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Stoicism has blessings and curses. If we think we are bullet proof, whether as civilians or soldiers, we are sorely misled and put ourselves in grave psychological danger. At bottom, we become unprepared for loving and losing and being the kinds of object that can be loved or lost, by parents, spouses, and children alike. In war and peacetime, as combatants or noncombatants, we may face unspeakable horrors and life threats and indignities, large and small. But the very numbness that can be so adaptive to survival, can also erect walls that stand in the way of human attachment and trust. I am all for Stoic teachings of empowerment of agency. But we are, as Marcus Aurelius knew well, citizens of the universe, attached to each other, and deeply affected by the social worlds and practices and institutions of which we are a part. To forget our membership and responsibilities in the social world and how that affects our life chances is to forget who we are.

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Submitted by AnaDay on October 09, 2021

Nancy Sherman

Professor Nancy Sherman is not only a professor of Stoicism but specifically an expert on Stoicism in the military, writing the book Stoic Warriors: The Ancient Philosophy Behind the Military Mind. Her credentials as a scholar are unparalleled. She is a distinguished University Professor and Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University in philosophy, where she received Harvard’s George Plympton Adam’s Prize for the most distinguished doctoral dissertation in the area of history of philosophy. She is the author of several other books, including The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of our Soldiers.

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