Stoicism and how politics should be to ethics like biology is to physics

I admit I’m little frustrated.  Not with politics.  But mostly with how people treat it.  People can’t just talk about it with each other without attacking the person either indirectly or directly.  More frustrating is that Stoics can’t seem to be above the personal attacks.  The Stoic Facebook Groups are just filled with people hiding their political prejudices that they then project on others who are questioning them.  They have agendas but when someone talks about anything political, no, it’s not them who have the agenda, it’s the other person talking about the political situation that has the agenda.  I’m just going to go ahead and call out the elephant in the room: if you think you’re not actually political you’re just rationalizing your comfort with the political status quo.

Let me make it really easy for people who don’t understand how politics relates to Stoicism.  Think of physics.  Physics is the bedrock of science.  You can then build chemistry on top of physics.  Further still you can build biology on top of chemistry.  And you can build up higher and higher until you get to sociology.  So this analogy works the same way with ethics.  Ethics is kind of the foundation of all ought claims.  All prescriptive claims.  You can go a little lower into the basement and give a meta-ethical description if you want.  But ethics is basically the bedrock.   What can you put on top of ethics?  Public ethics.  Otherwise known as politics.

So did the Stoics end at just furnishing an ethical theory?  No, in fact, we have evidence of Zeno’s Republic.  Most importantly though, we have an excerpt from Diogenes Laertius that the Stoics were proponents of a Republic with a combination of a Democracy, Aristocracy, and Kingship.  It’s a very small fragment but it’s very telling.  Basically in the contemporary world, we have hundreds of governments throughout it that the Stoics would’ve approved of.  The United States, the UK, Canada, the rest of Western Europe, there are Republics all with a balance of Democracy, Kingship, and Aristocracy.  Exactly what the Stoics would’ve wanted.

So that’s what we want as Stoics, ancient and modern.  We want a society that is Democratic vs Aristocratic vs Monarchical.  We want there to be that kind of balance.  Whether it’s Parliamentary with a Prime Minister or American with a President.  Is there anything else that can be added to this?  Well, we probably want leaders that are cosmopolitan.  We don’t want to elect leaders that are against liberal and tolerant values.  If you don’t agree with any of this then you might just find yourself siding against Stoicism.

I don’t know how else to make this any clearer.  If you’re interested in living a life of Stoic virtue, then you’re going to have to be political.  Don’t act so naive or mean spirited about it.  Just embrace the political nature that we all have.  Aristotle was not a Stoic but he was definitely right when he said, “man is a political animal.”

All I ask is stop with the whole, “ugh, politics” mentality when anyone in the group mentions their political beliefs and is attempting to justify it using Stoicism.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  Where people might be going wrong is when they try to change Stoic principles to meet their politics.  And even then, just correct them where they’re going wrong and explain to them where they’re bending the principles.  Don’t say, “don’t bend Stoicism for your politics!”  Think past that and just explain to them where they’re wrong.  Use reason.  Stop with the cynicism.  Stop it and learn.

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Can you be a Stoic and support Donald Trump at this point? No.

When Donald Trump launched his campaign, he made it clear that he was the Republican who would build the wall that would keep the Mexicans out of the US for good.  The rhetoric he used should’ve been a sign that he wasn’t a serious candidate worth considering.  He essentially called the Mexicans coming to the US “rapists” and added to that by saying, “some I’m sure are good people.”

Donald Trump’s rhetoric since he announced his run and to this day is pure pathos that appeals to his base’s prejudices about anyone who is different than them.  I’ve stressed many times in the past the importance of Stoicism’s notion of cosmopolitanism, and it appears that Donald Trump is the anti-cosmopolitan President.  The President of fear and hatred of the other, the xenophobic President, the anti-Stoic President.

For Republicans who only care about tax cuts and the 2nd Amendment.  Well, you’ve gotten what you wanted.  You got a Supreme Court Justice that will defend the 2nd Amendment, and you’ve got one of the largest tax cuts you’ve ever wanted from President Trump.  I guess, I just have to ask, is there any reason to continue to support this man?  Maybe there was a good reason to support him up to the tax cut and up to the Supreme Court pick but what are you left with now?

Not only has Trump appealed to racists and xenophobes, which is as anti-cosmopolitan as you can get, he’s made enemies with Europe and Canada by creating trade wars with them.  Europe and Canada have liberal democracies built on the notion of tolerance of others.   Liberal democracies that believe in the notions of justice and wisdom.   While alienating our allies, he’s been making friends with enemies of justice and wisdom like Russia.

The United States was founded on the liberal concepts of justice, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and freedom of thought.  Trump is not trying to free people’s thinking.  He’s just trying to shut down people’s thinking and appeal to our hate and fear.

Consider that as a Stoic.  Would Zeno of Citium or even Diogenes of Sinope have ever said anything about other cultures as something to fear, hate, or condemn?  Would Zeno of Citium have even believed in building a wall to keep certain people out?  Logically, it makes no sense.  Consider for example that Mexicans are very similar people to people in the United States.  Mexicans are Christians, care about family values, believe in democracy, and love working just like most people in the United States.  The only difference between a Mexican and the average American is that Mexicans are darker complected and speak Spanish.  That’s about it.  And Trump wants to drive a wedge over a small difference like language and melanin in people’s skin.  It’s pretty ridiculous, and Zeno of Citium could see how much that bullshit stinks.

Stoics who consider themselves Republicans, you’re just as Stoic as anyone else.  You believe in free markets and a right to bear arms and maybe you’re pro-life.  But please stop supporting this man.  He’s rhetoric is divisive, vicious, and most of all, anti-Stoic.

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Stoicism, Broicism, and $toicism

About Broicism

As feminism has gone more mainstream, and has become more popular, a counterculture of young white men has arisen expressing their concern that men’s rights are being overshadowed. Angry that they no longer feel represented they have banded together to create what is called Men’s Rights Activism. The counterculture has unfortunately tried infiltrating Stoicism, hijacking it, and pretending Stoicism is all about being a man and manning up. I like to call their form of Stoicism, “Broicism.”

Stoicism was a philosophy progressive for its time because it saw all humans the same, capable of using reason and being capable of living a virtuous life. Zeno’s Republic actually mentions women as being members of his society of virtuous Stoics. The Stoics believed women were equal to men in their ability to use reason. Broicism tends to try to undo this history or has no interest in this history of Stoicism. Broicism tends to use quotes from Stoics selectively and ignores the cosmopolitan elements of Stoicism.

Stoicism is about trying to eliminate negative passions such as anger and sorrow and replace them with positive passions of joy and compassion. Unfortunately, Broicism tries to replace this with toxic masculinity, the belief that all emotions in men should be suppressed except for violent expressions of anger/outrage.

Stoicism emphasizes Hierocles’s Concentric Circles that there is self-love and out of self-love comes love for family, then love for community, then love for humanity. Broicism emphasizes self-love only and thinks that virtue means doing what’s in one’s best self
interest. The attitude is usually, “I got my virtue now screw you!”

On Facebook, when a question is asked why there are so few women in the Stoic Group, the first people to pop up and say, “it’s because Stoicism emphasizes rationality but women aren’t very rational and are more emotional” are Broics. They tend to think of Stoicism as a men’s only club and so subconsciously de-legitimize women from also being capable of being Stoics and using reason. Real Stoics understand that women have had a history of dealing with such stereotypes and it may take a while for the culture to
change its view of women in the Stoic group and outside.

Broics tend to be alt right or “cultural libertarians”. They tend to see any kind of liberalism as feminism run amok. Liberal values such as cosmopolitanism, diversity, open dialogue, even free expression that Stoics should embrace are a threat to their worldview. Stoicism is fine with feminism. It may not agree with all feminists on all issues but it’s perfectly fine with liberalism and feminism. In fact, Stoicism tolerates conservative views as well. It’s a very tolerant philosophy, whereas Broicism is not. Broicism usually expresses its intolerance through cheap jokes, trolling, and derailing charitable discussion.

About $toicism

Stoicism has really grown in popularity over the years. The Facebook group Stoicism Group (Stoic Philosophy), hosted by Donald Robertson, has grown to 40k members and is still growing. Stoicism is pretty much the largest growing philosophical school on the Internet. But as Stoicism grows so does making money off of Stoicism. Also Stoicism is being branded as a lifehack that will help you succeed in the business world. I call this kind of Stoicism, “$toicism”.

Stoicism is a philosophy that helps you be resilient in tough situations. $toicism uses this feature to try to sell you success. In fact, $toicism tells you if you try living by the wisdom of the Stoa, you’ll likely be very successful in the business world and you can have the Stoic insights to build your business from the ground up into a mega corporation. Stoicism doesn’t get your hopes up like this. Stoicism tells you that it’s ok to be poor and you’re not a loser for being poor, sometimes shit happens.  Stoicism just teaches you how to deal with your circumstances and make the best of them.

$toicism tends to try to sell you Stoic merchandise with notable Stoic quotes. Real Stoicism only tries to sell you wisdom with the only price being that you try. If you try at achieving the virtues, you will have a more just, wise, and benevolent character.

$toics only seem to care about the preferred indifferent wealth. The $toics think that this means greed is a good passion to have in such circumstances. But greed is just another negative passion that grows from the wrong judgment that wealth is good. Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus clearly tell us that very little is required for happiness in this life and wealth doesn’t make you good, it just makes you wealthy.

Since $toics only seem to care about Stoicism in terms of a successful life, only for themselves and nobody else, they tend to downplay the virtue justice. Stoicism emphasizes the role of justice, in fact, Marcus Aurelius believed that justice was the chief virtue among the four virtues. It’s important to cooperate with others and not merely compete with others in the greater society.

$toics can’t seem to figure out why Ayn Rand is a bad guy. They think her philosophy of Objectivism is completely compatible with the philosophy of the Stoa. But little do they realize that Objectivism is a selfish philosophy. I’ve pointed this out to supposed $toics but they’re in denial. Finally, I pointed out that Ayn Rand specifically wrote a book called The Virtue of Selfishness and they were still in denial. That’s not particularly a very Stoic attitude for those people to have.

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Which is more Stoic, dogs or cats?

The correct answer is neither is more “Stoic” than the other.  For one thing, they do not follow the philosophy of Zeno of Citium.  However, they both live approximately in agreement with nature.  Also, living in agreement with nature for a cat is very different than living in agreement with nature for a dog.

The question is how much does your individual cat or dog live in agreement with nature?  For a human to live in agreement with nature, they have to mature emotionally and rationally to their full potential.  Essentially, no one really completes their full potentiality because if they did, they’d be a Sage.   So the same probably goes for cats and dogs.  Does a cat or a dog ever really mature fully into their full potential?  Maybe a few but they’d be rarer than a phoenix.

What does it mean for a cat to live up to its full potential as a cat?  Well, perhaps it would have to be very good apex predator.  It would need to be able to catch mice really well.  It would need to take plenty of catnaps.  It would need eat the right amount and clean its coat sufficiently.  It might need to produce the requisite amount of hairballs.  Perhaps if you saw that cat, you’d be like, “well, that’s definitely a cat!”

What does it mean for a dog to live up to its full potential as a dog?  Well, perhaps it would need to be appropriately loyal to its human.  If it was a feral dog, maybe it would need to be part of a pack and maybe even do the appropriate things as a pack animal.  Perhaps it would be really good at following the lead dog or if it was a lead dog of the pack it would be really good at leading.  Maybe if a human called it “a good boy” it would take that as an initiative to be a good boy.  A “good” dog certainly would be very trainable.

So that’s the definitive answer.  Cats and dogs are not really any better than the other with regard to Stoicism.  Cats will be cats and dogs will be dogs.  Some dogs are better at being dogs than others.  Just like some cats are better than other cats at being cats.  Can anything ever really live in agreement with nature?  Not when taken apart.  But when looking at the whole nature definitely lives in agreement with itself.

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The Stoics and Their Utopian Vision

The Stoics were realists.  They stressed the importance of living in the here and now and judging our impressions as objectively as we can.  Judging impressions objectively means that anything we perceive, we should perceive neither as bad nor good but indifferent.  Despite their realism, they did dream and hope for things to be a certain way.  The Stoics just knew better than to be attached to their wishes and hopes.  Zeno of Citium had an ideal Stoic Republic in mind.  Diogenes Laertius described Zeno’s Republic:

Some, indeed, among whom is Cassius the Skeptic, attack Zeno on many accounts, saying first of all that he denounced the general system of education in vogue at the time, as useless, which he did in the beginning of his Republic. And in the second place, that he used to call all who were not virtuous, adversaries, and enemies, and slaves, and unfriendly to one another, parents to their children, brethren to brethren. and kinsmen to kinsmen; and again, that in his Republic, he speaks of the virtuous as the only citizens, and friends, and relations, and free men, so that in the doctrine of the Stoic, even parents and their children are enemies; for they are not wise. Also, that he lays down the principle of the community of women in his Republic, and … teaches that neither temples nor courts of law, nor gymnasia, ought to be erected in a city; moreover, that he writes thus about money: that he does not think that people ought to coin money either for purposes of trade, or of travelling. Besides all this, he enjoins men and women to wear the same dress, and to leave no part of their person completely covered.

 

Zeno’s Republic seems to be a place full of virtuous people (which includes women) and there are no courts or currency.  Everyone lives in harmony in complete anarchy.  There are no religious places of worship erected in the Republic.

It’s not clear whether Zeno ever thought this would ever really happen but he did have an ideal in mind about how a society of virtuous people would be organized.  And it seemed that he had in mind some kind of virtuous anarchic commune of everyone who proved themselves good Stoics.

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Stoicism and Spinoza

In the Ethics Spinoza attempts to give his philosophical metaphysics an absolute foundation in the style of Euclidean proofs.  One of the principal focuses of the Ethics is to show that God is Nature and Nature is God.  Like Descartes and Leibniz, Spinoza was a rationalist which meant he believed that all knowledge could be deduced from certain a priori self-evident truths.

The ancient Stoics would agree with Spinoza that God is Nature and Nature is God.  The ancient Stoics went about many different means to prove the existence of God as a reasoning Universe.  Zeno of Citium used something similar to the ontological argument to prove the Universe was a reasoning being.  Zeno declared:

That which exercises reason is more excellent than that which does not exercise reason; there is nothing more excellent than the universe, therefore the universe exercises reason.

Spinoza reasoned that everything was God because God was a substance with infinite mental and material attributes.  Everything owed its existence to God because all of our mental attributes and material attributes were all part of God.  We were all tied together with the substance of Nature of God itself.

According to Spinoza, while we were absolutely determined both mentally and materially to be as we are, God or Nature was self-determined because God was a being from which all cause and effect relationships would arise.

From God’s supreme power, or infinite nature, an infinite number of things – that is, all things have necessarily flowed forth in an infinite number of ways, or always flow from the same necessity; in the same way as from the nature of a triangle it follows from eternity and for eternity, that its three interior angles are equal to two right angles.

— Ethics, Part 1, XVII

God was truly an infinite being that necessitated all truths both material and mental. All truths could be deduced from God the same way that it could be deduced from mathematics that three interior angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles.

It’s a shame we don’t have all the complete works of the ancient Stoics but we know that they used a variety of methods to support their claims that the Universe was Divine and Providential.  Zeno, for instance, used the ontological argument discussed earlier.  Zeno also used the argument from design which is particularly empirical.  The Stoics weren’t afraid to use both a priori and a posteriori means that they had available at their disposal.

One thing the Stoics never did seem to use was the prime cause argument for the existence of God.  This was primarily because it wasn’t popular among any of the Stoics to believe that God and Nature were separable.  The Universe was the necessary being that necessitated all things throughout Itself.

One thing is for sure, Spinoza and the Stoics seemed to be on the same page that God is Nature and Nature is God.  I’ll leave you with a quote from Marcus Aurelius:

Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being.

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5 Reasons Why Stoicism Is Better Than Kanye West

  1. Kanye Omari West was born June 8, 1977.  Stoicism was born from the mind of Zeno of Citium in 300 BC.  Stoicism has been around a long time and has waxed and waned and been through the philosophical grinder.  Stoicism has made its mark in history, it has staying power.  It’s not clear Kanye West will have nearly as much staying power.  In 100 years Kanye West may be forgotten.  Basically Stoicism has proved itself as an important idea and Kanye has yet to prove himself as an important idea.
  2. Kanye West has compared himself to Jesus Christ, the most important figure in Christianity.  Stoicism has influenced, shaped, and created a large amount of what we know today as Christianity.  Kanye West might think he is Jesus but Stoicism and its concept of the Logos is a lot closer to Jesus than Kanye may ever be.
  3. Kanye West may have Kim Kardashian but Stoicism has Marcus Aurelius, the great magnanimous emperor of Rome.
  4. Kanye West rudely interrupted Taylor Swift while she was receiving an award at the VMAs in 2009.  Barack Obama famously called him a jackass for this stunt.  Stoicism doesn’t interrupt people.
  5. Kanye West criticized Obama and praised Trump claiming that the mob can’t make him not love Trump.  Stoicism is much more loving than Kanye.  Stoicism is about brotherly and sisterly love of everyone be it the mob, Obama, Trump, immigrants, gold-diggers and is universal and impartial love.  Stoicism also does not care about fame or the limelight except as possible means to virtue.

Four Different Universes

Four different universes, take your pick.

1. Dawkin’s universe. It’s not a very benevolent universe. It can care less about you. It’s blind and pitiless but it did give you genes that use you as a host to spread themselves. Nature is red in tooth and claw but just be happy you’re not a lion’s lunch.

2. Spinoza’s universe. It doesn’t play dice. It unfolds due do its own plans. It’s both intelligent and material. The more you understand it, the more you will live in harmony with it and love it. It doesn’t give you free will though.

3. Zeno’s Universe. It is benevolent and reasoning. It gave humans reason and the ability to have virtue and find happiness. It also allows for free will.

4. Alfred North Whitehead’s Universe. It is a very creative and spontaneous universe. It cares very deeply about sentient life. It’s very sentient and caring. Prayer can actually influence it but not compel it. So don’t be surprised if all your prayers aren’t answered. Not only is there free will but there’s libertarian free will.

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