Advising the cosmopolis

Eric Brown
Washington University in St. Louis
Plutarch charges that Stoic theory is inconsistent with Stoic political engagement no matter what they decide to do, because the Stoics' endorsement of the political life is inconsistent with their cosmopolitan rejection of ordinary politics (Stoic.rep., ab init.). Drawing on evidence from Chrysippus and Seneca, I develop an argument that answers this charge, and I draw out two interesting implications of the argument. The first implication is for scholars of ancient Stoicism who like to say that Stoicism is apolitical. The argument I reconstruct turns on the political importance of the practice of giving and taking advice, and in this way makes clear a philosophically significant way in which Stoic ethics is itself political. The second implication is for moral and political theorists who are quick to contrast cosmopolitanism with patriotic political engagement. My Chrysippean and Senecan argument shows how Stoics could envision local political engagement as an instantiation of cosmopolitan commitments.
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