Stoic News

By Dave Kelly

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.'"


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