Neostoicism was a syncretic philosophical movement, founded by Flemish humanist Justus Lipsius, that combined the beliefs of Stoicism and Christianity.


Neostoicism is a practical philosophy which holds that the basic rule of good life is that the human should not yield to the passions, but submit to God. Neostoicism recognizes four passions: greed, joy, fear and sorrow. Although the human has free will, everything that happens (even if it is wrong because of the human) is under control of God, and finally, it tends to the good. The human who complies with this rule is free, because he is not overcome by the instincts. He is also calm because all the material pleasures and sufferings are irrelevant for him. Finally, he is really, spiritually happy, because he lives close to God.


Justus Lipsius, the founder of neostoicism

Neostoicism was founded by Flemish humanist Justus Lipsius (1547–1606). In his seminal period in the Northern Netherlands (Leiden, 1578–1591), Lipsius published his two most significant works: De Constantia (On Constancy, 1583) and Politica (1589). De constantia sets out the foundation for neostoic thought. It is a dialogue between Lipsius and his friend, Charles de Langhe[1] in which Lipsius and de Langhe explore aspects of contemporary political predicaments by reference to the classical Greek and pagan Stoicism, in particular, that found in the writings of Seneca. He further developed neostoicism in his treatises Manuductionis ad stoicam philosophiam (Introduction to Stoic Philosophy) and Physiologia stoicorum (Stoic Physics), both published in 1604.

The work of Guillaume du Vair, Traité de la Constance (1594), was another important influence in the neostoicism movement. While Lipsius based his work on the writings of Seneca, du Vair emphasized that of Epictetus.[2]


The Four Philosophers
ArtistPeter Paul Rubens
Mediumoil on panel
Dimensions167 cm × 143 cm (66 in × 56 in)
LocationPitti Palace, Florence, Italy

Neostoicism had a direct influence on many seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writers including Montesquieu, Bossuet, Francis Bacon, Joseph Hall, Francisco de Quevedo, and Juan de Vera y Figueroa.[3]

The painter Peter Paul Rubens was a disciple and friend of Lipsius. His painting, The Four Philosophers, now in the Pitti Palace, shows himself standing as Lipsius teaches two students seated in front of him. These students are Joannes Woverius and Ruben's brother Philip. Phillip was a star pupil whom Lipsius "loved like a son", and who had presented Lipsius' book on Seneca to Pope Paul V. Joannes Woverius, councilor to the Archdukes Alber and Isabel, was another star pupil whom Lipsius chose to be his executor.[4][5] In the background is Ruben's bust of who was at the time thought to be Seneca, but is now believed to represent the Greek poet Hesiod.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Justus Lipsius, On Constancy available in English translation by John Stradling, edited by John Sellars (Bristol Phoenix Press, 2006).
  2. ^ The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: John Sellars, Neostoicism.
  3. ^ Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Justus Lipsius". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  4. ^ Stoics and Neostoics: Rubens and the Circle of Lipsius Archived 2010-05-05 at the Wayback Machine by Mark Morford, Bryn Mawr Classical Review.
  5. ^ Peter Paul Rubens The Four Philosophers, The Artchive.


  • Mark Morford, Stoics and Neostoics: Rubens and the Circle of Lipsius, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.
  • Gerhard Oestreich, Neostoicism and the Early Modern State, English translation by David McLintock, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
  • Jason Lewis Saunders, Justus Lipsius: The Philosophy of Renaissance Stoicism, New York: Liberal Art Press, 1955.
  • Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.

External linksEdit