Ancient Stoicism and Modern Humanism

The ancient philosophy of Stoicism is having a bit of a renaissance in recent years, with well-known skeptic Massimo Pigliucci being one of its advocates. Although a lot of the modern focus is on the advice Stoicism gives when facing up to life’s difficulties, it’s a far broader philosophy than that.

We were fortunate to have Chris Gill come to speak to us in our last talk of 2019 on the topic of “Ancient Stoicism and Modern Humanism”.  Chris is Emeritus Professor of Ancient Thought at the University of Exeter and has been active in recent years in 'Modern Stoicism', a movement designed to present Stoic ideas as a basis for life-guidance.

His talk outlined some of ancient Stoicism key ethical ideas and looked at how credible or valuable they seem to be from the standpoint of modern humanism. The main ideas he covered were those relating to virtue and happiness, as well as ethical and emotional development. The Stoics linked their ideas about human ethics with ideas about nature, the universe and god (in their sense) and Chris discussed at how much of a problem this poses for humanists. The talk was well attended, and followed up by a lively Q&A session, which would have gone on longer if Chris hadn’t needed to get a train back to Exeter!