This article is part of a series of modified excerpts from the introduction to our book "On Virtue." 

Article 9 - Stoic Love, Part 2 of 2


The Greco-Roman tradition is unparalleled as a method of finding truth. It is not the case that it is difficult to separate journalism from fake news and to distinguish reality from gaslighting (meaning "intentional emotional manipulation to make a person think they are the crazy one"). There is a unique Stoic-School method for dividing truth from error and extracting reality from gaslighting; we call it, “separating the wheat from the chaff,” and your mind can do it like a combine.


Surprisingly, your success in finding truth and wisdom depends a lot on what and how you love. The Stoic School recognized this paradox starting with Zeno himself. Your ability to know what is true and to speak it with Fortitude when necessary is tied to your exercise of virtuous human love – the two loves we discussed in article 8 and the two discussed in this article. Never underestimate the power of the spoken word.



Storge is a humane love that is best begun within rational and dedicated families. This love is the primary “social love” in Stoic teachings. It is the essence of extended families. Storge is what generates a visceral (meaning “felt physically”) connection to a community. The community can be a family, a few roommates, a fraternal organization, an institution, or a nation.


Where storge abounds, family members learn healthy boundaries as naturally as they learned to speak. Cohabitation breads familiarity, but storge keeps familiarity from breeding contempt. Storge breeds respect. The close interaction of a community is key to the development of this love’s facility for the familiar. Telecommuting and quarantining dilute storge.


In long-term familiarity, individuals get to know one another’s likes and dislikes. Eventually, a person learns their sibling’s favorite meal or pastimes. In a family, each member also learns the pet peeves of the other members. Storge is shown when a person respects what other members like and dislike. Storge naturally begins in a biological family, but it is not meant to end there.


When a child begins school, he interacts closely with his classmates, and he learns new customs and social expectations, but it is only the enforcement of those manners and social expectations that continues transmitting storge. The familiar pattern continues when an adult begins working for a living. In businesses and other institutions, respecting “best practices” is an example of storge. This is the love that preserves generational wisdom. At its core, storge is harmonizing with those different from yourself for a common purpose. Person to person interactions make storge flourish.


Stoic storge is a social love because it allows individuals to live and work closely together in a way that produces something greater than what the individuals could produce remotely. Stoics call this phenomenon, “synergy” from the Greek sunergos (from sun [“together”] and ergon [“action that carries out an inner desire”]). So, the Stoic ear hears, "together-action, that carries out an inner desire."


Politically, “deep state” activity, when it exists, is intentional abuse of storge and is the body politic’s equivalent to domestic violence.



Zeno literally wrote the book on, “The Art of Sexual Love.” Eros is sexual love. So, from the beginning, the Stoic School has helped individuals know this side of themselves and enjoy it to the full. Fundamentally, the “art” of eros involves reaching all four loves within one relationship.


The division between male and female is unecessary for survival of a species. This is demonstrated by many plant species and asexual organisms. The same plants and organisms also demonstrate that even pleasure is not required to reproduce life. To the Stoic worldview, these observable facts indicate that the human art of sexuality is a special ceremony in the Cosmos.


Like other creative arts, humane sexual love is unique on Earth in two ways.


In the first case, it involves choice and consent. Homo Sapiens can will to abstain from sex even biologically ready and able. We call this uniquely human ability, “celibacy.” Some choose celibacy indefinitely. Some choose it until they achieve a certain goal, such as establishing financial stability, finding philia, and so on. The main point to a Stoic is that it is simply not the case that the human sexual drive is uncontrollable, so those insisting that it is uncontrollable have in mind a seduction more malignant than sleeping with someone.


In the second case, the human art of eros involves a wonder. Even with an instrument as commonplace as a microscope, humans can see with our own eyes the moment of fertilization for various animals. Observation verifies that fertilization begins an explosion of synergy. The new cell increases rapidly in quantity and complexity. This is clearly a new logos inserted into the Cosmos. The increasing number and order of the human cells and their drive to increase the quantity and complexity of generational wisdom in the human mind are why Stoics often say that the Cosmos does not appear to be a closed system in the thermodynamical sense. Reflecting on such wonderful things is key to Stoic tranquility under adversity.


Eros’s connection with reproduction makes this love indispensable for the continuation of Homo Sapiens, and, therefore, society. Since eros is indispensable to society, it is an issue for public policy debate regarding the bedroom and always has been.


Summary of Stoic Love

Eros is sexual love. It can be controlled by the three stronger loves.


Storge is family love. It is the key to generational and institutional accumulation of wisdom. It is what allows each generation of humanity to become better than those that came before.


Philia is friendship love. It cannot be commanded from outside a person. However, its emotional component indicates that the individual is always in control of his own friendships by how he reasons on them, since reason governs emotions.


Agape is principled love. It is the essence of humaneness. Each human can choose to practice agape. Therefore, governments legitimately command this love.