How Can We Experience True Joy & Tranquility?

In his essay On the Happy Life, the Stoic philosopher Seneca explains how best to pursue tranquility. Basically, we need to use our reasoning ability to drive away “all that excites us or affrights us.” If we can do this, there will ensue “unbroken tranquility and enduring freedom,” and we will experience “a boundless joy that is firm and unalterable.” Seneca claims that someone who practices Stoic principles “must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since he finds in his own resources, and desires no joys greater than his inner joys.” Furthermore, compared to these joys, pleasures of the flesh are “paltry and trivial and fleeting.”

The tranquility Seneca and other Stoics sought is not the kind of tranquility that might be brought on by ingestion of a tranquilizer – it is not, in other words, a zombie-like state. Stoic tranquility is, instead, a state marked by the absence of negative emotions such as anger, grief, anxiety, and fear, and the presence of positive emotions – in particular, joy.

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy


A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Joy

William B. Irvine

Background on William B. Irvine

Background on Seneca

 

3 thoughts on “How Can We Experience True Joy & Tranquility?

  1. Good questions, indeed. There are no easy, instant answers to the puzzles of life. Nevertheless, Stoic philosophy can provide practical guidance when we approach it as the ancients did, as a way of living life. This entails learning Stoic principles (an ongoing process), and then putting the principles into action, situation-by-situation, day-by-day.

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  2. As to the inaccessible nature of grief and joy Groucho Marx once said, “the problem with doing nothing is that you never know when you’re finished.” Outwardly we appear listless, tied up in knots. Inwardly we’re trying to catch up… there is room for what some would vote as a waste of time…

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