Phi Sigma Tau address: open public philosophy event


Max Bickley – General Assignment Reporter

The concept of philosophy, or philosophical ideologies, can be difficult for some to grasp or understand. However, philosophy can often have a practical application and merit to a student’s day to day life. Last Tuesday the Philosophy Honors Society on campus, Phi Sigma Tau, hosted their annual Phi Sigma Tau address, an open public philosophy event featuring guest speaker, philosopher, and author Dr. William Irvine.

In the opening remarks of the event, Dr. Chelsea Harry, the Phi Sigma Tau chapter head of Southern, gave background on the history and purpose of the event.

“This event is an annual open philosophy event that Phi sigma Tau holds for students and faculty on campus,” said Harry. “It is also the demonstration of the mission of Phi Sigma Tau, which is to capture philosophy as a living discipline. It is not something which is long dead and only in books, but is something which is a part of our day-to-day world.”

The event, as Harry described, was a traditional event hosted by Phi Sigma Tau, but actually inspired by the members of the Honors Society itself.

“Having a speaker present and these open philosophy events is actually a tradition with our students in letting them pick and decide who they want to come speak,” said Harry. “What they look for is someone whose message does not speak only to philosophers, but to anyone, and engage members of the public.”

This year’s speaker, Dr. William Irvine, philosopher and professor at Wright State University in Ohio, was selected by student Michael Serra, and is the author of “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy.” In talking about his selection, Serra described not only Irvine’s work, but also a bit of his background.

“[He is] called ‘a walking anachronism,’” said Serra. “He is a man who is using the ancient philosophical practices of stoicism in the contemporary world.”

As Irvine began to present, he first explained what stoicism was, and how it applied itself to the contemporary world and life.

“Stoicism is trying to live in accordance to the stoic way of life,” said Harry. “The stoic philosophy consists of two main points: firstly, it tells you what is most worth in life, and secondly, it gives you the strategy to get what is most worth in life. Stoicism is concerned with your life.”

As he continued, Irvine spoke about the history, and the actual common misconception about stoicism and the ancient stoics; namely the belief that they were namely emotionless and very stone-like.

“The ancient stoics were actually very cheerful people by reputation,” said Irvine. “Stoicism is a philosophy which teaches that we should want is what we have, and that instead of being without emotion we should avoid negative emotion. The ancient stoics were against negativity and negative emotions.”

The avoidance of negative emotions such as fear, jealousy, anger, is the goal of a good stoic. To find the better enjoyment in life by the philosophy of stoicism is a difficult one, and unlike Buddhism where meditation is the key to enlightenment and higher existence.

“There are five main steps to working towards stoicism and living a better life: negative visualization, control, fatalism, voluntary discomfort, and meditation,” said Irvine. “You must for a moment think about losing what you love most, control that moment and avoid the pain, have a fatalist ideal about the past, put yourself into a voluntarily discomforting position, and then reflect on how your life is being lived.”

At the end of this process, according to Irvine, the world is viewed differently. After the work has been done of the five steps, the little things become much bigger.

“When a practiced stoic, every little thing becomes joyous,” said Irvine. “To put it simply, you become aware of the blueness of the sky and smile.”

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