Stoic News

By Dave Kelly

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Stoic Spiritual Exercises - Stoic Voice Journal.

"As we can see, the Stoics invented various ways to practise meditation, but we should notice that, apparently, no techniques of meditation comparable to Buddhist practice were ever developed."

Stoic Forum thread

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

I Spy by Wendy Kaminer - The American Prospect.

"Popular therapies have demonized silence and stoicism, promoting the belief that healthy people talk about themselves--sometimes incessantly and often in public. Secrets are "toxic." Discretion about your private life is likely to be equated with repression. In the age of the memoir, privacy is pathologized."

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Google Search: rights stoic OR stoics OR stoicism

Thursday, April 24, 2003

The subject of "rights" is a frequent topic of discussion on the International Stoic Forum.The usual argument is the assertion of a liberal theory of "rights" against a libertarian theory. I think that it will be difficult to find support for either of these "rights" theories in Stoic doctrine.. Here is a pointer to some of the early threads on the Forum on rights.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Sen. Rick Santorum's comments on homosexuality in an AP interview - The Bucks County Courier Times.

"SANTORUM: And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we're seeing it in our society."

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

We will be arguing, along with Phillip Mitsis, that the Stoics make no claim of a natural right to property, or of rights to any other indifferents, including to their own lives.

"It is hard to see what a property right can mean in a theory that is committed to saying "You have a right to your land. Of course, now that your neighbors have taken it by force and redestributed it among themselves, that is the best thing that could have happened both for you and the world animal" (Mitsis).

So, the preceeding entry, "Cicero's Defense of Property Rights,"and the following entry serve as background.

Right to Private Property [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

"The right to private property(1) is the social-political principle that adult human beings may not be prohibited or prevented by anyone from acquiring, holding and trading (with willing parties) valued items not already owned by others. Such a right is, thus, unalienable and, if in fact justified, is supposed to enjoy respect and legal protection in a just human community."

Monday, April 21, 2003

Cicero's Defense of Property Rights - The Claremont Institute.

"Cicero's influence on subsequent political thought is taken for an established fact, but the nature of that influence remains uncertain.1 He was an important figure in natural law theory, but beyond that outmoded field how far does his influence extend? Is he worth studying anymore? Our uncertainty is compounded by shifts in fashion among succeeding generations of scholars and the baggage they bring with them. Can we make the case that Cicero is important without forcing him to say things that are important to us? We may take the term "property" as an example. Few words in modern political philosophy are as powerful as "property," and its almost inevitable companions "private" and "rights." Thus my title, to a contemporary political scientist, almost tells the whole story: Cicero defends property rights. That is important. From this much might be expected to follow — perhaps even the whole train of Lockean abuses that leads inexorably to possessive individualism. This is indeed what we find when we read the only full-length study of Cicero's political thought of the past generation, Neal Wood's Cicero's Social and Political Thought. In this paper I propose to re-examine Cicero's defense of property rights, and to raise the question whether Wood's account of Cicero and property rights is persuasive."

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Homosexuality and Hope: A Statement of the Catholic Medical Association - Zenit.

"In the debate between essentialism and social constructionism, the believer in natural law would hold that human beings have an essential nature -- either male or female -- and that sinful inclinations (such as the desire to engage in homosexual acts) are constructed and can, therefore, be deconstructed."

Friday, April 18, 2003

Bishop's Good Friday message - Pune Newsline.

‘‘If we are to avoid descending into chaos, it seems to me that two conditions must be met. First, we must rediscover within States, and between States, the paramount value of natural law. Second, we need the persevering work of statesmen who are honest and selfless.’’ To work for peace each one of us needs to uphold the truth, respect the dignity of every human person and be committed to service of others."

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Author says today's kids are coddled too much -

"She said many people in America have adopted what she calls the idea of therapism. People think human happiness and physical well-being is based on a minimal amount of frustration, a deep awareness of their inner state, value self-esteem more than moral improvement and believe human beings are extremely fragile emotionally.

"Those who promote therapism, they believe there is something unhappy or immoral in suppressing feelings," Hoff Sommers said. "In most cultures and until most recently, our own, stoicism is highly valued. I actually think that therapism causes more problems than it alleviates."

Yesterday I found a very good article on natural rights by Phillip Mitsis (1999), The Stoic Origin of Natural Rights.

Mitsis argues that "the Stoics offer the most appropriate starting point for considering the origins of natural rights theories."

After just a first reading of the article, it seems to me that, if Mitsis' entire argument is accepted, those with ambitious projects for the extension of human rights will not be able to rely on Stoic doctrine and thought.

"Many contemporary catalogues of human rights include an array of economic, social, and cultural rights covering such things as health care, employment, property, and education. We have seen how the Stoic conception of value would certainly exclude such concerns. But for all that, the Stoics give theoretical expression to the notion of natural human rights. To the extent that they focus on autonomy and ground rights in a system of legal procedures, they diverge from theories of human rights that aim at particular outcomes or at individual welfare, at least if we take our welfare to extend beyond the exercise of our moral personality. The Stoics do not think, for example, that I have a right not to be tortured. But I am free to exercise my rational autonomy and show indifference to my circumstances. And I have a right to take the proper moral attitude to my torture and my torturers. It is my due as a divine, rational spark and as a citizen in the universal cosmopolis. This is perhaps on odd result for a theory of natural rights, but one which in some sense is faced in one form or another by all theories of rights based on the Stoic recognition of the importance of autonomy and choice.

"In carrying out their duties, duties derived from their status as citizens participating in natural law, Stoics act in a way that accords respect for the moral autonomy, equality, and rationality of their fellow citizens. Moreover, they fulfill their offices, offices which they both have a duty and right to fulfill in accordance with Zeus' rational will. Citizens of the cosmopolis do not have a right to universal health care nor do they have a right to smoke; but apart from that, they live in a moral climate conducive to the recognition of their fellow citizens' needs and rights, rights that the Stoics think that we all share in virtue of the fact that we are human."

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Encyclopædia Britannica: Human Rights - The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights.

"The expression "human rights" is relatively new, having come into everyday parlance only since World War II, the founding of the United Nation in 1945, and the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. It replaced the phrase "natural rights," which fell into disfavour in part because the concept of natural law (to which it was intimately linked) had become a matter of great controversy; and it replaced as well the later phrase "the rights of Man," which was not universally understood to include the rights of women."

Discussions and Links offers a very good annotated list of sites and pages dealing with "human rights." The list was prepared by Jim Kalb of View from the Right.

Monday, April 14, 2003

In a post to Evolutionary Psychology, Ian Pitchford points to All is for the best, a Guardian review by Robert Grant of John Haldane's

An Intelligent Person's Guide to Religion


"We live, allegedly, in a 'post-modern' age: modernity cast aside the narrative fantasies of the pre-modern era, and now it has itself been exposed as a cruel illusion. Reason is a myth, and science is a threat. If post-modernity represents the final abandonment of all 'grand theories', how stands religion It is viewed as a particularly unbelievable form of explanation. Yet its power to effect social and political change is undeniable. Religion as a form of challenge to established order is acceptable; religion as a Divine instrument of salvation is regarded as outmoded. Against this backdrop, the author argues that religion without God is like a car without an engine: it isn't going anywhere. Drawing on many aspects of human culture he offers a defence of religion as not only credible but necessary."

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Wrong people for the job - The Guardian.

"The task of delivering aid to the population of Iraq must be taken away from the military and handed to the UN, says Dominic Nutt"

"No one is questioning the sincerity of the troops who are trying to fulfil this role. But it is not their job and, demonstrably, they don't know how to do it. Furthermore, it is impossible for a force fighting on one side of a war either to be impartial over who gets the aid, or to be seen to be impartial.

"Yet impartiality lies at the heart of the "humanitarian imperative" governing the actions of all humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organisations. It is enshrined in the Red Cross/Red Crescent code of conduct, to which Christian Aid is a signatory.

"Quite simply, the code states that aid must be delivered at the point of greatest need, without fear or favour or any political purpose. To do this requires a lot of planning and organisation."

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Self-portrait by Salvator Rosa (c1645) - The Guardian.

"It is possible that in this self-portrait Rosa makes himself a personification of silence (a stoic virtue). The Latin inscription on the tablet he holds translates as "Keep silent unless your speech is better than silence", and the brown cloak he wears might refer to a poem on silence by Ariosto in which such garb is described."

Friday, April 11, 2003

Capitalism, socialism, or neutrality?

I think that Stoics should adopt a position of neutrality between capitalism and socialism. We should be neither for nor against capitalism or socialism, but be indifferent to both.

It shouldn't matter too much to Stoics what political system, or form of rule, that they happen to find themselves in, because it's possible for Stoics to make progress in any circumstances, and freedom and happiness can be obtained only if we focus on what is up to us.

So too with economic systems; Stoics can make progress under both systems. Capitalism and socialism are indiferent. To become attached to an economic system can only bring passion and cause vicious behavior, and the throwing away of our chance for freedom and happiness.

Shouldn't Stoics adopt an attitude of indifference to current political and economic systems?

Google News Search: capitalism socialism

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Thoughts on patriotism and nationalism with regard to Australia by Gary Sauer-Thompson at

"I take exception to this understanding of nationalism because Australia is a deeply nationalist nation even though it does not want to incorporate Papua New Guinea into a little empire. Why so? Because the Orwell understanding of nationalism is an odd one."

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

The Red Cross advises its members to observe neutrality not only with regard to wars but also, in peacetime, with regard to all controversies:

"If the Movement is to be a world community, which comes to the assistance of suffering people everywhere and at all times and which — as is mentioned in the principle of Humanity — "promotes mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace amongst all peoples", it must strictly follow the precept of neutrality in the event of armed conflict and observe it loyally also in the case of controversies in peacetime" (Hans Haug).

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post lists many of our current controversies in The Endless War.

"Iraq, in fact, has become the mother of all debates, not just because of the passions it arouses but because the war serves as an echo chamber for every partisan divide of the past 40 years. Got a gripe, you can find someone to argue with over Iraq."

Wouldn't it be wise for Stoics to opt out of "The Endless War" and to maintain a position of neutrality when these controversies arise?

Monday, April 07, 2003

Scripture Omits Subjectivity - Arlington Catholic Herald.

"It is common today to distort the Gospels, unwittingly, by translating them into feelings. Thus we are often told that Jesus urged "compassion." He did not. Compassion is a personal attitude which may or may not motivate acts of charity. Jesus said to feed the hungry. He said nothing at all about how we should feel about it. Trying to understand the Gospels as having to do with one’s subjective state distracts us from the will of God and keeps us focused on ourselves."

A new thread at Plastic on patriotism vs. cosmopolitanism

"Lee Harris has written a timely response to Nussbaum's essay. He feels that patriotism can inform and educate a populace while actually propelling it toward the cosmopolitan ideals that Nussbaum advocates. "

Lee harris argues from the right. Don Carmichael argues against Nussbaum from the left in World Citizenship: A Critique of Martha Nussbaum.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

There are, of course, significant differences between a movement like the Red Cross and Stoicism. But Stoics can learn much from the Red Cross' use of neutrality.

Neutrality as a Fundamental Principle of the Red Cross

"Adherence to neutrality is meant to create and maintain confidence. It is however also a means of ensuring the unity and universality of the Movement. Every disregard of neutrality, every taking of sides in hostilities or participation in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature, leads to tension, contradictions, fissures and divisions within National Societies and within the whole Movement. Like general confidence, the unity and universality of the Movement are also the basic condition for world-wide impartial and efficient humanitarian activities. If the Movement is to be a world community, which comes to the assistance of suffering people everywhere and at all times and which — as is mentioned in the principle of Humanity — "promotes mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace amongst all peoples", it must strictly follow the precept of neutrality in the event of armed conflict and observe it loyally also in the case of controversies in peacetime."

A rather careless and irreverent review of a new translation of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

The emperor's home truths - The Guardian.

"In Marcus's universe, everything has a purpose, from horses to vine shoots. Man's purpose, as a thinking animal, is to clear his mind of junk - to rid himself of illusions. The acclaim of peers is one illusion. The acclaim of posterity - "people you've never met and never will" - is another: "To be remembered is worthless. Like fame. Like everything." Discard your vain ambitions, accept that you're "minuscule, transitory, insignificant", and you can begin to play your little part in the interconnected whole: "Things push and pull on each other, and breathe together, and are one."

Friday, April 04, 2003

Christianity - the existence of God. - Mediacorp Radio/Philosophy Today.

"And then we have the moral argument, that each and every one of us has this sense of right and wrong. Such a moral sense is best explained by the existence of a God who has put such moral order, or natural law, into human living. "

4 entries found for neutrality:


Thursday, April 03, 2003

Force of Law Must Prevail Over Law of Force, Vatican Tells U.N. - Zenit.

"The Vatican's observer at the United Nations called for a commitment to disarmament based on dialogue and multilateral negotiation rather than blunt force."

Wednesday, April 02, 2003


Yet another Yahoo! Group

The Stoic League is an association of declared Stoics pledged to neutrality in all wars. The Stoic League will never take, nor announce, a position of being for or against any particular war.

The Stoic League as it exists is a sign-up list which wishes to serve as a prototype for an organization to be formed in the future which will act as the voice of Stoicism in the world.

The Stoic League takes and announces the position that it is neither for nor against the current "Iraq War" (2003).

Group information:
Group name: stoic_league
Group home page:
Group email address:

Live in harmony,