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4 Stoic Virtues: Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Temperance from Ancient Philosophy


What are the 4 Stoic Virtues?
What are the 4 Stoic Virtues?

What's up Stoic Poker readers? Today we have something super important to talk about. It is sort of the four cornerstones of everything being built here at I am talking about the four virtues that stoics believed would help make life of virtue.

Stoics believed in four virtues: Wisdom, Courage, Temperance, and Justice. As far back as one could look, human beings have searched for core virtues that can help them find practical wisdom.

Below we will discuss section by section, what the stoics meant by each of the four cardinal virtues. I have tried to accompany each section with a quote that helps frame how the Stoics believed the cardinal virtues should be applied by a virtuous person.

Stoicism has always been something that can help people find their way to living a fulfilling life.  It has always helped me during times I have felt lost by allowing me to look at things simply and know what to do next. 

A great deal of this help has come from trying my best to live as closely as I can to four fundamental virtues: wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance.

In this article, I am going to use the works of the most famous Stoic writers of all time and hopefully help make that information actionable to give anyone a more virtuous life.

Quote About Four Cardinal Virtues of Stoicism: Wisdom

Stoic Wisdom Quote by Seneca
Stoic Wisdom Quote by Seneca

    "The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are." - Seneca

What are the Four Stoic Virtues?: Wisdom

Stoic Wisdom
Stoic Wisdom

Wisdom can be defined in a ton of ways, and those could all be argued until the end of time.  Today we are going to look at how the Stoics thought about wisdom.  They thought of it as the ability to tell what we could control from the things that we couldn’t control. 

At first, it might sound like a prayer from AA, but if we look deeply at this version of wisdom, we can see that it could help someone decide when and what actions are necessary at any time in their life. 

Having used their wisdom to decide what is right to do (and not to do,) all that is left is for the Stoics to commit completely to the path they have laid out before themselves.

Simple Application for Everyday Life: Wisdom

How to apply stoic wisdom in your life.  Stoic Poker.
How to apply Stoic wisdom to your life

If something is troubling you, give yourself some time so that you can sit alone with your thoughts. During this time you should remove all distractions from the area and give yourself 10-20 minutes to sit and think. Now you have to be completely honest with yourself and decide what parts of the thing upsetting you are out of your control. Write them down, and try to let them go.

Next, you will think about what is under your control. In what areas can you actually do something to stop or improve what is upsetting you. Many people have trouble setting aside thoughts of the things they aren't in control of, but my suggestion is to keep your mind busy doing everything you can do for the parts that are under your control.

Quote About Four Cardinal Virtues of Stoicism: Courage

cowards die many times before their actual deaths marcus aurelius Stoic Poker
Quote about Stoic Courage by Marcus Aurelius

    "Cowards die many times before their actual deaths." - Marcus Aurelius

What are the Four Stoic Virtues?: Courage

Stoic Courage
Stoic Courage

Courage is seen in Stoicism as the ability to push through obstacles and adversities even if the path ahead has become unclear.  It is important to notice that this definition has absolutely nothing to do with never being afraid, or blindly rushing into certain death situations.  

The Stoic started with a plan, but now new things have arisen that have brought the ability to continue with the original plan to an end.  Not only are there now bumps in the road but the road ahead may be forever changed…  but the Stoic uses courage to press on.

Simple Application for Everyday Life: Courage

How can I use stoic virtue of courage in my life Stoic Poker
How to use stoic courage in your life.

Courage is a simple one to apply in our lives. If we are really being a stoic, we are going to have a plan for the things we want to work on and improve in our lives. If we make a plan, there will be obstacles in the way. We cannot let them stop us. They may slow us, they may cause us to regroup and replan, but we will never let an obstacle win by moving on and giving up.

Quote About Four Cardinal Virtues of Stoicism: Justice

    "Give me someone who cares for the truth and I can work with them at once." - Epictetus Stoic Poker
Epictetus quote about Stoic Justice

    "Give me someone who cares for the truth and I can work with them at once." - Epictetus

What are the Four Stoic Virtues?: Justice

Stoic Justice
Stoic Justice

     Justice is undefinable, Socrates proved that, but let's give it a try anyway.  If we look at this impossible term only within the confines of Stoicism, I think we might be able to wrap our heads around it.  

Stoics thought of Justice as exhibiting certain traits in your relations with the people and world around you.  The traits of justice that they were looking for came in many different forms from many different writers through the years. 


The Stoic definition of justice was empathy, fairness, adherence to a moral code, and treating others with kindness and respect.  

It was considered a Stoic’s responsibility to show justice to the people around them because it fosters connections between members of society as well as helps to grow a just society.

Simple Application for Everyday Life: Justice

Stoic Poker Practical use of Stoic Justice How can I be more just?
Paraphrased Stoic wisdom from Socrates

Justice is a tough one for me. I think the best thing to do is to look back at the philosophy of Socrates. He told a story about a strong man who pushed down an old lady at the market because he was stronger and he had no moral code to stand in his way.

In the immediate aftermath, the old lady has a broken arm and the man has no consequence, but in time the arm will heal. In contrast, that man will never be able to think of himself as someone incapable of doing something so mean and hurtful without reason. The most harm he has visited upon anyone is that which will always stay with himself.

Do the right thing, even if you could do the wrong thing, and get away with it. It might not flood you with dopamine right this second, but when you can look back on a long period of correct moral decisions you will see that the real reward comes in the form of being able to rely on yourself and liking who you are.

Quote About Four Cardinal Virtues of Stoicism: Temperance

“Stop allowing your mind to be a slave, to be jerked about by selfish impulses Marcus Aurelius Stoic Poker
Stoic quote about temperance by Marcus Aurelius

     “Stop allowing your mind to be a slave, to be jerked about by selfish impulses, to kick against fate and the present, and to mistrust the future” - Marcus Aurelius

What are the Four Stoic Virtues?: Temperance

Stoic Temperance
Stoic Temperance

When the ancient Stoics talked about temperance, they were talking about what we call moderation or self-control.  They thought everyone needed balance in their lives and if we let ourselves get led around by desires, we would have no self discipline and our lives would suck.

I have lived through some times in my life where I let myself fall out of balance in regard to the four stoic virtues, especially temperance. 

When I was younger, my desires for food, drink, etc. would make a lot of my decisions for me.  The ancient philosophy of Stoicism helped me find a ground upon which to make a pivot in my life when I was living without adhering the the virtue of temperance.

I was about as far from a virtuous person as a human being could be, and I needed to change my own life. Stoic ethics and the four cour virtues of stoicism have helped me develop just enough practical wisdom to begin living a happy life... a meaningful life.

If you came to this article because you think you require a change in your life, it is my advice that temperance be the first area you inspect to see if there is room for improvement.  So many of us are falling into the traps of addiction, spending, time-wasting, and not engaging with the decisions we are making as we build our lives one choice at a time.

Simple Application for Everyday Life: Temperance

Practical advice on how to use temperance like a stoic.
Practical advice on how to use temperance like a stoic.

Before you do something, ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it honest? Why? Am I just responding to some base desire? Should I practice temperance?

If you like all your answers, go for it. If any answers sound like bull***t, it totally is.

How Do I Live a Virtuous Life?

Many people wonder, How do I live a virtuous life? Just live by the 4 stoic virtues: Courage, Justice, Temperance, and Wisdom. It's just that easy... Here comes the part where I pretend to know exactly what you need to do to live a good life... I somehow know how to make you live your life with the four cardinal virtues of stoic philosophy as key post to guide your inner military campaign in a series of perfect acts of virtue.

I should be telling you I know the one true series of appropriate acts that will make you a stoic sage who sees the world through a stoic view and who has broken free of virtue and ethical system.

There is No Secret to the Four Virtues

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you any of that stuff. But I can tell you what I took away from reading about the four cardinal virtues that were handed down in hopes of improving human beings' welfare by Greek philosophers and Roman philosophers. I understood stoic virtue as something that stoics believed would lead me to a virtuous life as a virtuous person.

I decided I was going to try to keep these four simple stoic virtues in the front of my mind: self control, perseverance, trying to be fair to every human being I deal with in everyday life, and the thing that (for me) brings together all the other virtues of stoicism and a correct understanding of what I had control of in my own life.

My path to understanding that last one has been a long and varied one, and one where I was lost in self interest and concern for my own well being like some Roman emperor, and I thought I was some sort of wise man whose home was not some lowly place, but instead, I thought I had far more control than I did.

There is an Idea to Remember to Be a Virtuous Person:

Now I have a happy life and I try to live by simple stoic ethics, four cardinal virtues, and do what the stoics believed: ONLY WORRY ABOUT WHAT I REALLY HAVE CONTROL OF.

If I find myself out of balance in regards to the four cardinal virtues of stoicism, and I am as far from a wise man as I ever get...

If I am ever giving into physical temptations, or if I am stuck in a status quo, or lacking virtue in any way...

I reach for the virtuous person I have learned to be through stoic philosophy, I dig deep for my stoic virtues and I ask myself. Is the thing that has my life disturbed under my control, or is it not? If I hold close to the four cardinal virtues of stoicism in my own life and my own acts, I live a happy life. That is all the only wisdom this wise man has to share with you about the four cardinal virtues of stoicism.

Why Did Stoic Poker Need the Four Cardinal Virtues of Stoicism in His Life? (a tale of no self control or self restraint)

I started playing poker very young and the money came fast and easy. Soon after entering the poker world, I met some types of people who like to gamble a lot, travel a lot, and do other types of things. These were not people who wanted to sit around and discuss philosophy, or the four cardinal virtues of stoicism all night long.

They wanted to party... and I was a victim of human nature and I thought they had the secret to true happiness. My chief task as a human animal at the time was to impress other animals with some extraordinary thing.

Of course, as time went by I started to live the life of a Roman senator who never could have understood why anyone subordinated individual desires or fostered mutual interdependence with the people in their lives. And like every Roman emperor, I had my fall from grace.

I landed on the foundation upon which a meaningful life of four stoic virtues is built. It's called rock bottom. I needed all four stoic virtues, but at that time in my life, I wasn't discussing philosophy and I had no idea about the four virtues or anything the stoics believed. Unfortunately, it took me getting sick to be able to understand how short life was, and therefore if I was going to improve my life I needed to get started.

The algorithm was kind to me while I was recovering from my serious illness and it showed me videos about finding meaning in my life through stoic ethics, four virtues, taking action in my life, and making sure to act rationally and have fair dealing while keeping a stoic attitude.


The Stoic virtues of wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance act as practical tips for how to keep a stoic attitude in my life.  I like to make sure I am not getting too far off track concerning any one of the four core virtues.  Always try to be wise, brave, just, and moderate. Decide upon what you think your moral duties are and give those things absolute power in your life.

Stoicism has many things to offer people of all ages in the world today, but I think this simple checklist of ways to practice virtue in our own lives is one of the most useful parts of Stoicism. 

-If something is bothering me, is taking up my attention and energy; Is it something that is under my control? Or do I need to find the wisdom to realize I cannot control it?

-Am I being just and fair in my dealings with the people around me?

-If I run into an obstacle between me and the things I have planned on achieving, will I let them stop me? Or will I show courage in the face of those challenges?

-Am I using temperance and self discipline? Or am I allowing my wants to lead me around from desire to desire?

This Stoic checklist of the four virtues will help guide anyone through any trouble they are facing.  Stoicism can offer you long term well being based on keeping your mind satisfied with good discipline. If you want to find more tranquillity, don't avoid responsibility.

Instead, learn to set aside your individual desires and look out for your fellow man (and woman.) Let self restraint, pressing on even when we feel fear, the desire to act rationally, and wanting to live according to our individual virtues be your crowning glory in your search for a good life.

Of course, like all Stoicism, it can only work if we are completely honest with ourselves about what our objective reality is right now.  Without a solid foundation in the here and now, we cannot build a virtuous life from now on.



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