Stoic News

By Dave Kelly

Friday, May 21, 2004

Google Search: define: stoicism

  • an indifference to pleasure or pain

  • (philosophy) the philosophical system of the Stoics following the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno

  • A philosophical doctrine developed by the Greeks that taught people to live in conformity to the natural order of the cosmos; this meant peacefully accepting one’s duties and responsibilities even if such acceptance involved great personal pain and sacrifice.

  • The idea that true virtue or excellence lies in not being affected by outside events and in not experiencing passions or emotions; impossible to attain, but still the natural human state of living according to reason.

  • the principle or practice of showing indifference to pleasure or pain.

  • was the doctrine of a Greek school of philosophy known as the Stoics. This group taught that human beings should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submissive to natural law, calmly accepting all things as the result of divine will. It is a Greek pagan version of the Islamic, Kismet, "what ever will be, will be."

  • A development from Cynicism. Unlike Cynics, Stoics accept the ideas of society and social duty, and also argue that while external goods (health, friendship, money etc.) are not essential for happiness, they are still preferable to external evils (sickness, enmity, poverty etc.)..

  • A Greek philosophy that became popular among the upper classes in Roman times, Stoicism emphasized duty, endurance, self-control, and service to the gods, the family, and the state. Its adherents believed in the soul's immortality, rewards, and punishments after death, and in a divine force (providence) that directs human destiny. Paul encountered Stoics when preaching in Athens (Acts 17:18-34), and Stoic ideas appear in Ecclesiastes, the Wisdom of Solomon, Proverbs, John 4:23 and 5:30, James 1:10, and 1 Peter 2:17.

  • belief that one should live according to providence/fortune/destiny and accept one's fate with indifference or, in the case of extreme hardship, with courage

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A Conversation with Tony Long

Let's talk about using Epictetus as a guide to a happy life. What is happiness for him?

"He has the notion of happiness not as one's momentary, elated mood, but the kind of happiness we would talk about in saying of somebody: "He had a happy life," or "She lived well." Epictetus believes that happiness, really feeling good about yourself, simply cannot be grounded in a life that does not have real moral worth. He's talking not only about mental health but about moral health--or about both: mental-moral health.

"This, he believes, is the central ingredient in your flourishing, in your happiness. The idea of being happy by having mental-moral health means that you are not going to be pulled one way by, say, self-interest, and another by "duty." Because, if you properly understand your self-interest, you will see that it is not inconsistent with the ethically appropriate thing to do, but quite the opposite. They actually coincide.

"Now, if you think that putting down your brother or cheating your neighbor is in your self-interest, there's an end to morality. But if self-interest actually involves behaving decently to your brother and not cheating your neighbor, then self-interest and morality are preserved. You don't give up self-interest; the self-interest itself absorbs the moral.

"This may seem counter-intuitive at first. But that is his way of trying to get us to see that the mental-moral health he's recommending we strive for is a really wonderful, beautiful thing. If we could only grasp this, we would see that it's actually profitable to us; it's not just a case of doing our duty for duty's sake, but a way of actually making us flourish as human beings."

Monday, May 17, 2004

The desire for knowledge

"None strive to grasp what they already know"

"There is often chaos in the world, and the love of knowledge is ever at the bottom of it. For all men strive to grasp what they do not know, while none strive to grasp what they already know....Thus, above, the splendor of the heavenly bodies is dimmed; below, the power of the land and water is burnt up, while in between the influence of the four seasons is upset. There is not one tiny worm that moves on earth or an insect that flies in the air but has lost its original nature. Such indeed is the world chaos caused by the desire for knowledge!"

Chuang-tzu, The Wisdom of Laotse, trans. and ed. Lin Yutang (New York: Modern Library, 1976), p. 287.

Friday, May 14, 2004

The Stoics do not consider remorse for guilt an appropriate moral sentiment (see below), as we have learned to do in our Judeo-Christian culture. According to Eric Dodds, writing in a chapter of his The Greeks and the Irrational [via rougeclassicism], "From Shame-Culture to Guilt-Culture," a sense of religious guilt appears only late in the Classical period.

"Strictly speaking, the archaic sense of guilt becomes a sense of sin only as a result of what Kardiner [45] calls the "internalising" of conscience—a phenomenon which appears late and uncertainly in the Hellenic world, and does not become common until long after secular law began to recognize the importance of motive [46]" (36-7).

[46] "[...] It is, I think, significant that side by side with the old objective words for religious guilt ([agos, miasma]) we meet for the first time in the later years of the fifth century a term for the consciousness of such guilt (whether as a scruple about incurring it or as remorse for guilt already incurred). This term is [enthumion] (or [enthumia], Thuc. 5.16.1), a word long in use to describe anything "weighing on one's spirits," but used by Herodotus, Thucydides, Antiphon, Sophocles, and Euripides with specific reference to the sense of religious guilt (Wilamowitz on Heracles 722; Hatch, Harv. Stud. in Class. Phil. 19.172 ff.). The specific usage is practically confined to this particular period; it vanished, as Wilamowitz says, with the decline of the old beliefs" (55).

In Liddell & Scott's A Greek-English Lexicon (1968, pg. 567) I found citations of the works of the authors that Dodds refers to where [enthumion] is being used . The term "guilt" is not the translation, there, but that seems to be the meaning intended, or very close to it.

Early Indo-European Languages Online [via dappled things]

"Classical Greek Online, likewise, is designed to teach you to read classical Greek texts or to improve your reading knowledge. New Testament Greek Online includes some of the central N.T. passages; it is designed like Greek Online. These consist in each case of: an introduction to the series; ten texts, each with a brief introduction identifying its author and the document from which it was taken; and a single master glossary spanning the lesson series."

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I received a message of appreciation for Stoic News from a Mr. Dan Truly: "it hits on so many of my interests in one place -- stoicism, cog therapy, war and foreign policy -- kind of a one-stop think shop!" Thanks Dan. I don't like to deal with current hot subjects and issues, like war and foreign policy, even in a general way. One should steer clear of things which can so easily be used to exercise passion.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Internet Addiction: a vice which results from the intense desire (pathos) to be connected.

Unplugging the Addiction to Information Overload - [via dappled things]

"Levy is all but helpless, he says, when new e-mail arrives. He feels obliged to open it. He is similarly hooked on the news, images and nonsense that spill out of the Internet. He is also a receiver and sometimes a transmitter of "surfer's voice," the blanched prattling of someone on the phone while diddling around on the Web."

Google Search: define: wired

Monday, May 10, 2004

Is the concept of guilt in Stoicism?


"I'm surprised to have found no mention of guilt in Epictetus, nor in
the rest of Stoic writing (I haven't read that much, though). Is guilt
not a concept used in Stoicism, or am I missing something?"


"Often by "guilt" people mean something like "a negative feeling
resulting from the recognition that one has harmed someone." In
that sense of the word, the Stoics cannot allow "guilt" as an
appropriate feeling. On the other hand, if by "guilt" you mean
"the recognition that one has acted incorrectly", the guilt
would never occur in the Sage, but would occur in the person
making progress."

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Friday, May 07, 2004

The Ancient Suicide of the West: - Interpreting the decline of Rome [via rogueclassicism]

"Finally, the quandary posed by Edward Gibbon can at last be answered. Any society subject to the same restrictions as the Roman Empire would speedily fall into economic stagnation and cultural decadence. Ancient civilization was destroyed by unrestrained statism, which flourished in the absence of a principle of individualism. Modern civilization will not fall, because it has discovered the intimately related principles of commercial vitality and individual freedom. Will not fall, that is, unless those who ignore the lesson of the ancient suicide of the West triumph, opening the way to the new barbarians."

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The ancient Greeks: Were they like us at all? - The New Criterion [via rogueclassicism]

"And yet the sophisticated maritime loans in the Attic orators, or the scurrilous attacks on promiscuity, sodomy, and effeminate men in Aristophanes’ comedies, or the prevalence of love among married couples in ancient Athens makes us wonder whether the Greeks really were all that different from us in their likes, dislikes, prejudices, and habits. Purportedly locked away in their northern European Victorian studies so far from the dust and stones of Greece, so ignorant of the new Cambridge anthropology, were our nineteenth-century classicists all that far off in thinking that the founders of Western civilization were familiar and approachable to us precisely because we as Westerners were their spiritual and intellectual successors? This feeling of a shared and common human experience is exactly what we receive from a wonderful new exhibition of classical Greek art depicting children and adolescents through gravestones, red- and black-figure vases, and terracotta miniature sculptures. "