Judy's right, it's a good idea to check. If the Doc's good, and his assistant isn't, check with him that he's done the test. |
Reply #921. Sep 19 11, 12:12 PM
"They live together, but aren’t planning on marrying for a few years yet." |
May I say how wise I think that it? Long gone are the days when Daddy offloaded his daughter onto Hubby. Now we get a chance to see what we're letting ourselves in for.
PS Of course Judy's right. I didn't need to say that.
Reply #922. Sep 19 11, 12:15 PM
|Finds of the day:|
Chapter 1 Notes
Philosophy- love of wisdom
Persuit/ search for wisdom
Unisense- a new word… a sense of the light where we are all connected; we are all brothers and sisters
Wisdom- state of wellbeing or being whole or being one & unified. Being healed or healing/ a commitment to being whole, being one with the one in whom we all are
Wisdom- a fundamental understanding of reality as it relates to living a good life
Reply #923. Sep 19 11, 2:02 PM
Philosophy- love of wisdom
Persuit/ search for wisdom
Unisense- a new word… a sense of the light where we are all connected; we are all brothers and sisters
Areas of Philosophy:
§ Metaphysics- study of what is sometimes termed ultimate reality
§ Epistemology- from the Greek word knowledge; the branch of philosophy that asks questions about knowledge, its nature, and origins and whether or not it is even possible
§ Ethics – from the Greek ethos; encompasses the study of moral problems, practical reasoning, right and wrong, good and bad, virtues and vices, character, moral duty and related issues involving nature, origins and scope of moral values.
Archetype- an image that has been shared by the whole human race from the earliest times/ in traditional sense represents our conception of the essence of a certain kind of person
Philosophical archetype- a philosopher who expresses an original or influential point of view in a way that significantly affects subsequent philosophers and nonphilosophers
Relativism- the belief that knowledge is determined by specific qualities of the observer. In other words, absolute universal knowledge of the truth is impossible/ one opinion is as good as another
Wisdom- fundamental understanding of reality as it relates to living a good life
Knowledge- some form of true belief
§ Theoretical knowledge- involved accurate compilation and assessment of factual and systematic information and relationships
§ Practical knowledge – consists of skills needed to do things like play piano, use a band saw, remove a tumor or bake a cake
Belief- subjective mental acceptance that a claim is true
Mere belief- refers to a conviction that something is true for which the only evidence is the conviction itself
Willed ignorance- closed minded attitude/ indifference to the possibility of error or enlightenment that holds on to beliefs regardless of the facts
Wu wei- surrendering self consciousness & self- centeredness to let oneself flow with the eternal spirit in whom we all are
Sage- the oldest of philosophical archetypes/ an archetypal figure that combines religious inspiration and extraordinary insight into the human condition; derived from the Latin sapiens, meaning wise
Tao- literally way or path translated as the source of all existence; the principle of all things, the way or path of the universe or moral law
Yin- In ancient Chinese metaphysics weak, negative, dark and destructive natural force or principle
Yang- in ancient Chinese metaphysics strong, positive, light, and constructive force or principle
li- behaving in a way that fits the situation; appropriateness
te (tay) the capacity to draw others to the Tao… if we surrender to the light of harmony that flows through everyone
chun tzu- model/ leader of integrity, unity, healing, having the courage to say… look it isn’t working, my favorite doctrine, my favorite creed, to step, to be willing to stop, action/ reaction, self centeredness, … to surrender to the one in whom we all are
jen- kindness/ real person not wearing a mask/ not putting up walls
Silver rule: What you do not wish others to do to you… don’t do to them. (Reciprocity.. to return in kind, to give or take in like manner)
Buddha- the one who has awakened or has become enlightened
Badhisattva- an enlightened being who voluntarily gives up some of their own serenity/ postpone your own nirvana to help other conscious beings find release themselves
Humanism – the name given to any philosophy that emphasizes human welfare and dignity. In general, humanism is based on the belief that human intelligence and effort are capable of improving conditions in the here and now
Nirvana- annihilation of the ego; state of emptiness or nothingness
4 Noble Truths
1. Suffering is the condition of human existence
2. The source of this disease/ self-centeredness, cut off from the one in whom we all are, selfishness, greed, self-righteousness, possessiveness
3. There is a cure… egocentrism can be rooted out, we can heal, we can surrender all that to be centered in the one in whom we all are
4. Eightfold path
4 signs that altered his life
1. Homeless beggar
2. A dead man being prepared for cremation by mourners
3. A diseased handicapped person
4. A wandering monk
ascetic- individual who turns away from pleasure and severely limits all sensual appetites to achieve salvation or peace of mind
1. Right understanding
2. Right purpose
3. Right speech
4. Right conduct
5. Right livlihood
6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness
8. Right meditation
Reply #924. Sep 19 11, 2:03 PM
Existentialism- refers to any philosophy that asserts that the most important philosophical matters involve fundamental questions of meaning and choice as they affect actual individuals. Essential themes include choice, freedom, identity, alienation, inauthenticity, despair and awareness of our own morality.
Reply #925. Sep 19 11, 2:04 PM
“There is deep ambivalence in the Stoic view of life. In theory the Stoics held the universe to be good, because ruled by reason. Since nature is good, the individual should always try to conform to it, accepting whatever life brings. In fact, however, the practical admonitions of Stoics like Epictetus portray life as a burden that must be stoically endured. (Johnson, 1981)
The central claim of Stoic ethics is that only the virtues and virtuous activities are good, and that the only evil is vice and actions motivated by vice (see Discourses 2.9.15 and 2.19.13). When someone pursues pleasure or wealth, say, believing these things to be good, the Stoics hold that this person has made a mistake with respect to the nature of the things pursued and the nature of their own being, for the Stoics deny that advantages such as pleasure and health (wealth and status, and so forth) are good, because they do not benefit those who possess them in all circumstances. Virtue, on the other hand, conceived as the capacity to use such advantages wisely, being the only candidate for that which is always beneficial, is held to be the only good thing (see Plato, Euthydemus 278e–281e and Meno 87c–89a).Thus, the Stoics identify the eudaimôn (‘happy’) life as one that is motivated by virtue. The term we translate as ‘virtue’ (from the Latin virtus) is aretê, and means ‘excellence’. To progress towards excellence as a human being, for Epictetus, means understanding the true nature of one’s being and keeping one’s prohairesis (moral character) in the right condition. Epictetus uses the term aretê only occasionally, and whereas the early Stoics spoke of striving for excellence as what was proper for a rational creature and required for eudaimonia (‘happiness’ or well-being), Epictetus speaks of striving to maintain one’s prohairesis in proper order (see Discourses 1.4.18 and 1.29.1).
Although things such as material comfort, for instance, will be pursued by the Stoic student who seeks eudaimonia, they will do this in a different way from those not living the ‘philosophic life’ – for Stoics claim that everything apart from virtue (what is good) and vice (what is bad) is indifferent, that is, ‘indifferent’ with regard to being good or bad. It is how one makes use of indifferent things that establishes how well one is making progress towards aretê (moral excellence) and a eudaimôn (‘happy’) life.
Indifferent things are either ‘preferred’ or ‘dispreferred’. Preferred are health and wealth, friends and family, and pretty much all those things that most people pursue as desirable for leading a flourishing life. Dispreferred are their opposites: sickness and poverty, social exclusion, and pretty much all those things that people seek to avoid as being detrimental for a flourishing life. Thus, the preferred indifferents have value for a Stoic, but not in terms of their being good: they have an instrumental value with respect to their capacities to contribute to a flourishing life as the objects upon which our virtuous actions are directed (see Discourses 1.29.2). The Stoic does not lament their absence, for their presence is not constitutive of eudaimonia. What is good is the virtuous use one makes of such preferred things should they be to hand, but no less good are one’s virtuous dispositions in living as well as one may, even when they are lacking.
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What is in our power
To maintain our prohairesis (moral character) in the proper condition – the successful accomplishment of this being necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia (‘happiness’) – we must understand what is eph’ hêmin (‘in our power’ or ‘up to us’; see Discourses 1.22.9–16). If we do not do this, our prohairesis will remain in a faulty condition, for we will remain convinced that things such as wealth and status are good when they are really indifferent, troubled by frustrations and anxieties, subject to disturbing emotions we do not want and cannot control, all of which make life unpleasant and unrewarding, sometimes overwhelmingly so. This is why Epictetus remarks: ‘This is the proper goal, to practise how to remove from one’s life sorrows and laments, and cries of "Alas" and "Poor me", and misfortune and disappointment’ (Discourses 1.4.23, trans. Dobbin).
No one is master of another’s prohairesis [moral character], and in this alone lies good and evil. No one, therefore, can secure the good for me, or involve me in evil, but I alone have authority over myself in these matters. (Discourses 4.12.7–8, trans. Dobbin)
What is in our power, then, is the ‘authority over ourselves’ that we have regarding our capacity to judge what is good and what is evil. Outside our power are ‘external things’, which are ‘indifferent’ with respect to being good or evil. These indifferents, as we saw in the previous section, number those things that are conventionally deemed to be good and those that are conventionally deemed to be bad. Roughly, they are things that ‘just happen’, and they are not in our power in the sense that we do not have absolute control to make them occur just as we wish, or to make them have exactly the outcomes that we desire. Thus, for example, sickness is not in our power because it is not wholly up to us whether we get sick, and how often, nor whether we will recover quickly or indeed at all. Now, it makes sense to visit a doctor when we feel ill, but the competence of the doctor is not in our power, and neither is the effectiveness of any treatment that we might be offered. So generally, it makes sense to manage our affairs carefully and responsibly, but the ultimate outcome of any affair is, actually, not in our power.
What is in our power is the capacity to adapt ourselves to all that comes about, to judge anything that is ‘dispreferred’ not as bad, but as indifferent and not strong enough to overwhelm our strength of character.
The Handbook of Epictetus begins with these words:
Some things are up to us [eph’ hêmin] and some things are not up to us. Our opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions–in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or, that is, whatever is not our own doing. (Handbook 1.1, trans. White)
That is, we have power over our own minds. The opinions we hold of things, the intentions we form, what we value and what we are averse to are all wholly up to us. Although we may take precautions, whether our possessions are carried off by a thief is not up us (but the intention to steal, that of course is in the power of the thief), and our reputations, in whatever quarter, must be decided by what other people think of us, and what they do think is up to them. Remaining calm in the face of adversity and controlling our emotions no matter what the provocation (qualities of character that to this day are referred to as ‘being stoical’), are accomplished in the full Stoic sense, for Epictetus, by making proper use of impressions.
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Making proper use of impressions
To have an impression is to be aware of something in the world. For example, I may look out of my window and have the impression of an airship floating over the houses in the distance. Whether there is really an airship there, half a mile off, or whether there is just a little helium-filled model tied to my garden gate by a bit of string, is a separate question. ‘Making proper use of impressions’ concerns how we move from the first thing, being aware of something or other, to the second thing, making a judgement that something or other is the case. The Stoic stands in sharp contrast to the non-Stoic, for when the latter faces some disaster, say (let us imagine that their briefcase has burst open and their papers are scattered by the wind all along the station platform and onto the track), they will judge this a terrible misfortune and have the appropriate emotional response to match. Epictetus would declare that this person has made the wrong use of their impression.
In the first place, do not allow yourself to be carried away by [the] intensity [of your impression]: but say, ‘Impression, wait for me a little. Let me see what you are, and what you represent. Let me test you.’ Then, afterwards, do not allow it to draw you on by picturing what may come next, for if you do, it will lead you wherever it pleases. But rather, you should introduce some fair and noble impression to replace it, and banish this base and sordid one. (Discourses 2.18.24–5, trans. Hard)
Few non-Stoics, ignorant of Epictetus’ teaching, would do other than rush around after their papers, descending deeper and deeper into a panic, imagining their boss at work giving them a dressing down for losing the papers, making them work extra hours to make good the loss, and perhaps even dismissing them from their job. The Stoic, by contrast, tests their impression to see what the best interpretation should be: losing the papers is a dispreferred indifferent, to be sure, but having an accident of this sort is bound to happen once in a while, and is nothing to be troubled about. They will quietly gather up the papers they can, and instead of panicking with respect to facing their boss, they will rehearse a little speech about having had an accident and what it means to have lost the papers. If their boss erupts in a temper, well, that is a concern for the boss.
Our attaining the eudaimôn (‘happy’) life requires that we judge things in the right way, for ‘what disturbs men’s minds is not events but their judgements on events’ (Handbook 5, trans. Matheson).
Remember that foul words or blows in themselves are no outrage, but your judgement that they are so. So when any one makes you angry, know that it is your own thought that has angered you. Wherefore make it your endeavour not to let your impressions carry you away. For if once you gain time and delay, you will find it easier to control yourself. (Handbook 20, trans. Matheson)
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The three topoi
The three topoi (fields of study) establish activities in which the prokoptôn (Stoic student) applies their Stoic principles; they are practical exercises or disciplines that when successfully followed are constitutive of the eudaimôn (‘happy’) life which all rational beings are capable of attaining.
There are three areas of study, in which a person who is going to be good and noble must be trained. That concerning desires and aversions, so that he may never fail to get what he desires nor fall into what he would avoid. That concerning the impulse to act and not to act, and, in general, appropriate behaviour; so that he may act in an orderly manner and after due consideration, and not carelessly. The third is concerned with freedom from deception and hasty judgement, and, in general, whatever is connected with assent. (Discourses 3.2.1–2, trans. Hard)
Our capacity to employ these disciplines in the course of daily life is eph’ hêmin (‘in our power’ or ‘up to us’) because they depend on our opinions, judgements, intentions and desires which concern the way we regard things over which our prohairesis (moral character) has complete control.
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The Discipline of Desire
The first discipline concerns what someone striving for excellence as a rational being should truly believe is worthy of desire, which for the Stoics is that which is truly good, virtue and action motivated by virtue.
Of these [three areas of study], the principle, and most urgent, is that which has to do with the passions; for these are produced in no other way than by the disappointment of our desires, and the incurring of our aversions. It is this that introduces disturbances, tumults, misfortunes, and calamities; and causes sorrow, lamentation and envy; and renders us envious and jealous, and thus incapable of listening to reason. (Discourses 3.2.3, trans. Hard)
Epictetus remarks: ‘When I see a man anxious, I say, What does this man want? If he did not want some thing which is not in his power, how could he be anxious?’ (Discourses 2.13.1, trans. Long). Those things that most of us, most of the time, seek after as being desirable, what we consider will make our lives go well, are things that are not in our power, and thus the hope we have for securing these things is placed in the hands of others or in the hands of fate. And when we are thwarted in our efforts to gain what we desire we become frustrated (or depressed or envious or angry, or all of these things). To be afflicted with such ‘passions’, says Epictetus, is the only real source of misery for human beings. Instead of trying to relieve ourselves of these unpleasant emotions by pressing all the harder to secure what we desire, we should rather place our hope not in ‘external’ things that are not in our power, but in our own dispositions and moral character. In short, we should limit our desire to virtue and to becoming (to the best of our capacities) examples of ‘excellence’. If we do not do this, the inevitable result is that we will continue to desire what we may fail to obtain or lose once we have it, and in consequence suffer the unhappiness of emotional disquiet (or worse). And as is the common experience of all people at some time or other, when we are in the grip of such emotions we run the risk of becoming blind to the best course of action, even when construed in terms of pursuing ‘external’ things.
The Stoic prokoptôn, in contrast, sets their hopes on excellence, recognising that this is where their power over things lies. They will still pursue those ‘preferred indifferent external’ things that are needed for fulfilling those functions and projects that they deem appropriate for them as individuals, and those they have obligations to meet. But they will not be distressed at setbacks or failure, nor at obstructive people, nor at other difficulties (illness, for instance), for none of these things is entirely up to them, and they engage in their affairs in full consciousness of this fact. It is in maintaining this consciousness of what is truly good (virtue), and awareness that the indifferent things are beyond their power, that makes this a discipline for the Stoic prokoptôn.
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The Discipline of Action
The second discipline concerns our ‘impulses to act and not to act’, that is, our motivations, and answers the question as to what we each should do as an individual in our own unique set of circumstances to successfully fulfil the role of a rational, sociable being who is striving for excellence.
The outcome of our actions is not wholly in our power, but our inclination to act one way rather than another, to pursue one set of objectives rather than others, this is in our power. The Stoics use the analogy of the archer shooting at a target to explain this notion. The ideal, of course, is to hit the centre of the target, though accomplishing this is not entirely in the archer’s power, for she cannot be certain how the wind will deflect the arrow from its path, nor whether her fingers will slip, nor whether (for it is within the bounds of possibility) the bow will break. The excellent archer does all within her power to shoot well, and she recognises that doing her best is the best she can do. The Stoic archer strives to shoot excellently, and will not be disappointed if she shoots well but fails to hit the centre of the target. And so it is in life generally. The non-Stoic views their success in terms of hitting the target, whereas the Stoic views their success in terms of having shot well (see Cicero, On Ends 3.22).
The [second area of study] has to do with appropriate action. For I should not be unfeeling like a statue, but should preserve my natural and acquired relations as a man who honours the gods, as a son, as a brother, as a father, as a citizen. (Discourses 3.2.4, trans. Hard)
Appropriate acts are in general measured by the relations they are concerned with. ‘He is your father.’ This means that you are called upon to take care of him, give way to him in all things, bear with him if he reviles or strikes you.
‘But he is a bad father.’
Well, have you any natural claim to a good father? No, only to a father.
‘My brother wrongs me.’
Be careful then to maintain the relation you hold to him, and do not consider what he does, but what you must do if your purpose is to keep in accord with nature. (Handbook 30, trans. Matheson)
The actions we undertake, Epictetus says, should be motivated by the specific obligations that we have in virtue of who we are, our natural relations to others, and what roles we have adopted in our dealings with the wider community (see Discourses 2.10.7–13). Put simply, our interest to live well as rational beings obliges us to act virtuously, to be patient, considerate, gentle, just, self-disciplined, even-tempered, dispassionate, unperturbed, and when necessary, courageous. This returns us to the central Stoic notion that the eudaimôn (‘happy’) life is realised by those who are motivated by virtue. The Discipline of Action points out to the prokoptôn how this should be applied in our practical affairs.
Epictetus sums up the first two disciplines:
We must have these principles ready to hand. Without them we must do nothing. We must set our mind on this object: pursue nothing that is outside us, nothing that is not our own, even as He that is mighty has ordained: pursuing what lies within our will [prohairetika], and all else [i.e., indifferent things] only so far as it is given to us. Further, we must remember who we are, and by what name we are called, and must try to direct our acts [kathêkonta] to fit each situation and its possibilities.
We must consider what is the time for singing, what the time for play, and in whose presence: what will be unsuited to the occasion; whether our companions are to despise us, or we to despise ourselves: when to jest, and whom to mock at: in a word, how one ought to maintain one’s character in society. Wherever you swerve from any of these principles, you suffer loss at once; not loss from without, but issuing from the very act itself. (Discourses 4.12.15–18, trans. Matheson)
The loss here is of course loss of eudaimonia.
Failing to ‘remember who we are’ will result in our failing to pursue those actions appropriate to our individual circumstances and commitments. Epictetus says that this happens because we forget what ‘name’ we have (son, brother, councillor, etc.), ‘for each of these names, if rightly considered, always points to the acts appropriate to it’ (Discourses 2.10.11, trans. Hard). To progress in the Discipline of Action, then, the prokoptôn must be conscious, moment by moment, of (a) which particular social role they are playing, and (b) which actions are required or appropriate for fulfilling that role to the highest standard.
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The Discipline of Assent
This exercise focuses on ‘assenting to impressions’, and continues the discussion already introduced in the section above on making proper use of impressions. ‘Assent’ translates the Greek sunkatathesis, which means ‘approve’, ‘agree’, or ‘go along with’. Thus, when we assent to an impression (phantasia) we are committing ourselves to it as a correct representation of how things are, and are saying, ‘Yes, this is how it is.’ The Discipline of Assent, then, is an exercise applied to our impressions in which we interpret and judge them in order to move from having the impression of something or other, to a declaration that such-and-such is the case.
The third area of study has to do with assent, and what is plausible and attractive. For, just as Socrates used to say that we are not to lead an unexamined life [see Plato, Apology 38a], so neither are we to accept an unexamined impression, but to say, ‘Stop, let me see what you are, and where you come from’, just as the night-watch say, ‘Show me your token.’ (Discourses 3.12.14–15, trans. Hard)
Make it your study then to confront every harsh impression with the words, ‘You are but an impression, and not at all what you seem to be’. Then test it by those rules that you possess; and first by this–the chief test of all–‘Is it concerned with what is in our power or with what is not in our power?’ And if it is concerned with what is not in our power, be ready with the answer that it is nothing to you. (Handbook 1.5, trans. Matheson)
And we should do this with a view to avoiding falling prey to subjective (and false) evaluations so that we can be free from deception and from making rash judgements about how to proceed in the first two disciplines. For if we make faulty evaluations we will end up (with respect to the first discipline) having desires for the wrong things (namely, ‘indifferents’), and (with respect to the second discipline) acting inappropriately with regard to our duties and obligations. This is why Epictetus remarks that the third topic ‘concerns the security of the other two’ (Discourses 3.2.5, trans. Long).
Epictetus runs through a number of imaginary situations to show how we should be alert to the dangers of assenting to poorly evaluated impressions:
… We ought … to exercise ourselves daily to meet the impressions of our senses …. So-and-so’s son is dead. Answer, ‘That lies outside the sphere of the moral purpose, it is not an evil.’ His father has disinherited So-and-so; what do you think of it? ‘That lies outside the sphere of the moral purpose, it is not an evil.’ Caesar has condemned him. ‘That lies outside the sphere of the moral purpose, it is not an evil.’ He was grieved at all this. ‘That lies within the sphere of the moral purpose, it is an evil.’ He has borne up under it manfully. ‘That lies within the sphere of the moral purpose, it is a good.’ Now, if we acquire this habit, we shall make progress; for we shall never give our assent to anything but that of which we get a convincing sense-impression. His son is dead. What happened? His son is dead. Nothing else? Not a thing. His ship is lost. What happened? His ship is lost. He was carried off to prison. What happened? He was carried off to prison. But the observation: ‘He has fared ill,’ is an addition that each man makes on his own responsibility. (Discourses 3.8.1–5, trans. Oldfather)
What we must avoid, then, is adding to our impressions immediately and without proper evaluation any notion that something good or bad is at hand. For the only thing that is good is moral virtue, and the only harm that anyone can come to is to engage in affairs motivated by vice. Thus, to see the loss of a ship as a catastrophe would count as assenting to the wrong impression, for the impression that we have is that of just a ship being lost. To take the extra step of declaring that this is a misfortune and harmful would be to assent to an impression that is not in fact present, and would be a mistake. The loss of a ship, for a Stoic, is nothing more than a dispreferred indifferent, and does not constitute a harm.
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For Epictetus, the terms ‘God’, ‘the gods’, and ‘Zeus’ are used interchangeably, and they appear frequently in the Discourses. In the Handbook, God is discussed as the ‘captain’ who calls us back on board ship, the subsequent voyage being a metaphor for our departure from life (see Handbook 7). God is also portrayed as ‘the Giver’ to whom we should return all those things we have enjoyed on loan when we lose close relatives or friends who die, and when we lose our possessions through misfortune (see Discourses 4.10.16 and Handbook 11).
If the Stoic making progress (the prokoptôn) understands God, the universe, and themselves in the right way, they ‘will never blame the gods, nor find fault with them’ (Handbook 31.1, trans. Oldfather):
Will you be angry and discontented with the ordinances of Zeus, which he, with the Fates who spun in his presence the thread of your destiny at the time of your birth, ordained and appointed? (Discourses 1.12.25, trans. Hard)
Indeed, they will pray to God to lead them to the fate that He has assigned them:
Lead me, Zeus, and you too, Destiny,
Wherever I am assigned by you;
I’ll follow and not hesitate,
But even if I do not wish to,
Because I’m bad, I’ll follow anyway.
(Handbook 53, trans. White = extract from Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus)
[For] God has stationed us to a certain place and way of life. (Discourses 1.9.24, trans. Dobbin)
Epictetus presents orthodox Stoic views on God. His justification for believing in God is expressed essentially along the lines of what we recognise as an argument from design. The order and harmony that we can perceive in the natural world (from astronomical events to the way plants grow and fruit in season) is attributed to a divine providence that orders and controls the entire cosmos intelligently and rationally (see Discourses 1.6.1–11, 1.14.1–6, 1.16.7–8 and 2.14.11/25–7). The Stoics were materialists, and God is conceived of as a type of fiery breath that blends perfectly with all other matter in the universe. In doing this, God transforms matter from undifferentiated ‘stuff’ into the varied forms that we see around us. This process is continuous, and God makes the world as it is, doing what it does, moment by moment. Just as the soul of a person is understood to bring alive and animate what would otherwise be dead and inert matter, so God is thought of as the ‘soul of the world’, and the universe is thought of as a sort of animal.
Stoics hold that the mind of each person is quite literally a fragment (apospasma) of God (see Discourses 2.8.11), and that the rationality that we each possess is in fact a fragment of God’s rationality; and this Epictetus primarily identifies as the capacity we have to make proper use of impressions (see Discourses 1.1.12). Epictetus expresses this in terms of what God has ‘given us’; He is conceived of as having constructed the universe in such a way that we have in our possession all that is within the compass of our own character or moral choice and nothing else, but this is no reason for complaint:
What has He given me for my own and subject to my authority, and what has He left for Himself? Everything within the sphere of the moral purpose He has given me, subjected them to my control, unhampered and unhindered. My body that is made of clay, how could He make that unhindered? Accordingly He has made it subject to the revolution of the universe–[along with] my property, my furniture, my house, my children, my wife. … But how should I keep them? In accordance with the terms upon which they have been given, and for as long as they can be given. But He who gave also takes away. …
And so, when you have received everything, and your very self, from Another [i.e., God], do you yet complain and blame the Giver, if He take something away from you? (Discourses 4.1.100–3, with omissions, trans. Oldfather)
The capacity that the prokoptôn has for understanding, accepting, and embracing this state of affairs, that this is indeed the nature of things, is another of the main foundation stones of Stoic ethics (Direct quote from website)
Reply #926. Sep 19 11, 2:05 PM
Epictetus: The Stoic
Epictetus, a stoic philosopher, taught principles that are as relevant today as they were in his time. His approach to life with all it’s uncertainties, the vicissitudes of everyday existence, was to recognize and accept what was beyond his grasp and focus his energy only on that over which he had a choice. He taught that we have the power to choose the attitude that we will embrace.
Little information is available on the life of Epictetus and what exists is somewhat vague. Epictetus’ exact date of birth is not known but it is estimated that he was born around 55 C.E in Hierapolis in Phrygia, which is modern day Turkey. According to most accounts his mother was a slave however, there is no mention of his father.
Epictetus was transported to Rome while still a child where he served Epaphroditus, an officer of Nero’s imperial guard. Epictetus’ unusual talents were recognized and he was given an education. He studied with the Roman Stoic, Rufus (Baird & Kaufmann, 1997).
“Epictetus eventually gained his freedom sometime after the death of Nero in A.D. 68. He began to teach until A.D. 89 or 93 when Emperor Domitan expelled the philosophers from Rome. Epictetus moved to Nicropolis In Epirus, where he established a thriving Stoic school and lived a simple life. It is reported that he married as an old man so that he could adopt a child who otherwise would have been ‘exposed’, that is left to die. Those whom he taught described him as a humble, charitable man of great moral and religious devotion” (Baird & Kauffman).
“It appears that Epictetus wrote nothing himself. The works we have that present his philosophy were written by his student, Flavius Arrian. We may conjecture that the Discourses and the Handbook were written some time around the years 104–107, at the time when Arrian (born c.86) was most likely to have been a student” (Fiser & Dowden, 2003).
“Epictetus staunchly believed in the necessity of training for the gradual refinement of personal character and behavior. Moral progress is not the natural providence of the highborn, nor is it achieved by accident or luck, but by working on yourself – daily” (Lebell, 1994).
The Encheiridion, a handbook, sometimes referred to as the manual is a collection of Epictetus’ teachings on standards for living, or ethics. “How do I live a happy, fulfilling life? How can I be a good person? Answering these two questions was the single-minded passion of Epictetus. He believed the primary job of a philosopher is to help ordinary people effectively meet the everyday challenges of life, and to deal with life’s inevitable major losses, disappointments, and grief. His moral teaching was stripped of sentimentality, piousness, and metaphysical mumbojumbo” (Lebell, 1994).
“Stoics believe that serenity comes to that individual whose will is in accord with the World Reason, the Logos, for right thinking leads to a reduction of frustration and anxiety. In the words of Epictetus:
Remember that thou art an actor in a play, of such a kind as the author may choose: if short, a short one; if long, a long one: if he wishes you to act the part of a poor man, see that you act the part naturally: if the part of a lame man, of a magistrate, of a private person (do the same). For this is your duty, to act well the part that was given to you; but to select the part belongs to another” (Soccio, 2004).
The Logos is a key element of the stoic belief. If there is divine order in the universe: there must be a plan. Events don’t occur haphazardly, they are the result of a divinely ordained reason. Assuming that this is true, one must conclude that nothing is wrong or bad, as all events play a role in the overall plan for the universe. The stoic response to things beyond our control is to focus only on the thing that we truly can control: our attitude, our will. (Soccio, 2004)
“There is deep ambivalence in the Stoic view of life. In theory the Stoics held the universe to be good, because ruled by reason. Since nature is good, the individual should always try to conform to it, accepting whatever life brings. In fact, however, the practical admonitions of Stoics like Epictetus portray life as a burden that must be stoically endured” (Johnson, 1981).
“Epictetus recognized that everyday life is fraught with difficulties of varying degree. He spent his life outlining the path to happiness, fulfillment and tranquility, no matter what one’s life circumstances happen to be” (Lebell, 1994)
“What is in our power, then, is the ‘authority over ourselves’ that we have regarding our capacity to judge what is good and what is evil. Outside our power are ‘external things’, which are ‘indifferent’ with respect to being good or evil. They are things that ‘just happen’, and they are not in our power in the sense that we do not have absolute control to make them occur just as we wish, or to make them have exactly the outcomes that we desire. Thus, for example, sickness is not in our power because it is not wholly up to us whether we get sick, and how often, nor whether we will recover quickly or indeed at all. Now, it makes sense to visit a doctor when we feel ill, but the competence of the doctor is not in our power, and neither is the effectiveness of any treatment that we might be offered. So generally, it makes sense to manage our affairs carefully and responsibly, but the ultimate outcome of any affair is, actually, not in our power. What is in our power is the capacity to adapt ourselves to all that comes about, to judge anything that is ‘dispreferred’ not as bad, but as indifferent and not strong enough to overwhelm our strength of character” (Feiser & Dowden).
The Handbook of Epictetus begins with these words:
Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us. Our opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions–in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or, that is, whatever is not our own doing. (Handbook 1.1, trans. White)
“That is, we have power over our own minds. The opinions we hold of things, the intentions we form, what we value and what we are averse to are all wholly up to us. Although we may take precautions, whether our possessions are carried off by a thief is not up us (but the intention to steal, that of course is in the power of the thief), and our reputations, in whatever quarter, must be decided by what other people think of us, and what they do think is up to them. Remaining calm in the face of adversity and controlling our emotions no matter what the provocation (qualities of character that to this day are referred to as ‘being stoical’), are accomplished in the full Stoic sense, for Epictetus, by making proper use of impressions” (Feiser & Dowden).
“Epictetus’ notion of the good life is not a matter of following a laundry list of precepts, but of bringing our actions into harmony with nature. The point is not to perform good deeds to win favor with the gods or the admiration of others, but to achieve inner serenity and thus enduring personal freedom. Goodness is an equal opportunity enterprise, available to anyone at any time: rich or poor, educated or simple. It is not the exclusive province of spiritual professionals such as monks, saints or ascetics” (Lebell, 1994).
We cannot change the external forces but we do have the ability to choose how we respond to those forces. For example, we have no control over whether we will fall ill tomorrow, whether we will be the victim of a tragic accident or be incapacitated by some other means. We may lose loved ones to death. We may endure trials and tribulations. We may lose our home to a natural disaster. We see today, we don’t see tomorrow furthermore, we have no control over these things. We can however, control how we respond to these externals.
Epictetus instructs us to concern ourselves with the things that we have control over and to free ourselves of those that we cannot. Simply put: we are in control of our response, our attitude, our will. This should be our primary focus. In a world where so much is beyond our control, this is good counsel.
Reply #927. Sep 19 11, 2:06 PM
What is Philosophy? The word itself means love (philo) of wisdom (sophy) or the persuit/ search for wisdom.
Humans have a tendency to think that we are right… and everyone else is wrong. In other words anyone that doesn’t agree with us doesn’t know what he or she is talking about and there must be something wrong with him or her. We are self centered, self-righteous and egocentric in our thinking: whether we want to admit it or not.
The tendency to think that the world revolves around “me” was labeled as the “human disease”. It was suggested that philosophy is about the curing the human disease. The idea of putting aside our bodies and our minds (our embodied minds) and taking a spiritual posture was presented: to be centered, not in the mind, but in the spirit. I found this to be a very interesting concept… the kind of thing you need to contemplate, really ponder to even begin to grasp.
New word: unisense—a sense of the light, where we are all connected, we are all brothers and sisters. Unisense will not only be the theme of this course but it was offered as the cure for the human disease.
The human disease… we are all free to avoid it. Each and every one of us has the choice to be free of this disease and heal the human family.
I feel a personal challenge to examine my own attitudes, narrow-mindedness, self-centeredness and make an effort to see things from different perspectives. Life is so much more than perceived here in my little corner of the world … and I’m encouraged by that thought. Change can be intimidating but having no possibility of change is truly frightening.
Reply #928. Sep 19 11, 2:07 PM
The lecture this evening focused defining and identifying the differences between wisdom, knowledge, opinion, belief, and understanding.
LaoTzu was introduced. The one and only thing that LoaTzu wrote was the TaoTeChing which has been translated into English more times than any other book with the exception of the the Bible. That’s pretty impressive; it makes me want to see what it’s all about.
Lao Tzu was driven by compassion for a world that was driven apart.
Tao is the sense of oneness/ unity, that sense of light that enlightens everyone.
The yin and yang concepts were discussed. Yin was compared to breathing in and yang to breathing out. Yin described as spiritual intuition and yang as intellectual reason. They are opposing forces that balance each other, so to speak. Yang breaks apart, where yin brings together.
A statement made during the lecture struck me as very profound. I repeated it over and over to myself numerous times. I agree with the statement, it disturbs my mind and at the same time provides comfort.
The statement: “We have mistaken our interpretations of God for God Himself.”
This disturbs me because I believe that it’s true. I think we have a very distorted view of God. It’s not just the idea that we have a distorted image of God but that our parents, pastors, and other influential persons have taught us these things and admonished us not to question. Just believe…but to ask questions and to challenge any of these ideas/ beliefs is wrong.
This statement also provides comfort to me in that I have hope in the thought that God is not what we perceive him to be. The portrayal of God that has been presented to me time and time again has been somewhat harsh. In an effort to explain some of the unexplainable circumstances of this life, some paint a distasteful picture of God.
Is this what happens when we try to define or describe something that is beyond our comprehension? Is this the result of us trying to limit God to our limited perspective? God is not limited…we are. Humans can be so foolish in their thinking
“We have mistaken our interpretations of God for God Himself.” … Something to think about.
The discussion of LaoTzu went on to wu wei. Wu wei being the surrendering of self-consciousness & self-centeredness to let oneself flow with the eternal spirit in whom we all are.
To flow with the Tao we need to get ourselves out of the way. Our attitudes, thoughts, opinions, and beliefs get in the way.
Truth is truth wherever it is found and how it develops….
Reply #929. Sep 19 11, 2:11 PM
September 9, 2003
This evening we did some compare/ contrast of Lao Tzu and Confucius. They both recognized that there was something sacred about the Tao—that something being unity.
The idea that in the Western world we tend to have a sense that this one is somehow separate from the whole was explored. For example, those who believe in God picture Him in heaven and everything else is separate from Him. I never thought about it that way before but I must say that’s how I always thought of it. I grew up being taught that God is in heaven and we’re all down here.
The question then becomes, how can we have a relationship with someone that is separated from us? It really does give one something to think about.
By thinking that God is separate from us we are selling ourselves short. The Tao suggests that the one in whom we all are is in us, through us and a part of everything. This spirit is in and through everything.
We discussed the limitations of our finite minds. Our minds cannot fully comprehend concepts like the Tao. The Tao is transcendent. It is too complex for us to fully understand.
Because of our limited abilities to comprehend we have a tendency to limit the way God can work redemption in our lives and others lives. What a powerful statement!
Siddhartha was introduced. Siddhartha is an interesting character. The account of his awakening was discussed. He had a vision, a mystical vision, and epiphany. He realized that he was not his body, he was not his mind. He realized that he is part of the whole, he felt relief of all his burdens, serenity, joy fulfillment. This is referred to as the Great Awakening. He had a sense of nirvana. The sense, the experience that the universe was flowing through him… this was an experience of total surrender.
Budda was motivated by a love of the whole rather than any part, his love was whole and for the whole, he was committed to healing/ healing the whole.
He realized basically that he was nothing… but also that he was everything.
4 Noble Truths:
1. Suffering is the condition of the human existence
2. The source of this disease is self-centeredness
3. There is a cure… egocentrism can be rooted out.
4. Eightfold path.
Reply #930. Sep 19 11, 2:12 PM
September 16, 2003
Heraclitis said that we are all basically asleep. He went on to say that we accept what is before us and that our opinions are based on appearances before us. His opinion was that the world is full of ignorance and illusion; we are looking outside through our five senses.. He called for us to wake up and to look beyond our five senses.
The Logos is reality, wisdom, and the sense of unity that permeates all things. To get in touch with the Logos is to wake up as Heraclitis spoke of.
I found it interesting that St. John was schooled in this tradition and that he said that the spirit of Jesus was the Logos. (This is the light that enlightens everyone)
This got my attention because I was cautioned about studying Philosophy. I was told that Philosophy is evil and it will draw me away from my Christian beliefs. I’m finding that’s not at all the case, in fact I think much of what I’ve learned thus far is similar to religious ideals. It’s funny how we can be afraid of something that we know so little about.
Reply #931. Sep 19 11, 2:13 PM
September 23, 2003
Heraclitis said that “Wisdom is the oneness of mind (spirit)” that guides and permeates all things. He continued… for wisdom, listen not to me but to the logos, and know that all is one.
Pythagorus believed that if you listened closely… you could hear the spheres.
Reply #932. Sep 19 11, 2:14 PM
September 30, 2003
Socrates defined wisdom as the ability to acknowledge that you do not know what you do not know, to have the humility and the honesty to admit what we don’t know. Wisdom is about being open, questioning, and examining fixed, absolute things.
Where do we get this compulsion to be right? Why do we want to appear to know everything? What’s that all about?
Socrates got us in touch with our soul. The soul is not special. It’s beyond our mind and body. You cannot pick it up with your five sense. The soul is our spiritual side, an invested sense of the good. We all share it. It is the one in whom we all are.
Socrates advised us to take care of our soul and the souls of others. Which is ultimately the same thing.
Socrates made a very powerful statement “The unexamined life is not worth living”
I like that! It’s one of those riveting statements that ring over and over again in your mind.
Reply #933. Sep 19 11, 2:16 PM
October 7, 2003
Plato committed his life to making sense out of Socrates’ wisdom. He was a witness to Socrates life and death. He was fixated on the thought of what it would mean to have a “just state”. What would it mean to be a good and just individual?
What would our world be like if Plato had his way? What if philosophers / people of wisdom were the ones in leadership? Imagine if each individual would commit to being just and fair. Imagine if each state would commit to being just and fair. I leaders made a personal commitment to be just and fair.
Imagine if our actions were dictated by our inner sense of unity, integrity and oneness. This is a far cry from what we know today. There are some that would argue that we have a fair justice system in this country. Is it? Is it just and fair in the sense that Plato envisioned? It’s deeper than having laws and rules that a governing body determines to be just and fair. Plato’s vision was for all to recognize and acknowledge their sense of unity and ones, to recognize that if one person is hurt or treated unfairly, all suffer as a result.
Imagine how history would have been altered if this transformation had taken place in Plato’s time. Perhaps if this had been the case, England would not have been so oppressive that the early settlers would not have felt the need to flee and begin a life in America. If that had been the case, the native Americans would not have been uprooted and mistreated. Think of it… Africans would not have been enslaved. These actions could not happen at the hands of people in touch with the sense of unity.
The war in Iraq would not be taking place today, if Plato had his way. Come to think of it, the world would be a pretty cool place… if Plato had his way.
Reply #934. Sep 19 11, 2:17 PM
October 21, 2003
What is a soul? According to Aristotle, anything that strives toward a meaningful end has a soul. There is something that drives everything in nature with a longing to be all that it can be.
Aristotle’s term Eudaimonia was introduced. He contends that we are all here to realize our souls. Eudaimonia is a state of well-being. It’s not just being happy… it’s being truly alive, having a sense of passion, joy. This is a process … in other words a journey. You cannot arrive at eudaimonia; it’s an ongoing process.
It’s difficult to imagine the experience of eudaimonia. Understanding that it isn’t a destination but a journey is easy enough to understand. It’s the idea of that state of well-being. We face many struggles in this life, on a daily basis… it’s hard to imagine the balance that is referred to in eudaimonia. Soul realization is being in a state of eudaimonia and according to Aristotle we all are seeking it.
The state of wonder: We have a tendency to pretend to know what we don’t. Why do we do that? It’s true, but I don’t understand why. The state of wonder it seems is essential if one is to gain wisdom. If we are so caught up in thinking that we know, we are blinded to what we need to learn. If we adopt an attitude of a state of openness we are more apt to learn.
Reply #935. Sep 19 11, 2:18 PM
October 28, 2003
I’ve heard about the Dark Ages before but never really understood what really took place during this time period. It’s appalling to think about how church leaders took advantage of others who were illiterate and at a clear disadvantage. People were misled exploited… in the name of religion.
It’s not surprising that people turn away from organized religion after having studied the history of the church. It’s not a pretty picture by any means.
St. Augustine had guilt over his lifestyle and projected it onto the masses. He was the one to present the idea of original sin. The thought that we are all cursed from birth and the only way to save ourselves is to submit to the creed. St. Augustine taught that the important thing is faith, not reason. Basically, without faith humans have no hope therefore they should rely on faith and not reason.
The guilt imposed on the masses by St. Augustine is present in organized religion today. I have encountered people who have the idea that we as humans are wretched and worthless, there is no good in us at all and the one and only hope we have is to believe in God and put all our faith and trust in Him. If for any reason one does not follow these steps he or she is headed straight to hell.
Reply #936. Sep 19 11, 2:20 PM
November 4, 2003
Aquinas applauded human reason and embraced it as opposed to St. Augustine who discouraged human reason.
The problem of evil: 2 kinds of evil—Natural evil/ and human evil
This problem of evil is this… if God is all knowing, all good and all powerful why does evil exist in the world?
If God can prevent suffering… yet chooses not to… he is not good. If God cannot stop suffering… he is not all powerful.
If he cannot recognize evil… he is not all knowing.
These are the questions that so many over the years have wrestled with. Aquinas was one who asked these questions and searched for answers.
Reply #937. Sep 19 11, 2:22 PM
November 11, 2003
The problem of evil continued: How does one come to terms with the problem of evil? Aquinas suggested that in order for God to allow humans free will, truly free will, evil must also be allowed. This to some extent satisfies the question. It’s still not the type of thing one can feel good about… but at some point each person must confront this issue of evil and ask these hard questions.
This reminds me of Socrates and his statement that the unexamined life is not worth living. I wonder if evil is not one of the things he had in mind when he made this statement. At any rate, one must examine the issue of evil and come to terms with it.
And then along comes Luther. He really shook things up. Luther said “You are your own priest” I have imagined living during the Protestant Reformation. I picture it as a time of awakening for so many people who were taught that their only connection to God was through the priests or kings.
Reply #938. Sep 19 11, 2:23 PM
November 18, 2003
Protestant Reformation continued: This put the authority of the whole establishment into question. Luther certainly did upset the apple cart!
Moving into the modern world…
Decartes sounds a little odd but he certainly was a thinker. I think … therefore I am. ????
Decartes introducted this idea of a priori—knowledge that comes before experience. Now that’s something to think about.
Hume on the other hand focused on a posteriori- knowledge that comes after experience.
It’s difficult to get a handle on these two concepts… Did I have that knowledge before the experience or was it the other way around? You could go round in circles over this one.
Reply #939. Sep 19 11, 2:23 PM
November 25, 2003
Kant said that knowledge is not derived from just rational ideas nor from the five senses. Knowledge requires both of them working together. There are some things we are born with… our awareness and the others we gather through experiences (five senses). It’s these two things in cooperation that become knowledge. Experience without reason is blind… they work together.
Reply #940. Sep 19 11, 2:24 PM
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