Thursday, February 1, 2018

Modern Stoicism

Now Social Justice Warriors have also found their way into modern Stoicism. The article below is a typical example. Stoicism and the renewed interest in this philosophy apparently is too masculine to them, so they need to effeminate it.
Why it’s important to distinguish clearly between stoicism (small s) and Stoicism (capital S).
When it comes to mixing up the words Stoicism and stoicism, there are several problems.  Firstly, people often just equate it with mental toughness and so it’s not unusual for them to argue that people they revere as tough or self-disciplined are Stoic role models.  The UFC fighter Conor McGregor is a typical example people choose but there are many similar conversations on the Internet.  Now, it’s fair to say he may be someone tough and self-disciplined but he’s obviously very far removed from figures like Socrates [sic] and Marcus Aurelius, who were held up as examples of Stoicism in the ancient world.  He’s probably a better embodiment of stoicism than Stoicism.  He arguably doesn’t embody the Stoic virtues of wisdom and justice, or natural affection toward others and ethical cosmopolitanism [sic], in quite the way that Marcus Aurelius does. 
The word stoic also implies to many people some kind of suppression or concealment of unpleasant feelings: the stiff upper-lip notion.  Boys don’t cry, etc.  That’s particularly problematic, though, because it’s well-known from large volumes of modern research in the field of psychotherapy that the suppression of negative feelings can be quite harmful. 
And the author of this article, Donald Robertson is even farther removed from philosophy than any UFC fighter could possibly be.
First of all Socrates was no Stoic. Since all we know about him was written by Plato, the founder of the Academy, he is probably closer related to this philosophical school.
It is then true that there are two known occasions where Stoic philosophers called themselves cosmopolitans, but it was never meant to be a Stoic virtue. The degenerate modern concept of "diversity" did not exist in antiquity, and "justice" did certainly not mean "social justice" as the author wants to make us believe.
Affection is a passion and therefore the antithesis of Stoicism.
And the reference to "boys" in the article is the last proof of its feminist agenda, if we would still need one.
The actual virtues of Stoicism were wisdom (sophia), courage (andreia, conveniently omitted in the article as too masculine), justice (dikaiosyne, in the meaning as described in Plato's Politeia), and temperance (sophrosyne), all of them deducted from the one principle virtue, which is living according to the logos, the natural laws of reason and logic that bind the world together.

Apart from the aforementioned misrepresentations of Stoic philosophy, it  is a common misconception that a modern Stoic has to follow the writings of M. Aurelius and Epictetus literally in order to deserve the capital S. This would be an argumentum ad verecundiam (argument from authority) Stoicism is a philosophy, not a religious revelation.
Along with our advance in science  philosophy necessarily has to advance too. Stoic physics in the time of Zeno and Chrysippus for example was based on the 5 elements (earth, water, air, fire, aether), but today we have a better understanding of nature. Therefore the theoretical background of Stoic philosophy has to change too.
Even Roman Stoicism, which today is almost exclusively quoted as example of Stoic philosophy, was very different from Greek Stoicism, which is today mostly ignored. In the same way modern Stoicism needs to be different.
What always remains the same however is Stoic practice, what the article calls "stoic" with lower case s. This attitude of apatheia (the stiff upper lip) is what remained the same throughout the centuries. It is the true core of Stoicism, because this has always been the trademark of Stoicism. Not obsolete beliefs in the pneuma, the aether, and determinism is what Stoicism is about, but the rejection of passions and emotions and the dedication to the logos, which is reason and logic.
This is what Stoic virtue (arete) is about. This is in no way different from the meaning of lower case stoic only that it also includes the mathematical discipline of logic, which remains valid since the time of Chrysippus.
Stoicism is not psychotherapy (The author of the article above however is a psychotherapist.) or a feel-good New Age movement where anything goes. Stoicism is strict self-discipline and effort to the degree of asceticism, but it is also very rewarding for those who master it and reach ataraxia. Because after all philosophy should be the path to eudaimonia.

No comments:

Post a Comment