Stoic pragmatism

Journal of Speculative Philosophy 19 (2):95-106 (2005)
Whatever specific beliefs pragmatists share concerning experience, knowledge, value, and meaning, they generally agree that a central part of the business of life is to make life better. James speaks of the ideal of meeting all needs, Royce of defeating evil, and Dewey of making experience richer and more secure. They are at one in thinking that human intelligence can make a vast difference to how well we live, and they extol the possibility of improving our circumstances. They tend to be dissatisfied with the status quo and see indefinitely sustained amelioration as the solution to our problems. Stoics, in sharp contrast, are quick to call attention to the limits of our powers and recommend accepting them without complaint. They tend to think that only our beliefs and attitudes fall securely in our control. Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius agree that anything we would consider an improvement of the human condition is temporary and that, in any case, fulfilling our desires accomplishes little. The key to living well, they maintain, is control over self, not over circumstance, and they embrace inner calm in the face of whatever misfortune befalls us. Even such a brief characterization of these two great philosophical traditions makes it clear that pragmatic ambition and...
Keywords Pragmatism  Stoicism
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ISBN(s) 9780253357182   9780253223760
DOI 10.1353/jsp.2005.0012
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