How to Think Like a Roman Emperor

Donald Robertson

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Highlights from July 26, 2021

  • He showed me that there are more important things in life and that true wealth comes from being contented with whatever you have rather than desiring to have more and more. (Location 39)

  • A “philosopher,” in Socrates’s sense, is therefore a person who lives according to these values: someone who literally loves wisdom, the original meaning of the word. (Location 96)

  • If your fundamental worldview, by contrast, assumes that your status in the eyes of others is of negligible importance, then it follows that you should be beyond the reach of social anxiety. (Location 121)

    • Note: Not caring what others think is the ultimate cure for social anxiety.
  • To learn how to die, according to the Stoics, is to unlearn how to be a slave. (Location 235)

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    • Note: A slave to what? Seeking that which we do not have? Craving power and money and excess?
  • From the moment we’re born we’re constantly dying, not only with each stage of life but also one day at a time. (Location 303)

    • Note: We’re all dying one day at a time. Some just have fewer days than others. With so few days, each must be livedd with the end in mind.
  • Nobody is the same person he was yesterday. (Location 305)

    • Note: We constantly evolve, constanty learn and constantly adapt to new things. Each day we wake, we are no lpnger theperon we were who went to sleep tbe nightbefore.
  • The ancient philosophy of Cynicism focused on cultivating virtue and strength of character through rigorous training that consisted of enduring various forms of “voluntary hardship.” (Location 426)

  • The Stoics adopted the Socratic division of cardinal virtues into wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation. (Location 531)

  • not to confuse academic learning with wisdom and to avoid petty arguments, hairsplitting, or wasting time on abstract, academic topics. (Location 655)

  • “It is not things that upset us but our judgments about them.” (Location 901)

  • What matters, in other words, isn’t what we feel but how we respond to those feelings. (Location 936)

    • Note: How do we chnge our response to these emotions?
  • According to Stoic philosophy, when we assign intrinsic values like “good” or “bad” to external events, we’re behaving irrationally and even exhibiting a form of self-deception. (Location 964)

    • Note: This furthers the point that an event is neither good nor bad, rather it is our reaction to it that is good or bad.
  • We usually think of rhetoric as something used to manipulate other people. We tend to forget we’re doing it to ourselves as well, not only when we speak but also when we use language to think. (Location 980)

    • Note: The language of our own thoughts is rhetoric used to manipulate ourselves.
  • Wickedness can be had in abundance easily: smooth is the road and very nigh she dwells. But in front of virtue the gods immortal have put sweat: long and steep is the path to her and rough at first; but when you reach the top, then at length the road is easy, hard though it was. (Location 1650)

    • Note: The hard right is better than the easy wrong. Thank you DS Solano.
  • Like Epicurus before him, he believed that complaining and chattering too much about our problems just makes them worse, and, more importantly, it harms our character. (Location 2357)

  • He summed up his practical advice by telling his students to respond to troubling events or unpleasant sensations by literally saying This is nothing to me. (Location 2368)

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  • Socrates and the Stoics taught, no man does wrong knowingly. (Location 3127)

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  • For Stoics, full-blown anger is an irrational and unhealthy passion that we should never indulge. (Location 3190)

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  • However, the wise man will not get upset about things that lie beyond his direct control, such as other people’s actions. (Location 3194)

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  • Dealing with feelings of anger by cultivating greater empathy and understanding toward others is one of the major recurring themes of The Meditations. (Location 3196)

  • So what therapy did the Stoics prescribe? They believed that anger is a form of desire: “a desire for revenge on one who seems to have done an injustice inappropriately,” according to Diogenes Laertius. (Location 3210)

  • 1. Self-monitoring. Spot early warning signs of anger, to nip it in the bud before it escalates. (Location 3220)

  • 2. Cognitive distancing. Remind yourself that the events themselves don’t make you angry, but rather your judgments about them cause the passion. (Location 3223)

  • Postponement. Wait until your feelings of anger have naturally abated before you decide how to respond to the situation. (Location 3226)

  • 4. Modeling virtue. Ask yourself what a wise person such as Socrates or Zeno would do. What virtues might help you to respond wisely? In your case, it might be easier to think of a role model you’re more familiar with, like Marcus Aurelius or someone you’ve encountered in your own life. (Location 3229)

  • 5. Functional analysis. Picture the consequences of following anger versus following reason and exercising virtues such as moderation. (Location 3232)