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PostSubject: Stoicism Tue Jan 14, 2014 6:47 pm

How Stoicism Influenced Xt...


Quote :
"He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. —Philippians 2:8

[Paul's] most extended discourse on his weakness is his spirited defense in 2 Corinthians 11–12, which includes the declaration ‘‘when I am weak, then I am strong.’’ Similarly, Paul’s reference to his weakness in Christ in 2 Corinthians 13:4 is followed by a reference to the power of God. In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul paints himself as a spectacle:

"dishonorable, hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, beaten, homeless—in a word, trash. But even here, Paul follows this litany with a challenge to the power of his opponents, reminding the Corinthians that the kingdom of God depends ‘‘not on talk but on power.’’ He then displays some power of his own, threatening to come to them ‘‘with a stick’’ (1 Corinthians 4:20–21)."

This close association between weakness and power make it difficult to claim that Paul is simply overturning Greco-Roman imperial values. A statement along those lines would sound more like, ‘‘When I am weak, then I am a true man,’’ or, ‘‘I don’t care about being strong, powerful, or manly. I am more interested in my feminine side.’’ Facetiousness aside, this is not what Paul says. He does not celebrate his weakness as an end in itself or even as a virtue, but showcases it as a means of achieving strength.

The same is true when Paul speaks of the hardships he endures. Like Christ, Paul is tortured, or at least he catalogues his experience of suffering. In this, too, he joins his contemporaries, especially the moral philosophers, in lifting up hardships as a sign of virtue (and, in Paul’s case, apostleship). In one sense, doing so is ‘‘countercultural’’ insofar as one cultural perspective clearly views such public displays of bodily vulnerability as emasculating. In this view, public beatings are understood as a grave insult to one’s dignitas. Like crucifixion, only a slave could be subject to such public humiliation. On the other hand, like the idea of a noble death, in the first and second centuries c.e., the idea of bearing pain—even pain inflicted in humiliating circumstances—could also be seen as the mark of a true man.


The use of hardship catalogs in Hellenistic literature underscored the connection between hardship, pain, and manliness, especially in the Stoic literature. As Catharine Edwards puts it, ‘‘In facing pain the Stoic wise man turned his body into a battlefield on which he too might show his virtus, prove himself a vir fortis.’’ So Seneca can speak of his body as an arena ‘‘in which bravery can be exercised, displayed, and observed.’’ Similarly, for Epictetus facing hardships is equivalent to Olympic training. ‘‘When a difficulty befalls, remember that God, like a physical trainer, has matched you with a rugged young man. What for? someone says. So that you may become an Olym- pic victor; but that cannot be done without sweat.’’ In short, as Epictetus puts it, ‘‘It is hardships that reveal men’’.

By situating one’s endurance of personal difficulties in the same sphere as public displays of prowess and courage, the philosopher finds an alternative means of participating in the broader cultural construction of ideal masculinity. So does Paul. By turning his own body into an arena, by becoming a spectacle, he pits his own display of masculinity against that of his opponents: ‘‘Are they servants of Christ?’’ he asks, and responds, ‘‘I am a better one, with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning,’’ and so on (2 Corinthians 11:23–25). For Paul, this ‘‘weakness,’’ this body turned battle- field, is actually a display of endurance, fortitude, conviction, manliness. In- deed, according to Paul, sufferings produce endurance, and endurance produces worth, or character (Romans 5:3–4).

With this emphasis on endurance, Paul joins multiple voices in the first century c.e. and beyond that, as Brent Shaw has shown, represent a revised perspective of the value of weakness and endurance. Just as Paul speaks of weakness as a means to achieve power, this perspective, seen in philosophical texts as well as Jewish and Christian martyrdom texts, points to the power of endurance. Shaw suggests that this focus on endurance is an ‘‘explicit cooptation of passivity in resistance as a fully legitimized male quality—a choice that could be made by thinking, reasoning and logical men.’’
He points also to the parallels drawn with the success of a well-trained athlete. If one holds out long enough, victory is achieved. In this way, ‘‘the victim of torture then acquires the greatest value attributed to persons of high social status in the world: they are ennobled, imbued with an aura of aristocratic demeanor—the type of excellence reserved by nature of the ruling elite, but one which could be acquired by a victorious athlete through the exercise of the body.’’

Such can be seen in the reflections of the Stoic philosopher Musonius Rufus, who draws on the image of cockfighting to make his point. Gamecocks, he observes, ‘‘with no understanding of virtue . . . nevertheless fight against each other and even when maimed stand up and endure until death so as not to submit the one to the other.’’ Submission, of course, would imply a loss of the masculine status, at least from Musonius’s perspective. He continues:

How much more fitting then, it is that we stand firm and endure, when we know that we are suffering for some good purpose, either to help our friends or to benefit our city, or to defend our wives and children, or, best and most imperative, to become good and just and self-controlled, a state which no man achieves without hardships.

Thus, not only does endurance display one’s masculinity; it may also help one achieve it.


While Shaw points to this shift to passive endurance as a ‘‘moral revolu- tion,’’ in light of the abundance of active and aggressive values normally as- sociated with manliness, I suggest that by the first century the revolution seems very nearly complete, and not limited to Jewish-Christian martyrdom texts. That is to say, within the broader culture, under Stoic influence, andreia (courage/manliness) was becoming ‘‘a quieter virtue; a virtue of endurance and of self-control rather than of perseverance in action.’’ Thus, when Paul draws on the rhetoric of endurance and hardship to bolster his reputation, he draws on an already well-established masculine discourse that entered the culture through Stoic responses to tyrannical rule. To be sure, it is a paradoxical discourse. As Helen Cullyer argues, ‘‘Stoic andreia is at once opposed to and congruent with heroic andreia. It is opposed in that the Stoics do not view physical strength, nor even objective success as goods. . . . Yet Stoic andreia is heroic in its embracing of death and danger for the sake of the noble and honorable.’’ Thus, in some paradoxical sense, heroic action was still at the center of the rhetoric of endurance. For this reason, in their emphasis on endurance under trial, Paul’s hardship catalogs might better be understood as claims to masculine status rather than challenges to the status quo." [Conway, Jesus and Greco-Roman Masculinity]

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PostSubject: Re: Stoicism Tue Jan 14, 2014 6:48 pm

Quote :
"Cicero, who recommends kindness as the best means to secure and maintain power. ‘‘Of all motives, none is better adapted to secure influence and hold it fast than love; nothing is more foreign to that end than fear. The most suitable means to win and maintain power is love, the most unsuitable is fear’’ (Off. 2.23). Even more to the point is Seneca’s definition of clementia as ‘‘restraining the mind from vengeance when it has the power to take it, or the leniency of a superior towards an inferior in fixing punishment’’ (Clem. 2.3.1). Finally, the idea of leniency or kindness as a trait of masculinity is evident in Marcus Aurelius’s reflections on fits of anger. From this ruler’s perspective, that which is ‘‘lenient and gentle is more human and thus more manly’’ ( Med 11.18). So, when Paul appeals to the Corinthians, it would be better understood as ‘‘through the leniency and clemency of Christ.’’ Such a phrase evokes the language of the ideal male leader, and Paul uses it to defend himself against accusations that he is servile.

One last point regarding Walker’s work: he notes that when Paul appeals to the philosophical topos of the good king, he taps into a countercultural strand of thought. But by the first century c.e., that strand is firmly embedded in the culture and conveyed through the educational system. Socrates might have been countercultural in his time, but, as we have seen, narratives about dying on behalf of a cause were standard school curriculum in Paul’s time. So, too, holding up hardships as a badge of honor was a common topos. Indeed, Stoic philosophy had been so thoroughly mainstreamed into imperial ideology by the first century that to adopt such ideas could hardly be seen as counter- cultural. In short, while Paul may have been anti-empire, it does not follow that he was countercultural or that he subverted basic gender ideologies of his time. In fact, it seems that the language he uses for the death and resurrection of Christ was largely in keeping with an ideal masculinity.

Greco-Roman masculinity was intricately bound to the broader imperial project. Central to this project was the notion of Rome as a humane civilization brought about through the will of the gods by means of a divinely sanctioned emperor. The idea is found in the well-known verse in Virgil’s Aeneid: ‘‘Remember Rome, these are your skills: to rule over peoples, to impose morality, to spare your subjects and to conquer the proud’’ (6.851–853). A similar sentiment is expressed in Pliny’s Natural History, where Italy is eulogized as

"a land which is at once the nursling and the mother of all other lands, chosen by the providence of the gods to make heaven itself more glorious, to unite scattered empires, to make manners gentle, to draw together in converse by community of language the jarring and un- couth tongues of so many nations, to give [hu]mankind civilisation, [humanitatem homini], and in a word to become throughout the world the single fatherland of all the races." (3.39)


Thus, as Greg Woolf argues, by the late first century b.c.e., humanitas has been formulated as a thoroughly Roman idea, embodying concepts of culture and conduct that Romans regarded as the hallmarks of the aristocracy. In his words, ‘‘Humanitas...distinguished an elite as cultivated, enlightened, humane and so fitted to rule and lead by example, but it also encapsulated a set of ideals to which all men might aspire.’’

What the New Testament authors have done, in a variety of ways, is to embrace this masculine ideal and represent it in the figure of Jesus. And at times that very same figure is used to resist Roman political domination. In this sense, Scott’s sense of the malleability of the dominant discourse and its use in acts of resistance is certainly right. But, in the case of New Testament depictions of Jesus, it is not so clear that the dominant masculine ideology is resisted. Rather, expressions of hegemonic masculinity in the New Testament figure of Jesus often coexist with implicit and explicit critiques of Roman rule. It is this coexistence, more than the paradox and inversion noted earlier, that contributes to the eventual success of Christianity in the empire.

To put it another way, most cases of resistance to Roman political power in the New Testament can be located in the imitation of imperial masculinity in the figure of Jesus. In this way, Leif Vaage is on target with his claim that it is precisely the way that the New Testament writings resist Roman rule that led to Christianity’s eventual success. He notes that by adopting Roman imperial discourse, or, ‘‘talking the talk’’ of Rome, the New Testament writers also imported the imperial impulses that led to Christianity’s success.
So the Jesus who was crucified by the Roman authorities, the Jesus whose masculinity was stripped bare by the nature of his demise, was already in the New Testament being clothed in Roman masculine garb. From there, the move to the front of Constantine’s army was not a difficult one to make." [Conway, Jesus and Greco-Roman Masculinity]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Stoicism Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:08 pm

Quote :
"A further feature that distinguished Roman Stoicism was the persistent weight lent to universal humanity. The Stoic doctrine of universal humanity taught that since all humans have a share in the divine, all-pervading Reason (ratio), they have equal value as such. The doctrine was basic to Stoic ethics from the very beginning, but it was Roman Stoicism that Wrst clearly expressed the notion of equality and equal value of all human beings. In principle, the tenet of universal humanity erased all boundaries between people of diVerent origin, race, gender, social status, and so on. ‘Parity of natural potentiality is implied by the very definition of Man. Therefore there can be no natural differences between Greek and Barbarian, man and woman, noble and commoner, free man and slave.’ Their purpose, it is important to keep in mind, was less to create moral order than to teach people how to recognize and preserve the one already existing in the world.

The early first-century ce Roman Stoic Marcus Manilius:

For I shall sing of God, silent-minded monarch of nature, who, permeating sky and land and sea, controls with uniform compact the mighty structure; how the entire universe is alive in the mutual concord of its elements and is driven by the pulse of reason (ratio), since a single spirit dwells in all its parts (cum spiritus unus per cunctas habitet partes) and, speeding through all things, nourishes the world and shapes it like a living creature. . . . In this due order over the whole universe do all things abide, following the guidance of a master (dominumque sequuntur). This God and all-controlling reason (deus et ratio, quae cuncta gubernat), then, derives earthly beings from the signs of heaven.

If pantheistic conceptions are evident, so too is the idea of a certain personal power, a ‘single spirit’ (spiritus unus), that governs all created things and nourishes them. A few decades later Seneca and Musonius Rufus spoke of God/Zeus as a ‘father’, and Epictetus, a few more decades later, used expressions of God/Zeus that have confused people ever since because of their monotheistic, ‘Christian-like’ character.
Marcus Aurelius, the ‘last Stoic’... We see in his Meditations, if not the same (mono)theistic tendencies as in Epictetus, then similar convictions about the gods’ care for human well-being. We see, too, the same devotion to the service of the deity, and the same position granted to theology/ cosmology as the foundation of ethics:

"Whosoever does injustice commits sin; for Universal Nature having made reasonable creatures for the sake of one another, to benefit each other according to desert but in no wise to do injury, manifestly he who transgresses her will sins against the most venerable of the gods, because Universal Nature is a nature of what is, and what is is related to all that exists."

Hence, says the emperor, "Love mankind! Follow God!"
The one demand is intimately linked with the other, "for you will not do any act well which concerns man without referring it to the divine; and the same is true of your conduct to God".

It has been stated that in the second-century legislation of the emperors Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius concerning the poor, the sick, the infant, the famine-stricken, and the slave, ‘the humane and cosmopolitan principles of Stoic politics at last triumph over Roman conservatism’.

Seneca expresses well the Stoic belief that morality is rooted in the proper order of Nature itself. As God determined and designed it, it is simply in the nature of each and every human being to love his or her neighbour:
"Nature begot me loving all people"(natura me amantem omnium genuit), Seneca declares.

According to him and his fellow Stoics, humans received from the very beginning and continue to receive a part of the Reason (ratio) that pervades the world. The result is a common reason shared by all. And not only is it a common reason but a divine common reason, which, in turn, makes the human being sacred as such: Homo, sacra res homini,... (‘Human being, sacred to a human being...’) That applies to all humanity." [Runar Thorsteinsson, Roman Christianity and Roman Stoicism]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Stoicism Mon Jan 26, 2015 6:55 am

Nietzsche and Stoic Hypocrisy

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PostSubject: x Sat Dec 19, 2015 10:27 am

I've been reading the Stoics. I got a surprise greeting from Nietzsche and Christianity.


Quote :
"The wise man will not hold opinions, that is, he will not assent to anything which is false. And he will live like a Cynic. For the Cynic life is a short road to virtue."
Quote :
"And he will even taste human flesh in special circumstances. He alone is free, and the base men are slaves, for freedom is the authority to act on one's own, while slavery is the privation of the [the ability] to act on one's own."

Quote :
"122. There is also another kind of slavery, in the sense of subordination [to another]; and a third, in the mastery [or: despotism], and this too is base. Not only are the wise free, but they are also kings, since kingship is a form of rule not subject to review, which only the wise could have."

Then, early Christian doctrine:

Quote :
"The [Stoics] think that he [the wise man] will honour his parents and brothers in the second place, after the gods."
Quote :
"They also see fit to believe that [moral] mistakes are equal. ... For if one truth is not more [true] than another, then neither is one falsehood [falser] than another. So, neither is one deception [more of a deception] than another nor is one [moral] mistake more [of a moral mistake] than another."

That last particular quote is the equalizing of any sense of degree. Commit only one of the seven deadly sins and you go to hell.

Also, from my professor, he said that John 1:1 - Word was actually Logos.
Quote :

"In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God."
Logos means something entirely different from Word. It was cutting-edge philosophy at the time. A biblical scripture that came out like that at the time paints a different historical picture for myself. I was wondering how it caught on like that.

Logos comes from Heraclitus first. It meant a natural order to things. Stoics utilized it to basically depict the same idea. Logos was the algorithm or principle of the universe which allowed for predictable patterns. It was then projected out onto the whole universe. Heraclitus said it would be reasonable to conclude "all is one."
The Stoics:
Quote :
"God and mind and fate and Zeus are one thing, but called by many different names. In the beginning, then, he was by himself and turned all substance into water via air; ..."
Quote :
"[Stoics] say that the cosmos is one, and limited at that, having a spherical shape; for that sort of thing is most fit for movement ..."
Quote :
"Inside the cosmos there is no void, but it is [fully] unified. For this is necessitated by the sympathy and common tension of heavenly things in relation to earthly things."
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PostSubject: Re: Stoicism Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:11 am

Quote :
"There is a fundamental disagreement between how Stoic and Epicurean philosophers understand the nature of the cosmos. Whereas a Stoic philosopher views the world as a dynamic continuum with infinitely divisible matter and no void gaps, an Epicurean subscribes to a worldview in which discontinuity reigns. Void co-exists alongside atomic bodies, which are impermeable and contain parts of too small a magnitude to analyse. Stoic physics holds, on the other hand, that only bodies exist and are capable of acting and being acted upon. Yet despite these fundamental disagreements over the composition and structure of the cosmos, both schools recognised the close relationship that existed between the physical world and its parts. The early Stoic archons, for example, had taught philosophy as a tripartite subject composed of physics, ethics and logic. Other Stoics were wont to compare it to an animal: logic, Diogenes Laertius stated, was like the skeleton and muscles, ethics was the flesh, and physics represented the animal’s ruling part – its soul. Other examples might also serve to reinforce the close layering between each part. In the case of an egg, logic represented the shell, ethics the white, and physics the yolk, while a fertile field’s enclosing wall corresponded to the aims of logic, its produce was analogous with the flourishing of the ethical life, and its soil recalled the generative and sustaining qualities of the wider physical world. Metaphors aside it is clear that Stoic philosophy preached that an intimate connection existed between physics and ethics, so much so that the telos of human life was said to be to ‘live comfortably with nature’. Epicurean philosophers also stressed the unity of the physical world and its parts, albeit less metaphorically. Epicurus portrays physics as the area concerned with first principles such as ‘becoming and perishing’ and the structure of nature, while ethics deals with the objects of pursuit and avoidance and the chief goods.15 By pinning down the principles of the simple bodies and then expanding these investigations to include more complex bodies, physics showed itself capable of providing an insight into those aspects of nature that united each body in the cosmos. It is these close connections which give us reason to consider how the principles of each school’s physics paved the way for such later ethical contentions that bodies naturally strive to ward off potentially destructive things.

One of the key tendencies that both Stoic and Epicurean philosophers attribute to natural bodies is that of an internal resistance towards their potential dissolution or destruction. The importance of this tendency was especially pronounced in Epicurean physics, given that the notion of resistance was indicative of the more fundamental laws of conservation. As Lucretius argues, the ability of bodies to endure in the face of destruction was attributable to their solid and unchanging nature. It was also due to nature having appointed a ‘definite and permanent limit to the process of destruction, since we observe that each thing is renewed, and that for every kind of being there is established a specific period of time in which it is able to attain the bloom of maturity.’ Rejecting any ex nihilo account, the Epicureans argue that simple bodies were as incapable of being generated out of nothing as they were of being annihilated into nothing. Atomic bodies enjoy a perpetual existence while compound bodies remain susceptible to change, and it is these changes that become integral to describing the consequences of bodily interaction. Resistance can be found operating as the implicit notion in the Epicureans’ larger understanding of atomic bodies in Lucretius and others’ accounts of bodily subsistence. The ability of a body to subsist eternally and preserve itself from destruction is explicable in various ways. A body’s solidity, for example, enables it to repel blows and makes it impenetrable to anything that might destroy the close cohesion of its internal parts, while other bodies, such as void and the universe, may simply be immune from receiving external blows. The self-contained nature of the universe then prevents the ‘generation of new entities, the annihilation of existing entities, the removal of parts, or the importation of new parts.’ The conservation of matter through this natural ability to resist destruction originates in the physical makeup of the atoms themselves.

Stoic philosophers were no less interested in the notions of corporealism and ‘vitalism’, and indeed the nature of the physical body occupied such a position in their writings that David Hahm believes that ‘no idea is more deeply ingrained in Stoic philosophy than the conviction that everything real is corporeal.’ As part of the school’s working definition of body, itself most likely borrowed from the account presented in Plato’s Sophist, one can often find resistance being cited as a universal characteristic of bodies alongside the ‘threefold extensions’ of length, breadth and depth. In using the specific term ‘antitupia’ to denote this internal ability of bodies to resist against the striking of other bodies, Galen provided the Stoic account with a term that had been previously employed in both the Aristotelian and Epicurean discussions of bodies’ ability to resist destruction through an act of repelling.

Taking for example the early Stoic archon Chrysippus’s understanding of this phenomenon, we find that mixtures can only occur when one element is physically able to overcome the resistive properties of another element. As Sorabji and others have noted, this conception of resistance allowed the Stoics to explain how multiple bodies could continue to remain in existence even when occupying the same place as other bodies, and it also established a line of argument that stood in stark contrast to what the Aristotelian view had postulated.

The Stoics believed bodies possessed a ‘selective’ resistance that manifests itself when one body interacts with another. Water and wine, for example, might imperceptibly mix with each other on account of their shared liquid state, but neither were singularly, or even collectively, strong enough to break down the resistance offered by the utensil which stirred them. Being of the same physical state, however, was not always enough to ensure that mixing would occur at all. One can see this most noticeably in the inability of oil and vinegar to mix while water and vinegar do. Such interactions were explained in particular detail in the writings of Alexander Aphrodisias, a later Peripatetic author who wanted to demonstrate how the Stoic view had broken from the Aristotelian distinction between ‘actual’ and ‘potential’ existence.

Describing how air and fire blended, the school held that ‘the capacity to be separated again from one another is a peculiarity of blended substances, and this only occurs if they preserve their own natures in the mixture.’ The reason ‘preservation’ plays such a prevalent role in the Stoic account is that they believed that ‘many bodies preserve their own qualities whether they are present in evidently smaller or larger masses.’ As a result, the Stoics found nothing ‘remarkable’ in the ‘fact’ that bodies may become mutually unified while at the same time remaining capable of preserving and even co-extending their own qualities. The notion of resistance thus became central for explaining the nature of the physical body itself, and it was on account of each body’s ability to persist and preserve itself when interacting with other bodies that the Stoics believed they had discerned an important truth about the nature of all types of matter.

By describing the properties and natural activities of the parts that comprised the cosmos the Stoic and Epicurean schools believed they had established one of the principles necessary for understanding its structure. Remarking on the especially tight connection between the larger physical world and its constituent parts, Zeno may be said to have summarised both the Stoic and Epicurean positions when he spoke of Nature’s cohesiveness and defined it as ‘a force moving of itself, producing and preserving in being its offspring in accordance with seminal principles within definite periods, and effecting results homogenous with their sources.’ Putting the Epicurean objections of infiniteness aside, Zeno also believed Nature might produce utility and pleasure as the by-products of its munificence so that ‘the analogy of human craftsmanship’ always remained apt. One cannot overstate the importance of these physical conceptions in providing both the Stoics and Epicureans with a scientific account of physical reality and a coherent interpretation of the principles operating throughout the natural world.

Turning away from the nature of simple physical bodies to consider the more complex bodies of animals and humans, we find this tendency to resist and preserve the body equally pervades the Stoic and Epicurean accounts of moral psychology." [Justin Jacobs, The ancient notion of self-preservation in the theories of Hobbes and Spinoza]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Stoicism Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:13 am

Quote :
"Stoic discussions of the soul are focused in large part on the ability of natural desire and reason to bring about specific and identifiable actions. This particular emphasis may well have been due to the influence of Aristotle’s De anima and De motu animalium, texts in which the animal’s soul was held to be the source from which all the voluntary actions of desire and the intellect arose. Yet in contrast with Aristotle, the Stoics could be found conceiving of the effects of nature in an animal’s ‘undeveloped’ and ‘developed’ states.86 While Aristotle had made constant recourse to nature in his physical and ethical writings to describe the reasons why an organism pursued a specific telos, it was the Stoics who sought to explain how nature guided the organism throughout its entire developmental process.

The Stoic interest in the ability of nature to move animals is attested to in the writings of the later commentator Origen, who notes that the Stoics understood the animal’s motions as the product of either internal or external processes. It is within this group of self-initiating movers that the Stoics, like Aristotle, also placed plants. The internal movement of animals is ‘sustained by physique or soul’ and is initiated  ‘when an impression occurs within them and calls forth an impulse.’

In addition to impulsive movements, rational creatures were able to ‘pass judgments on impressions’ with the intention of accepting some and rejecting others in the hopes of bringing about a particular desired end. As a result, the power of impulse could be supplanted by ‘reason prescribing action.’

With nature playing such an early and instructive role in human psychology, the Stoics approached the subject of ethics as one would examine the relationship of a part to the whole, and often did so in a way that blurred the distinction between the cosmic and animal senses of the term. Such distinctions were most likely of little use to the Stoic philosopher anyway, given that Zeno, Cicero and Seneca could all be found arguing that the cosmos possessed human attributes such as sense perception and rationality.93 It is against this backdrop that we come to find the Stoics arguing that virtue is a by-product of our natural functions and using this characterisation to promote a theory of development, which would come to stand in opposition to the Epicurean contention that pleasure was the primary natural good. The basis of Stoic ethics provided its readers with an account of human nature which they believed trumped the Epicureans’ hedonism-based ethics by using a specific impulse to self-preservation to recast the animal’s earliest and hence, most natural, desires.

That all living creatures possessed a natural kinship with their own bodies and towards each other is an argument that features in the writings of the Early, Middle and Late Stoa. Its initial formulation had probably been established in Zeno’s now-lost works Of Life according to Nature and Of Impulse, or Human Nature.

Kinship was discussed in the work of the third archon Chrysippus, On Ends, wherein he argued that the animal’s first impulse is directed towards self-preservation, because of the animal’s natural affinity for its own constitution. Centuries later, Cicero and his Stoic spokesman Cato furthered this argument with their claim that ‘immediately upon birth a living creature feels an attachment for itself, and [possesses] an impulse to preserve itself and to feel affection for its own constitution and for those things that preserve that constitution.’97 In writings of the Late Stoa, such as those of Seneca and Hierocles, and quasi-Stoics such as Arius Didymus, the primacy of the self is re-asserted by focusing on the ways in which self-awareness of the body and its constitution guided the pursuit and avoidance of all external objects.

In support of self-preservation’s primary status Cicero wrote that the Stoics:

"urge that infants desire things conducive to their health and reject things that are the opposite before they have ever felt pleasure or pain; this would not be the case, unless they felt an affection for their own constitution and were afraid of destruction. But it would be impossible that they should feel desire at all unless they possessed self-consciousness, and consequently felt affection for themselves. This leads to the conclusion that it is love of self which supplies the primary impulse to action."

The importance of the child and young animal’s self-awareness, and its role in their desire for self-preservation, also emerges clearly in Seneca and Hierocles’s usages of the cradle argument. In one particular letter Seneca argues that animals ‘come into this world with knowledge’ of their body and its parts, and that this knowledge is part of ‘nature’s sound training.’ Nature can be seen to guide the young in such a way that ‘all find the constitution in which they are in congenial,’ so that while babies might one day develop into ‘something greater,’ this does not mean that ‘the state in which they are born is not according to nature.’

In the writings of Seneca and Hierocles, all animals are said to be motivated to protect their constitution by natural fear, a psychological response that further indicates that nature does not ‘abandon’ her young. At the root of the fear are said to be the ‘most certain guardianships’ which innately compel every living organism to look after itself and to ‘know immediately what is dangerous and to avoid what is life- threatening.’ Nothing can be said to reflect this disposition more clearly, Hierocles argues, than the fact that ‘animals under all circumstances seek to preserve themselves.’ Animals do not then come into life without the fear of death, and the avoidance of potentially life-extinguishing things remains its ‘lifelong companion.’ They remain aware of their own needs and through self- and other- perception they come to see how they relate to the natural world. Any hostility or antipathy on the part of the animal towards itself would thus entail some sort of contradiction in nature, and it is from each of these accounts that we come to understand the ways in which nature guides us to preserve our own constitutions, while undermining the Epicurean mantra ‘death is nothing to us’.

In addition to fear the Stoics can also be found attempting to refute the Epicurean contention that pleasure is the primary and universal animal instinct. Whereas Epicurean accounts of pleasure are silent regarding the arguments of their rivals, the extant Stoic sources are replete with dismissals of hedonê and voluptas. This is captured in the doxographical writings of Diogenes quite well: for example, when he presents Chrysippus’s rebuttal of the Epicurean contention that the animal’s primary impulse is to pleasure. Pleasure, Chrysippus and other Stoics hold, is not to be counted as the chief good but rather as a ‘by-product which supervenes when nature all by itself has sought out and attained those things which are suited to its constitution.’ It is also characterised as an ‘aftermath comparable to the condition of animals thriving and plants in full bloom.’

Countering the Epicurean contention that pleasure is the chief good, natural kinship is manifested through the directives of impulse and desire, is reinforced through the animal’s self-awareness of its body’s constitution, becomes identifiable through the observable and uncorrupted behaviours of infants, and is finally reaffirmed by the subordination of the two motivations of pleasure and pain within the Stoics’ schema of the primary passions. It is from this multi-tiered approach that the various Stoics confidently asserted that their school’s moral psychology had laid bare the most primitive and powerful forces at work in the animal’s soul and established the affiliation to self as the motive behind all activity. They had shown, at least to their own satisfaction, that by following self-directed desires and fears the individual was acting in a virtuous and commendable way and that this homologia was itself consistent with the ultimate telos of life.

Using the love of self as a starting point common to all animals, the school argued that once reason was applied to the impulse for self-preservation, humans developed a more ‘social’ form of oikeiōsis in which they came to recognise that their own survival was best promoted through contact with others. Eschewing the Epicurean notion that the wise man ought to free himself from the ‘prison of politics’, the Stoics use ‘social’ oikeiōsis to highlight the natural roots of justice and lay the foundations necessary for clarifying the connections between each inhabitant of the cosmic city. As Malcolm Schofield has argued, while there was a definite Cynic colouring to the Stoic view of man being a ‘citizen of the universe’, the school’s playing up of the social aspects of kinship also recalled the discussions of philia found in Aristotle’s ethics, and subsequently developed in the account of oikeiotês laid out by the Peripatetic philosopher Theophrastus. The derivation of both oikeiōsis and oikeiotês from oikos (household) was intended to capture the close connections within a family, although it might in practice be used to denote ‘anything which peculiarly belongs to a person, including non-family philoi.’ The term philia, as we have seen previously, connoted the same imagery and was itself employed by Aristotle as an explanation for the types of personal and social relationships the individual might cultivate. It was the strength of our ‘philial’ affections which determined how close we were to those around us, keeping them in ‘orbit’ in much the same way the planets are by the gravity of the Sun.

Although animals feel the strongest sense of kinship with those to whom they are most biologically and emotionally similar, Hierocles and the other Stoics contended that such affections might also extend to all members of the same nation or race. Such is the strength of these natural affections to bind animals together into communities that the Stoics, like Aristotle in his own account of the formation of the polis, come to see ‘man as a social animal’ and argue that ‘[individuals] have been bound together and united by Nature for civic association,’ and are driven by nature to create families and relationships with others. Political societies also arise as a result of the desire to ‘protect private property’ and that which is ‘one’s own.'

While these commonly held views over the naturalness of human relations might have unified aspects of the Aristotelian and Stoic worldviews, they also provided yet another contrast with what could be found in the writings of the Epicureans. For their own part the Epicureans saw nature as having little role to play in explaining how justice arose between individuals or how social unions formed and, more importantly, endured. This left their political thought devoid of any naturalist language and dependent upon the passion of fear and the notion of utility to communicate to their readers what they believed the psychological motives behind political association were.  

Friendship also promotes justice since the protection of the self is enhanced most fully by the insulation others provide from social, political and economic troubles. The virtue that comes from oikeiōsis and natural sociability, according to Panaetius, originates in the preservation of human association and bonding. This renders justice as the ‘assigning to each his due’ and makes refraining from harming anyone else one particular application of ‘the more fundamental and more general obligation to maintain human society.’ Cultivating strong relationships based on affection rather than utility thus provides a measure of security that enables individuals to seek out additional means of protecting themselves without alienating others in the process. Any Epicurean notion of necessity is rejected in favour of the naturalness of such associations. This is because all friendships entail a certain amount of self-projection which springs from an ‘attachment of the mind’ and a ‘sense of affection’ rather than any calculation of the possible advantages to be gained.

Over time the individual’s soul moves from being guided solely by the dictates of impulse to being directed by reason and this entails new modes of behaviour and the performance of rational and ‘appropriate acts’. The addition of reason brings about an expansion of what constitutes an appropriate action, and one finds that these reasoned actions take into consideration our relationships with others. As Diogenes Laertius notes, examples of ‘appropriate acts’ are honouring one’s parents, brothers and homeland, always taking care of one’s health and sacrificing one’s property when necessary. Such acts are further said to be ‘becoming’ of a rational being. ‘It is through reason,’ we find Cicero arguing, ‘that nature also unites man with man and joins them in bonds of speech and common life. Moreover, it breeds in them a particular affection for their own offspring and spurs them to take part in meetings and assemblies, to strive to attain the things which contribute to their livelihood and wellbeing – not for themselves alone, but for their wives, children and all others a man holds dear and is obliged to protect.’ As the individual’s rational powers increase, so too does their moral development and their awareness of their responsibilities towards others. Such a position, Cicero continues, not only shows the familial origins of justice but also reveals the significant overlap that existed between the Stoic position and that of their Peripatetic contemporaries. It was the followers of Aristotle who were ‘the first of any philosophers to teach that the love of parents for their offspring is a provision of nature; and that nature has ordained the union of men and women in marriage, which is prior in order of time, and is the root of all the family affections. Starting from these first principles they traced out the origin and growth of all the virtues.’

Charting the linguistic similarities between Peripatetic oikeiotês and Stoic ‘social’ oikeiōsis Cicero’s assertion appears to be on the whole a valid one.
This has the noticeable effect of expanding the account of ‘philial’ justice found in Nicomachean Ethics. In that text, the strength of our relationships with others was said to depend largely on whether they are in our immediate family or not, and had been represented through the usage of concentric circles to illustrate the self at the centre with others orbiting around us. Seeing children as part of ourselves, Aristotle then proceeded to argue that this sensing of ourselves in others equally explains how we interact with others. Theophrastus refines this view to say that those born from the same people are naturally akin (oikeioi) to each other and that these feelings of natural kinship extend to people of the same race and species.

This kinship is said to originate in the household (oikos) and focuses on the inclusiveness of nature rather than on the exclusivity of rational phronêsis. his kinship, or oikeiotês, is also reinforced through the functions of the body and the soul, since all humans are related to each other through the nature of the soul’s appetites, passions, sensations and ability to reason. Oikeiotês therefore considers the question of human relationships from the natural perspective, redrawing the border between ethics and biology while also speaking closely to the unity underpinning the Stoic account of human social relations.

Self-preservation is a topic that Aristotle only tangentially discusses. However, it comes to form the initial consideration in the Stoic accounts of how individuals come to understand themselves and learn how to pursue a life in accordance with reason. Only after nature has taught them the importance of securing their own person do individuals then proceed to consider the other ways in which they might flourish as a social and political species. That the security of the body always remains paramount had been established clearly by the beginning of the Middle Stoa, when Panaetius had taken the self to be the highest class of property in his consideration of expedients. Cicero argues that in any comparison of goods there is a natural ranking that takes place. Although virtue is strictly speaking the only good which exists, the body is still considered by the Stoics to be an external expedient or a ‘preferred good’ that should be classed in the first tier. Unlike Aristotle, the Stoics do not place their primary focus on the functions of the soul to explain why the animal acts as it does, but rather they can be found constantly referring back to Nature as the fount of all tendencies and preferences, making it the definitive source for explaining personal and social behaviour.

For their part the Epicureans could be found agreeing with the Stoics that the preservation of the body had a role to play in explaining the formation of the polis. They also agreed with their rivals that friendship was desirable and that its origins were located in the individual’s recognition of its salutary benefits. Where they importantly differ, however, is in their assertion that the origins and cohesiveness of society are not the product of any natural kinship or love of others, but rather the establishment of a mutual trust built on fear and reinforced through punitive laws. It is the combative and violent nature of individuals, rather than love, which underpins Epicurus’s contention that anything that ‘secures protection from others’ represents a natural good and speaks to the relative, rather than natural, character of justice.

Living apolitically or self-sufficiently enables the individual to experience a life in which irrational fears and desires are foreign, and one that allows them to focus their daily efforts on the attainment of pleasure. Indeed, Lucretius goes so far as to describe the natural state in primitive and pastoral terms in an effort to stress its distance from the commotions and intrigues of political life. The benefits of this type of existence are always available to those who choose to seek out their causes and it is only when we begin to pursue socially desirable ends such as honour and wealth that our enjoyment of pleasure and safety begins to fade. As social ends become more desirable, the foedus amicitiae holding these small groupings together gives way to class division and political oppression. Moreover, the fear of death at the hands of others who desire to attain these socially desired ends becomes so great that life becomes a struggle for existence. Far from a natural love of others or the self-gratification that comes from recognising one’s own self in others, Lucretius paints an altogether more dire account of how this fear comes to dominate the individual’s thoughts. As individuals increasingly choose to ‘abandon the good life and make for themselves a worse one,’ one finds that it is on account of the unrelenting fear of death and the false social pleasures that avarice emerges,
completing the breakdown of friendships and enabling the emergence of the ‘competitive struggle that destroys all of the pleasures in life.’

It was only when individuals chose to respect the laws that justice could be said to emerge at all, since natural justice was itself the product of ‘pledges of mutual advantage which restrained men from harming one another and saving them from being harmed.’ ‘If things are unable to establish compacts among themselves,’ Epicurus argues, ‘then there are no grounds from which we can describe any action as being ‘just’ or ‘unjust’.’ Indeed, whereas justice is a natural concept in Stoic thought, tied explicitly to the notion of kinship, the Epicureans see it as an altogether relative concept dependent upon the presence of a compact. These mutual pledges, and by extension the preservation of the body from external threats, then, only remain useful if those who transgress them are subject to punishment.

The Epicureans considered the pursuit of hedonê as a striving for the preservation of the painless state, while the Stoics saw personal oikeiōsis as the reason the animal naturally tended to protect the body and its constitution from harm. Yet the former’s early and substantial contributions to the establishment of the body and its health as the core tenets of animal psychology were lost as a result of the Stoics misconstruing pleasure as condoning profligacy and promoting immorality. Stoic doctrine, however, would suffer in its own way as its own brand of self-centred ethics and overt determinism proved to be as theologically thorny as the Epicurean motive of pleasure." [Justin jacobs, Self-Preservation in Hobbes and Spinoza]

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PostSubject: Re: Stoicism Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:15 am

Hobbes.

Quote :
"One of the reasons Hobbes has been identified so closely with the New Science is that, like Galileo and Descartes, he uses the term ‘conatus’ to describe the beginnings of the internal motions or ‘endeavorings’ he believed were responsible for preserving the body. However, while Hobbes may have joined with his contemporaries in working out the implications of conative motion as part of his own natural philosophy, he also believes conatus or endeavorings can help to explain the voluntary motions and passions of animals. Applied to the case of humans, conatus is said to originate in the mind’s imagination and serves as the imperceptible motion responsible for initiating later observable motions such as walking, speaking and striking. With conatus responsible for instigating the motive sequence, Hobbes relies on other terms to detail how this internal motion actually preserves the body. When bodies move towards something they are said to act from appetite or desire, and when they move away from something they are said to demonstrate aversion. As Hobbes points out, it was the earlier Graeco-Roman accounts of human psychology, with their collective emphases on appetites and aversions, which had supplied the vocabulary for speaking about the basic forces operating in human nature. Through the usage of terms such as appetitus and aversio and the earlier hormê and aphormê, the Hellenistic philosophers had been able to convey to their readers something of a ‘natural truth’ about the source of human actions and passions.

On the one hand, Hobbes may be seen to advance a strongly Stoic position when he constructs his account of psychology around the claim that the desire for self-preservation explains why it is that certain actions and passions arise. Portraying self-preservation as the primary aim of appetitive or aversive motions, and arguing that such self-sustaining appetites and aversions originate at birth, Hobbes relies on the same ethical cadre developed by the early Stoic archons and continued in the writings of Cicero, Seneca and the other Roman Stoics. On the other hand, while these views may signal that a common approach exists within Stoic and Hobbesian moral psychology, Hobbes also can be seen to depart from the path adhered to by the Stoic philosophers. This deviation mainly comes through Hobbes’s usage of pleasure and pain to characterise the sensations the mind experiences as it either enables or hinders the body’s vital motions. Instead of relegating pleasure and pain to a list of emotions which are to be rationally overcome, Hobbes breaks with the Stoics by suggesting that all appetites and aversions are accompanied by the sensation of pleasure and displeasure and that together these help clarify how other passions and our voluntary actions arise.48 This renders pleasure and pain as unavoidable considerations when exploring the complex nature of the passions, and infuses Hobbes’s thought with a line of investigation that had been explored by Aristotle and developed fully by the Epicureans.

As Hobbes traces out the implications of the desire for self-preservation, other areas in which Hellenistic views appear to have appropriated emerge. This can be seen to occur, for example, when Hobbes characterises self-preservation as a right of nature or when he suggests that it is because individuals fear violent death that they group themselves into political associations. While the Stoics had argued that seeking one’s preservation was acting in accordance with Nature’s dictates and hence virtuous and right, the Epicureans had used the fear of death to explain how political covenants originated. By agreeing that the fear of death plays a decisive role in motivating individuals to leave the natural state for the political one, Hobbes sides with the Epicureans at the expense of Aristotle and the Stoics who had placed the origins of society in a specific impulse towards sociability. Taken together then, the psychological and political applications of the body’s desire for self-preservation would appear to indicate that Hobbes not only applied the views of the Hellenistic philosophers where his own arguments demanded, but also that he believed he could appropriate the views of the rival schools in ways which made them compatible.

Continuing to emphasise the speed with which conatic motions occur, Hobbes argues that a body’s ‘impetus’ or quickness of motion is in fact nothing more than the quantity or velocity of its endeavourings.

Endeavour is also reaffirmed as the reason why all motive bodies are able to resist destruction and preserve their own motions after coming into contact with other bodies.
This resistance manifests itself through a body’s ‘pressing’ on the other body, whereby the pressing body’s conatus can partially or wholly displace the pressed body. However, while the conatus of one body may enable it to advance on another body through pressing, the pressed body is not entirely without means of restoring itself. Endeavouring is also responsible for aiding in the restoration of the body and its affected parts, as bodies ‘by reason of [their] internal constitution, return every one of [their] parts into its own place.’

This internal tendency can again be observed in everyday objects such as springs, blown bladders and other bodies that rely on their conatus to restore them back to their normal and unaffected state after having been compressed. That these types of bodies are able to continually resist and restore themselves, Hobbes believes, is a testament to the ceaseless activity of the body’s conative motion.

The purportedly endless strivings of a body’s conatus may also be said to demonstrate how Hobbes’s account of motion came to oppose what Aristotle and the scholastics had long claimed about bodies and their motions. In the Aristotelian model of motion substance always remained immobile within a process of change. As Spragens points out, this rendered motion as something that ‘takes place within the immutable boundaries of immanent form,’ thus making a movement something that was both limited and finite. Change also occurred within such boundaries, and this belief is what gave rise to Aristotle’s argument that changes took place ‘from something to something.’ The emphasis on the ‘to’ had in turn infused the Aristotelian-based accounts of motion, from the scholasticism of the Middle Ages through to what Hobbes had learned at Oxford at the turn of the seventeenth century, with overtones of completeness, wholeness and as having satisfied some natural end.146 As we have seen in Hobbes’s account of conatus, however, the movements of physical bodies are unordered, unstructured and, in the absence of resistance, unlimited. They are also ‘endless and aimless’ – a characterisation intended to overturn the Aristotelian ‘from ... to ...’ presentation for one in which motion exists as a perpetual chain of linked but goalless movements. As Hobbes had indicated early on in De corpore, the account of conatus that appeared there was directed at the ‘writers of metaphysics’ who designed other causes for consideration.  

For Hobbes a body’s essence and end is the same as its efficient causes, and conatus represents this.

Aristotle had argued that the movements of physical, animal and human bodies all remained subject to the dictates of motion while the Hobbesian account held that all types of movements, regardless of the body they occur in, tended towards the ‘purposeless, automatic preservation of an original impetus.’" [Justin Jacobs, Self-Preservation in Hobbes and Spinoza]

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