It is very difficult to get a clear picture of how the Stoic is supposed to deliberate. This paper considers a number of possible pictures, which cover such a wide range of options that some look Kantian and others utilitarian. Each has some textual support but is also unworkable in certain ways: there seem to be genuine and unresolved conflicts at the heart of Stoicethics. And these are apparently due not to developmental changes within the school, (...) but to the Stoics’ having adopted implicitly incompatible solutions in response to different philosophical challenges. (shrink)
The tremendous influence Stoicism has exerted on ethical thought from early Christianity through Immanuel Kant and into the twentieth century is rarely understood and even more rarely appreciated. Throughout history, Stoic ethical doctrines have both provoked harsh criticisms and inspired enthusiastic defenders. The Stoics defined the goal in life as living in agreement with nature. Humans, unlike all other animals, are constituted by nature to develop reason as adults, which transforms their understanding of themselves and their own true good. (...) The Stoics held that virtue is the only real good and so is both necessary and, contrary to Aristotle, sufficient for happiness; it in no way depends on luck. The virtuous life is free of all passions, which are intrinsically disturbing and harmful to the soul, but includes appropriate emotive responses conditioned by rational understanding and the fulfillment of all one's personal, social, professional, and civic responsibilities. The Stoics believed that the person who has achieved perfect consistency in the operation of his rational faculties, the "wise man," is extremely rare, yet serves as a prescriptive ideal for all. The Stoics believed that progress toward this noble goal is both possible and vitally urgent. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: In contemporary discussions of freedom in Stoic philosophy we often encounter the following assumptions: (i) the Stoics discussed the problem of free will and determinis; (ii) since in Stoic philosophy freedom of the will is in the end just an illusion, the Stoics took the freedom of the sage as a substitute for it and as the only true freedom; (iii) in the c. 500 years of live Stoic philosophical debate, the Stoics were largely concerned with (...) the same philosophical problems of freedom. In this paper I argue that (i) can be upheld only in a very restricted way; (ii) is altogether untenable; and regarding (iii), that, although there may have occurred little change in the Stoic philosophical position on freedom over the centuries, we can detect more than one transformation of the philosophical problems that were at the forefront of the discussion. Moreover, that all the conceptions and problems of freedom were linked to Stoicethics, and that the differences between them become transparent when one considers their various roles in this context. (shrink)
This paper is an attempt to reject the classical interpretation of Stoicethics as virtue ethics. The typical assumptions of this interpretation, that virtue is the supreme good and that happiness can be reduced to virtue, are questioned. We first lay out the conceptual framework of Stoic philosophy and present an outline of their reduction of happiness to virtue. The main part of the paper provides an argument for reinterpretation of virtue as rationality. In the last (...) part of the paper – more speculative – we argue against the possibility of reduction of happiness to virtue. The main point of the argument is the conceptual incompatibility of the two notions. (shrink)
The book argues that the theological motifs in Stoic philosophy are pivotal to our understanding of Stoicethics. Part One offers an introductory overview of the religious world view of the Stoics. Part Two examines the Stoic characterizations of virtue and the virtues. Part Three deals with Stoic theories of how human beings can become virtuous. Part Four studies the practices of Stoicethics. It shows inter alia how the Chrysippean table of virtues (...) is still an (unacknowledged) influence behind Panaetius’ matrix of kathekonta, but how little agreement on the practical implications of their virtue ethics the Stoics could reach. The book suggests that the identity over time and cohesion of the Stoic school depended less on a commitment to the school founder’s memory and writings than on a common core of shared theological principles. (shrink)
When examining the role of Stoicethics within Stoic philosophy as a whole, it is useful for us to look at the Stoic view of the way in which philosophy is made up of parts. The aim is a synoptic and integrated understanding of the "theoremata" of all the parts, something which can be achieved in a variety of ways, either by subsequent integration of separate study of the three parts or by proceeding through 'mixed' presentations, (...) which can be made at varying levels of understanding. In two presentations of Stoicethics we find initially baffling claims about the life of virtue being 'the same as' or 'equivalent to' the life according to nature. These indicate approaches in which understanding of ethical concepts was enlarged and enriched by study of physics. Interpretation which makes physics in these passages into ethical foundations answers poorly to the ancient texts and raises severe difficulties as an interpretation of Stoicism. Two texts which have been taken to commit Stoics to a foundationalist view of the relation of ethics and physics do not in fact do so; rather, they fit well into the holistic view of philosophy and its parts. (shrink)
The contemporary revival of virtue ethics has focused primarily on retrieving central moral commitments of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and the Neoplatonist traditions. Christian virtue ethicists would do well to expand this retrieval further to include the writings of the Roman Stoics. This essay argues that the ethics of Jonathan Edwards exemplifies major Stoic themes and explores three noteworthy points of intersection between Stoicethics and Edwards's thought: a conception of virtue as consent to a benevolent (...) providence, the identification of virtue as a singular and transformative good, and an account of moral formation as simultaneously self-directed and received. Common ground between Edwards and the Stoics illustrates the value of recognizing Stoic moral thought as a philosophical framework that can enhance and undergird Christian ethicists' understandings of moral development and the nature of virtue. (shrink)
For the Stoic hero, the man or woman of virtue, the conduct of life presents no serious problems. The life of the sage comprises a consistent and effortless flow of actions, all conforming to virtue and all undertaken for the sake of their place in a virtuous life. The Stoic sage has advanced to a point where a life of courage and wisdom, justice and temperance comes easily and naturally, without struggle and without repinings.
The Stoic rejection of the passion of grief strikes many ethicists writing on dying as inhuman, selfish, or lacking appreciation for the world. This essay argues that Stoics rejected grief and the fear of death because these passions alienated one from the present through sorrow or anxiety for the future, disrupting one's ability to fulfill obligations of care for others and to feel gratitude for the gift of loved ones. Early Christian writers on death, such as Ambrose, maintained much (...) of the substance of Stoic doctrine but transformed it through their belief in the resurrection and their corresponding revaluation of the future. While these writers rejected grief as an affective response to death, they affirmed longing for lost loved ones. These authors provide an example of how contemporary religious ethicists can use Stoic insights for recovering the tradition of the art of dying. (shrink)
Monographic essay, Greek texts and fragments, translation, full commentary, and bibliography. Introductory essay -- Hierocles, Elements of ethics -- Stobaeus's extracts from Hierocles, On appropriate acts -- Fragments of Hierocles in the Studa.
This paper is based on a lecture given at the University of Haifa on 22 March 1982, and at the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem on 28 March 1982. An Italian version of the lecture was published in memory of Giorgio Radetti by the Circolo della Cultura e delle Arti, Trieste in 1981.