1. What did Aristotle set up in 335 BC?
2. What was dearer to Aristotle than Plato?
3. What was the fundamental difference between Aristotle and Plato, and how was it reflected in his attitude towards the "cave"?
4. What three things did Aristotle say are always involved in change?
5. What was Aristotle's name for God, and what did he say He thinks about?
6. How does Aristotle's view of the fundamental type of existence contrast with Plato's theory of Forms?
- Would you rather attend Plato's Academy or Aristotle's Lyceum? Why?
- Have you ever sharply disagreed with a teacher whom you nonetheless deeply admired?
- Is change the only constant in the Universe? Is that paradoxical?
- Which God seems more plausible to you, one who is personally interested in human affairs or Aristotle's contemplative and self-regarding Mover? Which seems more compatible with the world as we know it?
- Are forms in things, or do they stand apart and above as pure Ideas?
- What do you see as the value of logic?
- How can a person excel at "the art of living"? (275) Did Aristotle have the right idea about this? Do you have any role-models in this regard?
- Aristotle said we philosophize not in order to know what excellence is, but to be excellent and become good. (283) Is this a false dichotomy? Do you have to know what good is, at least implicitly, before you can be good?
- Is art a "cave within a cave" (286), or a source of light and truth? Or both?
- Do you agree with Plato that "laughing at comedies makes us cyncial, shallow and ignoble"? (289)
- If you side with Aristotle in preferring to study "earthly things" does that imply less interest in "thoughts of the heavens"? (290)
2. How is the modern meaning of "epicurean" different from Epicurus's?
3. What famous 20th century philosopher echoed Epicurus's attitude towards death?
4. What was the Stoics' basic idea, and what was their aim?
5. Why did Cicero think we shouldn't worry about dying?
6. Why didn't Seneca consider life too short?
- Are you afraid of death, of dying, or of any other aspect of human mortality? Why or why not? What's the best way to counter such fear?
- Are you epicurean in any sense of the word?
- Have you experienced the death of someone close to you? How did you handle it?
- Do you believe in the possibility of a punitive and painful afterlife? Do you care about the lives of those who will survive you? Which do you consider more important? Why?
- Do you consider Epicurus's disbelief in immortal souls a solution to the problem of dying, or an evasion of it? Do you find the thought of ultimate mortality consoling or mortifying?
- How do you know, or decide, which things you can change and which you can't?
- Were the Stoics right to say we can always control our attitude towards events, even if we can't control events themselves?
- Is it easier for you not to get "worked up" about small things you can't change (like the weather, or bad drivers) or large things (like presidential malfeasance and terrorist atrocites)? Should you be equally calm in the face of both?
- Who had the better idea about why we shouldn't be afraid to die, Epicurus or Cicero?
- Do you waste too much time? How do you think you can make the most of the time you have?
- Is it possible to live like a Stoic without becoming cold, heartless, and inhumane?
Book of Life: Epicurus
2. The point of moderate skepticism (unlike Pyrrho's extreme version) is to get closer to what?
3. (T/F) Epicurus said it's reasonable to fear death.
4. (T/F) "Epicurean" originally meant someone who indulges in luxury and sensual pleasure.
5. What 20th century philosopher had a view of death similar to Epicurus's?
6. Epicurus's attitude will be unlikely to work for you if you believe what?
1. Do you find it comforting or troubling to assert and identify with strong opinions?
2. "Don't believe everything you think." Good advice? What should you believe? How should you decide what to believe?
3. Do you fear death, or dying, or oblivion? Why or why not? OR, Do you agree that death is not an event to be experienced in life?
4. Do you have any expensive tastes? If so, how do you satisfy them? If not, is that because your time is worth more to you than anything else?
5. Nigel says it's a mistake to think there will be something of us left to feel whatever happens to our dead bodies. Agree or disagree? Why?
6. Can you really imagine what it would be like to continue existing after your heart stops? Can you describe what you imagine? What's your basis for that description? Are you threatened by the fact that not everyone believes in a supernatural afterlife? What about a natural afterlife?
Pyrrho reminds me of the Ruler of the Universe
Excerpts from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Scripts
Good classes again yesterday, continuing to explore what's good about the good life ofeudaimon in CoPhi, and in Happiness wondering if it's as easy to dispel our instinctive fear of oblivion or a punitive post-existence in a supernatural afterlife as Epicurus said it is.
I'm not the only one, it emerged, who as a small and trusting child was taught and inadvertently terrorized by a bedtime prayer before the age of reason:
"Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."
Another "aging professor [who] lanents his shrinking brain" has recently noted the abusive aspects of that little rhyme.
I don't blame my parents, who with the best of intentions simply transmitted an old religious meme that's been kicking around unchallenged for eons (or since 1711, allegedly). They didn't talk much about Hell or eternal divine retribution in our home (leaving that unpleasantness to the preacher and Sunday School teachers), nor do I think they thought about it much themselves. And therein lies a huge but non-malicious cultural error of omission that philosophy must rectify.
It was in the name of philosophy that I thus responded as I did to the student who yesterday insisted the error is not that of those who instill fear in their young, but rather of those like Epicurus and me, who would slough it off. It's not unreasonable or irrational, he suggested, to fear a god who just might be crazy enough to commit the innocent children he loves (as George Carlin reminded us) to the flames.
So I testified to my own Epicurean moment, as a youngster, when the whole frightening fable just no longer felt real. The student said a belief that makes you uncomfortable (bit of an understatement, that) might still be true. Yes, I said, but discomfort might be reason enough to explore other worldviews. And, I added, "if there's a retributive god out there, may he strike me down. No, wait: may he strike you down."
It got a laugh, but there's a serious point here. So many believers (and non-believers) are so frequently devastated by life's various natural calamities and moral calumnies, that faith loses all credibility as a shield against punitive bolts from heaven. Heaven loses all credibility as a saving alternative to hell.
And that's why Epicurus and his Garden friends would applaud Professor Dawkins' bus billboard campaign. (Unlike him, though, I think they'd prefer to leave "probably" on the bus.)
I was asked if I agree with Dawkins' rhetorical extremity, in calling religious indoctrination "child abuse." I don't use that language myself, as there seems a crucial distinction between the unwitting harm of much indoctrination and the exceptionless malevolent harm of assault and torture. My parents were no torturers. Most religious fundamentalists are not torturers. But they do inflict harm, in the form of an unfounded fear. I forgive them, they know not what they do.
And I say, with Epicurus: Relax, and enjoy. We are stardust, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden. Park that bus right here.
Pyrrho, Epicurus, & God again
In CoPhi today it's Pyrrho the deep skeptic, Epicurus the hedonist (though I've indicated *my dissatisfaction with applying that label to him) and seeker of simple pleasures and happiness; and God (subbing this time for the APA).
So, to Pyrrho and Epicurus... but first a quick follow-up on Plato and Aristotle. Check out this version of School of Athens.
As for Aristotle’s eudaimonia, in some ways it anticipated Epicurus’s garden and what Jennifer Michael Hecht calls “graceful-life philosophies” that proclaim in all simplicity: “we don’t need answers and don’t need much stuff, we just need to figure out the best way to live.” Then, and only then, will we be happy.
As for Pyrrho: If you’d asked him Who rules the Universe?, he might have replied: Lord knows. Cats, again. And pigs.
Reminding us of Pyrrho’s famous pig, who impressed Montaigne by riding out a storm at sea with much greater equanimity (and, crucially, much less comprehension) than his human shipmates, and of J.S. Mill’s declaration that it’s “better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied,” Hecht comments: “This whole pig-versus-philosopher debate is pretty hilarious, yes?”
Yes. But I agree with Spinoza and Hecht. “The happiness of a drunkard is not the happiness of the wise,” though of course there are happy occasions when it has its place too. Bottom line: “Knowledge and wisdom are worth it,” it can be everything to have found true love and meaningful work, and both– all-- can end in a flash, without warning. Stay on your toes, but don’t fret too much about the storm.
One more little animal image for Pyrrho, whose name I prefer to pronounce compatibly with this mnemonic trick: just remember that a pyrrhonic skeptic is like a piranha fish, toothily devouring every proposed candidate for belief. Cats and pigs too, probably.
Bertrand Russell: "He is said to have maintained that there could never be any rational ground for preferring one course of action to another. In practice, this meant that one conformed to the customs of whatever country one inhabited. A modern disciple would go to church on Sundays and perform the correct genuflexions, but without any of the religious beliefs that are supposed to inspire these actions." Like Pascal's Wager, this approach smacks of insincerity. Laziness, too, since it purports to show "the ignorant to be as wise as the reputed men of learning." What's a better way? To be curious and hopeful.
The man of science says 'I think it is so and so but I am not sure.' The man of intellectual curiosity says 'I don't know how it is but I hope to find out. The philosophical Sceptic says 'nobody knows, and nobody ever can know.'
And as for Epicurus, Jennifer Hecht‘s got his number. It’s listed.
For an Epicurean, somewhere there are beings that are truly at peace, are happy… The mere idea of this gentle bliss is, itself, a kind of uplifting dream. After all, we human beings know a strange thing: happiness responds to circumstances, but, basically, it is internal. We can experience it when it happens to come upon us; we can induce it with practices or drugs; but we cannot just be happy.
No, we must work to “solve the schism” between how we feel and how we want to feel. Happiness is a choice and a lifetime endeavor, and though it comes easier for some than for others there are tips and tricks we can use to trip our internal happy meters and achieve ataraxia, peace of mind, simple contentment, “tranquillity, or the freedom from disturbance and pain that characterizes a balanced mind and constitutes its first step toward the achievement of pleasure.”
(But btw, as for that claim that we can't just "be happy": Mr. Tolstoy, subject of yesterday's bonus quiz question (and Google Doodle), seems to have thought otherwise. The pithiest quote I've found from the prolix author of War and Peace: "If you want to be happy, be.")
Stop fearing the harmless and remote gods, Epicurus said. Stop fearing your own death, it’s not (as Wittgenstein would echo, millennia later) an event you’ll ever experience. “Life is full of sweetness. We might as well enjoy it.”
*Sissela Bok calls Epicurus a hedonist, but that's only technically correct. Yes, he said pleasure's at the heart of happiness. But what kind of pleasure?
A happy life is tranquil, simple, loving, and above all free from pain, fear, and suffering, available to all regardless of social status, nationality, or gender. Such a life of pleasure, Epicurus held, would of necessity have to be a virtuous one.
That’s Alain de Botton, author of a text I used to use in this course, and controversial proponent of religion for atheists. (Don’t confuse him with Boethius.) His interview with Krista Tippett was instructive. Like Jennifer Hecht, he wants us to use philosophy to enhance our bliss and sweeten our dreams.
Pyrrhonian deep skepticism and moral/cultural relativism share a common root. Simon Blackburn voices the right reply to those who say we can function without beliefs, or without discriminating between better and worse beliefs, when he points out that this is simply impractical and socially dysfunctional. Not only might you get run over by a racing chariot or step off a cliff, you also scatter seeds of discord within your community and perhaps even your family.
So I too “would defend the practical importance of thinking about ethics on pragmatic grounds.” To pretend with “Rosy the Relativist” that we can all simply have and act on our own truths, our own facts, without confronting and negotiating our differences and critically evaluating our respective statements of (dis)belief, really is “farcical.” Lord knows.
We won’t suffer a meaning deficit, though, if we live simply and naturally in the company of friends who’ll help us conquer our fears and address our many questions about life, the universe, and everything. That’s the Epicurean way, when we decide nature’s already provided enough for our peace of mind and our contentment. That’s ataraxia.
So finally there are these dots, connecting Epicurus and Pyrrho:
Epicurus, though no friend to skepticism, admired Pyrrho because he recommended and practiced the kind of self-control that fostered tranquillity; this, for Epicurus, was the end of all physical and moral science. Pyrrho was so highly valued by his countrymen that they honored him with the office of chief priest and, out of respect for him, passed a decree by which all philosophers were made immune from taxation.
Tranquility and a free ride: now that would make me happy.
We're also finishing the God chapter in Philosophy: The Basics today. We consider Hume on miracles, Pascal's Wager, Don Cupitt's non-realism, faith and fear (and Epicurus again). It's hard to contest Nigel's last observation, that some people would rather give up one or more of God's omni-attributes than give up God, period. But then we're going to have to ask them: Is your downsized God big enough to create and sustain a cosmos? Heretofore, as the late great Carl Sagan observed, most humans have conceived their gods on a blighted and decidedly non-cosmic scale.
Cynics, Skeptics, Epicureans, & Stoics, HP 228-270 (Ch XXVI-XXVIII); PW 15
Also recommended: WATCH Epicurus (SoL); Epicurus on Happiness; The Stoics (SoL); LISTEN Epicureanism (IOT);Epicurus the greatest philosopher? (IOT); Seneca & facing death (HI)
NOTE: if you can't spare the time to read these longer assignments in their entirety, just be sure at least to read those passages relevant to the daily quiz.
1. Why was Diogenes called a "cynic"?
2. What did Diogenes mean when he said his aim in life was to "deface the coinage"?
3. What did Pyrrho's scepticism mean, in practice?
4. How did Timon express his scepticism with regard to honey?
5. What was Epicurus' attitude towards luxurious pleasures?
6. What was Epicurus' philosophy designed to secure? What did he consider the "wise man's goal"?
7. What did Seneca bequeath to his family?
8. Which Stoic was a slave? Which an emperor?
9. According to Gros, the only Greek sages who were authentic walkers were who? How did they differ from sedentary philosophers?
10. Why did the homeless Cynic call himself rich?
Do we live in a cynical age, either by Diogenes' definition (231) or in some other sense? Are you cynical?
Do you feel any sympathy for the Cynics' version of the simple life? 232
What do you think of Pyrrho's extreme sceptcism? 233
Do you consider it wise or foolish to try and refrain from holding specific beliefs or preferring one course of action to another?
Is death really "nothing to us," and nothing to fear?
What do you think Epicurus would say about people nowadays who consider themselves "epicurean"?
What gives you your greatest peace of mind? What style of living, extravagant, modest, or simple, do you intend to pursue?
Which is more important to you, the absence of pain or the presence of pleasure?
What do you think of Epicurus' attitudes towards sex and friendship?
What would you do if you were ordered by a crazed dictator to kill yourself?
Do you agree with Epictetus about being "a citizen of the universe"? 263
According to Gros's definition, are you more sedentary or peripatetic? PW 130
How do you think Diogenes' idea of what it means to be a citizen of the world differs from that of other cosmopolitans like Epictetus? PW 138
Please post your DQs
Old posts on the Stoics, Skeptics & Epicureans, Diogenes etc.:
6.-The Inheritors: Philosophy in the Hellenistic Age
1. How did the Hellenistic philosophers want to broaden their inheritance from Plato and Aristotle?
2. What was Antisthenes' critique of Plato's Forms?
3. What were Strato's two crucial decisions?
4. What was Aristotle's alternative to Big Picture thinking?
- What do you think of Diogenes the Cynic? Was he an admirable iconoclast and gadfly in the Socratic mold, a disgusting anti-social reprobate, or something else? If he was the first deconstructionist, what was Socrates?
- Would the Hellenistic philosophers have been at home on our social media? (80) Should more intellectuals reach out to a broader public, beyond the ivy walls and ivory tower? Or does that cheapen scholarship?
- Is there "one crucial thing" (81) that represents the secret of happiness? What do you think of Aristippus's "formula" (82) and Epicurus's doctrines? Do you find the latter "chilly and comfortless" (83)? How about Seneca's suicidal fatalism?
- Can science, and the philosophy of science, do justice to both the detailed diairein of empirical inquiry AND the Big Picture?
- Should we broaden our scope? Unfortunately, I don't think we'll have time to stroll through muchWorld Philosophy this summer, but maybe we can peek at a travelogue or two, or try some Buddhist walking meditation*, or... ?
- A proposal to rename most philosophy departments to more accurately reflect their focus on European and American philosophy prompted a spirited debate between readers who favor a European focus and scholars and students of Chinese, Islamic and other thought traditions.
- “We ask those who sincerely believe that it does make sense to organize our discipline entirely around European and American figures and texts to pursue this agenda with honesty and openness,” wrote Jay L. Garfield and Bryan W. Van Norden in an essay in The Stone series. “We therefore suggest that any department that regularly offers courses only on Western philosophy should rename itself ‘Department of European and American Philosophy.’”
- One reader said the term “philosophy” itself necessarily indicates the Western tradition rooted in Greek thought... (continues)
- *Walking meditation is most closely associated with Buddhism. In her wonderful history of walking, Wanderlust, Rebecca Solnit notes in a stream of tracks traipsing across the bottom of the pages that "in Japanese the word for 'walk' is the same word which is used to refer to Buddhist practice..." But she also notes an Eskimo custom of walking away from anger.
And for Diogenes, to whom we turn tomorrow in chapter six, the journey is a search for honesty and freedom. That's a quarry that can be especially elusive. Better bring the dogs. Don't let the Emperor or your teacher or anyone block your light.
My good friend the new Gradual Student offers another nice metaphor, of life's journey as a rickety bus ride. They killed Socrates when he went back to the cave. Will the other riders be more forgiving, when the enlightened rider re-boards?
"I think we're all bozos on this bus," whether we've read the Republic or not.
And I think Ken Kesey was right, we're all a little cuckoo. "You're either on the bus or off it." We've got a ticket to ride, but I'm with Aristotle. I'd prefer to walk.
Monday, May 16, 2016
The cynical solution
You don't realize how much stuff a college dorm can hold until you have to empty it. Took about four hours of schlepping between dorm room and two packed-to-the-gillls vehicles yesterday... a nice break in the monotony of the drive up and back.
And the happy result: family all home and reunited, until Older Daughter's next move in about three weeks, destination Hollywood via Chavez Ravine. (I'm looking forward to catching a glimpse of the great Vin Scully, she's looking forward to a glimpse of her professional future.)
Another happy weekend event: the neighbors down the street hosted a block party, with bourbon, beer, barbeque, and bluegrass I'd just been complaining about how we don't make enough of an effort, most of the time, to know the people in our neighborhood. As with so many inertial complaints, the solution was simple. Somebody just had to step up and issue the invitations. Thanks for your generosity and initiative, neighbors.
Today's lifelong learning philosophers thought happiness pretty easy to solve: the Stoics and Skeptics both say it involves a therapeutic recognition and acceptance of our limitations. We can only do and know so much. As the overworked sports cliche has it, they tell us we can be happy if we just learn to "stay within ourselves" and don't overreach.
The original Hellenistic Stoics and Skeptics were cousins of the Epicureans and Cynics. What they all had in common was a sense that humans could indeed take the initiative and create the conditions of their own well-being by living in accord with nature. They "hoped to move philosophy beyond the bounds of formal discussion" established in the groves of Plato's and Aristotle's academes, writes Arthur Herman in The Cave and the Light, and to impress everyday people with the value of reflective thinking that informs deliberate and ameliorative living. They "would have been at home on Facebook or Twitter as any contemporary blogger."
Diogenes the Cynic was a dog philosopher, finding canines more reliable than humans. Homeless, fearless, and deconstructive, he famously told Alexander to "stand out of my sunlight." He had no use for social status or convention, or for intellectual conundrums that fail to recognize a practical solution even when staring it in the face. [Diogenes @dawn]
Solvitur ambulando! He'd have been fun at a block party. Probably not so much help on moving day, though: we'd have had to step around the "School of Athens" lounger while he complained about the light.
Happy birthday, Studs Terkel! Studs was no cynic, but Diogenes would have loved him anyway. "Why are we born? We're born eventually to die, of course. But what happens between the time we're born and we die? We're born to live. One is a realist if one hopes."
Saturday, May 14, 2016
Grit in the glass
The Stoics and Skeptics are glass-half-empty people, a lack-centered disposition and temperament not to my taste. But they're also be calm and carry on people of perseverance andgrit. That deserves a lot of credit
“Begin each day," advises Aurelius, "by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.” I don't endorse that - we've all had many better days, better meetings - but I do admire the proactivity, the advance work, and the charity of the assumption that even the most obnoxious people are doing the best they know how to do.
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” True, and on the quality of the thoughts of others whose deeds flow from those thoughts. Stoics don't like to talk about that, and the vulnerable mutual dependency it implies, but it's true too. That's why we can't be content to work only on ourselves, and why I can't accept the Stoic proposition that only our respective interiors can be landscaped. We must ameliorate external conditions too, or die trying.
For Schopenhauer, external conditions and inner life alike are wholly controlled by the impersonal, implacable, voracious Will. We can't starve it to death but we can learn to feed it on our schedule, and feed it less.
“It is difficult to find happiness within oneself, but it is impossible to find it anywhere else.” Yes, but the best skeptics know it's imperative to seek it together and in public, and to share our finds. That's why they write books, live with dogs (Schopenhauer's were all called "Atman"), and stay on Earth as long as they can. We must imagine them (the best of them) happy. Glass half empty? I'll have another.
Epictetus, Cicero, Seneca (LH); WATCH: The Stoics (SoL); LISTEN:Seneca & facing death (HI)... Podcast
1. Which Stoic started out as a slave, and inspired a future American fighter pilot?
2. Which Stoic, a lawyer, politician, and noted orator as well as a philosopher, said experience, friendship, and conversation offset some of the problems associated with growing old?
3. Which Stoic said our problem is not how short life is, but how badly most of us use the time we do have (and then ironically had his own life shortened at Nero's command)?
4. Like the ancient skeptics, Stoics aim for what?
5. One benefit of living well is that you don't have to fear what (besides death) when you're old?
6. One potential problem with Stoic indifference to events beyond our control is that we risk becoming what?
*Plato's Euthyphro Dilemma implies that either God is not the source of morality, OR morality is arbitrary...
*For Immanuel Kant, a deontologist in ethics, a moral action is one performed from a sense of ________. (duty, fear, selfishness, inclination, sympathy, compassion) P 42
*This 19th century English Utilitarian said we should seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number. And, you can still go and see him in London:
*The late 20th century Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick came up with a virtual reality thought experiment he called the _______ Machine.
1. Do you think you could effectively adopt a Stoic mindset ("Our thoughts are up to us," we shouldn't be affected by circumstances beyond our control, etc.) that would enable you to endure captivity and torture? IDo you attempt to adopt that mindset in less extreme everyday circumstances (like a rainstorm just before class)?
2. Do you "hope [you] die before you get old" or do you look forward to the compensations of old age (memories, old friends, grandchildren etc.)? Do you think 100 become the new 65, in your lifetime? How long do you hope to live? If cryonics ever becomes plausible would you want to use it?
3. Are you a good time-manager, or a procrastinator? Do you usually approach life as if you had "all the time in the world"? If Nero ordered YOU to take your own life, would you resist or comply? Why?
4. Are you a calm, tranquil, laid-back person? Do you try to be? How do you (try to) achieve that state of mind?
5. Do you know any old people with lots of happy, pleasant, instructive memories? Would you say they've lived well, or "flourished" over their lifetimes?
6. Is there a way to be a compassionate, caring person AND avoid excessive worry about tragic, troubling events?
It’s a terse and breezy reading assignment in Little History today in CoPhi, on the StoicsEpictetus, Cicero, and Seneca. We're also looking at the first half of our chapter on Right & Wrong, concerned mainly with deontologists and utilitarians. (They're bumping last year's complementary discussion of Stoics & Pragmatists.)
’Being philosophical’ simply means accepting what you can’t change, for instance the inevitable process of growing older and the shortness of life.
‘Stoic’ came from the Stoa, which was a painted porch.
Like the Sceptics, Stoics aimed for a calm state of mind. Even when facing tragic events, such as the death of a loved one, the Stoic should remain unmoved. Our attitude to what happens is within our control even though what happens often isn’t. [The Philosophy of Calm, Ph'er Mail]
Stoics think we are responsible for what we feel and think. We can choose our response to good and bad luck… They believe emotions cloud reasoning and damage judgment.
Epictetus [don't confuse him with his predecessor Epicurus] started out as a slave. When he declared that the mind can remain free even when the body is enslaved he was drawing on his own experience. [Tom Wolfe's Epictetus, nyt]
The brevity of life and the inevitability of aging were topics that particularly interested Cicero and Seneca.
Cicero said old people can spend more time on friendship and conversation. He believed the soul lived forever, so old people shouldn’t worry about dying. [Epicurus already told us they needn't worry in any event.]
For Seneca the problem is not how short our lives are, but rather how badly most of us use what time we have.
“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today… The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.” Maria Popova, Brainpickings
The Stoic ideal was to live like a recluse… studying philosophy and get[ting] rid of those troublesome emotions.
["Seneca falls"... "dead stoics society"..."philosopher walks"..."premeditation"..."per aspera"..."self-sufficient"... Seneca on anger (de Botton)... (The Shortness of Life: Seneca on the Art of Living Well Rather Than Living Long - Brainpickings) The Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and The Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long]
The New Yorker (@NewYorker)
2/1/15, 4:05 PM
Seneca’s plays were gore-fests. His wealth was vast. He counselled tyrants. And he called himself a Stoic?nyr.kr/1EPqUOh
Book of Life (@bkoflife)
2/18/15, 7:31 AM
Philosophical meditation, a guide thebookoflife.org/philosophical-…
But Nigel Warburton‘s question is right on target: at what price? If you’re even half human, like Mr. Spock, you’ll only damage yourself by suppressing your affective side. Calm may not be the greatest good, after all. On the other hand, Stoicism is widely misunderstood - even by Vulcans.http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/02/how-to-be-a-stoic/ … @mpigliucci
Anyway, Roman philosophy is under-rated. The Romans have done a lot for us.
And not all emperors were so bad as Nero. Marcus Aurelius was actually quite sane, and humane.
Stoicism, with its general mindset of not allowing oneself to be moved or harmed by externals beyond one's control, and the crucial assumption that our own thoughts are ours to manage, always courts the cold of Vulcan indifference but also offers the last line of defense for prisoners of war and victims of malice. If you really can persuade yourself that physical pain is nothing to you, that emotional stress can't touch you, that's quite a defensive weapon.
And if Stoicism can turn the chill of age into the warmth of experience, friendship, and joyous memory, that's quite an achievement. The older I get, the more I appreciate old Seneca's wisdom about time (not that it's in such short supply but that we're such bad managers of it). But I continue to question his passive compliance with crazy Nero. Is that Stoicism or impotent resignation? Surely there's a difference.
The Euthyphro Dilemma is on our plate today. "Is the pious or holy [or, ethically speaking, the right or the good] beloved by the gods because it is holy [right. good], or holy (etc.) because it is beloved?" Euthyphro didn't grasp the issue. Do we? Either God's not the source of good, or good's good only nominally and arbitrarily. Nigel implies there's something destructive or Hobson-ish about this choice, but isn't it just blindingly clear that pole A is the one to grab? Well no, it won't be to many students. A good discussion is called for.
"Deontology," a scary word for a scary over-devotion to "duty." Or so I'll say, today.
And, time permitting, I'll put in some good words for both Jeremy Bentham and J.S. Mill's respective versions of consequentialist utilitarian hedonism. Let's not choose, let's pick cherries.
Finally, the bonus topic: Robert Nozick's Experience Machine. Fire it up, we'll see if anybody really wants to step inside.
I'm "flipping" my classes these days, which practically means less of my "content" explicated during the precious minutes of classtime (though it's still right here for the taking, as always) and more group discussion. I like my DQs today, especially Do you think the only thing preventing you from being good is the fear of divine retribution for being bad? Or do you think that to be good one must simply believe in goodness and reciprocity ("Do unto others" etc.)?
In other words, Julia Sweeney, Why aren't the godless all "rushing out and murdering people"?
And, Is it better to be a sad but wise Socrates than to be a happy but ignorant fool?
Don't worry, be happy is not too far off the path of wisdom, is it?