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The role of “exercise” in the writings of the Stoics

Liberal Arts in Russia. 2021. Vol. 10. No. 2. Pp. 91-98.
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Petrov M.
Lomonosov Moscow State University
1 Leninskie Gory, 119991 Moscow, Russia


The practical orientation of the Late Stoic tradition has been argued by such scholars as Paul Rabbov, Pierre Hadot, Martha Nussbaum, and John Cooper. However, the assumption of the key role of the concept of “spiritual exercise,” a notion proposed by Pierre Hadot, has not been supported by everyone. Some researchers, such as Martha Nussbaum, don’t see any importance in this concept. This author of the article attempts to study the history of the concept of “exercise” and its place in Stoic philosophy. The author is going to talk about not only the works of Stoic authors of the early, middle, and late tradition, but consider the most probable predecessors of Stoic teaching: Socrates, as he was represented by Xenophonte, and Diogenes of Sinope. The author traces the role of exercise for Socrates and the importance of the practical tradition for the followers of Cynicism. The part concerning the Stoic tradition considers texts in which exercises have special attention. For example, such authors as Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Musonius Rufus spent a lot of time examining the practical side of stoicism. At the same time representatives of the Early and Middle Stoa, even though we have access to only a little part of their writings, can provide us with some information about this topic. We are going to see that exercises for Stoics were a very important concept that helps to understand the system of Stoic teaching.


  • • exercise
  • • practical philosophy
  • • Late Stoic
  • • Cynics
  • • Socrates
  • • Marcus Aurelius
  • • Seneca
  • • Early Stoic


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