On 26th of April 2015, Center for Stoic Practicum (CPS) organized Marcus Aurelius’ Birthday (MAB) for the second time in a row. We had a quite huge audience (ck. 50 people), great atmosphere and a numer of interesting philosophical reflections afterwards.
The event commenced at 2 p.m. with an introduction which included a brief description of the MAB’s main idea and a short presentation about CPS. At the beginning of the event, Magdalena and Michał presented the MAB’s program and introduced our guests: Marek Krajewski and Jan Swianiewicz. Michał also gave a concise speech about the biography Marcus Aurelius.
The second part of the event consisted of two presentations given by Krajewski and Swianiewicz. Marek Krejewski explained praemeditatio malorum arguing both, analitically and mathematically, that the stoic training is proven to be better than praemediatio bonorum. The latter is currently popular and recommended by those psychologists, who proclaim positive thinking. Praemaditatio malorum includes the stoic idea of imagining „bad” things that can happen to us. This, in turn, can make us feel anxious and upset. According to stoicism, we should analyse those potentially upsetting events through the prism of stoic emotional maturity. Last but not least we have to plan our reaction towards these negative events. After the presentation we involved our audience in a disscustion.
First scene from stoic life
We prepared an interlude between the first and second presentation: a short performance in the form of a scene from stoic life. The scene was devoted to another stoic exercise which is based on the simple idea of dividing things in two groups: those that do not depend on us and those on which we do not have any influence. The scenes of stoic life are traditionally an important part of our MAB as they link the didactic message with some humour and distance to the discussed antique tradition.
The second presentation concerned the stoic attitude to history. Swianiewicz argued that, in the antique times, the stoic perspective didn’t refer to the relationship between its practical application to individual life and the global, historical changes. Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus or Seneca had no prospect on people’ as historical beings. If stoicism wishes to offer a prescription for a good life these days, it has to reinterpret some of its conceptual meaning. Moreover, according to the speaker, the stoics did not think optimistically about the positive changes in the history. Instead, they had a quite different view some modern authors (e.g. Pinker). The presentation given by Swaniewicz caused a heated discussion. After the discussion we had a break.