John Sellars | Aligning with Your Nature, Finding Meaning & the Stoic Approach to Emotions
ABOUT OUR GUEST
John Sellars is a Lecturer in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London. He’s the author of a number of books on Stoicism, including The Art of Living (2003), Stoicism (2006), and Lessons in Stoicism (2019). He is also one of the founding members of Modern Stoicism, the organization that runs Stoic Week and Stoicon.
Hi, I'm Simon. Thanks so much for listening to the show!
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Marcus Aurelius coined the “view from above” technique which was the exercise of imagining oneself above the world looking down. This was almost a technique in cognitive distancing which could allow him to recognise the folly of many of his irrational thoughts.
- The Stoics encourage us to recognise that we’re not the centre of the world and that we’re just like everyone else. This can inspire rather than frighten us because we can see that we’re not the only ones who have faced the trials we face. We, like the millions of people who came before us, will face each challenge to the best of our abilities, and we’ll likely survive. So maybe we don’t need to experience so much anxiety over our problems seeing as we’ve been sufficiently equipped with the tools for the job.
- The view from above technique has the potential to lead us down a nihilistic path, but it all depends on the angle from which you view the fact that “none of it matters”. Either that can mean that you might as well kill yourself, or you can take it to mean that you should dance through life and follow what you love, because no matter what happens to you you’ll be doing something meaningful.
- The key is this: nothing matters, except how you behave. Virtue is the ONLY good in Stoicism, so as long as you aim at virtue you can pretty much make up the rest.