Stoicism and the Simple Life

From From the Greeks to the Greens: Images of the Simple Life (1989), edited by Reinhold Grimm and Jost Hermand.

The Stoic concept of the “simple life” can be briefly summarized. The aim of the philosopher is to live in harmony with nature whose guiding principle is the logos or reason, also identified with God. Those who do live in harmony with reason are virtuous, which is the only good. To enable the human being to turn to and embrace the logos, moderation must be exercised in all areas of natural existence. The individual must become free of desires for externals and live simply. Wine does not slake thirst better than water, nor does a luxurious house keep one more sheltered than a simple one. The one who lives in harmony with the logos is truly free and happy, and since this state is the only real good, the presence of such things as health, pain, and death are of no importance. The Stoic “simple life” does not find its sense in itself; rather, it serves the freedom of the individual and, thus, allows one to pursue the goal of attaining the true good.