Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics

2019 Edition
| Editors: David M. Kaplan

Stoicism and Food

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1179-9_636



The ancient Stoics believed that virtue is the only true good and as such both necessary and sufficient for happiness. Accordingly, they classified food as among the things that are neither good nor bad but indifferent. These indifferents included health, illness, wealth, poverty, good and bad reputation, life, death, pleasure, and pain. How one deals with having or lacking these things reflects one’s virtue or vice and thus determines one’s happiness or misery. So, while the Stoics held that food in itself contributes nothing to a person’s happiness, how one obtains, prepares, and serves it, and both what and how one eats, all reveal a person’s character as good or bad. Thus, understanding the purpose of food, the necessity of frugality, and the virtue of temperance are all important in Stoicism.

Stoicism was the most important and influential school of Hellenistic philosophy. It became the...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Aurelius, M. (2003). Meditations, translated, with an introduction, by Gregory Hays. New York: Modern Library.Google Scholar
  2. Avramescu, C. (2003). An intellectual history of cannibalism (trans: Blyth, A. I.). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Epictetus. (1995). The Discourses, The Handbook, Fragments, edited by C. Gill, translation revised by R. Hard. London: J. M. Dent.Google Scholar
  4. Epictetus. (2008). Discourses and selected writings (trans. & ed.: Dobbin, R.). London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  5. Laertius, D. (1925). Lives of eminent philosophers, in 2 vols. (trans: Hicks, R. D.). London: W. Heinemann.Google Scholar
  6. Rufus, M. (2010). Lectures and Sayings, translated with an introduction by Cynthia King, edited with a preface by W. B. Irvine. Lulu.Google Scholar
  7. Seneca, L. A. (1989). Moral essays, in 3 vols. (trans: Basore, J. W.). vol 3. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Seneca, L. A. (2014). Hardship and happiness (trans: Fantham, E., Hine, H. M., Ker, J., & Williams, G. D.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. Seneca, L. A. (2015). Letters on ethics, translated with an introduction and commentary by M. Graver and A. A. Long. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCreighton UniversityOmahaUSA