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Re: [stoics] Right speech

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  • Richard
    The Stoics do not, generally, hold that one simply asserts general, exceptionless claims. So no Stoic that I know of says Never lie .» Here is a practical
    Message 1 of 7 , Aug 19, 2013
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      The Stoics do not, generally, hold that one
      simply asserts general, exceptionless claims. So
      no Stoic that I know of says "Never lie".»

      Here is a practical computer analogy -

      "Never Lie" is like the" default setting".

      Extraordinary Circumstances may override that setting.


      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
    • alefbona
      Hi Nekonatulo, Hi Steve, I ll try to focus on some points, which could help Nekonatulo with his questions. I beg pardon for my english, it s not my
      Message 2 of 7 , Aug 19, 2013
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        Hi Nekonatulo, Hi Steve,

        I'll try to focus on some points, which could help Nekonatulo with his questions. I beg pardon for my english, it's not my motherlanguage.

        1) Normative vs. Virtue Ethics
        I think we could differenciate two kind of moral or ethical systems: the one where "things and actions" are themselves good or bad, and on the otherside the one where "goodness and badness" only correspond to the perspective of an individual.
        The first approach leads to Deontology and takes a supposed "neutral" point of view, judging what is good or bad "in general".
        The second one takes the point of view of a subject, who asks himself "what is good or bad FOR me?".
        Stoic ethics is of this second kind.

        2) There is no "bad".
        Read again Epictetus (Encheiridion, 27): "As a mark is not set up for men to miss it, so there is nothing intrinsically evil in the world."
        What you could call "bad" is just something in you NOT following your own rules, not developing your nature, not acting as the thing your are...
        A "passion" is exactly this form of passivity: something external to you decides for your agency, instead of being YOUR inner Form deciding. Something happens "inside you", which is caused from outside.
        But there's no difference in "which direction" you miss the mark, you miss anyway :)
        What Epictetus means than, is that "evil" has no own "nature". It is not "something" but the lack of something... it is not a quality, but the lack of a quality.

        How do I think this two points could help you with your doubts?

        a) It doesn't make any sense to ask stoics authors for deontological "norms and principles".
        To your question about the lies I would answer: "why are you doing it? why do you lie?".
        Pay attention: not "for which goal" but "for which reason?"!!! Out of where comes this action? Which is your motivation? What happens if you DON'T do it?
        Asking this questions you'll easly find the passions moving you (if there are some) or the good reasons you have to lie :)
        If you lie for rational reasons, because a lie is the most appropriate thing to do "everything considered", with no passion pulling you to do it... than it's good for you, because you're active cause of it.

        If the stoics are not deontologists, that what about the stoic principle "everything for the good of the whole"? Isn't that a "norm"?
        Almost: for a stoic this is the "law" you find at the very deep of your nature after a rational inquiry. But you should look for it, find it, feel it, and only after this experience of "self-understanding" you can really use the "discursive principle" to remember yourself your deeper understanding of this law of nature, not before.

        b) You CANNOT "talk bad" about other persons.
        I'm not saying you "should not"... I mean you objectively CAN NOT "talk bad" about another person, if you "think stoic" (or even just "socratic").
        Remember we said that good and bad are not quality of things in themselves? Well how do you think you capable of saying "the bad" of something?
        Stoics are determinists, everything happens following the rules of Nature, with capital "N", that means that if you judge that somethings "should" not happen but it actually happens... YOU are wrong. The reality always win :)
        "God and Bad" becomes category to define only what is under YOUR power, nothing else.
        If you add the socratic premise saying that "noone chooses its own bad on purpose" and therefore "nobody does something bad on purpose", you will really have difficulties sharing "common discurses" about other peoples behaviours.

        c) How do I think or talk about others and why?
        Most generally you should always ask yourself "why am I doing that?"
        This is the first "principle" of the stoic Discipline of Impulse to Action (as present in Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, read Hadot on this topic if your are interested): "Never do something without a good reason or goal".
        Which is your interest in speaking out some words? What are you doing? Which point of view is assumed to talk this way?
        Mostly people try to "elevate" themselves speaking bad of others or try to build a sense of "commonality" with the other speaker by sharing judgements about another person.
        Both goals are senseless from a philosophical point of view. If you do that, you are at least loosing your time (and this is bad, from your point of view).
        Are there good reasons to reflect and speak about other people?
        Yes: to understand what's happening "inside" them.
        This knowledge is really important to you for two reasons:
        1) Heal your passions
        The better you understand what is happening in the soul of another human being, more appropriate will be the judgments and the emotions in YOUR soul.
        Just make an example: you invited other friends for dinner and one of them only talks big about himself and even tries to denigrate you... you could notice an aggressive passion generating in yourself.
        Now ask yourself: "why is he acting this way?"
        The answer is easy for a stoic: he probably judges "reputation" as a good for him, he feel a passion, a need for it, and consequently acts like a puppet following its passion, making himself even ridiculous... with the only goal of putting himself in a good light.
        The more you understand how passive his state is, how little choise a slave of passions has, how determinated his agency is... the more you'll freed yourself from YOUR passion and slavery.
        2) Learn from them
        If it is true that from your point of view another human-being is just a "part of Nature" and you have no direct power on him, but it is also true that it is a really special "part of Nature" because its nature is really close to yours.
        By observing and understanding the "psychology" (the laws of the soul, for a stoic) by others, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves.
        Take the exemple made before and apply it to a friend of your who actually does it a lot... think about it for some minutes, trying to remember actual situations where he did it and analise what is probably happened in his mind.
        Well, now ask yourself if it happens sometimes that the same "phenomenon" also takes place in YOUR soul.
        Sometimes it's easier to observe and understand the logic of passions in other people than in ourselves. And it's easier to understand a passion if it's stronger... that means that people with exaggerated passions can really help us understanding ourselves, by showing us a caricatural "Zoom" on ourselves. (This is what tragedies are for.)

        d) How do I speak with others
        I could start with an example:
        Wife: "Tina was such an ass yesterday, she doesn't give a s--t about other peoples feelings. It's everything about her and her new job, and new fiancee... she's so superficial, so vain..."
        Me: "I had a similar impression, it disturbed me someway."
        Wife: "Isn't it? I couldn't stand her!"
        Me: "Yeah, and I couldn't stop asking myself: why does she do that?"
        Wife: "She's an ass, I've told you! She's egoist!"
        Me: "Strategically wrong, I would say."
        Wife: "What do you mean?"
        Me: "If she's looking for appreciation or even love, she's acting the bad way... and if she is really satisfacted with her life, I don't understand why she feels the need to talk so big about it."
        Wife: "..."
        Me: "She looked stressed and upset somehow... she was really into it, like addicted to something... what do you think about it?"
        Wife: "She's exasperating, every discurse with her ends with a ode to themself or to a comparaison between you both..."
        Me: "You are right! Quite interesting... sometime it happens to me. It's really shamefull when I realise it happened, I always notice it afterwards..."
        Wife: "..."
        Me: "It is like to be drunk... I feel the need to say something, which puts me in a good light. Sorry, I'm red now. I've noticed it happens to me when I have doubts about my worthyness or when I'm not satisfied about myself... I don't feel like I want to denigrate others, but just to elevate myself a bit... but I really act like an unsensible ass... sorry, I know, it's stupid..."
        Wife: "Don't feel sorry, I think I understand, it's normal... and you're not at all like Tina, she's a hundred times worse!"
        Me: "I don't know... I really don't know... even now I feel like I'm talking bad about Tina just to feel better with myself. She talks good about herself and I talk bad about her... but we are doing the same, isn't it?
        I don't know how I could help her, but above all meeting her made me remember that I don't know how to help myself."
        Wife: "..."
        Me: "I should really wash the car before sunset... I'll reflect about it and we'll speak later if you like :) see you later my love :*"

        This dialogue has no claim of realism, but represent somehow the approach I would suggest you.
        Conversation is like playing the ball: focus on how you use the ball, don't pretend to set the rules of the game ;)
        You don't need to criticise your wifes opinions or approaches, just bring your owns in the dialogue!
        Do with your wife the same you do with the others: don't judge her (it's senseless) but try to understand her passions.
        Why is she doing that?
        And then TAKE THIS PASSIONS on you and districate them with words.
        Take always critics and responsabilities on yourself!
        Like in our example: She criticises Tina, you accept the "impression", you compare her behavior with yours, your talk about your inner perspective [this brings the other to empathise with it, because you are a beloved and not an "enemy"] and you try to discuss the possible reasons of your behavior from this perspective.
        Nietzsche said something like: "If you want to heal others, show them someone healing himself."
        These are some of the wisest words all times :)
        If you learn how to speak with yourself you'll always know how to speak with others.

        I hope I helped in someway,
        ask me or write further if you feel.

        May the Reason be with you,
        Alessio
      • nekonatulo
        Hi, thanks for the replies, please excuse my late reply, I gave it more thought and for myself I think it s better to hold on to principles. Principles
        Message 3 of 7 , Aug 30, 2013
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          Hi, thanks for the replies, please excuse my late reply,

           

          I gave it more thought and for myself I think it's better to hold on to principles. Principles (virtue) 1st, noble duties 2nd. 

           

          @Grant: I think you're right, it would benefit the wife more if the husband doesn't go along in her talking bad about her friends. He should be an example of virtuous behavior to his wife, because that would be in her benefit.

           

          @Alessio: Thanks for your ellaborated reply. It gave me some good food for thought. One thing your post got me to think about is that maybe we (all members) could together on this forum come up with a set of "Stoic Principles", something like this:

           

          - Always ask "Why am I doing that" (Discipline of Impulse to Action).

          - Try not to own more stuff than you need, but don't get obsessed with it.

          - Never worry about things outside your own moral choice. (Epictetus)

          - Don't talk bad about others when they are not around (enchiridion)

          - Strive to be a good husband, neighbour, colleage, citizin, etc.

          - Don't attempt to do something when you know 100% sure that it's impossible.



          --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, <alefbona@...> wrote:

          Hi Nekonatulo, Hi Steve,

          I'll try to focus on some points, which could help Nekonatulo with his questions. I beg pardon for my english, it's not my motherlanguage.

          1) Normative vs. Virtue Ethics
          I think we could differenciate two kind of moral or ethical systems: the one where "things and actions" are themselves good or bad, and on the otherside the one where "goodness and badness" only correspond to the perspective of an individual.
          The first approach leads to Deontology and takes a supposed "neutral" point of view, judging what is good or bad "in general".
          The second one takes the point of view of a subject, who asks himself "what is good or bad FOR me?".
          Stoic ethics is of this second kind.

          2) There is no "bad".
          Read again Epictetus (Encheiridion, 27): "As a mark is not set up for men to miss it, so there is nothing intrinsically evil in the world."
          What you could call "bad" is just something in you NOT following your own rules, not developing your nature, not acting as the thing your are...
          A "passion" is exactly this form of passivity: something external to you decides for your agency, instead of being YOUR inner Form deciding. Something happens "inside you", which is caused from outside.
          But there's no difference in "which direction" you miss the mark, you miss anyway :)
          What Epictetus means than, is that "evil" has no own "nature". It is not "something" but the lack of something... it is not a quality, but the lack of a quality.

          How do I think this two points could help you with your doubts?

          a) It doesn't make any sense to ask stoics authors for deontological "norms and principles".
          To your question about the lies I would answer: "why are you doing it? why do you lie?".
          Pay attention: not "for which goal" but "for which reason?"!!! Out of where comes this action? Which is your motivation? What happens if you DON'T do it?
          Asking this questions you'll easly find the passions moving you (if there are some) or the good reasons you have to lie :)
          If you lie for rational reasons, because a lie is the most appropriate thing to do "everything considered", with no passion pulling you to do it... than it's good for you, because you're active cause of it.

          If the stoics are not deontologists, that what about the stoic principle "everything for the good of the whole"? Isn't that a "norm"?
          Almost: for a stoic this is the "law" you find at the very deep of your nature after a rational inquiry. But you should look for it, find it, feel it, and only after this experience of "self-understanding" you can really use the "discursive principle" to remember yourself your deeper understanding of this law of nature, not before.

          b) You CANNOT "talk bad" about other persons.
          I'm not saying you "should not"... I mean you objectively CAN NOT "talk bad" about another person, if you "think stoic" (or even just "socratic").
          Remember we said that good and bad are not quality of things in themselves? Well how do you think you capable of saying "the bad" of something?
          Stoics are determinists, everything happens following the rules of Nature, with capital "N", that means that if you judge that somethings "should" not happen but it actually happens... YOU are wrong. The reality always win :)
          "God and Bad" becomes category to define only what is under YOUR power, nothing else.
          If you add the socratic premise saying that "noone chooses its own bad on purpose" and therefore "nobody does something bad on purpose", you will really have difficulties sharing "common discurses" about other peoples behaviours.

          c) How do I think or talk about others and why?
          Most generally you should always ask yourself "why am I doing that?"
          This is the first "principle" of the stoic Discipline of Impulse to Action (as present in Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, read Hadot on this topic if your are interested): "Never do something without a good reason or goal".
          Which is your interest in speaking out some words? What are you doing? Which point of view is assumed to talk this way?
          Mostly people try to "elevate" themselves speaking bad of others or try to build a sense of "commonality" with the other speaker by sharing judgements about another person.
          Both goals are senseless from a philosophical point of view. If you do that, you are at least loosing your time (and this is bad, from your point of view).
          Are there good reasons to reflect and speak about other people?
          Yes: to understand what's happening "inside" them.
          This knowledge is really important to you for two reasons:
          1) Heal your passions
          The better you understand what is happening in the soul of another human being, more appropriate will be the judgments and the emotions in YOUR soul.
          Just make an example: you invited other friends for dinner and one of them only talks big about himself and even tries to denigrate you... you could notice an aggressive passion generating in yourself.
          Now ask yourself: "why is he acting this way?"
          The answer is easy for a stoic: he probably judges "reputation" as a good for him, he feel a passion, a need for it, and consequently acts like a puppet following its passion, making himself even ridiculous... with the only goal of putting himself in a good light.
          The more you understand how passive his state is, how little choise a slave of passions has, how determinated his agency is... the more you'll freed yourself from YOUR passion and slavery.
          2) Learn from them
          If it is true that from your point of view another human-being is just a "part of Nature" and you have no direct power on him, but it is also true that it is a really special "part of Nature" because its nature is really close to yours.
          By observing and understanding the "psychology" (the laws of the soul, for a stoic) by others, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves.
          Take the exemple made before and apply it to a friend of your who actually does it a lot... think about it for some minutes, trying to remember actual situations where he did it and analise what is probably happened in his mind.
          Well, now ask yourself if it happens sometimes that the same "phenomenon" also takes place in YOUR soul.
          Sometimes it's easier to observe and understand the logic of passions in other people than in ourselves. And it's easier to understand a passion if it's stronger... that means that people with exaggerated passions can really help us understanding ourselves, by showing us a caricatural "Zoom" on ourselves. (This is what tragedies are for.)

          d) How do I speak with others
          I could start with an example:
          Wife: "Tina was such an ass yesterday, she doesn't give a s--t about other peoples feelings. It's everything about her and her new job, and new fiancee... she's so superficial, so vain..."
          Me: "I had a similar impression, it disturbed me someway."
          Wife: "Isn't it? I couldn't stand her!"
          Me: "Yeah, and I couldn't stop asking myself: why does she do that?"
          Wife: "She's an ass, I've told you! She's egoist!"
          Me: "Strategically wrong, I would say."
          Wife: "What do you mean?"
          Me: "If she's looking for appreciation or even love, she's acting the bad way... and if she is really satisfacted with her life, I don't understand why she feels the need to talk so big about it."
          Wife: "..."
          Me: "She looked stressed and upset somehow... she was really into it, like addicted to something... what do you think about it?"
          Wife: "She's exasperating, every discurse with her ends with a ode to themself or to a comparaison between you both..."
          Me: "You are right! Quite interesting... sometime it happens to me. It's really shamefull when I realise it happened, I always notice it afterwards..."
          Wife: "..."
          Me: "It is like to be drunk... I feel the need to say something, which puts me in a good light. Sorry, I'm red now. I've noticed it happens to me when I have doubts about my worthyness or when I'm not satisfied about myself... I don't feel like I want to denigrate others, but just to elevate myself a bit... but I really act like an unsensible ass... sorry, I know, it's stupid..."
          Wife: "Don't feel sorry, I think I understand, it's normal... and you're not at all like Tina, she's a hundred times worse!"
          Me: "I don't know... I really don't know... even now I feel like I'm talking bad about Tina just to feel better with myself. She talks good about herself and I talk bad about her... but we are doing the same, isn't it?
          I don't know how I could help her, but above all meeting her made me remember that I don't know how to help myself."
          Wife: "..."
          Me: "I should really wash the car before sunset... I'll reflect about it and we'll speak later if you like :) see you later my love :*"

          This dialogue has no claim of realism, but represent somehow the approach I would suggest you.
          Conversation is like playing the ball: focus on how you use the ball, don't pretend to set the rules of the game ;)
          You don't need to criticise your wifes opinions or approaches, just bring your owns in the dialogue!
          Do with your wife the same you do with the others: don't judge her (it's senseless) but try to understand her passions.
          Why is she doing that?
          And then TAKE THIS PASSIONS on you and districate them with words.
          Take always critics and responsabilities on yourself!
          Like in our example: She criticises Tina, you accept the "impression", you compare her behavior with yours, your talk about your inner perspective [this brings the other to empathise with it, because you are a beloved and not an "enemy"] and you try to discuss the possible reasons of your behavior from this perspective.
          Nietzsche said something like: "If you want to heal others, show them someone healing himself."
          These are some of the wisest words all times :)
          If you learn how to speak with yourself you'll always know how to speak with others.

          I hope I helped in someway,
          ask me or write further if you feel.

          May the Reason be with you,
          Alessio
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