The Stoics, renowned for their emphasis on discipline, wisdom, and unwavering commitment to virtue, are often perceived through the lens of their stoic resilience in the face of adversity. However, there exists a lesser-explored facet of Stoicism that delves into the complexities of human emotions, particularly in the realms of love and affection.
While Stoicism is traditionally associated with an austere philosophy focused on personal ethics and rationality, the Stoic thinkers did not neglect the fundamental aspects of human connection. In their reflections on the human experience, the Stoics recognized the significance of love and affection, although these themes are not as prominently featured in popular discourse.
The Stoics approached the subject of love with a pragmatic and rational perspective, viewing it as an emotion that should align with their overarching commitment to virtue. For them, love and affection were not incompatible with reason and self-discipline; rather, they were seen as integral components of a well-lived life. The Stoics advocated for a measured and intentional approach to relationships, emphasizing the importance of cultivating meaningful connections that contribute positively to one’s moral character and overall well-being.
In exploring the Stoics’ thoughts on love and affection, it becomes evident that, although they may not have dedicated extensive treatises to these topics, their writings contain valuable insights on harmonizing emotional bonds with ethical principles. The Stoics acknowledged the inherent human need for connection and belonging while cautioning against the potential pitfalls of excessive attachment and emotional turmoil.
In essence, the Stoics’ perspectives on love and affection add depth to their philosophy, revealing a nuanced understanding of the human experience. Their teachings invite us to navigate the intricacies of relationships with a mindful balance of reason, virtue, and emotional intelligence, ultimately contributing to a more holistic and fulfilling life. While discipline, wisdom, and virtue remain at the forefront of Stoic philosophy, the exploration of love and affection unveils a richer tapestry of insights that resonate with the complexities of the human heart.
With that in mind, here are a collection of 10 notable quotes on love, friendship and affection by the greatest stoic philosophers of the ancient world.
Let no man think that he is loved by any who loveth none.
From my brother Severus I learned to love my kin, and to love truth, and to love justice.
Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)
Let us enjoy our friends avidly, for how long this blessing will fall to our lot is uncertain.
If you long for your son or your friend [or your partner], when it is not given you to have him, know that you are longing for a fig in winter time.
Epictetus (Discourses – Book III, 108)
I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.
Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)
If someone is incapable of distinguishing good things from bad and neutral things from either – well, how could such a person be capable of love? The power to love, then, belongs only to the wise man.
Epictetus (Discourses – Book II, 108)
For since our parents are gratified by the attention which we pay to those whom they love, but we are in a most eminent degree beloved by our parents, it is evident that we shall very much please them, by paying a proper attention to ourselves.
Hierocles (How we ought to conduct ourselves towards our parents – fragment)
Nature bore us related to one another … She instilled in us a mutual love and made us compatible … Let us hold everything in common; we stem from a common source. Our fellowship is very similar to an arch of stones, which would fall apart, if they did not reciprocally support each other.
With regard to whatever objects give you delight, are useful, or are deeply loved, remember to tell yourself of what general nature they are, beginning from the most insignificant things. If, for example, you are fond of a specific ceramic cup, remind yourself that it is only ceramic cups in general of which you are fond. Then, if it breaks, you will not be disturbed. If you kiss your child, or your wife, say that you only kiss things which are human, and thus you will not be disturbed if either of them dies.
On which account I have frequently wondered at those who conceive that the life with a woman is burdensome and grievous. For a wife is not by Jupiter either a burden or a molestation, as to them she appears to be; but, on the contrary, she is something light and easy to be borne, or rather, she possesses the power of exonerating her husband from things truly troublesome and weighty. For there is not any thing so troublesome which will not be easily borne by a husband and wife when they are concordant, and are willing to endure it in common.
Hierocles (On Wedlock)