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PHI 116 — Stoicism: An Ancient Philosophy for Modern Times

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Oct 15—Nov 19
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Drop Deadline: Oct 17
Unit: 1
Tuition: $360
Instructor(s): Raymond Kania
Status: Open
Please Note: Some of our refund deadlines have changed. See this course's drop deadline above and click here for the full policy.
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Oct 15—Nov 19
6 weeks
Drop By
Oct 17
1 Unit
Raymond Kania
Please Note: Some of our refund deadlines have changed. See this course's drop deadline above and click here for the full policy.
Death is not terrible; what is terrible is the judgment that death is terrible. Epictetus

Stoicism is a school of philosophy that took shape more than two thousand years ago in Hellenistic Greece, part of a body of thought that responded to the works of Plato and Aristotle. As the contemporary usage of the term “stoic” suggests, this philosophy is best known for its distinctive teachings on pain and misfortune. Even today, many believe Stoicism can help reduce fear and anxiety, and bring greater success and happiness. In this course, we will examine the ancient Stoics’ approach to ethics, logic, and physics as well as their views on topics such as freedom, the emotions, and cosmopolitanism. From its beginnings, Stoicism was intended to be a practical kind of philosophy, and we will discuss to what extent we find it relevant to our own lives. Readings will include a range of texts by Stoic thinkers of the ancient world, including Epictetus, who learned Stoicism as a slave, and Marcus Aurelius, who applied the philosophy to his duties as emperor of the Roman Empire. We will devote particular attention to Seneca, a Roman statesman who wrote philosophical essays (including On Anger and On the Brevity of Life) as well as tragedies, such as Medea, on mythological themes. We will also engage with some of Stoicism’s critics, ancient and modern.

Raymond Kania, Staff Associate, School of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford

Raymond Kania has taught literature, ancient languages, history, and philosophy at UC Berkeley, Stanford, and the Prison University Project at San Quentin. His published works on Greek and Roman literature include Virgil’s Eclogues and the Art of Fiction: A Study of the Poetic Imagination. He received a PhD in Classics from the University of Chicago.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Epictetus, The Handbook (ISBN 978-0915145690)
(Required) Cicero, The Nature of the Gods (ISBN 978-0199540068)
(Required) Seneca, Dialogues and Essays (ISBN 978-0199552405)
(Required) Seneca, Medea (ISBN 978-0801494321)
(Required) Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (ISBN 978-0199573202)