UW faculty member featured in chapter of philosophy book

A University of Wyoming faculty member who teaches about the ancient philosophy of Stoicism is featured in a chapter on the subject in a recently released philosophy book.

Rob Colter, an associate lecturer in the UW Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, is spotlighted in “How to Cope like Epictetus,” a chapter in “The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers.”

Author Eric Weiner combined his passions for philosophy and global travel to uncover life lessons from great thinkers around the world, including Epicurus, Thoreau, Gandhi and Socrates. He traveled thousands of miles in his quest to discover how past philosophers can offer practical lessons for today’s unsettled times. His pursuit of this wisdom led him to Colter and Wyoming Stoic Camp in 2017.

Colter is the founder and director of Wyoming Stoic Camp, a five-day camp hosted by the UW Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies in the Snowy Range. The goal of the camp is to experiment with living in a thoroughly philosophical way — using the Stoics as a model — and explore what it means to live intentionally.

Weiner learned of the camp from an announcement he saw at Stoicon, a modern Stoicism conference, which was held in New York in fall 2016. The following May, he traveled to Wyoming to attend the camp and learn more about the ancient philosophy.

“Eric was writing his book, which is an exploration of a number of ‘schools’ of philosophy, and coming to my camp was part of that exploration,” Colter said. “He had told me, in a vague way, that his camp experience would inform his book, but I had no specific ideas of what that meant.”

In “How to Cope like Epictetus,” Weiner chronicles his experiences at the camp. Mornings are spent discussing Greek philosopher Epictetus and his “Handbook” in a large-group setting, while afternoons are devoted to discussing Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and philosopher, and his works in a small-group session.

Throughout the chapter, Weiner focuses on a key principle of Stoicism: Some things are under our control — such as our thoughts, judgments and actions — and most everything else is not. He includes anecdotes that Colter relayed to the campers about how his practice of Stoicism helps him to cope with adversity.

Weiner also recounts some conversations he and Colter shared.

“I enjoyed his company, but I did get the sense that practicing Stoicism was not very natural to him,” Colter said.

The two will share another conversation soon. Weiner will be a guest on “Stoa Nova Conversations,” an online program that Colter co-hosts with Massimo Pigliucci, a professor of philosophy at the City College of New York. Weiner will discuss his latest work Sunday, Dec. 13, at 11 a.m. For more information and to view the program, go to www.meetup.com/Stoa-Nova/events.

Colter says he is flattered to be included in Weiner’s book.

“I’m grateful that my work has had an impact, and it may continue to do so through Eric’s book,” Colter said.

Colter’s work also consists of teaching courses ranging from a first-year seminar — “Philosophy as a Way of Life” — to more advanced courses in epistemology, and ancient Greek and Roman philosophy.

Not only does Colter teach UW students, but he also teaches philosophy to incarcerated men and women in the state. He has been involved in the Wyoming Pathways from Prison program, a prison higher education program, since 2017. This year, he was named a co-executive director of the program.

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