Stoic News

By Dave Kelly

Saturday, January 29, 2005

A Companion to the Summa

"The Companion to the Summa is the most remarkable and successful attempt to put into modern English for a lay audience the essential arguments and insights of Aquinas' greatest work, the Summa theologiae. Fr. Farrell wrote almost sixty years ago, in the late 30's and early 40's, so we cannot fault him for the use of language that was acceptable at that time but might sound inappropriate today. His colorful and imaginative paraphrase deserves to be taken off the shelf and reviewed by all serious seekers of theological truth. In an age which looks upon the theology of the Catholic tradition as irrelevant to contemporary problems we leave it to your judgment to read and see if Aquinas, as mediated by the brilliant imagination of Fr. Walter Farrell, has a contribution to make."

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics Book 2

An annotated combined translation of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Book 2.


Terence Irwin, Hackett Publishing Co. 1985
David Ross, Oxford University Press 1980
J.A.K. Thomson, Penguin Books 1955


George Irbe

Monday, January 17, 2005

Temperance (Sophrosyne) and the Canon of the Cardinal Virtues

"The history of temperance is the history of sophros-
yne ( σωφροσγνη). The cardinal virtue of moderation,
self-knowledge, and self-restraint—sophrosyne in
Greek—took the Latin name temperantia in Cicero's
rhetorical and philosophical works, which set the style
for later usage in the West. Sophrosyne derives from
the adjective sophron (saophron in Homer): “of sound
mind”—used at first to describe a person (either human
or divine) who behaves in a way consistent with his
nature or station (like Apollo in Iliad 21. 462-64, when
he refuses to fight with another god on behalf of
“wretched mortals”) or who shows good sense, as op-
posed to frivolity or even witlessness (Odyssey 23.
11-13, 30)."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Right Mean and Sophrosyne

"In Greek Ethics, the doctrine of the Right Mean has been developed by Plato (Philebus) and Aristotle (Nic. Ethics II. 6-8) principally, on the Pythagorean analogy between the sound mind, the healthy body and the tuned string, which has inspired most of the Greek Moralists. Though it is known as the "Aristotelian Principle of the Mean", it is essentially a Platonic doctrine which is preformed in the Republic and the Statesman and expounded in the Philebus, where we are told that all good things in life belong to the class of the mixed (26 D). This doctrine states that in the application of intelligence to any kind of activity, the supreme wisdom is to know just where to stop, and to stop just there and nowhere else. Hence, the "right-mean" does not concern the quantitative measurement of magnitudes, but simply the qualitative comparison of values with respect to a standard which is the appropriate (prepon), the seasonable (kairos), the morally necessary (deon), or generally the moderate (metrion). The difference between these two kinds of metretics (metretike) is that the former is extrinsic and relative, while the latter is intrinsic and absolute. This explains the Platonic division of the sciences into two classes: those involving reference to relative quantities (mathematical or natural), and those requiring absolute values (ethics and aesthetics). The Aristotelian analysis of the "right mean" considers moral goodness as a fixed and habitual proportion in our appetitions and tempers, which can be reached by training them until they exhibit just the balance required by the right rule. This process of becoming good develops certain habits of virtues consisting in reasonable moderation where both excess and defect are avoided: the virtue of temperance (sophrosyne) is a typical example. In this sense, virtue occupies a middle position between extremes, and is said to be a mean; but it is not a static notion, as it leads to the development of a stable being, when man learns not to over-reach himself. This qualitative conception of the mean involves an adaptation of the agent, his conduct and his environment, similar to the harmony displayed in a work of art. Hence the aesthetic aspect of virtue, which is often overstressed by ancient and neo-pagan writers, at the expense of morality proper" (Runes, Dictionary of Philosophy).

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Sophrosyne: The Lost Ideal

"In classical Greece, sophrosyne (" soh-froh-soo'-neh ") referred to excellence of character and soundness of mind in a well-balanced individual. This complex ideal has no direct translation into English. Its roots suggest a bringing together (syne) of the qualities of wisdom (sophia)."