Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Missing responses

Expand Messages
  • A. PIEKARSKI
    Hi,   I never did get any response to the following emails sent on Jan 27th and 28th:   30651, 30657, 30658.   That could be because I m not doing something
    Message 1 of 18 , Feb 1, 2011
    • 0 Attachment
      Hi,
       
      I never did get any response to the following emails
      sent on Jan 27th and 28th:
       
      30651, 30657, 30658.
       
      That could be because I'm not doing something
      right.  If that's the case, sorry!  I'm still new here.
       
      Andrew
    • Keith Seddon
      ... Thanks for this. Simply forgot... ... in the light of what we understand today about the workings of the brain, Virtue is better defined by the perfection
      Message 2 of 18 , Feb 1, 2011
      • 0 Attachment
        A. PIEKARSKI wrote:
        Hi,
         
        I never did get any response to the following emails 
        sent on Jan 27th and 28th:
         
        30651, 30657, 30658.
          
        Thanks for this. Simply forgot...

        30651:
        >>>In his "New Stoicism", Lawrence Becker suggests that
        in the light of what we understand today about the workings
        of the brain, Virtue is better defined by "the perfection of
        agency" rather than "the perfection of reason".<<<

        Without checking, it is not immediately obvious what distinction Becker means to make. Since the essential function of one's rationality is the capacity for agency, it does not appear on the face of it that one would be doing anything different if one perfected one's agency rather than one's reason.

        30657:
        >>>Actually I asked for 'a' (not 'the') stoic position.  What I meant by that was "What stoic position do you (modern stoics) have on these issues?".<<<

        The issues you cite are war, homosexuality and cheating (specifically adultery).

        I did reply to this is in an unfortunately long post, number 30663.

        The Stoic position is 'do what virtue requires'. With respect to actions A, B, C, in situations X, Y Z, sometimes the Stoic would do those things, and sometimes not. The Stoic may even find that doing some specific thing that is NOT in accordance with nature would in THIS CASE best satisfy the requirements of virtue, and that being so, do it.

        30658:
        You ask--
        >>>
        OK, so what does this mean?:

          "On the contrary, it may well turn out that the 1%
        [tail-end of the Bell Curve] are natural and the other 99 unnatural.
            A thing's "nature", for the Stoics, is a normative
        concept involving what a thing _should_ be and how it
        _should_ function. 
        <<<
        --in response to Grant's response at the top end of message 30635 to your original query in 30633 (I think).

        Grant, perhaps, should answer this. My previous remarks about how the Stoics understood nature should be helpful. If they are not, I am not sure what more I can say. If the expression 'normative' is proving difficult, this at Wikipedia seems to cover the basics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normative

        Regards,

        Keith
      • A. PIEKARSKI
        The Stoic position is do what virtue requires . With respect to actions A, B, C, in situations X, Y Z, sometimes the Stoic would do those things, and
        Message 3 of 18 , Feb 1, 2011
        • 0 Attachment
          The Stoic position is 'do what virtue requires'. With respect to actions A, B,
          C, in situations X, Y Z, sometimes the Stoic would do those things, and
          sometimes not. The Stoic may even find that doing some specific thing that is
          NOT in accordance with nature would in THIS CASE best satisfy the requirements
          of virtue, and that being so, do it.

          _____________ Now that surprises me.  I had always assumed that one comes
          with the other.  Could you give an example?

          Andrew
        • Keith Seddon
          ... If for instance you are taken prisoner by the enemy, and you have reason to believe that his interrogation methods are sufficiently well developed for your
          Message 4 of 18 , Feb 1, 2011
          • 0 Attachment
            A. PIEKARSKI wrote:
            > The Stoic position is 'do what virtue requires'. With respect to actions A, B,
            > C, in situations X, Y Z, sometimes the Stoic would do those things, and
            > sometimes not. The Stoic may even find that doing some specific thing that is
            > NOT in accordance with nature would in THIS CASE best satisfy the requirements
            > of virtue, and that being so, do it.
            >
            > _____________ Now that surprises me. I had always assumed that one comes
            > with the other. Could you give an example?
            >
            If for instance you are taken prisoner by the enemy, and you have reason
            to believe that his interrogation methods are sufficiently well
            developed for your eventually giving up information that would place
            your comrades in mortal danger, then it would be rational and in
            accordance with virtue to bite down on the cyanide capsule secreted
            under your false tooth. Ending your life whilst fit and healthy is
            contrary to nature, but in these circumstances, in accordance with virtue.

            I am sure real life examples abound, and it is easy to think of similar
            examples, such as saving children in peril, and so forth.

            Some of the introductory texts on Stoic ethics contain examples like this.

            Regards,

            Keith
          • A. PIEKARSKI
              ... And yet, in A Little Book of Stoicism St.George Stock writes: To be happy then was to be virtuous, to be virtuous was to be rational, to be rational
            Message 5 of 18 , Feb 3, 2011
            • 0 Attachment
               
              >A. PIEKARSKI wrote:
              >> The Stoic position is 'do what virtue requires'. With respect to actions A, B,
              >
              >
              >> C, in situations X, Y Z, sometimes the Stoic would do those things, and
              >> sometimes not. The Stoic may even find that doing some specific thing that is


              >> NOT in accordance with nature would in THIS CASE best satisfy the requirements
              >
              >
              >> of virtue, and that being so, do it.
              >>
              >> _____________ Now that surprises me. I had always assumed that one comes
              >> with the other. Could you give an example?
              >>
              >If for instance you are taken prisoner by the enemy, and you have reason
              >to believe that his interrogation methods are sufficiently well
              >developed for your eventually giving up information that would place
              >your comrades in mortal danger, then it would be rational and in
              >accordance with virtue to bite down on the cyanide capsule secreted
              >under your false tooth. Ending your life whilst fit and healthy is
              >contrary to nature, but in these circumstances, in accordance with virtue.
              >

              And yet, in "A Little Book of Stoicism" St.George Stock writes:
              "To be happy then was to be virtuous, to be virtuous was to be
              rational, to be rational was to follow Nature,..." Doesn't that equate virtue
              with following Nature?  In fact, isn't committing suicide in this example
              doing something in accordance with Nature. Isn't protecting our family,
              group, humanity, etc part of our nature?

              By the way, I did post a reply to your comment that I am never satisfied
              on the facebook New Stoa group page.

              Andrew
            • A. PIEKARSKI
              I didn t get a response to this Feb 3rd message...so here goes again!   The Stoic position is do what virtue requires . With respect to actions A, B,  ...
              Message 6 of 18 , Feb 8, 2011
              • 0 Attachment
                I didn't get a response to this Feb 3rd message...so here goes again!

                 >> The Stoic position is 'do what virtue requires'. With respect to actions A,
                B, 
                >
                > >
                 >> C, in situations X, Y Z, sometimes the Stoic would do those things, and 
                >> sometimes not. The Stoic may even find that doing some specific thing that
                is 


                >> NOT in accordance with nature would in THIS CASE best satisfy the
                >requirements 
                >
                 >
                 >> of virtue, and that being so, do it.
                 >>
                 >> _____________ Now that surprises me. I had always assumed that one comes 
                >> with the other. Could you give an example?
                 >> 
                >If for instance you are taken prisoner by the enemy, and you have reason 
                >to believe that his interrogation methods are sufficiently well 
                >developed for your eventually giving up information that would place 
                >your comrades in mortal danger, then it would be rational and in 
                >accordance with virtue to bite down on the cyanide capsule secreted 
                >under your false tooth. Ending your life whilst fit and healthy is 
                >contrary to nature, but in these circumstances, in accordance with virtue.
                 >
                 
                Keith, isn't committing suicide in this example 
                doing something in accordance with Nature. Isn't protecting our family, 
                group, humanity, etc part of our nature?

                By the way, I did post a reply to your comment that I am never satisfied 
                on the facebook New Stoa group page.
                 
                Andrew
              • Keith Seddon
                Hello Andrew, ... be happy then was to be virtuous, to be virtuous was to be rational, to be rational was to follow Nature,... Doesn t that equate virtue with
                Message 7 of 18 , Feb 8, 2011
                • 0 Attachment
                  Hello Andrew,

                  >>>And yet, in "A Little Book of Stoicism" St.George Stock
                  writes: "To be happy then was to be virtuous, to be virtuous was to be rational, to be rational was to follow Nature,..." Doesn't that equate virtue with following Nature?  In fact, isn't committing suicide in this example doing something in accordance with Nature. Isn't protecting our family, group, humanity, etc part of our nature?<<<

                  No, suicide cannot be something in accordance with nature, as this is something that does not generally promote flourishing in human beings. Tho, there are cases where suicide is the rational option in one's specific circumstances. Sometimes one's specific circumstances do not accommodate selecting what is generally in accordance with nature. What is appropriate is determined by virtue.

                  However, in so far as suicide is instrumental to bringing about a preferred situation -- the preservation of one's family, say -- of course, preserving one's family is indeed something according to nature. Tho I suspect there are logical differences between actually providing for one's family by on the one hand literally laying food on the table, and on the other hand by defying a tyrant. Defying a tyrant is not actually providing for one's family, tho if the causal sequence of events turns out as one anticipates, one's family will in consequence of one's defiance be preserved. Note that defying the tyrant is something in your power, but preserving one's family is not.

                  To elucidate on St. George Stock:

                  For the Stoics:

                  --eudaimonia is the end (telos) (and so it is for the Epicurean, only the Epicurean holds that pleasure characterises eudaimonia: the Stoic thus holds that)

                  --eudaimonia is characterised by living in accordance with nature

                  --one lives in accordance with nature (as a human being) by exercising perfected rationality (which for Epictetus is formulated in terms of assenting to true impressions)

                  This is why we can find various texts stating that the end (telos) is eudaimonia, living in accordance with nature, living in accordance with virtue.

                  The different formulations answer different questions:

                  What is it that we pursue for its own sake and not for the sake of any other thing (the traditional definition of the telos)? Eudaimonia.

                  How is eudaimonia realised by a human being? By their living in accordance with nature.

                  What do they actually do to accomplish that? Live virtuously.

                  (And so on...)

                  Live virtuously by doing what? By selecting with virtue the preferred indifferent things (in accordance with undertakings that have been adopted wisely, and with reference to responsibilities already fixed by one's circumstances), and by avoiding all passion by never assenting to false impressions. (And by maintaining one's pious stance to the Gods, and other things...)

                  Regards,

                  Keith




                • Michel Daw
                  Agreed. And I would add that living virtuously is also in selecting virtue in managing truly indifferent things, as well as cautiously trying to avoid and
                  Message 8 of 18 , Feb 8, 2011
                  • 0 Attachment
                    Agreed. And I would add that living virtuously is also in selecting virtue in managing truly indifferent things, as well as cautiously trying to avoid and mitigate dis-preferred indifferent things. Perhaps it is just me, but some who study (or at time even practice) Stoicism seem to see virtue, vice and the three categories of indifferents on a continuous scale. It is my understanding that virtue and vice are internal responses, entire in our control, whereas that which is classed as indifferent is purely external, and not completely under my control.Therefore there are actually two scales, one internal, and one external. Or am I completely mistaken?

                    On Wed, Feb 9, 2011 at 5:29 AM, Keith Seddon <K.H.S@...> wrote:
                    Live virtuously by doing what? By selecting with virtue the preferred indifferent things



                    --
                    Cheers,

                    Michel

                    "If one accomplishes some good
                    though with toil,
                    the toil passes,
                    but the good remains;

                    if one does something dishonorable
                    with pleasure,
                    the pleasure passes,
                    but the dishonor remains."

                    Musonius Rufus
                  • A. PIEKARSKI
                    ... But I ask again: why is suicide not in accordance with nature when, as in your example, your suicide may result in other humans flourishing?  The key
                    Message 9 of 18 , Feb 9, 2011
                    • 0 Attachment
                      >
                      >From: Keith Seddon <K.H.S@...>
                      >To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
                      >Sent: Tue, February 8, 2011 10:29:54 PM
                      >Subject: Re: [stoics] Re: Virtue but not Nature
                      >

                      >Hello Andrew,
                      >
                      >>>>And yet, in "A Little Book of Stoicism" St.George Stock writes: "To be happy

                      >>>>then was to be virtuous, to be virtuous was to be rational, to be rational was
                      >>
                      >>>>to follow Nature,..." Doesn't that equate virtue with following Nature?  In
                      >>>>fact, isn't committing suicide in this example doing something in accordance

                      >>>>with Nature. Isn't protecting our family, group, humanity, etc part of our
                      >>>>nature?<<<
                      >
                      >No, suicide cannot be something in accordance with nature, as this is something

                      >that does not generally promote flourishing in human beings. Tho, there are
                      >cases where suicide is the rational option in one's specific circumstances.
                      >Sometimes one's specific circumstances do not accommodate selecting what is
                      >generally in accordance with nature. What is appropriate is determined by
                      >virtue.
                      >

                      But I ask again: why is suicide not in accordance with nature when, as in your
                      example,

                      your suicide may result in other humans flourishing?  The key seems to be in
                      your

                      use of the word "generally".  But where is the dividing line between the general
                      and the

                      specific?  Can one not talk about "generally" committing suicide in order to
                      allow

                      other humans to flourish?

                      Andrew
                    • Keith Seddon
                      Andrew: I m sorry you think that your post has been ignored. I see that post 30755 arrived at the forum on the evening of the 9th Feb, which is now a little
                      Message 10 of 18 , Feb 12, 2011
                      • 0 Attachment
                        Andrew:

                        I'm sorry you think that your post has been ignored. I see that post 30755 arrived at the forum on the evening of the 9th Feb, which is now a little over three days ago. I do have a life outside this forum, and for all that time I have been thinking of how to answer you. The post below was started maybe two days ago, and I have edited it twice, and I am about to have another go at it.

                        >>>questions ignored twice (the last one: 30755) and been
                        accused by Keith of "never being satisfied".  My enthusiasm is wilting.<<<

                        So is mine. When you use quotes around "never being satisfied", I assume you are directly quoting me or rendering a strict paraphrase. I have been searching my messages for 20 minutes looking for anything that can account for this, but cannot find it. Obviously there is something there somewhere to explain your grievance, and I would like to know what it is. If I spoke too harshly, I will of course apologise.

                        >>>Reading this forum, I get the impression that only
                        philosophers are candidates for living Stoically. <<<

                        In my view a certain standard of philosophical expertise is required for understanding the Stoic position. Look at the truly awful mistake I made when I thought for years that Amos had understood the basic Socratic/Stoic position that virtue is necessary and sufficient for happiness. I was like the garage mechanic who like a fool thought that his customer understood what 'engine' meant...

                        I have tried to make a contribution to the philosophical understanding of Stoic ethics with my short correspondence course (available as a book, Stoic Serenity) and with a commentary on Epictetus' Handbook published by Routledge. The first is aimed at those with no prior acquaintance with philosophy or Stoicism, and the latter is aimed at 1st year university students, those who probably have an A-level or two, and possibly no prior acquaintance with philosophy. All I need is an address label, and free copies will be on their way to you. I also published one of Stoicism's key texts -- Book Seven from the Diogenes Laertius text. This is in the files section of the forum, and is also available in print format.

                        >>>If you want non-philosophers to participate, talk in their
                        language and communicate in a way they will understand.<<<

                        Like all endeavours, philosophy has its own technical language. Believe me, the extent to which specialist vocabulary features on this forum is at a bare minimum. If anyone wants anything explained, all they have to do is ask. Or look on the Internet.

                        There is absolutely no way that doctors, lawyers and other professionals could carry on without recourse to specialist vocabulary. Philosophy is no different. Why should it be? Why would you be offended if I suggested that you learn this vocabulary? Do I not want you to benefit to the maximum degree? And do you yourself not want to benefit?

                        By the way, out of interest, which specialist terms are you referring to specifically?

                        The post you are querying was my response was to Amos, and not to you. It was a response to a very trying post, and I'm sorry if my giving as good as I took has annoyed you. My remarks were after all a response, and I think I'm entitled to that. When there is no argument to address, what else is there than to express one's dissatisfaction and frustration?

                        >>>Communicate as if it's your responsibility to have the
                        other party understand, not theirs to understand you<<<

                        Good God, I have tried. As have several others.

                        Now to the post that has 'been ignored':



                        A. PIEKARSKI wrote:

                        >>>But I ask again: why is suicide not in accordance with
                        nature when, as in your example, your suicide may result in other humans flourishing?  The key seems to be in your use of the word "generally".  But where is the dividing line between the general and the specific?<<<

                        In the Stoic tradition things in accordance with nature are defined thus:

                        All things flourish after their own kind. Things that promote such flourishing or are indicative of it are referred to being in accordance with nature. Things which curtail or are indicative of such curtailment are referred to as not being in accordance with nature.

                        (1) This is how the Stoics make their account of nature and flourishing.

                        (2) If this account is accurately presented, I do not properly understand the misgivings you have with it.

                        Maybe it is this: you think that if doing A is causally sufficient for B, and B is in accordance with nature, then you think that A must also be in accordance with nature. (For A we might have 'resisting the tyrant by committing suicide', and for B we might have 'one's family escapes arrest and execution'.)

                        As I said before, one does not actually do B, so cannot be responsible for it. At best one can hope that one's actions in doing A will tend to promote it.

                        >>>But where is the dividing line between the general and the specific?<<<

                        Whenever we are talking about someone or a group of people in a concrete situation, we are talking about a specific case. When we saying something like 'over 99% of people die after ingesting one milligram of arsenic' (or whatever actually is the case) we are talking generally.

                        On the Stoic view, committing suicide is always contrary to nature, but can be the right thing to do because doing it promotes something else that is in accordance with nature.

                        What is right is determined by virtue, not by what is in accordance with nature. Almost always people select what is in accordance with nature in doing what virtue requires. But not always.

                        >>>Can one not talk about "generally" committing suicide in order to allow other humans to flourish?<<<

                        No. Whether suicide is ever right can only be determined in specific circumstances.

                        Whatever you might try as a general rule will fail in some specific circumstances:

                        General Rule: Resist the tyrant by committing suicide if this has a better than even chance of saving one's family.

                        But this probably wouldn't be the right thing to do if one's family is in league with the tyrant. So now we must add extra clauses to the general rule: '...so long as one's family is not in league with the tyrant.'

                        On every occasion we would have to check the general rule against the specific circumstances to see whether the rule still applies. In other words, the rule is, for all intents and purposes, useless.

                        I don't see why you are so keen on rules. Virtue, meaning excellence, would appear not to be doing an excellent job if we were to rely instead on rules. We only know that the rules are any good by checking them against what virtue requires. Why not simply do what virtue requires and leave out the checking-against-the-rule stage?

                        Regards,

                        Keith
                      • A. PIEKARSKI
                        ... When my doctor talks to other doctors, he uses specialist vocabulary.  When he talks to me, his objective being to enable me to understand at a level that
                        Message 11 of 18 , Feb 14, 2011
                        • 0 Attachment
                          Keith said:
                          >There is absolutely no way that doctors, lawyers and other professionals could
                          >carry on without recourse to specialist vocabulary. Philosophy is no different.

                          >Why should it be?

                          When my doctor talks to other doctors, he uses specialist vocabulary.  When
                          he talks to me, his objective being to enable me to understand at a level that
                          is

                          useful to me, he talks in "plain English".  It works.

                          But this isn't just about "specialist vocabulary".  It's about effective
                          communications

                          which is a much broader concept - one that covers many things ranging from
                          sentence length to style and courtesy.

                          More importantly, if Stoicism cannot be presented in a way that is
                          understandable

                          by and useful to "ordinary folk", then it I find it unappealing.  Yes, I want it
                          for

                          myself, but I need to know also that it has the capability to make the world a
                          better place. Isn't that one of the reasons why Stoicism gave
                          way to Christianity.  Christianity did provide a simple set of rules that
                          everyone

                          could understand and live by, leaving plenty of philosphical room for St.Thomas
                          Aquinas and other Christain philosphers.

                          >
                          >>>>But I ask again: why is suicide not in accordance with nature when, as in your
                          >>
                          >>>>example, your suicide may result in other humans flourishing? 
                          >
                          >In the Stoic tradition things in accordance with nature are defined thus:
                          >
                          >All things flourish after their own kind. Things that promote such flourishing
                          >or are indicative of it are referred to being in accordance with nature. Things

                          >which curtail or are indicative of such curtailment are referred to as not being
                          >
                          >in accordance with nature.

                          Yes, but why didn't you answer my question. "Suicide is against nature
                          because..."

                          >>

                          >On the Stoic view, committing suicide is always contrary to nature,

                          Why "always"?  In the example you gave, the suicide was done so that
                          others could survive.  Stoicism seems to make a lot of how we are all
                          an integral part of something bigger - our group, humanity, the cosmos.
                          Being a part of the "bigger" is a part of our individual natures. So we
                          have a duty to protect the "bigger".

                          Guillaume's response to this was:

                          "For example if you were in possession of very important information regarding
                          the resistance movement, and were chased by the occupying army ; when caught, in

                          order to avoid the risk of putting your friends and comrades at risk when being
                          tortured and put under pressure to betray them, you may find that suicide is a
                          rational option, THEN IT BECOMES AN ACT FULLY IN ACCORDANCE WITH NATURE,
                          which is to prefer the common good. It doesn't follow that a teenager committing

                          suicide after a love deception is doing any good neither for himself not for the

                          community, thus it's not in accordance with nature.

                          "According with nature" is a synonym for "according to reason" ".


                          >I don't see why you are so keen on rules. Virtue, meaning excellence, would
                          >appear not to be doing an excellent job if we were to rely instead on rules. We

                          >only know that the rules are any good by checking them against what virtue
                          >requires. Why not simply do what virtue requires and leave out the
                          >checking-against-the-rule stage?

                          How many decisions do we make and acts do we do in the course of a single day?
                          Probably hundreds, maybe thousands.  Can we all do a stoic analysis for each
                          one?

                          Obviously not.  That is why we need generalizations, rules and norms. I
                          recognize

                          that there is a danger when we obey them slavishly, and that at some level we
                          need to question them.  But without them, we would all grind to a halt.

                          Andrew
                        • Keith Seddon
                          Hello Andrew, ... nature because...
                          Message 12 of 18 , Feb 14, 2011
                          • 0 Attachment
                            Hello Andrew,

                            Let me pop this in first:

                            >>>
                            Yes, but why didn't you answer my question. "Suicide is against nature because..."<<<

                            I had no intention of avoiding your question. I have written on this topic at some length, and thought I had dealt with it. Let me try again:

                            All things flourish after their own kind. Things that promote such flourishing or are indicative of it are referred to being in accordance with nature. Things which curtail or are indicative of such curtailment are referred to as not being in accordance with nature.
                            Suicide is contrary to nature because it curtails flourishing. Indeed damage to the body generally is detrimental to flourishing, and extinguishing the life in one's body (and therefore one's capacity for agency) makes any kind of flourishing impossible.

                            This is from my book Stoic Serenity, Chapter 3, pp. 56--61. Here I attempt to explain the Stoic notion of 'living in accordance with nature' for the reader who is entirely new to Stoicism:

                            ************************************************************************************

                            THE STOIC MOTTO

                            Roughly halfway through Letter 5, Seneca remarks to Lucilius that: ‘Our motto, as everyone knows, is to live in conformity with nature.’ Seneca’s sentiment in this Letter makes it clear that for Stoics, if one is to live naturally one must live simply, and that living simply is an essential com­ponent of living naturally. But what do the Stoics mean when they say – all of which mean the same thing – that we should live in agreement/in accordance/in conformity with na­ture? One thing that they do not mean is that we should ‘get back to nature’, go naked, or live off wild berries.

                            A somewhat different question from the one we have al­ready asked and dismissed, ‘If I act virtuously, what’s in it for me?’ is the question, ‘What are the virtues for?’ And further, we may ask what we will see is a closely related question, ‘Of all the conventional goods that the Stoics refer to as preferred indifferents, which ones should I pursue, and why?’ The an­swers to these questions will be found in seeing how the Sto­ics understood the nature of the world as a whole and the nature of human beings who have to cope with what hap­pens in the world.

                            The Greek terms for ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ are phusis and phusikos, from where we get our modern ‘physics’ (the study of matter and energy) and ‘physical’. The Stoics used the term phusis in two distinct but related ways. It is not always clear in their writings which of these two meanings are alluded to, or even, sometimes, whether both meanings are intended. This is the case with their motto ‘Live according to nature’ – which in fact is two mottoes rolled into one. One meaning is ‘Live according to human nature’ and the second meaning is ‘Live according to universal nature’. Facts about the universe as a whole – facts about atoms and chemistry, geology and electricity, photosynthesis and enzymes – will determine the facts about the nature of individual things in the universe, including the natures of stars and planets, and of the things we find populating the surface of our world: including the nature of human beings. And clearly, human nature is distinct from the nature of other things, although some common features may be observed, as obviously there are a range of similarities between human beings and ani­mals.
                             

                            Read Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.56.

                            In a somewhat bizarre thought experiment, Marcus imagines that he has died, but that a further period of life has been granted to him. Sometimes, people who have been ‘snatched from the jaws of death’ – perhaps surviving an almost certainly fatal accident or medical emergency – have a strong sense that from that point the rest of their lives has been granted to them as a special gift, which they must use in some special way. I think Marcus was trying to manoeuvre himself into this perspective, from which he urges himself from that point on to live according to nature. And he means this in terms of both human nature and universal nature.

                            Read Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 8.1.

                            In this longer passage, it is clear that Marcus is discussing his own human nature. He tells us that ‘doing what human nature requires’ is found in ‘having principles’. These principles we have already investigated in Paper 1, which dis­cussed the Stoic conception of virtue (that only virtue is good and vice bad) and of the ‘indifferent’ things. Although Marcus does not mention it here, he would understand ‘act­ing with reservation’, which we discussed in Paper 2, also to be a ‘principle’ by which we ‘govern every impulse and ac­tion’.

                            Universal nature will be covered in the next paper, but for now we will focus on the Stoic understanding of human na­ture.

                            All things in nature flourish after their own fashion. Dif­ferent things need different circumstances and conditions in order to flourish. The specific ways in which something grows and behaves constitute its ‘nature’. This being so, it is usually fairly easy to see whether anything is appropriate or inappropriate for something. It is appropriate to put the cat out for the night, but inappropriate to put the baby out for the night. The substances we use to ‘feed’ our plants are not ap­propriate for feeding to animals or humans. Polar bears will not survive in the tropics, and elephants will manage poorly on mountain ledges.

                            Like everything else in the natural world, human beings have been constituted by universal nature to have their own specific and particular nature.

                            Universal Nature sanctions a norm for particular things – the nature of plants, animals and men – by reference to which they can be said to attain or not to attain their indi­vidual ends.

                            (Long 1986, 180)

                            We can now see the connection between human nature and the preferred indifferents that we have already dis­cussed. It is appropriate for humans to pursue the preferred indifferents. This is, in part at least, what is meant by ‘fol­lowing nature’ or ‘living according to nature’. We need the preferred indifferents, at least to some minimum stan­dard, in order to flourish. We may be able to survive (and fall short of fully flourishing) by coming into possession of only a certain range of indifferent things, and by having them to an impov­erished degree. Some prisoners of war held by the Japanese in the Second World War survived, to be sure, but they most certainly did not fully flourish.

                            Nature has made us capable of flourishing, and it is ap­propriate for us to pursue and secure what we need to flour­ish. Clearly we need a basic supply of food and drink, and clearly we need a basic standard of shelter. The vast majority of people flourish poorly if deprived of human contact, so clearly we need a certain quantity and quality of relation­ships with family and friends. Procreating and raising that family is obviously a major component for flourishing well for most people, as is having and maintaining good health. And because we live in a society, the best sort of flourishing appears to require our maintaining a certain status, to be valued and supported in the families and groups to which we belong.

                            Few people pursue what is inappropriate (drug addicts do, for example) and some people pursue what is appropriate in a faulty or impoverished fashion (as do criminals in their pursuit of wealth and the enjoyment of goods that rightly belong to others). Do not most people, then, ‘live according to nature’ just in pursuing the preferred indifferents? To make this suggestions places humans on the same level with ani­mals, for animals pursue what is appropriate for them – that is all they can do – and doing so, for an animal, is to live ac­cording to nature.

                            But human beings are not animals. In important ways we are more than animals, for human beings have a faculty of reason. They can deliberate about what to do and decide whether to do it or not, whereas animals (with the possible exception of some higher primates) cannot do this. Instead, they react spontaneously and instinctively to each and every circumstance they encounter, as each arises.

                            Some people have a well-developed faculty of reason, whilst others do not – all the same, it remains the case that human beings are marked out as different by this faculty of reason.

                            What is best in man? Reason: with this he precedes the animals and follows the Gods. Therefore perfect reason is man’s peculiar good, the rest he shares with animals and plants. … What is the peculiar characteristic of a man? Reason – which when right and perfect makes the full sum of human happiness. Therefore if every thing, when it has perfected its own good, is praiseworthy and has reached the end of its own nature, and man’s own good is reason, if he has perfected reason, he is praiseworthy and has attained the end of his nature. This perfect reason is called virtue and it is identical to rectitude.

                            (Seneca, Moral Letters 76.9–10, trans. Long and Sedley 1987, 63D, p. 395)

                            Read Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, Letter 41, last paragraph, pp. 88–9 ( = Moral Letters 41.8–9).

                            In virtue of having reason, human beings can be morally good or bad, and they can adopt their interests and pursue their projects in ways entirely impossible for animals. Seneca and the Stoics see reason as the key defining difference that sets us apart from everything else in creation, and this ac­cords reason a special status. It is indeed, supremely special. The extent to which we perfect our reason is the extent to which we approach closer to becoming fully human.

                            Clearly it is not enough just to pursue what is appropriate for us – for this can be done for the wrong reasons. Long (1986, 191) points out, for example, that it is appropriate to keep fit, but this does not establish that it is a good person who is keeping fit – and it certainly would not be if their mo­tive for keeping fit is to rob a bank. Excellence of character, or virtue, is seen in a person who does what is appropriate for good reasons. This, for human beings, is what is required to live according to (human) nature, along with valuing virtue as good, and taking the appropriate ‘external things’ as ‘indif­ferent’, though preferred. What else is required to also live according to universal nature will be looked at in the next paper.

                            Read Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.11 and 5.3.

                            We can now answer the question that we posed at the start of this section: ‘What are virtues for?’

                            The virtues are qualities of character that make it possible for us to (1) choose from among the preferred indifferents those that are appropriate for us in (2) such a way that what we do is right, morally good, and praiseworthy. The faculty of reason which supports the virtues, making it possible for us to be morally good, also enables us to understand that, as we have seen, virtue is the only good, and that securing the preferred indifferents is not what matters, but the way we set about securing them; that is, by acting justly towards others, facing hardship with courage, and at all times maintaining self-restraint, and overall engaging in our affairs and choos­ing our path through life wisely.

                            In other words, our striving to be virtuous enables us to select and employ the preferred indifferents in the best possi­ble way, without regarding them as truly good, and, if the Stoics are right, moving closer to finding a peace of mind that the ancients described as ‘a smooth flow of life’.

                            ************************************************************************************

                            You stress the importance of rules. I do not recall the notion of rules being discussed by the ancient Stoics (and not by Socrates, Epicurus, the Cynics and others). If I have missed what would appear to be an important aspect of ethical exposition, I would be most appreciative of some references.

                            The problem with rules is that they are not helpful. If a Stoic would ever be motivated to follow a rule, that would be because in doing so, the rule-guided action is in accordance with virtue. Unless you check the rule against what virtue requires here and now, you do not know whether the rule is any good or not.

                            "Oh my God, why didn't you rescue little Johnny from the fire? It would have been so easy for a big strong man like you to rush into the burning house to save him!"

                            "But I couldn't get into the building. There was a sign saying 'Do not walk on the grass.'"

                            If rules should be abandoned or ignored when they are not helpful, we need another non-rule criterion by which to make that judgement. For the Stoics this is virtue.

                            ---------

                            You complain about my reliance on specialist terminology. I have made an account of how I regard this problem -- for indeed, if communication is in not effective, there is a problem. I cannot do any better than I can do. I am honestly trying to be as clear as I can be. Evidently I have failed, and you do indeed remain dissatisfied with the responses you have received. I have offered you free copies of my books in the hope that texts of tens of thousands of words, carefully worked up and edited over a period of months or years might succeed better that these impromptu emails of only a few hundred words -- and you appear to have turned me down.

                            If other writers and advocates of Stoic philosophy are better in their expositions than me (for surely there must be some) might I suggest (1) you approach them for relief of your dissatisfaction, and (2) PLEASE tell me who they are, so that I might make the attempt to learn from them.

                            I hope I haven't missed out anything you wanted me to address.

                            Regards,

                            Keith
                          • Keith Seddon
                            Keith Seddon wrote: *d Marcus Aurelius, /Meditations/ 7.56.* Yahoo Groups has mangled all my indented references. That should be * Read Marcus Aurelius,
                            Message 13 of 18 , Feb 14, 2011
                            • 0 Attachment
                              Keith Seddon wrote:

                              d Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.56.


                              Yahoo Groups has mangled all my indented references.

                              That should be

                                      Read Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.56.

                              (And so on for all the other references.)

                              If you would care to picture a little icon of an open book before the instruction 'Read', that will then resemble the layout that I originally had.

                              Regards,

                              Keith
                            • A. PIEKARSKI
                              Keith, first of all, I want you to know that I really appreciate the effort you are making to help me understand. If I still don t, it s probably in part
                              Message 14 of 18 , Feb 15, 2011
                              • 0 Attachment
                                Keith, first of all, I want you to know that I really appreciate the effort you
                                are making to help me understand. If I still don't, it's probably in part
                                because

                                I didn't phrase my question in a way that you could understand.  I'll try again,

                                but probably for the last time.

                                I accept what you wrote in your lengthy reply below.  My question concerned
                                the specific example you gave of someone committing suicide in order to
                                save the lives of others.  You said such an act could be virtuous, but not
                                in accordance with nature.

                                My understanding is that, as social beings, it IS in our nature to protect what
                                we are a part of e.g. humanity.  In this we are similar to bees in a hive.  A
                                bee

                                may sacrifice itself for the good of the hive and still act according to nature.
                                So why are you saying that in the case of humn beings, such an act is not
                                according to nature.  I don't see where in your reply that is addressed.

                                You stated below that I "turned down" your offer for free books on Stoicism.
                                Actually, I immediately purchased your book Stoic Serenity and am already
                                reading it.

                                You also asked below whom else I have approached on this issue.  Although
                                I didn't approach him, Guillaume did respond to this question (and I did say so
                                in my

                                last message).  Once again:

                                "For example if you were in possession of very important information regarding
                                the resistance movement, and were chased by the occupying army ; when caught, in

                                order to avoid the risk of putting your friends and comrades at risk when being
                                tortured and put under pressure to betray them, you may find that suicide is a
                                rational option, THEN IT BECOMES AN ACT FULLY IN ACCORDANCE WITH NATURE,
                                which is to prefer the common good. It doesn't follow that a teenager committing

                                suicide after a love deception is doing any good neither for himself not for the

                                community, thus it's not in accordance with nature.
                                "According with nature" is a synonym for "according to reason" ".

                                For the meaning of "nature" I found this useful explanation by in
                                Guide to Stoicism by St. George William Joseph Stock
                                "It was assumed by the Greeks that the ways of nature were 'the ways
                                of pleasantness,' and that 'all her paths' were 'peace.' This may
                                seem to us a startling assumption, but that is because we do not mean
                                by 'nature' the same thing as they did. We connect the term with the
                                origin of a thing, they connected it rather with the end; by the
                                'natural state' we mean a state of savagery, they meant the highest
                                civilization; we mean by a thing's nature what it is or has been,
                                they meant what it ought to become under the most favourable
                                conditions; not the sour crab, but the mellow glory of the Hesperides
                                worthy to be guarded by a sleepless dragon, was to the Greeks the
                                natural apple. Hence we find Aristotle maintaining that the State is
                                a natural product, because it is evolved out of social relations
                                which exist by nature. Nature indeed was a highly ambiguous term to
                                the Greeks no less than to ourselves, but in the sense with which we
                                are now concerned, the nature of anything was defined by the
                                Peripatetics as 'the end of its becoming.' Another definition of
                                theirs puts the matter still more clearly. 'What each thing is when
                                its growth has been completed, that we declare to be the nature of
                                each thing'."



                                 

                                >Hello Andrew,
                                >
                                >Let me pop this in first:
                                >
                                >>>>Yes, but why didn't you answer my question. "Suicide is against nature
                                >>>>because..."<<<
                                >
                                >I had no intention of avoiding your question. I have written on this topic at
                                >some length, and thought I had dealt with it. Let me try again:
                                >
                                >All things flourish after their own kind. Things that promote such flourishing
                                >or are indicative of it are referred to being in accordance with nature. Things

                                >which curtail or are indicative of such curtailment are referred to as not being
                                >
                                >in accordance with nature. Suicide is contrary to nature because it curtails
                                >flourishing. Indeed damage to the body generally is detrimental to flourishing,

                                >and extinguishing the life in one's body (and therefore one's capacity for
                                >agency) makes any kind of flourishing impossible.
                                >
                                >This is from my book Stoic Serenity, Chapter 3, pp. 56--61. Here I attempt to
                                >explain the Stoic notion of 'living in accordance with nature' for the reader
                                >who is entirely new to Stoicism:
                                >
                                >************************************************************************************
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                >THE STOIC MOTTO
                                >
                                >Roughly halfway through Letter 5, Seneca remarks to Lucilius that: ‘Our motto,
                                >as everyone knows, is to live in conformity with nature.’ Seneca’s sentiment in

                                >this Letter makes it clear that for Stoics, if one is to live naturally one must
                                >
                                >live simply, and that living simply is an essential com­ponent of living
                                >naturally. But what do the Stoics mean when they say – all of which mean the
                                >same thing – that we should live in agreement/in accordance/in conformity with
                                >na­ture? One thing that they do not mean is that we should ‘get back to nature’,
                                >
                                >go naked, or live off wild berries.
                                >A somewhat different question from the one we have al­ready asked and dismissed,
                                >
                                >‘If I act virtuously, what’s in it for me?’ is the question, ‘What are the
                                >virtues for?’ And further, we may ask what we will see is a closely related
                                >question, ‘Of all the conventional goods that the Stoics refer to as preferred
                                >indifferents, which ones should I pursue, and why?’ The an­swers to these
                                >questions will be found in seeing how the Sto­ics understood the nature of the
                                >world as a whole and the nature of human beings who have to cope with what
                                >hap­pens in the world.
                                >The Greek terms for ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ are phusis and phusikos, from where
                                >we get our modern ‘physics’ (the study of matter and energy) and ‘physical’. The
                                >
                                >Stoics used the term phusis in two distinct but related ways. It is not always
                                >clear in their writings which of these two meanings are alluded to, or even,
                                >sometimes, whether both meanings are intended. This is the case with their motto
                                >
                                >‘Live according to nature’ – which in fact is two mottoes rolled into one. One
                                >meaning is ‘Live according to human nature’ and the second meaning is ‘Live
                                >according to universal nature’. Facts about the universe as a whole – facts
                                >about atoms and chemistry, geology and electricity, photosynthesis and enzymes –
                                >
                                >will determine the facts about the nature of individual things in the universe,

                                >including the natures of stars and planets, and of the things we find populating
                                >
                                >the surface of our world: including the nature of human beings. And clearly,
                                >human nature is distinct from the nature of other things, although some common
                                >features may be observed, as obviously there are a range of similarities between
                                >
                                >human beings and ani­mals.

                                >Read Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.56.
                                >In a somewhat bizarre thought experiment, Marcus imagines that he has died, but

                                >that a further period of life has been granted to him. Sometimes, people who
                                >have been ‘snatched from the jaws of death’ – perhaps surviving an almost
                                >certainly fatal accident or medical emergency – have a strong sense that from
                                >that point the rest of their lives has been granted to them as a special gift,
                                >which they must use in some special way. I think Marcus was trying to manoeuvre

                                >himself into this perspective, from which he urges himself from that point on to
                                >
                                >live according to nature. And he means this in terms of both human nature and
                                >universal nature.
                                >Read Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 8.1.
                                >In this longer passage, it is clear that Marcus is discussing his own human
                                >nature. He tells us that ‘doing what human nature requires’ is found in ‘having

                                >principles’. These principles we have already investigated in Paper 1, which
                                >dis­cussed the Stoic conception of virtue (that only virtue is good and vice
                                >bad) and of the ‘indifferent’ things. Although Marcus does not mention it here,

                                >he would understand ‘act­ing with reservation’, which we discussed in Paper 2,
                                >also to be a ‘principle’ by which we ‘govern every impulse and ac­tion’.
                                >Universal nature will be covered in the next paper, but for now we will focus on
                                >
                                >the Stoic understanding of human na­ture.
                                >All things in nature flourish after their own fashion. Dif­ferent things need
                                >different circumstances and conditions in order to flourish. The specific ways
                                >in which something grows and behaves constitute its ‘nature’. This being so, it

                                >is usually fairly easy to see whether anything is appropriate or inappropriate
                                >for something. It is appropriate to put the cat out for the night, but
                                >inappropriate to put the baby out for the night. The substances we use to ‘feed’
                                >
                                >our plants are not ap­propriate for feeding to animals or humans. Polar bears
                                >will not survive in the tropics, and elephants will manage poorly on mountain
                                >ledges.
                                >Like everything else in the natural world, human beings have been constituted by
                                >
                                >universal nature to have their own specific and particular nature.
                                >Universal Nature sanctions a norm for particular things – the nature of plants,

                                >animals and men – by reference to which they can be said to attain or not to
                                >attain their indi­vidual ends.
                                >(Long 1986, 180)
                                >We can now see the connection between human nature and the preferred
                                >indifferents that we have already dis­cussed. It is appropriate for humans to
                                >pursue the preferred indifferents. This is, in part at least, what is meant by
                                >‘fol­lowing nature’ or ‘living according to nature’. We need the preferred
                                >indifferents, at least to some minimum stan­dard, in order to flourish. We may
                                >be able to survive (and fall short of fully flourishing) by coming into
                                >possession of only a certain range of indifferent things, and by having them to

                                >an impov­erished degree. Some prisoners of war held by the Japanese in the
                                >Second World War survived, to be sure, but they most certainly did not fully
                                >flourish.
                                >Nature has made us capable of flourishing, and it is ap­propriate for us to
                                >pursue and secure what we need to flour­ish. Clearly we need a basic supply of
                                >food and drink, and clearly we need a basic standard of shelter. The vast
                                >majority of people flourish poorly if deprived of human contact, so clearly we
                                >need a certain quantity and quality of relation­ships with family and friends.
                                >Procreating and raising that family is obviously a major component for
                                >flourishing well for most people, as is having and maintaining good health. And

                                >because we live in a society, the best sort of flourishing appears to require
                                >our maintaining a certain status, to be valued and supported in the families and
                                >
                                >groups to which we belong.
                                >Few people pursue what is inappropriate (drug addicts do, for example) and some

                                >people pursue what is appropriate in a faulty or impoverished fashion (as do
                                >criminals in their pursuit of wealth and the enjoyment of goods that rightly
                                >belong to others). Do not most people, then, ‘live according to nature’ just in

                                >pursuing the preferred indifferents? To make this suggestions places humans on
                                >the same level with ani­mals, for animals pursue what is appropriate for them –

                                >that is all they can do – and doing so, for an animal, is to live ac­cording to

                                >nature.
                                >But human beings are not animals. In important ways we are more than animals,
                                >for human beings have a faculty of reason. They can deliberate about what to do

                                >and decide whether to do it or not, whereas animals (with the possible exception
                                >
                                >of some higher primates) cannot do this. Instead, they react spontaneously and
                                >instinctively to each and every circumstance they encounter, as each arises.
                                >Some people have a well-developed faculty of reason, whilst others do not – all

                                >the same, it remains the case that human beings are marked out as different by
                                >this faculty of reason.
                                >What is best in man? Reason: with this he precedes the animals and follows the
                                >Gods. Therefore perfect reason is man’s peculiar good, the rest he shares with
                                >animals and plants. … What is the peculiar characteristic of a man? Reason –
                                >which when right and perfect makes the full sum of human happiness. Therefore if
                                >
                                >every thing, when it has perfected its own good, is praiseworthy and has reached
                                >
                                >the end of its own nature, and man’s own good is reason, if he has perfected
                                >reason, he is praiseworthy and has attained the end of his nature. This perfect

                                >reason is called virtue and it is identical to rectitude.
                                >(Seneca, Moral Letters 76.9–10, trans. Long and Sedley 1987, 63D, p. 395)
                                >Read Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, Letter 41, last paragraph, pp. 88–9 ( = Moral
                                >
                                >Letters 41.8–9).
                                >In virtue of having reason, human beings can be morally good or bad, and they
                                >can adopt their interests and pursue their projects in ways entirely impossible

                                >for animals. Seneca and the Stoics see reason as the key defining difference
                                >that sets us apart from everything else in creation, and this ac­cords reason a

                                >special status. It is indeed, supremely special. The extent to which we perfect

                                >our reason is the extent to which we approach closer to becoming fully human.
                                >Clearly it is not enough just to pursue what is appropriate for us – for this
                                >can be done for the wrong reasons. Long (1986, 191) points out, for example,
                                >that it is appropriate to keep fit, but this does not establish that it is a
                                >good person who is keeping fit – and it certainly would not be if their mo­tive

                                >for keeping fit is to rob a bank. Excellence of character, or virtue, is seen in
                                >
                                >a person who does what is appropriate for good reasons. This, for human beings,

                                >is what is required to live according to (human) nature, along with valuing
                                >virtue as good, and taking the appropriate ‘external things’ as ‘indif­ferent’,

                                >though preferred. What else is required to also live according to universal
                                >nature will be looked at in the next paper.
                                >Read Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.11 and 5.3.
                                >We can now answer the question that we posed at the start of this section: ‘What
                                >
                                >are virtues for?’
                                >The virtues are qualities of character that make it possible for us to (1)
                                >choose from among the preferred indifferents those that are appropriate for us
                                >in (2) such a way that what we do is right, morally good, and praiseworthy. The

                                >faculty of reason which supports the virtues, making it possible for us to be
                                >morally good, also enables us to understand that, as we have seen, virtue is the
                                >
                                >only good, and that securing the preferred indifferents is not what matters, but
                                >
                                >the way we set about securing them; that is, by acting justly towards others,
                                >facing hardship with courage, and at all times maintaining self-restraint, and
                                >overall engaging in our affairs and choos­ing our path through life wisely.
                                >In other words, our striving to be virtuous enables us to select and employ the

                                >preferred indifferents in the best possi­ble way, without regarding them as
                                >truly good, and, if the Stoics are right, moving closer to finding a peace of
                                >mind that the ancients described as ‘a smooth flow of life’.
                                >************************************************************************************
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                >You stress the importance of rules. I do not recall the notion of rules being
                                >discussed by the ancient Stoics (and not by Socrates, Epicurus, the Cynics and
                                >others). If I have missed what would appear to be an important aspect of ethical
                                >
                                >exposition, I would be most appreciative of some references.
                                >
                                >The problem with rules is that they are not helpful. If a Stoic would ever be
                                >motivated to follow a rule, that would be because in doing so, the rule-guided
                                >action is in accordance with virtue. Unless you check the rule against what
                                >virtue requires here and now, you do not know whether the rule is any good or
                                >not.
                                >
                                >"Oh my God, why didn't you rescue little Johnny from the fire? It would have
                                >been so easy for a big strong man like you to rush into the burning house to
                                >save him!"
                                >
                                >"But I couldn't get into the building. There was a sign saying 'Do not walk on
                                >the grass.'"
                                >
                                >If rules should be abandoned or ignored when they are not helpful, we need
                                >another non-rule criterion by which to make that judgement. For the Stoics this

                                >is virtue.
                                >
                                >---------
                                >
                                >You complain about my reliance on specialist terminology. I have made an account
                                >
                                >of how I regard this problem -- for indeed, if communication is in not
                                >effective, there is a problem. I cannot do any better than I can do. I am
                                >honestly trying to be as clear as I can be. Evidently I have failed, and you do

                                >indeed remain dissatisfied with the responses you have received. I have offered

                                >you free copies of my books in the hope that texts of tens of thousands of
                                >words, carefully worked up and edited over a period of months or years might
                                >succeed better that these impromptu emails of only a few hundred words -- and
                                >you appear to have turned me down.
                                >
                                >If other writers and advocates of Stoic philosophy are better in their
                                >expositions than me (for surely there must be some) might I suggest (1) you
                                >approach them for relief of your dissatisfaction, and (2) PLEASE tell me who
                                >they are, so that I might make the attempt to learn from them.
                                >
                                >I hope I haven't missed out anything you wanted me to address.
                                >
                                >Regards,
                                >
                                >Keith
                                >
                              • Keith Seddon
                                Hello Andrew, ... Yes. ... When someone resists the tyrant, and in so doing forfeits their life in the hope that their family or friends will remain safe (or
                                Message 15 of 18 , Feb 16, 2011
                                • 0 Attachment
                                  Hello Andrew,
                                  My question concerned the specific example you gave of someone committing suicide in order to save the lives of others. You said such an act could be virtuous, but not in accordance with nature.
                                    
                                  Yes.
                                  My understanding is that, as social beings, it IS in our nature to protect what we are a part of e.g. humanity. In this we are similar to bees in a hive. A bee may sacrifice itself for the good of the hive and still act according to nature. So why are you saying that in the case of humn beings, such an act is not according to nature.  I don't see where in your reply that is addressed.
                                    
                                  When someone resists the tyrant, and in so doing forfeits their life in the hope that their family or friends will remain safe (or some such example easily modified), they are not actually acting to save their family. (Tho, to be sure, they hope to influence ensuing events.)

                                  When out walking along the cliff-top, if the Stoic forewarned by signs that no one else notices jumps up to push his family back and so saves everyone from a rock-fall that otherwise would have taken everyone over the edge to their doom, he is acting directly to save them.

                                  But in the case of resisting the tyrant, he is doing something A, in the hope that B will result. B is what he prefers to happen, and indeed, B is in accordance with nature. But A is not in accordance with nature. It is not the nature of B which determines the nature of A.

                                  Example: it is in accordance with nature to provide food for one's family. But it is not in accordance with nature (all things being equal) to steal food from others. If someone steals food for his family, it does not follow that because his intention was to feed his family, something in accordance with nature, that stealing the food is thereby also in accordance with nature.

                                  If what is in accordance with nature fluctuates according to the specific circumstances of every individual incident, then 'what is according to nature' cannot be the general guide for what the right action is -- something else must be. But it is only a general guide, as it is clear from any number of actual cases and imagined scenarios that fulfilling one's duty sometimes conflicts with what is in accordance with nature.

                                  In other words, the Stoic will sometimes have to override what is in accordance with nature in the hope of provoking the causal nexus of fate/history to yield the result that is preferred to a greater degree than getting what would happen by not overriding the first in-accordance-with-nature thing. Duty, doing what is appropriate, sometimes means giving up some preferred things (preferred because they are in accordance with nature) because something else has a higher claim.

                                  If the family that has a lot of trouble is adrift in a life-raft with water rations running low, we may imagine that the Stoic father, pretty certain that death awaits them all, gives his ration to one of the children. Probably this won't save the child, but will bring temporary comfort. It is always in accordance with nature to drink when thirsty (all things being equal), and it is no less in accordance with nature for the father to drink than it is for the child to drink. In choosing to go without, the father does not make his not drinking something-in-accordance-with-nature on this occasion.

                                  What is in accordance with nature concerns facts about the general constitution of the creature concerned, and it is always in accordance with nature for human beings to drink when their bodies manifest thirst. Sometimes, someone will forego what is in accordance with nature, not because it has suddenly on this day, at this time and place become something not in accordance with nature (for that would be to make adjustments to the constitution of human physiology, which hasn't in fact been done), but because they will satisfy what virtue requires of them as a father (or whatever) in these specific circumstances.

                                  "According with nature" is a synonym for "according to reason".
                                    
                                  Yes. To act in accordance with nature in the most general sense, a human being uses their reason. And this will mean that circumstances may arise in which reason will dictate (given one's obligations and responsibilities) that one should do something which both (a) is not in accordance with nature, and which (b) in difference circumstances, because this is not in accordance with nature, one would not do.

                                  I am holding to this point of view because in doing so I think I am using the terminology in the way the ancients Stoic did (and to deviate from doing so would be to court trouble), and because it strikes me as more logically coherent than the view which wishes to regard X-things sometimes being in accordance with nature and sometimes not, depending upon the subjective viewpoints of the agents concerned.

                                  If things are correctly deemed to be in accordance with nature (or not) from a first-person perspective, that is because they actually are in accordance with nature from an external, objective perspective. The circumstances of one's first-person perspective, so it seems to me, cannot change the character of facts about the world and about one's constitution. And it is such facts that one is describing when referring to things being in accordance with nature or not being in accordance with nature.

                                  I hope you find my book helpful.

                                  Regards,

                                  Keith
                                • A. PIEKARSKI
                                  ... Yes. ______Lots snipped out. I hope you find my book helpful. ______Yes, Keith and thanks. Andrew
                                  Message 16 of 18 , Feb 17, 2011
                                  • 0 Attachment
                                    >

                                    >Hello Andrew,
                                    >
                                    >My question concerned the specific example you gave of someone committing
                                    >suicide in order to save the lives of others. You said such an act could be
                                    >virtuous, but not in accordance with nature.  

                                    Yes.

                                    ______Lots snipped out.

                                    I hope you find my book helpful.

                                    ______Yes, Keith and thanks.

                                    Andrew
                                  Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.