• Wallows
    6.3k
    I've tried to live my life as a Stoic, and have inadvertently reverted many times back to Cynicism, which is the closest relative to Stoicism. I feel as though the logical conclusion of Stoicism is to realize that the Cynic is right in the abandonment of all material goods. Many Stoics realized that Cynicism is the shortest path towards the ethical life, yet why don't more Stoics take that path and instead deviate towards the path of Stoicism?

    I'm not saying that every Stoic should become a Cynic due to the locality of Cynicism versus Stoicism; but, that more attention should be paid to the Cynic ethos. Under this view, one can still accept people like Seneca as a Stoic, although flawed in many ways. Marcus Aurelius could have lived as a Cynic; but, that would have been modally contradictory to the life he was given as a Roman emperor.

    Therefore, one can be born in wealth and prestige; but, if one were to put the veil of ignorance on, then the lowest common denominator for any Stoic is to return to believing that Cynicism is the correct way to live one's life. In other words, if I were to choose what to believe in, exempt from my situation or placement in life, then Cynicism is the correct way to view life given that not everyone (or most people) aren't born into affluence and wealth.

    I'm just pointing out that Stoicism is deeply intertwined with Cynicism, and this fact get's neglected in many modern-day versions or characterizations of ancient Stoicism.
  • Wallows
    6.3k
    I don't mean to say that any real Stoic should become a Cynic. That would be illogical. But, taking the ethos of Stoicism to the logical extreme, then if I'm sincere about Stoicism, then I should pay more attention to what the Cynic has to offer to my way of life.

    Therefore, any true Stoic should pay more attention to Cynicism.
  • BrianW
    532


    My dictionary (Concise Oxford English Dictionary 11th Edition) implies there's a significant difference in the mode of operation of these two schools of thought.
    That is:

    Stoicism => an ancient Greek school of philosophy which taught that it is wise to remain indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

    Cynic (Cynicism) => a member of a school of ancient Greek philosophers characterized by an ostentatious contempt for wealth and pleasure.

    I think, in principle, the different attitudes make them quite distant from each other but I suppose in practice, due to convergence from human interactions, they may have many characteristic points of similarity. However, I feel it's somewhat a negative transition for a stoic to become a cynic and would rather suppose the reverse to be more acceptable.
  • Wallows
    6.3k
    My dictionary (Concise Oxford English Dictionary 11th Edition) implies there's a significant difference in the mode of operation of these two schools of thought.
    That is:

    Stoicism => an ancient Greek school of philosophy which taught that it is wise to remain indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

    Cynic (Cynicism) => a member of a school of ancient Greek philosophers characterized by an ostentatious contempt for wealth and pleasure.
    BrianW

    Yes, but the differences are superficial on face value. When practiced then, the similarities become important, and hence the OP.

    I think, in principle, the different attitudes make them quite distant from each other but I suppose in practice, due to convergence from human interactions, they may have many characteristic points of similarity. However, I feel it's somewhat a negative transition for a stoic to become a cynic and would rather suppose the reverse to be more acceptable.BrianW

    Yes, that's true. I think, that ancient Stoics were unwilling to forgo their wealth and prestige just to be called a Cynic. The same would apply to this day. Hence, again the OP.
  • Ying
    213
    I'm just pointing out that Stoicism is deeply intertwined with Cynicism, and this fact get's neglected in many modern-day versions or characterizations of ancient Stoicism.Posty McPostface

    Yeah, no shit. The founder of stoicism was Zeno of Citium, a student of Crates of Thebes. Crates of Thebes is one of the big names in cynicism. .
  • Wallows
    6.3k
    Yeah, no shit. The founder of stoicism was Zeno of Citium, a student of Crates of Thebes. Crates of Thebes is one of the big names in cynicism. .Ying

    Yeah, I mean I follow an online Facebook page of Stoicism and all I hear is about professing indifference. It ain't that simple with Stoicism and I'm tired of the caricaturization of Stoicism in that regard.
  • Wallows
    6.3k
    I want to add an observation of mine. I see American Transcendentalism as very close in nature to the Cynic and Stoic ethos.

    Thoughts?
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    Transcendentalism is too based in the whole romantic movement, I'd say, to count. There's a certain admiration for simple living that both share, but the motivations and cares of each are pretty divergent. In particular -- while both think of human nature, it seems to me that stoics wanted to live in accord with human nature, but transcendentalists wanted to go back, return or recover some forgotten human nature which was lost due to social structures. The whole nature/nurture distinction is missing in ancient ethics (as exemplified by Aristotle's phrase "Man is the political animal"), while it is central to romantic (stemming from Rousseau) thinking.
  • Wallows
    6.3k


    Yes, I agree. I think there are some similarities as you suggested; but, looking deeper they are superficial. Just as a passing thought of mine.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    786
    I've always had a fondness for Cynicism as practiced by Diogenes the Dog mostly, I confess, on an unworthy basis--I relish his mockery of Plato.

    Stoics act secundum naturam, according to nature. That which most distinguishes humans as parts of nature is their ability to reason; that's a spark of the divine we each carry within us. Reason teaches us that we're social animals. As social animals, we necessarily interact with each other, and we owe a duty to our fellow humans who likewise possess a bit of divinity. So the Stoic can never isolate himself entirely from other people or be entirely indifferent to them, and must do well by them. So you see Stoics like Marcus Aurelius writing of the Stoic's obligations to others as a part of living according to nature. This may be something which distinguishes Stoicism from Cynicism. The Stoic does the best he can with what he has not just for himself but for others, and this may have inspired devotion to the public good (as it was perceived) which we can see in the better Roman statesmen and jurists, who favored Stoicism (including Cicero).
  • Wallows
    6.3k
    So the Stoic can never isolate himself entirely from other people or be entirely indifferent to them, and must do well by them.Ciceronianus the White

    What if other people are the cause of his or her grief? I mean, I find it remarkable that Marcus Aurelius, who must have been exposed to the strangest of men was still fond of people in general. I mean take his first meditations from book two for example:

    Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.Marcus Aurelius-Meditations Book Two

    I very much envy his ability to cope with such behavior in a Stoic manner. Not everyone is motivated by the 'good', which Plato elaborated on. It's just not in our power to be able to change them to our ways of thinking.

    I'm not saying that he should have become a misanthrope; but, I find my interactions with people trying, and have to resort to solitude on many occasions. However, I very much am a Schopehaureian misanthrope. People tire me easily, and I resort to solitude in my weariness.

    I don't quite entirely know how to build a higher tolerance for frustration or lower my anger when presented with ignorance, deceit, or plain idiocy. Is there anything you would recommend doing that would foster a better outlook on these matters?
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    Is there anything you would recommend doing that would foster a better outlook on these matters?Posty McPostface

    Usually I find that if I reflect on who I am that I share in the faults I find frustrating, and it tempers my anger or frustration; we are only human, and we are all faulty because of it.

    In the passage you quote it's worth noting that these were the sorts of things Marcus would say to himself -- so it's not like he necessarily lived up to his code at every moment of his life. They were the sorts of things he would say to himself to help him live a better life and achieve some kind of contentment with the way things are.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    786
    I don't quite entirely know how to build a higher tolerance for frustration or lower my anger when presented with ignorance, deceit, or plain idiocy. Is there anything you would recommend doing that would foster a better outlook on these matters?Posty McPostface
    According to Pierre Hadot, The Meditations were a part of Stoic practice on the part of the Emperor, which Moliere hints at. He wrote them to discipline himself to be a Stoic at all times, particularly at those times he became weary with what he had to encounter each day.

    It's hard to come up with better reasons for tolerating others and respecting them even when they frustrate us than those he refers to in what you quoted. But there's one Stoic maxim, often employed by Epictetus, the Emperor doesn't mention in this passage, except perhaps by implication. That we should concern ourselves with what is in our control, and not disturb ourselves with what isn't in our control, to which we should be indifferent. We have no control over those who are envious, ungrateful, deceitful, etc. What is in our control is how we react to them. It's in our power to be undisturbed by them; we need be angry with them, or frustrated by them any more than we are with other things beyond our control, like the weather. "Our life is what our thoughts make it" as the Emperor said. We control our thoughts, and so need not make our lives miserable.
  • Wallows
    6.3k
    Usually I find that if I reflect on who I am that I share in the faults I find frustrating, and it tempers my anger or frustration; we are only human, and we are all faulty because of it.Moliere

    Kudos to you for being so honest in your self-reflection. I tend to get angry at myself for petty faults whenever I conduct a self-analysis.

    In the passage you quote it's worth noting that these were the sorts of things Marcus would say to himself -- so it's not like he necessarily lived up to his code at every moment of his life. They were the sorts of things he would say to himself to help him live a better life and achieve some kind of contentment with the way things are.Moliere

    Yes, it remains a mystery how the ID or ego dealt with the reality and enormity of the task of being an emperor other than the glimpse we have of his super-ego at work in the Meditations.
  • Wallows
    6.3k


    One thing that has concerned me, and has prohibited me from recognizing Seneca as a true Stoic is the matter of selflessness? What does Stoicism have to say about selflessness or being selfish? Is that contrary to our nature, and if not, then how do you explain the majority of other people's behavior? Maybe the issue can be framed as in how often one ought to be selfless? All the time, some of the time, or at no time?
  • schopenhauer1
    2.3k

    I'm suspicious of a philosophy that reports to follow "nature" through "reason". There's a lot of "well, of course, "reason" (aka the philosopher's preference for what is deemed reasonable sounding) dictates this or that action, and "reason" is part of nature. You see, there is little justification above its own dictates.
  • Wallows
    6.3k
    I'm suspicious of a philosophy that reports to follow "nature" through "reason". There's a lot of "well, of course, "reason" (aka the philosopher's preference for what is deemed reasonable sounding) dictates this or that action, and "reason" is part of nature. You see, there is little justification above its own dictates.schopenhauer1

    So, you're saying Stoicism is committing the naturalistic fallacy?
  • Wallows
    6.3k
    You see, there is little justification above its own dictates.schopenhauer1

    How so?
  • Ciceronianus the White
    786
    I think that "reason" was viewed by ancient philosophers in the West as something different from "reason" as we think it to be now, influenced as we are by the caperings of the Romantics. "Reason" construed broadly as the thoughtful, intelligent consideration of problems and questions (rather like Dewey's view of "logic" as inquiry) enthralled the ancients, who previously were subject to a mythical, mystical view of the interaction of humans with other humans and the rest of the world. The ancient philosophers saw reason embodied in the orderly structure of nature itself.

    I think for the Stoics, selfishness to the extent it displays itself in greed, envy, jealousy derives from the desire to possess or have control over things properly considered outside our control. Selflessness is a function of the Stoic view of humans, and in fact all of nature, as being interconnected and a part of a single, living whole. Treating things beyond our control as indifferent was one of the means by which we cultivate tranquility, but the tranquility of individuals contributes to the good of the whole; people are not grasping, angry, hateful, don't seek power over others, etc. (don't push women down stairs when they're talking too loudly).
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