In “The Art of Living”, Epictetus makes the Stoic argument that we must accept the inevitable that happens within our lives and that without this we will end in despair. This Stoic ideal is upheld by millions today who have come under the sway of “pop philosophy” and Instagram quotes from Marcus Aurelius. It is a longstanding institutional landmark of Stoic thought that is logical in theory, but not so in practicality. The refutation to this comes nearly 18 centuries later when romanticism entered the world as an aesthetic literary movement. I draw upon this context for my rebuttal that aims to highlight the flaws of Stoic thinking and how it is incompatible with the flourishing of literature and aesthetical beauty. As of yet in my reading, I have not found anyone who was up to the task of using the hammer of Rosseau and Balzac against Epictetus.
While anyone may agree with the astoundingly short quotations from Stoic thinkers that abound on the internet today (with the greatest concentration being found on Instagram), I argue that humanity is not suited for solemn living. If you look at when a man is solemn, it is when he is the most in pain and is numb by the position society has pushed on him. That is when he does not resort to the dichotomy of Camus but rather works longer hours, drinks more, and attempts an escape through vanity. He will inevitably fail, of course. So what do I mean by not living solemn? I say that we should live to the fullest! I say that we should experience all emotions in their divinity! We must live and breathe while we are blessed to do so. I agree with Epictetus in that we must play our part to the best of our ability, whatever plot we have been placed in within the greater human comedy. I draw upon Camus, Balzac, Dostoevsky, and Rosseau in my refutation of the principle though that we can live without feeling, or that we can suppress what must be expressed. What we express is art, beauty, and yes indeed, suffering. Tell me, is suffering not theoretically beautiful?
A casual scroll through Instagram will enlighten you about the battle that is taking place for the future of traditional philosophy and literature on the right side of the political spectrum. You will see an image quoting a Stoic, followed by a reel that features a quote from Dostoevsky with the palace of Versailles in the background while “Mary On A Cross” by Ghost plays, in slowed reverb of course. The guys who align with the establishment will usually find themselves following after leading Stoic sources of today. If you check their Spotify they will have Rogan on repeat and they will play hardstyle pop music from the 2000s while drinking creatine and taking pre-workout. You can find this at any high school across the United States. Dissidents, artists, writers, and trad women find themselves positioned to take up the cause of “digital romanticism”. For those who are unaware, romanticism in our time advocates aesthetics, beauty, wealth, and above all…feeling. I align myself with this movement as I find that the human must make for himself a life where he can experience grief as well as pleasure. Salt in his wounds in the past will only make cinnamon honey sweeter in the future. Once he has built his estate and secured his vision, he builds a traditional family upon the rock of what his ancestors believed in and fought for. This is the way forward, to reclaim the past.