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Stoicism

STOICISM

STOICISM. In the century after Aristotle's death, the Greek founders of Stoicism recognized three interrelated constituents of philosophy: logic, physics, and ethics. The study of logic taught the recognition of truth and the avoidance of error, preparing the mind to understand the physical construction of the world and to engage in ethical behavior. The Stoic cosmos was an organic unity that unfolded according to the logos or plan of a universal mind or soul. The physical basis for the universal mind was the pneuma, an all-pervasive animating spirit. At the beginning of each cosmic cycle, the pneuma condensed, producing the terrestrial elements of earth, water, and air at the center of a spherical universe but continuing to pervade the heavens as life-giving fire. The planets were regarded as the natural creatures of this celestial region: they burned fuel provided by transporting terrestrial elements into the heavens. When this process had exhausted the finite supply of terrestrial elements, the cosmos returned to its primordial state and the entire cycle repeated. Within this cosmos individual entities, including human beings, were defined by the portion of the universal pneuma that animated them, and they played roles in the history of the cosmos completely controlled by the logos.

For the Stoics, ethical action accorded with the steadily unfolding plan of the cosmos. But the cosmos frequently unfolded in ways that were painful or frustrating to human beings. The Stoics believed that control over nature was illusory except for the contents of the human mind. Practically, they taught the cultivation of apatheia, a state of mind permitting the tranquil disregard of suffering, and autarcheia, or self-sufficiency. Equally indifferent to wealth and poverty, fame and disrepute, Stoic sages were rendered immune to the vicissitudes of human life. Drawing all three aspects of philosophy together, they were expected to carry out their ethical duty, following the physical plan of the cosmos as revealed by logic, regardless of personal cost.

THE RENAISSANCE REVIVAL OF STOIC ETHICAL AND POLITICAL DOCTRINES

Although Roman authors like Cicero and Seneca examined all aspects of Stoic doctrine, later writers, for example Epictetus (fl. 90115 c.e.) and Marcus Aurelius (emperor of Rome, 161180), were primarily interested in the ethical teachings. Their works were known in various forms throughout the Middle Ages but received new attention when humanist philological skills were applied to newly available Greek texts during the Renaissance, and the recovery of Diogenes Laertius provided new information on both Stoic doctrines and the biographies of the founders. Early modern interest in Stoicism developed from an initial phase, in which Stoic ideas were combined eclectically with other doctrines, until writers like Justus Lipsius (15471606) attempted to renovate the Stoic doctrines as a distinct school. Parallel to this later stage, Stoic physical ideas were briefly important in debates on the nature of the heavens and planetary motion.

Throughout this period Stoic doctrines entered humanist literature, although they were limited and conditioned by the authors' Christian opinions. Petrarch (13041374) advocated an essentially Stoic scheme for the subjugation of the passions in De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae (Remedies against good and ill fortune) and became the first of many Renaissance writers to borrow Stoic providential design arguments to prove the existence of God. Politian (Angelo Ambrogini; 14541494) translated Epictetus's Enchiridion (Handbook) into Latin; Politian's translation appeared in 1497, and the work was published in Greek in 1528. François Rabelais's Pantagruel stories appeared between 1532 and 1564. Later books in the series presented central characters who exemplified the virtues of Stoic sages and a Stoic worldview identifying God and nature as a single, all-pervasive creative principle. However, Desiderius Erasmus and later Michel de Montaigne denied that a Stoic sage could achieve happiness without divine assistance, while Philipp Melanchthon criticized the Stoic ambition to achieve by human reason what can only be achieved with God's assistance, although he freely used the same Stoic proofs of God's existence that had attracted Petrarch.

The most important reviver of Stoic doctrines was Lipsius, who taught at Louvain. In 1584 he published De Constantia (On constancy), the title indicating a form of apatheia that would help its readers cope with the religious and civil strife of their times. Lipsius attempted to collate the surviving fragments of Stoic doctrine in ancient literature in his Manuductionis ad Stoicam Philosophiam (1604; Guide to Stoic philosophy). In his Physiologiae Stoicorum (1604; Physiology of the Stoics) he attempted to reconcile Stoicism with Christian doctrine. At about the same time, translations of Epictetus appeared in France, England, and Spain.

THE REVIVAL OF STOIC PHYSICS

Stoic physical ideas reappeared later than Stoic ethics. A renewed interest in Pliny revived the doctrine that the substance of the heavens was a fluid through which the planets moved themselves. An early endorsement came from Jacob Ziegler (1531). The Parisian mathematician Ioannes Pena (Jean de la Pène; 15281558) derived the same idea from Cicero. Pena explained the apparent failure to observe the bending of light rays as they entered the atmosphere from the ether above by denying that there was any sharp boundary between the earth and the heavens, which were occupied by Stoic vital air. Writing in 1586, the German astronomer Christoph Rothmann borrowed Pena's arguments to explain why comets were able to move freely in regions that should have been impenetrable ether according to Aristotle. Rothmann corresponded with the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (15461601), who saw these ideas as the solution to a central problem facing the cosmology he favored, in which the sun went round a central earth, but the planets went round the sun. In this system the spheres supporting the sun and Mars interpenetrated in ways forbidden for the Aristotelian celestial substance. Brahe adopted a fluid heavens and redefined the celestial spheres as geometrical boundaries in it (1588). Johannes Kepler (15711630) adopted the latter view in a sustained defense of heliocentrism (1596), although he later rejected the Stoic view that the planets moved themselves and was led thereby to introduce a force, emanating from the sun, to do the same work.

Early in the seventeenth century, the revival of atomism and the appearance of the mechanical philosophy limited the development of exclusively Stoic physical ideas, although they remained influential in alchemy and chemistry throughout Isaac Newton's lifetime. But Stoic ethical doctrines held a continuing appeal, as shown by the favorable treatment of Stoicism in Ralph Cudworth, new editions of Epictetus, and Thomas Stanley's 16551662 history of philosophy, which allots more space to Stoicism and its rival Epicureanism than to the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle.

See also Astronomy ; Brahe, Tycho ; Cosmology ; Humanists and Humanism ; Kepler, Johannes ; Lipsius, Justus ; Philosophy ; Rabelais, François ; Scientific Revolution .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

Brahe, Tycho De Mundi Aetherei Recentioribus Phaenomenis. Uraniburg, 1588.

Cudworth, Ralph. The True Intellectual System of the World. Bristol, U.K., 1995. Originally published London, 1678.

Epictetus. The Handbook of Epictetus. Translated by Nicholas P. White. Indianapolis, 1983.

Kepler, Ioannes. The Secret of the Universe =Mysterium Cosmographicum. Translated by A. M. Duncan. New York, 1981. Translation of the 1621 edition, containing the complete text of the first edition (Tübingen, 1596).

Lipsius, Justus. Manuductionis ad Stoicam Philosophiam. Antwerp, 1604.

. Physiologiae Stoicorum Libri Tres. Antwerp, 1604.

. Two Bookes of Constancie. Edited by Rudolf Kirk. New Brunswick, N.J., 1939. A new version of Sir John Stradling's 1594 translation of De Constantia.

Marcus Aurelius. The Emperor's Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations. Translated by C. Scot Hicks and David V. Hicks. New York, 2002.

Rabelais, François. Gargantua and Pantagruel. Translated by Burton Raffel. New York, 1991.

Stanley, Thomas. A History of Philosophy. 3 vols. New York, 1978. Originally published London, 16551662.

Ziegler, Jacob. Iacobi Ziegleri, Landavi, Bavari, In C. Plinii De Natvrali Historia Librum Secundum Commentarius. Basel, 1531.

Secondary Sources

Barbour, Reid. English Epicures and Stoics: Ancient Legacies in Early Stuart Culture. Amherst, Mass., 1998.

Barker, Peter. "Stoic contributions to early modern science." In Atoms, Pneuma, and Tranquillity: Epicurean and Stoic Themes in European Thought. Edited by Margaret J. Osler. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1991.

Chew, Audrey. Stoicism in Renaissance English Literature: An Introduction. New York, 1988.

Monsarrat, Giles. Light from the Porch: Stoicism and English Renaissance Literature. Paris, 1984.

Oestreich, Gerhard. Neostoicism and the Early Modern State. Edited by Brigitta Oestreich and H.G. Koenigsberger. Translated by David McLintock. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1982.

Shifflett, Andrew Eric. Stoicism, Politics, and Literature in the Age of Milton: War and Peace Reconciled. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1998.

Zanta, Léontine. La renaissance du stoïcisme au XVIe siècle. Paris, 1914.

Peter Barker

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Stoicism

STOICISM.

Stoicism, from its foundation, has been most famous for its ethical ideas. Even now, stoical suggests a particular ethical stance, endurance of pain or misfortune without complaint. But in antiquity Stoicism was notable also for its unified view of the scope of philosophy and of the nature of reality.

The Stoic School in Antiquity

Stoicism, alongside Epicureanism, was one of the two most important philosophical movements in ancient Greece in the Hellenistic period (after the transformation of the Greek world by Alexander the Great). Both schools were founded in Athens at the end of the fourth century b.c.e.; both offered a distinctive way of life and an integrated theory and worldview. Ancient philosophical schools were not formal institutions but rather groups of intellectuals and students centered on a leading figure (the head of the school). Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium (c. 335c. 263 b.c.e.), and developed by a series of subsequent heads, particularly Chrysippus (c. 280c. 206 b.c.e.) in the late third century, who systematized the teachings of Zeno and made special contributions in logic. From the first century b.c.e. onward, the school was not based at Athens or centered on a specific head, but became a more diffuse movement, with Stoic teachers and adherents throughout the Greco-Roman world. Stoic teachings were transmitted by an extensive body of treatises, especially by Chrysippus, supplemented by summaries of doctrines and more popular writings especially in practical ethics. Stoicism was a powerful philosophical force throughout the Hellenistic period (until the late first century b.c.e.) and in the first two centuries c.e. under the Roman Empire. It died out as a creative movement in the third century c.e., though its influence remained important in later antiquity.

Main Doctrines

In ethics, Stoics saw themselves as perpetuating the key ideas of Socrates (c. 470399 b.c.e.), especially as presented in Plato's (c. 428348 or 347 b.c.e.) dialogues. These ideas were combined with the view of philosophy as an integrated system of branches of knowledge and a picture of reality as an intelligible and unified whole. For the Stoics, complete wisdom consisted in a synthesis of ethics, physics (study of nature), and logic.

The Stoic ethical ideas drawn from Socrates were that virtue was unified, a type of knowledge, and the only thing that was good in itself. Also Socratic were the ideas that virtue was the sole basis for happiness and that all human beings were capable of achieving full virtue. The Stoics developed these ideas into a systematic theory of value linked with a normative picture of human development. Apart from virtue, the other so-called good things in human life, such as one's own health or prosperity and that of one's family or friends, were "matters of indifference," not goods, though they were naturally "preferable." In a complete process of ethical development, human beings would progress from valuing "preferable" things to recognizing that virtue (conceived as order and rationality) was the only good. Failure to develop an understanding of what was really good produced emotions, such as anger and grief, that were defective and misguided reactions. One of the main objectives of Stoic practical ethics was to cure people of the misconceptions that produced these emotions and to promote the development toward full wisdom that alone brought true peace of mind. Sociability and the desire to benefit others was also seen as a natural instinct in human beings, which should develop toward a sense of kinship with all other human beings as rational animals. The realization of the brotherhood of humankind (which was also seen as the expression of "natural law") was the ultimate ideal and desired objective of Stoic political thinking. Stoics did not favor any specific type of conventional constitution such as democracy or monarchy.

In Stoic physics, the natural universe was seen as unified and coherent. Reality, including god and the human mind, was conceived in wholly material terms. The universe was a total fusion of active and passive principles; the active principle could be understood as fiery air or animate breath (pneuma ), and also as immanent god, reason, or fate. The universe was also seen as a seamless web of interconnected causes with no random events. This nexus of events, and the universe as a whole, was understood in teleological terms, as expressing underlying providential purpose or rationality and as being, in that sense, good.

For the Stoics the scope of logic included the philosophy of language and epistemology as well as the systematization of arguments. Chrysippus in particular developed formal logic to a very high level, especially the logic of propositions; Stoics also partly anticipated Gottlob Frege's (18481925) distinction between sense and reference. In epistemology, they maintained the empiricist claim that certain kinds of sensory "appearances" form the basis of an infallible grasp of reality. However, they also held that complete knowledge, or wisdom, involves a systematic, theoretically based understanding of reality as a whole.

The goal of philosophical enquiry was an integrated grasp of these three areas. For instance, the Stoic theory of determinism embraces a conception of universal causation (derived from physics), a logical analysis of possibility and necessity, and an ethical account of human responsibility, based on the idea of humans as both rational agents and an integral part of the causal chain. The modern stereotype of the stoical person as one who accepts life's vicissitudes as the work of fate derives from this conceptually powerful set of theories. The seemingly idealized picture of natural human development adopted in Stoic ethics was seen as consistent with the idea, fundamental to Stoic physics, that nature forms an organic and providential whole. The Stoic conception of the good was, in essence, that of structure, order, and rationality, manifested as virtue in the sphere of ethics, as the order of the universe in physics, and as a system of argumentation and knowledge in logic.

The Medieval and Modern Reception of Stoicism

From the third century c.e., Stoicism was eclipsed as a creative force by Neoplatonism and Christianity. Both those movements replaced the Stoic holistic worldview with transcendent ideals, but they also absorbed and transformed key Stoic themes. The Stoic idea of logos (reason) as a bridge between the divine and the human, and as a fundamental principle of reality, was embraced in different ways by both Neoplatonists and Christians in late antiquity and the Middle Ages. One possible response was to draw on Stoic writings for their moral rigor but to ignore or revise their larger philosophical framework. This approach was applied to Epictetus's (c. 55c. 135 c.e.) Handbook, a pithy statement of Stoic practical ethics; by the Neoplatonist commentator Simplicius (fl. c. 530 c.e.); and by medieval Christian ascetics, who used the text as a guide for monastic self-scrutiny. Christian philosophers such as St. Thomas Aquinas (12251274) and Francisco Suárez (15481617) similarly drew on Stoic ideas to define the idea of virtue as a natural property. In the Enlightenment period, engagement with Stoicism was more full-hearted, and the Neo-Stoic Justus Lipsius (15471606) argued for the fundamental equivalence of Stoic and Christian ethics and theology. In the nineteenth century, Hellenistic thought was often regarded as an inferior phase of ancient thought by philosophers (notably Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel) and scholars. But in the twentieth century, especially its last thirty years, Stoicism was an object of intensive scholarly study. The modern revival of virtue-ethics and cognitive approaches to emotion, and current interest in nonreligious practical ethics, have given Stoic ideas renewed appeal. In the twenty-first century, we may expect to find Stoicism also valued for its holistic approach to the universe and the mind-body relationship and the attempt to integrate ethics, science, and logic.

See also Christianity ; Epicureanism ; Epistemology ; Language, Philosophy of: Ancient and Medieval ; Logic ; Neoplatonism .

bibliography

Algra, Keimpe, et al., eds. The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Bobzien, Susanne. Determinism and Freedom in Stoic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Inwood, Brad. Ethics and Human Action in Early Stoicism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Inwood, Brad, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Long, Anthony. Stoic Studies. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Long, Anthony, and David Sedley. The Hellenistic Philosophers. 2 vols. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Christopher Gill

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stoicism

stoicism Stoic philosophy was developed in Athens in the third century bc, and reached the peak of its popularity among the upper classes of Rome during the first century bc and the first century ad. The Stoic view of knowledge is empirical; knowledge comes to us from the world through ‘appearances’, which are impressed on our minds. Reason, seen as the quintessentially human characteristic, enables us to understand the world; it is possible to form a community of those who use reason, which will be superior to any secular community. While in pursuit of this ideal, Stoics did not always withdraw from participation in political life; the Roman Stoic Seneca served in the Roman senate and influenced the emperor Nero, although in later life he moved away from Rome to concentrate on writing.

Stoicism denied the importance of all bodily conditions, and emotions were always regarded as bad. The only factor seen as essential to human happiness was virtue, all else in life having significance only as an opportunity to demonstrate that one possesses virtue. Seneca claimed that one could demonstrate virtue equally well through pleasure or through pain, whether enjoying a banquet or submitting to torture. Since all bodily experience equally provided an opportunity to show virtue, no experience was to be deliberately sought out over another. This contrasted with other philosophical approaches; for example, Epicureanism, which regarded pleasure as the goal of life. For the Stoic, poverty and detachment from the world were not seen as essential for the achievement of the good life, nor need worldly wealth be abandoned in the quest for virtue.

In the treatise De Officiis (On Duties), written after the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 bc, the Roman politician and philosopher Cicero gave a Stoic account of the correct use of the body as part of his advice to his son — and to the Roman governing classes in general — on how to make moral decisions and to live in the best way possible. As a manual for the upper classes, this text was highly influential in Western political and social thought. Cicero says that both the mind and the body should be trained from childhood into moderate and appropriate behaviour, and this should be expressed through every action — there being a seemly way to stand, walk, or sit. Nature, Cicero argues, has constructed the body so that the most honourable parts are the most visible. Sane people mirror Nature's wisdom in keeping out of sight the parts Nature has hidden away, and in performing bodily functions in private. Moving too slowly is seen as effeminate: hurrying around makes someone out of breath, thus distorting the face. Anger, pleasure, and fear equally transform the faces, voices, and gestures of those experiencing them: the ideal is to control the body, avoid excessive gestures, and follow a moderate way of life. While recommending following ‘Nature’, Cicero also recommends training the body in such a way that one's natural faults are played down; presentation of self can thus be achieved in a way which deceives the onlooker.

Helen King

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Stoicism

Stoicism (stō´ĬsĬzəm), school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium (in Cyprus) c.300 BC The first Stoics were so called because they met in the Stoa Poecile [Gr.,=painted porch], at Athens, a colonnade near the Agora, to hear their master Zeno lecture. He had studied with Crates the Cynic, and his own teaching included the Cynic adaptation of the Socratic ideals of virtue, endurance, and self-sufficiency. He added to them the explanation of the physical universe given by Heraclitus and something of the logic of Aristotle. The development and organization of Zeno's doctrines into a great system of metaphysics was the work of Chrysippus (c.280–207 BC), successor to Cleanthes. Among the acknowledged leaders of the Stoics in the following period was Panaetius of Rhodes, who in the 2d cent. BC introduced Stoicism into Rome. He and his pupil Posidonius sought to lessen the attacks of critics by mingling with the Stoic doctrines some of Plato's psychological views. Cicero, a pupil of Posidonius, was indebted to a work of Panaetius for the basis of his own treatise De officiis. The Romans, who had received Stoicism more cordially than they did any other Greek philosophy, can claim the third period as their own. To it belong the philosophers Seneca and Epictetus of Phrygia and the emperor Marcus Aurelius. Stoicism, with its roots in earlier doctrines and theories of the human person and the universe, built up an ideal of the virtuous, wise man. Regarding philosophy as divided into physics, logic, and ethics, the Stoics made logic and physics a foundation for ethics. The Stoics, especially Chrysippus, are renowned for their logic, which contains the first systematic analysis of how the truth value of a compound proposition depends upon the truth values of its components. The physical theory underlying Stoicism is materialistic. All that has reality is material. Force, which is the shaping principle, is joined with matter. The universal working force, God, pervades all and becomes the reason and soul in the animate creation. In their ethical creed, the Stoics accepted virtue as the highest good in life. They identified virtue with happiness, claiming that it was untouched by changes in fortune. "To live consistently with nature" was a familiar maxim among the Stoics. Only by putting aside passion, unjust thoughts, and indulgence and by performing duty with the right disposition can people attain true freedom and rule as lords over their own lives.

See J. M. Rist, Stoic Philosophy (1969); A. A. Long, ed., Problems in Stoicism (1971); A. A. Long and P. N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers, (2 vol., 1987); M. Reesor, The Nature of Man in Early Stoic Philosophy (1989).

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stoicism

sto·i·cism / ˈstō-iˌsizəm/ • n. 1. the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint. 2. (Stoicism) an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

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Stoicism

Stoicism an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium, and named for the Stoa in which he taught. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge; the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

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