Stoic News

By Dave Kelly

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Jan E. Garrett: Stoic cosmotheology...

"But, if my current understanding is correct, based upon reading of various articles in The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics (Brennan, D. Frede, Algra) and looking again at classical Stoic passages, this image is wrong. The Stoic deity is closer to the Logos of Heraclitus than to the Neo-Platonistically influenced picture of Christian theology."

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Stoic Ethics: Definition of the End by William O. Stephens

"Stoicism is known as a eudaimonistic theory, which means that the culmination of human endeavor or ‘end’ (telos) is eudaimonia, meaning very roughly “happiness” or “flourishing.” The Stoics defined this end as “living in agreement with nature.” “Nature” is a complex and multivalent concept for the Stoics, and so their definition of the goal or final end of human striving is very rich.

"The first sense of the definition is living in accordance with nature as a whole, i.e. the entire cosmos. Cosmic nature (the universe), the Stoics firmly believed, is a rationally organized and well-ordered system, and indeed coextensive with the will of Zeus, the impersonal god. Consequently, all events that occur within the universe fit within a coherent, well-structured scheme that is providential. Since there is no room for chance within this rationally ordered system, the Stoics’ metaphysical determinism further dictated that this cosmic Nature is identical to fate. Thus at this level, “living in agreement with nature” means conforming one’s will with the sequence of events that are fated to occur in the rationally constituted universe, as providentially willed by Zeus."

Friday, March 26, 2004

I've happily added recent referrer, rogueclassicism, to my My Yahoo! RSS Headline Reader (a bit of text is included with each entry).

1. n. an abnormal state or condition resulting from the forced migration from a lengthy Classical education into a profoundly unClassical world; 2. n. a blog about Ancient Greece and Rome compiled by one so afflicted (v. "rogueclassicist"); 3. n. a Classics blog."

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Philosophical principles in Epictetus' Handbook

Three online papers by Dr. Keith H. Seddon will give you the right start for the study of Epictetus' Handbook.

1. Epictetus [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

This article on Epictetus will expose you to Epictetus' 'Three Disciplines', the three areas (topoi) of Stoic training (askesis).
These areas of training, or exercise, are addressed in corresponding sections of the Handbook ("Desire" 2-29; "Action" 30-41; "Assent" 42-45).

The next two papers will be helpful mostly in the study the first part of the Handbook (chapters 2-29) which seems to be devoted to the first of Epictetus' areas of training, the Discipline of Desire.

2. Stoics on fate and determinism

Or "Do the Stoics succeed in showing how people can be morally responsible for some of their actions within the framework of causal determinism?" This paper will provide you with some knowledge of the Stoic philosophical principles about determinism, causation and moral responsibility, which are the philosophical principles behind Epictetus' ideas on what is 'up to us', which is the subject of the first part (ch. 2-29) of the Handbook.

3. Stoics on the passions

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

"Of these [three areas of study], the principle, and most urgent, is that which has to do with the passions; for these are produced in no other way than by the disappointment of our desires, and the incurring of our aversions. It is this that introduces disturbances, tumults, misfortunes, and calamities; and causes sorrow, lamentation and envy; and renders us envious and jealous, and thus incapable of listening to reason. (Discourses 3.2.3, trans. Hard)" (Seddon)

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Causation and Fate

"The Stoics held that all things happen by fate, in the sense that everything which happens is an effect of prior things with which it causally coheres and has effects which follow necessarily from it (N1). They identify fate with god, nature and reason (N4). The Stoics used their belief in fate to support the existence of divination, the art of interpreting signs of future things which god has arranged to occur (O), and sometimes argued conversely (P). The fact that something is fated to occur can only be taken to imply that it will occur regardless of what else occurs if it is a simple event; if it is part of a complex event, then the components of the event are “co-fated” (S)."

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Stoicism and Privacy

Jan Garrett:

"a sense of self requires the ability to resist the elimination of privacy and that this is necessary for one who is going to make progress in the Stoic fashion. There must be a physical and temporal space that person himself controls, where the self is not subject to the judgment of another. My reasoning is that it takes time to recognize and conceptually isolate the judgments of others, and this is necessary if one is to suspend one's assent to the impressions involved in those judgments, if one is to consider their relevance, validity, or invalidity, and finally, where appropriate, reject such judgments. But when one is continually and without let-up subject to such judgments it seems humanly impossible to
process them all."

Paul Ryan:

"I am reminded of Epictetus' point which has come up before about suspension of 'all judgment' for the time being. If one suspends judgement about all the judgments of others then the requirement to process them becomes superfluous and so a state of privacy can be obtained whatever the environment. This would seem to extend to the body so that even our concept of 'personal space' would be irrelevant. I agree this moves to a discussion of the sage, (in that a 'privacy' can be maintained under torture/death). However for one that is making progress, the inability to maintain 'privacy' in a distracting environment is a signal that we are engaging in judgment."

Jan Garrett:

"I wonder...whether it is humanly possible to suspend to judgment about all the judgments of others.

"We live and move and have our being in a sea of culture, constituted in great part by presuppositions transmitted to us by other members of the culture, often without our being explicitly aware of it."

"Stoic psychological methods provide a way to disable particular prejudices, at least for the time being. But doing so requires isolating them from the booming buzzing confusion of cultural messages."

Paul Ryan:

"the isolation of prejudices is not necessary if we 'chuck out' all

"The state of society is and always was 'a necessary concomitant consequence' of the useful and appropriate things nature was creating. (SVF II 1170). The removal of our 'resistance to things as they are'* inevitably quietens things down, whilst still allowing volition for our moral purpose. *'resistance to things as they are' can be read as 'judgment that (external things) are bad'."

Jan Garrett:

"Paul points out that resistance to things as they are sounds rather un-Stoic . . . I grant that, but there is really no difficulty in my position here. One does not have to acquiesce in the continued future rule of a tyrant just because he is the de facto ruler now. The future may be all mapped out from the perspective of Zeus but however it is mapped out human actions are part of the way in which it comes to pass. So if one human being's statements now help to expose the injustice in the rule of a tyrant in such a way that other humans come to understand it more clearly and eventually, collectively, they succeed in removing the tyrant, there need not be the slightest bit of *literal* resistance to the way things are right now this very second (which cannot be changed of course) but instead a well-directed contribution to the way things may be in the future, Zeus willing of course.

"One could say that 'resistance to things as they are' is often just shorthand for 'deliberate effort to create a future that differs from the present, starting from the very near future.'"

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Logos and askesis

John Sellars' thesis is that Stoic philosophy is an art (techne) of living, a techne composed of philosophical discourse or theory (logos) and philosophical exercises (askeseis).