The stoic samurai

Asian Philosophy 13 (1):39 – 52 (2003)
Abstract
In Philosophy as a Way of Life, Pierre Hadot discusses the understanding of philosophy held by the Greco-Roman ancients. Philosophy was not understood only as an exegetical or analytical exercise, but as a spiritual practice - a way of life. Becoming a member of a philosophical school was tantamount to a religious conversion involving one's entire self. To make one's doctrines 'ready to hand' required a number of 'spiritual exercises' which, if regularly followed, were intended to evince such a transformation. Hadot discusses the role of such exercises for (among others) Platonists, Epicureans, Christians, and Stoics. I propose that the Samurai should be added to such a consideration. Their respective exercises allowed the adherents genuinely to adopt their system of beliefs. Many beliefs held by Stoics and Samurai are surprisingly similar. After having discussed some of these similarities, the most striking similarity will be revealed: the role of spiritual exercises in preparing both the Stoic and the Samurai for death.
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