Stoics (Epictetus and Cicero), all notes


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Notes for Philosophy 102 at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Fall 2013.

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Stoics (Epictetus and Cicero), all notes

  1. 1. Stoicism: Epictetus and Cicero Philosophy 102, University of British Columbia, Fall 2013 Christina Hendricks Presentation licensed CC-BY-SA
  2. 2. Epictetus: ca. 55-135 C.E. Released into the public domain Licensed CC-BY-SA
  3. 3. Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BCE - 43 BCE, Rome) Empire_between_218_BC_and_117_AD.png, licensed CC-BY-SA Bust of Cicero, Capitoline museum: 1962134/, licensed CC-BY
  4. 4. Questioning the Epicurean view of greatest good What might be some problems with saying that pleasure is the greatest good, the criterion we use to judge all other things as good (and pain the criterion for judging all other things as bad)? You might consider, as part of this: • Is pleasure always good? • Is there anything that might count as good in life that isn‟t so because it is pleasurable or leads to pleasure?
  5. 5. The greatest (indeed the only) good thing, acc. to Stoics Must fulfill the following conditions: • intrinsically good (good in itself), never instrumentally good (good only b/c it leads to something else good) • always good; can‟t be put to bad use What could fulfill such conditions? For the Stoics, only moral virtue is good
  6. 6. What does it mean to live virtuously, for Stoics? 1. Having the “virtues” as generally recognized at the time, including wisdom/good reasoning, moderation/selfcontrol, courage, justice, generosity 2. The virtuous person lives “according to Nature” (Sellars 125-129; Epictetus #4, #6) -- “the Chief Good consists in applying to the conduct of life a knowledge of the working of natural causes, choosing what is in accordance with nature and rejecting what is contrary to it….” (Cicero, de Finibus III.9.31) (assigned for Wednesday)
  7. 7. What does it mean to live “according to nature?” 1. Following our natural tendencies & instincts (though not always, as we’ll see) • E.g., have a basic drive for self-preservation (Sellars 108; Cicero de Finibus III.5.16) • Need to preserve both physiological being and our rationality (Sellars 108-109) • Preserving rationality includes being consistent (Epictetus #29)
  8. 8. What does it mean to live “according to nature?” 2. Recognize & accept what humans are naturally like, what objects are naturally like • E.g., humans are subject to suffering and death; material objects break (Epictetus #2, 3, 14) • Understand also your own nature, your own capacities (Epictetus #29) • Recognize that humans are naturally social(Cicero III.19.63 and III.20.65; Sellars 131)—care for family is natural; can extend to community, then all humans
  9. 9. What does it mean to live “according to nature?” 3. Being content with the way the cosmos is ordered and your place in it; accepting that as natural laws beyond your control • Cosmos is ordered by a rational principle (Cicero III.19.64), identified with god(s); our reason is part of the divine rationality • Accepting what happens to us (from outside) as the result of a rational ordering of the cosmos • being content with what actually happens (rather than wishing for something else) (Epictetus #8, 17, 33)
  10. 10. What does it mean to live “according to nature?” 4. Accepting the order of cosmos means not being attached to things that are out of your control Epictetus: only be concerned with what is in our control • What is in our control? See Epictetus #1, 4, 6, 16, 18) • Don‟t be concerned with things not in our control (Epictetus #1, 2, 14)
  11. 11. What does it mean to live “according to nature?” 5. Still, some Stoics (such as Cicero) divide “external things” (not in our control) into “preferred” & “not preferred” Sellars (110): Only virtue is good, vice bad; all else “indifferent” • But some indifferents have some value b/c part of living acc to nature (e.g., health, food, shelter, sometimes wealth) (Sellars 110, 112; Cicero III.15.50-51) • Choosing those only becomes good if done in virtuous way (next slide).
  12. 12. Must live acc to nature in a certain way to be virtuous • Appropriate actions: acting in accordance with nature (as discussed previously) (Sellars 120) • “completely correct,” or virtuous actions: doing appropriate actions after “having consciously deliberated and come to a firm conclusion that these actions are the most appropriate …” (Sellars 121; Cicero III.18.59) • You know what acts are appropriate & why, & choose them for that reason
  13. 13. Must live acc to nature in a certain way to be virtuous • Virtuous person has a steady disposition to usually or always do appropriate acts through rational deliberation, knowing why they are appropriate, and doing them b/cappropriate. • so will be consistent (Cicero III.15.50) • What matters in action is how you choose, what motivates you to act (b/c it‟s appropriate), and what you try to do; even if the act doesn‟t work out, you have still acted virtuously, so the action is good.
  14. 14. Stoicism and emotions • We have control over emotions, since they result from judgments of the value of things (Sellars 114115) • Most emotions are problematic & should be eliminated; they are often judgments about value of “indifferents” (Sellars 117-118; Cicero III.10.35); e.g., • • • • Fear (of an “indifferent” occurring in future) Grief, distress (about a present “indifferent”) Anger (at what someone else has said or done) Lust (wanting to have an “indifferent”)
  15. 15. Stoicism and emotions • Some emotions are acceptable, b/c result from correct judgments about value of virtue (Sellars 119) • For example: • Joy, cheerfulness (when &b/c one has virtue) • Wishing (wanting virtue for self or others) • Caution or aversion (concern about situations in which you may make bad choices or not be virtuous) • Remorse (if you don‟t live up to virtue) (seeStanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, entry on Epictetus)
  16. 16. Stoicism and happiness Stoics claim that their way of life will bring happiness (Cicero III.7.26, III.22.75)—why/how? • Living in accordance w/nature means living well as the sort of beings we are, physically & mentally as much as possible. • Reduced disappointment, frustration—b/c only have desires, aversions attached to things you can control • The only good thing is virtue: trying to do and get what‟s in accordance w/nature in the virtuous way (see above), so if you don‟t succeed, not disappointed
  17. 17. Stoicism and happiness • Stoic life is one of freedom: we are self-sufficient, in control of our own lives as much as possible (Epictetus #1) • We are not concerned with things beyond our control, so not “slaves” to external events or other people (Epictetus #14; Cicero III.22.75, III.13.42) • We are in control of our own emotions, desires, aversions, and whether we are virtuous • We may want certain things not in our control to happen, but if they don‟t we can accept that as part of the rational order of the world (e.g., Epictetus #8).
  18. 18. Stoicism and happiness • If we are living according to nature we have to pay attention to how things usually work in the world to find out the nature of humans and other things around us • Which means we will likely be successful in getting or doing things because we will only try if there‟s good reason to think success is likely. • A person living a Stoic life well will have few to no regrets or remorse because they will consistently act virtuously.
  19. 19. Hadot: ancient Greek philosophy as a way of life • Philosophy for Socrates, Plato, Epicureans, Stoics was not just about finding the truth (though it did involve that)—need for truth was in order to live better. • Philosophy was a way of life: • “the goal of [philosophy] was to transform the whole of the individual‟s life” (265) • “real wisdom does not merely cause us to know: it makes us „be‟ in a different way” (265) • What we‟ve been reading is “philosophical discourse,” not philosophy itself (266-267)
  20. 20. Hadot: ancient Greek philosophy as a way of life • To change one‟s life, one didn‟t just read texts, but also engaged in various exercises (268), such as (for the Stoics): • Paying attention: to one‟s desires, emotions (are they oriented correctly?), to whether one is acting/has acted virtuously. • In morning, think about what have to do during day and how will do those things; in evening, reflect on how one has acted. • Meditating on human mortality so as to get used to the idea of death.
  21. 21. Hadot: ancient Greek philosophy as a way of life • Examples of Stoic exercises can be found in this handbook for “Live Like a Stoic Week 2012” (pp. 1824)
  22. 22. Hadot: ancient Greek philosophy as a way of life • Hadot argues that philosophy is hardly ever practiced as a way of life anymore, just as an academic discipline, mostly in universities • Now we mostly study texts, analyze and criticize arguments orally and in writing, without this having much of an impact on our lives. • A good or bad thing? How might one teach philosophy as a way of life?