Letters from an Anti-Stoic

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Over the past decade, the Ancient philosophy of Stoicism1 has taken a meteoric rise2 amongst the non-academic audience. A strain of eudaimonic3 virtue ethics4, touted by the likes of  Zeno of Citium5, Seneca6 and Marcus Aurelius7, its strange rise to mainstream acceptance, ironically amongst conservatives8, allures one’s attention. However the nature of propaganda surrounding contemporary proponents of the above, and even the erroneous ideas themselves, must be unveiled. For its truth, we are after9.

The Skewed Nature of Oikeiôsis10

In accordance with nature, or so spoke Cleanthes11 as he fervently walked along the vast hallways of the Stoa12, a hundred ears listening amidst. One shan’t fool themselves, presuming it to be the materialistic, or metaphysical, entity of nature. Although the rational-providential aspect of the cosmos, the theistic nature of the philosophy, cannot be ignored, the idea broaches something else. The universality of human nature is presupposed, thus referred by the thesis.

Perhaps the quandary isn’t the presupposition itself, rather how it’s dealt with. Throughout the school of thought, a rigorous investigation into what constitutes human nature is lacking. The dilemma resolves itself, anchoring nature to the norm. Conformity to the norm, conceivably the more accurate motto, considering that the lot of “natural” virtues eventually reduce to socially heralded behaviors. Armed by weapons of reason13, proclaim ye charlatans! Wielding the shields of shame, the dreaded concern resounds the Agora14 – might one be an imbecile to reject said claims? The crème de la crème, the nobility (of thinkers), overlooks us after all.

And who stands in opposition, the lone ranger under scrutiny, to whom tis a shame to be acquainted? Passions. Passions are subjected to judgment, hailed as the enemy of reason. Have you not ever encountered such blatant misapprehension? Was it not the Enlightened Scotsman15 who illuminated, that the concealed chains of reason belonging to the accused be revealed?16 Thus remains exposed – The False Dichotomy on the Reasons and Passions

The False Dichotomy on the Reasons and Passions: The idea that rationality and emotions are at perpetual odds with each other, therefore the superior choice is to adhere to reason.

Reason can’t stand alone, for it acts as the path, the succinct “how” upon the underlying aim. And who doth provide the aim? The disfavored esse of passions. However, the decussate nature of individuals mustn’t be renounced – haply do the intuitions point so. Imprudent analysis of said nature, and the complacent acceptance of everything that was, constitute the critique.

The Cowardice of Equanimity

Separation of emotions, appealing to prevalent cultural ideas, to positives and negatives i.e. the good and the bad acts as foundation for the lethargic virtue of equanimity. The dichotomy of control presents itself, the redundant observation that there exist things we can’t control (externals) and those we can (internals). Eudaimonia, or Happiness, can only be seized upon unanimous focus on the internals. Subsequent rejection of the externals, and more importantly the consequences of them – feelings of frustration, sadness, anger – takes the spotlight17 18 19. Upon subtle awareness, such strong feelings are to be discarded or transformed, applying grotesque force, into another drop in the sea of feel-good nothingness.

For one on the qui vive, diverse avenues of attack dismantles the idea. Allow me to beseech, fellow soldiers of reason, is not the most rational act to gather intelligence in full measure? And aren’t emotions the raw intel, the naked, unprocessed information, divulging upon us the sine qua non of our current predicament? To advance on tangents, it’s not immediate that we hate negative emotions. They are no cause of happiness, by definition, however an object of detest – I think not. To go further still, they perhaps present as the greatest experience an individual can encompass. If not, why does sad music ponderously dance across the mind of every heartbroken lover? Why do the masses pour their way into the theatre, just to be terrified and startled in every twist and turn? To experience, nay, love the ebb and flow, the peaks and valleys, and present of an enthusiastic affirmation towards life – thus lies Amor Fati20 in its purest sense.

  1. Durand, M., Shogry, S., & Baltzly, D. (2023, January 20). Stoicism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved February 19, 2023, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/stoicism/
  2. Guardian News and Media. (2020, April 16). ‘Dress rehearsal for catastrophe’: how Stoics are speaking to locked-down readers. The Guardian. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2020/apr/16/how-stoics-are-speaking-to-locked-down-readers
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (2023, January 27). Eudaimonia. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/eudaimonia
  4. Hursthouse, R., & Pettigrove, G. (2022, October 11). Virtue ethics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/
  5. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, February 8). Zeno of citium. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeno_of_Citium
  6. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, February 18). Seneca the younger. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seneca_the_Younger
  7. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, February 18). Marcus Aurelius. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Aurelius
  8. Stoic schools were radically progressive, compared to their times
  9. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone.“- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations[
  10. Oikeiōsis. Stoicism – Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/stoicism/v-1/sections/oikeiosis
  11. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, January 5). Cleanthes. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleanthes
  12. Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, February 10). Stoa. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoa
  13. “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
  14. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, February 3). Agora. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agora
  15. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, February 17). David Hume. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hume
  16. “Reason Is and Ought Only to Be the Slave of the Passions”, David Hume
  17. If you always bear in mind what is your own (i.e. an internal within your control) and what is another’s (i.e. an external outside your control), then you will never be disturbed. – Epictetus
  18. Another person will not hurt you without your cooperation. You are hurt the moment you believe yourself to be.– Epictetus
  19. You must completely control your desire and shift your avoidance to what lies within your reasoned choice. You must no longer feel anger, resentment, envy, or regret. – Epictetus
  20. Latin for “Love of One’s Fate”. Associated with Stoicism and Friedrich Nietzsche

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