Stoicism

Stoicism

by John Sellars

One of the most popular of the Hellenistic schools of philosophy in antiquity, Stoicism flourished for some five hundred years and has remained a constant presence throughout the history of Western philosophy.

John Sellars includes historical information on the life and works of the ancient Stoic philosophers and summaries, analyses, and appraisals of their principal doctrines in logic, physics, and ethics.

The volume includes a glossary and chronology, which, together with its accessible yet authoritative approach, makes it the ideal choice for students, scholars, and general readers interested in what Stoicism has meant, both philosophically and historically, for western civilization.

  • Series: Ancient Philosophies
  • Language: English
  • Category: Philosophy
  • Rating: 4.16
  • Pages: 219
  • Publish Date: July 19th 2006 by University of California Press
  • Isbn10: 0520249089
  • Isbn13: 9780520249080

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This is perhaps best demonstrated by one of the more peculiar Stoic teachings: their rejection of meaning itself as something that exists and can be identified or created by language. However, these apparent meanings were taken by the Stoics to be incorporeal and were therefore classified as things that merely "subsist", as opposed to things that exist. The meanings of sayables have no body, and as naturalists, the Stoics saw bodies as the only things that could act or be acted upon. Much like Socrates and Plato, the Stoics believed that virtue is constituted by knowledge; meaning that unethical behavior stems from ignorance of the truth rather than any genuine malicious intent on the part of the wrongdoer. The answer seems to be that the Stoics saw practical application as the summation of knowledge; the capstone of theoretical learning.

By introducing the philosophical school through descriptions of the Stoics themselves, Sellars is able to formulate the evolution of Stoicism through the ages: starting with the early Stoics, Zeno and Chrysippus, to the later Stoics such as Seneca and Epictetus, finishing with the likes of Cicero and Plutarch, who did not outwardly practice the philosophy, but were interested in its ideas. One of the difficulties which Sellars explores is the availability of primary sources on the philosophy and practice of Stoicism. Once this has been covered, Sellars explores the Stoic system, first by reiterating the idea of Epictetus that Stoicism is an art (techne) that transforms one's way of life: that Virtue is the key to happiness, regardless of circumstance.

'Philosophy is a medicine to cure the disease of the soul.' Stoicism is meant to free us from false views, heady emotions. It contains logic, physics and ethics. The physics is chiefly materialistic like the body. God is nature with consciousness. Ethics: the stoics had a theory of self preservation which states that people follow ethics which helps in maximizing their interest as good, while damaging things as bad.virtue is thus a route to happiness.

Stoicism constitutes a very interesting school of philosophy, sharing ideas with Cynicism in the views concerning the good life, in the idea of living according with nature, in the view of virtue being the only real good, but adding a system of theoretical philosophy in areas such as logic and physics, subjects which the Cynics disregarded completely. Another interesting side of this is the fact that the Stoic conception of physics and metaphysics is such that only matter exists, which poses a problem for these lekta, which are somehow "real" in that they are that which is meant by words, but still don't exist, in that they are not material. This connects to the discussion concerning sentences referring to non-existent entities, active in the early 20th century and something in which Bertrand Russell was engaged. Russell had a different solution to sentences such as this, but this is way beyond the discussion of the topic of this book, the point is that there are seemingly many interesting areas of philosophy where Stoics have ideas which arise again many centuries later.

That costs the book, in its Kindle edition, one star.

Sellars devotes a chapter each to the three main facets of Stoic thought: logic, physics, and ethics. While there are certainly differences, Stoicism seems like a premodern attempt to do exactly what Whitehead attempted: create a total, comprehensive, consistent worldview taking account of all facts available.

amid the clamor of books on the market claiming to grapple with the proper way to live life, this is one to consider seriously.