Stoicism in the Stars:
Yoda, the Emperor, and
WILLIAM O. STEPHENS
Stoicism is the ancient Greek philosophy that originated in the third century B.C.E. in the "Stoa" or porch where Zeno of Citium taught in Athens. Stoicism counsels acting virtuously and without emotional disturbance while living in harmony with fate. But why care about Stoicism today? For one thing, Zeno's followers, the Stoics, exerted enormous influence on Roman culture, Christianity, and Western philosophy for centuries. Today, Stoicism continues to receive a lot of attention from philosophers,1 novelists,2 soldier-politicians,3 and psychologists.4 This is because Stoic ideas provide an effective strategy for addressing conflicts and kinds of adversity faced in the real world. Star Wars fans too can benefit from some Stoicism.
Understanding the Force is key to understanding the Star Wars universe since how the Force is conceived, used, or ignored by the characters goes a long way to determining their identities, allegiances, and goals. What is it that makes the Force and the discipline necessary to master it so compelling to figures
1 Check the internet for The Stoic Voice Journal, The Stoic Registry, The Stoic
Foundation, The Stoic Place, and the International Stoic Forum.
2 See Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998).
3 Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale is one of the most highly decorated offi-
cers in the history of the U.S. Navy. He credited Stoicism for his survival while
a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He was Ross Perot's Vice Presidential running
mate in 1992.
4 Dr. Albert Ellis's Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy is inspired by a Stoic
approach to emotional problems.