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3 Stoic Lessons That Can Help Heal Our Toxic Political Culture

3 Stoic Lessons That Can Help Heal Our Toxic Political Culture

Back in the days of Ancient Rome and Greece, the founding fathers of the stoic school of philosophy taught the importance of rationalism.

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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Europe Is Flirting with a Disaster for Free Speech

Europe Is Flirting with a Disaster for Free Speech

The controversial Article 13 is getting some push-back from some officials, but it isn’t dead yet.

Freedom of speech is undoubtedly one of the most important features of any democratic society. Without it, knowledge could not be shared, injustices could not be called out, and the marketplace of ideas would be reduced to a single, miserable stall. Yet the state seems to need constant reminding of the importance of free expression; to them, it always seems to take second place.

The European Union, for example, sort of dodged a bullet recently as the European Parliament’s (EP) Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) voted against the controversial Article 13 of a directive on copyright infringement on November 20th.

If passed, this article would require internet companies to take measures to ensure that copyright agreements are observed and protected. In other words, the article would force companies and providers to filter out anything which could potentially breach copyright.

The LIBE vote against this article, however, in no way means we’re out of the woods yet; this vote was simply the last in a series of advisory votes before the Legal Affairs (JURI) committee takes the final vote on the directive this coming January.

Where’s the Problem?

You may wonder where the threat to free speech comes from in this directive. How do measures to protect against copyright infringement affect the rights of Europeans to express themselves?

The issue is that there is currently no effective, foolproof way to completely separatecopyright-infringing material from perfectly above-board speech. Oftentimes, online measures against “unacceptable” material such as copyright infringement, hate speech, disinformation, etc. winds up overzealously censoring legitimate speech.

A computer algorithm would have to be sophisticated enough to do the job of a judge.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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