Emotional. Tribal. Irrational. These are just three adjectives which could be applied to the political discourse of the 21st century. Both in the United States and Europe, discussions have reverted from constructive criticism and mutual understanding to name-calling, de-platforming, and retreats into echo chambers. None of this is particularly useful for a pluralistic society.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Back in the days of Ancient Rome and Greece, the founding fathers of the stoic school of philosophy taught the importance of clear-mindedness and rationalism in the development both of the self and of society. Here a three of these lessons which now, more than ever, need to be relearned.
1. “The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.”
One of the great stoic thinkers, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, argued that emotional reactions to opposition were signs of weakness; to become enraged is to become a slave to emotions, surrendering your logic as you do so. In this way, once one has allowed himself to become angry at his opponent, he has lost the battle.
Instead, one should take the time to face problems and antagonism logically, and with a clear mind. For instance, anger at the ideas of a political opponent does little to highlight the flaws in their argument and even less to demonstrate the superiority of your own. Remaining calm and controlled in the face of opposition allows one the strength needed to change the situation, whether this is through changing the mind of the opponent or through gaining a deeper understanding of the issue yourself.
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