Does Happiness Write Blank Pages? On Stoicism and Artistic Creativity

by Piotr Stankiewicz (University of Warsaw, Poland)

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This is a compact book that addresses an interesting but neglected question and does so with admirable precision. It examines the apparent conflict between the images of the tormented poet and the tranquil sage. It offers a critical discussion of some key ideas in Stoicism and an analysis of artistic creativity that draws on a wide range of examples, from high art to popular culture. It shows the ways in which the Romantic image of creative genius is at odds with the Stoic ideal of rational contentment, while also pointing to other models of artistic practice that might be more fitting for someone trying to combine Stoicism with artistic practice.

Dr John Sellars
Wolfson College, Oxford, UK

Piotr Stankiewicz’s Does Happiness Write Blank Pages? On Stoicism and Artistic Creativity is concerned not with whether Stoics are intellectually capable of creating art—they are—but with whether they would feel motivated to do so. In this impressive work, he examines a wide variety of motives and concludes that some but not all are compatible with Stoicism. He goes on to argue that this in turn means that Stoicism would not be compatible with what he characterizes as the Romantic model of artistic creativity.

Dr. William B. Irvine
Wright State University

The author’s ideas are engaging. His arguments are well supported by texts from both ancient Stoics and a wide range of artists and authors.

William O. Stephens
Professor of Philosophy, President of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, Beta Chapter of Nebraska, Creighton University

Stoicism is coming back in a big way. Seen as a remedy for the craziness of the times we live in, it is experiencing a great surge in academic and cultural interest. Yet, can one live stoically and be a creative artist at the same time? Delving into its underlying tenets, obscure restrictions and limits of applicability, Stankiewicz critically explores Stoicism and its complex association with artistic creativity.
Stoicism and artistic creativity are two great displays of the human spirit. Yet, there are multiple reasons to suspect that they are at odds with each other. Popular culture encapsulates this problem in the figure of the rational, yet emotionally remote Stoic, who achieves serenity through withdrawal, and the contrasting figure of the “cursed poet,” “tormented artist,” or simply a rock star, who lives in a whirl of creative energy, yet falls short of quietude. Is this contrast valid? Other disciplines, including psychology, have explored this problem. But it has never been done philosophically.
Pioneering in its philosophical approach, this book discusses how artistic creativity and its problems of identity, expression and self-creation serve as a great testing ground for Stoicism, as well as its theoretical challenges and practical limits. Stankiewicz presents a detailed investigation into the stereotypes of Stoic life that seeks to explain the cause of Stoicism’s modern revival. This book is an essential read for anyone captivated by Stoicism’s complex allure.


Stoicism, Happiness, and Tormented Artists
Stoic Happiness and Happiness in General
Why Stoicism?
Challenges Facing Stoicism
Why Artistic Creativity?
Remarks on Methodology

The Argument

1. Stating the Problem

2. Defining Creativity

3. Why is Artistic Creativity a Challenge to Stoicism?

4. Methodology

5. The Theme of Fame

6. The Profit Theme and the Ascetic Misinterpretation of Stoicism

7. The Theme of Description and Preservation

8. The Expressive Theme
First variant. Artist’s self is created through the creative act
Second variant. Artist’s self exists prior to the creative act

9. The Cognitive Theme

10. The Revolutionary Theme and the Conservative Misinterpretation of Stoicism

11. The Axiological Theme

12. The Autotherapeutic Theme
The hypothesis of cooperation
The hypothesis of contradiction

13. The Didactic Theme






Piotr Stankiewicz PhD (b. 1983) is a philosopher, author and teacher specializing in Stoicism. He is captivated by the idea that Stoicism is not only a school of philosophy from an antiquity textbook, but a viable philosophy of life for modern times. This idea, alongside with the attempt to critically evaluate the premises and promises of the Stoics, has been fuelling his work. Stankiewicz has a background in both philosophy and science. He is a member of the “Modern Stoicism” team, an international network of scholars and authors promoting Stoic philosophy. He is based in the Warsaw, Poland.

Stoicism, modern Stoicism, philosophy of life, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Musonius Rufus, Old Stoa, Roman Stoics, Lawrence Becker, Massimo Pigliucci, William Irvine, artistic creativity, creativity, concept of creativity, studies of creativity, theory of creativity, human creativity, Isaiah Berlin, Romanticism, madness and creativity, divine madness, tormented poets, Richard Rorty, Philip Arthur Larkin, psychology, psychology of creative process, asceticism, conservatism, neostoicism, poststoicism

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Does Happiness Write Blank Pages? On Stoicism and Artistic Creativity





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm

Publication date
July 2019