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Re: [stoics] Apparent Conflict in Stoicism

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  • DT Strain
    ... Firstly, I m not certain where you get the idea that virtue is defined according to society s expectations ( role dutires... taken ver batim from what our
    Message 1 of 12 , Oct 1, 2005
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      --- Steve & Oxsana Marquis <marquis@...> wrote:
      > Daniel, I am showing what I think is a clash in
      > value systems. The Stoic
      > has placed intrinsic value in virtue. Role duties,
      > if those are to be taken
      > ver batim from what our culture defines them as,
      > places intrinsic value in
      > externals in direct conflict with the entire Stoic
      > scheme.

      Firstly, I'm not certain where you get the idea that
      virtue is defined according to society's expectations
      ("role dutires... taken ver batim from what our
      culture defines them as"). This is, not at all, what
      I would think virtue is, and haven't heard that Stoics
      think this (although I may just be ignorant of this
      element of Stoicism).

      > As an example, in fulfilling one's duty as provider
      > it is expected in our
      > western culture that certain material standards be
      > met. As a student of
      > Stoicism one has already realized these material
      > goods hold no intrinsic and
      > one can get by with quite a bit less than 'average'.
      > However, the other
      > non-Stoic family members are not likely to see it
      > that way. In believing
      > these things hold the key to happiness and turning
      > to the Stoic to provide
      > them the Stoic in performing familial duty is
      > instrumental in pursuing
      > externals for his family members in way he would not
      > for himself. This does
      > not make sense to me.

      This is a good example, and it shows the folly of
      considering virtue to be related to "society's
      expectations". I have a few angles on what you've
      said here, but I'm not sure how they're related to one
      another, so I'll simply itemize them...

      1) Image of the Stoic:
      This is a minor point, but it seems you are portraying
      the Stoic as being rather spartan. As someone who
      lies on a hard mat and eats the cheapest, most
      nurishing food, and wears a potato sack. I know you
      didn't intend this extreme, but I'm not even sure the
      life of a good Stoic would be all that outwardly
      different in terms of material possessions. A Stoic
      can't enjoy a collection of DVDs? A Stoic can't have
      a nice car if his income allows it without neglecting
      other financial duties? I don't see why this would be
      the case. The issue would be, is his money being
      squandered on luxuries when other duties demand it,
      and is the Stoic obsessive about the material
      possessions such that he would place their value above
      the obligations of virtue.

      2) My choice vs Other's Rights:
      I can decide for myself that Stoicism is the way to
      go. I can also decide that x and y are indifferents TO
      ME. But I do not have the right to decide that others
      will be Stoics. I'm not certain how relevant this is
      to the issue at hand, but I thought I'd mention it.

      3) Duty Irrelevant to Upset People/Society:
      Duty is defined in this case as providing your family
      what is needed. If Stoicism says that x is needed,
      then it also implies that when you provide this to
      your family, you have fulfilled your duty. This has
      nothing to do with society's expectations or
      standards. The fact that society may see what's
      provided as harsh is irrelevant. This would simply be
      the case of a Stoic doing what is virtuous, despite
      displeasing others - a common event in the history of
      Stoicism it seems. :)


      > Consider the display of affection. This usually
      > signifies great value in
      > the object of affection, another person we call a
      > 'loved one'. If it is a
      > duty to be affectionate so be it. But the implied
      > value that the affection
      > is supposed to be demonstrating is not there for the
      > Stoic. Is this being
      > dishonest? The role is acted out right enough but
      > the meaning the role is
      > supposed to convey is gone.

      Why can't a display of affection be a display of the
      Joy received from the virtuous act of persuing the
      proper indifferent? (i.e. the indifferent of showing
      love to family members)

      It is a preferred indifferent that you show affection
      to your family, because it promotes a closer
      relationship and is helpful to their psychological
      well being to receive this affection. This preferred
      indifferent is "in accordance with Nature" - the
      nature of yourself, the nature of those you love, and
      the nature of human relations. When you pursue this
      preferred indifferent, you perform a virtuous act, and
      therefore should experience Joy by making this choice.

      (on a side note, I still don't see why a Stoic can't
      enjoy things that are not a matter of virtue and NOT
      something which the Stoic believes to be a true good?
      As long as the enjoyment comes from the moment at
      hand, and not a judgment that the source of the
      enjoyment is a true good, then the Sage will not
      experience distress at its loss. While enjoyment of
      something may often spring from an incorrect judgment,
      I don't see that all enjoyments of things MUST spring
      from an incorrect judgment. What about the judgment
      that something is not a true good, and IS an
      indifferent, but the judgment that it can offer
      enjoyment while present?)





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    • Steve & Oxsana Marquis
      Daniel wrote: ___________ Firstly, I m not certain where you get the idea that virtue is defined according to society s expectations ( role duties... taken ver
      Message 2 of 12 , Oct 1, 2005
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        Daniel wrote:
        ___________

        Firstly, I'm not certain where you get the idea that
        virtue is defined according to society's expectations
        ("role duties... taken ver batim from what our
        culture defines them as"). This is, not at all, what
        I would think virtue is, and haven't heard that Stoics
        think this (although I may just be ignorant of this
        element of Stoicism).
        ___________

        No kidding, Daniel. This is exactly my point. Duty as defined by virtuous
        intent and duty as defined by expected roles in society have at their roots
        conflicting values. We can dig around and find some references that state
        Stoic social (other-concern) duty is based on our roles in society, at least
        to start; in less you want to take my word on that. We refer to this all
        the time in our discussions. The impression I get is that role duty (common
        moral standards) is assumed to be pretty good. This is an optimistic
        outlook that one's culture has, over time, got it right more or less. We
        can then take our time doing a careful examination since the role duties we
        are practicing in the interim are not that far off target.

        In modern times however we are a little more skeptical that a particular
        culture has got it so close to right (ie, civil rights, church and state,
        diversity, etc, etc). Furthermore, and my point, is that common everyday
        moral standards ('family values' as an example) is a system based obviously
        on externals (especially other people) having intrinsic value.

        Now, either we misunderstand the maxim that appropriate action can be taken
        as role duty, or the ancients are in error, for in their optimistic outlook
        on their own culture they did not see this conflict of value.

        Your paragraph shows me you understand my question. We can get into
        specific examples later, but I wanted some input on the intial question
        first. The first question to ask the forum is is my interpretation of role
        duty as appropriate action correct? Does changing the objective of a duty
        from something that has intrinsic value to something that does not
        invalidate or change that duty, at least in some cases?

        Live well,
        Steve
      • robin
        ... We know from the lives of famous Stoics that they do seem to have taken pleasure in such things. Zeno, for example, was said to enjoy sitting in the sun,
        Message 3 of 12 , Oct 1, 2005
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          DT Strain wrote:

          >[snip]
          >
          >

          >(on a side note, I still don't see why a Stoic can't
          >enjoy things that are not a matter of virtue and NOT
          >something which the Stoic believes to be a true good?
          >As long as the enjoyment comes from the moment at
          >hand, and not a judgment that the source of the
          >enjoyment is a true good, then the Sage will not
          >experience distress at its loss. While enjoyment of
          >something may often spring from an incorrect judgment,
          >I don't see that all enjoyments of things MUST spring
          >from an incorrect judgment. What about the judgment
          >that something is not a true good, and IS an
          >indifferent, but the judgment that it can offer
          >enjoyment while present?)
          >

          We know from the lives of famous Stoics that they do seem to have taken
          pleasure in such things. Zeno, for example, was said to enjoy sitting in
          the sun, drinking wine and eating figs. In terms of enjoyment of life,
          in fact, there seems to be little to distinguish the early Stoics from
          the Epicureans.

          Robin
        • DT Strain
          ... This idea of expected social roles having anything to do with virtue is really quite new to me. I don t recall ever seeing anything about this on this
          Message 4 of 12 , Oct 1, 2005
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            --- Steve & Oxsana Marquis <marquis@...> wrote:
            > We can dig around and find some
            > references that state
            > Stoic social (other-concern) duty is based on our
            > roles in society, at least
            > to start; in less you want to take my word on that.
            > We refer to this all
            > the time in our discussions.

            This idea of expected social roles having anything to
            do with virtue is really quite new to me. I don't
            recall ever seeing anything about this on this list,
            although maybe I was just unattentive. So, some sort
            of reference on this (in this list or in Stoic
            literature) would be most appreciated, as it seems
            very unstoic to me at present.

            Thanks,



            DT Strain
            www.dtstrainphilosophy.blogspot.com



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          • DT Strain
            ... That s interesting Robin. But are you sure they re not simply talking about duty? To me, there is a huge difference between inherent duties to our
            Message 5 of 12 , Oct 1, 2005
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              --- robin <robin@...> wrote:
              > As far as I can tell, it's a late Stoic thing. You
              > see some examples of
              > it in Epictetus, and a lot more in Aurelius. The
              > most revealing
              > discussion, however, is in Cicero's "On Duties",
              > which although not a
              > Stoic work, shows the interesting impact of Stoic
              > ideas on Roman
              > morality, particularly the idea of "proprietas". I
              > imagine it would have
              > made Zeno turn in his grave!

              That's interesting Robin. But are you sure they're
              not simply talking about duty? To me, there is a huge
              difference between inherent duties to our society (an
              objective thing), and duties *as defined and expected*
              by our culture (a subjective thing).

              The first case I have no problem with, but it is the
              latter that I find, not only non-stoic, but
              anti-stoic, in the sense that we should not care what
              others think or expect of us.



              DT Strain
              www.dtstrainphilosophy.blogspot.com



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            • robin
              ... As far as I can tell, it s a late Stoic thing. You see some examples of it in Epictetus, and a lot more in Aurelius. The most revealing discussion,
              Message 6 of 12 , Oct 1, 2005
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                DT Strain wrote:

                >--- Steve & Oxsana Marquis <marquis@...> wrote:
                >
                >
                >>We can dig around and find some
                >>references that state
                >>Stoic social (other-concern) duty is based on our
                >>roles in society, at least
                >>to start; in less you want to take my word on that.
                >>We refer to this all
                >>the time in our discussions.
                >>
                >>
                >
                >This idea of expected social roles having anything to
                >do with virtue is really quite new to me. I don't
                >recall ever seeing anything about this on this list,
                >although maybe I was just unattentive. So, some sort
                >of reference on this (in this list or in Stoic
                >literature) would be most appreciated, as it seems
                >very unstoic to me at present.
                >
                >
                >
                >

                As far as I can tell, it's a late Stoic thing. You see some examples of
                it in Epictetus, and a lot more in Aurelius. The most revealing
                discussion, however, is in Cicero's "On Duties", which although not a
                Stoic work, shows the interesting impact of Stoic ideas on Roman
                morality, particularly the idea of "proprietas". I imagine it would have
                made Zeno turn in his grave!

                Robin
              • Steve & Oxsana Marquis
                Daniel asks: ___________ This idea of expected social roles having anything to do with virtue is really quite new to me. I don t recall ever seeing anything
                Message 7 of 12 , Oct 4, 2005
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                  Daniel asks:
                  ___________

                  This idea of expected social roles having anything to
                  do with virtue is really quite new to me. I don't
                  recall ever seeing anything about this on this list,
                  although maybe I was just inattentive. So, some sort
                  of reference on this (in this list or in Stoic
                  literature) would be most appreciated, as it seems
                  very unstoic to me at present.
                  ___________

                  Daniel, there is an entire discourse by Epictetus on this subject (Book 2
                  Discourse 10) entitled 'How is it possible to discover a man's duties from
                  the designations which he bears?'. Here are some quotes:
                  ___________

                  What, then, is the profession of citizen?
                  ...

                  Next bear in mind that you are a Son. What is the profession of this
                  character?
                  ...

                  Next know that you are also a brother.
                  ..

                  Next, if you sit in the town council of some city, remember that you are a
                  councilor; if you are young, that you are young; if you are old, that you
                  are an elder; if a father, that you are a father. For each of these
                  designations, when duly considered, always suggest the acts that are
                  appropriate to it.
                  ___________

                  AA Long comments on this in 'Epictetus' chapter 9.2 'Human Professions and
                  Roles':
                  ___________

                  . Epictetus treats family relationships, public office, and stages of life
                  as normative [emphasis mine] identifications that specify the conduct
                  appropriate to each designation.
                  ___________

                  Long goes on to show how Epictetus stresses our concern should not be how
                  others treat us in these roles, but how we treat them (similar to M
                  Aurelius). But my question is what defines how we treat them? If we take
                  the role as defined by society the value system those role duties are based
                  on is contrary to Stoicism in many cases, as you yourself have noticed. Has
                  Epictetus let his slide by? Is this conformance a deliberate commitment to
                  not disturb society, to not rock the boat?

                  Here is some earlier basis for Epictetus' thesis of role duties from L&S
                  'Hellenistic Philosophers' pg 427:
                  _________

                  Earlier Stoics, like other Greek philosophers, had been interested in
                  analyzing different lifestyles and careers. That interest may have helped
                  stimulate Panaetius' almost certainly original doctrine that proper
                  functions are specifiable by reference to 'four roles' which each person
                  has. The word translated 'role' is persona (the Latin for an actor's mask),
                  and Panaetius' theory intriguingly anticipates modern conceptions of
                  personality and role-play. Roles one and two refer respectively to the
                  shared rationality of all human beings ('universal nature') and the
                  physical, mental, and temperamental nature of the individual. In proposing
                  the latter, in agreement with the former, as a guideline of how persons
                  should act and shape their lives, Panaetius gave Stoicism an insight that
                  has some resemblance to the Aristotelian 'mean that is relative to us':
                  Aristotle had stipulated personal idiosyncrasies as factors each person
                  should consider in developing a moral disposition that avoids excess or
                  deficiency in feelings and actions. But Panaetius' insistence on the moral
                  relevance of 'personality' is an idea without clear parallel in ancient
                  ethics. Equally impressive is the clarity with which he distinguishes the
                  entirely accidental determinants of personal identity (role three) from the
                  career and specializations people choose for themselves (role four).
                  Collectively the four roles offer an account of the general considerations
                  people should review in deciding on their proper functions [Gich, are you
                  reading this ? :), SM] - what I ought to do as a member of the human race,
                  as a person with my natural strengths and weaknesses, as unavoidably
                  involved in these external circumstances, and with the lifestyle and bent I
                  have chosen for myself.
                  __________

                  Panaetius' version seems more inclusive than Epictetus', although the later
                  may just be addressing social duty only in that particular discourse.

                  So, Daniel, there is some background for you. Again, in your latest
                  response to Robin, you show concern between accepting the 'subjectively'
                  defined roles as society defines them vs what you and I both would consider
                  a more 'objective' normative description of role duties based on some type
                  of critical evaluation. In our referral to Epictetus' obvious endorsement
                  of this course of action what are we referring to, subjective roles or
                  carefully considered objective roles? And if Epictetus means the later,
                  shouldn't we be making that clear when we talk about it? It sure has
                  confused me, and I think recommending 'roles' as models for appropriate
                  actions implies a non-critical acceptance of what a particular culture
                  defines as good and bad, right and wrong. And those roles, as defined by
                  society, certainly do not suggest to anyone that intrinsic value resides in
                  intention as opposed to outcome (contemporary 'duty' models are likely to be
                  utilitarian / consequentialist in nature). Accepting these roles as models
                  for behavior or maxims without evaluation conflicts with the Stoic principle
                  of where value truly lies.

                  Live well,
                  Steve

                  PS I believe Panaetius was one source for Cicero's 'On Duties'.
                • DT Strain
                  Ah! I see now what you mean Steve. But there is a big difference between our moral obligations, which often times come with our social roles, and saying that
                  Message 8 of 12 , Oct 5, 2005
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                    Ah! I see now what you mean Steve. But there is a big
                    difference between our moral obligations, which often
                    times come with our social roles, and saying that
                    virtue is defined by society's expectations.

                    For example, as a husband I have made a promise to
                    meet certain obligations. This is incumbent upon me
                    and objectively a matter of virtue. If all of society
                    were to go topsy-turvy tomorrow, I would still have
                    those ethical obligations. It has nothing to do with
                    society's expectations.

                    In the example of a child's obligations to his
                    parents, the same thing. There is an objective
                    ethical duty we have to our family and that is true
                    regardless of culture or society. If an entire
                    society said that it was ok to let our parents die in
                    the street, then that society would be objectively
                    incorrect in their belief. It just so happens that
                    most cultures have a way of finding the RIGHT answer
                    in many cases. Ideas of familial duty are widespread
                    among many cultures because they are independently
                    (T)rue.

                    That is my view at least (more on my
                    "Natural-Objective Ethics" is on my philosophy site).
                    But I also think this is compatible with Stoic
                    thought, which views preferred and dispreffered
                    indifferents as objective - not subjective or based on
                    culture.



                    --- Steve & Oxsana Marquis <marquis@...> wrote:

                    > Daniel asks:
                    > ___________
                    >
                    > This idea of expected social roles having anything
                    > to
                    > do with virtue is really quite new to me. I don't
                    > recall ever seeing anything about this on this list,
                    > although maybe I was just inattentive. So, some
                    > sort
                    > of reference on this (in this list or in Stoic
                    > literature) would be most appreciated, as it seems
                    > very unstoic to me at present.
                    > ___________
                    >
                    > Daniel, there is an entire discourse by Epictetus on
                    > this subject (Book 2
                    > Discourse 10) entitled 'How is it possible to
                    > discover a man's duties from
                    > the designations which he bears?'. Here are some
                    > quotes:
                    > ___________
                    >
                    > What, then, is the profession of citizen?
                    > ...
                    >
                    > Next bear in mind that you are a Son. What is the
                    > profession of this
                    > character?
                    > ...
                    >
                    > Next know that you are also a brother.
                    > ..
                    >
                    > Next, if you sit in the town council of some city,
                    > remember that you are a
                    > councilor; if you are young, that you are young; if
                    > you are old, that you
                    > are an elder; if a father, that you are a father.
                    > For each of these
                    > designations, when duly considered, always suggest
                    > the acts that are
                    > appropriate to it.
                    > ___________
                    >
                    > AA Long comments on this in 'Epictetus' chapter 9.2
                    > 'Human Professions and
                    > Roles':
                    > ___________
                    >
                    > . Epictetus treats family relationships, public
                    > office, and stages of life
                    > as normative [emphasis mine] identifications that
                    > specify the conduct
                    > appropriate to each designation.
                    > ___________
                    >
                    > Long goes on to show how Epictetus stresses our
                    > concern should not be how
                    > others treat us in these roles, but how we treat
                    > them (similar to M
                    > Aurelius). But my question is what defines how we
                    > treat them? If we take
                    > the role as defined by society the value system
                    > those role duties are based
                    > on is contrary to Stoicism in many cases, as you
                    > yourself have noticed. Has
                    > Epictetus let his slide by? Is this conformance a
                    > deliberate commitment to
                    > not disturb society, to not rock the boat?
                    >
                    > Here is some earlier basis for Epictetus' thesis of
                    > role duties from L&S
                    > 'Hellenistic Philosophers' pg 427:
                    > _________
                    >
                    > Earlier Stoics, like other Greek philosophers, had
                    > been interested in
                    > analyzing different lifestyles and careers. That
                    > interest may have helped
                    > stimulate Panaetius' almost certainly original
                    > doctrine that proper
                    > functions are specifiable by reference to 'four
                    > roles' which each person
                    > has. The word translated 'role' is persona (the
                    > Latin for an actor's mask),
                    > and Panaetius' theory intriguingly anticipates
                    > modern conceptions of
                    > personality and role-play. Roles one and two refer
                    > respectively to the
                    > shared rationality of all human beings ('universal
                    > nature') and the
                    > physical, mental, and temperamental nature of the
                    > individual. In proposing
                    > the latter, in agreement with the former, as a
                    > guideline of how persons
                    > should act and shape their lives, Panaetius gave
                    > Stoicism an insight that
                    > has some resemblance to the Aristotelian 'mean that
                    > is relative to us':
                    > Aristotle had stipulated personal idiosyncrasies as
                    > factors each person
                    > should consider in developing a moral disposition
                    > that avoids excess or
                    > deficiency in feelings and actions. But Panaetius'
                    > insistence on the moral
                    > relevance of 'personality' is an idea without clear
                    > parallel in ancient
                    > ethics. Equally impressive is the clarity with
                    > which he distinguishes the
                    > entirely accidental determinants of personal
                    > identity (role three) from the
                    > career and specializations people choose for
                    > themselves (role four).
                    > Collectively the four roles offer an account of the
                    > general considerations
                    > people should review in deciding on their proper
                    > functions [Gich, are you
                    > reading this ? :), SM] - what I ought to do as a
                    > member of the human race,
                    > as a person with my natural strengths and
                    > weaknesses, as unavoidably
                    > involved in these external circumstances, and with
                    > the lifestyle and bent I
                    > have chosen for myself.
                    > __________
                    >
                    > Panaetius' version seems more inclusive than
                    > Epictetus', although the later
                    > may just be addressing social duty only in that
                    > particular discourse.
                    >
                    > So, Daniel, there is some background for you.
                    > Again, in your latest
                    > response to Robin, you show concern between
                    > accepting the 'subjectively'
                    > defined roles as society defines them vs what you
                    > and I both would consider
                    > a more 'objective' normative description of role
                    > duties based on some type
                    > of critical evaluation. In our referral to
                    > Epictetus' obvious endorsement
                    > of this course of action what are we referring to,
                    > subjective roles or
                    > carefully considered objective roles? And if
                    > Epictetus means the later,
                    > shouldn't we be making that clear when we talk about
                    > it? It sure has
                    > confused me, and I think recommending 'roles' as
                    > models for appropriate
                    > actions implies a non-critical acceptance of what a
                    > particular culture
                    > defines as good and bad, right and wrong. And those
                    > roles, as defined by
                    > society, certainly do not suggest to anyone that
                    > intrinsic value resides in
                    > intention as opposed to outcome (contemporary 'duty'
                    > models are likely to be
                    > utilitarian / consequentialist in nature).
                    > Accepting these roles as models
                    > for behavior or maxims without evaluation conflicts
                    > with the Stoic principle
                    > of where value truly lies.
                    >
                    > Live well,
                    > Steve
                    >
                    > PS I believe Panaetius was one source for Cicero's
                    > 'On Duties'.
                    >
                    >




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                  • Steve & Oxsana Marquis
                    Daniel wrote: ___________ But I also think this is compatible with Stoic thought, which views preferred and dispreferred indifferents as objective - not
                    Message 9 of 12 , Oct 5, 2005
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                      Daniel wrote:
                      ___________

                      But I also think this is compatible with Stoic
                      thought, which views preferred and dispreferred
                      indifferents as objective - not subjective or based on
                      culture.
                      ___________

                      Daniel, I would like to think so also. Jan has provided part of the answer
                      by reminding us that there are two kinds of actions; appropriate action for
                      the student, and right action for the Sage. The first is based on, or at
                      least starts from, consideration of roles. The second is based directly on
                      virtue. Obviously there must be some kind of graduation from one to the
                      other.

                      My concern is what happens if we don't stress developing phronesis, our
                      critical thinking skills, but make it 'easy' on the beginner by just giving
                      him or her this simple rule to follow. This is the problem with dependency
                      on maxims I'm trying to get Gich to see. The Socratic method is one of
                      critical self-inquiry. If we make a habit of following maxims (its easy on
                      our brain and they are 'good' maxims anyway right?) we are undercutting
                      critical inquiry entirely. We are appealing to authority basically for the
                      right way to live.

                      Jan is quite keen on this when it comes to political duty and I agree with
                      him in principle, though maybe not in the particular details. To fulfill
                      one's duty properly as an 'excellent' citizen of a community, a country, or
                      the world one absolutely must apply phronesis to the issues at hand. The
                      impulse to action that follows from a given evaluation may lead to 'stirring
                      up trouble' in the minds of many and actually disturbing the peace. The
                      unconsidered 'role' of patriot would disallow some courses of action that
                      phronesis might recommend. See the conflict?

                      If you use familial duty as an example its fairly easy from induction to
                      conclude we can build a duty base from roles that are independent of
                      culture. But even familial duty is not the same from culture to culture.
                      In the USA the basic structure is the nuclear family, which wasn't always
                      the case and is still not in certain sub-cultures. Male as provider and
                      woman as nurturer are not hard and fast rules anymore (I am not advocating
                      any of these examples as preferable or not, just pointing out the diversity
                      even within the most basic relationship structure). It is not even certain
                      good manners for the guy to pay for all expenses on a date, although it used
                      to be. Same sex partners are on the verge of being recognized for certain
                      purposes as equal in stature to traditional marriages even though they
                      cannot procreate. So, do we have sufficiently stable roles to use as models
                      for appropriate action sans critical thinking?

                      Well, lets consider a society with well-defined social roles, say ancient
                      China and Confucianism. Confucianism, whatever other philosophical values
                      it has, evolved into the role of maintaining social stability by promoting
                      almost worshipful respect for the position of each person in the family
                      (private) and empire hierarchy (public). This was a maxim if there ever was
                      one to the point of dogma and rigidity. A person's waking life was
                      dominated by role duties. Is this the societal end to which Epictetus is
                      pointing us?

                      Here's an example from Seneca, although I cannot find the reference at the
                      moment. Seneca is describing the difference between pathos and duty when he
                      says he must avenge the murder of his father (hypothetical case if I
                      remember right) not because he is angry and wants revenge against the
                      murderer but because it is his duty to do so as a son. Now, here is Seneca
                      appealing to role duty for defining what is an appropriate action, one just
                      as familiar and conservative in Roman society of the time as family values
                      are to us today. Does that make it right? In Seneca's example the implied
                      culmination is death of the perpetrator (hopefully the correct person was
                      identified) at the hands of the son without any resort to law (if I
                      understand the custom correctly). That custom / duty would not fly today.

                      All of these examples show weaknesses I think in adopting roles as models
                      for what we ought to do without some serious thought. For trivial
                      day-to-day courtesies certainly we can apply Miss Manners. But when it
                      comes to serious moral issues I think we had better put our thinking caps
                      on, examine evidence, and do some critical evaluation. Even though it looks
                      like I am contradicting Epictetus I cannot buy using roles as a basis for
                      appropriate action unless we are training in critical thinking and
                      examination of those very roles in parallel at the same time. If this later
                      is the case, then it needs to be emphasized, even on the first day of class
                      (referring to how we teach Stoicism), and for certain emulating roles should
                      not be suggested alone w/o mentioning the other.

                      I do believe Epictetus does mean the later, in which case we are starting
                      from what society subjectively says we ought to do and moving to what reason
                      objectively determines we ought to do as we make progress. And, in that
                      process, the duty that is required must come to be based on virtue, not
                      societal expectation, and the agent must come to recognize all these
                      externals as indifferents. Lets just not get hung up on the former.
                      Following the duties suggested by roles cannot be blind allegiance.

                      Following my own suggesion there is going to be conflict between what my
                      family expects of me in their view of my roles as husband, father, and
                      provider and what I detemine my duty ought to be in those same roles based
                      on a different value system. I am still wondering how others on this forum
                      deal with this issue.

                      Live well,
                      Steve
                    • DT Strain
                      ... I definitely appreciate what you re saying here. Commandment style authoritarian thinking about ethics can lead to a great deal of suffering and confusion.
                      Message 10 of 12 , Oct 6, 2005
                      • 0 Attachment
                        --- Steve & Oxsana Marquis <marquis@...> wrote:
                        > My concern is what happens if we don't stress
                        > developing phronesis, our
                        > critical thinking skills, but make it 'easy' on the
                        > beginner by just giving
                        > him or her this simple rule to follow. This is the
                        > problem with dependency
                        > on maxims I'm trying to get Gich to see.

                        I definitely appreciate what you're saying here.
                        Commandment style authoritarian thinking about ethics
                        can lead to a great deal of suffering and confusion.

                        But there is a difference between commandments and
                        ethical principles. And it behooves anyone who teaches
                        principles, to also teach the proper manner in which
                        principles are to be thought of and dealt with (how to
                        handle conflicting principles, etc), so as not to turn
                        them into rigid commandments.

                        > The Socratic method is one of
                        > critical self-inquiry. If we make a habit of
                        > following maxims (its easy on
                        > our brain and they are 'good' maxims anyway right?)
                        > we are undercutting
                        > critical inquiry entirely. We are appealing to
                        > authority basically for the
                        > right way to live.

                        Ethical deliberation is indeed an important skill to
                        develop and promote - that is an understatement. But
                        if we completely refuse to mention any sort of guiding
                        principle, then ethical deliberation simply becomes
                        rationalization.

                        In other words, logic alone is what Star Trek set
                        decorators labeled the pipes on the walls of the
                        Enterprise: GNDN (Goes nowhere, does nothing).

                        We can't simply say that "it is logical to do x".
                        That is an incomplete statement. In it, there is an
                        implication that "it is logical to do x, if y is your
                        goal". Principles supply the value of y in ethical
                        deliberation.

                        Principles also provide a nexus/juncture in the
                        complex branching of arguments, conclusions, and
                        premises. These junctions are important because
                        without them, each and every ethical assertion would
                        have to be reasoned out all the way from the most
                        primal of axioms (a most tiresome and exhaustive
                        endeavor, opening up the way for multiple errors along
                        the way). As it so happens, we find that many an
                        ethical argument converges on certain conclusions
                        along the way between "I think therefore I am" (the
                        most primal axiom) to "I had better not cheat on my
                        test". Principles are a way to highlight these
                        junctures. For philosophical purposes, we can debate
                        the value of honesty as a general principle and so on.


                        But for everyone who has agreed that honesty is
                        already a good general principle, then it gets us
                        further down the line than starting from square one.
                        Of course, ethical deliberation and the appreciation
                        of honesty as a GENERAL principle and not a
                        commandment, is still essential to coming up with
                        intelligent conclusions.

                        Lastly, principles give the opportunity for those who
                        have spent years thinking on ethical matters and
                        experiencing ethical challenges in life the ability to
                        offer some tips and guidelines in the ethical
                        deliberations of others.

                        You go on to point out to us many specific examples of
                        the dangers of no critical thinking or deliberation,
                        and your point is well taken. All too often, the
                        student and/or teacher will either present principles
                        as commandments, or take them as such, which can be
                        very dangerous. My point is simply that without SOME
                        sort of guidance, the agent is left wondering what it
                        is they're supposed to be deliberating.

                        > All of these examples show weaknesses I think in
                        > adopting roles as models
                        > for what we ought to do without some serious
                        > thought. For trivial
                        > day-to-day courtesies certainly we can apply Miss
                        > Manners. But when it
                        > comes to serious moral issues I think we had better
                        > put our thinking caps
                        > on, examine evidence, and do some critical
                        > evaluation.

                        But in thinking with our thinking caps, we have to
                        have some shared idea of what it is we're trying to
                        accomplish. If the whole world has practically
                        already come to the conclusion that it's generally a
                        good idea to give people equal rights, then we can
                        spend our time pragmatically working on how best to do
                        this, and in what ways and means that principle
                        applies. Otherwise, we're rebooting the birth of
                        philosophy at the dawn of history each time we convene
                        to work out treaties and make policy.

                        I think the reason we have to think harder about the
                        "serious moral issues" is because in many of these
                        cases we have conflicting principles. Or, we find
                        that a principle was not as universal as we thought it
                        was. This is why it is important to know how to
                        handle principles - how to "do the math" with
                        principles. It's important that we know WHY a
                        principles exists, under which cases it should and
                        shouldn't apply, and when applying the principle
                        actually contradicts the spirit of the principle.
                        And, of course, the principle must be open to rational
                        examination, questioning, and revision.

                        If you follow even the dialogues of Socrates himself,
                        it is clear he is operating on the basis of
                        principles.

                        > Even though it looks
                        > like I am contradicting Epictetus I cannot buy using
                        > roles as a basis for
                        > appropriate action unless we are training in
                        > critical thinking and
                        > examination of those very roles in parallel at the
                        > same time.

                        I agree with this. We must wonder if our roles are
                        virtuous. There are roles as mothers, teachers,
                        police officers, and so on. But there have also been
                        social roles of slave master, concentration camp
                        officer, and boy band producer.

                        > Following my own suggesion there is going to be
                        > conflict between what my
                        > family expects of me in their view of my roles as
                        > husband, father, and
                        > provider and what I detemine my duty ought to be in
                        > those same roles based
                        > on a different value system. I am still wondering
                        > how others on this forum
                        > deal with this issue.

                        Assuming you're talking about the affection issue, I
                        think the two are actually consistent. But that's
                        another email :)



                        DT Strain
                        www.dtstrainphilosophy.blogspot.com



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