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Stoicism

Essay by   •  October 11, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,376 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,897 Views

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In the tree of Ethics, there are many twigs and branches that all trace back to a single root: how a person ought to act. Now, the paths that some branches take to get to that single root differ in many ways, yet all arrive at their own definition of how they themselves should live. The Ð''branch' that I will be talking about today, is Stoicism. I will discuss the history and beginnings of Stoicism in the Hellenistic period, the basic ideas of stoicism, and I will share my own personal beliefs and skeptical ideas as concerned with Stoicism.

To begin, what does the word Ð''stoic' mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Ð''stoic' as "one apparently or professedly indifferent to pleasure or pain." In the world of Ethics, a stoic is defined as "a member of a school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium about 300 B.C. holding that the wise man should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submissive to natural law." So what school of philosophy are we talking about? Who is Zeno of Cittium? Why did the stoics behave as they did?

In the early part of the 4th century B.C. going on into the middle of the 3rd, a man named Zeno of Cittium left his home of Cyprus and went to Athens. There, he began to teach small groups of people about his ideas of ethics. He held his sessions on a painted porch on the Athenian agora known as the Stoa Poikile, from which the terms stoic and Stoicism derive from. At one point, Zeno, who had become adjusted to a life of riches, could not pay a resident tax, and as a consequence, was sold into slavery, where he was bought by a friend and freed.

At first glance, one could look at stoicism and dismiss it as a relatively easy way to lead one's life. At the heart, stoics do not care about abstract reality, about how and why the universe began, or Earth for that matter. To a stoic, the most important concept is that of acceptance in human life.

Some of the ideas that Stoicism is based upon comes from the mind of one Heracletus. In the 6th century B.C., Heracletus formed his ideas at his home in Ephesus. In his mind, the universe is an Ð''ever-living fire.' In description, Heracletus came up with the Flux and the Logos. The Logos, in a universal sense, is a single connection between everything in the world, but is always changing with the Flux. Back when philosophers classified everything into 1 of the 4 elements, Heracletus' Logos was his idea of Fire, a fire with all-consuming power, flickering and changing as concerned with the Flux. The universe, or Logos, is one living thing that governs all, the world soul, and has the ability to exercise Providence. The universe/Logos directs everything within it to lead towards what is best as a whole, to have the best impact on the universe itself.

As such, the world soul, the Logos can see everything in space-time at once, unbound by space/matter and time. If we say a person's life is a straight line of mountains, the way the person views it is straight on, one mountain at a time, until they get to the end of their Ð''range' and thus ends their life. The way the Logos sees a person life would be from the side, seeing all sides of all mountains at the same time, and using such, is able to direct a person to lead a life that is, in the end, the best for the whole.

In Stoicism, the idea of one all-governing entity gives peace to the mind in that it makes everything easier for a person to live. The way the Logos ties into Stoicism, is in the form of a Ð''Republic.' In Stoicism, a human is guided by a hegemonicon, a guiding principle in one's soul, which is related to the Logos. If the universe is a republic, then any given person is a citizen in that republic. One's job as a citizen in that republic is to follow their hegemonicon, leading them to the best possible outcome in favor of the republic. For a stoic, you be the best citizen you can be by distinguishing between what is within control and what is beyond control.

Stoic A lives their life and comes across a choice X. Stoic A believes the Logos is using him as a citizen to build the best possible Ð''Republic', the Ð''final good.' Stoic A makes a decision Y at choice X, being led by his hegemonicon, which in turn leads him toward the best possible outcome for the universe.

The two

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