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

Classical Stoicism and the Rights of Man. Was: John Cooper: "Rights of man" in modern sense absent from Stoic philosophy

Expand Messages
  • Jan E Garrett
    The following five points, I think, are essential to the modern idea of human rights. (I do not claim that they are the only features essential to it.) These
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 1, 2003
    View Source
    • 0 Attachment
      The following five points, I think, are essential to the modern idea of human rights. (I do not claim that they are the only features essential to it.) These essentials are commitments:
      1) to objective [moral] norms independent of institutions and decrees of officials;
      2) to a minimum standard of treatment without which humans cannot live a tolerably human life;
      3) to according every human being treatment meeting this standard, barring forfeiture based on the person’s egregious violation of moral standards;
      4) to substantial reform of the law, or resistance to the state, should the law or state fail to respect these standards;
      5) to a space of (politically guaranteed) autonomy for all human beneficiaries of those standards.
       
      Cooper's point relates to #5. The classical Stoics were certainly committed to #1. I'm not sure how strongly they were committed to #2-4.  What is constantly reiterated about the sage's independence of externals tends to block commitment to #2 (because what would make up this minimum standard of treatment would be preferred indifferents); in fact, the idea of a tolerably human life presupposed by modern ideas of human rights is all about bodily and external conditions not "up to" the individual in the Stoic sense (as in Epictetus).
       
      By Roman times, anyway, such Stoics as we know much about did not push the universalism of #3 very hard, nor were they political or legal reformers (#4). Several seem to have opposed Julius Caesar's undermining of the Republic's institutions. Cicero, who was influenced in some ways by the Stoics, could endorse assassination of tyrants (i.e., Caesar), but this was not a political reform. Cicero's defense of property rights against theft had as its main political purpose the defense of the considerable wealth of his patrician friends. In the late Republic dictators with their political base in the Roman army tended to grab the property of their political opponents at will. (On Cicero, see Neal Wood, Cicero's Social and Political Thought, University of California Press 1991)
       
      Could classical Stoicism be extended in such a way that it could accomodate the features of human rights
      on this list not clearly understood by the ancient Stoics? There would have to be an account of appropriate actions that entailed obligations, so long as they are consistent with the individual's progress toward virtue, respecting such commitments, beginning with #2 and #3.
       
      Given the primacy of making moral progress, it would have to be argued that effectively respecting and promoting the [external conditions for] capabilities of others is conducive to the moral progress of those others. I use "capability" in the sense Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen use it, but their idea has classical Greek ancestry. This would probably require a more subtle moral psychology than we find in the ancient Stoics, but would perhaps not demand an abandonment of anything essential in the Stoic moral psychology.
       
       
      On Tue, 01 Jul 2003 03:01:19 -0000 "Paul" <pdlanagan@...> writes:
      --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, Jan E Garrett <jangarrett@j...> wrote:
      > John Cooper is one of the leading scholars of ancient Greek
      philosophy...(and wrote) "So there is no basis for attributing to the
      Stoics any idea of the 'rights of man' where that has at its core the
      idea that adult persons have an inviolable right to live as they
      please, so long as they don't interfere with the same right of
      others, and a similar right to take part equally in the establishment
      or authorization of public policy in their countries and communities."

      Jan,

      I can't agree with Mr Cooper here. Cicero wrote:

      For one man to take something from another and to increase his own
      advantage at the cost of another's disadvantage is more contrary to
      nature than death, than poverty, than pain and than anything else
      that may happen to his body or external possessions".

      Epictetus said:

      "No philosopher should refuse to take part in the government, for it
      is base to give way to the worthless, wicked to turn away from those
      who need our help, and foolish to prefer being ruled ill to ruling
      well".

      Regards,

      Paul L


    • Bret Burns
      Could someone tell me where this quote from Epictetus originates? Thanks! ... it ... those
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 25, 2003
      View Source
      • 0 Attachment
        Could someone tell me where this quote from Epictetus originates?
        Thanks!

        >
        > "No philosopher should refuse to take part in the government, for
        it
        > is base to give way to the worthless, wicked to turn away from
        those
        > who need our help, and foolish to prefer being ruled ill to ruling
        > well".
        >
      • Paul
        ... ruling
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 27, 2003
        View Source
        • 0 Attachment
          --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "Bret Burns" <bretburns@y...> wrote:
          > Could someone tell me where this quote from Epictetus originates?
          > Thanks!
          >
          > >
          > > "No philosopher should refuse to take part in the government, for
          > it
          > > is base to give way to the worthless, wicked to turn away from
          > those
          > > who need our help, and foolish to prefer being ruled ill to
          ruling
          > > well".
          > >
        • Paul
          ... ruling ... Bret, I have that quote listed as Fragments, 131 - I don t have any information with me at the moment, but I hope that is enough for you to
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 27, 2003
          View Source
          • 0 Attachment
            --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "Bret Burns" <bretburns@y...> wrote:
            > Could someone tell me where this quote from Epictetus originates?
            > Thanks!
            >
            > >
            > > "No philosopher should refuse to take part in the government, for
            > it
            > > is base to give way to the worthless, wicked to turn away from
            > those
            > > who need our help, and foolish to prefer being ruled ill to
            ruling
            > > well".
            >
            Bret,

            I have that quote listed as "Fragments, 131" - I don't have any
            information with me at the moment, but I hope that is enough for you
            to find the original.

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