Reflections on STOICON 2016 by Greg Sadler

Reflections on STOICON 2016

by Greg Sadlerstoicon

We’re now well into Stoic Week 2016 – starting the second-to-last day for many of us when this post comes out – and just seven days has passed since what turned out not only to be an excellent conference but also a historical occasion. Apparently STOICON 2016 was the largest gathering of Stoics in the world, not just today, but ever!

When it comes to an event of that magnitude, nobody really gets to see or participate in everything of course. But, perhaps in some respects the viewpoint and experience I had is representative enough for my reflections to be of some interest or use – at the very least in provoking some conversation. I got to attend a range of excellent talks by quite a few speakers (If you’re curious, Massimo Pigluicci provides overviews of the main talks here).  I also got to engage in some great (though all too short) discussions with a fellow participants intensely interested in modern Stoicism, meet a number people I’d only interacted with previously through correspondence, and absorb some of the energy and excitement (which admittedly helped a bit, since I was a bit sleep-deprived by the day of the conference!)

I also had the chance to see STOICON from another set of angles as well. Fortunately the organizing and running of the conference – months of painstaking work having been done behind the scenes by that point – were already expertly handled by the New York hosts, particularly Massimo Piglucci, Greg Lopez, and Amy Valladares (with many other people supporting). When it comes to conferences, or any similar events with almost innumerable “moving parts” (especially when many of those parts are complicated human beings), there’s nearly always some opportunity for the planners to have the dichotomy of control drilled home to them experientially. From my perspective – and doubtless the New York team might view this very differently – things went quite smoothly through the day.

So for myself, as a speaker, it was a very enjoyable, fairly stress-free conference (meaning that from a Stoic perspective, what stresses I did experience stemmed from my own judgements, assumptions, and reactions – I’m still someone who needs to make considerably more progress!). I got to meet and interact with – at least a bit in some cases – the other speakers, and many of the other people who were there for the talks and workshops. Everything I needed for my own workshop fell into place, so all I needed to do was engage with the participants who had selected that workshop, talk about Stoic views and practices bearing on anger, and carry out some very enjoyable conversation in the session. The only downside was not being able to attend any of the other workshops, but that was a situation every other person attending the conference was in.

All told then, from the multiple overlapping perspectives of a participant in the conference, a member of the modern Stoic community, and a workshop provider, STOICON 2016 was an excellent conference. I had actually prepared myself mentally for a number of manners in which matters out of my control might go contrary to my desires and expectations – I’m definitely not at a point of having extricated my desires and aversion from all manners of things strictly speaking indifferent, I have to admit – for instance, how to respond if the handouts useful for my workshop weren’t available, or what to do if all the available places for lunch were simply mobbed, or any number of other sorts of events along those lines. That negative visualization didn’t turn out to be needed, but it’s a good practice as we all likely know, and as with any practice, engaging in it more often is integral to doing it better when it turns out to be needed.

There are a number of interesting developments and prospects that were either in the works by, or got discussed in the course of, or ended up emerging in one way or another from bringing all these people interested in Stoic philosophy and its modern applications together. I’ll mention several of them here.

First, STOICON – particularly in conjunction with the associated Stoic Week, this Stoicism Today blog, and the Stoicism Facebook group – provides an index of how large and diverse the modern Stoic movement (or if you like, community) really is. I’d add several other qualifiers as well: healthy. . . thriving . . . productive. . . even exciting. There were over 330 attendees at this STOICON itself – the meeting space was packed, and buzzing with conversations! There’s thousands of people participating in Stoic Week itself, with quite a few organizations and institutions offering places for people to work through the handbook and exercises together. The Stoicism Facebook group has over 15,000 members. Stoicism Today regularly gets an average of over 1,000 reads per day, and considerably more this time of the year.

These are important parts of what we might call the “big contemporary Stoic picture”, but just parts. There are so many other sites, organizations, and groups that it would require a lengthy post just to try to comprehensively list them. I counted 13 different groups devoted specifically to Stoicism on, and many other philosophy-related meetups also feature discussions or events centered on Stoicism. Also on Facebook, you’ll find the smaller, but also quite excellent group devoted to Applying Stoicism. There’s a very active Stoicism sub-Reddit, and you can find interesting groups on Google+ and LinkedIn as well. There’s also an app that’s been discussed here previously in Stoicism Today, PocketStoic, a host of blogs and podcasts devoted to Stoicism (perhaps we’ll do a round-up of those in the coming weeks or months) and a promising new organization, the Stoic Fellowship.

That last part brings me to the second interesting development. Stoic Fellowship in particular focuses on providing support and resources that can be used in developing local Stoic organizations. It’s wonderful that we have a yearly event like STOICON, and the blog, and the group, and that there are meetups around the world, but creating yet more local, regular opportunities for face-to-face interaction with other people interested in Stoicism seems like an excellent idea to me. Imagine a vast network of groups and organizations connected together in a number of different ways, affording still more people a chance to learn about, to discuss, to practice Stoicism – that is hopefully where we are currently headed! Who knows – we might even start to see additional regional versions of STOICON, like the one happening today in London, getting planned in various parts of the world for next year.

The third development that I’ll mention here is that, in the coming months, I’m hoping to get most ( or even better, all) of the speakers at this year’s STOICON to contribute posts that provide some of the content discussed during their talks and workshops. I have to admit that, as editor of Stoicism Today, following up on this excellent suggestion made by one of the conference-goers is not without some self-interest on my part – I would have liked to attend every one of the workshops, and I’m hoping to get some insight into what they did and discussed as I read those posts. So, keep an eye out for some excellent guest posts here by the conference presenters!

To bring this to a close, as I said at the start, nobody really gets a completely encompassing view on an event like STOICON. So, it would be particularly interesting to read about the reflections and experiences of others who attended the conference – comment away! And of course, that’s not to say that anyone else who finds these developments interesting – whether they could be at STOICON this year or not – shouldn’t equally chime in, or carry out the conversation, in the comments.

‘Stoicism Today: Selected Writings Vol. II’ Available for Free During Stoic Week

‘Stoicism Today: Selected Writings Vol. II’ Available for Free During Stoic Week

Until Friday 21st October, the Kindle digital version of Stoicism Today: Selected Writings Vol. II is available for free.

For Amazon UK, click here. For Amazon US, click here.

The contents are set out in the post here detailing the release.

About the book: Stoicism, the classical philosophy as a way of life practised by the Greeks and Romans, continues to resonate in the modern world. With over forty essays and reflections, this book is simultaneously a guide to practising Stoicism in your own life and to all the different aspects of the modern Stoic revival. You will learn about Stoic practical wisdom, virtue, how to relate wisely to others and the nature of Stoic joy. You will read of life-stories by those who practise Stoicism today, coping with illness and other adversities, and of how Stoicism can be helpful in many areas of modern life, from cultivating calm in the online world to contributing new solutions to the environmental crisis. And, just like the ancient Stoics did, key questions modern Stoics often ask are debated such as: Do you need God to be a Stoic? Is the Stoic an ascetic? Containing both practical wisdom and philosophical reflection, this book – the second in the Stoicism Today series – is for anyone interested in practising the Stoic life in the modern world.

Stoic Week 2016 Starts Monday!


Today as this post appears, STOICON 2016 will very shortly be starting in New York City.  It provides one of the high points of the year for the worldwide Modern Stoicism community.  STOICON is not only a wonderful conference with a lineup of engaging speakers providing talks, workshops, and discussions, but it also effectively kicks off International Stoic Week 2016!


The Stoic Week Course

What we might call the “main main event”, the entirely FREE online Stoic Week class – providing a beautiful new class site, complete with handbook, audio files, forums for discussion, just to mention a few features – is still enrolling (so, if you’re finding out about this late, don’t fret about it – there’s still time for you to sign up and get in the class!)  It starts on Monday, October 17, and ends on Sunday, October 23.

Having participated in the class myself, I highly recommend it to anyone.  As a teacher and a scholar, I can attest that what you’re getting in this this one-week course Donald Robertson has designed and developed is a brilliant adaptation of classic Stoic philosophy to the context of modern life – precisely the sort of thing the ancient Stoics would be doing were they around to do so today.  It’s eminently accessible for beginners, but has a lot to offer intermediate and expect-level students and practitioners.  I know that I learn quite a bit doing the course myself each year.  So if you’re someone who reads this blog, this is definitely a course you’ll want to take.

Institutions or Organizations Engaging In the Class

The Stoic Week online class offers opportunities to meet, learn, and interact with people all over the world.  In certain locations, there is also another great opportunity, provided by local organizations or institutions, to work through the Stoic Week class together.  At present, here are the organizations and institutions that

Grand Valley State University Classics Department – the contact person is Peter Anderson

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania – the contact person is Andrew Winters

Marist College Honors Program – the contact person is James Snyder

Bates College – the contact person is Michael Hanrahan

Manchester Stoics Meetup – the contact person is Brenda Lanigan

Brisbane Stoics Meetup – the contact person is Alex Magee

In-Person Events:

There are several events already scheduled during Stoic Week itself to commemorate, celebrate, and continue building community.  If you know of any other events that belong on this list, feel free to contact me, or even better, enter them into this form.  I’ll be updating this post over the course of Stoic Week, to include any new events that come to my attention.

16 October, 2 PM: Post-STOICON/Pre-Stoic Week Meetup (New York City, USA). To celebrate the end of STOICON ’16 and the beginning of Stoic Week ’16, the New York City Stoics Meetup will host a Stoic Walking tour through parts of NYC, with wha promise to be some engaging thematic conversations held along the route. – the organizer/contact person is Greg Lopez.

16 October, 3 PM: Stoicism and Love (London, UK).  The London Stoics Meetup will be hosting a discussion on that very topic (the theme for Stoic Week this year) – the contact person/organizer is Carmello Di Maria.

18 October 12:00 PM:  Stoicism Across the Disciplines: A Panel Discussion (Lewiston, ME, USA) – Bates College faculty will lead an informal discussion of Stoicism across intellectual disciplines at the Benjamin Mays Center- the organizer/contact person is Michael Hanrahan.

18 October, 6:00 PM:  Struggling With Anger? Useful Stoic Perspectives and Practices (Milwaukee, WI, USA).  For local residents of my home city (a place where it’s clearly needed), I’ll be providing the same workshop I’m leading out at STOICON – the organizer/contact person is me, Greg Sadler.

19 October, 5:00 PM: Vidas Estoicas (Bogata, Columbia)  The members of the research group, Peiras, will be providing a discussion focused on classical Stoicism, its doctrines and figures, and its potential for transforming contemporary everyday life at the Edificio de Posgrados de Ciencias Humanas, Salón Oval, Universidad Nacional, Miércoles – the organizer/contact person is Andrea Lozano Vasquez.

19 October, 7:30 PMWhat is The Place for Stoicism in Today’s Society? (Oxford, UK).  The Philosophy In Pubs, Oxford Meetup is hosting a discussion with Daniel Robertson about Stoicism Today – the organizer/contact person is Ben Clark.

20 October, 7:00 PM: Stoic Week Discussion (Slippery Rock, PA, USA)  Professor Andrew Winters will be discussing with the public what it is like to live as a Stoic in a modern world – the organizer/contact person is Andrew Winters

20 October, 6:30 PM: Discussing Stoic Daily Habits (Manchester, UK). The Manchester Stoic Meetup will be holding its monthly discussion, discussing precisely that, daily habits that help one live the Stoic life – the organizer/contact person is Brenda Lanigan.

20 October, 6:00 PM It’s Stoic Week: When Should I Assent? (Chicago, IL, USA). The Chicago Philosophy Meetup is having a session about Stoicism – the organizer/contact person is Ivan.

22 October, 2:00 PM-7:30 PM: Stoic Guidance for Troubled Times (London, UK). A smaller, but looking-to-be-excellent STOICON conference at Queen Mary University, with presentations by Jules Evans, Christopher Gill, Tim LeBon, Donald Robertson, and Gabrielle Galuzzo – the organizer/contact person is Jules Evans.

23 October, 5:00 PM: Stoic Week Wrap-Up (New York City, USA).  The New York City Stoics Meetup will host a meeting for an hour of open discussion and followup – the organizer/contact person is Greg Lopez.

23 October, 2:00 PM, Stoic Week Catch-Up (Brisbane, Australia).  The Brisbane Stoics will also be hosting a meeting to discuss and compare experiences from Stoic Week – the organizer/contact person is Alex Magee