Beyond The Individual

Do you believe you think independently? Do you alone control your actions? Stoic philosophy posits that your mind, thoughts, and actions, are traces of a world that shapes you, and everyone else, together. Our Stoic nature is part of a system, not independent. This book studies how a Stoic thinks and acts as part of a community and in service of a world, rather than separately or for themselves alone.

This is not just another book about Stoic philosophy. Stoicism has been popularized as a way to primarily serve personal benefits, promising mental resilience to an uncontrollable world of people and events. This book instead explores how for the Stoics we only benefit personally by being aware of how we are entangled with our fellow humans and the world. This perspective reveals anti-individualistic conditions for the wellbeing that individuals seek from the philosophy.

By studying features that might seem to define us as separate individuals – our mind, body, self-preserving instinct, knowledge, and happiness – we find that everything about each of us is interconnected and shared. The theoretical analysis, suitable for general and academic readers, involves all ancient Stoic eras, comparisons with Presocratic, Platonic, and Aristotelian positions, and modern Stoic debates.

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Beyond the Individual is a challenging but accessible study which stresses the importance of the idea of the collective or whole in Stoic thought rather than that of unique individual personality. The book combines a wide-ranging study of Stoic ideas with suggestive readings of salient writings (including those of Epictetus, Hierocles, and Musonius) and will interest readers looking for life-guidance as well as more specialist scholars.

Christopher Gill, Emeritus Professor of Ancient Thought, University of Exeter, England.

Modern Stoicism has become individualistic and sometimes devolves into an egoistic search for resilience against a harsh world. Will Johncock shows in this important counterweight in the growing Stoic literature that the ancient Stoics were, as Seneca says, the most sociable of the ancient philosophers, recommending that we prioritize our interconnectedness with others in order to live well ourselves, given the kinds of rational social creatures who we are.

— Matthew Sharpe, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Deakin University, Australia.

Stoicism is not, and has never been, a philosophy of self-help hacks. Stoicism is the art of living a life worthy of being lived. If you wish to learn how to paint your own journey to true happiness, Will Johncock’s Beyond the Individual is an important addition to your bookshelf.

— Kai Whiting, Lecturer of Sustainability and Stoicism, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.

Well-grounded in study of the ancient Stoic texts and thinkers, as well as recent academic and popular literature, this book provides persuasive reinterpretations of central Stoic themes, fleshing out their implications and significance for our contemporary settings. Johncock engages the reader with thought-provoking analyses of individuals and communities, rationality and freedom, materialism and metaphysics, cosmopolitanism and care for self and others, and the nature of genuine happiness.

— Gregory Sadler, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, USA. Editor of Stoicism Today.