Salvete omnes

Salvete, new amici; tell us a bit about yourselves! But this is no ordinary Intro forum; you will learn quite a bit about the rest of us too. >({|:-)

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Salvete omnes

Postby Marcus Tullius Ioannes on Sat Oct 20, 2007 3:55 pm

By way of introduction, I have long been fascinated by Roman history, and have more recently come to appreciate the Roman Stoics, as teachers of a way to live. The philosophy I studied was of the analytic and "ordinary language" schools, with a generous dose of American Pragmatism and Utilitarianism, but although the latter two schools did provide some guidance, I did not find thoughtful consideration of the best way to live in this world until I began reading the ancients (only in translation, I'm afraid).

This looks like a very interesting forum. I have much to learn, and look forwarding to learning from and with you all.
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Re Stoicis

Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Wed Oct 31, 2007 11:47 pm

Salve, Ciceronianus -

Nice to have you aboard here. I'm moved to write because I, too, have found the Stoic notions terribly useful in what is, for me, an endlessly hopeless world. It seems that Chaos holds all the cards, except for how we approach it (and ourselves). So for me it has become a necessity to turn perceived reality on its head, set aside my reactions and judgments and personal devils long enough to recognize, as Epictetus said, those things you can control, and those which you cannot.

Reality is damned funny stuff....

De totis modis, Vale bene.
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Postby Marcus Tullius Ioannes on Sat Nov 03, 2007 2:35 pm

Thank you for the response.

You mention the very thing which attracted me to Epictetus in the first place. I tend to share your view of reality. Of course, the stoics also believed that all that happens is for the best, or at least in accordance with nature. This is an aspect of their philosophy I I have not yet fully accepted.
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"Best of all possible worlds"!?!

Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Tue Nov 06, 2007 12:17 am

Salve, Ciceroniane -

Ego quoque. I, also, had trouble seeing how this nasty old miasma of flesh is somehow happening for the best.

But later I realized that I do accept it on another level, and this probably accords with the old Stoics:

We see that the world is not interested in us as personal, individual souls, but it goes right on, doing what it DOES BEST, to revolve, evolve, upset, mend, and do so with cruelties and glories. So, from a non-human point of view, nature is nature, and what happens is in accord with its laws, and our egos (although they may even cause effects in our world) simply don't matter to it. God, as it were, is so immense, we amout to just a few more ants in the hill, just some atoms in the sand. So that's why, in our positions as beings, we need to know nature's will, as it were, and try to survive the buffeting with our intelligence and our own wills. In other words, we do our BEST because we cannot escape nature's BEST.

Quid censes?
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Tue Nov 06, 2007 2:30 am

Salvete Ciceroniane et Iohanes

Intering discussion. We should probably take it into the Collegium Religiosum et Philosophium. Start a topic on Epictetus, and maybe others for other Stoic philosophers. I spent much of my summer reading with Epictetus and Seneca, reaquainting. Over in Nova Roma I have taken over the daily calendar posts, and have been including with these a quote from the Enchiridion most days. Other days I will take quotes from Marcus Aurelianus, Mosonius Rufus, and so on. Novemebr 2 I used Plato instead because it was his birthday, the only day I haven't quoted from a Stoic. But what I haven't done yet is discuss those quotes and what they might mean to me.

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Postby Marcus Tullius Ioannes on Fri Nov 09, 2007 2:26 am

Thank you for the replies.

I would be happy to continue this in the appropriate Collegium, but wanted you to know that I appreciate your thoughts, and did not know if I could do that without responding in this fashion. I am new to this kind of communication.

Perhaps V. Claudius Iohanes is right. I may make a mistake in assuming that the Stoics, or rather Epictetus in particular, when referring to nature use "good" in the same fashion we normally do when we say "this course of action is good (or morally right)" or when we attempt to describe a "good" way of life. The natural question which arises in that case is "why is it good?" Some philosophers, like the utilitatians, have sought to define the greatest good (summum bonum) in their ethical thought, by way of explaining why an action is good. In the case of the utilitarians, of course, that is the principle of utility (roughly speaking, act in such a fashion as to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number). Why is a particular action good? Because in the circumstances, it best promotes the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people.

But it may be that Epictetus, in recognizing that we are part of nature, believed that we cannot attain happiness until we understand that we have little or nothing to say about what happens in nature, and accept that what is beyond our control must therefore be "indifferent" to us, and our proper place is govern those things we can govern. I find this a very attractive view. His philosophy may be of a more practical kind.

However, I then wonder what is the "good" way to act and think, i.e. the "good" way to control those things I can control. And then I wonder whether it is useful to say, in reply, "by acting in accordance with nature." Is that good because it is foolish to struggle against what we cannot control? Yes. So is that what Epictetus means by "good"? How does the concept of virtue fit within this scheme of things?

When I read Marcus Aurelius, I am struck by the fact that there are times when he seems to say something like "either all is for the good, or nothing makes sense." I wonder if he struggled with the same questions.

Thanks again.
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