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Re: [stoics] Re: Is the pursuit of virtue a moral obligation?

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  • Richard
    Steve Marquis: «The problem with ‘desiring’ eudaimonia is that to have it one must desire arête instead.  Desire for eudaimonia is likely to be a desire
    Message 1 of 15 , Jul 2, 2013
      Steve Marquis:

      «The problem with ‘desiring’ eudaimonia is that to have it one must desire arête instead.  Desire for eudaimonia is likely to be a desire that is a pathos.  I think this is why Epictetus recommends that as beginners we should avoid desire for anything, even what appears to be the good.»


      Indeed. That is perhaps why the termed "enlightened" is implied. A person who has "enlightened" self-interest might see that the best of all socieities has ethical, moral, mutually supportive people, and might work towards a "win-win" situation because ultimately it's in his self-interest to do so
       
      Take an honest village wherein locking one's front door is unnecessary. These people may feel secure about their environment, people may have less possessions, but enjoy them more because the need not worry about being robbed or cheated.


      Regards, Richard
      ---------------------- 
      A vulgar man, in any ill that happens to him, blames others; a novice in philosophy blames himself; and a philosopher blames neither the one nor the other.
      ~ Epictetus
    • Richard
      Correction That is perhaps why the termed enlightened is *APplied*. Sorry. Regards, Richard ... A vulgar man, in any ill that happens to him, blames
      Message 2 of 15 , Jul 2, 2013
        Correction
        That is perhaps why the termed "enlightened" is *APplied*. Sorry.
        Regards, Richard
        ---------------------- 
        A vulgar man, in any ill that happens to him, blames others; a novice in philosophy blames himself; and a philosopher blames neither the one nor the other.
        ~ Epictetus
      • Steve Marquis
        Grant-   I do not disagree with your argument of course.  But we use the word virtue a lot.  And we use the word moral a lot.  As before I am concerned
        Message 3 of 15 , Jul 2, 2013
          Grant-
           
          I do not disagree with your argument of course.  But we use the word virtue a lot.  And we use the word moral a lot.  As before I am concerned that using these common English words for ancient philosophical concepts leads us astray.  I do not believe arête is synonymous with what we non-reflectively consider moral.  Moral choices are usually separated from the more common mundane choices we make most of the time.
           
          For the ancients there is only truth or falsehood.  There aren’t trivial ‘mundane’ truths and serious moral dilemma type truths.  There is truth period.  As a rather crude example choosing when to break wind is a choice about which I assent to or withhold assent from like any other impression.  If I assent to a true proposition for this simple biological function then I have broken wind with arête.  IOW in the Stoic world this isn’t any amoral group of assents that avoid the truth false dichotomy.  The word ‘moral’ then must be expanded to cover every single choice we make down to the most trivial.  And in doing that it loses a lot of the _moral_ authority (ha) it is supposed to have.
           
          So I want to know what everyone means when they use the terms virtue and morality (and ethical for that matter).  Why does arête translated as ‘excellence’ have to be qualified with ‘moral’ in front of it? Arête I understand.  Assent to the truth – subject matter to be filled in with anything.
           
          Live well,
          Steve
          From: Grant Sterling <gcsterling@...>
          To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 11:04 AM
          Subject: Re: [stoics] Re: Is the pursuit of virtue a moral obligation?

          This has been an interesting thread....

              Let me begin with some clarifications.
          In this post I will use "happy" NOT as a translation
          of Greek terms related to eudaimonia, but in the
          ordinary contemporary English sense--a "happy"
          life is simply one that the person gets pleasure from
          most of the time.  I will use "good" to mean "beneficial",
          where that means "contributing to a happy life"....

              The average non-Stoic regards the objects
          of their desires as good.  Hence, they believe
          that to lead a happy life, one must attain the
          object of one's desires most of the time.  (In
          theory, one could lead a perfectly happy life,
          but that would require always getting what one
          wants.  Most people recognize that this is unattainable
          in practice, although they often dream that if their
          lives were just a little different, they could
          come very close.  This leads to the phenomenon that
          Aristotle recognized (how little human nature changes
          over the centuries!)--when we don't get what we want
          because we don't have the money, we regard happiness
          as wealth.  When we're sick, we think we'd be happy
          with health.  Colleagues don't respect me?  I'd
          be happy with honor.  Sick of my wife?  I'd be happy
          if I were married to that woman over there.  Etc.)

              Now everyone (except perhaps the criminally
          insane) also recognizes that there are moral requirements
          one should follow.  I have already been quoted on this
          thread--I don't think that in 99.99% of cases people
          have any trouble figuring out what they ought to do,
          if they're willing to be honest.  But, of course, the
          most efficient path to getting what I desire to obtain
          may conflict with morality.  {Often, probably most of
          the time, there is no conflict.  But people don't realize
          this because they simply don't think too much about
          morality when it corresponds to their desires.  I don't
          lie to my students when I'm teaching them.  Not lying to them
          is the right thing to do...but since I don't have any desire
          to lie to them, I don't usually notice that morality and
          happiness coincide here.}

              As a result, when we think of morality we
          automatically think of it as conflicting with happiness.
          Morality involves _sacrifice_.  {Again, the vast majority
          of the time morality require no sacrifice even without
          reforming our desires, but we don't notice this.}  We
          must choose whether to be moral or be happy, and inevitably
          we all end up choosing one way sometimes and then other
          way at other times.  (The percentages aren't the same for
          each of us, of course.)  We often try to _rationalize_ that
          our pursuit of happiness is right after all.  "The company's
          so rich they'll never even miss this."  "It can't be wrong to
          have sex with that woman because I really love her."  Etc.
          In almost all "moral controversies" what you will find is
          a fairly obvious moral requirement in conflict with a pervasive
          and strong desire.

              Now for the Greek philosophers (not necessarily the
          ordinary people!) no such conflict existed.  Eudaimonia was
          conceived as an _essentially_ moral concept.  Anyone acting
          viciously _was not experiencing eudaimonia_ regardless of
          whether or not they were enjoying themselves.  I know a man
          who experiences a rush of glee when he cheats his opponent
          and gets away with it.  The non-philosopher would say that
          he is happy with his life when he's acting immorally.  The
          Stoic (or Platonist, or Aristotlelian--they agree on this)
          would say that he is _farther away_ from eudaimonia.

              For the Stoic, however, this loops back around.  If
          I have purged my desires, so that I have only the desire to
          will (and believe and desire) correctly remaining, then by
          definition all moral actions will give me happiness, which
          they call "joy".  And with no desire for things outside my
          control, there is nothing left that should leave me unhappy.
          So when I lead a life in which I consistently pursue Virtue,
          I necessarily lead a life which is happy--indeed, I lead the
          only life in which it is possible to be happy all the time.

              So the Joy which is at the heart of Stoic happiness
          come only to those who pursue Virtue _for its own sake_.
          I cannot pursue Virtue _for the sake of the Joy_, because
          Joy is by definition the good feeling that comes when I
          desire Virtue and see it exemplified in my choices.  (I.e.,
          without the desire for virtue itself, the joy can't come.
          This is a familiar paradox at the heart of hedonism.  For
          example, I get pleasure from winning at bridge, because I
          have a desire to win.  But that means that the pleasure
          comes from pursuing the desire to win, not the desire to
          have pleasure.)

              So, for the Stoics, the only life which is truly
          happy (in the English sense) is the life in which we
          pursue Virtue for its own sake.  And it is this life which
          they call "eudaimonia".  By translating this as "happiness",
          modern translators get this backwards, and think that
          Stoicism is all about pursuing the good feeling itself.

              Regards,
                  Grant



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