Well as humans are inherently social animals we tend to rely on each other for the specific duties which are sometimes voluntarily accepted or sometimes prescribed strictly.

For e.g. the duty of a soldier to man military posts is a prescribed duty he may have signed up for as a soldier voluntarily, but not necessarily to man a certain dangerous post, to which he would be strictly obligated to serve if required.

  1. As a citizen how do I internalise these certain dependencies on some sections of a society?

  2. I am more interested in knowing which Stoic principles apply when delegating duties to teammates in a small team and/or forcing them to improve quality/quantity of work they do.

  3. How does Stoicism suggest we deal with continuously underperforming employees?

  • Does Stoicism agree with For e.g ..., I am not so sure it does.
    – virmaior
    Mar 15 '18 at 14:30

Stoicism adopts a theory of oikeiosis, the root desire of all animals, human beings included, for self-preservation. An individual human being is, however, not only an animal but also a rational being. So self-preservation extends to preservation of oneself as a rational being; and this involves a correct attitude to things that are good, things that are bad, and things that are indifferent. The only things that are good are virtue and whatever pertains to virtue.

Our physical existence is counted as not bad but not good either - only indifferent. A rational being will put the full focus on acquiring, exercising and preserving virtue.

Since virtue involves interpersonal relations - the respect for justice between one another, for instance - human interdependence, if this means the recognition of others as moral subjects, is intrinsic to the Stoic condition.

You refer to duties. The Stoics do have a notion of duty but the emphasis is not on duties imposed on us, whether specific or general, but on the requirements of virtue which are voluntarily accepted.

However, the Stoics recognised three good emotions that were a proper part of a rational life :

▻ eupatheiai (joy)

▻ eulabeian (caution)

▻ boulesin (wishing)

These can fan out into benevolence and friendliness, modesty and reverence, good humour and cheerfulness.

The Stoics were notable for inculcating apatheia or freedom from passion. All interpretation is tricky but it is clear that this does not mean the cauterising of all emotion or there could be no good emotions. Apatheia more likely means (a) indifference to merely physical, non-rational existence as mentioned above) and freedom from a life held in the grip of bad emotion. The Stoics definitely recognised bad emotions, among them :

▻ phobos (fear)

▻ epithumia (greed)

▻ lupe (grief)

I am not sure how far this account of Stoicism answers your question or how far an answer to your question can be derived from it. Perhaps it will rotate your perspective on your question. I am not sure that from a general view of Stoicism your specific queries can be directly answered. I have offered what I can.


John Sellars, 'Stoicism', Chesham : UK : Acumen Publishing, 2006, ch. 5 'Stoic ethics', pp. 107-134.

E.V. Arnold, 'Roman Stoicism', London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1911/1958, ch. XIII & XIV, pp. 301-356.

  • I am wondering if there's anything in Marcus Aurelius' 'Meditations' on this - he managed after all to rule the Roman Empire stoicly!
    – CriglCragl
    Mar 17 '18 at 18:02
  • Nice point. There are two good reasons for reading Marcus Aurelius - one, he might help with your issues and two, the 'Meditations' are a philosophical classic which you'd do well to read anyway. Best wishes in your endeavours - Geoffrey
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Mar 17 '18 at 18:23

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