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Re: Ancient and Modern Psychologies. Was: The scientific basis for Stoicism

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  • pxxxbaker
    I agree with you that modern philosophy has abdicated its main function. I also agree its main function should be to teach us how to live well . But we might
    Message 1 of 14 , Nov 1, 2003
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      I agree with you that modern philosophy has abdicated its main
      function. I also agree its main function should be to teach us how
      to 'live well'. But we might differ on what we mean by 'live well'.

      I believe, simply, that to 'live well' is to be happy. So for me
      philosophy should explain how you can be happy.

      Pure Stoics don't seem to agree with this, but plump for virtue as
      the main aim. If you pursue a virtous life (e.g. one that is
      temperate, free from violent passion, rational, ...(?)) then you are
      more likely to be happy, so Stoicism has much to teach me, I'm sure.

      Question for pure Stoics: Would you pursue virtue at the expense of
      happiness? Can you give examples of when you, or other Stoics, have
      done this?

      You ask: "do I really have to believe in the tripartite soul
      and in strange cosmology to be acceptable".

      Acceptable to whom?

      You only NEED to be acceptable to yourself.

      You say

      "I would say that the human instinct to reason and order, rather
      than its objective external existence, validates its pursuit".

      I disagree, the ultimate reason to do anything is to makes yourself
      as happy as you can. Reason and order are great tools for achieving
      this.

      Emotion provides goals, motivations and impetus. Reason, hopefully,
      gets you to your goals.

      Some psychologists seem to have taken over the space abdicated by
      philosophers. I find the works of Csikszentmihalyi and Seligman more
      approachable & useful than any philosophical work (ancient or
      modern).

      - Paul

      > Although I consider modern philosophy (Spinoza, Nietzsche and
      onwards) to
      > have superseded that of the ancients, it does seem to have
      abdicated its
      > function (even responsibility) to provide instruction on how to
      live well.
      > This vacuum has clearly been filled by political ideology and
      religious
      > fundamentalism, with disastrous results.
      >
      >
      >
      > Accordingly I look to the ancients for inspiration and guidance as
      I (I was
      > going to say "passionately" - LOL) wholeheartedly believe in the
      moral
      > vigour of Stoicism. But do I really have to believe in the
      tripartite soul
      > and in strange cosmology to be acceptable. I do understand that
      these
      > structures were "designed to help the individual and to help the
      > philosophical school help the individual promote tranquillity, a
      smooth flow
      > of life, a virtuous and a happy life. " The mechanism of
      promoting harmony
      > on earth by referring to the apparent harmony of the heavens - "as
      it is
      > above, so shall it be below" - has been common to pre-modern
      societies
      > throughout the world.
      >
      >
      >
      > I would say that the human instinct to reason and order, rather
      than its
      > objective external existence, validates its pursuit.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Regards - Pete
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: Jan E Garrett [mailto:jangarrett@j...]
      > Sent: 28 September 2003 04:06
      > To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
      > Subject: [stoics] Ancient and Modern Psychologies. Was: The
      scientific basis
      > for Stoicism
      >
      >
      >
      > Bernt,
      >
      >
      >
      > Your question supposes recent forms of philosophical psychology
      (such as
      > Hume's or Nietzsche's), but it is totally alien to the
      philosophical
      > psychology of most of the ancient Greek philosophical schools. To
      start to
      > inform yourself about ancient Greek philosophical psychologies,
      you might
      > read Cicero's dialogue On Goals/on Ends (de Finibus), book III, in
      which the
      > Stoic view is presented by Cato.
      >
      >
      >
      > Modern psychologies like Hume's or Nietzsche's or Freud's tend to
      stick all
      > forms of desire into the passionate or emotional part of the
      psyche. This is
      > contrary to Plato, who associates distinct forms of desire with
      each of the
      > three parts of the soul he recognizes (there are desires
      associated with the
      > appetitive part, e.g., hunger; desires associated with the
      spirited part,
      > e.g., desire of victory and status; and desires associated with
      reason,
      > e.g., desire to know and desire to promote the good of the whole).
      The
      > modern approach is also contrary to that of the Stoics. For the
      Stoics,
      > impulse is a fundamental psychological phenomenon, without which
      there would
      > be neither feeling nor action; but impulse as such is not passion.
      It is
      > passion only when it is excessive or contrary to right reason.
      >
      >
      >
      > Modern psychologies, I think, tend to be developed chiefly as a
      means to
      > explain a wide variety of phenomena. Ancient psychologies had a
      double
      > function, and the explanatory function was slightly secondary to
      the other,
      > primary function. Ancient psychologies were designed to help the
      individual
      > and to help the philosophical school help the individual promote
      > tranquillity, a smooth flow of life, a virtuous and a happy life.
      >
      >
      >
      > On Fri, 26 Sep 2003 15:31:43 -0000 "Bernt Rostrom"
      <berntrostrom@y...>
      > writes:
      >
      > Isn't the logic dependent on our emotional experiences giving us a
      > sense of what is reasonable to apply in every circumstances. Tehj
      > logic is the tool but the passion is the motor that drives su to
      use
      > logic.
      >
      > Its the motivating passion that makes us eager to find a decent or
      > correct answer to a riddle. Without emotions the logic is jsut a
      tool.
      > Neithr wise nor even able to decide. The passions gives us our
      wisdom.
      > Not the instant ruch of passion but the longtermed passion to live
      a
      > vitues life.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
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    • Keith Seddon
      Hello pxxxbaker, ... philosophy should explain how you can be happy.
      Message 2 of 14 , Nov 2, 2003
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        Hello pxxxbaker,

        >>>I believe, simply, that to 'live well' is to be happy. So for me
        philosophy should explain how you can be happy.<<<

        Indeed, this was the enterprise pursued by ancient ethics. The problem is
        getting clear on what you mean by "happiness".

        >>>Pure Stoics don't seem to agree with this, but plump for virtue as the
        main aim.<<<

        No -- the end is being happy:

        "The Stoics say that being happy is the end, for the sake of which
        everything is done, but which is not itself done for the sake of anything.
        This consists in living in accordance with virtue, in living in agreement,
        or, what is the same, in living in accordance with nature." Stobaeus 2.7.6e
        = LS 63A

        If the end is being happy, we need to know what constitutes being happy; and
        the Stoics say that this is living in accordance with virtue.

        >>>If you pursue a virtuous life (e.g. one that is temperate, free from
        violent passion, rational, ...(?)) then you are more likely to be happy
        [snip]<<<

        Well, it's not really that you will be _more likely_ to be happy, but that
        virtue itself constitutes happiness.

        I wonder whether you are inadvertently slipping into a hedonistic way of
        thinking, and assuming that happiness is a sort of pleasure?

        >>>Question for pure Stoics: Would you pursue virtue at the expense of
        happiness? Can you give examples of when you, or other Stoics, have done
        this?<<<

        Pursuing virtue at the expense of happiness is simply not possible for a
        Stoic. (But it is for an Epicurean.) The only outcome for a Stoic who
        pursues virtue is more happiness than if they had not pursued it at all, or
        had pursued less of it, or had pursued any amount of it less vigorously.

        >>>[snip] the ultimate reason to do anything is to make yourself as happy as
        you can. Reason and order are great tools for achieving this.<<<

        This sounds like Epicurus.

        For a Stoic, the only reason for doing anything is to secure a greater
        measure of _aretê_, excellence, or virtue, because this is where their good
        lies, and the only source of _eudaimonia_, happiness, and for _euroia biou_,
        a good flow of life.

        >>>Emotion provides goals, motivations and impetus. Reason, hopefully, gets
        you to your goals.<<<

        This again sounds like Epicurus. The Stoic claim is that emotions are false
        judgements concerning the true value of things, and an emotion can never be
        a good guide (in fact must be a bad guide) to what is worth doing or aiming
        for. To let your emotions rule, or even guide, your life will ruin any hope
        for happiness ... unless you make the mistake of thinking that happiness is
        a sort of pleasure. Your delusion will then be to think you are happy when
        you are experiencing certain, or possibly any, pleasures.

        Thinking like that, the Stoics consider to be a sort of disease of the mind
        that Stoic ethics can cure (which is why Epictetus thought of his school as
        a hospital). The fact that most of humankind appears to be suffering from
        this disease should not comfort us when we notice that we are suffering from
        it ourselves. We are not in good company.

        Best wishes,

        Keith
      • pxxxbaker
        ... as the ... anything. ... agreement, ... Stobaeus 2.7.6e ... Thank you for the correction. What is virtue? What is nature? I find it very strange to say the
        Message 3 of 14 , Nov 4, 2003
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          > >>>Pure Stoics don't seem to agree with this, but plump for virtue
          as the
          > main aim.<<<
          >
          > No -- the end is being happy:
          >
          > "The Stoics say that being happy is the end, for the sake of which
          > everything is done, but which is not itself done for the sake of
          anything.
          > This consists in living in accordance with virtue, in living in
          agreement,
          > or, what is the same, in living in accordance with nature."
          Stobaeus 2.7.6e
          > = LS 63A

          Thank you for the correction.

          What is virtue?

          What is nature?

          I find it very strange to say the two are equivalent. For instance,
          in Christian and modern parlance Mother Teresa would be counted
          virtuous for following vows of charity, chastity, etc. A hunter-
          gatherer roaming the plains of Africa 40 000 years followed nature
          more than anyone today could. But is a hunter-gatherer virtuous?

          > If the end is being happy, we need to know what constitutes being
          happy; and
          > the Stoics say that this is living in accordance with virtue.
          >
          > >>>If you pursue a virtuous life (e.g. one that is temperate, free
          from
          > violent passion, rational, ...(?)) then you are more likely to be
          happy
          > [snip]<<<
          >
          > Well, it's not really that you will be _more likely_ to be happy,
          but that
          > virtue itself constitutes happiness.
          >

          You may follow a virtuous life but still be unhappy. For instance, a
          christian martyr being burned at the stake is not very happy. I
          doubt he would even be happy in solitary confinement, tied in
          chains, in a dungeon eating boiled rat. Yet his virtue might have
          been exactly what led him to this sorry state (e.g. if a Roman
          emperor took against him for not praying to Zeus).

          > I wonder whether you are inadvertently slipping into a hedonistic
          way of
          > thinking, and assuming that happiness is a sort of pleasure?

          I think happiness is a positive emotion which could be satisfaction
          after a good meal, satisfaction at passing an exam, a feeling
          of 'that's interesting' when pursuing an interesting newsgroup
          thread, a feeling of calm after a meditation session....

          > Pursuing virtue at the expense of happiness is simply not possible
          for a
          > Stoic. (But it is for an Epicurean.) The only outcome for a Stoic
          who
          > pursues virtue is more happiness than if they had not pursued it
          at all, or
          > had pursued less of it, or had pursued any amount of it less
          vigorously.
          >
          > >>>[snip] the ultimate reason to do anything is to make yourself
          as happy as
          > you can. Reason and order are great tools for achieving this.<<<
          >
          > This sounds like Epicurus.
          >
          > For a Stoic, the only reason for doing anything is to secure a
          greater
          > measure of _aretê_, excellence, or virtue, because this is where
          their good
          > lies, and the only source of _eudaimonia_, happiness, and for
          _euroia biou_,
          > a good flow of life.

          In eating a good meal are you not enjoying the meal and therefore
          pursuing excellence?

          > >>>Emotion provides goals, motivations and impetus. Reason,
          hopefully, gets
          > you to your goals.<<<
          >
          > This again sounds like Epicurus. The Stoic claim is that emotions
          are false
          > judgements concerning the true value of things, and an emotion can
          never be
          > a good guide (in fact must be a bad guide) to what is worth doing
          or aiming
          > for. To let your emotions rule, or even guide, your life will ruin
          any hope
          > for happiness ... unless you make the mistake of thinking that
          happiness is
          > a sort of pleasure. Your delusion will then be to think you are
          happy when
          > you are experiencing certain, or possibly any, pleasures.
          >
          > Thinking like that, the Stoics consider to be a sort of disease of
          the mind
          > that Stoic ethics can cure (which is why Epictetus thought of his
          school as
          > a hospital). The fact that most of humankind appears to be
          suffering from
          > this disease should not comfort us when we notice that we are
          suffering from
          > it ourselves. We are not in good company.
          >

          Here's Seneca:

          "The happy life is release from care, uninterrupted tranquillity.
          [. . .] mental composure which arises from the mind's being free and
          completely undistracted in its contemplation of the universe and
          Nature (Ep., 92).

          [. . .] a mind liberated from vexations, desires, and fears. Once
          whatever agitates and alarms us has been banished, there ensues, as
          well as uninterrupted tranquillity [. . .] great joy, peace, harmony
          in the soul and dignity accompanied by gentleness (De Vita Beata,
          3.4)."

          I agree with Seneca that 'uninterrupted tranquility' is a good aim,
          and that this is likely to be one of the best paths to continuing
          happiness. But tranquility is the emotion that you get after, say,
          meditation or a period of study. It is as much a feeling as sensory
          pleasure.

          I think we're running aground on the ambiguity of the English
          language. Do Stoics only allow 'violent emotions' to be classified
          as true emotions and the 'feeling' of tranquility is classified as
          something else. If so what else? It's not a thought as it has no
          representational content.
        • Andrew Case
          Hello All, As suggested in the introductory email for this list, I m introducing myself - I m a physicist (research associate = postdoc) working on plasma
          Message 4 of 14 , Nov 4, 2003
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            Hello All,
            As suggested in the introductory email for this list, I'm introducing
            myself - I'm a physicist (research associate => postdoc) working on
            plasma confinement for fusion. My interest in Stoicism started when I
            was a teenager and I read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and has
            periodically resurfaced since then. My personal philosophy has gone
            through a number of revisions, but I keep coming back to ideas that
            overlap significantly with those of the stoics. The critical issue
            seems to me to be the understanding of human nature - only when we know
            what we are can we reasonably hope to discover abiding truths about
            what kinds of actions are good. Action is important in my view because
            it is only in how we act (and in how we choose when to act and when not
            to act) that our moral character is revealed.

            I could ramble on at great length, but I think I'll stop here.

            All the best,
            ......Andrew

            --
            Dr. Andrew Case, PhD.
            Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics,
            University of Maryland, College Park
            "It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once." - David
            Hume
          • John Laerum
            Good morning. Living according to nature and living according to virtue in my understanding at least means to live according to what is our particular HUMAN
            Message 5 of 14 , Nov 4, 2003
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              Good morning.
               
              Living according to nature and living according to virtue in my understanding at least means to live according to what is our particular HUMAN nature.
              Humans are the only beings on earth that can recognize the virtues and practise them in their own life.
              In the stoic sense then, the hunter-gatherer you mention lived according to (human) nature if he for example shared his food with other humans but he did NOT live according to his (human) nature if he wanted everything for himself and killed those who encroached upon his "rights".
               
                    Regards            John Laerum

              pxxxbaker <pxxxbaker@...> wrote:
              > >>>Pure Stoics don't seem to agree with this, but plump for virtue
              as the
              > main aim.<<<
              >
              > No -- the end is being happy:
              >
              > "The Stoics say that being happy is the end, for the sake of which
              > everything is done, but which is not itself done for the sake of
              anything.
              > This consists in living in accordance with virtue, in living in
              agreement,
              > or, what is the same, in living in accordance with nature."
              Stobaeus 2.7.6e
              > = LS 63A

              Thank you for the correction.

              What is virtue?

              What is nature?

              I find it very strange to say the two are equivalent. For instance,
              in Christian and modern parlance Mother Teresa would be counted
              virtuous for following vows of charity, chastity, etc. A hunter-
              gatherer roaming the plains of Africa 40 000 years followed nature
              more than anyone today could. But is a hunter-gatherer virtuous?  

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            • Pete Stonehouse
              Hi Andrew, Well said. Any relevant and contemporary application of Stoic thought would have to assimilate scientific understanding of human nature. In turn
              Message 6 of 14 , Nov 5, 2003
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                Hi Andrew,

                 

                Well said.  Any relevant and contemporary application of Stoic thought would have to assimilate scientific understanding of human nature.  In turn this would entail an understanding of our biological reality as “turbo-chimps” as well as an examination of our cultural and social history.  Few people seem to like this idea very much – but I still stand by it.

                 

                Thoughts?

                 

                Regards

                 

                Pete Stonehouse

                 

                -----Original Message-----
                From: Andrew Case [mailto:acase@...]
                Sent: 04 November 2003 19:58
                To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: [stoics] Introduction

                 

                Hello All,
                As suggested in the introductory email for this list, I'm introducing
                myself - I'm a physicist (research associate => postdoc) working on
                plasma confinement for fusion. My interest in Stoicism started when I
                was a teenager and I read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and has
                periodically resurfaced since then. My personal philosophy has gone
                through a number of revisions, but I keep coming back to ideas that
                overlap significantly with those of the stoics. The critical issue
                seems to me to be the understanding of human nature - only when we know
                what we are can we reasonably hope to discover abiding truths about
                what kinds of actions are good. Action is important in my view because
                it is only in how we act (and in how we choose when to act and when not
                to act) that our moral character is revealed.

                I could ramble on at great length, but I think I'll stop here.

                All the best,
                ......Andrew

                --
                Dr. Andrew Case, PhD.
                Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics,
                University of Maryland, College Park
                "It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once." - David
                Hume



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                stoics-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com


                Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.
              • Andrew Case
                ... I think human nature is best understood in terms of evolution - humans are simply not born for stasis. Evolution is fundamentally about struggle: for
                Message 7 of 14 , Nov 5, 2003
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                  On Wednesday, November 5, 2003, at 08:44 AM, Pete Stonehouse wrote:

                  > Any relevant and contemporary application of Stoic thought would have
                  > to assimilate scientific understanding of human nature.  In turn this
                  > would entail an understanding of our biological reality as
                  > “turbo-chimps” as well as an examination of our cultural and social
                  > history.  Few people seem to like this idea very much – but I still
                  > stand by it.
                  >
                  I think human nature is best understood in terms of evolution - humans
                  are simply not born for stasis. Evolution is fundamentally about
                  struggle: for survival, for reproductive advantage, for social status.
                  Humans are special (and our primate relatives to a lesser extent, and
                  perhaps certain other species) in that we are generalists - we aren't
                  programmed to execute simple algorithms, but rather are able to adapt
                  to changing circumstances. Underlying it all, however, is the drive for
                  struggle (competition/expansion/whatever - struggle is the word that
                  seems to me to cast the widest net). Give a person everything they
                  need, and they will readjust their "needs" so as to create struggle -
                  it happens instinctively, reflexively. We aren't complete without it,
                  like a ladder without a wall to lean against. I know that some people
                  seek to extinguish this impulse (Buddhists, for example), but I believe
                  that is misguided. This impulse is the very thing that drives us
                  towards self improvement. By channeling it into productive directions,
                  and recognizing that untamed it can lead us to harm ourselves and
                  others, we turn it into a force for good. This is in part my
                  understanding of the stoic idea that we must work in harmony with
                  nature. Francis Bacon (a favorite philosopher of mine) said it best -
                  "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed."

                  The other major point I take from seeing humans as a product of
                  evolution is that we are social creatures. A human in complete
                  isolation cannot be fulfilled - we evolved as part of a group
                  (tribe/pack/troop/clan), and we are wired for connections with others.
                  Again, our flexibility allows us to transfer those connections to pets
                  or even inanimate objects, but the drive is still there, and must be
                  addressed. It seems to me that the great failing of purely
                  individualist philosophies is that they don't acknowledge the
                  fundamental importance of meaningful human interconnection in making us
                  whole. It can be taken too far, mind you, to the point where the person
                  is lost in the group, with equally bad consequences - we aren't evolved
                  to be like ants any more than we are evolved to be like sharks. The
                  fact that the dominance hierarchy in a human group is dynamic (any
                  member can in principle rise to the top or fall to the bottom) is a
                  great strength - it gives the group the flexibility to deal with
                  changing circumstances (one leader for war, one for peace, one for
                  times of plenty, another for times of famine, etc.). We are creatures
                  of the pack, not the herd - more like wolves than like buffalo.

                  All the above is, of course, my opinion. I welcome criticism (though I
                  prefer it constructive :-)

                  ......Andrew
                • pxxxbaker
                  There are tribal people who share food with people in their village, but will kill people in neighbouring villages at the drop of a hat. This is explained by
                  Message 8 of 14 , Nov 5, 2003
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                    There are tribal people who share food with people in their village,
                    but will kill people in neighbouring villages at the drop of a hat.
                    This is explained by Darwinian anthropology and selfish gene theory.
                    The tribe *is* following human nature as it has evolved in that
                    tribe's local area. I can't see that a stoic can be said to be truer
                    to human nature than this (admittedly, rather agressive) tribe.

                    You could argue that the stoic has a 'better than human' nature
                    perhaps.

                    --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, John Laerum <jlaerum@y...> wrote:
                    > Good morning.
                    >
                    > Living according to nature and living according to virtue in my
                    understanding at least means to live according to what is our
                    particular HUMAN nature.
                    > Humans are the only beings on earth that can recognize the virtues
                    and practise them in their own life.
                    > In the stoic sense then, the hunter-gatherer you mention lived
                    according to (human) nature if he for example shared his food with
                    other humans but he did NOT live according to his (human) nature if
                    he wanted everything for himself and killed those who encroached
                    upon his "rights".
                    >
                    > Regards John Laerum
                    >
                    > pxxxbaker <pxxxbaker@y...> wrote:
                    > > >>>Pure Stoics don't seem to agree with this, but plump for
                    virtue
                    > as the
                    > > main aim.<<<
                    > >
                    > > No -- the end is being happy:
                    > >
                    > > "The Stoics say that being happy is the end, for the sake of
                    which
                    > > everything is done, but which is not itself done for the sake of
                    > anything.
                    > > This consists in living in accordance with virtue, in living in
                    > agreement,
                    > > or, what is the same, in living in accordance with nature."
                    > Stobaeus 2.7.6e
                    > > = LS 63A
                    >
                    > Thank you for the correction.
                    >
                    > What is virtue?
                    >
                    > What is nature?
                    >
                    > I find it very strange to say the two are equivalent. For
                    instance,
                    > in Christian and modern parlance Mother Teresa would be counted
                    > virtuous for following vows of charity, chastity, etc. A hunter-
                    > gatherer roaming the plains of Africa 40 000 years followed nature
                    > more than anyone today could. But is a hunter-gatherer virtuous?
                    >
                    > ----
                    >
                    > Yahoo! Groups Sponsor
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                  • Paul
                    ... village, ... The nature of humans, like other things is to survive and flourish. Killing the neighbours allows the tribesman to survive. Cooperating with
                    Message 9 of 14 , Nov 5, 2003
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                      --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "pxxxbaker" <pxxxbaker@y...> wrote:
                      > There are tribal people who share food with people in their
                      village,
                      > but will kill people in neighbouring villages at the drop of a hat.
                      ...> You could argue that the stoic has a 'better than human' nature
                      > perhaps.
                      >

                      The nature of humans, like other things is to survive and flourish.
                      Killing the neighbours allows the tribesman to survive. Cooperating
                      with them for the mutual benefit allows him to flourish. As Marcus
                      Aurelius said, we are born to cooperate with one another. This is the
                      true human nature.

                      Regards
                    • John Laerum
                      Good morning again. The Stoics see Human nature in a different way. Also today we have killers who are kind to their own but merciless to others. The Stoics of
                      Message 10 of 14 , Nov 6, 2003
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                        Good morning again.

                         
                        The Stoics see Human nature in a different way. Also today we have killers who are kind to their own but merciless to others.
                        The Stoics of course insisted on the "holy bond" between all mankind, man and woman, slave and free.
                        And the virtues are natures particular  commandement or gift to human beings.
                        Thoughts like these abound in Marcus Aureliu's Meditations.
                         
                        So again, Human Nature is what is particular Human, not what we share with other animals.
                         
                        This topic has frequently been discussed in this forum and much more has been said and in a better way than what I try to express here but at any rate, I have found much inspiration for my personal (and much needed) betterment in these thoughts.
                         
                        By the way, I thought the Selfish gene theory was still an unproved theory, no?
                         
                                  Regards     John Laerum

                        pxxxbaker <pxxxbaker@...> wrote:

                        There are tribal people who share food with people in their village,
                        but will kill people in neighbouring villages at the drop of a hat.
                        This is explained by Darwinian anthropology and selfish gene theory.
                        The tribe *is* following human nature as it has evolved in that
                        tribe's local area. I can't see that a stoic can be said to be truer
                        to human nature than this (admittedly, rather agressive) tribe.

                        You could argue that the stoic has a 'better than human' nature
                        perhaps.

                         


                        --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, John Laerum <jlaerum@y...> wrote:
                        > Good morning.

                        > Living according to nature and living according to virtue in my
                        understanding at least means to live according to what is our
                        particular HUMAN nature.
                        > Humans are the only beings on earth that can recognize the virtues
                        and practise them in their own life.
                        > In the stoic sense then, the hunter-gatherer you mention lived
                        according to (human) nature if he for example shared his food with
                        other humans but he did NOT live according to his (human) nature if
                        he wanted everything for himself and killed those who encroached
                        upon his "rights".

                        >       Regards            John Laerum

                        >
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                      • Pete Stonehouse
                        Dear Andrew, A few thoughts... ... From: Andrew Case [mailto:acase@Glue.umd.edu] Sent: 05 November 2003 15:39 To: stoics@yahoogroups.com Subject: Re: [stoics]
                        Message 11 of 14 , Nov 7, 2003
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                          Dear Andrew,

                          A few thoughts...

                          ----Original Message-----
                          From: Andrew Case [mailto:acase@...]
                          Sent: 05 November 2003 15:39
                          To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
                          Subject: Re: [stoics] Introduction


                          On Wednesday, November 5, 2003, at 08:44 AM, Pete Stonehouse wrote:

                          > Any relevant and contemporary application of Stoic thought would have
                          > to assimilate scientific understanding of human nature. In turn this
                          > would entail an understanding of our biological reality as
                          > "turbo-chimps" as well as an examination of our cultural and social
                          > history. Few people seem to like this idea very much - but I still
                          > stand by it.
                          >
                          I think human nature is best understood in terms of evolution - humans
                          are simply not born for stasis. Evolution is fundamentally about
                          struggle: for survival, for reproductive advantage, for social status.

                          All aspects of evolutionary dynamics are concerned with reproductive
                          advantage - social status and individual survival only serve that end. The
                          evolutionary process accelerates in periods of crisis (i.e. struggle) where
                          fewer individuals of a species exist and there are new environmental
                          challenges. Where adaptation has reached an optimum level and there is an
                          unchanging environment the evolutionary process is held in stasis and a
                          species' physiology may remain unchanged for tens of millions of years - for
                          example: the coelacanth. Consequently we could argue that the evolutionary
                          process always aims towards stasis but environmental changes nearly always
                          moves the goalposts thus ensuring that such a point is never reached.


                          Humans are special (and our primate relatives to a lesser extent, and
                          perhaps certain other species) in that we are generalists - we aren't
                          programmed to execute simple algorithms, but rather are able to adapt
                          to changing circumstances.

                          It is certainly the case that our survival depended on our being generalists
                          - it is always the "general purpose omnivore type" that best survives rapid
                          environmental change. Our particular way of adapting to various
                          environments is to either change the environment to suite us, or to create a
                          micro-environment, i.e. clothes / dwelling / settlement / city. This
                          strategy has proved to be very successful - evidentially.

                          This being the case, while we are clearly the products of the evolutionary
                          process, our future no longer is controlled by the same forces as our
                          ancestors and the rest of the living world. All the same I would maintain
                          that politics, society and culture undergo evolutionary change: however the
                          dynamics are slightly different.*


                          Underlying it all, however, is the drive for
                          struggle (competition/expansion/whatever - struggle is the word that
                          seems to me to cast the widest net). Give a person everything they
                          need, and they will readjust their "needs" so as to create struggle -
                          it happens instinctively, reflexively. We aren't complete without it,
                          like a ladder without a wall to lean against. I know that some people
                          seek to extinguish this impulse (Buddhists, for example), but I believe
                          that is misguided. This impulse is the very thing that drives us
                          towards self improvement. By channeling it into productive directions,
                          and recognizing that untamed it can lead us to harm ourselves and
                          others, we turn it into a force for good. This is in part my
                          understanding of the stoic idea that we must work in harmony with
                          nature. Francis Bacon (a favorite philosopher of mine) said it best -
                          "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed."

                          A very good point indeed. However I think that the human instinct you
                          allude to is that of being goal oriented. To achieve goals usually entails
                          a struggle though; even if that struggle is of learning a new skill very
                          rapidly. Buddhists have the goal of having no goals and, apparently this is
                          a life long task (struggle), so even they conform to their instincts in
                          this.


                          The other major point I take from seeing humans as a product of
                          evolution is that we are social creatures. A human in complete
                          isolation cannot be fulfilled - we evolved as part of a group
                          (tribe/pack/troop/clan), and we are wired for connections with others.
                          Again, our flexibility allows us to transfer those connections to pets
                          or even inanimate objects, but the drive is still there, and must be
                          addressed. It seems to me that the great failing of purely
                          individualist philosophies is that they don't acknowledge the
                          fundamental importance of meaningful human interconnection in making us
                          whole. It can be taken too far, mind you, to the point where the person
                          is lost in the group, with equally bad consequences - we aren't evolved
                          to be like ants any more than we are evolved to be like sharks. The
                          fact that the dominance hierarchy in a human group is dynamic (any
                          member can in principle rise to the top or fall to the bottom) is a
                          great strength - it gives the group the flexibility to deal with
                          changing circumstances (one leader for war, one for peace, one for
                          times of plenty, another for times of famine, etc.). We are creatures
                          of the pack, not the herd - more like wolves than like buffalo.

                          Absolutely, I could not agree more. This is actually one of the reasons I
                          find Stoicism attractive: although it addresses the individual, it stresses
                          our duties and responsibilities to society.

                          All the above is, of course, my opinion. I welcome criticism (though I
                          prefer it constructive :-)

                          ......Andrew


                          All the best


                          Pete Stonehouse


                          PS
                          * Some have argued that while Lamarkian evolution (the idea that genes
                          somehow incorporate the experience of the individual which are then passed
                          on to the next generation) is not applicable to biological evolution, Human
                          history does follow Lamarkian principles as we can communicate our
                          experiences from generation to generation. More cynical commentators have
                          pointed out that Humankind's continuing failure to learn even the most basic
                          lessons of history demonstrate the opposite; that in spite of all our social
                          and cultural achievements we are still changed to Darwinian principles.




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                        • Pete Stonehouse
                          Hi John, The “Selfish Gene” was not really a theory but merely a complex metaphor to explain a contemporary understanding of evolutionary principles. The
                          Message 12 of 14 , Nov 7, 2003
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                            Hi John,

                             

                            The “Selfish Gene” was not really a theory but merely a complex metaphor to explain a contemporary understanding of evolutionary principles.  The author, Richard Dawkins, was horrified at how the extreme political right were using his work to justify their fanatical “let the poor starve” economic theory.  Consequently he went to great lengths to refute that kind of reading of his work.  Central to his argument was the fact that co-operation and qualified altruism are the most effective survival strategies.  Here is one of the proofs, a hypothetical paradigm (in my words):

                             

                             

                            There is a certain species of seagull that suffers from a kind of parasite that lives in the feathers on the bird’s forehead.  This parasite will eventually kill the seagull.  As the only way to remove the parasite is for another bird to peck it off, this species has evolved the instinct to do just this.  Each bird has the compulsion to groom his neighbours’ foreheads for hours each day: although such activity uses up a lot of time and energy for each individual, no bird suffers from infestation.

                             

                            However a certain mutation occurs.  Those with the mutation are identical to all the other seagulls in every way except that they lack the compulsion to groom their neighbours.  We will call these seagulls “the selfish” and those who retain the urge to groom others “the suckers”.

                             

                            Initially “the selfish” do very well.  They benefit from the grooming they receive from “the suckers” but save considerable energy by failing to return the favour.  Accordingly they proliferate and soon make about half of the overall population.

                             

                            Obviously “the suckers” are not doing well.  They spend a lot of time and energy, that could otherwise be used for catching fish or nest building, grooming their neighbours.  As this behaviour is often not reciprocated, they begin to sicken and some even die.  It is about at this point that “the selfish” begin to suffer too.  Obviously they do not groom each other and as the supply of  “the suckers” begins to run out they too suffer from the parasitical infection.  Consequently everyone suffers.

                             

                            Eventually a new mutation occurs.  Those with this mutation will behave like “the suckers” and groom other seagulls foreheads; however when the behaviour is not reciprocated, they will refuse to ever groom that individual bird again.  We will call these birds “the smart”.  In a very short time “the smart” form the majority of the population and “the selfish” will die off as more and more birds refuse to groom them.

                             

                            However as they are assured of being groomed, on most occasions at least, “the suckers” continue as a minority.

                             

                            Depending on the precise nature of the parasite, “the selfish” would either die out completely or straggle on as a minute minority dependant on the larger minority of “the suckers”.

                             

                             

                            This is a very interesting model and can be simulated with different variables. For example if the seagulls behaviour was governed by learned experience rather than genetics both “the suckers” and “the selfish” would be compelled to imitate the behaviour of “the smart”.  Such outcomes can be demonstrated by running such paradigms as evolutionary algorithms on a computer.  In behavioural terms it seems that such qualified altruism is the most effective social strategy.  It is my belief that such evolutionary determined social arrangements are the genesis of ethics.

                             

                            Regards

                             

                            Pete Stonehouse  

                             

                             

                            -----Original Message-----
                            From: John Laerum [mailto:jlaerum@...]
                            Sent:
                            06 November 2003 11:18
                            To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
                            Subject: Re: [stoics] Re: Ancient and Modern Psychologies. Was: The scientific basis for Stoicism

                             

                            Good morning again.


                             

                            The Stoics see Human nature in a different way. Also today we have killers who are kind to their own but merciless to others.

                            The Stoics of course insisted on the "holy bond" between all mankind, man and woman, slave and free.

                            And the virtues are natures particular  commandement or gift to human beings.

                            Thoughts like these abound in Marcus Aureliu's Meditations.

                             

                            So again, Human Nature is what is particular Human, not what we share with other animals.

                             

                            This topic has frequently been discussed in this forum and much more has been said and in a better way than what I try to express here but at any rate, I have found much inspiration for my personal (and much needed) betterment in these thoughts.

                             

                            By the way, I thought the Selfish gene theory was still an unproved theory, no?

                             

                                      Regards     John Laerum


                            pxxxbaker <pxxxbaker@...> wrote:

                            There are tribal people who share food with people in their village,
                            but will kill people in neighbouring villages at the drop of a hat.
                            This is explained by Darwinian anthropology and selfish gene theory.
                            The tribe *is* following human nature as it has evolved in that
                            tribe's local area. I can't see that a stoic can be said to be truer
                            to human nature than this (admittedly, rather agressive) tribe.

                            You could argue that the stoic has a 'better than human' nature
                            perhaps.

                             


                            --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, John Laerum <jlaerum@y...> wrote:
                            > Good morning.

                            > Living according to nature and living according to virtue in my
                            understanding at least means to live according to what is our
                            particular HUMAN nature.
                            > Humans are the only beings on earth that can recognize the virtues
                            and practise them in their own life.
                            > In the stoic sense then, the hunter-gatherer you mention lived
                            according to (human) nature if he for example shared his food with
                            other humans but he did NOT live according to his (human) nature if
                            he wanted everything for himself and killed those who encroached
                            upon his "rights".

                            >       Regards            John Laerum

                            >
                            > ----
                            >
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                            > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
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                            Service.
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