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Stoicism Essay

1556 words - 7 pages

Philosophy is a subject that often scares people. Those who philosophize are thought of as somewhat archaic, imagined as men with beards and dirty clothes, walking around or sitting, going about their daily tasks and thinking. Always thinking. Yet few realize how much philosophy there is in the world, and how it has influenced us. One of the most influential, even today, as its influences in Christianity show us, was Stoicism. Founded by Zeno of Citium, and later developed into a systematic body of doctrine, complete with a system of logic, epistemology, and cosmology, the Stoics were convinced that the universe lends itself to rational thought and explanation, and is a single organized ...view middle of the document...

Since the Logos can be thought of as both Nature and the Reason, or psyche, of man, one can logically deduce that to live a virtuous life means living a life according to what is natural. Nature, as was believed by the Stoics, is perfect and rational. Therefore, to live an ethical life meant to simply live in accordance with the rational order of things. And since, to the Stoics, 'virtuous' and 'happiness' are the same, it can be said that one must find happiness in "clearly percieving what is and what is not in our power, and ... regarding the latter as wholly indifferent, neither to be eagerly avoided nor earnestly pursued..." (Davidson, 143). True freedom, they believed would only come when one would do away with what they thought of as irrational desires, i.e. wealth, lust, domination, and passions. Without such desires, and by reducing our wants to the lowest possible number, it was believed that a man would, being an extention of the cosmic order, naturally fall into a satisfied state of living in accordance with Nature.Being an extention of the natural order of the world, it was believed by the Stoics that men were born 'good'. The soul of a man is that part of man which contains reason and guides him "to live agreeably to nature" (Davidson, 142). Yet it is difficult to reason this, because Stoics also believed that good and evil are polar opposites - to have one, one must have the other. This is not an unfamiliar concept to us. How can one define poverty if there is no wealth? How can one be happy unless there is sadness? Without one, the other cannot exist. Therefore, it is not so much that men are born good, but that men are born as they are intended to be. In order to explain this concept, one must dive into the Stoic concept of determinism.Stoicists were avid determinists, even fatalists. They held that whatever happens happens necessarily. In Book I of On Nature Chyssippus wrote: Since the management of all there is directs things in this way, it is necessary that we should be as we are, whatever that may be, whether we are sick, contrary to our own natural condition, or maimed, or have become scholarly or artistic... consistently with thes we shall speak in the same way about our virtue and our wickedness and in general about our crafts or lack of them ... for no detail, not even the smallest, can happen otherwise than in accodance with universal natue and her plan.As if to negate this fact, however, Stoics believed that the actions of men are attritibutable to them. While it seems this is allowing them free will, if one looks at it from the point of view of the Stoics, it becomes clear that this is not the case. According to Stoicism, the exterior world gives stimuli that men experiece and can react to. Yet, the reaction to any given stimuli is embedded in the man's soul - Logos. Thus the stimuli of any given experience of a man is only an antecedent, and therefore the response is found in the man's Logos, the action as...

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