In the sixteenth century the Stoics were deemed friends of humanist Christians, but by the eighteenth century they were attacked as atheists. What happened in the intervening period? In the middle of this period falls Ralph Cudworth’s True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678), which contains a sustained analysis of Stoic theology. In Cudworth’s complex taxonomy Stoicism appears twice, both as a form of atheism and an example of imperfect theism. Whether the Stoics are theists or atheists hinges on whether (...) their God is conscious and intelligent, or alive but unconscious like a plant or vegetable. Is God sentient or is he a mindless vegetable? (shrink)
In his A Treatise of Freewill, Ralph Cudworth argues against Stoic determinism by drawing on what he takes to be other concepts found in Stoicism, notably the claim that some things are ?up to us? and that these things are the product of our choice. These concepts are central to the late Stoic Epictetus and it appears at first glance as if Cudworth is opposing late Stoic voluntarism against early Stoic determinism. This paper argues that in fact, despite his claim (...) to be drawing on Stoic doctrine, Cudworth uses these terms with a meaning first articulated only later, by the Peripatetic commentator Alexander of Aphrodisias. (shrink)
Deleuze, philosopher, son of Diogenes and Hypatia, sojourned at Lyon. Nothing is known of his life. He lived to be very old, even though he was often very ill. This illustrated what he himself had said: there are lives in which the difficulties verge on the prodigious. He defined as active any force that goes to the end of its power. This, he said, is the opposite of a law. Thus he lived, always going further than he had believed he (...) could. Even though he had explicated Chrysippus, it is above all his steadfastness that earned him the name of Stoic.1. (shrink)
This paper examines Shaftesbury’s reflections on the nature of philosophy in his Askêmata notebooks, which draw heavily on the Roman Stoics Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. In what follows, I introduce the notebooks, outline Shaftesbury’s account of philosophy therein, compare it with his discussions of the nature of philosophy in his published works, and conclude by suggesting that Pierre Hadot’s conception of ‘philosophy as a way of life’ offers a helpful framework for thinking about Shaftesbury’s account of philosophy.
In his De Constantia of 1584, Justus Lipsius examines the Stoic theory of fate, distancing himself from it by outlining four key points at which it should be modified. The modified theory is often presented as a distinctly Christianized form of Stoicism. Later, in his Physiologia Stoicorum of 1604, Lipsius revisits the Stoic theory, this time offering a more sympathetic reading, with the four modifications forgotten. It is widely assumed that Lipsius’s position shifted between these two works, perhaps due to (...) a better grasp of the Stoic position by the time of the later work. I argue that in fact there is no great distance between the two accounts and that both find only one point of difficulty with the Stoic theory, a point that Lipsius himself presents in both works as merely a matter of expression. (shrink)
A long-established view has deprecated Renaissance humanists as primarily literary figures with little serious interest in philosophy. More recently it has been proposed that the idea of philosophy as a way of life offers a useful framework with which to re-assess their philosophical standing. However, this proposal has faced some criticism. By looking again at the work of three important figures from the period I defend the claim that at least some thinkers during the Renaissance did see philosophy as a (...) way of life, while also acknowledging the force of reservations made by recent critics. (shrink)
Modern accounts of Stoic politics have attributed to Zeno the ideal of an isolated community of sages and to later Stoics such as Seneca a cosmopolitan utopia transcending all traditional States. By returning to the Cynic background to both Zeno's Republic and the Cosmopolitan tradition, this paper argues that the distance between the two is not as great as is often supposed. This account, it is argued, is more plausible than trying to offer a developmental explanation of the supposed transformation (...) in Stoic political thought from isolated community to cosmopolitan utopia. (shrink)
This paper examines Pomponazzi's arguments against Averroes in his De Immortalitate Animae, focusing on the question whether thought is possible without a body. The first part of the paper will sketch the history of the problem, namely the interpretation of Aristotle's remarks about the intellect in De Anima 3.4-5, touching on Alexander, Themistius, and Averroes. The second part will focus on Pomponazzi's response to Averroes, including his use of arguments by Aquinas. It will conclude by suggesting that Pomponazzi's discussion stands (...) as the first properly modern account of Aristotle's psychology. (shrink)
John Sellars presents a broad and lively introduction to Hellenistic philosophy. This was a rich period for philosophy, with the birth of Epicureanism and Stoicism, alongside the activities of Platonists, Aristotelians, and Cynics. Sellars offers accessible coverage of all areas from epistemology to ethics and politics.
This article examines Gilles Deleuze's methodological approach to the history of philosophy. While Deleuze's readings of past philosophers may not stand up to the standards set by the scholarly history of philosophy, they may be approached more productively as a continuation of the approach developed by the ancient and medieval commentary tradition.
Book synopsis: Plato is perhaps the most readable of all philosophers. Recent scholarship on Plato has focused attention on the dramatic and literary form through which Plato presents his philosophy, an integral part of that philosophy. The papers in this volume for the first time consider Aristotle and the Stoics as readers of Plato. That these successors were influenced by the thought of Plato is a commonplace: the ‘whole of western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato’. Arising from (...) Institute of Classical Studies Research Seminars in 2004-5 and 2005-6, the papers in this volume rather consider whether and how the philosophical concerns of these later thinkers were served were served by close reading of Plato, through inter-textual engagement with specific passages of Plato’s works. (shrink)
Plato’s Apology is not merely an account of Socrates’ trial, it is also a work of metaphilosophy, presenting Socrates’ understanding of the nature and function of philosophy. This is a vital part of the text’s apologetic task, for it is only with reference to Socrates’ understanding of what philosophy is that we can understand, and so justify, his seemingly antisocial behaviour. Plato presents to us Socrates’ metaphilosophy in two ways: via what Socrates says and what he does. This twofold method (...) of presentation is appropriate, if not essential, given the conception of philosophy that Socrates is presented as holding. (shrink)
The aim of this thesis is to consider the relationship between philosophy and biography, and the bearing that this relationship has on debates concerning the nature and function of philosophy. There exists a certain tradition that conceives philosophy exclusively in terms of rational discourse and as such explicitly rejects the idea of any substantial relationship between philosophy and the way in which one lives. I shall argue that the claim that philosophy cannot have any impact upon biography is often based (...) upon an implicit conception of philosophy as primarily rational discourse. In contrast to this I shall draw upon Socratic and Stoic philosophical resources in order to reconstruct an alternative conception of philosophy as an art concerned with one's way of life. Central to this conception will be the relationship between philosophical discourse or argument and philosophical training or exercise. I shall argue that the ancient claim that philosophy is primarily expressed in one's behaviour presupposes a conception of philosophy as an art that involves both rational discourse and training or exercise as two equally important components. I shall argue that by adopting this alternative conception of philosophy as a techne it will be possible to understand properly the relationship between philosophy and biography. In Part One I shall outline the ancient idea that philosophy is something expressed in one's life, the Socratic conception of philosophy as an art, the Stoic development of this conception into an art of living, and some ancient objections to this Stoic conception. In Part Two I shall examine the relationship between philosophical discourse and exercises in Stoic philosophy, focusing upon the neglected concept of philosophical askesis. Central to this will be the literary form of such exercises and so I shall focus upon two texts concerned with philosophical exercises. (shrink)
This volume contains the first critical edition and translation of Barlaam of Seminara's fourteenth century treatise Ethics According to the Stoics , along with a series of interpretative essays explaining its content and context. Barlaam's text is the earliest interpretative work written on Stoic ethics, a product of the burgeoning Italian Renaissance but also drawing on Barlaam's experience in the Byzantine intellectual world of Constantinople. Intriguingly, it offers a radically different account of the Stoic theory of emotions to the one (...) known from other sources, possibly taken from sources accessible to Barlaam but now lost. The volume includes interpretative essays on each of the two books of Barlaam's treatise, along with a biographical introduction and an essay setting out the wider context of the reception of Stoicism in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. (shrink)
This book makes available again a long out-of-print translation of a major sixteenth-century philosophical text. Lipsius' De Constantia (1584) is an important Humanist text and a key moment in the reception of Stoicism. A dialogue in two books, conceived as a philosophical consolation for those suffering through contemporary religious wars, it proved immensely popular in its day and formed the inspiration for what has become known as 'Neostoicism'. This movement advocated the revival of Stoic ethics in a form that would (...) be palatable to a Christian audience. Lipsius deploys Stoic arguments concerning appropriate attitudes towards emotions and external events. He also makes clear which parts of Stoic philosophy must be rejected, including its materialism and its determinism. De Constantia was translated into a number of vernacular languages soon after its original publication in Latin. Of the English translations which were made, that by Sir John Stradling (1595) became a classic; it was last reprinted in 1939. This new edition offers a lightly revised version of Stradling's translation, along with a new introduction, notes, and bibliography. (shrink)
A deeply comforting and enlightening book on how Stoicism can inspire us to lead more enjoyable lives What aspects of your life do you really control? What do you do when you cannot guarantee that things will turn out in your favour? And what can Stoicism teach us about how to live together? In the past few years, Stoicism has been making a comeback. But what exactly did the Stoics believe? In Lessons in Stoicism, philosopher John Sellars weaves together the (...) key ideas of the three great Roman Stoics -- Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius -- with snapshots of their fascinating lives, to show us how their ideas can help us today. In vivid prose, Sellars shows how the works of these three Stoics have inspired readers ever since, speaking as they do to some of the perennial issues that face anyone trying to navigate their way through life. Their works, fundamentally, are about how to live -- how to understand one's place in the world, how to cope when things don't go well, how to manage one's emotions and how to behave towards others. Consoling and inspiring, Lessons in Stoicism is a deeply thoughtful guide to the philosophy of a good life. (shrink)
In this new study, John Sellars offers a fresh examination of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations as a work of philosophy by placing it against the background of the tradition of Stoic philosophy to which Marcus was committed. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius is a perennial bestseller, attracting countless readers drawn to its unique mix of philosophical reflection and practical advice. The emperor is usually placed alongside Seneca and Epictetus as one of three great Roman Stoic authors, but he wears his philosophy (...) lightly, not feeling the need to state explicitly the ideas standing behind the reflections that he was writing for himself. As a consequence, his standing as a philosopher has often been questioned. Challenging claims that Marcus Aurelius was merely an eclectic thinker, that the Meditations do not fit the model of a work of philosophy, that there are no arguments in the work, and that it only contains superficial moral advice, Sellars shows that he was in constant dialogue with his Stoic predecessors, engaging with themes drawn from all three parts of Stoicism, logic, physics, and ethics. The image of Marcus Aurelius that emerges is of a committed Stoic, engaging with a wide range of philosophical topics, motivated by the desire to live a good life. (shrink)
A short, smart guide to living the good life through the teachings of Epicurus. As long as there has been human life, we’ve searched for what it means to be happy. More than two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Epicurus came to his own conclusion: all we really want in life is pleasure. Though today we tend to associate the word “Epicurean” with indulgence in the form of food and wine, the philosophy of Epicurus was about a life well (...) lived even in the hardest of times. As John Sellars shows in this concise, approachable guide, the ideal life envisioned by Epicurus and his followers was a life much more concerned with mental pleasures and the avoidance of pain. Their goal, in short, was a life of tranquility or contentment. In The Pocket Epicurean Sellars walks us through the history of Epicureanism, starting with the private garden on the edge of ancient Athens where Epicurus and his students lived in the fourth century BC, and where women were as welcome as men. Sellars then moves on to ancient Rome, where Epicurean influence flourished thanks to the poet Lucretius and his cohort. Throughout the book, Sellars draws on the ideas of Epicurus to offer a constructive way of thinking about the pleasures of friendship and our place in the world. (shrink)
To counter the daily anxieties, stress, and emotional swings caused by the barrage of stimuli that plagues modern life, many people have been finding unexpected solace in a philosophy from a very different and distant time: Stoicism. As John Sellars shows in The Pocket Stoic, the popular image of the isolated and unfeeling Stoic hardly does justice to the rich vein of thought that we find in the work of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, the three great Roman Stoics. Their (...) works are recognized classics, and for good reason—they speak to some of the perennial issues that face anyone trying to navigate their way through life. These writings, fundamentally, are about how to live—how to understand your place in the world, how to cope when things don’t go well, how to manage your emotions, how to behave toward others, and finally, how to live a good life. To be a Stoic is to recognize that much of the suffering in your life is due to the way you think about things, and that you have the ability to train your mind to look at the world in a new way—to recognize what you can and cannot control and to turn adversity into opportunity. (shrink)
The ancient philosophy of Stoicism has been a crucial and formative influence on the development of Western thought since its inception through to the present day. It is not only an important area of study in philosophy and classics, but also in theology and literature. The Routledge Handbook of the Stoic Tradition is the first volume of its kind, and an outstanding guide and reference source to the nature and continuing significance of Stoicism.
The worst thing that can happen to us is to be blessed with a life of unending luxury, comfort, and wealth, for such a life would make one weak and lazy. But worst of all, the longer we experience a comfortable and easy life, the harder it will hit us when our luck fi nally changes, as it surely one day will.
This chapter examines the philosophical context in which Seneca thought and wrote, drawing primarily on evidence within Seneca's works. It considers Seneca's immediate teachers, his debt to the Stoic tradition, other Greek philosophical influences, and other contemporary philosophers.
This essay offers an introduction to Justus Lipsius's dialogue De Constantia, first published in 1584. Although the dialogue bears a superficial similarity to philosophical works of consolation, I suggest that it should be approached as a spiritual exercise written by Lipsius primarily for his own benefit.