Stoic communitarianism and normative citizenship

Social Philosophy and Policy 24 (2):241-261 (2007)
This essay argues that Stoicism is the ancient philosophy most relevant to modern politics and civic education. Its relevance is due not to the advocacy of any specific political system or public policy but to its theory that the human good depends primarily on rationality and excellence of character rather than on material prosperity and productivity. According to Stoicism, all human beings are related to one another in virtue of our communal nature as rational animals. Reflection on the norms of human nature persuaded the Stoics that we all share a common interest in living just and mutually beneficial lives. This principle, though it favors an equitable distribution of goods and services, makes rationality and integrity, rather than material prosperity, the essential values of community and the measure of normative citizenship and lawmaking. Our goal as Stoic citizens is to practice the art of what is always possible or in our power—doing our best to live mutually beneficial and well-reasoned lives—while recognizing that the external success we are naturally inclined to aim at may be frustrated because we live in a world we can never fully control.
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DOI 10.1017/S0265052507070240
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