The goal of stoicism is tranquility, achieved through removing negative emotions. The stoics claim we can experience an extreme joy when we are able rid ourselves of negative emotions like fear and anxiety. This may sound a bit fluffy—I’ve historically been quite cynical of such talk—but thankfully I’m finally coming around to exploring this side of life and I feel there is real value here.
Tranquility is best described as a calmness and balance; a state without negative emotion. A sage is a stoic who has reached tranquility; not unlike a Buddhist monk that has reached Nirvana. The stoics are practical enough to recognize that reaching that state isn’t realistic for everyone, and instead use sage status as a point on the horizon to aim for and keep on course.
I think this perspective itself is an excellent example of stoicism at work. A rational person would admit that becoming a sage—the equivalent of Buddah—just isn’t likely at all. As an example of fatalism and internalizing goals, one could say there’s a genetic element to my personality that is beyond my control. Maybe I’m prone to mental illness. That alone could make it near impossible to be the perfect stoic. By internalizing the goal, that is to be the best stoic I can be, I have a goal much more in my control, more achievable and more satisfying when I achieve it. This particular goal is a constant motivator as well, driving us forward in our quest for tranquillity.
February 16, 2016 at 8:36 pm
It may be unlikely to become a Sage or experience true and lasting tranquillity in this life but then…I have to ask…why not go on as if it is? 🙂
February 16, 2016 at 9:02 pm
Agreed! It makes no difference to me if it is possible or not. Any movement forward toward becoming a Sage is worth enjoying and celebrating.