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  • Dave Kelly
    In The_Art_of_Living, John Sellars (168) concludes that Stoic philosophy is best conceived as an art (techne) directed towards the cultivation of an ideal
    Message 1 of 9 , Mar 1, 2004
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      In The_Art_of_Living, John Sellars (168) concludes that Stoic
      "philosophy is best conceived as an art (techne) directed towards the
      cultivation of an ideal disposition of the soul (diathesis tes
      psyches), a disposition that may be called excellence (arete) or wisdom
      (sophia)."

      Additionally, he (168-69) emphasizes the _personal_ nature of
      philosophy conceived in this way.

      1. For Socrates, the task of taking care of one's soul (epimeleisthai
      tes psyches; see Plato Apology 29d-e, 30a-b), or of taking care of
      oneself (epimeleisthai eautou; see Plato Alcibiades I 127e, 128a-129a),
      is fundamentally a private project (168).

      2. Chrysippus' cylinder analogy suggests that the only proper object of
      one's concern is the internal cause that is one's character (169).
      Chrysippus uses this analogy to illustrate a distinction between what
      might be called external and internal causes (83). The Stoic art of
      living is directed towards transforming the internal cause, namely the
      physical disposition of one's soul (diathesis tes psyches) (83).

      3. Cicero, claiming the authority of Chrysippus, likens the art of
      philosophy to medicine (see Tusculan Dispositions 3.1). The primary
      task for the philosopher is to treat the diseases of the soul. However,
      unlike the physician, he will not attempt to treat other people but
      rather he will focus his attention upon himself (see 3.6). The
      philosopher is thus one who concerns himself with diseases of his own
      soul (65).

      4. For Epictetus the only proper objects of one's concern are those
      things that are in our power or 'up to us' (eph' hemin), namely desire,
      impulse, and judgement (see also Discourses 1.15.1-5). "The perfection
      of these mental activities constitutes human excellence (arete), the
      only object to which Stoics assign a positive value" (169).

      Sellars concludes: "In the light of this one might say that the
      Socratic-Stoic art of living is _ethical_ in the sense that it is
      concerned with one's character (�thos) which, in turn, determines one's
      habits (ethos). However, it is not _moral_ in the modern sense of
      offering a series of regulations concerning how one should act or what
      one should do, and it is certainly not concerned with specifying how
      others should act. The art of living may form a basis for an _ethics_
      but not for a _morality_" (169).



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    • Steve & Oxsana Marquis
      Dave quoting Sellars: __________________ Sellars concludes: In the light of this one might say that the Socratic-Stoic art of living is _ethical_ in the sense
      Message 2 of 9 , Mar 2, 2004
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        Dave quoting Sellars:
        __________________

        Sellars concludes: "In the light of this one might say that the
        Socratic-Stoic art of living is _ethical_ in the sense that it is concerned
        with one's character (êthos) which, in turn, determines one's habits
        (ethos). However, it is not _moral_ in the modern sense of offering a series
        of regulations concerning how one should act or what one should do, and it
        is certainly not concerned with specifying how others should act. The art of
        living may form a basis for an _ethics_ but not for a _morality_" (169).
        ___________________

        Interesting discrimination between ethics and morality.

        The focus of virtue ethics is character. Duty ethics (following certain
        maxims regardless of disposition or outcome) and utilitarianism (maximizing
        certain outcomes) focus on action. It does seem that character is the more
        efficient approach, for right action follows from right disposition. More;
        character is habituated so that right action follows from a good character
        consistently.

        However, virtue is not teachable, measurable, or enforceable. Only actions
        are. To put it another way: only the consequences of virtue (or vice) are
        observable and therefore readily accessible. Furthermore, we cannot say
        from observing a single act what a person's character is likely to be.
        Therefore modern ethics, morality, and the law are concerned with the
        individual acts of agents, not their character. Yet a good character seems
        to be a more powerful 'agent for good' in the long run than trying to impose
        preferred behavior on someone from the outside. A dilemma.

        If we wish to increase virtue as opposed to the frequency of preferred
        actions then we loose the means with which to do so with others. For virtue
        requires the responsible selections of indifferents by the individual agent.
        And this certainly requires voluntary and deliberative engagement in the
        process of choice. This is why it is difficult to develop a system of social
        or political philosophy based on virtue IMO. The good citizen is created
        one at a time by each agent's own desire and efforts to develop a good
        character. This process is individual and psychological and is just out of
        the realm of institutionalized programs.

        Virtue combines psychology and ethics. It centrally focuses on the agent's
        own interest by redefining that interest, not by attempting to impose
        behavior regardless or in opposition to, that interest. There is a merger
        of the desire for happiness and the desire for good. This seems to me so
        natural it is hard to imagine returning to or preferring any of the
        conventional ethical options once the basics of virtue is understood.

        Live well,
        Steve
      • Mr Geoffrey Howard
        This last post fascinated me, Steve! Sometimes I feel that this stoic group is my private otherworld where I get to take a break from theatre stuff and
        Message 3 of 9 , Mar 2, 2004
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          This last post fascinated me, Steve!

          Sometimes I feel that this stoic group is my private
          "otherworld" where I get to take a break from theatre
          stuff and consider the barebones of life -- to
          contemplate the essence of human existence while
          stripping away the confusing particulars.

          (don't worry, this post comes back to theatre)

          So let me see if I have this straight . . .

          Virtue Ethics:
          concerned primarily with character. this perspective
          maintains that right actions spring from right
          character. but can right actions produce right
          character? hmmm.... i might come back to that.

          Duty Ethics:
          to hell with what you feel or what the outcome may be.
          Do the right thing because it is the right thing to
          do. this would seem to mean that right actions do not
          necessarily produce right character and we don't care.
          (forgive any impertinent tone - i often speak in
          extremes just to see the point from another
          perspective.) This also reminds me of behaviourism
          pyschology which (I think) is more concerned with a
          change in behavior than a change in attitude.

          Utilitarianism Ethics:
          maximize desired outcomes. do what you will to
          achieve a desired outcome.

          this may help me a great deal right now. I teach an
          acting class currently that is primarily a study in
          the history of acting theory.

          a great question has been raised. essentially it is,
          "Why be good?" Why pursue acting as an art when it
          isn't necessary to success? Many successful actors
          are not necessarily artists. They may not even be
          particularly virtuous. There are plenty of difficult
          personality types out there making great money being
          assholes. (forgive the tacky vernacular) There are
          plenty of actors out there who just whore (there i go
          again) themselves out for a laugh or applause or an
          award. Their only validation comes from externals.
          But they are working. They are successful.

          It would seem that my young students are quite driven
          by a utilitarian ethics plumbline. If it works, if it
          produces success, then do it.

          But perhaps there is another way. Perhaps there is a
          way for an actor to be an artist. Perhaps there is a
          eudaimonia for artists.

          Perhaps it begins with redefining success. Does it
          begin with seeing success as something independent of
          external validation (i.e. money and fame)? Is the
          monk all alone and content on the mountaintop
          successful?

          Why be good? Why be virtuous? Why seek arete or
          excellence? Why should you be a mature and
          considerate professional and seek honesty on stage
          when it isn't crucial to the popular understanding of
          success?

          Because the pursuit of excellence is its own reward.
          Being virtuous is its own reward. There is no promise
          of a great house in heaven or coming back as a better
          mammal. Can these religious perspectives be argued to
          be essentially hedonistic? or Utilitarian? I'm nice
          because I desire a certain outcome -- salvation or the
          approval of God. I want to avoid offending the church
          or my deity or whatever group beleif system I have
          formed allegiances with. Actions springing from this
          perspective -- are they genuine? Or does it matter so
          long as the right thing is done?

          "don't touch that stove." the mom says.

          the child goes to touch it. she is swatted. she
          doesn't touch the stove. the desired right behaviour
          was achieved.

          sometime later the child sneaks a touch on a hot
          stove. "dang, that hurts. i'm not touching that
          again." the desired right behaviour was achieved plus
          a change in attitude toward hot stoves. the child
          moves into self-governance.

          "don't be mean to your brother or i'll take away your
          favorite toy." the mom says.

          hmm... i want the toy. ok. i'll play nice.

          sometime later the child develops the ability to
          empathize, to become senstive to others. this is
          oikeiosis, correct? the growing regard for others
          welfare.

          i won't be mean because it causes pain in others.
          because i can imagine the feelings of others, i want
          to avoid causing pain. growing into self-governance
          occurs again.

          so i'm wondering if the following argument can be
          made...

          utilitarian ethics is essentially the most child-like.
          doing what i want for a desired outcome. (I won't
          cheat on the test because I might get caught.)

          duty ethics is puberty. Doing what I must because it
          is the right thing to do even though I may disagree
          with it or dislike the outcome. (I won't cheat on the
          test even though I know I can get away with it and
          will probably score poorly if I don't . . . because it
          just ain't right.)

          virtue ethics is the most mature. I do this because I
          beleive it. (I won't cheat on the test because I
          beleive the test is teaching me and I want to see for
          myself just how much I know.)

          I don't know that it is this cut and dry. I'm sure
          there are occasions when everyone makes decisions from
          each of these perspectives.

          it just set me to thinkin'.

          --- Steve & Oxsana Marquis <marquis@...> wrote:
          > Dave quoting Sellars:
          > __________________
          >
          > Sellars concludes: "In the light of this one might
          > say that the
          > Socratic-Stoic art of living is _ethical_ in the
          > sense that it is concerned
          > with one's character (�thos) which, in turn,
          > determines one's habits
          > (ethos). However, it is not _moral_ in the modern
          > sense of offering a series
          > of regulations concerning how one should act or what
          > one should do, and it
          > is certainly not concerned with specifying how
          > others should act. The art of
          > living may form a basis for an _ethics_ but not for
          > a _morality_" (169).
          > ___________________
          >
          > Interesting discrimination between ethics and
          > morality.
          >
          > The focus of virtue ethics is character. Duty
          > ethics (following certain
          > maxims regardless of disposition or outcome) and
          > utilitarianism (maximizing
          > certain outcomes) focus on action. It does seem
          > that character is the more
          > efficient approach, for right action follows from
          > right disposition. More;
          > character is habituated so that right action follows
          > from a good character
          > consistently.
          >
          > However, virtue is not teachable, measurable, or
          > enforceable. Only actions
          > are. To put it another way: only the consequences
          > of virtue (or vice) are
          > observable and therefore readily accessible.
          > Furthermore, we cannot say
          > from observing a single act what a person's
          > character is likely to be.
          > Therefore modern ethics, morality, and the law are
          > concerned with the
          > individual acts of agents, not their character. Yet
          > a good character seems
          > to be a more powerful 'agent for good' in the long
          > run than trying to impose
          > preferred behavior on someone from the outside. A
          > dilemma.
          >
          > If we wish to increase virtue as opposed to the
          > frequency of preferred
          > actions then we loose the means with which to do so
          > with others. For virtue
          > requires the responsible selections of indifferents
          > by the individual agent.
          > And this certainly requires voluntary and
          > deliberative engagement in the
          > process of choice. This is why it is difficult to
          > develop a system of social
          > or political philosophy based on virtue IMO. The
          > good citizen is created
          > one at a time by each agent's own desire and efforts
          > to develop a good
          > character. This process is individual and
          > psychological and is just out of
          > the realm of institutionalized programs.
          >
          > Virtue combines psychology and ethics. It centrally
          > focuses on the agent's
          > own interest by redefining that interest, not by
          > attempting to impose
          > behavior regardless or in opposition to, that
          > interest. There is a merger
          > of the desire for happiness and the desire for good.
          > This seems to me so
          > natural it is hard to imagine returning to or
          > preferring any of the
          > conventional ethical options once the basics of
          > virtue is understood.
          >
          > Live well,
          > Steve
          >
          >
          >


          =====
          Geoffrey Howard
          Asst. Professor of Theatre
          Missouri Valley College
          http://www.moval.edu
          Personal Homepage: http://www.geocities.com/howardgfh

          __________________________________
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        • Jan E Garrett
          Geoffrey, What you have described as utilitarian ethics is what philosophers working in ethical theory call ethical egoism, or an application of it. Strictly
          Message 4 of 9 , Mar 2, 2004
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            Geoffrey,

            What you have described as utilitarian ethics is what philosophers
            working in ethical theory call ethical egoism, or an application of it.
            Strictly speaking ethical egoism holds that everyone should always act so
            as to produce the maximum net benefit for him or herself (or on another
            formulation, the maximum ratio of benefit to cost for him or herself).

            If one subscribes to ethical egoism, then in one's own case one will
            always act in a way that seems calculated to produce the maximum net
            benefit for him or herself.

            Utilitarianism holds that everyone should chose the act (policy, or
            institution), out of the available options, that on a reasonable estimate
            of cause-effect connections will seem likely to produce the greatest net
            benefit for all (human? sentient?) beings affected.

            Both egoism and utilitarianism are commonly classed together as
            consequentialist theories.

            Both approaches seem to suffer from a lack of an intrinsic connection
            between means (the act or policy chosen) and end (personal or aggregate
            benefit). Acting for himself, the egoist will choose to do what seems
            causally connected to a desired outcome, regardless of whether the act in
            question is despicable in its own right. Acting for society, the
            utilitarian will choose to do what seems causally connected to a desired
            outcome for society even if the act itself may (to non-utilitarians) seem
            a violation of basic human rights. The stock utilitarian example is
            torturing a terrorist suspect for information when one suspects that he
            knows the location of a ticking time bomb that is about to go off and
            kill large numbers of people.

            It is not only secular moralists who are prone to this kind of thinking.
            The religious right (both Jewish and Christian) are supporting the
            Israeli occupation of the West Bank because they think they have
            scriptural evidence that the return of this land to the Jews is a
            precondition for the arrival of the Messiah or the second Coming of
            Christ. Since these events are of maximum value for salvation aka
            happiness for believers, virtually anything that will help it along seems
            justified. They don't much care what happens to anybody else.

            Alas, this type of thinking--secular and religious--is too influential
            among the centers of political power in Washington DC.

            By contrast, virtue ethics (properly understood, and this would include
            Stoicism) sees no disconnect between means and end. The morally excellent
            action participates in the good life and you cannot have the latter
            without the former. (Also, you cannot have the latter later than the
            former when the former morally excellent act has ceased and been followed
            by a morally flawed one.) One might try to make the case that Gandhi and
            Martin Luther King, Jr., exemplified the proper (virtuous) connection
            between means and end when in struggling for national liberation and
            civil rights, respectively, they used civil disobedience and nonviolent
            action.

            On Tue, 2 Mar 2004 13:04:49 -0800 (PST) Mr Geoffrey Howard
            <ssojourner@...> writes:
            > This last post fascinated me, Steve!
            >
            > So let me see if I have this straight . . .
            >
            > Virtue Ethics:
            > concerned primarily with character. this perspective
            > maintains that right actions spring from right
            > character. but can right actions produce right
            > character? hmmm.... i might come back to that.
            >
            > Duty Ethics:
            > to hell with what you feel or what the outcome may be.
            > Do the right thing because it is the right thing to
            > do. this would seem to mean that right actions do not
            > necessarily produce right character and we don't care.
            > (forgive any impertinent tone - i often speak in
            > extremes just to see the point from another
            > perspective.) This also reminds me of behaviourism
            > pyschology which (I think) is more concerned with a
            > change in behavior than a change in attitude.
            >
            > Utilitarianism Ethics:
            > maximize desired outcomes. do what you will to
            > achieve a desired outcome.
            >
            > this may help me a great deal right now. I teach an
            > acting class currently that is primarily a study in
            > the history of acting theory.
            >
            > a great question has been raised. essentially it is,
            > "Why be good?" Why pursue acting as an art when it
            > isn't necessary to success? Many successful actors
            > are not necessarily artists. They may not even be
            > particularly virtuous. There are plenty of difficult
            > personality types out there making great money being
            > assholes. (forgive the tacky vernacular) There are
            > plenty of actors out there who just whore (there i go
            > again) themselves out for a laugh or applause or an
            > award. Their only validation comes from externals.
            > But they are working. They are successful.
            >
            > It would seem that my young students are quite driven
            > by a utilitarian ethics plumbline. If it works, if it
            > produces success, then do it.
          • Steve & Oxsana Marquis
            Hi Geoffrey, It looks like you ve got the distinction between the three forms of ethics. I ll leave the application to theatre to you. Epictetus has some very
            Message 5 of 9 , Mar 3, 2004
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              Hi Geoffrey,

              It looks like you've got the distinction between the three forms of ethics.
              I'll leave the application to theatre to you.

              Epictetus has some very specific comments concerning the desire for
              reputation (ie, fame). Essentially the desire for the esteem of others is a
              subset of desire for things outside of our control with the same expected
              consequences: A few 'highs' when we get what we want interspersed with
              longer periods of frustration. I don't know if I'd call this success.

              Duty and utilitarian ethics have a serious flaw: they attempt to trump
              self-interest; or, in the case of utilitarianism, self-interest is minimized
              when a situation occurs where the theory really needs to be applied. This
              ignores our psychological nature. A good example is the extent of sodomy in
              the Catholic Church. Vows have little power against basic biological drives
              if the psychological work has not been done. Virtue ethics is not just
              ethics, but psychotherapy. Focus on character gets us to do that work,
              without which moral rules just don't stick.

              Yes, the religious traditions we're most familiar with seem to be using
              plain old appeals to desire and aversion (heaven and hell) to motivate a
              change in behavior (some would say control). Sad isn't it? There are
              lessons for a good way of life buried in those same traditions, but don't
              expect the institutions to focus on that without the other.

              Epictetus was a spiritual person obviously. But the reward for the good
              life, and the ability to acquire the good life, are all self contained
              within the individual he would say. The good life is here and now. No need
              to be concerned with an afterlife, whether it exists or not.

              Why be virtuous? Because it is fulfilling. It is natural. And it's in our
              self-interest. But growth in this direction won't come from any attempt to
              control our behavior by others. It only happens when we desire it
              ourselves. Behavior divorced from character is simply a false trail.

              Your growth analogy seems similar to Stoic oikeiosis. I think it is safe to
              say that, from the Stoic point of view, we are not automatically mature at
              age 21. In fact we are all still 'children' in the sense that we are all
              pathological to various degrees. Only the Sage is mature. But this is not
              a problem. Psychotherapy recognizes that treatment is a growth process over
              a long period of time. Commitment to progress yes, but miracle cures no.
              The almost God-like qualities of the Sage may seem out of reach, but if we
              are really interested in improving our health this is of no concern. Daily
              progress is. I liken adopting virtue as opposed to the other two ethical
              systems to the turtle and the hare. The Stoic makes slow steady progress.
              For the other two there is no psychology and no therapy, only rules.
              Infrequent opportunities to apply principles to overwhelming severe cases
              are interspersed with mostly an unexamined casual approach to shallow
              self-interest. How can one make progress that way?

              Modern psychology by itself is a dead end also, IMO. There is no normative
              model, no ethics, no ought, no path towards fitness as opposed to just
              curing obvious acute illness. The descriptive (psychological) and normative
              (ethical) need to go together to be effective. Maybe this is why a lot of
              us are so interested in a way of life more than 2000 years old.

              If the Stoic model of a fulfilled human being seems too lofty and not
              possible may I suggest just focusing on the next switchback instead of the
              top of the mountain, rolling up our sleeves, and getting to work. A small
              bit of progress will do wonders for ones attitude.

              Live well,
              Steve
            • Dave Kelly
              Hello Steve, ... To support what you ve said about happiness, I ve excerpted a minor point of criticism that John Sellars made of A. A. Long in a short
              Message 6 of 9 , Mar 3, 2004
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                Hello Steve,

                > Virtue combines psychology and ethics. It centrally focuses on the
                > agent's
                > own interest by redefining that interest, not by attempting to impose
                > behavior regardless or in opposition to, that interest. There is a
                > merger
                > of the desire for happiness and the desire for good. This seems to
                > me so
                > natural it is hard to imagine returning to or preferring any of the
                > conventional ethical options once the basics of virtue is understood.

                To support what you've said about happiness, I've excerpted a 'minor
                point' of criticism that John Sellars made of A. A. Long in a short
                review of Long's _Epictetus_:

                "Secondly, L. suggests that one should focus upon one's _prohairesis_
                as only this will make one moral (p.199), as if being moral were
                Epictetus' principle objective. I would suggest that the principle
                objective for Epictetus is the cultivation of _eudaimonia_, and it is a
                happy coincidence that focusing upon one's _prohairesis_ brings not
                only _eudaimonia_ but also a state in which one does not come into
                conflict with others. As Epictetus puts it (_Diss._ 4.5.32; on p. 227),
                'if correct volition [_prohairesis_] is the only good and incorrect
                volition the only bad thing, what place is left for battle and
                contention?'. Indeed, L. acknowledges the non-moral and essentially
                self-centered character of Epictetus' thought himself on p. 236. In his
                rejection of 'moral character' as a translation of _prohairesis_, L.
                suggests that 'moral' is misleading because it is 'too closely tied to
                the ideas of social duty and obligation to fit Epictetus' primary
                concern with the achievement of happiness in terms of mental freedom
                and tranquility' (p. 218). This point could also be made with regard to
                some of L.'s own uses of 'moral' (e.g. p. 199)."

                http://www3.oup.co.uk/clrevj/hdb/Volume_53/Issue_01/pdf/530065.pdf

                Best wishes,
                Dave



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