Tyler Joseph, Stoic Poet

I've made no secret of my love of twenty øne piløts. (The slashed “o” is fun, økay?) I like just about everything about them, both musically and the personae they present outside of their music. Maybe I'll write about that aspect of the band at some point, but not right now. What I want to discuss at the moment is a thread I've felt running through their music, and I recently realized that the sense that is resonating with me is the Stoicism of the lyrics.

In this article I'm trying to pare away most of the nonsense that has accumulated around the word “Stoicism” and use it as a term denoting a desire to become an independent moral agent. A Stoic in this sense seeks to remove the power of mistaken value judgements (“Passions”) and instead tame those passions into the “good feelings”:

  1. Volition
    1. Kindness
    2. Friendliness
    3. Benevolence
  2. Caution
    1. Modesty
    2. Reverence
  3. Joy
    1. Sense of Humor
    2. Cheerfulness

Okay, philosophy lesson over. But given this context, how do we view the lyrical output of Tyler Joseph?

Well, I see a lot of these themes in his lyrics.

On Moral Agency:

Fairly Local

I'm not evil to the core What I shouldn't do I will fight I know I'm emotional What I want to save I will try I know who I truly am I truly do have a chance Tomorrow I'll switch the beat To avoid yesterday's dance (Emphasis added)

Car Radio

There are things we can do But from the things that work there are only two And then from the two that we choose to do Peace will win and fear will lose And there's faith and there's sleep We need to pick one please

Because faith is to be awake And to be awake is for us to think And for us to think is to be alive And I will try with every rhyme To come across like I am dying To let you know you need to try to think (Emphasis Added)

On Volition

Tear in my Heart

This is somewhere between kindness and benevolence:

You fell asleep in my car, I drove the whole time But that's okay, I'll just avoid the holes so you sleep fine

On Caution


This is a very clear statement of humility:

Can you save Can you save my Can you save my heavydirtysoul?

I could keep going. Indeed in my personal Obsidian notes I have. But for the purposes of this article I just wanted to state that the philosophical themes of Tyler's lyrics are very satisfying. That's all.

Thoughts? Tell me about them!
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