Stoic News

By Dave Kelly

Friday, May 30, 2003

Socrates and Zeno in Hades by Jan Garrett

"In the Apology of Socrates, Socrates suggests that death may be a translation to another place, presumably under the earth, where true judges preside and one may join for conversation the great figures of the past. (Apol. 41a-c) Here I imagine Socrates’ meeting with Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school. Socrates has been in the underworld since his death in 399 B.C. Zeno, who died in 263, has recently arrived."

The egalitarian Stoa: Socrates and Zeno in Hades (part 1)

The egalitarian Stoa: Socrates and Zeno in Hades (part 2)

The egalitarian Stoa: Socrates and Zeno in Hades (part 3)

Friday, May 16, 2003

The Stoics on why we should strive to be free of the passions

This essay by Dr. Keith H. Seddon is easily the best explanation on the web of Stoic doctrine on passion.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

PTypes - The Primary Passions

Long & Sedley (pp. 410-11) translate Strobaeus [speaking for the Stoics]:

"[O]ne must suppose that some passions are primary and dominant, while others have these as their reference. The generically primary ones are these four: appetite, fear, distress, pleasure. (4) Appetite and fear come first, the former in relation to what appears good, and the latter in relation to what appears bad. Pleasure and distress result from these: pleasure whenever we get the objects of our appetite or avoid the objects of our fear; distress, whenever we fail to get the objects of our appetite or experience the objects of our fear."

Long, A. A., Sedley, D. N. (1987). The Hellenistic Philosophers: vol. 1. translations of the principle sources with philosophical commentary. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

An interesting article on the use of leisure:

Gleaves Whitney on William J. Bennett & Leisure on National Review Onlin

"The liberal arts are essential to leisure, yet leisure is not just a function of knowledge. Even after acquiring knowledge of beauty, truth, and goodness, people must have the will to pursue them. It is an historical truism that the ruling classes of ancient societies lost the ability to govern as they lost the will to use their time well; they sank into decadence and could no longer mount a defense of their lives or civilization."

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

What is the New Age -

"The Pontifical Council for Culture is quite specific: “Many of those who adhere to the New Age, have rejected organised religion, because in their judgement it has failed to answer their needs, and for precisely this reason they have looked elsewhere to find “spirituality”. Furthermore, at the heart of New Age is the belief that the time for particular religions is over, so to refer to it as a religion would run counter to its own self-understanding. However, it is quite accurate to place New Age in the broader context of esoteric religiousness, whose appeal continues to grow.”"

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

It seems to me that the exercise of suspension of judgment is the dynamic core of a 'therapy' which can release us from attachment to our rigid belief systems and from passionate behavior. Here is some commentary (on section 41) of Long and Sedley (pg. 258) on the suspension of judgment:

"A crucial difference between wise and inferior men is their disposition with respect to knowing when suspension of judgment is called for (cf. 40I). The wise man has infallible control over his assent, giving it only to impressions of whose cognitive status he is quite certain (D1); this is characteristic of his scientific knowledge (H4). In all other cases, he suspends judgment, which Arcesilaus exploits in the second part of his argument (C9-10): he cleverly concludes that the Stoics wise man, on their own admission, would have to suspend judgment about everything if the cognitive impression and cognition do not exist. (Suspension of judgment, which is the fundamental notion in Academic Scepticism, was probably at home on the Stoa before Arcesilaus turned it against them in arguments with Stoic premises, for scepticism). Inferior men by contrast are characterized by their 'precipitancy' (E, G5), or disposition to assent to 'unclear impressions', their erroneous assent where suspension of judgment is in order, and their 'self-deception in yielding to false impressions'. All of these are represented as types of 'assent to the incognitive', the general mark of 'opinion' (E)."

Monday, May 05, 2003


Suspension of Judgment

"When we practice suspending our judgments we learn to hold our opinions lightly. We consciously open ourselves to hearing and understanding each person's point of view. We create a space between our judgments and our reactions so that we can hear the other person in a new way.  Our academic training and our jobs develop our proficiency in being critical - our ability to listen for what can be judged and challenged.  In Dialogue we put that judgment aside and listen for what each person
is truly saying.  Such suspension of judgment is a key to building a climate of trust and safety in the group."

Thursday, May 01, 2003


I think that the process which you have been describing is called "apperception." I found this definition of apperception: perception as modified and enhanced by one's own emotions, memories, and biases.

Here's a rather long piece by Wiliam James on apperception:

I first came across the term in an old essay on Stoicism in "The Five Great Philosophies of Life (1911) by William De Witt Hyde (pg 43):

"The shortest way to understand the Stoic principle is through the psychological doctrine of apperception. According to this now universally accepted doctrine, the mind is not an empty cabinet into which ready-made impressions of external things are dumped. The mind is an active process; and the meaning and value of any sensation presented from without is determined by the reaction upon it of the ideas and aims that are dominant within."

It seems that apperception represents one of the fundamental insights of Stoicism, which is also, now, a bedrock idea of cognitive psychology, that our perceptions are conditioned by our prior beliefs.

The resources which we found at Stoic Practice to be most helpful on Stoic meditation and spiritual exercises were Pierre Hadot's The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

and Bruce MacLennan's Notes on Marcus Aurelius which is derived from Hadot's book.

and the previously mentioned Stoic Spiritual Exercises by Elen Buzare which also seems to be based mostly on Hadot.