Epicureanism & Stoicism

Epicureanism & Stoicism

Hellenic Thought What is the good life? Classical Athens: Rational Humanism Power and stability of democratic city-state Critical assessment of individual & community Individual defined by capacity to reason Aim at good society, good life via reason Hellenistic Society: Cosmopolitanism Political instability, monarchy, cultural expansion Value of individual & community put into question Issues related to alienation, fatalism, and virtue From Hellenism to Rome Hellenistic Age (c. 323-30 BCE)

Decline of Athens (c. 404) Rise of Macedon: Philip (d. 336) & Alexander Death of Alexander (323) [Aristotle dies 322] Hellenism Alexandria cultural center Fusion of peoples Stoicism & Epicureanism Mystery Religions

Roman Ascension Roman Republic (509-133) Collapse of Republic (133-30) Roman Empire (30 BCE- 180 CE) Epicureanism Epicurus (341-271 BCE) A life devoted to worldly happiness based on materialist account of nature. Encouraged withdrawal from political life into communities of like-minded individuals (Gardens

in Athens) Rational humanism, influence on Romans, revived in 16th/17th century with rise of science and renaissance humanism. Materialism (Atomism) All things are atoms & void; shape & size Atoms are eternal (nothing from nothing), universe is boundless Ethics Aim: eudaimonia = happiness is a mind free from disturbance (ataraxia) and a body free from pain. Means: fear and ignorance cause disturbances in mind and body, so ataraxia achievable by understanding the true nature of things; removal of source of fear and disturbance. Epicureanism

Pleasure and pain natural and necessary sensations Can reduce pain by avoiding painful things Increase pleasure by pursuing pleasurable things. But, a prudent life (virtuous) tells us not all pleasure is good, nor all pain bad. Moderation in pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain Friendship and other social/intellectual pleasures included. Moderate Hedonism Body free from pain Fear

punishment and arbitrary interference a type of superstitious belief But, gods are immortal and blessed, Not celestial bodies aiming to pass judgment; Not vengeful; Only concerned with their own domain, not humans. So, no need to fear gods What causes fear? The gods Fear

the pain and misery of life after death. But, death is nothing but cessation of life. Either the punishment or dreary life of death Atomism (death is separation of body and soul; only through body is sensation possible; dissolution of material components, including soul. So, in life there is no death; in death there is no life to be concerned with. What causes fear? Death Hedonism To

a considerable extent, Stoicism is a refutation of the belief that happiness is determined by means of pleasure and pain. This kind of philosophy is called hedonism (from the Greek root hedone, meaning pleasure). One of the earliest schools of hedonism was started on the coast of North Africa by Aristippus (c.430-350 B.C.E.), who felt that, because sensory pleasures are more intense than mental or emotional ones, they are the best of all. Also, actual pleasures in the present are more desirable than potential pleasures in the future, since the latter may or may not come and things may be different for us then. Stoicism Origins

Zeno of Citium (333-264 BCE) Chrysippus (280-270 BCE) Epictetus* (~130-50 BCE) Seneca (3-65 CE) Marcus Aurelius* (121-180 CE) A life resigned to fate, acknowledging limits of self-control and obligations of duty. Aiming for a tranquility of mind and evenness of emotional life. Extremely influential in Roman era, as well as in early Church doctrine.

Influence on Stoicism Cynicism Another influence on the origins of Stoicism was Cynicism, a philosophic school in the loosest sense. Founded by Antisthenes (c.455-360 B.C.E.), who formed a school called the Cynosarges (The Silver Dog), the Cynics revolted against the rules and rigidity of Plato and Aristotle (while admiring Socrates disdain for fashion). The Cynics believed that the very essence of civilization is corrupt, and so lived austere, unconventional lives. They distrusted luxury as a hook that always brought complications and frustration into peoples lives. What happiness there is could only come from selfdiscipline and rational control of all desires and appetites, with minimal contact with conventional society. However, writes Epictetus, In our power are opinion, movement towards a thing, desire, aversion; and in a word, whatever are our own acts. What is in our power is our free will. We control our feelings about things, because we control our thinking. This frees us from depending on other peoples opinions of us for our self-esteem or happiness.

We suffer to the extent that we take our lives personally. So, our status, good fortunes, mishaps, and relationships should be evaluated with the same disinterested detachment that we would give to everything else. Some Things Are in Our Control If this is true, then nothing that happens can be wrong or bad, since everything that happens is part of Gods rational plan. If your life is beyond your control, direct your efforts toward what you can control your attitude or will. Developing a disinterested rational will is a matter of having no personal attachments or motives. For Stoics, wisdom consists in thinking of things that happen to you as you would any other event in the world, as a necessary part of the whole. And as everyone else is in the same situation, we are all part of a universal city where each person is indifferent to themselves, knowing that Logos knows best.

Stoic Wisdom Stoicism Aim: to achieve a tranquility of mind (ataraxia) and emotional stability (apathe) Means: to understand the nature of things Understand what is or isnt under ones control No control over the events of life, but ones reaction to those events So, reason-guided life in accord with the nature of things Precepts: Fatalism: world determined by divine providence

Conventionalism in moral action and social responsibility, including modesty Cosmopolitanism: reason is divine spark that unites individuals Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE) Roman military and political leader Reigned 161-180 CE last of the Five Good Emperors who governed the Roman Empire from 96 to 180, and is also considered one of the most important stoic philosophers. Meditations are stoic maxims to himself, a diary of a ruler written on campaign between 170180, is still revered as a literary monument to a government

of service and duty and has been praised for its "exquisite accent and its infinite tenderness." Another notable Stoic was the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 C.E.). While their pay scales varied, the philosophies of Epictetus and Aurelius were very similar. By temperament a scholar and a recluse, Marcus Aurelius lived surrounded by commotion, deception, and crowds, and so told himself in his journal, known to us as his Meditations to look within and to only attend to thyself (the only thing the Stoics believe we can control). The last truly great figure of Imperial Rome, Marcus Aurelius was once described as by nature a saint and a sage, by profession a warrior and a ruler a Stoic Philosopher-King. Philosopher-King

A wise man is like an archer who cares less about actually hitting the target than about doing his best to hit it; wisdom includes understanding the difference. (apath) So, if a perfectly wise man saw his child in danger of drowning he would try to save the child; but if he failed (or succeeded) he would accept this without feeling distress or pity (or pride or relief), and without his happiness being diminished (or enhanced). Moral virtue is the only good, wickedness the only evil: childs death or survival is not a good or an evil; so long as the wise man tried his best, he has nothing to regret. Archer Simile

(apathe) Some Philosophy Comparisons Aim Plato Aristotle Epicureanism Stocisim Means Comments A just or well-order soul Each part of the soul doing its part well; reason rules

Knowledge of the good is paramount; wisdom Eudaimonia: happiness as a well ordered life as a whole Virtues: character traits that are means between extremes Hierarchy of goods and necessities of good life; a whole life Eudaimonia: Ataraxia or mind and body free from disturbance

Moderate Hedonism: Prudent action and understanding of nature; avoid pain, moderate pleasure Materialism and removal of irrational fear as cause of distrubances Eudaimonia: Ataraxia or pathe: rational constancy in accord with nature Moderate Fatalism: Knowing what is/is not within ones control; adjusting desires to nature of

things. Pantheistic, fatalistic, moral conventionalism, modesty; cosmopolitanism If you had to pick one of these, which would you favor? Why? Are there any contemporary parallels with any of these views? Thoughts

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