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question on Stoic view of God

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  • Jan E Garrett
    This is a question I received today, followed by my (admitted quick) response. ... One of their main arguments was what is known as the argument from design.
    Message 1 of 4 , Oct 3, 2001
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      This is a question I received today, followed by my (admitted quick)
      response.

      > I am a student at Indiana University Purdue University
      > at Indianapolis. I am researching a speech about
      > Stoicism and I desperately need you to respond to the
      > following question as soon as you can.
      >
      > If the Stoics were materialists and believed that all
      > of our knowledge comes from our senses, how did they
      > come to the conclusion that God exists?
      > Thank you so much for your time,

      One of their main arguments was what is known as the argument from
      design. The
      orderliness of the universe and the fact that the preconditions for life
      and even
      for human rational life seem to be provided for us by nature is best
      explained by
      a divine power that pervades the universe and plans out what happens in
      it.

      Zeus, otherwise known as Logos, is embodied in the fiery "body" that
      pervades the
      universe (and is reflected in our minds, which themselves are "sparks" of
      this
      fire). In other words, the divine being is not apart from the universe or
      apart
      from matter. The Stoics held that there were four basic types of "body,"
      fire,
      air, water, and earth, although the other three are transformed into fire
      once in
      every cosmic cycle. Unlike their rivals the Epicureans, the Stoics held
      that
      bodies could interpenetrate, so it is not a problem for them that you and
      I are
      pervaded by the fiery principle that runs the universe.

      For a bit more on this see http://www.wku.edu/~garreje/philvws.htm (the
      stuff on
      the Stoics is near at the end of that webpage).
    • Blackhame
      A related questio I have, please, which is historical rathe than philosophical is this: In later times (e.g. the Enlightenment) did any thinkers consciously
      Message 2 of 4 , Oct 4, 2001
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        A related questio I have, please, which is historical
        rathe than philosophical is this: In later times (e.g.
        the Enlightenment) did any thinkers consciously
        combine deism (belief in a Creator God wholly
        separate from the universe and a non-belief in
        revelation) with Soic morality? Thta is my own
        position, as it happens, and was wondering if there is
        any developed intellectual tradition of that.
        --- Jan E Garrett <jangarrett@...> wrote:
        > This is a question I received today, followed by my
        > (admitted quick)
        > response.
        >
        > > I am a student at Indiana University Purdue
        > University
        > > at Indianapolis. I am researching a speech about
        > > Stoicism and I desperately need you to respond to
        > the
        > > following question as soon as you can.
        > >
        > > If the Stoics were materialists and believed that
        > all
        > > of our knowledge comes from our senses, how did
        > they
        > > come to the conclusion that God exists?
        > > Thank you so much for your time,
        >
        > One of their main arguments was what is known as the
        > argument from
        > design. The
        > orderliness of the universe and the fact that the
        > preconditions for life
        > and even
        > for human rational life seem to be provided for us
        > by nature is best
        > explained by
        > a divine power that pervades the universe and plans
        > out what happens in
        > it.
        >
        > Zeus, otherwise known as Logos, is embodied in the
        > fiery "body" that
        > pervades the
        > universe (and is reflected in our minds, which
        > themselves are "sparks" of
        > this
        > fire). In other words, the divine being is not apart
        > from the universe or
        > apart
        > from matter. The Stoics held that there were four
        > basic types of "body,"
        > fire,
        > air, water, and earth, although the other three are
        > transformed into fire
        > once in
        > every cosmic cycle. Unlike their rivals the
        > Epicureans, the Stoics held
        > that
        > bodies could interpenetrate, so it is not a problem
        > for them that you and
        > I are
        > pervaded by the fiery principle that runs the
        > universe.
        >
        > For a bit more on this see
        > http://www.wku.edu/~garreje/philvws.htm (the
        > stuff on
        > the Stoics is near at the end of that webpage).
        >


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      • Robert Eddison
        Blackhame ... In the case of the English Enlightenment, I think these two views are combined (though I m not sure about consciously
        Message 3 of 4 , Oct 7, 2001
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          Blackhame <blackhame@...>

          > A related question I have, please, which is historical rather than
          >philosophical is this: In later times (e.g. the Enlightenment) did any
          >thinkers consciously combine deism (belief in a Creator God wholly
          >separate from the universe and a non-belief in revelation) with Stoic
          >morality?

          In the case of the English Enlightenment, I think these two views are
          combined (though I'm not sure about "consciously combined") in the person
          of Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713).

          Shaftesbury seems to have been a closet deist -- holding deistic views but
          outwardly keeping up the appearance of a practising Anglican (a prudent
          enough policy for an English politician of that period). As for his moral
          theory, normally one does not see him classified as a Stoic. Most accounts
          of his work focus on his 'moral sense theory', while the stoical component
          in his thought tends to be either de-emphasized or ignored altogether.
          Here's a typical modern example:

          "Virtue consists in the proper exercise of these two classes of affections
          (the selfish and social). Vice arises when the public affections are weak
          and deficient, when the private affections are too strong, or affections
          spring up which do not tend to the support of the public or private system.
          He holds that virtue, as consisting in these affections, is natural to
          humans, and that he who practices it is obeying the ancient Stoic maxim,
          and living according to nature. The virtues which he recommends fall far
          beneath the stern standard of the Stoics, and leave out all the peculiar
          graces of Christianity. They consist of, "a mind subordinate to reason, a
          temper humanized and fitted to all natural affection, an exercise of
          friendship uninterrupted, thorough candor, benignity, and good nature, with
          constant security, tranquillity, equanimity."

          (From the entry for Shaftesbury in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
          http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/s/shaftes.htm)


          However, the above description (like most accounts of Shaftesbury's ethics)
          applies only to the views expressed in his best-known work,
          "Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times". Shaftesbury's more
          purely stoical thoughts are to be found in minor works. Of particular
          importance are the "Askêmata", two notebooks of quotations from Marcus
          Aurelius and Epictetus together with Shaftesbury's comments. These were
          edited and published by Dr. Benjamin Rand in his "Life, Unpublished Letters
          and Philosophical Regimen of Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury" (London: Swan
          Sonnenschein, 1900). Unfortunately, Rand's edition is defective, being both
          incomplete and full of editorial errors.

          If you read French I suggest you get Laurent Jaffro's translation of the
          Askêmata: "Exercices" (Paris: Aubier, 1993).

          Or if you want to wait a while, the German publisher Friedrich Frommann
          Verlag is currently preparing an edition of Shaftesbury's complete works.
          For details see Dr. Erwin Wolff's homepage:
          http://home.t-online.de/home/Erwin.Wolff/hpwolff.htm

          Best wishes,

          Robert


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        • roberts_erin@yahoo.com
          ... this is a great question. i have never really taken the time to consider it for myself, but i guess this is as good a time as any! the following comments
          Message 4 of 4 , Oct 8, 2001
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            > > I am a student at Indiana University Purdue University
            > > at Indianapolis. I am researching a speech about
            > > Stoicism and I desperately need you to respond to the
            > > following question as soon as you can.
            > > If the Stoics were materialists and believed that all
            > > of our knowledge comes from our senses, how did they
            > > come to the conclusion that God exists?

            this is a great question. i have never really taken the time to
            consider it for myself, but i guess this is as good a time as any!
            the following comments are not comprehensive in any way, and since i
            am still struggling to understand these concepts, they might not be
            entirely clear... but i hope they might be of at least some some
            value. if you want more texts to look at, you could begin with
            pp. 236-241 and 274-279 of vol. 1 of long and sedley's "the
            hellenistic philosophers." let me know what you conclude!

            maybe it will be helpful to consider that our modern american
            definitions of "senses" and "god" might be a bit different from stoic
            definitions. at least for me, "senses" refers to touch, taste,
            hearing, seeing, smelling, whereas stoics have much more complex and
            nuanced definitions. consider cognition... where do ideas come from?
            for stoics, ideas are impressions (phantasia) upon the soul. for a
            true materialist, ideas must have some relation to physicality, even
            if on the atomic or sub-atomic level. an idea, then, is an impression
            or imprint made by something else. this is based upon a materialism
            that assumes causality, i.e., that assumes that every 'affection ' or
            'imprint' or 'impression' is caused by a corresponding 'affector' or
            'imprinter' or 'impressor'... aetius says that an 'impressor' is
            "everything capable of activating the soul" (see aetius 4.12.4, or svf
            2.54). assuming that the person is not mentally ill (stoic definition
            of mental illness being someone who has impressions without there
            actually being an impressor see aetius again, 4.12.5-6, or svf 2.54),
            the impressor will reveal itself to the mind, much as a signet ring
            leaves a readable impression in wax, or, better, as a person moves
            through a room and thereby displaces the air (air being material)...
            if the air could be observed on a sub-atomic level, we might discern
            the shape of the person as she walks through, and thereby displaces,
            the air in the room.
            concluding the existence of a post-cartesian 'god' would not make
            sense within stoic thought, and therefore the stoics did not conclude
            anything of the sort. for stoics, nothing exists in abstraction from
            matter. incorporeality is a logical impossibility. all bodies are a
            mixture of two things: 'matter' and 'god'. matter is defined as that
            which has the capacity to be acted upon (like the wax under the signet
            ring)and god is defined as that which has the capacity to act (the
            ring itself, but this also must include that energy which presses the
            ring into the wax... this energy, this capacity to activate, is god).
            anyway, both of these things, matter and god, are considered to be
            corporeal. the relationship of the two is not simply a mixture of two
            sorts of matter, but is "god acting in matter." there is a bit a
            scholarly disagreement on whether the stoic 'principles' are corporeal
            or not, but i tend to understand stoic texts to indicate that they
            thought of them as corporeal, since viewing them as incorporeal would
            render them unable to act (impress) or be acted upon (have an
            impression).
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