Stoic advice: what about politics?

Philosophy as a Way of Life
4 min readSep 23, 2019
[We are global citizens, and yet it’s so hard to talk to others about politics]

[If you’d like to submit a question for this series, send it to epictetus64 at yahoo dot com.]

C. writes: As a Catalan/Spanish/European citizen, my political views and hopes are increasingly becoming tinged with a dark skepticism that operates at two levels. Level one, people. I think that our politicians are quite mediocre at best, when not corrupt. Level two, ideas. I’ve always been leaning to the left, and I’ve strongly supported the independence of Catalonia from Spain. However, at the same time, I’m becoming uncomfortable with populism and nationalism. I think Stoicism cannot by itself be a political ideology or party, in the same way in which you could be Christian and not vote for “Democrazia Cristiana” in 1970’s Italy. Could you offer me some advice from a Roman/Italian/American Stoic?

This is a crucial question, and the short answer is that you are correct, Stoicism is a philosophy, not a political ideology, and should not therefore be used to support a political party. That said, I do believe that there are a number of political positions and ideologies that are not compatible with Stoicism, so the full answer isn’t going to be that short…

In a sense, I see the relationship between Stoicism and politics in a way similar to that between Stoicism and metaphysics: I have argued that Stoic ethics is compatible with a number of metaphysical views. One can be, of course, a pantheist, as the original Stoics were. But one can also consistently be an atheist, agnostic, deist, or even theist and still call oneself a Stoic. But not all sorts of theism, and certainly not all metaphysical positions, can be squared with Stoicism. Suppose, for instance, you believe that the universe works according to the infamous “law of attraction,” as spelled out in the best selling book, The Secret. Then you think that the universe will bend to your will, if you want something (health, fame, money) badly enough. But that goes squarely against the dichotomy of control, which is itself based on the metaphysical position that the universe just doesn’t work that way. So you cannot consistently be a Stoic and follow The Secret.

Similarly with Stoicism and politics. I see no reason why someone couldn’t be a progressive, a conservative, or a libertarian — or anywhere in between — and not coherently be a Stoic as…

Philosophy as a Way of Life

by Massimo Pigliucci. Practical philosophy, science, pseudoscience & good reasoning. Complete index of articles at