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Redemption Through Philosophy

One of the beautiful things about Stoicism is its adaptability. Seneca, in his Moral Letters to Lucilius, quotes a lot of philosophers and writers. In Letter XII, Seneca anticipates a possible objection when he quotes a philosopher from a rival school:

"'It was Epicurus who said that,' you protest. 'What business have you got with someone else's property?' Whatever is true is my property. And I shall persist in inflicting Epicurus on you, in order to bring it home to the people who take an oath of allegiance to someone and never consider what is being said but only who said it, that the things of greatest merit are common property."

Let's take this Stoic idea of adaptability and apply it elsewhere. One of the main beliefs of Stoicism is the redemptive and strengthening quality of philosophy. When a reader explores Stoic texts, this theme arises again and again. Earlier tonight, I stumbled upon a rebroadcast of the TED Radio Hour entitled "How Can Someone Move Beyond Murder?" The host of the show (Guy Roz) interviewed a formerly imprisoned murderer (Shaka Senghor) who spent a total of seven-and-a-half years in solitary confinement for illegal behaviors in prison. During this time, Senghor said that he relied heavily on literature, and eventually set up his cell like a classroom. This is how he spent his time reading.

One day, he received a letter from his son. The letter really touched Senghor, and it made him remember something that he read that remained in his memory: "I sat back on my bunk and reflected on something I read in Plato's Republic where Socrates stated an apology that the unexamined life isn't worth living. At that point is where the transformation began." I think this is the redeeming quality that the Stoics attributed to philosophy. The broad spectrum of social classes and backgrounds of the contributors of Stoicism is one of the qualities that makes it admirable. The Stoics taught that no one can be truly happy without the restorative and reflective nature of philosophy.

Link to interview:

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