This course is about the Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius, one of the good Roman emperors! Join me as we practise tried and tested methods for applying Stoic wisdom to daily life. We'll be exploring Marcus' life and philosophy as guides for modern living, drawing on some elements of modern psychology to help us make use of Stoic practices.
Who is this course for? Anyone who's interested in Stoicism, particularly Marcus Aurelius. If you're a complete newcomer this course will provide a good introduction to Stoicism. Even if you've read a lot of books on Stoicism you'll probably benefit from the resources and exploring a different approach to the subject.
Enrolment: Enrolment on this course will remain open for those who want to work through it at their own pace.
$199 $149. You'll automatically receive a $50 discount off the standard price of $199, as this is the first time the course is running. For that, you'll receive lifetime access both to the e-learning and webinar series, so you'll also benefit from any future updates or improvements.
(NB: All prices are in $ USD unless otherwise stated; the law requires VAT to be added for users based in the EU.)
Start Date: You can currently enrol at any time. The course is designed to run over four weeks but you will also be able to complete it at your own pace, if you wish, as you have lifetime access to course content, including recordings of all webinars.
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Hello and thanks for taking an interest in my course,
I've been studying Stoicism for over twenty years and I've been giving talks, writing about it, and getting in heated debates about it for almost as long. Over the years, I've arrived at a conclusion about the way people normally teach Stoicism... Talking about the philosophy in a slightly abstract way, like scholars tend to, just keeps running into the same old problems again and again. I also concluded that there's a much better way to learn about Stoicism. At the beginning of The Meditations, Marcus Aurelius spends a whole chapter carefully reminding himself of the most important things about the most important people in his life, his family and teachers. That's the way he introduces the subject. In particular, he meditates at length on the virtues of the emperor Antoninus Pius, his adoptive father. That's because the Stoics believed that the best way to study their philosophy was by contemplating the virtues of others, especially those we can most admire. Naturally, we don't know as much as Marcus did about the characters of Antoninus Pius and his other personal role-models. However, we do know quite a lot about Marcus himself, enough to provide us with a model of Stoic virtue to study and contemplate.
We know a lot about his inner life as Stoic philosopher through The Meditations, his reflections and conversations with himself. And we know enough about his outer life, as Roman emperor, to fill a substantial biography. We have letters between him and his beloved rhetoric teacher Fronto, descriptions of his reign in the Roman histories, and a few other historical bits and pieces. Focusing on Marcus as our concrete example, just as he focused on Antoninus Pius and his Stoic teachers, we avoid many pitfalls by putting a human face on Stoicism. For example, whereas people sometimes assume the Stoics might be so accepting that they become overly-passive, we can see how Marcus was in fact committed to vigorous action in the service of his Stoic values, both his political life and as a military commander. Whereas people think Stoicism may be cold-hearted or unemotional, we can see how Marcus interpreted it as a philosophy of brotherly love and the emphasis he placed on social virtues like justice, kindness, and fairness to others.
Marcus is without question the most famous Stoic, in the eyes of modern students, and the one about whose life the most is known, because he was an important Roman emperor. By approaching Stoicism through the life and character of Marcus, taking him as our own Stoic example, we arrive at a much more balanced and more appealing conception of the philosophy than by studying it in a more abstract and theoretical way. He began The Meditations in that way for a reason. It's by studying real-life examples of Stoicism being applied in daily life, as an art of living, that we can best grasp the true meaning of the philosophy.
The course consists of many audio and video recordings, excerpts, specially-designed graphics, reading, discussion questions, exercises, and short interactive knowledge check questions to aid learning and retention. There are a lot of resources here that I simply wouldn't be able to put into a book. Each week focuses on a different set of core Stoic philosophical concepts, psychological exercises, and a particular problem area, such as anger management, coping with pain, overcoming worry and anxiety, and letting go of attachment.
This becomes available as soon as you enrol and contains carefully selected preparatory materials to help you get up to speed and prepare for the main four weeks. Includes: videos, quotes from Marcus, recommended reading, and discussion questions, and knowledge-check quiz.
The Education of a Stoic Emperor. This section focuses on the Stoic practice called "Contemplation of the Sage" and the role of empathy in Stoicism, particularly as a remedy for feelings of anger. It uses illustrations from the life of Marcus, such as his difficulty coping with feelings of anger toward his Stoic tutor, Junius Rusticus. Includes: Videos, reading, discussion, knowledge-check quiz. Also, for students on standard or premium plan, a webinar on Stoicism, Virtue, and Empathy.
Marcus' Early Reign and the Parthian War. This section focuses on the Stoic practice called "Premeditation of Adversity" (praemeditatio malorum, sometimes called "negative visualization") and the role of acceptance in Stoicism, toward indifferent things, such as in coping with pain. It uses illustrations from the life of Marcus, such as his worry about matters of state, coping with chronic pain and illness, and his correspondence with his Latin tutor Fronto. Includes: Videos, reading, discussion, knowledge-check quiz. Also, for students on standard or premium plan, a webinar on Stoicism, Indifference, and Acceptance.
The First Marcomannic War and The Meditations. This section focuses on the Stoic practice called "The View from Above" and the role of metaphysics in Stoicism, with reference to the famous Dream of Scipio. It uses illustrations from the life of Marcus, such as the challenges of his assuming the role of military commander during the lengthy northern campaign against a huge coalition of enemy tribes led by King Ballomar of the Marcomanni. It is widely believed that Marcus wrote The Meditations during this period, and we also consider its role as a spiritual journal in relation to other Stoic writing practices. Includes: Videos, reading, discussion, knowledge-check quiz. Also, for students on standard or premium plan, a webinar on Stoicism, Nature, and the Cosmos.
The Civil War, and Marcus' Final Years and Legacy. This section focuses on the Stoic practice called "Contemplation of Death" and the concept of impermanence in Stoicism, and also on the practice of Stoic mindfulness (prosoche) and attention to the present moment. It uses illustrations from the life of Marcus, such as the Antonine Plague, the civil war against his general Avidius Cassius, and his own illness and eventual death. Includes: Videos, reading, discussion, knowledge-check quiz. Also, for students on standard or premium plan, a webinar on Stoicism, Mindfulness, and Death.
NB: Course curriculum may be subject to change without notice. That's because I'm continually trying to improve it based on your feedback and my research.
Here are a few testimonials provided by students who completed the pilot version of this course. You may also want to read the testimonials for my Crash Course in Stoicism.
I would definitely recommend this course. It is a great overview of stoicism. Using Marcus Aurelius as a role model is brilliant! moonhorse
I would recommend. This introduction to Stoicism was fascinating and I greatly appreciated the comments and discussions generated by the group. Jeffrey Phelps
Thanks Donald for your personal perspectives, the anecdotes and breadth of applied experience with Stoicism; the practical and historical perspectives, using Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, were very insightful and valuable also for long-term retention. Lots of thought-provoking material here to read and re-read. Many thanks. The course concept and contents are highly recommended. (I came close to turning this course down - but am greatly relieved now that I registered at the last minute!) Sachigo
I would recommend it. As a life long learner of technical, science and mechanical topics, I was hesitate to undertake this course. I am very glad I did, It has 'demystified' topic of Stoicism. I look forward to continued readings. Thank you. Noble Redmon
This course brings today's remaining extant Stoic literature to life. Personally, I have read Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and modern Stoicism commentaries. Yet, this course presents Stoicism from Marcus' practical life - his everyday challenges as a normal man and as a highly responsible emperor. He was able to mediate these challenges with Stoic philosophy. Donald Robertson served as a reliable guide using his CBT background and focused scholarship of Stoicism in general and Marcus Aurelius' Meditations in particular. I feel like this course has given me a "Stoic Mentor/Model" to emulate and bring my ongoing Stoic readings to life. Yes, I now know that I have a "model" to follow as I continue my journey as a "Stoic Student." RG McNeill Jr
I would definitely recommend this course if you are interested in practicing Stoicism as a way of life. It is complete with an in depth historical account of the life of Marcus Aurelius and how he adopted his philosophical approach during an extremely turbulent period of history. Mark Husher
I would definitely recommend this course to anyone interested in Marcus Arelius or Stoicism generally. The selections from the meditations are chosen both for practical value and for their utility and examining our own views. For me this was the second time visiting Marcus' Meditations, But this is the first time I feel like I've read them with my eyes wide open, in no small part to Donald Robertson's knack for facilitating online courses, and the wonderful group that I've had the opportunity to discuss the content with. Ronald Willam Brady
Donald is a trainer and author, with over twenty years’ experience. He’s a specialist in teaching evidence-based psychological skills, and known as an expert on the relationship between modern cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and and classical Greek and Roman philosophy. He was born in Scotland but worked as a psychotherapist for twenty years in London, England, where he ran a training school for therapists, before emigrating to Canada to focus on his writing and developing new approaches to psychological skills training. Donald is the author of five books on philosophy and psychotherapy, as well as having contributed chapters to four other publications. You can contact him via his website.