I have recently been trying to learn about stoicism. It is the one philosophy that I think closely represents me and how I live in general.

Reading a few sites and have ordered Meditations. http://www.returnofkings.com/64452/the-principal-tenets-of-stoicism-by-seneca

Anyway, I was wondering what a Stoic response to something terrible like the events in Las Vegas is?

The site I linked talks of great tragedies like cities being crumbled to the ground by earthquakes etc... but that’s a natural event that cannot be predicted or avoided. Is the same approach to be taken with these man made atrocities also?

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    I am not sure about Vegas but modern Stoicism is a big movement. They have a couple websites, Modern Stoicism and How to Be a Stoic, so perhaps you could meet like minded people and discuss it with them.
    – Conifold
    Oct 4 '17 at 21:41
  • @Conifold thanks for your reply. I did some more searching and found this site... howtobeastoic.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/… which gave an interesting account and a quote from Aurelius too.
    – Fogmeister
    Oct 5 '17 at 10:16
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    A Stoic would explain the gunman's actions as the result of ignorance. Trump's reference to 'evil' would also be seen as evidence of ignorance. For Stoics the Universe is a Unity and all sentient beings would share an identity. Clearly only someone ignorant of this would go around shooting themselves. I'd suggest skipping Stoicism for Buddhist ethics which is more or less the same but explained and justified better, being better informed and not based on speculation, thus sheds a bright light on Stoic ethics. . .
    – user20253
    Oct 5 '17 at 15:17
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    Perhaps, you would consider giving a summary of the Stoic response here, it may be of interest to other users. SE allows self-answers.
    – Conifold
    Oct 5 '17 at 17:39

I think the appropriate response would be not to respond.

To the degree that you feel these events are the outcome of decisions that you can affect, you should already be involved in affecting them. To the degree that they are not, you should not arrogate to yourself an attempt to control the things that are not of value to you.

To think of a thing or reconsider its importance to your life only because of the whims of fortune is to give your emotional stability away to be subjected to random influences that do not have humanity's best interests at heart and ultimately can do you no good.


After a bit of googling following the advice of Conifold I discovered an essay by Massimo What Would a Stoic Do? On terrorism. It quotes Marcus Aurelius - Meditations book II:

“Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. … I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him.”

And goes on to explain that people do not act through evilness but through ignorance and lack of knowing what is a good or evil action.

It also goes on to say that it is possible to understand the reason why these actions were taken without justifying them.

This has helped me a lot, not only with acts of terrorism like Las Vegas and others that we hear about but also with responding to “busybodies, ungrateful, arrogant, etc...” people that I happen across in day to day life.

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    Seems like a good answer to me Fogmeister. If the 'Massimo' in question is professor Pigliucci I would suggest reading his words with a large pinch of salt. He has an idiosyncratic interpretation of Stoicism that some would say represents a deep misunderstanding.
    – user20253
    Oct 6 '17 at 12:25

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