In Stoicism 2.0: How Stoic Philosophy Can Improve Your Life in the 21st Century, author Robert Woolston advances his belief that the ancient Greek philosophy known as Stoicism can ameliorate the stresses of modern life.
His book begins with the remarkable meeting between Alexander the Great, a commander and conqueror, and the humble Stoic Diogenes, whose lifestyle was based on lack of material possessions and the pursuit of virtue. Diogenes’ predecessors included Antisthenes, who began the Cynic movement, Zeno, Epictetus, Seneca and the emperor Marcus Aurelius. All of these thinkers espoused the rejection of materialism and social convention in favor of a life predicated on judgment, control, logic, and inherent morality.
Using modern examples, Woolston demonstrates how Stoicism alters and improves our circumstances, if we use judgment, hold virtue and ethics as our values, and resist the temptation to involve ourselves in trends, conventions and materialism. Woolston’s short treatise shows his talent for making dry material interesting and ancient philosophy relevant to current, ordinary life. It’s not quite a self-help book, but it does help the reader observe the modern world with a new perspective.
His conviction that Stoicism, though not a cure-all, can offer relief for many kinds of mental illness is compelling. That said, his few illustrative case histories without further research can’t adequately prove this thesis. So the book at times comes across as speculation, which, while interesting, does not firmly bolster his thesis.
Still, there are many compelling ideas throughout Stoicism 2.0, and Woolston shows himself to be an astute observer of both modern life and antiquity, as well as keenly adept at making complex ideas accessible to a modern audience.