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What is your view on Stoicist Ethics and Life Advice

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    What is your view on Stoicist Ethics and Life Advice

    (TL;DR version located beneath the quotes)

    (...)When we take the rationality of the world order into consideration, we can begin to understand the Stoic formulations of the goal or end. “Living in agreement with nature” is meant to work at a variety of levels. Since my nature is such that health and wealth are appropriate to me (according to my nature), other things being equal, I ought to choose them. Hence the formulations of the end by later Stoics stress the idea that happiness consists in the rational selection of the things according to nature. But, we must bear in mind an important caveat here. Health and wealth are not the only things which are appropriate to me. So are other rational beings and it would be irrational to choose one thing which is appropriate to me without due consideration of the effect of that choice on other things which are also appropriate to me. This is why the later formulations stress that happiness consists in the rational selection of the things according to nature. But if I am faced with a choice between increasing my wealth (something which is prima facie appropriate to my nature) and preserving someone else’s health (which is something appropriate to something which is appropriate to me, i.e. another rational being), which course of action is the rational one? The Stoic response is that it is the one which is ultimately both natural and rational: that is, the one that, so far as I can tell from my experience with what happens in the course of nature (see Chrysippus’ formula for the end cited above, 63B), is most in agreement with the unfolding of nature’s rational and providential plan. Living in agreement with nature in this sense can even demand that I select things which are not typically appropriate to my nature at all – when that nature is considered in isolation from these particular circumstances (...)
    (...)It is perhaps more accurate to call it the Stoic view of the passions, though this is a somewhat dated term. The passions or pathê are literally ‘things which one undergoes’ and are to be contrasted with actions or things that one does. Thus, the view that one should be ‘apathetic,’ in its original Hellenistic sense, is not the view that you shouldn’t care about anything, but rather the view that you should not be psychologically subject to anything – manipulated and moved by it, rather than yourself being actively and positively in command of your reactions and responses to things as they occur or are in prospect. It connotes a kind of complete self-sufficiency.(...)
    (...)It is important to bear in mind that the Stoics do not think that all impulses are to be done away with. What distinguishes normal impulses or desires from passions is the idea that the latter are excessive and irrational. Galen provides a nice illustration of the difference (65J). Suppose I want to run, or, in Stoic terminology, I have an impulse to run. If I go running down a sharp incline I may be unable to stop or change direction in response to a new impulse. My running is excessive in relation to my initial impulse. Passions are distinguished from normal impulses in much the same way: they have a kind of momentum which carries one beyond the dictates of reason.(...)
    (All these quotes come from the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy: ) What I've shared is an abbreviated overview to get a sense of what stoicism is, it's not much more than that. If you want to learn the details regarding stoicism I suggest you check out the link above and read a book/work from Stoicists like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and others.

    TL;DR version:
    The stoics try to align themselves in life as much with nature as is possible. They do their best to rationally select the things that align with what they see as reality, trying to choose what is rationally both best for themselves and others. Stoics have no problem per se with being driven by feeling, they see feelings and behaviors that go beyond a rationally adequate response (e.g. giving into lust while you could be spending time on growing your income, working on your health, etc) as problematic and to be avoided.

    What do you think about these Stoicist ideals? Or what do you think about Stoicist ethics and life advice in general. What do you agree with and disagree with? Do you think there's wisdom present in the stoicist view?
    Last edited by Vive; 08-28-2020, 02:20 AM.
    "Distress, whether psychic, physical, or intellectual, need not at all produce nihilism.
    Such distress always permits a variety of interpretations."


    My initial reaction is that I don't take things like this for granted:
    they see feelings that go beyond a rationally adequate response (e.g. giving into lust while you could be spending time on growing your income, working on your health, etc) as problematic and to be avoided
    Personally, I don't understand why growing one's income should be prioritized over sexual lust. Don't get me wrong - personally, I prioritize my income and health quite highly, and I know from experience (my own and others) that there is only so much lust one can 'give into' before it loses its appeal.

    Since you differentiated "earning money" from "lust," I read it as "pursuing an object of sexual attraction without much attention to their person." That would be a cheap thrill to fill the emptiness, but it would not remain exciting for long. After 'nailing' some 'prey,' a lust-driven person generally grows bored and yearns for bigger conquests. These conquests often involve making more money, acquiring more power, getting famous, making a splash, etc. Leading a band and getting traction is much more exciting than 'fucking some prey,' even for the horniest of folks. Plus, horny folks who play in a band quickly learn that they can attract more and more prey with ease, so long as they play an instrument. Soon this loses its luster and things like fame, money and success become more important.

    Of course, there are exceptions. Some people are obsessed with sex and some are more obsessed with money. But the point I'm making is that money and sex can both be a lust-driven pursuit. And someone who has acquired lots of money and power can end up being much more dangerous to the wider population than someone who is driven by sexual impulses. But usually these things go hand in hand, because money, fame and power open up more doors for sexual partners.

    I realize it may seem that I'm nitpicking this one sentence so let's see if I can explain why this train of thought is central to my thoughts about stoicism as I currently understand it.

    Beneath any passion, there is a drive to survive and to thrive.
    Sexual passion is part of a healthy marriage, and it drives us to procreate. Without this, the species would die out.
    Any healthy family or society needs someone to acquire resources and to lead. Without power structures and resource hunting, there is no security in a society.

    Some people are modest and don't want to chase power and money for themselves. Being a leader, or having a lot of money, is a moral responsibility. Of course, some rich people shirk their ethical responsibility and simply make money and hoard it, or use it to hurt people - but those are sociopaths. Likewise, people who objectify sexual prey and see humans as 'conquests' without souls, are also low-empathy. A person with healthy empathy would view sex, power and money as a responsibility. With sex there's an ethical responsibility to be attentive to a lover's emotions as well as one's own, since there are hormonal chemicals released during the sexual process which cause attachment and thus, vulnerability. With money there's an ethical responsibility to one's own society and family - to use that money for good and not for evil (however that is defined at the time, and sometimes that is more complex than it sounds), to make good decisions about how much to share vs. how much to hoard for oneself and one's family, etc.

    Some people don't want the responsibility of making these decisions. The idea of having someone else's vulnerability or poverty as an ethical burden is just too much to bear. So they would rather "live and let live," than chase money, power and sex. But that means these people are committing the "sin" of leaving the major responsibility for growth to someone else. As long as you never make any strong decisions, you never have to be accountable for bad outcomes. Someone else does.

    Other people are driven by lust. They may have an urge to win the game, lead the way, or explore beyond the horizons. People like this may be likely to acquire power and responsibility. Provided they are not sociopaths, they will, by necessity, face moral conundrums - but they may think, "better for me to make these decisions than someone else." Some sexually attractive people are thoughtful and empathic. Some rich and powerful people are magnanimous. In other cases, power corrupts and these people are driven by lust for more and more and more--- all for themselves.

    There are obvious pitfalls in both of these life choices, but also obvious good potentials. And these types of people balance each other out. Most people are not so extreme and they fall somewhere in between - with some lust, and some stoicism, as well as other qualities. Others are more extreme.

    But simply deciding that strong emotion and strong lust should be avoided is not realistic. It won't apply to everyone the same way. People must figure out what is to be avoided within themselves. They must figure out when their lust has become hurtful vs. when it has reaped positive benefits. Possible benefits may include making a lot of money and contributing it to charity or starting an ethical business, or making wild passionate love and living an adventurous life that inspires others to seek some inspiration and take bigger risks in their own lives.

    There are obvious disadvantages to a lusty lifestyle: danger, pain, periods of instability, to name a few. So I would not recommend it to everyone. But if someone has the kind of lust in their blood that has consumed me for much of my life, I would advise them: direct your lust at real pursuits. LEAD. Don't settle for small conquests - aim big. When you score big, you have more to share. Remember the people who helped you get there. Take the fucking reigns and FEEL every last moment of it. Make mistakes along the way if you have to, but make sure to examine them each time. For the more stoic folks, I would say, "People like me need people like you - because if everyone were like me, the world would collapse."

    So I'd say yes, there is wisdom in stoicism. Any conscious choice of a lifestyle is better than an unconscious one, in my view. But it isn't for everyone. The natural order would not allow a society where everyone was stoic. There's a place for the lusty too.
    Last edited by Animal; 08-27-2020, 08:33 PM.


    • Vive
      Vive commented
      Editing a comment
      Yeah, I definitely agree with what you're saying here about how Stoicist philosophy is in a sense valid and can be very beneficial, but for some people much more than others. I imagine though that in some periods in their life, even the lusty might want to learn how to temper their lust. That's also why I strongly agree that a conscious choice of lifestyle is better than an unconscious one. When you do follow a certain lifestyle I think it at least is important that you know what the benefits and the drawbacks of that lifestyle are and after that it is important to consider if those are worth it for you right now, or maybe over a longer span of time.

    • Animal
      Animal commented
      Editing a comment
      I totally agree! Any conscious choice would involve assessing the benefits and cost of such a choice. To speak for myself, I know how I work best, but I have also tried my best to develop a strong sense of my weaknesses and the things that I'm better off not bothering with in the first place. Anyone can try any new thing, but at a certain point, that type of diversification comes at the cost of focusing on what will be most beneficial.