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Epictetus on Piety

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  • Grant Sterling
      Here s how Fieser translates the passage (I don t have Oldfather at hand, but I doubt if the specific translation makes much difference): 31. Be assured
    Message 1 of 15 , Jul 18, 2010
        Here's how Fieser translates the passage (I don't have Oldfather at hand, but I doubt if the specific translation makes much difference):


      31. Be assured that the essential property of piety
      towards the gods is to form right opinions concerning
      them, as existing and as governing the universe
      with goodness and justice. And fix yourself in this
      resolution, to obey them, and yield to them, and
      willingly follow them in all events, as produced by
      the most perfect understanding. For thus you will
      never find fault with the gods, nor accuse them as
      neglecting you. And it is not possible for this to be
      effected any other way than by withdrawing yourself
      from things not in our own control, and placing good
      or evil in those only which are. For if you suppose
      any of the things not in our own control to be either
      good or evil, when you are disappointed of what you
      wish, or incur what you would avoid, you must necessarily
      find fault with and blame the authors. For every animal
      is naturally formed to fly and abhor things that appear
      hurtful, and the causes of them; and to pursue and
      admire those which appear beneficial, and the causes of
      them. It is impractical, then, that one who supposes
      himself to be hurt should be happy about the person who,
      he thinks, hurts him, just as it is impossible to be
      happy about the hurt itself. Hence, also, a father is
      reviled by a son, when he does not impart to him the
      things which he takes to be good; and the supposing
      empire to be a good made Polynices and Eteocles mutually
      enemies. On this account the husbandman, the sailor, the
      merchant, on this account those who lose wives and
      children, revile the gods. For where interest is, there
      too is piety placed. So that, whoever is careful to
      regulate his desires and aversions as he ought, is, by
      the very same means, careful of piety likewise. But it
      is also incumbent on everyone to offer libations and
      sacrifices and first fruits, conformably to the customs
      of his country, with purity, and not in a slovenly
      manner, nor negligently, nor sparingly, nor beyond his
      ability.
       

      Now as I read this passage it says:
      a) The gods control the universe, and (bring good) they make events occur well and justly.
      b) We should "willingly follow" their decisions by being happy about them.
      c) This is reinforced by the fact that the rest of the passage shows that impiety includes being upset about anything that occurs.
      d) Only the Stoic can be pious, because this requires placing good or bad only in things in our control.

      If we regard externals as either good or evil, we will desire them, and hence we will be unhappy if we don't get them. But if we think that only things in our control are either good or evil, then we cannot be upset by anything, and if we truly think the gods exercise "the most perfect understanding" in their choices, then we must regard every external event as the best possible event that can occur, and hence we will be happy about them.

      I recognize that you don't agree with the Stoic view, but this seems perfectly orthodox Stoic doctrine here. Total, complete, uninterrupted happiness is guaranteed for the true Stoic, and impossible for anyone else.

      Regards,
      Grant

      ***
      Peter wrote:

      Perhaps you'd be so kind as to point out
      where Epictetus argues what you say in section 31 of the Handbook because I
      can find no mention of Stoics and continuous happiness (which
      realistically speaking, sad to say, is an impossibility anyway) in my Oldfather;
      perhaps you're thinking of Candide's tutor, Pangloss?
      Regards,
      Peter
    • peter the Cynic
      Interesting . . . I suggest you go there first, Grant, that is, before you advise the rest of us what s good for us, go yourself and jump into those
      Message 2 of 15 , Jul 19, 2010
        Interesting . . .
         
        I suggest you go there first, Grant, that is, before you advise the rest of us what's good for us, go yourself and jump into those shark-infested waters you speak of: prove to us that what you espouse works. We know what we have now isn't perfect, far from it, but somehow we'll muddle through as we always have done -- or not, as the case may be. But that world you speak of is entirely untested, unknown, unproven; so, I'd appreciate it, I'm sure the whole world would, if you'd go there and then come back and report to us what you found. Let us see you like a latter-day Diogenes; let us see the reality not be given mere theory. 
         
        Your idealised "true" Stoic sounds to me like a man living apart from the rest of humanity -- morally, ascetically, physically, intellectually, religiously, politically . . . ; a man unlike any real human being anyone ever came across; a veritable son of god; a man who speaks of love for his fellows but who is essentially cut off from them and, therefore, far from any possible happiness, in fact, probably the unhappiest man alive: Zeus at the conflagration.
         
        By the way, I don't necessarily agree or disagree with this presumed Stoic view of yours -- which seems to me to be incidental to what we're discussing here: Epictetus only speaks of "whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as he ought"; I see no reference to "Stoic", and I want to see that, explicitly; not read your decided interpretation. I've made it clear in the past, I prefer not to swallow things hook, line, and sinker, but to question them; even to play the devil's advocate; I'm not searching for answers to life's problems; and the like . . . and as to whether that gets me anywhere or not, well, I'm not even sure there's anywhere to go anyway.
         
        Regards,
        Peter
        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Monday, July 19, 2010 12:37 AM
        Subject: [stoic-christian] Epictetus on Piety

         

          Here's how Fieser translates the passage (I don't have Oldfather at hand, but I doubt if the specific translation makes much difference):

        31. Be assured that the essential property of piety
        towards the gods is to form right opinions concerning
        them, as existing and as governing the universe
        with goodness and justice. And fix yourself in this
        resolution, to obey them, and yield to them, and
        willingly follow them in all events, as produced by
        the most perfect understanding. For thus you will
        never find fault with the gods, nor accuse them as
        neglecting you. And it is not possible for this to be
        effected any other way than by withdrawing yourself
        from things not in our own control, and placing good
        or evil in those only which are. For if you suppose
        any of the things not in our own control to be either
        good or evil, when you are disappointed of what you
        wish, or incur what you would avoid, you must necessarily
        find fault with and blame the authors. For every animal
        is naturally formed to fly and abhor things that appear
        hurtful, and the causes of them; and to pursue and
        admire those which appear beneficial, and the causes of
        them. It is impractical, then, that one who supposes
        himself to be hurt should be happy about the person who,
        he thinks, hurts him, just as it is impossible to be
        happy about the hurt itself. Hence, also, a father is
        reviled by a son, when he does not impart to him the
        things which he takes to be good; and the supposing
        empire to be a good made Polynices and Eteocles mutually
        enemies. On this account the husbandman, the sailor, the
        merchant, on this account those who lose wives and
        children, revile the gods. For where interest is, there
        too is piety placed. So that, whoever is careful to
        regulate his desires and aversions as he ought, is, by
        the very same means, careful of piety likewise. But it
        is also incumbent on everyone to offer libations and
        sacrifices and first fruits, conformably to the customs
        of his country, with purity, and not in a slovenly
        manner, nor negligently, nor sparingly, nor beyond his
        ability.
         

        Now as I read this passage it says:
        a) The gods control the universe, and (bring good) they make events occur well and justly.
        b) We should "willingly follow" their decisions by being happy about them.
        c) This is reinforced by the fact that the rest of the passage shows that impiety includes being upset about anything that occurs.
        d) Only the Stoic can be pious, because this requires placing good or bad only in things in our control.

        If we regard externals as either good or evil, we will desire them, and hence we will be unhappy if we don't get them. But if we think that only things in our control are either good or evil, then we cannot be upset by anything, and if we truly think the gods exercise "the most perfect understanding" in their choices, then we must regard every external event as the best possible event that can occur, and hence we will be happy about them.

        I recognize that you don't agree with the Stoic view, but this seems perfectly orthodox Stoic doctrine here. Total, complete, uninterrupted happiness is guaranteed for the true Stoic, and impossible for anyone else.

        Regards,
        Grant

        ***
        Peter wrote:

        Perhaps you'd be so kind as to point out
        where Epictetus argues what you say in section 31 of the Handbook because I
        can find no mention of Stoics and continuous happiness (which
        realistically speaking, sad to say, is an impossibility anyway) in my Oldfather;
        perhaps you're thinking of Candide's tutor, Pangloss?
        Regards,
        Peter

      • Dave Kelly
        On Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 7:02 AM, peter the Cynic ... Marcus Aurelius associates happiness with piety, which, if we can trust the scholarship of Pierre Hadot,
        Message 3 of 15 , Jul 19, 2010
          On Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 7:02 AM, peter the Cynic
          <phrygianslave@...> wrote:
          >
          >
          >
          > By the way, I don't necessarily agree or disagree with this presumed Stoic view of yours -- which seems to me to be incidental to what we're discussing here: Epictetus only speaks of "whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as he ought"; I see no reference to "Stoic", and I want to see that, explicitly; not read your decided interpretation.

          Marcus Aurelius associates happiness with piety, which, if we can
          trust the scholarship of Pierre Hadot, associates happiness with
          Epictetus' "discipline of desire."

          "All the happiness you are seeking by such long, roundabout ways:
          you can have it all right now....I mean, if you leave all of the past
          behind you, if you abandon the future to providence, and if you
          arrange the present in accordance with piety and justice" (XII, 3. 4;
          trans. Hadot, pg. 134).

          "It should be pointed out here that, for Marcus, "piety" represents
          that discipline of desire which makes us consent "piously" to the
          divine will, as the latter is made manifest in events. Likewise,
          "justice" corresponds to the discipline of action, which makes us act
          in the service of the human community" (Hadot, pg. 134).

          Pierre Hadot (1998). The Inner Citadel.

          Best wishes,
          Dave
        • peter the Cynic
          Hi Dave, Not quite sure what point you re making but since you ve included my questioning of the appropriateness of the term Stoic in relation to what
          Message 4 of 15 , Jul 19, 2010
            Hi Dave,
            Not quite sure what point you're making but since you've included my questioning of the appropriateness of the term "Stoic" in relation to what Epictetus was at, I will concentrate on that.
            I should first point out that Epictetus uses the word "Stoic" seldom; his preferred choice is "philosopher"; he also says somewhere, Show me a Stoic, to indicate that he's never seen an example of this rare breed. 
            Arnold, Roman Stoicism, p. 106, speaks of, "numerous teachers" whose "special interest lay in the controversies between the Porch and the Academy" and the resultant temporary fusion of philosophies; and moreover that whilst "their respective names and dogmas remained unaltered" "attention was no longer given to the great differences of principle which divided them. Learning, politics, and social influences alike were at work [. . .] From these circumstances there emerged the type which we now call the 'eclectic,' but which the Romans called simply 'philosopher'; that is, the man who drew practical wisdom from all sources alike, binding himself to the dogmas of no school, but winning his way by aptness of discourse and sympathy of manner to social importance." 
            I'm not saying that Epictetus strictly conformed to this type but it seems more than merely coincidental that he should use the term philosopher overwhelmingly in relation to his preceptorial practise.
            I would refer you also to page 404 of Arnold's book where he states that the, "Stoicism of the second century is therefore much less sharply defined than that of earlier times. Its doctrines, acquired in childhood, are accepted with ready acquiescence; but they are no accompanied by any firm repudiation of the opposing views of other schools. Once more, as in the time of Augustus, the 'philosopher' comes to the front; the particular colour of his philosophy seems of less importance." He then goes on to speak of this in relation to the various emperors incl. Marcus Aurelius.
            I must admit to being 'old school of thought' in this and thus I tend to follow Zeller's view of the period as one that is essentially philosophically eclectic in nature: Stoicism is there, yes, no one will argue with that, but it is compromised with all sorts of other stuff; I also follow Enfield's (after Brucker) brilliant pre-Hegelian critique of philosophical history; and for him, eclecticism is to the for.
            I repeat I am not denying there is a large does of Stoicism in Epictetus, perhaps an even larger one of Cynicism, before he fell to his current estate, that of preceptor to the sons of he Roman aristocracy.
            If I've entirely missed the point of your post, Dave, I apologise profusely.
            Regards,
            Peter 
             
             
            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Monday, July 19, 2010 3:51 PM
            Subject: Re: [stoic-christian] Epictetus on Piety

             

            On Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 7:02 AM, peter the Cynic
            <phrygianslave@...> wrote:
            >
            >
            >
            > By the way, I don't necessarily agree or disagree with this presumed Stoic view of yours -- which seems to me to be incidental to what we're discussing here: Epictetus only speaks of "whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as he ought"; I see no reference to "Stoic", and I want to see that, explicitly; not read your decided interpretation.

            Marcus Aurelius associates happiness with piety, which, if we can
            trust the scholarship of Pierre Hadot, associates happiness with
            Epictetus' "discipline of desire."

            "All the happiness you are seeking by such long, roundabout ways:
            you can have it all right now....I mean, if you leave all of the past
            behind you, if you abandon the future to providence, and if you
            arrange the present in accordance with piety and justice" (XII, 3. 4;
            trans. Hadot, pg. 134).

            "It should be pointed out here that, for Marcus, "piety" represents
            that discipline of desire which makes us consent "piously" to the
            divine will, as the latter is made manifest in events. Likewise,
            "justice" corresponds to the discipline of action, which makes us act
            in the service of the human community" (Hadot, pg. 134).

            Pierre Hadot (1998). The Inner Citadel.

            Best wishes,
            Dave

          • Dave Kelly
            On Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 10:49 AM, peter the Cynic ... Can you show that the teachings of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Grant on piety are not orthodox Stoic
            Message 5 of 15 , Jul 19, 2010
              On Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 10:49 AM, peter the Cynic
              <phrygianslave@...> wrote:
              >
              >
              >
              > Hi Dave,
              > Not quite sure what point you're making but since you've included my questioning of the appropriateness of the term "Stoic" in relation to what Epictetus was at, I will concentrate on that.
              > I should first point out that Epictetus uses the word "Stoic" seldom; his preferred choice is "philosopher"; he also says somewhere, Show me a Stoic, to indicate that he's never seen an example of this rare breed.
              > Arnold, Roman Stoicism, p. 106, speaks of, "numerous teachers" whose "special interest lay in the controversies between the Porch and the Academy" and the resultant temporary fusion of philosophies; and moreover that whilst "their respective names and dogmas remained unaltered" "attention was no longer given to the great differences of principle which divided them. Learning, politics, and social influences alike were at work [. . .] From these circumstances there emerged the type which we now call the 'eclectic,' but which the Romans called simply 'philosopher'; that is, the man who drew practical wisdom from all sources alike, binding himself to the dogmas of no school, but winning his way by aptness of discourse and sympathy of manner to social importance."
              > I'm not saying that Epictetus strictly conformed to this type but it seems more than merely coincidental that he should use the term philosopher overwhelmingly in relation to his preceptorial practise.
              > I would refer you also to page 404 of Arnold's book where he states that the, "Stoicism of the second century is therefore much less sharply defined than that of earlier times. Its doctrines, acquired in childhood, are accepted with ready acquiescence; but they are no accompanied by any firm repudiation of the opposing views of other schools. Once more, as in the time of Augustus, the 'philosopher' comes to the front; the particular colour of his philosophy seems of less importance." He then goes on to speak of this in relation to the various emperors incl. Marcus Aurelius.
              > I must admit to being 'old school of thought' in this and thus I tend to follow Zeller's view of the period as one that is essentially philosophically eclectic in nature: Stoicism is there, yes, no one will argue with that, but it is compromised with all sorts of other stuff; I also follow Enfield's (after Brucker) brilliant pre-Hegelian critique of philosophical history; and for him, eclecticism is to the for.
              > I repeat I am not denying there is a large does of Stoicism in Epictetus, perhaps an even larger one of Cynicism, before he fell to his current estate, that of preceptor to the sons of he Roman aristocracy.
              > If I've entirely missed the point of your post, Dave, I apologise profusely.

              Can you show that the teachings of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and
              Grant on piety are not orthodox Stoic doctrine?


              > Regards,
              > Peter

              Best wishes,
              Dave
            • peter the Cynic
              Dave wrote: Can you show that the teachings of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Grant on piety are not orthodox Stoic doctrine? That is an extremely difficult
              Message 6 of 15 , Jul 19, 2010

                Dave wrote: Can you show that the teachings of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and
                Grant on piety are not orthodox Stoic doctrine?

                That is an extremely difficult question, Dave. Firstly, I'm not sure I can group Grant together with Epictetus and Marcus! Secondly, I think all the Hellenistic schools as well as individuals from a remoter age, Pindar, Aeschylus, analysed the emerging doctrine of the four virtues in some form or another.
                This might be relevant: "Plato has perhaps accepted a scheme from India and derived it afresh from his own psychological analysis, so the Stoics accepted it from Plato, but used a fresh analysis to demonstrate it. The desire to live according to reason, they said, takes four forms--a desire for human society, an aspiration towards truth, and ambition for prominence, and a love of propriety--and to these correspond the four virtues. These definitions were apparently coined by Panaetius. Plutarch tells us that there were difference of opinion in the Stoic school about them, and indeed Stobaeus has preserved a slightly different analysis, according to which all men have from Nature inclination towards the discovery of one's duty, towards the control of one's impulses, towards a power of endurance, and towards equitable distribution. Further they subdivided the virtues themselves--wisdom including good counsel and understanding, self-control, good discipline, and orderliness, justice, impartiality, and beneficence, and courage, determination and vigour. More complex divisions are found, hereby, for example, justice is made to include piety, and self-control to include modesty and continence."
                I'm no expert in this matter, it's a huge study in itself; I refer you to John Ferguson's, Moral Values in the Ancient World, for further details.
                Regards,
                Peter
                 
                 
                ----- Original Message -----
                Sent: Monday, July 19, 2010 5:17 PM
                Subject: Re: [stoic-christian] Epictetus on Piety

                 

                On Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 10:49 AM, peter the Cynic
                <phrygianslave@...> wrote:
                >
                >
                >
                > Hi Dave,
                > Not quite sure what point you're making but since you've included my questioning of the appropriateness of the term "Stoic" in relation to what Epictetus was at, I will concentrate on that.
                > I should first point out that Epictetus uses the word "Stoic" seldom; his preferred choice is "philosopher"; he also says somewhere, Show me a Stoic, to indicate that he's never seen an example of this rare breed.
                > Arnold, Roman Stoicism, p. 106, speaks of, "numerous teachers" whose "special interest lay in the controversies between the Porch and the Academy" and the resultant temporary fusion of philosophies; and moreover that whilst "their respective names and dogmas remained unaltered" "attention was no longer given to the great differences of principle which divided them. Learning, politics, and social influences alike were at work [. . .] From these circumstances there emerged the type which we now call the 'eclectic,' but which the Romans called simply 'philosopher'; that is, the man who drew practical wisdom from all sources alike, binding himself to the dogmas of no school, but winning his way by aptness of discourse and sympathy of manner to social importance."
                > I'm not saying that Epictetus strictly conformed to this type but it seems more than merely coincidental that he should use the term philosopher overwhelmingly in relation to his preceptorial practise.
                > I would refer you also to page 404 of Arnold's book where he states that the, "Stoicism of the second century is therefore much less sharply defined than that of earlier times. Its doctrines, acquired in childhood, are accepted with ready acquiescence; but they are no accompanied by any firm repudiation of the opposing views of other schools. Once more, as in the time of Augustus, the 'philosopher' comes to the front; the particular colour of his philosophy seems of less importance." He then goes on to speak of this in relation to the various emperors incl. Marcus Aurelius.
                > I must admit to being 'old school of thought' in this and thus I tend to follow Zeller's view of the period as one that is essentially philosophically eclectic in nature: Stoicism is there, yes, no one will argue with that, but it is compromised with all sorts of other stuff; I also follow Enfield's (after Brucker) brilliant pre-Hegelian critique of philosophical history; and for him, eclecticism is to the for.
                > I repeat I am not denying there is a large does of Stoicism in Epictetus, perhaps an even larger one of Cynicism, before he fell to his current estate, that of preceptor to the sons of he Roman aristocracy.
                > If I've entirely missed the point of your post, Dave, I apologise profusely.

                Can you show that the teachings of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and
                Grant on piety are not orthodox Stoic doctrine?

                > Regards,
                > Peter

                Best wishes,
                Dave

              • Grant Sterling
                Peter wrote: Interesting . . .   I suggest you go there first, Grant, that is, before you advise the rest of us what s good for us, go yourself and jump into
                Message 7 of 15 , Jul 19, 2010
                  Peter wrote:

                  Interesting . . .
                   
                  I suggest you go there first, Grant, that
                  is, before you advise the rest of us what's good for us, go yourself and
                  jump into those shark-infested waters you speak of: prove to us that
                  what you espouse works. We know what we have now isn't perfect, far from
                  it, but somehow we'll muddle through as we always have done -- or
                  not, as the case may be. But that world you speak of is entirely untested,
                  unknown, unproven; so, I'd appreciate it, I'm sure the whole world would,
                  if you'd go there and then come back and report to us what you found. Let
                  us see you like a latter-day Diogenes; let us see the reality not be
                  given mere theory. 
                   
                  Your idealised "true" Stoic sounds to
                  me like a man living apart from the rest of humanity -- morally,
                  ascetically, physically, intellectually, religiously, politically . . . ; a
                  man unlike any real human being anyone ever came across; a veritable
                  son of god; a man who speaks of love for his fellows but who is
                  essentially cut off from them and, therefore, far from any
                  possible happiness, in fact, probably the unhappiest man alive: Zeus at the
                  conflagration.
                   
                  By the way, I don't necessarily agree or
                  disagree with this presumed Stoic view of yours -- which seems to me to
                  be incidental to what we're discussing here: Epictetus only speaks of
                  "whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as he ought"; I see
                  no reference to "Stoic", and I want to see that,
                  explicitly; not read your decided interpretation. I've made it clear in
                  the past, I prefer not to swallow things hook, line, and sinker, but to question
                  them; even to play the devil's advocate; I'm not searching for
                  answers to life's problems; and the like . . . and as to whether
                  that gets me anywhere or not, well, I'm not even sure there's anywhere
                  to go anyway.
                   
                  Regards,
                  Peter


                  ***
                  a) You say that Epictetus only wrote "whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as they ought". This is not true. He explicitly states that one must hold that only things in our control are good or evil, and deny good and evil to all other things. This is a distinctively Stoic doctrine if ever there was one.

                  b) Absolutely nothing in my discussion suggested in any way that the ideal Stoic is cut off from society, except in the sense that he is not _pained_ by any external event. I certainly do not require or even prefer that other people experience psychological anguish as a result of things that happen to me (or to themselves), so I see no reason why such isolation should follow. Indeed, by loving others rationally the Stoic would be a far better friend to them than anyone else.

                  c) The life of the Sage may be untested (by me at any rate--perhaps Socrates knew what it was like), but I have experienced it in part and do so every day. When I do regard external events as being the best possible events that could occur, guided by a benevolent divine hand, I do indeed experience happiness (both in the ordinary and in the eudaimonic senses). The Sage is only someone who does continually what I do sporadically.


                  Regards,
                  Grant
                • peter the Cynic
                  In response to the point you make in a), Grant, Epictetus (Arrian) does only say whoever is careful to exercise desire and aversion as he should in article
                  Message 8 of 15 , Jul 19, 2010
                    In response to the point you make in a), Grant, Epictetus (Arrian) does only say "whoever is careful to exercise desire and aversion as he should" in article 31 of the Enchiridion; he does not mention the Stoics by name and it would be wrong to put any such interpretation on his words. My guess is you do this because it lends authority or weight (so you think) to your Philostoic practise, that is, without it your commitment to the Stoic credo amounts to little more than a childish clapping of hands accompanied by shouts of, Happy Saturnalia! 
                    As regards your b): what I said was only the logical outcome of the Stoic wise man's self-sufficiency.
                    And c): let me know when you being to experience happiness (I don't know about eudaimonia!) more than just sporadically. :-) I mean let's get real here for a moment: where do you get the insight from that enables you to know that what you do really makes a great deal of difference? Because I'd like to get some of that too. I mean why have you been chosen; why have I been overlooked and ignored? There's something wrong there. But then you believe in justice, too, no doubt.
                     
                    Regards,
                    Peter   
                    ----- Original Message -----
                    Sent: Monday, July 19, 2010 7:11 PM
                    Subject: Re: [stoic-christian] Epictetus on Piety

                     

                    Peter wrote:

                    Interesting . . .
                     
                    I suggest you go there first, Grant, that
                    is, before you advise the rest of us what's good for us, go yourself and
                    jump into those shark-infested waters you speak of: prove to us that
                    what you espouse works. We know what we have now isn't perfect, far from
                    it, but somehow we'll muddle through as we always have done -- or
                    not, as the case may be. But that world you speak of is entirely untested,
                    unknown, unproven; so, I'd appreciate it, I'm sure the whole world would,
                    if you'd go there and then come back and report to us what you found. Let
                    us see you like a latter-day Diogenes; let us see the reality not be
                    given mere theory. 
                     
                    Your idealised "true" Stoic sounds to
                    me like a man living apart from the rest of humanity -- morally,
                    ascetically, physically, intellectually, religiously, politically . . . ; a
                    man unlike any real human being anyone ever came across; a veritable
                    son of god; a man who speaks of love for his fellows but who is
                    essentially cut off from them and, therefore, far from any
                    possible happiness, in fact, probably the unhappiest man alive: Zeus at the
                    conflagration.
                     
                    By the way, I don't necessarily agree or
                    disagree with this presumed Stoic view of yours -- which seems to me to
                    be incidental to what we're discussing here: Epictetus only speaks of
                    "whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as he ought"; I see
                    no reference to "Stoic", and I want to see that,
                    explicitly; not read your decided interpretation. I've made it clear in
                    the past, I prefer not to swallow things hook, line, and sinker, but to question
                    them; even to play the devil's advocate; I'm not searching for
                    answers to life's problems; and the like . . . and as to whether
                    that gets me anywhere or not, well, I'm not even sure there's anywhere
                    to go anyway.
                     
                    Regards,
                    Peter

                    ***
                    a) You say that Epictetus only wrote "whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as they ought". This is not true. He explicitly states that one must hold that only things in our control are good or evil, and deny good and evil to all other things. This is a distinctively Stoic doctrine if ever there was one.

                    b) Absolutely nothing in my discussion suggested in any way that the ideal Stoic is cut off from society, except in the sense that he is not _pained_ by any external event. I certainly do not require or even prefer that other people experience psychological anguish as a result of things that happen to me (or to themselves), so I see no reason why such isolation should follow. Indeed, by loving others rationally the Stoic would be a far better friend to them than anyone else.

                    c) The life of the Sage may be untested (by me at any rate--perhaps Socrates knew what it was like), but I have experienced it in part and do so every day. When I do regard external events as being the best possible events that could occur, guided by a benevolent divine hand, I do indeed experience happiness (both in the ordinary and in the eudaimonic senses). The Sage is only someone who does continually what I do sporadically.

                    Regards,
                    Grant

                  • Grant Sterling
                    ... In response to the point you make in a), Grant, Epictetus (Arrian) does only say whoever is careful to exercise desire and aversion as he should  in
                    Message 9 of 15 , Jul 21, 2010
                      --- On Mon, 7/19/10, peter the Cynic <phrygianslave@...> wrote:

                      In response to the point you make in a),
                      Grant, Epictetus (Arrian) does only say "whoever is careful
                      to exercise desire and aversion as he should" in article 31 of the
                      Enchiridion; he does not mention the Stoics by name and it would be
                      wrong to put any such interpretation on his words. My guess is you do
                      this because it lends authority or weight (so you think) to your
                      Philostoic practise, that is, without it your commitment to the Stoic
                      credo amounts to little more than a childish clapping of hands
                      accompanied by shouts of, Happy Saturnalia! 

                      ***
                      I am unclear, Peter. Are you:
                      a) Denying that Epictetus says that piety can only be found in those who deny that external things are good or evil, OR
                      b) Agreeing that Epictetus was only talking about people who deny value to external things, but claiming that there are people who deny all value to external things but who are not Stoics.

                      I find either assertion ridiculous, but I was curious as to which one you were making.



                      And c): let me know when you being to
                      experience happiness (I don't know about eudaimonia!) more than just
                      sporadically. :-) I mean let's get real here for a moment: where do you get
                      the insight from that enables you to know that what you do really makes a
                      great deal of difference? Because I'd like to get some of that too. I mean


                      ***
                      I don't understand the part about what I do making a difference. Certainly my beliefs about the value of external things makes an enormous difference to my reactions to such things. That's neither an original idea of mine nor anything that requires any special insight. Do you deny it? If you mean that my actions make a great deal of difference to the external world, I never affirmed any such thing.
                      ***


                      why have you been chosen; why have I been overlooked and
                      ignored? There's something wrong there. But then you believe in justice,
                      too, no doubt.


                      ***
                      Indeed I do. You haven't been overlooked or ignored, you have simply chosen to go on believing that external things have value, with the result that you find life to be miserable (by your own account). I shall go on believing that externals have no value (and experiencing contentment and virtue as a result), and working on myself to do better in the future when I fall into the trap of regarding externals as valuable (and experiencing misery and engaging in vice). I shall go on believing in Justice, and seeking to promote it. Your beliefs are in your control, so you may choose to continue to deny these things. You have shown us no argument that your beliefs will be _true_, and have admitted that your way or looking at things leads to misery. My way seems preferable, but your mileage may vary.
                      ***

                      Regards,
                      Peter   


                      Regards,
                      Grant
                    • peter the Cynic
                      Do your wife and children know they are of no value to you? Did you tell your wife yet that really she means nothing to you? Do you even have a wife? Oh yes,
                      Message 10 of 15 , Jul 21, 2010
                        Do your wife and children know they are of no value to you? Did you tell your wife yet that really she means nothing to you? Do you even have a wife? 
                        Oh yes, and I don't remember telling you I was at all miserable!
                        If I had the choice, though, I'd sooner be miserable than foolish.
                        Regards,
                        Peter 
                        ----- Original Message -----
                        Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 9:46 PM
                        Subject: Re: [stoic-christian] Epictetus on Piety

                         

                        --- On Mon, 7/19/10, peter the Cynic <phrygianslave@...> wrote:

                        In response to the point you make in a),
                        Grant, Epictetus (Arrian) does only say "whoever is careful
                        to exercise desire and aversion as he should" in article 31 of the
                        Enchiridion; he does not mention the Stoics by name and it would be
                        wrong to put any such interpretation on his words. My guess is you do
                        this because it lends authority or weight (so you think) to your
                        Philostoic practise, that is, without it your commitment to the Stoic
                        credo amounts to little more than a childish clapping of hands
                        accompanied by shouts of, Happy Saturnalia! 

                        ***
                        I am unclear, Peter. Are you:
                        a) Denying that Epictetus says that piety can only be found in those who deny that external things are good or evil, OR
                        b) Agreeing that Epictetus was only talking about people who deny value to external things, but claiming that there are people who deny all value to external things but who are not Stoics.

                        I find either assertion ridiculous, but I was curious as to which one you were making.

                        And c): let me know when you being to
                        experience happiness (I don't know about eudaimonia!) more than just
                        sporadically. :-) I mean let's get real here for a moment: where do you get
                        the insight from that enables you to know that what you do really makes a
                        great deal of difference? Because I'd like to get some of that too. I mean

                        ***
                        I don't understand the part about what I do making a difference. Certainly my beliefs about the value of external things makes an enormous difference to my reactions to such things. That's neither an original idea of mine nor anything that requires any special insight. Do you deny it? If you mean that my actions make a great deal of difference to the external world, I never affirmed any such thing.
                        ***

                        why have you been chosen; why have I been overlooked and
                        ignored? There's something wrong there. But then you believe in justice,
                        too, no doubt.

                        ***
                        Indeed I do. You haven't been overlooked or ignored, you have simply chosen to go on believing that external things have value, with the result that you find life to be miserable (by your own account). I shall go on believing that externals have no value (and experiencing contentment and virtue as a result), and working on myself to do better in the future when I fall into the trap of regarding externals as valuable (and experiencing misery and engaging in vice). I shall go on believing in Justice, and seeking to promote it. Your beliefs are in your control, so you may choose to continue to deny these things. You have shown us no argument that your beliefs will be _true_, and have admitted that your way or looking at things leads to misery. My way seems preferable, but your mileage may vary.
                        ***

                        Regards,
                        Peter   

                        Regards,
                        Grant

                      • peter
                        Grant wrote: a) You say that Epictetus only wrote whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as they ought . This is not true. He explicitly
                        Message 11 of 15 , Jan 5, 2011


                           

                          Grant wrote:

                          "a) You say that Epictetus only wrote "whoever is careful to regulate his
                          desires and aversions as they ought". This is not true. He explicitly states
                          that one must hold that only things in our control are good or evil, and deny
                          good and evil to all other things. This is a distinctively Stoic doctrine if
                          ever there was one.

                          b) Absolutely nothing in my discussion suggested in any way that the ideal Stoic
                          is cut off from society, except in the sense that he is not _pained_ by any
                          external event. I certainly do not require or even prefer that other people
                          experience psychological anguish as a result of things that happen to me (or to
                          themselves), so I see no reason why such isolation should follow. Indeed, by
                          loving others rationally the Stoic would be a far better friend to them than
                          anyone else.

                          c) The life of the Sage may be untested (by me at any rate--perhaps Socrates
                          knew what it was like), but I have experienced it in part and do so every day.
                          When I do regard external events as being the best possible events that could
                          occur, guided by a benevolent divine hand, I do indeed experience happiness
                          (both in the ordinary and in the eudaimonic senses). The Sage is only someone
                          who does continually what I do sporadically."


                          Again, I have to say, this is your interpretation, Grant; there is no mention of any Stoic in Enchiridion 31 whence the words "whoever is careful to exercise desire and aversion as he should" are taken. Epictetus may well argue that only those things which are under our control are free but this is not "distinctively Stoic doctrine if ever there was one"! Epictetus himself (via Arrian) tells us in no uncertain terms in Book 3, Chapter 24, (which is devoted to the subject of "control", its title being, That we ought not to yearn for the things which are not under our control) that Diogenes (the Cynic) learned this doctrine from Antisthenes (the Socratic-Cynic.) You are surely not claiming these two men were distinctively Stoic are you?

                          The ideal Stoic is—contrary to your opinion. Grant—a man apart from other men; have you not read Epictetus', On the calling of a Cynic?  For the ideal Stoic, no, let's correct that, the ideal philosopher, according to Epictetus, is a Cynic—isn't he? And even the Alexandrian Scribes (Sopherim) who interpreted and developed the pagan texts that eventuated in Diogenes Laertius', Lives of Eminent Philosophers—specifically, the 'Stoic Book of Doctrine' which was inserted in the monograph on Zeno of Citium—tell us that the wise man will "play the Cynic, Cynicism being a short cut to virtue".  If you re-read Diogenes Laertius VII bearing this in mind, i.e., think: Cynic, you will end up with a somewhat different view of the matter from that to which you now unhesitatingly subscribe.

                          I don't know what you mean by, "loving others rationally";—you mean as distinct from passionately? You mean Platonically? Charitably? No, "loving others rationally" sounds to me like a cold and indifferent way of loving. Sounds to me like the sort of thing a two-timing husband might come out with when caught by his wife in the arms of another woman: "Oh but it's only sex; I really love you my darling; this hooker means nothing to me;" and so on—if you get my drift.

                          I don't see how one can experience Sage-dom "in part" or "sporadically". If Chrysippus is right when he says that all sins are equal—which is surely the same as saying, A miss is as good as a mile, then, surely all virtues are likewise equal? In which case you can't be wise only in part; if you're wise in part only completely wise. (I could go on with this but I think that is sufficient to make the point.)    

                          Regards,

                          Peter

                           

                          --- In stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com, Grant Sterling <fccmoose@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > Peter wrote:
                          >
                          > Interesting . . .
                          >  
                          > I suggest you go there first, Grant, that
                          > is, before you advise the rest of us what's good for us, go yourself and
                          > jump into those shark-infested waters you speak of: prove to us that
                          > what you espouse works. We know what we have now isn't perfect, far from
                          > it, but somehow we'll muddle through as we always have done -- or
                          > not, as the case may be. But that world you speak of is entirely untested,
                          > unknown, unproven; so, I'd appreciate it, I'm sure the whole world would,
                          > if you'd go there and then come back and report to us what you found. Let
                          > us see you like a latter-day Diogenes; let us see the reality not be
                          > given mere theory. 
                          >  
                          > Your idealised "true" Stoic sounds to
                          > me like a man living apart from the rest of humanity -- morally,
                          > ascetically, physically, intellectually, religiously, politically . . . ; a
                          > man unlike any real human being anyone ever came across; a veritable
                          > son of god; a man who speaks of love for his fellows but who is
                          > essentially cut off from them and, therefore, far from any
                          > possible happiness, in fact, probably the unhappiest man alive: Zeus at the
                          > conflagration.
                          >  
                          > By the way, I don't necessarily agree or
                          > disagree with this presumed Stoic view of yours -- which seems to me to
                          > be incidental to what we're discussing here: Epictetus only speaks of
                          > "whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as he ought"; I see
                          > no reference to "Stoic", and I want to see that,
                          > explicitly; not read your decided interpretation. I've made it clear in
                          > the past, I prefer not to swallow things hook, line, and sinker, but to question
                          > them; even to play the devil's advocate; I'm not searching for
                          > answers to life's problems; and the like . . . and as to whether
                          > that gets me anywhere or not, well, I'm not even sure there's anywhere
                          > to go anyway.
                          >  
                          > Regards,
                          > Peter
                          >
                          >
                          > ***
                          > a) You say that Epictetus only wrote "whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as they ought". This is not true. He explicitly states that one must hold that only things in our control are good or evil, and deny good and evil to all other things. This is a distinctively Stoic doctrine if ever there was one.
                          >
                          > b) Absolutely nothing in my discussion suggested in any way that the ideal Stoic is cut off from society, except in the sense that he is not _pained_ by any external event. I certainly do not require or even prefer that other people experience psychological anguish as a result of things that happen to me (or to themselves), so I see no reason why such isolation should follow. Indeed, by loving others rationally the Stoic would be a far better friend to them than anyone else.
                          >
                          > c) The life of the Sage may be untested (by me at any rate--perhaps Socrates knew what it was like), but I have experienced it in part and do so every day. When I do regard external events as being the best possible events that could occur, guided by a benevolent divine hand, I do indeed experience happiness (both in the ordinary and in the eudaimonic senses). The Sage is only someone who does continually what I do sporadically.
                          >
                          >
                          > Regards,
                          > Grant
                          >

                        • peter the Cynic
                          Sorry! My final paragraph should read: I don t see how one can experience Sage-dom in part or sporadically . If Chrysippus is right when he says that all
                          Message 12 of 15 , Jan 5, 2011
                            Sorry! My final paragraph should read:
                             
                            I don't see how one can experience Sage-dom "in part" or "sporadically". If Chrysippus is right when he says that all sins are equal—which is surely the same as saying, A miss is as good as a mile, then, surely all virtues are likewise equal? In which case you can't be wise in part only completely. (I could go on with this but I think that is sufficient to make the point.)    
                             
                            Peter
                            ----- Original Message -----
                            From: peter
                            Sent: Wednesday, January 05, 2011 3:05 PM
                            Subject: [stoic-christian] Re: Epictetus on Piety

                             


                             

                            Grant wrote:

                            "a) You say that Epictetus only wrote "whoever is careful to regulate his
                            desires and aversions as they ought". This is not true. He explicitly states
                            that one must hold that only things in our control are good or evil, and deny
                            good and evil to all other things. This is a distinctively Stoic doctrine if
                            ever there was one.

                            b) Absolutely nothing in my discussion suggested in any way that the ideal Stoic
                            is cut off from society, except in the sense that he is not _pained_ by any
                            external event. I certainly do not require or even prefer that other people
                            experience psychological anguish as a result of things that happen to me (or to
                            themselves), so I see no reason why such isolation should follow. Indeed, by
                            loving others rationally the Stoic would be a far better friend to them than
                            anyone else.

                            c) The life of the Sage may be untested (by me at any rate--perhaps Socrates
                            knew what it was like), but I have experienced it in part and do so every day.
                            When I do regard external events as being the best possible events that could
                            occur, guided by a benevolent divine hand, I do indeed experience happiness
                            (both in the ordinary and in the eudaimonic senses). The Sage is only someone
                            who does continually what I do sporadically."


                            Again, I have to say, this is your interpretation, Grant; there is no mention of any Stoic in Enchiridion 31 whence the words "whoever is careful to exercise desire and aversion as he should" are taken. Epictetus may well argue that only those things which are under our control are free but this is not "distinctively Stoic doctrine if ever there was one"! Epictetus himself (via Arrian) tells us in no uncertain terms in Book 3, Chapter 24, (which is devoted to the subject of "control", its title being, That we ought not to yearn for the things which are not under our control) that Diogenes (the Cynic) learned this doctrine from Antisthenes (the Socratic-Cynic.) You are surely not claiming these two men were distinctively Stoic are you?

                            The ideal Stoic is—contrary to your opinion. Grant—a man apart from other men; have you not read Epictetus', On the calling of a Cynic?  For the ideal Stoic, no, let's correct that, the ideal philosopher, according to Epictetus, is a Cynic—isn't he? And even the Alexandrian Scribes (Sopherim) who interpreted and developed the pagan texts that eventuated in Diogenes Laertius', Lives of Eminent Philosophers—specifically, the 'Stoic Book of Doctrine' which was inserted in the monograph on Zeno of Citium—tell us that the wise man will "play the Cynic, Cynicism being a short cut to virtue".  If you re-read Diogenes Laertius VII bearing this in mind, i.e., think: Cynic, you will end up with a somewhat different view of the matter from that to which you now unhesitatingly subscribe.

                            I don't know what you mean by, "loving others rationally";—you mean as distinct from passionately? You mean Platonically? Charitably? No, "loving others rationally" sounds to me like a cold and indifferent way of loving. Sounds to me like the sort of thing a two-timing husband might come out with when caught by his wife in the arms of another woman: "Oh but it's only sex; I really love you my darling; this hooker means nothing to me;" and so on—if you get my drift.

                            I don't see how one can experience Sage-dom "in part" or "sporadically". If Chrysippus is right when he says that all sins are equal—which is surely the same as saying, A miss is as good as a mile, then, surely all virtues are likewise equal? In which case you can't be wise only in part; if you're wise in part only completely wise. (I could go on with this but I think that is sufficient to make the point.)    

                            Regards,

                            Peter

                             

                            --- In stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com, Grant Sterling <fccmoose@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Peter wrote:
                            >
                            > Interesting . . .
                            >  
                            > I suggest you go there first, Grant, that
                            > is, before you advise the rest of us what's good for us, go yourself and
                            > jump into those shark-infested waters you speak of: prove to us that
                            > what you espouse works. We know what we have now isn't perfect, far from
                            > it, but somehow we'll muddle through as we always have done -- or
                            > not, as the case may be. But that world you speak of is entirely untested,
                            > unknown, unproven; so, I'd appreciate it, I'm sure the whole world would,
                            > if you'd go there and then come back and report to us what you found. Let
                            > us see you like a latter-day Diogenes; let us see the reality not be
                            > given mere theory. 
                            >  
                            > Your idealised "true" Stoic sounds to
                            > me like a man living apart from the rest of humanity -- morally,
                            > ascetically, physically, intellectually, religiously, politically . . . ; a
                            > man unlike any real human being anyone ever came across; a veritable
                            > son of god; a man who speaks of love for his fellows but who is
                            > essentially cut off from them and, therefore, far from any
                            > possible happiness, in fact, probably the unhappiest man alive: Zeus at the
                            > conflagration.
                            >  
                            > By the way, I don't necessarily agree or
                            > disagree with this presumed Stoic view of yours -- which seems to me to
                            > be incidental to what we're discussing here: Epictetus only speaks of
                            > "whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as he ought"; I see
                            > no reference to "Stoic", and I want to see that,
                            > explicitly; not read your decided interpretation. I've made it clear in
                            > the past, I prefer not to swallow things hook, line, and sinker, but to question
                            > them; even to play the devil's advocate; I'm not searching for
                            > answers to life's problems; and the like . . . and as to whether
                            > that gets me anywhere or not, well, I'm not even sure there's anywhere
                            > to go anyway.
                            >  
                            > Regards,
                            > Peter
                            >
                            >
                            > ***
                            > a) You say that Epictetus only wrote "whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as they ought". This is not true. He explicitly states that one must hold that only things in our control are good or evil, and deny good and evil to all other things. This is a distinctively Stoic doctrine if ever there was one.
                            >
                            > b) Absolutely nothing in my discussion suggested in any way that the ideal Stoic is cut off from society, except in the sense that he is not _pained_ by any external event. I certainly do not require or even prefer that other people experience psychological anguish as a result of things that happen to me (or to themselves), so I see no reason why such isolation should follow. Indeed, by loving others rationally the Stoic would be a far better friend to them than anyone else.
                            >
                            > c) The life of the Sage may be untested (by me at any rate--perhaps Socrates knew what it was like), but I have experienced it in part and do so every day. When I do regard external events as being the best possible events that could occur, guided by a benevolent divine hand, I do indeed experience happiness (both in the ordinary and in the eudaimonic senses). The Sage is only someone who does continually what I do sporadically.
                            >
                            >
                            > Regards,
                            > Grant
                            >

                          • Grant Sterling
                            ... Grant wrote: a) You say that Epictetus only wrote whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as they ought . This is not true. He
                            Message 13 of 15 , Jan 7, 2011
                              --- On Wed, 1/5/11, peter <phrygianslave@...> wrote:
                              Grant wrote:
                              "a) You say that Epictetus only wrote "whoever is careful to regulate his
                              desires and aversions as they ought". This is not true. He explicitly states that one must hold that only things in our control are good or evil, and deny good and evil to all other things. This is a distinctively Stoic doctrine if ever there was one.
                              b) Absolutely nothing in my discussion suggested in any way that the ideal Stoic is cut off from society, except in the sense that he is not _pained_ by any external event. I certainly do not require or even prefer that other people experience psychological anguish as a result of things that happen to me (or to themselves), so I see no reason why such isolation should follow. Indeed, by loving others rationally the Stoic would be a far better friend to them than anyone else.
                              c) The life of the Sage may be untested (by me at any rate--perhaps Socrates knew what it was like), but I have experienced it in part and do so every day. When I do regard external events as being the best possible events that could occur, guided by a benevolent divine hand, I do indeed experience happiness (both in the ordinary and in the eudaimonic senses). The Sage is only someone who does continually what I do sporadically."


                              Peter:
                              Again, I have to say, this is your interpretation, Grant; there is no mention of any Stoic in Enchiridion 31 whence the words "whoever is careful to exercise desire and aversion as he should" are taken. Epictetus may well argue that only those things which are under our control are free but this is not "distinctively Stoic doctrine if ever there was one"! Epictetus himself (via Arrian) tells us in no uncertain terms in Book 3, Chapter 24, (which is devoted to the subject of "control", its title being, That we ought not to yearn for the things which are not under our control) that Diogenes (the Cynic) learned this doctrine from Antisthenes (the Socratic-Cynic.) You are surely not claiming these two men were distinctively Stoic are you?

                              *****
                              No, I'm not. But:
                              1) The idea you discuss isn't the idea that I was discussing. I was discussing the idea that things that are not in our control are neither good nor evil, which is not the same thing as whether or not it is free.
                              2) I can't find Book 3, Ch. 24 so perhaps you can quote the passage for me. I do find a passage (Book 4, Ch. 1) which is probably the passage you mean, but in that passage Epictetus does not say that he learned this from Diogenes, he merely cites Diogenes as someone who believed (and acted) correctly with regard to the notion of freedom.
                              3) When I said "distinctively Stoic" I meant only "a doctrine that is one of the doctrines that define Stoicism", I did not mean "a doctrine that only Stoics can hold".
                              4) I'm not sure where you draw the line between the Stoics and the Cynics, but you seem to see a firmer line than I do.
                              5) In any case, my _point_ was that you cannot look only at Epictetus' words in Ench. 31 to understand his views on piety without seeing how those words fit in with what he says elsewhere. Elsewhere he defends all the essential Stoic doctrines.
                              *****

                              The ideal Stoic is—contrary to your opinion. Grant—a man apart from other men; have you not read Epictetus', On the calling of a Cynic?  For the ideal Stoic, no, let's correct that, the ideal philosopher, according to Epictetus, is a Cynic—isn't he? And even the Alexandrian Scribes (Sopherim) who interpreted and developed the pagan texts that eventuated in Diogenes Laertius', Lives of Eminent Philosophers—specifically, the 'Stoic Book of Doctrine' which was inserted in the monograph on Zeno of Citium—tell us that the wise man will "play the Cynic, Cynicism being a short cut to virtue".  If you re-read Diogenes Laertius VII bearing this in mind, i.e., think: Cynic, you will end up with a somewhat different view of the matter from that to which you now unhesitatingly subscribe.
                              I don't know what you mean by, "loving others rationally";—you mean as distinct from passionately? You mean Platonically? Charitably? No, "loving others rationally" sounds to me like a cold and indifferent way of loving. Sounds to me like the sort of thing a two-timing husband might come out with when caught by his wife in the arms of another woman: "Oh but it's only sex; I really love you my darling; this hooker means nothing to me;" and so on—if you get my drift.

                              *****
                              1) If you do not know what I mean by "loving others rationally", then you haven't been paying attention, either to me or to the Stoics. Your comparison to adultery is particularly ridiculous. I mean "seeking for them their greatest good", which of course entails that the love be not passionate (since the passionate person judges badly about good and evil") but is not reducible to merely that. This may be a "cold" love, depending on how you use the term, but not "indifferent" if you mean that the person ignores the other.
                              2) I have indeed read "On the Calling of the Cynic". However, as with the passage before, I have also read the rest of Epictetus, as well as the writings of the other Stoics.
                              3) The passage you cite does not suggest that even the Cynic will be cut off from society. On the contrary, the Cynic loves everyone in society.
                              4) As to whether or not Epictetus was a Cynic, again that depends on what you think divides Cynics from Stoics, so I'll not comment further.
                              *****

                              I don't see how one can experience Sage-dom "in part" or "sporadically". If Chrysippus is right when he says that all sins are equal—which is surely the same as saying, A miss is as good as a mile, then, surely all virtues are likewise equal? In which case you can't be wise only in part; if you're wise in part only completely wise. (I could go on with this but I think that is sufficient to make the point.)    

                              *****
                              I think I made my point clear. I quite agree that on orthodox Stoic doctrine I cannot experience Sagedom in part. (I am not an orthodox Stoic in this regard.) But even on the orthodox view it still holds true that when I judge external things to be neither good nor evil, and when I act appropriately my life goes better than when I judge external things to have value, experience the passions, and act wrongly. So the closer I come to being a Sage, the better my life gets. I have indeed experienced these "shark-infested waters" as you say, and I am indeed asserting that the more I believe and act in this way the better my life gets.
                              *****


                              Regards,
                              Peter

                              Regards,
                              Grant
                            • peter the Cynic
                              Grant, You say, The idea you discuss isn t the idea I was discussing. I was discussing the idea that things that are not under our control are neither good
                              Message 14 of 15 , Jan 8, 2011
                                

                                Grant,

                                You say, "The idea you discuss isn't the idea I was discussing. I was discussing the idea that things that are not under our control are neither good nor evil, which is not the same thing as whether or not it is free."

                                Actually, Grant, the idea I discuss is exactly the same as the one you were discussing; I merely drew the reader's attention to a crucially important and frequently overlooked implication of the idea which is, as Epictetus, a former slave obsessed with the idea of freedom, tells us, The things that are under our control are synonymous with those that are truly free.

                                You requested the relevant passage from 3. 24. Here it is:

                                How did Antisthenes set him free? Listen to what Diogenes says. He taught me what was mine, and what was not mine. Property is not mine; kinsmen, members of my household, friends, reputation, familiar places, converse with men—all these are not my own. What, then, is yours? Power to deal with external impressions. He showed me that I possess this beyond all hindrance and constraint; no one can hamper me; no one can force me to deal with them otherwise than as I will.

                                You say that in passage 4. 1. "Epictetus does not say that he learned this from Diogenes, he merely cites Diogenes"; and now you've lost me—are you saying that I suggested Epictetus communed with the ghost of Diogenes in some way? It's difficult to know what you're talking about because Diogenes certainly couldn't have told Epictetus anything in person! And I must just say in passing that I don't think you'll find Epictetus in any place 'merely' citing Diogenes! He had the utmost, the highest, regard for this Cynic master—and rightly so.

                                If what you meant by "distinctively Stoic" was "a doctrine that is one of the doctrines that define Stoicism" rather than "a doctrine that only Stoics can hold" as you say, then I can only reply that, with respect, you really ought to have made that clear—I am no mind reader. I have been assuming all along, perhaps mistakenly so, now that I peer more closely by the light of recent exchanges between us, that your grasp and command of English was of a reasonably high standard, not equal to my own, of course, but getting there; now, however, I have grave concerns that you may not be up to the job intellectually.  

                                I know Zeno spoke bad Attic Greek, for example, instead of using "good" and "evil" in all their complexity and richness he fell back on terms more in keeping with the obscure Phoenician dialect he spoke, thus, "preferred" and "dispreferred"; I know that Cleanthes was a bit of a dullard—did he really write that hymn to Zeus? Furthermore we all know that Chrysippus' writings were (where they were not simply plagiarisms of others' works) full of solecisms—understandably so since he came from Soli; and then Epictetus admits his own language was "full of solecisms and barbarisms"; but none of this excuses bad and ungrammatical usage—which is not acceptable in the modern world; and which makes only for confusion and misunderstanding.

                                I do my moral best, my virtuous best, when I write up my thinking on a topic; I treat it as an art, the art of writing, the art of putting down thoughts on paper. It has to be that way whether the piece is addressed to others or to me alone. If it doesn't read right then there is something wrong with it. And for the most part I cannot change a sentence once it has been written—not without changing the entire sense of the sentence. That's why it is hugely problematic for me when you ask that I explain what I mean—if a sentence was put together correctly in the first place, (and it would have been, except very rarely,) there should be no need of further explanation; the meaning should be clear, self-evident. The introduction of different terms here and there is not possible without changing the original intention and meaning. It's a bit like painting in that respect. If I drew a line on the Mona Lisa it would change the entire character of the work causing complete disunity; I would be obliged then to draw further lines, and end up repainting the entire work. If you take up painting as a hobby sometime you'll begin to understand what this artist, me, is talking about. And, by the way, it's the same with the so-called "art of living."

                                To move on . . . You ask me where I draw the line between the Stoics and Cynics? The short answer is it varies according to the angle I come at the subject from. Where for instance would one draw the line between the two in Zeno? Or in Ariston? Or in Epictetus? Or even in Crates? It's hard to say; I tend to think of the early Stoics as little more than Cynics until Panaetius (and Roman decorum) 'arrived on the scene' to separate and distantiate the two and that with the advent of Epictetus (who for me has always read best as a Cynic) there is a return once more to Cynic roots, Cynic sanity—as if it ever went away! All in all it's a big question though, and one that needs to be seriously tackled.

                                You say that one "cannot look only at Epictetus' words in Ench. 31 to understand his views" but I would go much further than this and say that it must be remembered, the Enchiridion is little more than a handy pocket-book of roughly hewn guidelines designed for quick reference only; it is not some sort of "Gospel according to Saint Epictetus" as some seem to think, and it most certainly does not contain infallible precepts or final truths—leastways if it does they are few and far between; if you want to know what Epictetus thought in slightly more depth you need to study the Diatribes. However even the lessons they teach—actually I'm not sure it can be put quite that way—even Epictetus' informal chats, which is more what the Diatribes are, although even that isn't quite right, were never intended for pedagogical or worshipful purposes, they were not to be learned by rote and blindly followed, no, not at all; they were merely memoranda Arrian jotted down for his own personal use, that is, reminders—for when he reached his dotage—of those wonderful past experiences he'd had in the presence of wise Epictetus. Thus for people nowadays to spout Epictetus and argue that his view was such and such—and remarkably without him being present to correct them! I mean, this is tantamount to gossiping about someone behind his back—is farcical verging on the absurd. On the basis of one person's evidence, that is, the evidence of his pupil Arrian, (even Socrates about whom we also know next to nothing had two authors whose memorabilia we can compare,) you cannot seriously expect me to accept that when you say, This was Epictetus, it was. My reply can only be: The hell it was!

                                Let me clarify this further: look at the way, for instance, you yourself recently speak about Epictetus (in response to Theo's piece):

                                Consider Epictetus' example from section 5 of the Handbook. Most people think that death is evil, and so when they see that they are about to die they experience fear and misery.

                                Again, your literal interpretation, and, you know if there's one thing I cannot abide it is shallow and literal interpretations of matters that are in fact fraught with all sorts of difficulties, whether they be to do with Cynic-Stoic doctrine, or with the words and character of Epictetus. Enchiridion 5 is not carved in granite. It is not the absolute word of Epictetus Almighty. The Enchiridion is not a teach-yourself Stoic philosophy cum religion; and it is certainly not meant to be followed rigorously and absolutely—dare I say it, brainlessly; it is not meant to replace human thinking, human reflection.

                                One cannot single out a couple of remarks from a book—although people do it all the time—and then conclude, This was what Epictetus thought. No, it does the man an injustice to say these were his last words. Epictetus does not think men are stupid; he knows darn well that they do sometimes contemplate the (profoundly complex) idea of their own (and others') death and disappearance from life and that at times—I stress, at times, they may well think death an evil; but not all the time—sometimes, oftentimes, the idea of death will show itself in another guise to them; that is, men are not condemned to think about death in one way but in many subtle ways.

                                It is the nature of men, then, not always and irrevocably to think of death simplistically in just one narrow doctrinal way—they might, apart from thinking it an evil, consider it also a blessing, or poetically they may see it as a long sleep, or dramatically as an abyss they enter into, or perhaps as the final end of all, or maybe as some sort of just deserts cum equaliser, or, even as a period of hard-earned rest after the labours of life, or then again as something necessary, let alone something worthy of fear, etc., etc.. The point is that death is understood by men, and Epictetus knew this even if his commentators don't, in many ways; it is seen by men as both good and evil, as well as right and wrong and, in short, death is all things to all men—it is not a fixed quantity; it is delusional to see death in one way only, or one or two ways. The idea that Epictetus understood death in one way only is false; if you believe that then your idea of Epictetus is not that of a man but of a fictional character.

                                Men's thoughts process-wise are in a non-stop flux, and they do not, they cannot—contrary to this false idea of what "most people think" (which seems by those who believe there is such a thing as what "most people think" to be almost invariably one thing only)—protractedly obsess (unless they are clinically insane) about forever staying at 'this particular inn' for thought, by its very nature, is structurally ever unfolding, one set of ideas naturally giving way to the next. So that whatever it is Epictetus is alleged to have said in respect of, say, men, or their idea of death, it is not to be taken as the whole picture of what he thought concerning human beings, but must be understood as an aspect of his total idea of them, one he couldn't express all at once—no man can do that—and one he should not therefore be held rigidly to. This kind of absurdity was exposed long ago by Diogenes the Cynic who, when he heard of Plato's description of a man went round to the Academy and announced, Here is Plato's man, and held up a plucked chicken.

                                So, let's please try and talk, no matter how difficult it is, about the reality that is human beings, including Epictetus, and stop looking at them as cardboard cut outs. Just one example: it is not true to say that Socrates doesn't believe death is not to be feared. He clearly says, for instance, that we should be thankful to divine providence for giving children a "strong fear of death". [Xeno. Mem. I. iv. 7.]

                                But who cares what Socrates supposedly says, any man that has half a brain and thinks for himself will acquire the perennial wisdom of the Cynics; it may well be appropriate at times for a man who has had to endure a gruelling hard life to be even thankful when he is threatened by that landlord (who rules over all) with permanent eviction; at other times he may be fearful. And why not indeed? Isn't fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom?

                                I really do wish you would stop using that term, "the Stoics": I don't think you're qualified to speak on the subject of these wise men and I'd remind you of what Epictetus says somewhere, (notice by the way that his "Cynic" and "Stoic" are at times virtually interchangeable) to boot:

                                Come now, do you also tell me your style of life, the one on which you have set your heart, you eager follower of the truth, and of Socrates, and of Diogenes! What do you want to do in Athens? Just what I have described? Nothing at all different? Why, then, do you call yourself a Stoic? Well, but those who falsely claim Roman citizenship are severely punished, and ought those who falsely claim so great and so dignified a calling and title to get off scot-free?

                                I trust you read that: "those who falsely claim so great and dignified a calling"?

                                But let me move on . . .

                                The thing is, Grant, and you may call me arrogant for saying this, but if I don't know what is meant by the phrase, "loving others rationally", then I don't see how you can. I've been kicking around this planet, what, twenty years longer than you and have a broad and rich experience of life. Why then should I be denied knowledge and experience of the meaning of this paltry and silly phrase? But I'll put things another way, the truth is, the phrase in question is a piece of meaningless jargon dreamt up by someone who was unable to speak English.

                                Your idea of the "passionate person" that he "judges badly about good and evil" is completely false and misleading. This is to hold a totally negative and screwed-up view of your fellow men. But I've already (slightly) elaborated (above) on the subject of real human beings and the striking differences between them and certain literary cardboard cut out ideas of them so I won't go over that again.

                                I find it difficult relating to your somewhat claustrophobic idea of what it is to be a Stoic. For me being a Stoic, or a Cynic, or an Artist, or an Anarchist, is simply being myself, this is what it is all about; it is not about being argumentative, or disagreeable; it is not about going through another's work picking holes in what that other says but in trying to understand them (as well as oneself in the process); it is about enlightened thinking in all areas.   

                                But that's really all I have to say for the moment.

                                Regards,

                                Peter

                                ----- Original Message -----
                                Sent: Friday, January 07, 2011 4:43 PM
                                Subject: Re: [stoic-christian] Re: Epictetus on Piety

                                 


                                --- On Wed, 1/5/11, peter <phrygianslave@...> wrote:
                                Grant wrote:
                                "a) You say that Epictetus only wrote "whoever is careful to regulate his
                                desires and aversions as they ought". This is not true. He explicitly states that one must hold that only things in our control are good or evil, and deny good and evil to all other things. This is a distinctively Stoic doctrine if ever there was one.
                                b) Absolutely nothing in my discussion suggested in any way that the ideal Stoic is cut off from society, except in the sense that he is not _pained_ by any external event. I certainly do not require or even prefer that other people experience psychological anguish as a result of things that happen to me (or to themselves), so I see no reason why such isolation should follow. Indeed, by loving others rationally the Stoic would be a far better friend to them than anyone else.
                                c) The life of the Sage may be untested (by me at any rate--perhaps Socrates knew what it was like), but I have experienced it in part and do so every day. When I do regard external events as being the best possible events that could occur, guided by a benevolent divine hand, I do indeed experience happiness (both in the ordinary and in the eudaimonic senses). The Sage is only someone who does continually what I do sporadically."

                                Peter:
                                Again, I have to say, this is your interpretation, Grant; there is no mention of any Stoic in Enchiridion 31 whence the words "whoever is careful to exercise desire and aversion as he should" are taken. Epictetus may well argue that only those things which are under our control are free but this is not "distinctively Stoic doctrine if ever there was one"! Epictetus himself (via Arrian) tells us in no uncertain terms in Book 3, Chapter 24, (which is devoted to the subject of "control", its title being, That we ought not to yearn for the things which are not under our control) that Diogenes (the Cynic) learned this doctrine from Antisthenes (the Socratic-Cynic.) You are surely not claiming these two men were distinctively Stoic are you?

                                *****
                                No, I'm not. But:
                                1) The idea you discuss isn't the idea that I was discussing. I was discussing the idea that things that are not in our control are neither good nor evil, which is not the same thing as whether or not it is free.
                                2) I can't find Book 3, Ch. 24 so perhaps you can quote the passage for me. I do find a passage (Book 4, Ch. 1) which is probably the passage you mean, but in that passage Epictetus does not say that he learned this from Diogenes, he merely cites Diogenes as someone who believed (and acted) correctly with regard to the notion of freedom.
                                3) When I said "distinctively Stoic" I meant only "a doctrine that is one of the doctrines that define Stoicism", I did not mean "a doctrine that only Stoics can hold".
                                4) I'm not sure where you draw the line between the Stoics and the Cynics, but you seem to see a firmer line than I do.
                                5) In any case, my _point_ was that you cannot look only at Epictetus' words in Ench. 31 to understand his views on piety without seeing how those words fit in with what he says elsewhere. Elsewhere he defends all the essential Stoic doctrines.
                                *****

                                The ideal Stoic is—contrary to your opinion. Grant—a man apart from other men; have you not read Epictetus', On the calling of a Cynic?  For the ideal Stoic, no, let's correct that, the ideal philosopher, according to Epictetus, is a Cynic—isn't he? And even the Alexandrian Scribes (Sopherim) who interpreted and developed the pagan texts that eventuated in Diogenes Laertius', Lives of Eminent Philosophers—specifically, the 'Stoic Book of Doctrine' which was inserted in the monograph on Zeno of Citium—tell us that the wise man will "play the Cynic, Cynicism being a short cut to virtue".  If you re-read Diogenes Laertius VII bearing this in mind, i.e., think: Cynic, you will end up with a somewhat different view of the matter from that to which you now unhesitatingly subscribe.
                                I don't know what you mean by, "loving others rationally";—you mean as distinct from passionately? You mean Platonically? Charitably? No, "loving others rationally" sounds to me like a cold and indifferent way of loving. Sounds to me like the sort of thing a two-timing husband might come out with when caught by his wife in the arms of another woman: "Oh but it's only sex; I really love you my darling; this hooker means nothing to me;" and so on—if you get my drift.

                                *****
                                1) If you do not know what I mean by "loving others rationally", then you haven't been paying attention, either to me or to the Stoics. Your comparison to adultery is particularly ridiculous. I mean "seeking for them their greatest good", which of course entails that the love be not passionate (since the passionate person judges badly about good and evil") but is not reducible to merely that. This may be a "cold" love, depending on how you use the term, but not "indifferent" if you mean that the person ignores the other.
                                2) I have indeed read "On the Calling of the Cynic". However, as with the passage before, I have also read the rest of Epictetus, as well as the writings of the other Stoics.
                                3) The passage you cite does not suggest that even the Cynic will be cut off from society. On the contrary, the Cynic loves everyone in society.
                                4) As to whether or not Epictetus was a Cynic, again that depends on what you think divides Cynics from Stoics, so I'll not comment further.
                                *****

                                I don't see how one can experience Sage-dom "in part" or "sporadically". If Chrysippus is right when he says that all sins are equal—which is surely the same as saying, A miss is as good as a mile, then, surely all virtues are likewise equal? In which case you can't be wise only in part; if you're wise in part only completely wise. (I could go on with this but I think that is sufficient to make the point.)    

                                *****
                                I think I made my point clear. I quite agree that on orthodox Stoic doctrine I cannot experience Sagedom in part. (I am not an orthodox Stoic in this regard.) But even on the orthodox view it still holds true that when I judge external things to be neither good nor evil, and when I act appropriately my life goes better than when I judge external things to have value, experience the passions, and act wrongly. So the closer I come to being a Sage, the better my life gets. I have indeed experienced these "shark-infested waters" as you say, and I am indeed asserting that the more I believe and act in this way the better my life gets.
                                *****

                                Regards,
                                Peter

                                Regards,
                                Grant

                              • Dave Kelly
                                Hi Peter, On Sat, Jan 8, 2011 at 7:44 AM, peter the Cynic ... [snip] ... That is the logical fallacy of ad hominem abusive: Ad hominem abuse (also called
                                Message 15 of 15 , Jan 8, 2011
                                  Hi Peter,

                                  On Sat, Jan 8, 2011 at 7:44 AM, peter the Cynic
                                  <phrygianslave@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > 
                                  >
                                  > Grant,
                                  >

                                  [snip]

                                  > I really do wish you would stop using that term, "the Stoics": I don't think you're qualified to speak on the subject of these wise men and I'd remind you of what Epictetus says somewhere, (notice by the way that his "Cynic" and "Stoic" are at times virtually interchangeable) to boot:
                                  >
                                  > Come now, do you also tell me your style of life, the one on which you have set your heart, you eager follower of the truth, and of Socrates, and of Diogenes! What do you want to do in Athens? Just what I have described? Nothing at all different? Why, then, do you call yourself a Stoic? Well, but those who falsely claim Roman citizenship are severely punished, and ought those who falsely claim so great and so dignified a calling and title to get off scot-free?
                                  >
                                  > I trust you read that: "those who falsely claim so great and dignified a calling"?
                                  >
                                  > But let me move on . . .

                                  That is the logical fallacy of ad hominem abusive:

                                  "Ad hominem abuse (also called personal abuse or personal attacks)
                                  usually involves insulting or belittling one's opponent in order to
                                  invalidate his or her argument, but can also involve pointing out
                                  factual but ostensible character flaws or actions which are irrelevant
                                  to the opponent's argument. This tactic is logically fallacious
                                  because insults and even true negative facts about the opponent's
                                  personal character have nothing to do with the logical merits of the
                                  opponent's arguments or assertions."

                                  Your use of the ad hominem weakens your own argument.

                                  But more importantly, making personal attacks like this on the list
                                  will not be tolerated. Any member who persists in personal attacks
                                  against another member will be banned.

                                  Best wishes,
                                  Dave
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