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Stoic WarriorsThe Ancient Philosophy behind the Military Mind$
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Nancy Sherman

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195315912

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195315912.001.0001

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A Brave New Stoicism

A Brave New Stoicism

(p.1) 1 A Brave New Stoicism
Stoic Warriors

Nancy Sherman

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides an overview of the philosophy of Stoicism and its influence in the military. The experience of James B. Stockdale is an extreme application of Stoicism. Stockdale, a senior Navy pilot shot down over Vietnam, became a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. He credits Epictetus as the key to his survival for seven-and-a-half years of his life in military prison. For Stockdale, prison can offer an extreme experiment in Stoicism. It was there that even the most brute external forces—such as repeated, severe torture—still demanded something of the will and mind, something that could be parlayed into the Stoic category “what belongs to oneself” and “what is within one's power.” On his telling, it was his Epictetan Stoicism that enabled him to regain his dignity if and when he broke in torture.

Keywords:   Stoicism, military, James B. Stockdale, Epictetus, will, mind, power

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