Stoicism Comes to Philadelphia
Philadelphia has long been a center for the pursuit of knowledge and community. Its very name, which William Penn coined from the ancient Greek terms phílos (beloved) and adelphós (brother), underscores the rich cultural traditions underpinning one of the most historically-rich cities in America.
Founded in 2018, the Philadelphia Stoa is a philosophical community focused on applying Stoic philosophy to modern challenges. As a registered non-profit organization, our vision centers on inspiring individuals to apply virtue in their daily lives as a path to personal flourishing.
In the earliest days of our Stoa, founder Bill Broadwater began searching for a suitable public meeting space where Stoics could gather to discuss Stoic texts. In May of 2018, the first meeting of the Philadelphia Stoa, then operating under the name Philadelphia Stoics, was held at the East Falls Public Library. The meeting served as a basic introduction to Stoicism as a practical guide for anyone interested in living a more tranquil, meaningful, and joyful life. Attendees discussed core Stoic ideas for living a good life, the development of Stoicism, and how people can apply the philosophy today. This historic inaugural meeting marked the beginning of Stoicism’s rise in Philadelphia.
Over the next nine months, our Stoa grew considerably as word spread about our meetings. We focused mainly on monthly book discussions, such as How to Be a Stoic by Massimo Pugliccui and The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User’s Manual by Ward Farnsworth. In February 2019, we sought a more centrally-located second meeting venue to make it easier for people to join us. We began meeting at the Philadelphia Ethical Society in Rittenhouse Square, who graciously allowed us to use a meeting room in their building.
In addition to member discussions, Philadelphia Stoa also hosts Stoic thought leaders. In December 2019, we were privileged to receive celebrated Stoic author Massimo Pigliucci at one of our meetings. Massimo gave an interesting presentation on his Handbook for New Stoics and answered questions about his interpretations of Stoic philosophy. This event stands out as a major milestone in the history of Philadelphia Stoa.
Leading to March of 2020, Philadelphia Stoa was exclusively a Philadelphia-area organization. The challenges of Covid-19 prompted us to continue our meetings online via Zoom, as we sought to keep the group alive. Because we had moved online, we had the good fortune of being joined by attendees outside our area, including people from other states and countries. The multi-state and multi-national diversity of our Stoa is an exciting aspect of our membership, which continues to this day. We have emerged from the pandemic optimistic about our group’s future.
We consistently endeavor to introduce new material into our discussions. Meetings included conversations on a number of pertinent Stoic topics and on books including the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, A Handbook for New Stoics, Being Better: Stoicism for a World Worth Living In by Kai Whiting and Leonidas Konstantakos, and A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irvine. In April 2021, co-author Kai Whiting of Being Better joined us for a presentation that notably included him posing challenging questions about applying Stoic virtue in difficult situations. In March 2022, Ward Farnsworth joined us online for an interview on practicing Stoicism and his books, The Practicing Stoic and The Socratic Method, A Practitioner’s Guide.
With growth comes new responsibilities. To meet the expectations of our members and take an active role in raising awareness of Stoicism in the Philadelphia metropolitan area and beyond, we filed to organize as a charitable non-profit corporation in February of 2022. This will enable us to more effectively produce compelling educational material, provide engaging lectures, raise money for causes, host thought leaders, and have a more prominent role in the charitable and philanthropic causes in our community. There has never been a more exciting time to be a Stoic in Philadelphia.