The Great Courses Lectures on the Stoic Philosophers

For many years I have bought the Great Courses lectures on many topic, and I purchased Professor Johnson set of lectures on Practical Philosophy: The Greco-Roman Moralists out of intellectual curiosity.  It was like opening the door to see the morning sun like I had never seen it before, it was like opening a door on another world, or to the same world that I now saw in another light.

Quoting an opening paragraph in the study guide, “Readers looking neither for sublime language nor complex theories but for wisdom have long known that that Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus are worth reading. Those fortunate enough to encounter them either in their schooling or on library shelves have heard these ancient moralists speak with remarkable freshness and force to the basic issues of human character with which we all must struggle. For such readers, the popular philosophers of the Greco-Roman world deserve their self-designation as doctors of the soul. Precisely because they focus so precisely on everyday life, the character of the individual and the health of the family,” their ideas are as fresh today as they were millennia before.  “They analyze the passions of fear and desire, of envy and rage with brilliant insight. They precisely delineate the virtues and vices. They understand the process of moral development and the necessity of moral education.”

After listening to these lectures I spent many months reading the works of the Stoic Philosophers.  Both Stoic Philosophy and Early Christianity grew from the same Greek soil.  Have you ever noticed that the New Testament sounds similar to the Old Testament, but not quite?  Stoicism is the second influence on Christianity, or perhaps they influenced each other.  The writings of the Early Church Fathers also sound like many of the Stoic writings.  Reading the stoic philosophers will deepen your faith and your understanding of Scriptures and the Church Fathers.

Since Professor Johnson awoke me from my slumber to the joys of Stoicism, I listened to Rufus Fears lectures on Great Romans, which includes lectures on Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.  Rufus Fears is a modern Herodotus, he is an engaging story teller that brings ancient history alive.  He makes a compelling argument that although Marcus Aurelius was a remarkable philosopher, his reign as emperor was a failure since he refused to bar his  incompetent son Commodious, whose cruelty was only surpassed by Nero, from succeeding him to the throne.

Kenneth Harl, one the best lecturers for the Teaching Company, has a chapter discussing Platonic and Stoic Philosophy in the Fall of the Pagans.  The lectures on  the Great Emperors also cover the thoughts and actions of Marcus Aurelius.

These also cover the Stoic Philosophers.





About Bruce Strom 142 Articles
I was born and baptized and confirmed as a Lutheran. I made the mistake of reading works written by Luther, he has a bad habit of writing seemingly brilliant theology, but then every few pages he stops and calls the Pope often very vulgar names, what sort of Christian does that? Currently I am a seeker, studying church history and the writings of the Church Fathers. I am involved in the Catholic divorce ministries in our diocese, and have finished the diocese two-year Catholic Lay Ministry program. Also I took a year of Orthodox off-campus seminary courses. This blog explores the beauty of the Early Church and the writings and history of the Church through the centuries. I am a member of a faith community, for as St Augustine notes in his Confessions, you cannot truly be a Christian unless you worship God in the walls of the Church, unless persecution prevents this. This blog is non-polemical, so I really would rather not reveal my denomination here.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply