Stoicism - It Is What It Is

Discussion in 'Philosophy & Psychology' started by Bobby Cole, Mar 15, 2018.

  1. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    I have often referred to myself as being somewhat of a Stoic and sometimes that rings a few bells with some people as being heartless or emotionless but it is neither. For me, it is the acknowledgment of the "It is what it is" philosophy of some things in life that ostensibly cannot be changed.

    Epictetus, (A.D. 55-135) a Greek philosopher to whom a lot of credit for the growth of Stoicism is given but not without the credit for the earlier writings of gents like Heraclitus (500 BC) and a student of Socrates, Antisthenes (390 BC) who were at the very roots of the system.

    Okay, so what was so special about what he wrote? The two most popular pieces were Enchiridion (the handbook) and Discourses in which he discusses life in general in reference to the things between man and God (or gods since his main god was Zeus).

    To paraphrase a couple of his writings one speaks of emotions and the weather in which he chastises mankind for being upset about that which only Zeus was in control of. Another, my favorite, was concerning man and our ability to see color. Again, to paraphrase, he (erroneously) said that man was the only species that can see color and that ability was in order to further glorify God.
    If everything was black, white and shades of grey but man saw color, how then would it glorify God? Further, if man could only see black and white but everything was in color, God could not possibly be glorified by what man saw. But, man does see the colors that God has provided and sees the beauty in it all which does indeed glorify God.

    Last but not least (for this portion) here are a few of his quotes which I am sure that many people say without knowing from whence they came.

    1, We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
    2. The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.
    3. First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.
    4. Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.
    5. It takes more than just a good looking body. You've got to have the heart and soul to go with it.
    6. People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.
    7. If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.
    8. There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.
    9. The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possibly on external things.
    10. When you are offended at any man's fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.
    11. The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.

    12 and my favorite: To accuse others for one's own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one's education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one's education is complete.
     
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  2. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    I Googled Stoicism. It is fascinating reading. It seemed to have an influence on Christianity. Some of the basic precepts of Christianity seem to stem from Stoicism. Fascinating.
     
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  3. Cody Fousnaugh

    Cody Fousnaugh Veteran Member
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    Very, VERY interesting Bobby. Some easy to do, while others, definitely hard (for some, that is).
     
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  4. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    Actually, a whole lot of what we attribute to being exclusive to Christians are concepts that were recognized as philosophical precepts taught by earlier teachers / philosophers.
    Epictetus, in particular, was one of the first to introduce Logos, a key word which we find in our own 1st chapter of John. Logos, or the base word for Logo, is a foundational word in which all else in a text centers around.
    In the case of the book of John, we have: "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God, the same was with God in the beginning." Word, in this case, is Logos or that which all else in the first chapter centers around and is recognized as He who is later named, Jesus.
    In the case of Epictetus, everything centered around Zeus (god) or when not otherwise explicitly named he imported the word Logos.
    Now, Epictetus was pretty much a contemporary of John so the possibility that they were of the same literary fabric is extremely fascinating to me.
     
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  5. Maryt Hope

    Maryt Hope Very Well-Known Member
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  6. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    A Great find @Maryt Hope !
    Although the quote is from the writings of Epictetus, it ensamples the very core of Stoicism and even philosophy itself.
    When we finally discover that there is absolutely nothing we can do to change anyone nor anything around us (sans those things we can physically determine their structure or longevity) we find that our own attitude changes and generally for the better.
    The base attitude of the stoic nearly emulates the emotionless fictional character of Spock on Star Trek. Logic is indeed emotionless but will provoke a reaction and emotion of which we are supposed to be in total control.

    Good or bad, the sun will set and rise with or without us. It's how we react to the things that happen between those two events that makes us who we are.
     
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  7. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    I don't agree that we can't change anyone or anything. I think we can change some others by the way we act toward them. We can change some things.


    THE BUTCHARTS
    Robert Pim Butchart, a pioneer in the thriving North American cement industry, was attracted from Owen Sound, Ontario to Canada’s West Coast by rich limestone deposits. In 1904, he developed a quarry and built a cement plant at Tod Inlet (on Vancouver Island) to satisfy Portland cement demand from San Francisco to Victoria. Jennie Butchart became the company’s chemist. Close to the quarry, the Butcharts established the family home complete with sweet peas and rose bushes.
    As Mr. Butchart exhausted limestone deposits, his enterprising wife Jennie, made plans to create something of beauty in the gigantic exhausted pit. From farmland nearby, she had tonnes of top soil brought in by horse and cart and used it to line the floor of the abandoned quarry. Little by little, the quarry blossomed into the spectacular Sunken Garden.

    Today what had been an ugly pit is a place of beauty beyond compare. Butchart Gardens:

    spring-full-sunken-garden.jpg

    summer-full-fountain.jpg
     
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  8. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    I see your point and it is well made...........but................ultimately it is the individual's choice to make changes. Kind of like, "you can lead a horse to water etc, etc................
     
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  9. Maryt Hope

    Maryt Hope Very Well-Known Member
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    ----------------------------------------

    Indeed, Epictetus was a great Stoic philosopher.
    “The Enchiridion “or “Manual of Epictetus “ is a timeless piece of classic literature.
     
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  10. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    Although Epictetus is my favorite Stoic philosopher, other ancient and near ancient philosophers played a huge role in the creation and continuation of the morality based thought process. Great men history such as Zeno of Citium,( who is largely attributed to be an originator of Stoicism) Plato, Aristotle, and even Markus Aurelius, an emperor of Rome, were contributors of Stoicism.

    If a person were to describe ancient Stoicism in as few lines as possible, it might be that the belief system was one that honors the natural processes we see in nature. It valued those who controlled their emotions and sought not those things of pleasure but rather concentrated on morality and those things of ethical value. A person seeking to do those things that are adverse to what we see in nature is against that which is moral and natural.

    In our own Christian anthology, the Bible, we have James "the brother of Jesus" making the statement, "I will show you my faith by my works" which is a prime tenet of Stoicism. Another Biblical comparison comes with the Master Himself when he told his followers [concerning the works of miracles] "be ye not amazed". (The focus being that those things we deem as miracles are natural.)

    In many ways the one liners of, "What you see is what you get" , and "It is what it is", pretty much encompass the attitude of the good Stoic.
     
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  11. Maryt Hope

    Maryt Hope Very Well-Known Member
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    “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

    (“ Meditations”, Marcus Aurelius)
     
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  12. Hal Pollner

    Hal Pollner Very Well-Known Member
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    Stoicism is overrated.
    Hal
     
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  13. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    Stoicism is only a name for an attitude concerning the things we deal with in life and thus far, I do not believe I have rated it as above or below any other attitude. If I did rate it then I would be placing myself, as a person who has that Stoic type of attitude, in jeopardy of demeaning or granting superiority to other beliefs and / or practices.
    Your thoughts @Hal Pollner ?
     
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  14. Hal Pollner

    Hal Pollner Very Well-Known Member
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    Well, I'll tell ya:

    Jeopardy? Demeaning? Superiority?

    Them's tall words for a sharecropper like me!

    Hal
    053.jpg
     
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  15. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    As a small rebuttal, even the janitorial supplies at Boeing have larger and much more complicated wording on them and by your own previous posts, I trust you didn't work for so many years cleaning toilet bowls otherwise the directions didn't do you much good.

    Note: My post was in question to your remark about Stoicism being overrated and I simply wished to know more about why you feel that way. I wasn't being funny, I was only being as perfectly candid and honest as I could possibly post as to my own circumstance as a person who does practice Stoicism in it's very raw form.
    I'm really trying to get along with you here but a three word post didn't explain anything and neither does a picture of you and an inanimate wolf.
     
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  16. Thomas Stearn

    Thomas Stearn Active Member
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    Thanks, Bobby, for sharing your thoughts and, if you like, some snippets of your inner self with us. You inspired me to start thinking a bit more about myself. It's really amazing how influential stoics have been until up to the present time. One of your quoted tenets: "The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best." reminded me immediately of one of my favourite authors who'd expressed it differently but probably meant the same thing. It seems to fit in with his way of looking at the world, maybe because it overlaps with pantheistic thought.

    Over here, stoicism is being in vogue especially among young urban people who are on the self-optimization trip. In contrast to baby boomers they don't seem to be bothering too much about society but exclusively focus on themselves. This helps you in troubled times. Doing good for the general public is not as important as getting the most out of and for yourself. They have realised your fifth quote in particular and have started looking for some food for thought. Stoicism is hip presumably because it seems to offer something for everyone due to the fact that its tenets and, above all, its interpretation have changed continuously. Yet there are also some constant features like the causality principle? When talking to stoics I realised that they don't seem to care about that but rather pick those elements that fit in with what they believe in.

    Since you have introduced only portions so far it may be fair to ask: Are you selective too or do you accept the complete stoic construct?
     
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  17. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    Again, a most delightful post!

    Many of the present day practitioners splinter the basics into groupings of thought which actually take away from the more realistic attitude that the ancients described. But then, Stoicism differed from one philosopher to the next but the very basics stayed intact which is quite coincidentally laid out in the AA creed. Simply, change the things you can and don't worry about the things you can't.
    (Note: No, I do not belong to AA but as a single ingredient in the rescue mission ministry, which I AM a part of, I believe it to be a credible help in today's society. )

    One splinter group leans more toward manifest destiny which is interesting but ultimately dangerous because it gives no room for the human construct and will for survival. If perchance it is going to flood such great volumes of water that all should perish then dying in a flood is meant to be and the building of a boat is fruitless. It gives all control to providence and leaves nothing for what that same reality has given us to survive.
    On the contrary, the idea is not to worry too much about the flood because the flood is eminent and it is pointless to waste any emotions or great thought concerning what is going to happen but rather to concentrate on how to change the consequences of such an event.

    I have noticed also that some even go so far as to believe it is better not to have any emotions at all. Sort of a self imposed "Spock" of Star Trek complex whereby the total control of emotions are such that none are visible within or without.
    The human body is simply a device to keep the human brain well fed and alive and all else, to quote Solomon, is vanity. Everything has a logical basis behind it and anything which might confuse the prime objective can be circumvented by way of reasoning.
    To rebut this, I have eyes that can see color because color exists just as I have the ability to laugh, because some things are just plain funny.

    And yes, @Thomas Stearn, there is that Pantheistic overlap, but I do not understand how Stoic physics can be adjoined with that which acknowledges all things natural but denies the very concept of an "overlord" or providence as you will. Moreover, Stoicism demands that a higher entity other than ourselves or universal reality or God is at the very root of humanity and doesn't give any "wiggle room" for any adjustments to that system of thought.

    And lastly (for now) there are some who have interwoven a philosophy of "self" and concentrates only on one's self but how that came to be inclusive is a mystery to me. Or perhaps, the preparation and building of a greater self is misunderstood.
    Self betterment is to take on the whole of learning and is non-selective and to be the least ignorant is one of the greatest adventures in life. For me to say that I would only surround myself with those who I feel are my intellectual equals and those who would help me enrich my back pocket is an absurd paradigm to live by.
    Whom are those that I might surround myself and build a greater self? Is it someone with my same IQ or better or someone with the same life experiences? Or perhaps the banker, the politician, the lawyer, real estate mogul or the wealthy tech inventor?

    But, what of the policeman, the preacher, the poverty stricken, the addict, the teacher, the homeless person, the laborer, the soldier; do they not too have something I can glean and are they not in some ways much better than I?
    Who indeed are my equals for it would seem that if everyone has something I can learn and I have something I can teach, then they are all my equals and equally surround my very existence. The Biblical scenario goes, "there is none righteous, no not one" comes to mind.
    There is only one above me and no man is below me, all else is indeed vanity...................
     
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  18. Mary

    Mary Guest

    I like the idea in the last paragraph for it shows a mindset and an attitude that acknowledges that the source of learning is not limited to institutions, social class, professionals or perhaps even events or activities. One can learn from one's equal as much as from a child. But in order for learning to take place, recognition of one's shortcomings is needed and acknowledgment that one does not kn ow everything. Sometimes, the more long lasting learning comes from whom we might mistakenly consider insignificant. It's takes humility to accept that the lowliest can sometimes be the best teacher.
     
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  19. Thomas Stearn

    Thomas Stearn Active Member
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    I appreciate your patience with my posts, Bobby. Lots of food for thought in yours which keeps me pondering. I'd like to respond to the two questions you raised: How can stoicism be adjoined with Pantheism and a philosophy of "self".

    The connection point or overlap with Pantheism seems to be that both theories are monistic and say that there be only physical or natural things and both postulate a higher entity or principle other than ourselves. As far as I know, Pantheism does not deny the very concept of an "overlord". What it denies, though, is a higher principle like ourselves (incarnate) but it assumes that this higher principle is in nature, inspiriting all things. Similarly, the Stoics believe in a higher order pervading the whole universe. "The universe itself is God and the universal outpouring of its soul." (Cicero) That's where both systems join or the wiggle room, if you ask me.

    As for the second question, I'd start with the fact that Stoics do not necessarily want to change the world. They want to fit in. That's what they have in common with self-optimizers. If Stoics say that you have to accept what you can't change anyway, that you shouldn't let yourself be influenced by what you can't control but rather concentrate on yourself, then it's this inherent principle of concentrating on one's self which a philosophy of life and self-optimization can dock at. Admittedly, that gateway is only open to them because the level 2.0 self-optimizers base their ideas on a light version of Stoicism. They see it as a useful tool in an increasingly critical, confusing world in which it helps them to "stay cool".

    I agree with what you said about self betterment. Their idea of it is probably different as they would tend to be more egocentric taking advantage of the fact that Stoicism advocates a philosophy of "taking care of oneself" but modify its original meaning. I'd see a risk of becoming a bit elitist as you implied or did I get you wrong? And wouldn't it also run counter to a basic tenet of Stoicism saying that by using reason it is possible for everyone to reach the ultimate goal of happiness (Ataraxia) regardless of their circumstances of life, their IQ, their upbringing, socialisation?

    Well, just my two cents but you kind of got me hooked. Thinking about it, I may have found a philosophical foundation for certain things I sensed inside me anyway. Who knows? ;)
     
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  20. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    Again, I do highly appreciate your posts, Thomas.

    Now, regarding the overlap, could not Pantheism be misconstrued to overlap in another direction? If we take away the name which describes the base intent of the belief system, we do have something akin to that which believes in no god at all. The Pantheistic belief system calls for all things natural to be as god whereas even the early Stoics such as Epictetus were polytheistic with Zeus sitting on the throne. Of such was one of the Gnostic arguments in the 18 century if my memory serves me well. (sometimes these days, it does not)
    Of course, as the name implies, Pantheism is definitely more theistic than atheistic but that bridge could be made if we view some of the more colorful atheistic sects.

    The argument about the relationship between Pantheism and Stoicism is so varied and changed throughout the centuries, it's really hard to come to a firm grip concerning the original workings of each in order come to epi-gnosis or full knowledge if you will. Not unlike other belief and or philosophical systems, things do splinter and become only a part of what they were in the beginning with each splintering group having a definition of their own whilst attempting to keep the root of the whole premise.

    This I do know for absolute certainty: The one unchanging value is that there is no evil nor good except that which I can give or inflict. Does that mean that there is no evil nor good outside my own existence? Certainly not but how it effects me is within my control or to be perfectly honest, my attempts to control. If someone angers me for any reason, should I lash out or be at peace with myself and hope that the good in me will overcome that which might inflict pain? Although I have been working with myself for some years now, there are times when it is still hard not to go outside the realm of peace and want to slap somebody silly but I seem to be doing much better as time permits.
    I often refer to Paul (Saul of Tarsus) for many reasons particularly because some of his philosophies lie within the realm of Stoicism.
    "Not speaking in respect of want, but I have found that whatever state I am, therewith I shall be content" Phil 4:11 or
    "Whatsoever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, exercise yourselves in these things. Phil. 4:8
     
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  21. Hal Pollner

    Hal Pollner Very Well-Known Member
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    Don't be upset, Bobby...I was just about to praise you for having a remarkable insight on worldly matters, as well as having an enviable vocabulary!

    My 3-word post was meant in jest!

    C'mon...let's be friends!
    Hal

    047.jpg
     
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  22. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Greeter
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    I'm not smart enough for this thread, but I'm glad it's here. Carry on.
     
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  23. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    The irony of that statement is that you’re probably one of most versatile persons on this forum. No, I’m not blowing bubbles to make you feel good but it’s just the way I see things.
     
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  24. Hal Pollner

    Hal Pollner Very Well-Known Member
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    NEWS FLASH:

    Nobody's perfect.

    Hal Pollner
     
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  25. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    No, no one is perfect.....to another person. Is not perfection qualified by the person who seeks it? How is it defined and who defines it but he who believes he has attained it or come short of it?
    On what moral strengths or ethical balances can we derive a true understanding of perfection? Is it the singular idealist or rather a general consensus of a small branch of society or an entire culture who sets the bar for the individual?

    If we say that no one is perfect then we have set a standard that we admittedly shall never attain but if it is unattainable, then why bother with such a journey?
    Moreover, if I produce a piece of crafted wood and I proclaim it to be perfect, then who is it who would say that it is not? Is it by the onlooker's word that I shall have virtue taken away or is it through my own interpretation of it that gives it validity?

    No, I am not perfect but I shall continually strive to meet that goal as I see it. As for anyone else, let them decide for themselves if they are or are not for I cannot be the judge of what is perfection for another person.
     
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