John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera on the Philosophy Fad: Quoting Marcus Aurelius Doesn’t Make You a Stoic

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John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.


According to Wikipedia, “cultural appropriation” is “the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture.” While accusations of cultural appropriation fly around a bit out-of-control these days, the most contentious example is the taking of cultural artifacts of indigenous peoples, such as Native Americans or Australian Aboriginals, by wealthy Westerners, who then use the artifacts as hip decorations.

This kind of cultural appropriation divorces artifacts from their original context and strips them of their intended meaning. In other words, it ignores the worldviews that produced the artifacts in the first place.

Speaking of ignoring worldviews that produced the artifacts, a recent BBC article announced, “Why philosophers could be the ones to transform [our year] 2020.” Apparently, “long-dead thinkers from Socrates to Nietzsche are the latest hot property in self-help books.”

For example, there’s the popular book, Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life. Or, for those who like their wisdom applied with a hammer, there are books offering a sort of popular twist on the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, with titles like What Would Nietzsche Do? and Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche for Our Times.

Existentialist philosophers like Camus and Sartre are also getting new life as popular thinkers repurposed for our times.

Believe it or not, the hottest philosophers in this new publishing trend are the Stoics; for example, the book, How to think like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius.

There’s a strange irony that these ancient philosophers are hitting it big in an affluent place like Silicon Valley. As the BBC article notes, “the Stoics generally took a dim view of huge wealth.”

My intention here is not to criticize anyone trying to take to heart Socrates’s wise maxim that the “unexamined life is not worth living,” but I can’t help but think this self-help fad is a first cousin to the “mindfulness” craze that swept Silicon Valley in the early 2010s. Back in 2013, Wired ran an article proclaiming that meditation could “make your career” in the tech capital.

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Source: Christian Headlines