Graduate School, Chancellor's Professor Emeritus of Classics, Irving G. Stone Professor Emeritus of Literature, UC Berkeley
Irving G. Stone Professor in Literature, Professor of Rhetoric and Classics, UC Berkeley
Associate Professor of English, UC Berkeley