Goodness from the Daily Stoic email. Pragmatism can mean being “principled without being fanatical and flexible without being opportunistic.”
(I shouldn’t need to say it, but I will. Stoicism [and pragmatism] have value only if practiced as a follower of Jesus Christ, filtered through his teachings and atonement, enabled and guided by the Spirit. Divorced from these foundations, the value of Stoic wisdom is greatly diminished.)
[Abraham] Lincoln strove to be “principled without being fanatical and flexible without being opportunistic.” This … “summarizes the logic and ethics of pragmatism in action.”Stoicism, which held that the sole good was virtue, is not always properly associated with pragmatism. After all, Cato, the hero of the Stoics, was both fanatical and inflexible. Yet it was Lincoln who managed to keep his country together while Cato could not. It was Lincoln who despite his assassination, allowed America to live on as the last great hope of freedom on this earth, while Cato committed suicide by his own hand and with his last breath, saw Rome perish as a Republic.The legacy of Marcus Aurelius leans more towards Lincoln than Cato. Marcus kept Rome together despite civil strife and foreign threats. He was also deeply pragmatic. If the cucumber is bitter, he wrote, throw it out. If there are brambles in the path, go around. He knew that his job as emperor required that he balance principles and compromise, flexibility and responsibility. More, he had to do this not in the theoretical realm, but through actions that affected millions of people. Because, as he wrote, he did not live in Plato’s Republic—he lived in the real world.If we are lucky, none of us will have to face the challenges of any of these men, but we can still follow their example today and be principled pragmatists as only a Stoic can be.
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