Stoic Philosophy and Subjectivity

This project considers how ancient Stoic philosophy situates our individual identity and subjectivity in relation to our broader environments and collective conditions. The purpose of this project is to counter portrayals of Stoicism as a philosophy that endorses a consciousness of individualism and self-determination. A second purpose is to recognise how Stoicism defines the individual as a trace of a universal and communal entity.


1. Book “Beyond the Individual: Stoic Philosophy on Community and Connection.” A study of how Stoic philosophy asserts that your mind, thoughts, and actions are traces of a world which shapes you, and everyone else, together. By positing that in Stoicism our personal nature is part of a system, not independent, this book shows how a Stoic thinks and acts as part of a community and in service of a world, rather than separately or for themselves alone. The associated argument is presented that we only benefit personally by being aware of how we are entangled with our fellow humans and the world. By studying features that might seem to define us as separate individuals – our mind, body, self-preserving instinct, knowledge, and happiness – we find that for the Stoics everything about each of us is interconnected and shared. Theory Keywords: Julia Annas, Aristotle, Lawrence Becker, Cato the Younger, Chrysippus of Soli, Cicero, Cleanthes of Assos, Epictetus, Epicurus, Galen, Christopher Gill, Hierocles, Brad Inwood, Anthony Long, Marcus Aurelius, Musonius Rufus, Martha Nussbaum, Massimo Pigliucci, Plato, Plutarch, Posidonius, Gretchen Reydams-Schils, Donald Robertson, David Sedley, John Sellars, Seneca the Younger, Sextus Empiricus, Matthew Sharpe, Socrates, William Stephens, Stobaeus, Kai Whiting, Zeno of Citium.

2. Article “Beyond the Individual: Stoic Philosophy on Community and Connection – by Will Johncock” in Stoicism Today. This article anticipates my upcoming book, presenting two features of the argument that (i) Stoicism’s core beliefs concern our connections with the world and our fellow humans, and that (ii) what you might interpret to be individualized or personalized about yourself, for the Stoics are instead traces of the world that are shared with and common to everyone. Theory Keywords: Cicero, Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Zeno of Citium.

3. Book Chapter “Born Communal: The Stoics’ Sense of the Social Self” in Stoicism Today: Selected Writings, Volume 3. This chapter identifies how, across multiple eras of ancient Stoicism, humans are portrayed as fragments of something universally common. The associated position explored is that it is in our rational nature to orient our intentions and actions toward communal ends, whereby our self-preservation is conditioned by being collectively directed. Theory Keywords: Cato the Younger, Chrysippus of Soli, Cicero, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius.

4. Article Respond Rationally to Whatever Happens” in The Stoic. This article explores the relationship between physical determinism and personal responsibility in Stoicism. The purpose of this is to highlight that nothing occurs randomly in what, for the Stoics, is an ordered universe. Theory Keywords: Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Plato, Zeno of Citium.

5. Book Stoic Philosophy and Social Theory. This book is a comparative study of ancient Stoic philosophy and modern social theory. The primary topic concerns how, as individuals, we are socially/communally constituted and oriented. In raising differences and similarities between ancient Stoicism and modern social theory on this topic, new discussions emerge around the established positions that are integrated from each field. Via this tandem analysis I identify new orientations for established ideas in Stoicism and social theory about the mind, being present, self-preservation, knowledge, travel, climate change, the body, kinship, gender, education, and emotions. Theory Keywords: Ancient philosophy (Aristotle, Cato the Younger, Cicero, Epicurus, Plato, Sextus Empiricus, Socrates), ancient Stoicism (Chrysippus of Soli, Cleanthes of Assos, Epictetus, Hierocles, Marcus Aurelius, Musonius Rufus, Posidonius, Seneca the Younger, Zeno of Citium), modern Stoicism (Julia Annas, Lawrence Becker, Brad Inwood, Christopher Gill, Anthony Long, Martha Nussbaum, Massimo Pigliucci, Gretchen Reydams-Schils, Donald Robertson, David Sedley, John Sellars, William Stephens), social theory and sociology (Barbara Adam, Henri Bergson, Pierre Bourdieu, Émile Durkheim, Ann Game, Anthony Giddens, Arlie Hochschild, Julia Kristeva, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Harriet Martineau, George Mead, Andrew Metcalfe, Herbert Spencer, Max Weber).

6. Article “The Stoic Cosmos and Australia’s Wildfires: A Universal View of Local Climates” in Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life. This article concerns an Australian government minister’s claim that it is more practical and urgent to act in relation to currently localised effects of climate change than it is to immediately engage broader considerations of climate change’s sources. I respond via ancient Stoicism’s argument that the most practical action is to view the seemingly hyper-local event through the prism of a systemically global and universal interconnection. Theory Keywords: Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Zeno of Citium.

7. Article “Bringing People Closer: Cicero, Hierocles, and Cosmopolitanism” in Epoché. In this work I firstly unpack the ancient Stoic position that it is rational to treat all humans as closely as possible. I then consider how practical such an ethos is in terms of the protocols that govern current ways of socially interacting. Theory Keywords: Cicero, Epictetus, Hierocles.

8. Article “How to Manage Technological Change: Stoic Responses to Innovation” in Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life. This article details the ancient Stoic belief that change is the inescapable condition of the universe. I then apply this conception to a case study of an Australian prime minister’s demand for Australians to embrace technological change. A difference becomes apparent between the Stoic impression of change, and this recent political interpretation. Theory Keywords: Lawrence Becker, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca the Younger.

9. Article “What is a Stoic’s ‘Social Nature’?” in Stoicism Today. A detailed analysis of Stoicism’s position that humans are inherently social and designed to contribute to the common good. This attends to the Stoic belief that it is rational to be collectively oriented. Theory Keywords: Cato the Younger, Chrysippus of Soli, Cicero, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius.