Stoic News

By Dave Kelly

Monday, March 31, 2003

Virtue of the week: Respect - Saipan Tribune.

"Respect is behaving in a way which makes life more peaceful and orderly for everyone."

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Distracted by war - Rocky Mountain News.

"Workplace focus on Iraq combat may cut into nation's productivity"

"The mood is very somber, and people are definitely distracted," said Wayne Cascio, professor of management at the University of Colorado at Denver Business School. "It's having a tremendous impact."

"Unfortunately, the experts have no strong solution to the problem, and consultant John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas in Chicago suggests that companies simply wait for the passions to burn themselves out."

Blair fills in the gaps at appearance with Bush - International Herald Tribune.

"The prime minister's eloquence fit into a larger tableau of British wartime stoicism at a moment when most Americans are on a patriotic high. Britain has lost at least 20 soldiers so far, a higher casualty rate proportionally than the United States. Since the fighting began, American television screens have been filled with the faces of British soldiers firing at enemy positions, defusing mines or unloading food and water for civilians. Some of the starkest war images shown by the networks and cable news shows have been narrated by journalists from the Commonwealth, almost always with cool understatement."

Friday, March 28, 2003

Stoic position on the war

I think that the correct position for Stoics on the war is that we should be neither for nor against it.

As we have seen, this kind of event produces a great deal of passion and disharmony. A conscious attitude of indifference and detachment is required to avoid being caught up in events. It was for something like this reason that Epictetus said:

"Do not demand that things should happen just as you wish, but wish them to happen just as they do, and all will be well" (Handbook, #8, trans. Seddon).

It's natural to try to come to moral judgments on the behavior others. The Islamic opposition calls America "The Great Satan." The U.S. President calls Saddam "evil." Opponents of the war call Bush "evil." But this isn't what *we* should be doing. Our moral responsibility pertains to things within our power. Things not in our power are things that are just happening.

We can be unaware of our own passion by recognizing passion in ourselves only as great emotion. But compulsive attachment to particular points of view is also passion and the source of wrong doing. When we fix our attention on the good or bad behavior of others or on the morality of events we remove ourselves from attention to our own
passion. Yet, "...passions can always be avoided by deciding to withhold our assent to the effect that anything really good or really bad is happening..." (Seddon).

The Cosmopolitan Illusion by Lee Harris - Policy Review.

"Indeed, for liberal cosmopolitanism, liberal autonomy is the right that trumps all others, the formula that justifies an assault against oppressive conventional values in the larger community — including in cases where the larger community falls far short of the world community and more closely resembles a village or even a homestead. And therein lies the contradiction. On the one hand, liberal autonomy is opposed in principle to the conformity imposed by the conventions of any community of which it is a part and wishes to challenge it constantly. On the other hand, it espouses the ideal of an allegiance to a community made up not merely of one’s neighbors, but of men and women from all over the world. It wants no part of the community at hand, but rushes to pledge fealty to a community that can be found nowhere."

Farmer 'tortured' neighbours for months - The Belfast Telegraph.

"Prosecutor Jeffrey Millar described the approach adopted by the Quinns throughout their ordeal as "stoic".

"The family had met ongoing acts of harassment by lawful means."

Thursday, March 27, 2003

In Pakistan's frontier, a prelude to Taliban-style rule - Christian Science Monitor.

"In a state founded on religious ideology, it is impossible to revert laws or any other thing for that matter, that's brought forward and imposed on the basis of religion. Questioning the law becomes questioning the religion" says a human rights activist, Amir Murtaza."

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Conservatives' Uncivil War Over Iraq - Washington Post.

A Policy Debate Turns Bitter and Vindictive

" They're playing for keeps: A former Bush speechwriter is accusing such commentators as Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak of hating America, while Buchanan is complaining of a pro-war "cabal" that is "colluding with Israel."

Pope Urges Respect for International Humanitarian Law in War - Zenit.

Sends Message to Military Chaplains Attending a Course in Rome

"These principles teach that "even in the hardest of battles, it is always possible and, therefore, a duty to respect the dignity of the military adversary, the dignity of civilians, and the indelible dignity of each human being involved in armed conflicts."

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Operation Anglosphere - Boston Globe.

"In the 20th century, as Britain was increasingly weakened by two World Wars, the locus of imperial ambition shifted from London to Washington. ''These Americans represent the new Roman Empire and we Britons, like the Greeks of old, must teach them how to make it go,'' said future Tory prime minister Harold Macmillan in 1943."

Saturday, March 22, 2003

With Concern But Not Panic, Stoic Britons Stock Supplies - Washington Post.

"Unlike America, we've been through this before. We had the IRA for more than 20 years," he said, referring to the Irish Republican Army, which waged violence in London as part of its campaign to merge the British province of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. "And before that we had the [World War II] Blitz. It's also part of the British character. We're more phlegmatic and less excitable. Maybe it's the lousy weather and the warm beer."

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Weary Iraqis will welcome the end of tyranny - Telegraph.

"Suffocated by a regime that is both murderous and venal, Iraqis retain their humour and hospitality. It is difficult to think of another population that has shown such stoicism. Now they are grimly preparing for another ordeal."

Stoics should try to avoid the "moralistic dualism" identified in this article:

US Invades Iraq: No Ends Justify Means of Fractious War - Rebublicons.

"Obviously there were more dimensions in the elevation of enmity toward the US, but to the predominantly Saudi recruits who hijacked planes and martyred themselves against their unholy one, the presence of evil within their holy land was a sufficient proof of the goodness of their jihad. The ends of repelling evil justified their means."

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The case for colonialism - The Spectator.

"We stand at a parting of the ways. The coming war with Iraq is going to decide which side goes forward to face the next great threat to the West. If it goes badly, the foxes win. If it goes well, the 1990s myth of a post-modern order — beyond power, beyond war — will be finished. The day of the hedgehog will dawn."

I have as an epigraph to my personality types web site this famous quote of William James:

"The history of philosophy is to a great extent that of a clash of human temperaments. Undignified as such a treatment may seem to some of my colleagues, I shall have to take account of this clash and explain a good many of the divergencies of philosophers by it. Of whatever temperament a professional philosopher is, he tries when philosophizing to sink the fact of his temperament. Temperament is no conventionally recognized reason, so he urges impersonal reasons only for his conclusions. Yet his temperament really gives him a stronger bias than any of his more strictly objective premises."

The word that best describes my type is hermit

Patrick Buchanan: America's New "Sucker Punch" Strategy - Pravda, 9/26/2002.

"To justify a pre-emptive war, two conditions should first be met. The threat should be imminent and grave, and other avenues should have been exhausted. Have these conditions been met with Iraq? To be honest, no. Not only has Saddam neither threatened us nor attacked us – though we smashed his country, decimated his army and tried to kill him – there is no evidence he even plans an attack."

Monday, March 17, 2003

Harry Potter, Stoic Boy Wonder - The Chronical Review.

"Focusing on the books themselves shows that Rowling develops an essentially Stoic moral philosophy through the ethical dilemmas in which she places Harry and his friends -- dilemmas requiring them to think in complex ways about right and wrong. Her version of Stoicism is admittedly an updated one, but nonetheless one whose chief virtue is old-fashioned constancy. Harry's resolution in the face of adversity is the result of conscious choice and attention to what is and is not within his control. Harry worries about who he is, but realizes that what he does matters most. And, I believe, so do the children reading the books."

In Defense of Harry Potter - Zenit.

"At a news conference Feb. 3 on a Vatican document on New Age, [Monsignor Peter Fleetwood] was asked about the fictional adolescent wizard. Monsignor Fleetwood, who helped draft the New Age document when he was a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture, responded: "Harry Potter does not represent a problem."

"[T]he characters always find victory through universal virtues such as courage in the service of honesty or friendship. Self-sacrifice, the willingness to put oneself in danger for another's sake, is one of the constant threads running through the series."

I believe that "self-sacrifice" is a fundamental underlying theme of Stoicism.

'What then does the character of a citizen promise?' said Epictetus (Discourses II. x. 4-5).'To hold nothing as profitable to himself; to deliberate about nothing as if he were detached from the community, but to act as the hand or foot would do, if they had reason and understood the constitution of nature, for they would never put themselves in motion nor desire anything, otherwise than with reference to the whole . . . The whole is superior to the part and the state to the citizen.'

Saturday, March 15, 2003

The Case For and Against Natural Law by Russell Kirk.

"The most important early treatise on natural law is Cicero's De Re Publica. The Ciceronian understanding of natural law, which still exercises strong influence, was well expressed in the nineteenth century by Froude: "Our human laws are but the copies, more or less imperfect, of the eternal laws so far as we can read them, and either succeed and promote our welfare, or fail and bring confusion and disaster, according as the legislator's insight has detected the true principle, or has been distorted by ignorance or selfishness."

Is Bush Too Christian? Or Not Enough? - Zenit.

"Paradoxically, Bush's policy on Iraq is being strongly criticized for ignoring moral principles, while at the same time secular commentators attack him for being a religious fanatic."

Press: The morality of war - WorldNetDaily.

"In the 5th century A.D., the great St. Augustine changed that, setting forth a more realistic philosophy of war, which remains today the foundation of all Christian teaching on the subject. As outlined in a recent online article by Professor Mark Edward DeForrest of Gonzaga University, Augustine actually gave his blessing to war. According to natural law, he taught, war was a permissible part of the life of a nation. And the power of prosecuting a war was part of the natural powers of a nation's leader, whose job it was to protect the peace."

"We were camped by the river. Jake had some biscuits and fish and some berries. We ate well. A big moon lit up the night as stars faded in and out behind wispy clouds." - Paul

Friday, March 14, 2003

It's all about ethics - israelinsider.

"The underlying cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict is not a territorial dispute or fulfillment of political aspirations of local Arabs. The true cause is the tremendous difference between the ethical value systems of Arabs and Jews that impedes a long-term political settlement of the conflict."

Why Elizabeth ‘Ran Away’ -

Forget, "brainwashing," "Stockholm Syndrome," and other "psychobabble." Psychotherapist Joan Swirsky makes a plausible case that Elizabeth Smart decided to escape from her stultifying life in the suburbs (at least for a while) to experience a little adventure; and that she's liable to do it again.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Beef-Eating a Political Issue in India - Newsday.

"It is emotions like these, government critics say, that make the cow an ideal political tool, ready-made to inflame Hindu passions with the often-unspoken subtext that beef-eating Muslims cannot be trusted."

Natural Law and Traditional Sexual Morality [via Stupidus]

" Few Evangelicals believe in natural law at all, in part because they radically doubt, if not deny, the ability of fallen man to participate in divine law. Instead of making any appeal to natural law, the arguments that I heard in favor of "Traditional Sexuality Morality" [as conveniently truncated] in Evangelical Southern culture were based purely on revelation: scriptural revelation to be precise"

Natural Law is the common standard which links nearly all religions. The Maharishi grabbed the name for his political party.

Platform -- Government Supported by Natural Law: A New Approach to National Administration

"The most modern and most ancient understandings of natural law describe a universal level of nature’s intelligence underlying all forms and phenomena in the universe, including the human mind and body. Modern physics has glimpsed this unified source of all the laws of nature. The oldest tradition of knowledge of natural law, the Vedic tradition of India, describes this universal level of nature’s intelligence and states that it can be located -- and accessed -- at the deepest level of the human mind, at the level of pure consciousness."

"The Natural Law Party is a trans-national political party with national branches in over 80 countries. The party is the political arm of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation movement" (Wikipedia).

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Lash man for early release - Herald Sun.

"But it is his own stoicism and impeccable behaviour that has secured his likely early freedom."

Bush: scared of his own shadow? - Spiked [via Ye Olde Phart].

"The Bush administration appears scared of its own shadow. It is haunted by the shadows of America's past interventions, from the defeat in Vietnam to the current bogged-down campaign in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, its internal crisis of authority casts a new shadow across the world stage."

I missed this thread on emotions at Metafilter. Lots of good links and names of interest to us Stoics: Nussbaum, Marcus Aurelius, Damasio, Pinker, Spinoza, Ledoux, Stockdale, Epictetus.

Thanks to kliuless for referring to old ptypes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Wall of confusion - The Washington Times.

"To get religion out of American government, you would have to censor not just this republic's history but its Founding document: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness ... ." You won't find a clearer or more concise expression of the idea of natural law and natural rights — or a clearer recognition of their Author. Few governments have ever been based on so explicitly religious premises."

Bush's feud with his daddy's foe - The Age.

"The legal, moral and political case for war is familiar. But as the 17th-century French writer de la Rochefoucauld famously said: "Great events which dazzle the beholder are represented by politicians as the outcome of grand designs, whereas they are usually the product of temperaments and passions." So it has been with this President: a combination of chance, fate and - above all - personal evolution has led him to this moment."

Monday, March 10, 2003

Buchanan: The case for torture - WorldNetDaily.

"Thus, the question: Would it be moral to inflict pain on this beast to force him to reveal what he knows? Positive law prohibits it. However, the higher law, the moral law, the Natural Law permits it in extraordinary circumstances such as these."

Book Review: Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation - Practical Philosophy.

"As you will gather, I recommend this book very highly to all interested in rigorous practical philosophy, but I do have a couple of minor criticisms. First, much more could be said about Stoicism's connection with modern cognitive therapy. Sorabji has a few pages on this (pp. 153-4), rightly pointing out that cognitive therapy differs from Stoicism in that it focuses mainly on factual rather than evaluative errors (p154). But it would have been interesting for him to have said something about REBT, a form of cognitive therapy which, like Stoicism, focuses more on evaluative mistakes, only with a hedonistic rather than a virtue-based value system."

I didn't care for this book by Richard Sorabji. Sorabji doesn't have much use for Stoicism, and I agree with the reviewer's second "minor criticism" that while "Sorabji is enthusiastic about the potential for Stoic therapy, he concedes quite a lot, too much in my view, to its opponents."

The Turks knew how to run the Middle East -

"To Lawrence, [Feisal] says: "There's nothing further here, for a warrior. We drive bargains, old men's work. Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men - courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men - mistrust and caution."

Virtue of the Week: Joyfulness - Saipan Tribune.

“Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of influence.”

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Forgiveness Sunday as the last day of Maslenitsa feast on the eve of great lent - Pravda.

"Fasting means abstinence from both certain food and all harmful habits and amusements. This is the time of thoughts and assiduous prayers. The aim of any fasting is to exercise abstinence, cleanse the soul from passions and sinful thoughts, and submit the body and the soul to the spirit."

Atlantic Man: Euro-Bashing and Reality - United Press International.

"Nowadays ethnic name-calling is out of fashion, so it's done by the indirect device of saying "they're corrupt, they're statist, they're socialist ... and we shouldn't get mixed up with them, we're already losing our freedom because of our elites are mixed up with them." Reading between the lines, "socialism" turns out to have become a code word for saying "they're fundamentally alien to us, we should get away from them." In the case of the EU, it also means that "they're some new-fangled cosmopolitan union, and the communists and socialists were big on cosmopolitanism and unions too, so it sure sound like socialism to me."

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Bad poetry against the war just won't do - Snarkalicious.

"It really is tough to keep a straight face these days. Ol’ Zeno, brought back from the dust to have a look around, would wonder whether the fruits of his philosophy could sustain the modern stoic in an age of laughable unreason. Consider this: today was reportedly the International Day of Poetry against the War"

Aaron T. Beck, one of the founders of cognitive therapy, believes that "Borderline personality disorder (BPD) can serve as a prototype of the personality disorders in general."

He also says, in summary, "since the BPD patients experience usual events in extreme, absolute ways they are prone to react to these events with extreme feelings. Since they are in a sense in a “survival mode” they go to extremes to protect or save themselves. These strategies backfire and leave the patient more vulnerable than before."

This interpretation seems to be the same as that expressed in Epictetus' Enchiridion #5:

"It is not circumstances themselves that trouble people, but their judgements about those circumstances. For example, death is nothing terrible, for if it were, it would have appeared so to Socrates; but having the opinion that death is terrible, this is what is terrible. Therefore, whenever we are hindered or troubled or distressed, let us never blame others, but ourselves, that is, our own opinions. The uneducated person blames others for their failures; those who have just begun to be instructed blame themselves; those whose learning is complete blame neither others nor themselves" (trans. Seddon).

Dysfunctional Problem Solving in Borderline Personality Disorder - Cognitive Therapy Today.

Beck's Cognitive Therapy is close to what a Stoic Cognitive Therapy would be, but he has an Aristotelian approach to values.

It seems that for Arthur Miller an atmosphere that includes "stoical military virtues" makes a critical U.S. theater impossible.

The end is nigh - The Guardian.

"The bad part of being around a long time is the realisation that mankind is endlessly rediscovering the wheel; now the stoical military virtues - a kind of Roman obedience and conformity - echo in an attorney general, the highest legal officer of government, declaring that to oppose his ideas is to unpatriotically encourage terrorism, even as the American Bar Association warns that our vaunted legal rights and protections are being undermined by this kind of thinking."

It's common, these days, to see the attitude of stoicism under attack.

The woman who never got mad
- The Globe and Mail.

"A trait common to many people with rheumatoid illness, for example, is a stoicism carried to an extreme, a deeply ingrained reticence about seeking help. Researchers have called this trait a compensating hyperindependence. It is a pseudo-independence, a pretense. It is the coping mechanism of a child who feels emotionally alone and survives by telling herself, and the world, that she has no needs that she cannot take care of herself."

Friday, March 07, 2003

Sin for your supper - The Spectator.

"In the French catechism, gluttony is given as ‘gourmandise’. Philip Delves Broughton says virtuous French gourmands want it changed.

"Gourmandise can also easily be defined, along with all vices, in opposition to a virtue, in this case temperance. Eating and drinking like a gourmand may have a veneer of sophistication that eating three Big Macs does not, but can the man who eats a nine-course menu dégustation be called truly temperate?"

Stuart Park has kindly made a computer generated Mind Map of the outline account of Stoicism that I posted to the Stoic Practice discussion group.

It looks like we've reached the limits of representing the Mind Map in this format.

Community: Pledge of allegiance ruling hits new lows of stupidity - The Modesto Bee.

"Judge Stephen Reinhardt said, "The Bill of Rights, is, of course, intended to protect the rights of those in the minority against the temporary passions of a majority which might wish to limit their freedoms or liberties." Listen up, judge! The Bill of Rights protects all of us. It also protects the rights of the majority against the passions of the minority who would limit our freedoms."

Cognitive therapy for schizophrenia: Hope for those whom drugs haven’t helped - EurekAlert.

" According to Garety, cognitive behavioural therapy helps people with schizophrenia identify the negative thoughts that drive their emotions. She called the approach, "a joint process of inquiry, in which therapist and client together test out new ways of thinking and behaving."

Thursday, March 06, 2003

In this polemic on architectual design from Harvard Design Magazine, Michael Benedikt argues that "environmental stoicism and place machismo" are bad.

Debate over Iraq fires passions not seen since the Vietnam War - USA Today.

"* All talk, no listen. The rise of many cable news talk shows (and several cable news networks) since 1991 has produced a longer, larger, louder war debate. The TV program intro for MSNBC's Chris Matthews -- ''Let's play hardball!'' -- sums up the tone of a rough and not always nuanced debate.

''We have gotten into a confrontational media culture where it's all about scoring debate points, not illuminating policy options,'' Florini of Brookings says. ''The pundits who should be doing the most to elevate the debate are doing the most to lower it.''

United States threatens an epidemic of freedom - Daily Times.

"The other interpretation is a concept of natural law that embodies certain inalienable human rights. This more metaphysical view rests on the moral assumption that certain principles are inherent in the human condition: that “all men are created equal”, and that they are born with rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, for example.

"This notion of “natural rights” has been a hot topic of debate among scholars for generations. It has its champions and its detractors in academe and the judiciary. But regardless of its logical difficulties, it probably constitutes some part of the received wisdom of most people’s political and social attitudes."

The Silken Path to Trade - Humanities Magazine.

"One need only imagine the assortment of objects that were once found in a marketplace along the Silk Road--from piles of tea and spice and medicine to gold, ivory, furs, jade, lacquer, and bronze--to envision the difficulty in presenting the Asian Art Museum’s collection in a way that conveys cosmopolitanism and cultural interchange while maintaining a sense of the local."

Intolerance rife for soldiers on 'Crazy Train' - The Globe and Mail.

"[W]hile many police and fire departments have programs to treat the stress associated with traumatic events, the military culture of stoicism -- and its straitened circumstances -- ill equip it to deal with the problem."

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

The poem you can't see - St. Petersburg Times.

"Placed in such a prominent spot in downtown St. Petersburg, the poem could have provided a bit of inspiration and aesthetic pleasure to passers-by for years to come."

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

The virtue of stoicism - The Boston Globe [via Highered Intelligence].

"Who knows, stoicism may be coming back into vogue. Philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers and psychologist Sally Satel are currently working on a book entitled ''One Nation Under Therapy,'' scheduled to be published next year, which questions the benefits of letting it all hang out and challenges such sacred cows as the use of ''grief counselors'' to help people cope with the aftermath of tragedy."

Opinion: Turning the thumbscrews on our liberal conscience - Times Online.

"No utilitarian can deny the past, and potential, utility of torture. So it is only by rejecting the utilitarian approach of balancing costs and benefits that we can be on sure ground in opposing torture. And if we reject utilitarianism, then we accept that there are certain moral absolutes, principles which admit of no qualification, in short we find ourselves embracing Natural Law. "

Virtue of the Week: Forgiveness - Saipan Tribune.

" Being forgiving is overlooking the mistakes others make and loving them just as much as before. You can even forgive yourself when you do things you are sorry for. "

Monday, March 03, 2003

The Dream of a Perfect Plan - Charles Broadway.

"Clearly, the flaw in Stoicism is the one we grapple with daily. It is our inconsistency in living up to it. Few if any have been sages, yet when I read of Stockdale's time in the hands of his captors, I marvel at what he did. It seems the greatest peril to the Stoic is not times of harshness but times of ease."

Sunday, March 02, 2003

The passing away of Mother Russia - WorldNetDaily.

"In many Catholic colleges of yesterday, students had to take 24 course hours of philosophy as a condition of graduation. At the core of the philosophy curriculum was Natural Law, and at the heart of Natural Law was the idea that men, through reason, could come to know how to lead a moral life."

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Dueling Movie Reviews: Gods and Generals - A Nickel's Worth of Free Advice.

" ' Religion is an integral part of Gods and Generals, particularly on the southern side. Lee and Jackson are forever talking about God's will — Jackson at one point refers to his men as "the Army of the Lord," as he is about to execute deserters — but don't seem much troubled by the question as to whether or not their cause is just in His eyes. Jackson is a true Christian Stoic, believing that man's role was to be largely passive as the will of God worked itself out through history...' "