• god must be atheist
    2.1k
    Dear Dr. Prof. Pigliucci, thanks for joining us. I feel honoured to have been chosen to ask a question regarding Stoicism, more precisely, about the trend and popularity and ensuing willingness to learn and teach Stoicism.

    My point will be that Stoicism can't be learned; and I will ask you a question at the end of my presentation here to please let us know why you think it can be learned and why therefore schools of Stoicism are valid initiatives. The points I used are information gained from and based solely on an internet lecture you gave and I watched; you spake about the two pillars of Stoicism, and how Stoicism ought to be natural, relying on human nature. I pull in no other information on Stoicism but these.

    1. Stoicism relies on 1.1. Human nature, 1.2. and on the two pillars of Stoicisim, which are 1.2.1. Justice, temperance, courage and practical wisdom and 1.2.2. being satisfied to control those things which one can, and not be affected by those things which one can't control.

    2. Human nature, as such, is static with each human, as it is "the nature" not "the nurtured qualities" of humans.

    3. Human nature is diverse, and do not necessarily comprise the values, or actions, or considerations, of justice, temperance, courage and practical wisdom for any given individual. Human nature is diverse, and do not necessarily comprise the attitude of being satisfied with controlling those things which one can, and not being affected by those things which one can't control.

    4. Teaching Stoicism in Stoic schools is to teach those non-Stoics how to live as Stoics. If someone is already a Stoic, he or she needs no school to learn how to live like a Stoic.

    5. Teaching Stoicism to non-Stoics presumes they are either lacking in any one of the following: Justice, temperance, courage and practical wisdom, and/or lacking in attitude of being satisfied with controlling those things which one can, and not being affected by controlling those which one can't control. Let's call the teaching of these as "teaching the Stoic goals".

    6. But teaching Stoic goals to those who already don't have Stoic goals requires that their nature be changed.

    7. But nature can't be changed, as nature is not an acquired quality, but an innate, inborn quality. Otherwise it would be called "nurtured human qualities" and it would not be called "human nature".

    8. Therefore the Stoic schools are a futile educational endeavour, as their educational goal is unattainable, infeasible; they can't change those who are not Stoics by nature, and there is no reason to teach Stoicism to those who are Stoics.

    9. Therefore my question to Dr. Prof. Pigliucci is this: "Dear Dr. Professor Pigliucci, in light of the contents of the previous 8 points, how do you reconcile the drive to teach Stoicism when it can't be taught at all to human beings? More particularly, where did I make an assumptional error in creating a premise to my arguments, or else where is a logical error in arriving at my final point from the assumptions or premises that may be true?"
  • praxis
    2.5k
    Having just finished How to Be a Stoic, by Pigliucci, I can say there are a number of ‘assumptional errors’ that could be cleared up by simply reading the material. Rather odd to make these assumptions rather than do the reading.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k

    I watched the video only. I never read a thing on Stoicism. I can't read.

    I never assumed the qualities and nature of the two pillars of Stoicism. I took the exact snapshot of them as described in the speech on the Internet by Dr. Pigliucci, as given by a link on somebody else's post.

    Perhaps the only (and maybe invalid) assumption I made was on human nature, it being immovable, unchangeable. I am not sure to this day if that is an invalid one, or its opposite (that human nature can be changed) is an invalid one.

    I can read maximum 2000-3000 words of a well-written article or else work of fiction (short story). Beyond that I can't read. My focus becomes blurred (not visual, but mental), I can't concentrate, I am unable to read longer stuff.

    So I altogether and completely gave up on reading. It was a gradual process. First I decided at college not to read any of the textbooks, but to go to each lecture, not take notes even, but listen intently. It got me a C+ average. That was lucky, because it was the bare minimum passing mark to earn the degree.
  • praxis
    2.5k


    Technically, I also didn’t read the book. I bought it on audible.com and listened to it while driving and walking the dog. You should try the spoken word if your condition is preventing you from reading books that may be featured on services like audible.

    I’m not sure how this section is supposed to work, specifically if anyone is welcome to comment or if it’s just for the topic creator and guest. Whatever the case, no one has stopped me yet, and I think it could be considered a courtesy to try resolving basic points so that the professor, should he return from his forum sabbatical, could focus on deeper aspects.

    Regarding the two pillars, all I should say is that three disciplines are discussed in How to Be a Stoic, which are desire, action, and ascent. The dichotomy of control falls under desire (we should desire things within our control), and the virtue of which is courage and temperance. Perhaps you saw a more simplified or less structured version of this. It might be important to have the fuller picture in order to better appreciate the goal of Stoicism, which is essentially Eudaimonia or human flourishing. Item 5 in the OP suggests to me that this might not be clear.

    Point 2 in the OP could also use some clarification. Stoics believe in living according to nature. Two distinguishing features of sapiens is that we are a social species and that we possess the capacity for reason. That is our nature, in part anyway, and it distinguishes us from other species. From this insight, accredited to Aristotle I believe, the Stoics derived the notion that human life is about the application of reason to social living. I suppose this reasoning may suggest that, for instance, living like a mindless animal (e.g. an anti-social murderous criminal) is not living according to human nature but rather the nature of a beast.

    So indeed Stoics rely on their capacity of reason and their moral intuitions (to at least begin with) in order to develop virtue/character which they believe is necessary to live eudaemonicly.

    As for your question, I don't find it very interesting, personally. Stoicism is a practice. What there is to teach of it is actually rather simple. The hard part is the practice. In this way, it's more like having a routine of going to the gym than it is a routine of going to a classroom. To get the best results at a gym it's best to know what you're doing, but by far it's about the practice, doing the work, being mindful of proper technique, etc.

    I think a more interesting question might be whether or not Western culture and its particular value structure is fertile soil for Stoicism. We typically don't seek the good life or a meaningful life. We value money, status, fame, a good career, a big house with a white picket fence, and The American Dream (may it rest in peace).
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    Point 2 in the OP could also use some clarification. Stoics believe in living according to nature.praxis

    Dr. Prof. Pigliucci does not leave it unexplained in his video. Please watch the video instead of asking me to clarify. It only takes 10 minutes, I think. It's better than an audiobook. I just don't feel like explaining things that occur to you only because you haven't watched the video.

    I beg you, please watch the video.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    As for your question, I don't find it very interesting,praxis

    Okay. Next time I'll ask about dancing girls and wolves that balance chairs on their noses.

    No, seriously, I get your point. I did not write this question particularly for you or to entertain you. I wrote this quesiton for ALL those philosophers who find it not particularly interesting.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    I think a more interesting question might be whether or not Western culture and its particular value structure is fertile soil for Stoicism.praxis
    Why, oh why, haven't I asked this question? Why did I have to ask instead the question that I wanted to ask? Darn it.

    I wish I could be you, @Praxis. If I were, then I could ask all the interesting questions that interest you and not me.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    Regarding the two pillars, all I should say is that three disciplines are discussed in How to Be a Stoic, which are desire, action, and ascent.praxis

    I think there are two Stoic philosophies, if I can judge the differences between your description of it, and that of dr. Prof. Pigliucci. Maybe there was a Stoic philosopher, named Mr. Stoic, who established a Stoic philosophy, and then independently from this, there was another Stoic philospher, by the name of Mr. Stoic, who also established a Stoic philosophy.

    Everything is possible.
  • praxis
    2.5k
    I think there are two Stoic philosophies...god must be atheist

    schermata-2015-09-14-alle-17-00-08.png
  • Diagonal Diogenes
    21
    I watched the video only. I never read a thing on Stoicism. I can't read.god must be atheist

    No, seriously, I get your point. I did not write this question particularly for you or to entertain you. I wrote this quesiton for ALL those philosophers who find it not particularly interesting.god must be atheist

    I wish I could be you, Praxis. If I were, then I could ask all the interesting questions that interest you and not me.god must be atheist

    Oh man, I gotta tell you, this made my day! Thanks for the hearty laughs!

    I believe you are a true Cynic - but to your original question:

    Becoming a Stoic or a Cynic is process that usually happens naturally as means to cope with frustration. Sure, you can learn about the philosophy, but you will not truly understand it until you experience the frustration of dealing with idiots and other unstoppable forces of nature that one must deal with on a constant basis throughout life.

    As such, I do not think it likely for youth to be stoics or cynics until they gain enough life experience to fulfill the conditions posited in the previous paragraph.
  • Brett
    2.3k


    how do you reconcile the drive to teach Stoicism when it can't be taught at all to human beings?god must be atheist

    Not only is it possible it can’t be taught to a human being, but if it could be taught, or if someone applied it to living today, would they find themselves buried by the forces they have no control over. How much can you step back before you’re nothing? How much does what we can’t control outweigh what can’t be controlled?

    “The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…”
    – Epictetus
  • Diagonal Diogenes
    21
    Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…”
    – Epictetus

    Point of contention - while it does not make sense to assign good/evil qualities to things that happen by themselves, like rain or sunshine, it does if the things happening beyond out control are the result of someone's decision, like torture for the pleasure of the torturer.

    Therefore, if you are the one being tortured and there is nothing you can do to stop it, you may endure it with a stoic attitude, but it does not make the torture act any less evil (or good if you really deserve it).
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control,Brett

    Obviously the externals are under the control of somebody else. Otherwise they would not happen, or if they happened, they would not happen in an orderly fashion. But they do happen in an orderly fashion. So some person or persons control the externals.

    But the externals are externals to everyone. So no person ought to have control over them.

    This boils down to the externals controllable by people and not controllable by people at the same time and in the same respect. Reductio ad absurdum.

    Stoicism is a false proposition of how things work. It is a priori impossible to live that way. That's the first reason why so many people are trying, trying and trying to live the Stoic way, and can't.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    it does if the things happening beyond out control are the result of someone's decision, like torture for the pleasure of the torturer.Diagonal Diogenes

    In Stoicism, all externals are externals to all people. Nobody controls externals in the Stoic philosophy.

    This is the logic that places the death sentence on Stoic philosophy. If nobody controls externals, then why do they happen, and why do they happen as if they were controlled by some person or persons?
  • Brett
    2.3k



    You both seem to have leapt at the quote by Epictetus, which was probably a bait not intended.

    What I meant was that to live as a Stoic today is to be a victim too many uncontrollable externals that have a direct bearing on your mental and physical health. Maybe it was never possible, but if it was then it was done under different circumstances than today. I’m not talking about war, or being tortured, just daily life.
  • Diagonal Diogenes
    21

    Excuse me, but it seems you are strawmanning what it means to be Stoic.

    My simple understanding is (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism):
    According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to eudaimonia (happiness) for humans is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using one's mind to understand the world and to do one's part in nature's plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.

    The theme seems to be:
    1. accept events beyond our control and not agonize in wishing that things were a different way.
    2. working together and treating others fairly and justly.

    How is this in any way impossible? And what does it matter if no one controls externals?
  • Brett
    2.3k


    The theme seems to be:
    1. accept events beyond our control and not agonize in wishing that things were a different way.
    2. working together and treating others fairly and justly.
    Diagonal Diogenes

    Consider this;

    either life today for many people is almost insurmountable and beyond their control,

    or they’re making it up and just looking for an easy way out. Which is it?
  • Diagonal Diogenes
    21

    I think it is entirely possible that life today for many people is almost insurmountable and beyond their control AND that they are looking for an east way out because they can't deal with the suffering they have to endure.

    Maybe there is a threshold of pain that makes it impossible to live stoically, but I would argue that most people that have bad lives don't really have it that bad - they are just people that see the glass almost empty instead of being glad that it has anything at all.
  • Brett
    2.3k


    they can't deal with the suffering they have to endure.Diagonal Diogenes

    My second point, then, would be, is this suffering external, or is it self imposed?
  • Diagonal Diogenes
    21

    It is clearly both.

    External, because, as a simple example, there is no food to eat and the stomach hurts. There is no way to avoid this pain.

    Self-imposed, because instead of simply accepting that there is no food and engaging the mind in finding a way around the problem, the person instead engages in mind exercises that cause angst and mental suffering in addition to the physical pain, but this can be avoided entirely with discipline.

    This, in my understanding, is one of the core tenets of stoicism.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    I got your message the first time.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    Excuse me, but it seems you are strawmanning what it means to be Stoic.Diagonal Diogenes

    I am not strawmanning anyone. I AM GOING BY THE VIDEO PREPARED WITH OR BY DR. PROFESSOR PIGLIACCI, AND THAT IS THE ONLY SOURCE I USE.

    I use that source with strict adherence to it. If there are discrepancies between what I claim and others' utterances about Stoicism, then please complain to Dr. Prof. Pigliacci, and please don't accuse me with strawmanning.
  • Brett
    2.3k


    So; hunger, your children don’t eat too well, you have no work, your wife is ill, you have no resources, you have rent to pay, you haven’t recovered from an injury, the kids are skipping school, they’re mixing with the wrong crowd, you know drugs are involved, one of them is arrested, he goes to prison.

    So the answer is apply some discipline.

    This is the great arrogance of philosophy. Prof. Pigliucci believes in Stoicism from the comfort of his office at CCNY, you believe a little discipline is all that’s needed. It’s like the monk who practices asceticism inside the walls of the monastery, venturing out to receive donated food.

    I’d be interested to know, there will be some I imagine, of the philosophers quoted on this forum who worked 5, or more, days a week, supported a family, went hungry, travelled to find work to send money back to their family.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    And what does it matter if no one controls externals?Diagonal Diogenes

    It matters and I explained its significance clearly and unambiguously.
  • Brett
    2.3k



    And what does it matter if no one controls externals?
    — Diagonal Diogenes

    It matters and I explained its significance clearly and unambiguously.
    god must be atheist

    I think what @God must be aetheist is saying is that the world of the philosophical Stoic is unreal, that they assume all externals are somehow nothing to do with other men, that no one has control over the things others suffer under.
  • Diagonal Diogenes
    21
    Your strawman argument is that the solution to problems is just discipline.

    That is not true, and is also not what I wrote, which was that discipline helps the mind.

    When discipline is mentioned, is that it is used to focus on what is, finding ways to change what is into what it could be, and then doing it without despairing all the while.

    There have been people that were able to overcome situations worse than what you used as an example, and there have been people that failed to overcome situations qualitatively and quantitatively less bad.

    You are correct that it is arrogant to claim others should behave in a certain way without the experience of doing the same in similar circumstances, but that is neither here nor there.

    I will give you a couple of solutions to the problem that you mentioned:

    hunger, your children don’t eat too well, you have no work, your wife is ill, you have no resources, you have rent to pay, you haven’t recovered from an injury, the kids are skipping school, they’re mixing with the wrong crowd, you know drugs are involved, one of them is arrested, he goes to prison.

    Maybe a course of action would be:
    1. suicide - giving up.
    2. suicide bomb some entity you blame for the situation.
    Or it could be:
    2. accept that the situation is bad, but focus on what you can do to make the situation better.
    2.1- Perhaps an act of violence against the authorities is in order - if you die, at least that is one less mouth to feed or wail about the terrible helplessness you must endure in life.
    2.2- Perhaps you can butcher the wrong crowd as a source of food, which can make you stronger and helps your wife heal, and then you move out to a more affordable place- a cardboard box in the street. Then move on from there.

    Perhaps any number of actions are available but you did not mention them in your exposition of a bad situation.

    Discipline of the mind may help you find a course of action - any course of action - that has a possibility of improving your lot, instead of doing nothing but moping.
  • Diagonal Diogenes
    21
    I think what God must be aetheist is saying is that the world of the philosophical Stoic is unreal, that they assume all externals are somehow nothing to do with other men, that no one has control over the things others suffer under.Brett

    If this is what philosophical Stoics claim, then I do not agree with it either.

    We as human beings can control very few things:
    1. How we think about what happens to us.
    2. How we act.

    What we cannot control:
    A. How others act.
    B. How others think.
    C. How acts of nature happen.

    We can however, through 1 and 2, influence A, B and even C in some circumstances. Influence, but never control.
  • Brett
    2.3k


    [
    Discipline of the mind may help you find a course of action - any course of action - that has a possibility of improving your lot, instead of doing nothing but moping.Diagonal Diogenes

    Moping. Interesting that you chose to use that word. I had not mentioned, but you somehow saw the situation in that light.
  • Diagonal Diogenes
    21
    You gave a situation, but no action. If no action is taking place, then thoughts probably are. In that situation, is it really that unusual that the thoughts were in the ballpark of moping?
  • Brett
    2.3k


    If this is what philosophical Stoics claim, then I do not agree with it either.Diagonal Diogenes

    I don’t know if Stoics claim this. But this is the reality.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.