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The Problem of Stoicism

It's Learned Helplessness.

Firstly, lets understand what Stoicism is, and how it's expressed commonly. Stoicism is a philosophy of not taking actions about things you cannot control. Marcus Aurelius states it as "You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.".or some things, this is self-evident and plain, such as the weather. For some things this gets murky, such as how people view you. In some cases, you can take real action to reconcile offences made to others. Of course, the Stoic is often at odds with authenticity, as the authentic man, the absurd man, wails against the absurdity of life. Consider Sisyphus, the man eternally rolling a boulder to the peak, for it to roll back down. Nothing changes, and he has no control over the situation, yet he continues to attempt against it.

Sisyphus has not learned helplessness. Sisyphus has learned helpfulness in the face of impossible and impractical odds. In this regard, some might say Sisyphus should give up and be reasonable. Some might say he shouldn't. Life is absurd, and meaning can be given in attempting against that which won't change.

So considering this, and considering a hypothetical variant of Sisyphus, lets call him Alphus, who rolls a boulder in a situation almost identical to Sisyphus, but an invisible probability exists that he will finish his task with a definite end.

Now Stoics in Alphus' position will find themselves blind to this probability, and knowing the impracticality and impossibility of it, will give up. They believe they have no control of it, and have reasoned through Stoic Philosophy not to tie themselves up emotionally or in action to the task.

The Stoic has learned helplessness in the face of difficult odds. In some Stoics, I see Stoicism as an after-thought to laziness and incapability. Many "Redpill" and "Blackpill" people push Stoicism to divorce action from emotion in men, and to reason them against action.

Now, while I think Stoicism is indeed valuable on the point of recognising that you shouldn't try too hard against matters out of your control, it depends on a good reason, a good mind and good senses to know what is beyond your control.

Feynman says "The first Principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool". Indeed, many Stoics have good hearts and good wills, but I do not believe they all share good minds and good senses as I have seen some stout hearts just give up.

And this giving up, this learned helplessness is a poison that afflicts and corrodes everything a Stoic touches if he cannot tell what he does or does not control. But, if he does see what he can control, it is a focus that amplifies all his efforts towards actions of his will.

When you see Stoicism pushed as hard as it is into the mainstream, it makes me think some dark work is at force to pacify men those good-willed men with learned helplessness, if they surpass the sedatives that are Drugs, Games and TV.

Published on 2023/11/21

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