Stoicism doesn’t have a symbol. We’d like to change that.
One of the challenges in resurrecting a 2,300-year-old philosophy for a modern audience is providing it with the necessary iconography that other philosophies and religions possess.
At Philadelphia Stoa, we believe in advancing Stoicism as a cultural movement—and this includes articulating an iconography which captures the essence of the philosophy so that we may use it to freely identify ourselves and the philosophy to which we subscribe.
Design a symbol which represents Stoicism as a philosophical ideology. In keeping with best practices for logo design, it:
- Should be simple
- Easily identifiable
- Simple enough for a child to draw it
- Channel Stoicism’s rich history
- Contain embedded symbolic meaning
Need we say more? Many of these symbols evolved over thousands of years. We aim to convey the reverence, simplicity, and elegance of these symbols in our new Stoic symbol. This is no easy task.
We approached the problem of Stoicism’s missing logo as historians of Greek philosophy. Supposing that a symbol actually were developed in 300 BC, what would it likely have looked like? What elements would it have possessed?
Stoicism gets its name from the ancient greek word Stoa, or Στοα, which roughly translates to portico or colonnade. In ancient Greece, Stoics would gather there to discuss and debate the issues of their time. In seeing the Greek translation of this word, the letter Sigma stood out for a few reasons: it abbreviates the word stoa, pays homage to the Greek roots of the philosophy, and most importantly, is not associated with any other ancient philosophical movements. So, we decided to re-purpose this letter as the foundation for the Stoic logo.
Yet, the Sigma on its own does not convey anything specific. It is used by businesses, mathematicians, even fraternities. It is too generic to stand on its own. We knew we needed to add another element to specifically call out Stoicism. But what?
We added a torch, graphically interwoven into the Sigma, as a symbol of the deep connection between human gatherings and the philosophy itself. The torch has deep historical meaning as the bearer of flame, not only as a physical object but also a tool which facilitates a metaphysical process. Essentially, as modern Stoics, we are the torch-bearers of this ancient philosophy. The Olympic torch is one example of this symbolism, and recalls the Hellenistic roots of the philosophy. Inside the torch are three distinct grooves, each of which represents the three pillars of Stoicism: physics, logic, ethics. Modern Stoics tend to focus most on the latter category in their practice, but all three pillars compose classical Stoic philosophy. The torch also invokes the entasis of a Greek column in the Doric order.
The double-colored flame of reason burns atop the torch. The outer flame depicts the Logos, which is the supreme and eternal governing force of the universe. The inner flame represents our imperfect and ongoing quest to align to the supreme order of the universe, as it must always remain inside the outer flame. In a practical sense, we use our reason and intellect to channel the Logos as human beings. The flame of reason is a common theme that recurs throughout Stoic philosophy. Reason is represented as something which must be nurtured and tended to, much as one tends to a fire. The goal of reason is to produce heat and light, and hence eudaimonia, or personal flourishing—long stated to be the goal of practicing Stoicism. Adding up the four tips of the flame equals four—symbolizing the Four Virtues of wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage.
Below you will find variants of the logo in a variety of colors, including one which has a lower level of detail for easy display on small spaces. We humbly submit our symbol to the Stoic community in hopes that it will be used as a beacon for fellow Stoics in the future.