We normally characterize an optimist as someone who sees his glass as being half full rather than half empty. For a Stoic, though, this degree of optimism would only be a starting point. After expressing his appreciation that his glass is half full rather than being completely empty, he will go on to express his delight in even having a glass: It could, after all, have been broken or stolen. And if he is atop his Stoic game, he might go on to comment about what an astonishing thing glass vessels are: They are cheap and fairly durable, impart no taste to what we put in them, and — miracle of miracles! — allow us to see what they contain. This might sound a bit silly, but to someone who has not lost his capacity for joy, the world is a wonderful place. To such a person, glasses are amazing: to everyone else, a glass is just a glass, and it is half empty to boot.A terrific book. Reading it, I realize that for years now I’ve been thinking (at least sometimes) along Stoic lines.
William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
William B. Irvine’s website