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RE: [stoics] Virtue?---And an Introduction

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  • Sheila Skojec
    Jack, thanks for your insightful message. The Delphic maxims are intriguing. The difficulty lies in practical application. For example, the last one -
    Message 1 of 20 , Apr 1 6:16 AM
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      Jack, thanks for your insightful message.  The Delphic maxims are intriguing.  The difficulty lies in practical application.  For example, the last one – “accept old age.”  What does that mean?  Does it mean it’s better not to dye one’s hair to appear more youthful, or does it mean that dying one’s hair is fine just as long as you accept old age internally?

       

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Jack Death [mailto:thedude6752000@...]
      Sent: Thursday, March 31, 2005 11:59 PM
      To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [stoics] Virtue?---And an Introduction

       

      Nice to have on board Chuck. According to the Stoics,
      virtue is what ever is according to our nature, and
      the nature of humans happens to be reason. So
      basically anything that is within reason is virtuos.
      You have probably already heard of the four Stoic
      virtues: wisdom, courage, fortitude, and temperance.
      The stoics also had four primary passions: desire,
      fear, delight,  and distress. All of these stem from
      attatchements to things in this world, and the idea
      that these things are good or bad. Stoic virtue is
      primarily composed of seeking the things we logically
      prefer without being attatched to those things. I find
      the delphic maxims, the "ten commandemnts"  of the
      Hellenistic era, which almost all of the school's
      adherents in antiquity would have been familiar with,
      to be helpful:

      Know yourself.
      Nothing in excess.
      Aid friends.
      Control anger.       
      Shun unjust acts.
      Acknowledge sacred things.
      Hold on to learning.
      Praise virtue.
      Avoid enemies.
      Cultivate kinsmen.
      Pity supplicants.
      Accomplish your limit.
      When you err, repent.
      Consider the time.
      Worship the divine.
      Accept old age.

      I myself am studying the exact meaning of "virtue" to
      a Stoic, so please feel free to critique what I have
      said here.
       
      --- coberst2001 <coberst@...> wrote:
      >
      > I will first ask my question and then follow with an
      > introduction.
      >
      > I have not put much effort yet into learning the
      > Stoic philosophy.  I
      > have read a little and the first question that
      > popped into my mind
      > was `What is the meaning of virtue within this
      > philosophy?'  I have
      > studied John Dewey's idea of virtue and perhaps
      > someone could compare
      > the Stoic view with Dewey's.
      >
      > In "The Middle Works" Dewey speaks of virtue as a
      > talent turned
      > toward enhancing social values.  Dewey says "The
      > important habits
      > conventionally reckoned virtues are barren unless
      > they are the
      > cumulative assemblage of a multitude of anonymous
      > interests and
      > capacities."  He considers social values to be
      > dynamic therefor
      > virtue must also be dynamic.  If I wish to be
      > virtuous I must
      > necessarily be enlightened.  I must be knowledgeable
      > and attentive. 
      > If I am incorrect regarding the truth of my thinking
      > then what I am
      > doing is not in accord with social values thus I
      > cannot be virtuous.
      >
      > Dewey puts the responsibility on our intellect of
      > knowing truly what
      > social values are if one is to be virtuous.
      > Knowledge and
      > understanding are necessary conditions for virtue.
      >
      > ------------------------
      >
      > My name is Chuck and I am a retired engineer with a
      > good bit of
      > formal education and twenty five years of
      > self-learning.  I began the
      > self-learning experience while in my mid-forties.  I
      > had no goal in
      > mind; I was just following my intellectual curiosity
      > in whatever
      > direction it led me.  This hobby, self-learning, has
      > become very
      > important to me.  I have bounced around from one
      > hobby to another but
      > have always been enticed back by the excitement I
      > have discovered in
      > this learning process.  Carl Sagan is quoted as
      > having
      > written; "Understanding is a kind of ecstasy."
      >
      > I label myself as a September Scholar because I
      > began the process at
      > mid-life and because my quest is disinterested
      > knowledge.
      >
      > Disinterested knowledge is an intrinsic value.
      > Disinterested
      > knowledge is not a means but an end.  It is
      > knowledge I seek because
      > I desire to know it.  I mean the term `disinterested
      > knowledge' as
      > similar to `pure research', as compared to `applied
      > research'.  Pure
      > research seeks to know truth unconnected to any
      > specific
      > application. 
      >
      > I think of the self-learner of disinterested
      > knowledge as driven by
      > curiosity and imagination to understand.  The
      > September Scholar seeks
      > to `see' and then to `grasp' through intellection
      > directed at
      > understanding the self as well as the world.  The
      > knowledge and
      > understanding that is sought by the September
      > Scholar are determined
      > only by personal motivations.  It is noteworthy that
      > disinterested
      > knowledge is knowledge I am driven to acquire
      > because it is of
      > dominating interest to me.  Because I have such an
      > interest in this
      > disinterested knowledge my adrenaline level rises in
      > anticipation of
      > my voyage of discovery.
      >
      > I stumbled across your web site by accident and
      > after reading your
      > information have decided that I might already be one
      > (a Stoic that
      > is).  I look forward to learning more disinterested
      > knowledge that I
      > find myself to be very interested in.
      >
      > Chuck
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >


                 
      __________________________________
      Do you Yahoo!?
      Yahoo! Personals - Better first dates. More second dates.
      http://personals.yahoo.com


    • Cam
      Thanks for the response. Makes good sense. Cam _____ From: Regis Alain Barbier [mailto:barbier@cyberland.com.br] Sent: Thursday, March 31, 2005 11:06 PM To:
      Message 2 of 20 , Apr 1 9:23 AM
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        Thanks for the response. Makes good sense.

        Cam

         

         


        From: Regis Alain Barbier [mailto:barbier@...]
        Sent: Thursday, March 31, 2005 11:06 PM
        To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: [stoics] Virtue?---And an Introduction

         

         

        Hi Cam ;

         

        I don’t see it as a dilemma but as a fact to be accepted more that resolved.

         

         

        What is best in man? Reason: with this he precedes the animals and

        follows the Gods. Therefore perfect reason is man’s peculiar good, the rest he shares with animals and plants. … What is the peculiar characteristic of a man? Reason: which WHEN right and perfect makes the full sum of human happiness. Therefore if every thing, when it has perfected its own good, is praiseworthy and has reached the end of its own nature, and man’s own good is reason, IF he has perfected reason, he is praiseworthy and has attained the end of his nature. This perfect reason is called virtue and it is identical to rectitude. Seneca, Moral Letters 76.9–10, trans. Long & Sedley 1987, p. 395.

         

        People who have either limited reason or no reason at all are not able to perfect or attain the end of there nature and will only realize a limited level of relative wisdom according with there expressed potential or not at all. As flowers in a garden; some reach full flourishing, other not but all are genuine manifestation of nature.

         

        Régis Alain Barbier

        www.panhuasca.org

        www.rbmosaiques.com

        Deslumbrados pela suprema harmonia, em profundo regozijo; enxergamos no imo vivo das coisas. With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things. William Wordsworth

        ----- Original Message -----

        From: Cam

        Sent: Friday, April 01, 2005 2:24 AM

        Subject: RE: [stoics] Virtue?---And an Introduction

         

        "According to the Stoics, virtue is what ever is according to our nature,
        and the nature of humans happens to be reason."

        I wonder - what of people who have either limited reason or no reason at
        all? For example, the mentally ill or mentally handicapped may have limited
        reason? Or more topical perhaps, Terri Schiavo who presumably had no
        reasoning ability whatsover.

        How would a stoic resolve the dilemma that not all people are capable of
        reason, logic and will.

        Cam





      • Cam
        A great answer Greg. I like the distinction between intention and wisdom. To me, that s an important point. Cam _____ From: ellis gregory
        Message 3 of 20 , Apr 1 9:32 AM
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          A great answer Greg. I like the distinction between intention and wisdom. To me, that’s an important point.

          Cam

           

           


          From: ellis gregory [mailto:gmellis1@...]
          Sent: Thursday, March 31, 2005 11:48 PM
          To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: [stoics] My take on virtues and the mentally handicapped

           

          Strange, my post got chopped again. here goes a second time.

          Cam,
          Those are some wonderful questions. I'm sure we will get equally engaging
          responses. I guess I'll throw in my two cents on that topic.

          First of all, aside from reading some Seneca and rereading Verissimus
          (Marcus Aurelius), and a few online articles, I haven't fully learned and
          memorized the Stoic ethical stance. Nor do I think the traditional Stoic
          position is able to stand on its own legs anymore without modifications, as
          I believe it would create neurotics. For that reason, I straddle
          Aristotelian (pappy), Epicurean and Stoic thought (the young'uns) in an
          eclectic mix, and am interested in building a framework that could
          integrate the various points into one. But only after I steep myself in the
          literature for a decade or two. The point is, my opinion won't be the
          orthodox view, or strictly by the book, and it may even repeat what some
          scholar or philosopher has already said somewhere without my knowing it.

          I don't view virtue as a state of being or enduring character trait, as in
          "he is benevolent" (meaning he is endowed with some enduring trait visibly
          lacking in others if compared in a police lineup) or a disposition to act
          in a certain way based on previous actions, like a mental habit that is
          more conscious and controllable than a mere reflex. The disposition
          argument seems most credible, since people will tend to act the same in a
          given scenario as they have in similar past scenarios. For example,
          kleptomaniacs have reinforced their behavior through countless scenarios in
          which they chose the path of stealing, which has practically hardwired
          their disposition toward that vice, despite the fact that there is still
          hope since that disposition is programmed by mental statements the person
          makes to themselves. The question is, if people have a disposition with
          intellectual algorithms that tend to direct them toward certain choices,
          how do we explain those who have overcome such dispositions and completely
          reversed their trajectory? I haven't gone far on that one yet, but it
          certainly makes me question the importance of a disposition.

          My main beef with disposition is that, as far as I have read in
          descriptions of virtue ethics as described on the Internet Encyclopedia of
          Philosophy and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, it is described as
          if it were a trait that agents passively had or did not have. There is very
          little talk I have come across so far or the passionate dedication required
          to stay on a given path, or alter course when necessary. Sure, practical
          wisdom (applied intelligence) is the lynchpin that ensures ones virtue as
          argued by Aristotle et al, since bad choices with good intentions is a
          vice, but the notion of disposition does not sufficiently emphasize that
          virtue is not a state of being, but an ideal (or direction) one works
          toward. Therefore, I don't consider the virtues to be destinations, if
          destination means a place you can arrive at. Rather, the full body of them
          is a point on the compass, with all the compromises to vary degrees being
          all the other points on the compass. Given that luck in life plays a big
          part in the scenarios that are forced upon us, we may not be able to
          achieve some stature as a “virtuous” person in the eyes of our
          communities, but if we at least try to follow a path as near toward full
          virtue as we can, at least we are doing the best we can, given a bad
          situation. We at least have a dedication to that ideal, even when fate has
          other plans for us. (By the way, the original (Zeno, etc.) Stoic
          all-or-nothing stance on virtue is completely opposed to mine). It is for
          these reasons that I don't believe any person can truly become “virtuous.”
          And thus, I don't believe in the Stoic sage or other caricatures. A
          really, really good example in fiction of a man who tries to do the right
          thing and live a virtuous life, but keeps getting drawn into decisions
          beyond his control is Michael in the Godfather. No one who has seen the
          movie would claim that, by nature, he had lacked virtue. It was his virtues
          that got him embroiled in the first place, and once he was embroiled,
          removing himself from his duties and taking a seemingly higher road would
          have resulted in greater harm to others than staying put, because he was
          the only one with the intelligence and good sense to protect all of the
          people under his stewardship as Godfather from reprisals and maliciousness
          by the other families. 

          On the topic of people with mental disabilities, since I believe that
          virtue is the intention to act for both self and others, and not judgments
          or some traits (practical wisdom) that ensure a good outcome, I am directly
          opposed to Aristotle and others. BUT, my position can embrace the notion
          that mentally handicapped people are very much capable of virtuous conduct.
          If you think that virtue absolutely requires practical wisdom (which
          entails, common sense, critical-thinking, worldly knowledge, sound
          decision-making protocols, etc.), then the mentally handicapped could not
          be virtuous by nature of their limitations in this area. But this would
          contradict what many of us feel in our hearts. I have met many a mentally
          handicapped person who acted much more virtuously than many clever
          college-educated philosophy types I have met, with far greater emotional
          intelligence.

          Some will argue, “how can a person be virtuous is they can potentially
          perform an act that accidentally causes harm to others because of their
          mental incompetence, even if well-intended?”
          I argue that truly altruistic intentions do not harm others. I argue that
          some may CLAIM to have benevolent intentions toward others, believe with
          all of their heart that they do, or seem to by third parties observing, but
          that if you were to sit down with them and run through their reasoning
          after a decision that negatively impacted others, it would come to light
          that they were really thinking of themselves or a select few. That their
          selfish motives had blinded them to better alternatives, and not some
          ignorance or lack of practical wisdom. I argue that actions that truly
          reflect “other concern” must by their nature contain a set of qualifying
          properties, or they cannot be considered “other concerning” to begin
          with. For example, consensus is a prime requirement for an act to qualify
          as “other concern.” When there is no time for consensus among peoples,
          due to immediate dangers, the alternative is seeking breadth in input from
          advisers, as one would during a war. While a political individual or group
          may claim to be thinking of others' good, if they have not actively sought
          broad consensus from those effected, I believe that one could take apart
          their thoughts and decision-making to uncover an overriding “self
          concern,” such as wanting to play a paternal role to be thought of as a
          wise and benevolent by others, while avoiding the messiness and
          inconvenience of seeking popular consent, etc. Just one example.

          So in that sense, I have met mentally handicapped people who were such
          kind, gentle and compassionate people, that they truly were thinking of the
          people around them, and despite not having as sophisticated a brain as
          others, have gone through life doing no harm to others and leaving love and
          good will in their path. In fact, because they generally have less malice
          and selfishness than the rest of us, they generally lead simple lives that
          do no harm to others. That is also why I believe that such people are not a
          burden on society, but some of our best teachers. More of them emanate pure
          love and gentleness than any sample of “normal” people I have come
          across. They are true sages, perhaps by default of their genes, but
          nonetheless their intentions are truly good, and thus their actions are
          usually equally admirable. The intellectually clever would do well to sit
          at the foot of the masters.

          So if intentions are all that matters, what about practical wisdom? It is
          just a tool, in my opinion, to maximize the efficacy of our actions. In
          reading about virtue ethics, the example was given of teenagers and their
          altruism. The reading talked about how teenagers have wonderful intentions,
          but can cause harm or make painful mistakes due to their lack of practical
          wisdom. As argued above, I would question how “other regarding” they had
          been to begin with, and thus how virtuous their act. I can't believe that a
          truly “other regarding” teenager who could put themselves in others'
          shoes could really do that much damage. Of course, there is the question of
          efficacy of their efforts. For me, that is where practical wisdom comes in.
          It doesn't keep people from making mistakes, but is just a magnifier of
          results. The various elements of practical wisdom can just as easily be
          used as tools for vice. They have nothing in and of themselves that ensures
          a more virtuous outcome. Intention, or the blend of “self” and “other”
          concern is the compass. So a teenager with truly peerless intentions would
          probably not screw up so badly to cause major harm to others, but at the
          same time, their actions wouldn't be very far-reaching either.

          I say blend of self and other, because we are increasingly recognizing that
          fulfilling our own needs (emotional and intellectual more so than material)
          and perfecting ourselves in the end creates less burden on the community as
          well, and maximizes our ability to effect positive change within the
          communities. For example, I think we all agree that someone who maintains
          their health through regular, disciplined exercise not only benefits
          themselves directly, but benefits society because they are less of a drain
          on resources and are more productive members of society. Many virtuous acts
          are in fact a blend of self and other, or a “win-win” situation as others
          would put it.

          Just some stuff I'm throwing out. Like I say, I have a few decades to scour
          the scholarship and try to synthesize a new philosophy, so its all a little
          hazy now. Critiques of the chinks in my arguments are not only welcome, but
          warmly encouraged.

          Cheers
          Greg Ellis



        • milan_bll
          For the stoic there is no dilema in the fact that there are around people not capable of reasoning and thus not capable to achieve the happiness in the stoic
          Message 4 of 20 , Apr 1 10:25 PM
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            For the stoic there is no dilema in the fact that there are around
            people not capable of reasoning and thus not capable to achieve the
            happiness in the stoic sense.

            Stoic is concerned exclusivelly about his individuall happiness,
            this he wants to achieve by doing what is in his power. Mental state
            of other people is not in my power, this I cannot influence.
            However, it is in my power to act kindly when meet with mentally
            handicapped and not ridicule him/her. Also it is in my power
            volunteer in charity helping such people if I feel like doing so.

            Regards,
            Milan


            --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "Cam" <camikins@t...> wrote:
            > "According to the Stoics, virtue is what ever is according to our
            nature,
            > and the nature of humans happens to be reason."
            >
            > I wonder - what of people who have either limited reason or no
            reason at
            > all? For example, the mentally ill or mentally handicapped may
            have limited
            > reason? Or more topical perhaps, Terri Schiavo who presumably had
            no
            > reasoning ability whatsover.
            >
            > How would a stoic resolve the dilemma that not all people are
            capable of
            > reason, logic and will.
            >
            > Cam
          • Regis Alain Barbier
            Hi Greg; Wisdom is to be measured in the wider scope; in the edge of eternity maybe. The border among it acquire some potency are the imminence of death [at
            Message 5 of 20 , Apr 2 9:13 AM
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              Hi Greg;

               

              Wisdom is to be measured in the wider scope; in the edge of eternity maybe. The border among it acquire some potency are the imminence of death [at the most, more few decades of life and we will all be dead] summed with the fear of the gods or ultimate sense [if any].

               

              Few serious students will deny apparent wisdom to some idealized figure likes a full flourished human being, with a good, strong body and enough natural gifts, powers and resources freely opting for:

               

              a) A simple’s life without materials asset but only the strictly necessary and natural’s indifferents;

              b) To dedicate his life to the study and teaching of philosophy.

               

              Outside this, unaffectedly demonstrating:

               

              c) By modus operandi, a constant proof of acting virtuously;

              d) Peacefulness and serenity, undisturbed by any external events; a happy fellow [eudemonia].

               

              After a quite long and well lived life:  

               

              e) At the clear signal that the body was not vigorous any longer; that memory was not as sharp as it used to be; [that he/her was already old and inapt to survive without help and firm the mind and teach any more]; choosing to depart quietly in an early morning, plunging in the rushing waters.

               

              This is just an idealized figure of course, because a wise may well live in a palace, or to be a slave, or a simple regular and usual fellow, or a handicapped person.    

               

              According to Epictetus, the necessary fitness needs to grant that: 1) No one can make you assent to a falsehood. In the matter of assent, then, you are unrestrained and unhindered; our assenting to things; our capacity to hold that something is true or false: this is always and wholly in our power

              2) No one can compel you to desire against your will. The power to aim, to intent could not be restrained. [Epictetus, Discourses 4.1.62–82, trans. Higginson 1890, p. 128–31]

               

              I guess that somebody can be pretty handicapped and still be fit to practice philosophy; but probably not disabled by some or other chronic and degenerative illness like Alzheimer, some psychiatric heavy condition and traumatic accident involving the frontal lobes or the higher part of the neo cortex.

               

              The required reason is not too much but at least needs to be sufficient to really recognize that:

               

              a) We are an infinitesimal assortment of elements fading away in a continuous process of transformation; short lived as insects, doomed to disappear together with everything: we are just living the moment already departing;

              b) That there is neither good nor bad to be found in nature outside possibly into the field of those things that are in our power;

              b) To know what is in our power and what is not;

              c) To live according to nature [i.e. according to what it is and what we can] and at least tying to be good [which is not bad after all and certainly the best available option].

               

              This for sure doesn’t require to be very good and up to date in math.  

               

              The liveliness exercise of virtues when enthused by instinct, civic obligation, pride, reputation, admiration, need of acceptance and self acceptance and so on; in order to preserve the group of things not in our power [classified as preferred indifferent like ours: health, assets, property, wife, children, family, neighbors, churches, parties, profession, tribe, nation, reputation, beliefs etc.] is socially admired and is indeed good as fare as it foster individual and social life [at least at some extent] plus prosperity and success.

               

              The exercise of virtues when enthused consciously in order to reach happiness or wisdom [peace, serenity, impassiveness, detachment, impartiality, rightness, justness: i.e. simply happiness or eudaimonia] may not work out ever in the same way and direction as appointed above: because the field where they are applied is more including and transcendent.

               

              It has to do as an exercise to prepare oneself to attend well including extreme conditions as: a) losing everything; b) knowing to be dying of CA or other terminal illness; c) deciding what to do if at the beginning of a philosophically impairing disease and so on.

              In those cases, good ability in what I am naming the Liveliness Exercise of Virtues may not be enough to stand the test.   

               

              If to work in that direction denote neuroses or not is, in the very end, a question of taste and preference [I would guess that modern psychologist will opt for neuroses]; anyway as they say that it is difficult to differentiate a saint from a nut, I can imagine even greater problems on this topology.  

               

              Best wishes;

               

              Régis Alain Barbier
              www.panhuasca.org
              www.rbmosaiques.com
              Deslumbrados pela suprema harmonia, em profundo regozijo; enxergamos no imo vivo das coisas. With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things. William Wordsworth

              ----- Original Message -----
              Sent: Friday, April 01, 2005 4:48 AM
              Subject: [stoics] My take on virtues and the mentally handicapped

              Strange, my post got chopped again. here goes a second time.

              Cam,
              Those are some wonderful questions. I'm sure we will get equally engaging
              responses. I guess I'll throw in my two cents on that topic.

              First of all, aside from reading some Seneca and rereading Verissimus
              (Marcus Aurelius), and a few online articles, I haven't fully learned and
              memorized the Stoic ethical stance. Nor do I think the traditional Stoic
              position is able to stand on its own legs anymore without modifications, as
              I believe it would create neurotics. For that reason, I straddle
              Aristotelian (pappy), Epicurean and Stoic thought (the young'uns) in an
              eclectic mix, and am interested in building a framework that could
              integrate the various points into one. But only after I steep myself in the
              literature for a decade or two. The point is, my opinion won't be the
              orthodox view, or strictly by the book, and it may even repeat what some
              scholar or philosopher has already said somewhere without my knowing it.

              I don't view virtue as a state of being or enduring character trait, as in
              "he is benevolent" (meaning he is endowed with some enduring trait visibly
              lacking in others if compared in a police lineup) or a disposition to act
              in a certain way based on previous actions, like a mental habit that is
              more conscious and controllable than a mere reflex. The disposition
              argument seems most credible, since people will tend to act the same in a
              given scenario as they have in similar past scenarios. For example,
              kleptomaniacs have reinforced their behavior through countless scenarios in
              which they chose the path of stealing, which has practically hardwired
              their disposition toward that vice, despite the fact that there is still
              hope since that disposition is programmed by mental statements the person
              makes to themselves. The question is, if people have a disposition with
              intellectual algorithms that tend to direct them toward certain choices,
              how do we explain those who have overcome such dispositions and completely
              reversed their trajectory? I haven't gone far on that one yet, but it
              certainly makes me question the importance of a disposition.

              My main beef with disposition is that, as far as I have read in
              descriptions of virtue ethics as described on the Internet Encyclopedia of
              Philosophy and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, it is described as
              if it were a trait that agents passively had or did not have. There is very
              little talk I have come across so far or the passionate dedication required
              to stay on a given path, or alter course when necessary. Sure, practical
              wisdom (applied intelligence) is the lynchpin that ensures ones virtue as
              argued by Aristotle et al, since bad choices with good intentions is a
              vice, but the notion of disposition does not sufficiently emphasize that
              virtue is not a state of being, but an ideal (or direction) one works
              toward. Therefore, I don't consider the virtues to be destinations, if
              destination means a place you can arrive at. Rather, the full body of them
              is a point on the compass, with all the compromises to vary degrees being
              all the other points on the compass. Given that luck in life plays a big
              part in the scenarios that are forced upon us, we may not be able to
              achieve some stature as a “virtuous” person in the eyes of our
              communities, but if we at least try to follow a path as near toward full
              virtue as we can, at least we are doing the best we can, given a bad
              situation. We at least have a dedication to that ideal, even when fate has
              other plans for us. (By the way, the original (Zeno, etc.) Stoic
              all-or-nothing stance on virtue is completely opposed to mine). It is for
              these reasons that I don't believe any person can truly become “virtuous.”
              And thus, I don't believe in the Stoic sage or other caricatures. A
              really, really good example in fiction of a man who tries to do the right
              thing and live a virtuous life, but keeps getting drawn into decisions
              beyond his control is Michael in the Godfather. No one who has seen the
              movie would claim that, by nature, he had lacked virtue. It was his virtues
              that got him embroiled in the first place, and once he was embroiled,
              removing himself from his duties and taking a seemingly higher road would
              have resulted in greater harm to others than staying put, because he was
              the only one with the intelligence and good sense to protect all of the
              people under his stewardship as Godfather from reprisals and maliciousness
              by the other families. 

              On the topic of people with mental disabilities, since I believe that
              virtue is the intention to act for both self and others, and not judgments
              or some traits (practical wisdom) that ensure a good outcome, I am directly
              opposed to Aristotle and others. BUT, my position can embrace the notion
              that mentally handicapped people are very much capable of virtuous conduct.
              If you think that virtue absolutely requires practical wisdom (which
              entails, common sense, critical-thinking, worldly knowledge, sound
              decision-making protocols, etc.), then the mentally handicapped could not
              be virtuous by nature of their limitations in this area. But this would
              contradict what many of us feel in our hearts. I have met many a mentally
              handicapped person who acted much more virtuously than many clever
              college-educated philosophy types I have met, with far greater emotional
              intelligence.

              Some will argue, “how can a person be virtuous is they can potentially
              perform an act that accidentally causes harm to others because of their
              mental incompetence, even if well-intended?”
              I argue that truly altruistic intentions do not harm others. I argue that
              some may CLAIM to have benevolent intentions toward others, believe with
              all of their heart that they do, or seem to by third parties observing, but
              that if you were to sit down with them and run through their reasoning
              after a decision that negatively impacted others, it would come to light
              that they were really thinking of themselves or a select few. That their
              selfish motives had blinded them to better alternatives, and not some
              ignorance or lack of practical wisdom. I argue that actions that truly
              reflect “other concern” must by their nature contain a set of qualifying
              properties, or they cannot be considered “other concerning” to begin
              with. For example, consensus is a prime requirement for an act to qualify
              as “other concern.” When there is no time for consensus among peoples,
              due to immediate dangers, the alternative is seeking breadth in input from
              advisers, as one would during a war. While a political individual or group
              may claim to be thinking of others' good, if they have not actively sought
              broad consensus from those effected, I believe that one could take apart
              their thoughts and decision-making to uncover an overriding “self
              concern,” such as wanting to play a paternal role to be thought of as a
              wise and benevolent by others, while avoiding the messiness and
              inconvenience of seeking popular consent, etc. Just one example.

              So in that sense, I have met mentally handicapped people who were such
              kind, gentle and compassionate people, that they truly were thinking of the
              people around them, and despite not having as sophisticated a brain as
              others, have gone through life doing no harm to others and leaving love and
              good will in their path. In fact, because they generally have less malice
              and selfishness than the rest of us, they generally lead simple lives that
              do no harm to others. That is also why I believe that such people are not a
              burden on society, but some of our best teachers. More of them emanate pure
              love and gentleness than any sample of “normal” people I have come
              across. They are true sages, perhaps by default of their genes, but
              nonetheless their intentions are truly good, and thus their actions are
              usually equally admirable. The intellectually clever would do well to sit
              at the foot of the masters.

              So if intentions are all that matters, what about practical wisdom? It is
              just a tool, in my opinion, to maximize the efficacy of our actions. In
              reading about virtue ethics, the example was given of teenagers and their
              altruism. The reading talked about how teenagers have wonderful intentions,
              but can cause harm or make painful mistakes due to their lack of practical
              wisdom. As argued above, I would question how “other regarding” they had
              been to begin with, and thus how virtuous their act. I can't believe that a
              truly “other regarding” teenager who could put themselves in others'
              shoes could really do that much damage. Of course, there is the question of
              efficacy of their efforts. For me, that is where practical wisdom comes in.
              It doesn't keep people from making mistakes, but is just a magnifier of
              results. The various elements of practical wisdom can just as easily be
              used as tools for vice. They have nothing in and of themselves that ensures
              a more virtuous outcome. Intention, or the blend of “self” and “other”
              concern is the compass. So a teenager with truly peerless intentions would
              probably not screw up so badly to cause major harm to others, but at the
              same time, their actions wouldn't be very far-reaching either.

              I say blend of self and other, because we are increasingly recognizing that
              fulfilling our own needs (emotional and intellectual more so than material)
              and perfecting ourselves in the end creates less burden on the community as
              well, and maximizes our ability to effect positive change within the
              communities. For example, I think we all agree that someone who maintains
              their health through regular, disciplined exercise not only benefits
              themselves directly, but benefits society because they are less of a drain
              on resources and are more productive members of society. Many virtuous acts
              are in fact a blend of self and other, or a “win-win” situation as others
              would put it.

              Just some stuff I'm throwing out. Like I say, I have a few decades to scour
              the scholarship and try to synthesize a new philosophy, so its all a little
              hazy now. Critiques of the chinks in my arguments are not only welcome, but
              warmly encouraged.

              Cheers
              Greg Ellis
            • robin
              Regis Alain Barbier wrote: [snip] ... That s true to some extent, but I can speak from experience that people have led me to believe in falsehoods, and to
              Message 6 of 20 , Apr 2 1:50 PM
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                Regis Alain Barbier wrote:
                [snip]
                >
                >
                > According to Epictetus, the necessary fitness needs to grant that: /1)/
                > /No one can make you assent to a falsehood. In the matter of assent,
                > then, you are unrestrained and unhindered; our assenting to things; our
                > capacity to hold that something is true or false: this is always and
                > wholly in our power/
                >
                > /2) No one can compel you to desire against your will. The power to aim,
                > to intent could not be restrained. [Epictetus, Discourses 4.1.62–82,
                > trans. Higginson 1890, p. 128–31]/

                That's true to some extent, but I can speak from experience that people
                have led me to believe in falsehoods, and to believe that I desired that
                which I didn't. This is what, if I remember rightly, Socrates described
                as "witchcraft" in the Republic.

                Robin


                --
                "I think perhaps the most important problem is that we are trying to
                understand the fundamental workings of the universe via a language
                devised for telling one another where the best fruit is." -- Terry Pratchett


                Robin Turner
                IDMYO
                Bilkent Universitesi
                Ankara 06533
                Turkey

                www.bilkent.edu.tr/~robin
              • Regis Alain Barbier
                Hi Robin; Epictetus also said that [whenever the body and its assistance are essential, nothing is in your power] but it is clear that as god and mater are a
                Message 7 of 20 , Apr 3 4:41 AM
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                  Hi Robin;

                   

                  Epictetus also said that [whenever the body and its assistance are essential, nothing is in your power] but it is clear that as god and mater are a mix, Epictetus itself will not be able to demonstrate the presence of this living power to aim or intent outside and independent of the context and assistance of a bodily life: that is outside the assistance of the body! So I may also well say that what Epictetus is saying is non sense!   

                    

                  In relation to the point you are stressing it is clear that mind manipulation, induction, subliminal subjection and all other subtle interference exercised by a more powerful mind or system upon a weaker one can be successful. It is possible to make others assents to a (self-recognized) falsehood by the mean of subtle and progressive manipulation of mind.  After the incongruence being consumed, the subjects, usually very confuses, are not able to furnish useful explications and justifications for there choices. I agree with that.

                   

                  But it doesn’t makes substantial difference to the Stoic/Epictetan notion of ‘what is in our power’.

                   

                  The separation between mind and body that Epictetus makes reference to is not intended to be a metaphysical teaching but yes a call for attention! That what we intend is largely and always in our power; but whether our intention is realized is not up to us, but dependent on factors beyond our control.

                   

                  I guess that if Epictetus was aware of modern advertising and other things like subliminal manipulation, he would adapt and specific some points of his presentation but this will not make any fundamental changes in what he is trying to teach. The general principles are still valid. 

                   

                  The essential point is that: a) the agent can, with training and attention, motivation and intention, restrain their desires and impulses to act consciously, awake as said Gurdjeff in others terms. B) The other is that he is speaking for his students, advising and telling them what they need to practice and not affirming a universal true valid in any circumstances; it must be a true for the students: others teaching advice the students to live simply, to be prudent and don’t joint or associate to situation potentially negative to their philosophical health, life and progress. I guess that he will warn against TV, the media, marketing and so on.

                   

                  Atenciosamente;
                  Best wishes;
                   
                  Régis Alain Barbier
                  www.panhuasca.org
                  www.rbmosaiques.com
                  Deslumbrados pela suprema harmonia, em profundo regozijo; enxergamos no imo vivo das coisas. With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things. William Wordsworth
                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: robin
                  Sent: Saturday, April 02, 2005 6:50 PM
                  Subject: Re: [stoics] My take on virtues and the mentally handicapped

                  Regis Alain Barbier wrote:
                  [snip]

                  >
                  > According to Epictetus, the necessary fitness needs to grant that: /1)/
                  > /No one can make you assent to a falsehood. In the matter of assent,
                  > then, you are unrestrained and unhindered; our assenting to things; our
                  > capacity to hold that something is true or false: this is always and
                  > wholly in our power/
                  >
                  > /2) No one can compel you to desire against your will. The power to aim,
                  > to intent could not be restrained. [Epictetus, Discourses 4.1.62–82,
                  > trans. Higginson 1890, p. 128–31]/

                  That's true to some extent, but I can speak from experience that people
                  have led me to believe in falsehoods, and to believe that I desired that
                  which I didn't. This is what, if I remember rightly, Socrates described
                  as "witchcraft" in the Republic.

                  Robin


                  --
                  "I think perhaps the most important problem is that we are trying to
                  understand the fundamental workings of the universe via a language
                  devised for telling one another where the best fruit is." -- Terry Pratchett


                  Robin Turner
                  IDMYO
                  Bilkent Universitesi
                  Ankara 06533
                  Turkey

                  www.bilkent.edu.tr/~robin

                • Steve & Oxsana Marquis
                  Regis wrote in response to Robin: ____________ In relation to the point you are stressing it is clear that mind manipulation, induction, subliminal subjection
                  Message 8 of 20 , Apr 4 10:37 AM
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                    Regis wrote in response to Robin:

                    ____________

                     

                    In relation to the point you are stressing it is clear that mind manipulation, induction, subliminal subjection and all other subtle interference exercised by a more powerful mind or system upon a weaker one can be successful. It is possible to make others assents to a (self-recognized) falsehood by the mean of subtle and progressive manipulation of mind.  After the incongruence being consumed, the subjects, usually very confuses, are not able to furnish useful explications and justifications for there choices. I agree with that.

                     

                    But it doesn’t makes substantial difference to the Stoic/Epictetan notion of ‘what is in our power’.

                     

                    The separation between mind and body that Epictetus makes reference to is not intended to be a metaphysical teaching but yes a call for attention! That what we intend is largely and always in our power; but whether our intention is realized is not up to us, but dependent on factors beyond our control.

                    _____________

                     

                    Very good.  We collectively have brought up the question of those with insufficient reason (for one cause or another) to practice the program Epictetus is suggesting three times or more in the last month.  And while we have not come up with a definitive answer your point that practically this does not make a substantial difference for most of us with more or less ‘average’ reasoning ability is well taken.

                     

                    I use the idea of what is or is not in our power to screen concerns as they come up on a daily basis and I find it increases clarity and reduces distress.  There is no doubt in my mind about the effectiveness of this technique. (Works well with what is ‘partially’ in our power also, which covers quite a lot.)

                     

                    A side note to Chuck:

                     

                    This is an example or where the classical theory is apparently not perfect (or our understanding of it), yet there is no hesitation about discussing it.  Critical inquiry into the doctrine of the ‘system’ seems to be alive and well, and that fits with the Socratic model of self-inquiry (assuming we are practicing Stoic teachings more or less as self therapy).

                     

                    Live well,

                    Steve

                  • Steve & Oxsana Marquis
                    Greg wrote: ____________ My main beef with disposition is that, as far as I have read in descriptions of virtue ethics as described on the Internet
                    Message 9 of 20 , Apr 4 11:24 AM
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                      Greg wrote:
                      ____________

                      My main beef with disposition is that, as far as I have read in descriptions
                      of virtue ethics as described on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and
                      the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, it is described as if it were a
                      trait that agents passively had or did not have.
                      _____________

                      The dispositional nature of virtue is different in kind than what we
                      normally think of as character traits that are habits of behavior
                      responsible for us reacting to life in an almost unconscious automaton
                      half-dead way. A habit of phronesis, for example, presuppose high awareness
                      and attention, which is not what comes to mind when we think of a habitual
                      individual. Think of this as the habit of responding uniquely as each
                      moment requires. And, since this kind of attention requires the ejection of
                      many of those other habits for most of us, it will require effort and
                      dedication to achieve. Phronesis is dynamic, and, in the limit, at least
                      will appear if not actually be intuitive. All these other half-asleep
                      habits are quite static, leading to similar responses to widely disparate
                      situations.

                      Some more quotes from Julia Annas and ‘The Morality of Happiness’ starting
                      on pg 48:

                      ‘There are virtues when people are virtuous; a virtue is some kind of state
                      of a person in respect of which she is, for example, brave, generous, or
                      just. The modern tradition of virtue ethics tends not to be interested in
                      further differentiation on this score (thus Hume, for example, merely calls
                      a virtue a ‘quality’ of a person). But in ancient ethical theory
                      considerable attention was paid to three points:

                      1. Virtues are dispositional
                      2. Virtues have an affective aspect: they involve our feelings, especially
                      our feelings of pleasure and pain, and developing a virtue involves
                      habituating our feelings in a certain way.
                      3. Virtues have an intellectual aspect: they involve reasoning about, and
                      grasp of, the right thing to do, and developed virtue implies good practical
                      reasoning or practical intelligence.

                      [note that for the Stoics the affective aspect is considered part of the
                      intellectual aspect, Annas is covering a wide range of Hellenistic ethics,
                      SM]

                      Thus a virtue is a disposition involving choice in two ways. It is built up
                      from repeated choices and the development of habits of choice. Thus it is
                      unlike mindless habits which are built up merely from repeated experiences
                      that do not involve deliberation and decision.

                      My past choices have built up a disposition to be honest, but my present
                      decision is not just a reflex determined by that disposition-it is my
                      endorsement of that disposition.

                      Thinking of virtue as a stable disposition brings out something about virtue
                      which is not much stressed in modern ethics. Modern discussions often
                      encourage us to discuss an action in a vacuum without regard to the previous
                      decisions that inclined the agent to do it, or to its effects in terms of
                      the agent’s future character.’

                      Virtue, specifically phronesis, certainly can and should be dispositional,
                      but it is a disposition consciously ‘made’ by us, and it is an ‘active’
                      disposition that requires continuous conscious input as opposed to a
                      ‘passive’ disposition that requires very little if any conscious input to
                      function. The key to the whole thing is deliberate assenting or not
                      assenting to impressions. This ‘deliberateness’ is the difference in kind
                      from other dispositional traits as I mentioned above.

                      Live well,
                      Steve
                    • Steve & Oxsana Marquis
                      Greg wrote: ____________ Some will argue, how can a person be virtuous if they can potentially perform an act that accidentally causes harm to others because
                      Message 10 of 20 , Apr 4 11:44 AM
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                        Greg wrote:
                        ____________

                        Some will argue, how can a person be virtuous if they can potentially
                        perform an act that accidentally causes harm to others because of their
                        mental incompetence, even if well-intended? I argue that truly altruistic
                        intentions do not harm others.
                        _____________

                        Greg, none of this is inconsistent with Stoic ethics. Outcome is not in our
                        control. We are responsible only for intention. There is the assumption,
                        of course, that we act to the best of our ability in accordance with our
                        intention. And for different individuals with different abilities ‘best of
                        our ability’ still applies, but relative to each individual. Altruistic
                        intentions, or intentions of any kind, cannot harm others if by harm we mean
                        psychological distress. That is not a popular view, but it is the Stoic
                        view.

                        Further, it is a quite embedded principle in our culture already to graduate
                        our response of praise or blame based on some judgment of the mental
                        capability and intention of the agent even though in practice this is
                        extremely difficult to get right.

                        I agree with your points here, and just don’t see any conflict with Stoic
                        ethics.

                        Live well,
                        Steve
                      • Keith Seddon
                        Hello Cam, ... all? For example, the mentally ill or mentally handicapped may have limited reason? Or more topical perhaps, Terri Schiavo who presumably had no
                        Message 11 of 20 , Apr 8 5:53 AM
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                          Hello Cam,

                          >>> I wonder - what of people who have either limited reason or no reason at
                          all? For example, the mentally ill or mentally handicapped may have limited
                          reason? Or more topical perhaps, Terri Schiavo who presumably had no
                          reasoning ability whatsover.

                          How would a stoic resolve the dilemma that not all people are capable of
                          reason, logic and will.<<<

                          There is no dilemma. The people you refer to lack what is required for
                          making progress to eudiamonia.

                          Such a fate seems to strike only fairly rarely, and usually, but not
                          exclusively, falls upon people in old age. In general parlance, when
                          speaking of people not being capable of reason, we usually mean that such
                          people have not developed a capacity that they could develop. Thus there is
                          some purpose in some philosophers following the vocation of teacher, with
                          the hope that at least some students will begin to develop their capacity
                          for reason.

                          Best wishes,

                          Keith
                        • milan_bll
                          ... capable of ... Hello Cam, Also you won t become any wiser in Stoic sense if you resolve this seeming dilema, and I doubt that there is solution to that: It
                          Message 12 of 20 , Apr 11 7:09 AM
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                            --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "Cam" <camikins@t...> wrote:

                            >
                            > How would a stoic resolve the dilemma that not all people are
                            capable of
                            > reason, logic and will.
                            >
                            > Cam

                            Hello Cam,

                            Also you won't become any wiser in Stoic sense if you resolve
                            this seeming dilema, and I doubt that there is solution to that:

                            It seems to be ncesseary that the people without "faculty of
                            reasoning" do exist.

                            'If 2 things are undicernable then they are identical' (such is
                            the definition of identity by Leibnitz); so the diversity is
                            precondition of individuality.

                            Statement 'All individuals (who existed, exist and will exist)
                            possess "faculty of reasoning."'is equivalent with
                            statement '"Faculty of reasoning" does not exist.', since you will
                            not be able to tell what the "faculty of reasoning" actually is if
                            there are no individuals without "faculty of reasoning". Or esle,
                            how would you be able to explain me what the "faculty of reasoning"
                            is without pointing to inidviduals who does not have "faculty of
                            reasoning" ?

                            So far so good, I showed, that 'If "faculty of reasoning" is
                            possesed by some idividual then there is some individual not
                            possesing "faculty of reasoning"' which (by law of contaraposition)
                            is the same as 'If all idividuals possess "faculty of reasoning"
                            then all idividuals not possess "faculty of reasoning"' and this
                            contradicts the law of excluded middle.

                            I think, that what makes the Stoic wise is not his intelligence,
                            but his ability to act in accordance with Reason, however I doubt
                            this ability can be achieved by being able to explain paradoxes, I
                            take the Stoicism as philosophy for the practical life, and the
                            soundness of Stoicism should be tested in everyday life of student.

                            Best regards,
                            Milan
                          • psonneborn@comcast.net
                            I believe the Stoic would say all have a spark of the divine in them. ... capable of ... Hello Cam, Also you won t become any wiser in Stoic sense if you
                            Message 13 of 20 , Apr 15 7:04 PM
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                              I believe the Stoic would say all have a "spark of the divine" in them.
                               
                              -------------- Original message --------------

                              --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "Cam" <camikins@t...> wrote:

                              >
                              > How would a stoic resolve the dilemma that not all people are
                              capable of
                              > reason, logic and will.
                              >
                              > Cam

                              Hello Cam,

                                    Also you won't become any wiser in Stoic sense if you resolve
                              this seeming dilema, and I doubt that there is solution to that:

                                    It seems to be ncesseary that the people without "faculty of
                              reasoning" do exist.

                                 'If 2 things are undicernable then they are identical' (such is
                              the definition of identity by Leibnitz); so the diversity is
                              precondition of individuality.

                                   Statement 'All individuals (who existed, exist and will exist)
                              possess "faculty of reasoning."'is equivalent with
                              statement '"Faculty of reasoning" does not exist.', since you will
                              not be able to tell what the "faculty of reasoning" actually is if
                              there are no individuals without "faculty of reasoning". Or esle,
                              how would you be able to explain me what the "faculty of reasoning"
                              is without pointing to inidviduals who does not have "faculty of
                              reasoning" ?

                                  So far so good, I showed, that 'If "faculty of reasoning" is
                              possesed by some idividual then there is some individual not
                              possesing "faculty of reasoning"' which (by law of contaraposition)
                              is the same as 'If all idividuals possess "faculty of reasoning"
                              then all idividuals not possess "faculty of reasoning"' and this
                              contradicts the law of excluded middle.

                                  I think, that what makes the Stoic wise is not his intelligence,
                              but his ability to act in accordance with Reason, however I doubt
                              this ability can be achieved by being able to explain paradoxes, I
                              take the Stoicism as philosophy for the practical life, and the
                              soundness of Stoicism should be tested in everyday life of student.

                              Best regards,
                                              Milan

                                

                                          



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