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Can ancient philosophy of Stoicism help us to lead better and happier lives?

Philosophers from the University of Exeter and Birkbeck, University of London, and psychotherapists are calling on people to live like a Stoic for a week, from 25 November – 1 December 2013.

This week-long experiment will culminate with a public workshop on Saturday 30 November at Birbeck, University of London exploring Stoicism for Everyday Life.

Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy, which stresses that all human beings have the psychological resources to gain happiness by their own agency and that happiness depends on living in line with core human values rather than on pursuing material goods and social success. The ancient Stoic writers Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius offered a wide range of practical advice and guidance on how to live well and many of the founding figures of modern cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) acknowledged the influence of Stoic philosophy. Stoic Week will put some of this ancient advice to the test and help academics and psychotherapists to assess whether ancient Stoic philosophy can help people to lead better and happier lives.

The Stoicism Today project stemmed from a 2012 workshop at the University of Exeter linked with research on Stoic practical ethics in the Department of Classics by Professor Christopher Gill and PhD student Patrick Ussher.

Professor Gill, leader of the project, said:“This is an exciting collaboration between academics and psychotherapists, and breaks new ground in public debate about putting Stoicism into practice.”

As part of Stoic Week the participants will be able to download a series of exercises, reflections, and meditations to complete each day, prepared by academics and psychotherapists, which draw on ideas from ancient Stoicism. They will complete well-being questionnaires before and after the week and the data from these will be used to assess the effectiveness of the Stoic ideas when they are put into practice today.

PhD student, Patrick Ussher said:"The Stoic Week builds on an earlier experiment in which 150 people worldwide took part. We hope to make the 2013 Week a ‘journey into Stoicism’ that many more people will want to undertake.”

Dr John Sellars of Birkbeck’s Philosophy Department and a member of the Stoicism Today project, said:“The ancient Stoic authors offer a wide range of practical advice that many people have drawn on in their daily lives Stoic Week is an opportunity for people to put Stoicism to the test for themselves and for us to gather data on just how effective Stoic psychotherapy is. The public event in London is an opportunity to explore further how Stoicism might help people in their everyday lives.”

Date: 25 November 2013

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