The Stoics recognize four primary virtues: Wisdom, Justice, Courage, and Temperance. I will tackle each one starting today with Wisdom.
Wisdom to Stoics is the knowledge of things which are good or evil or which are neither. Concerning this knowledge I want to share some thoughts on two quotes by Marcus Aurelius:
Do you have reason? I have. Why then do you not use it?
He who follows reason in all things is both tranquil and active at the same time, and also cheerful and collected.Marcus Aurelius
In order to acquire knowledge about what is good, what is evil and what is neither, you have to use reason. You have to think for yourself. Marcus Aurelius asks why do we not use our reason if we have it and all humans have it. This is a call to action. We all have the gift of reason within us but many do not use it.
Instead, they choose a passive stance, never really thinking about the things that matter, never using reason. This is a very old problem of humanity. It is still present today and it was back in Marcus Aurelius’ day 1800 years in the past.
Mankind is naturally lazy, only doing what is necessary. If I do not have to think, I will not. My mind is also lazy. Yet, mankind has the ability to will itself to do better, to use reason and not be mentally lazy.
If we use our reason, our faculties grow, our understanding grows and thus our Wisdom grows. Also, as the second quote illustrates, if you follow reason, life is better. Your understanding helps you to be at peace and active at the same time. Your understanding grants security while an active mind lets you experience the world better. Being more in touch with the world leads to more happiness. Thus, since understanding is wisdom (or Wisdom), Wisdom leads to happiness. Therefore it is good to aspire to the Virtue of Wisdom.