Bac de philo: the lesson of stoicism of an American soldier, prisoner of war in Vietnam

A fan of Epictetus, a great figure of Stoicism, the American James Stockdale survived his captivity during the Vietnam War, thanks to philosophy.

On the eve of the baccalaureate philosophy test, a soldier who returned from hell thanks to philosophy. To all high school students who will take the test, especially those who see no interest in it, listen to this story drawn from  Philosophy Magazine . 

Our hero is called Bond. James Bond. Finally, Bond is his middle name, in full it is James Bond Stockdale. He was a pilot in the Navy and he only dreamed of fighting. But in the early 1960s, he was granted leave, and there was a change of mood. He enrolled at the prestigious Stanford University in California, where he crossed paths with a former soldier who had become a philosophy teacher. A revelation.

Stockdale is passionate about the classics. And at their last working session, his mentor offered him a book: the Manual of Epictetus , an austere sage, a great figure of Stoicism. His textbook Stockdale keeps with him, even in the midst of war. 

“I enter the world of Epictetus”

In 1964, he led the first American raid against North Vietnam. And here one day, while flying at low altitude, he is targeted from the earth. No choice, you have to eject yourself urgently. And while his parachute leads him towards a small village, he says to himself: “I am entering the world of Epictetus”. So true. 

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