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PTypes Stoic Practice Basic Passions



Good, Bad, and Indifferent Things [fragments]



The whole matter of Stoic therapy rests upon the Stoic doctrine of good, bad, and indifferent things.

"Perhaps the most characteristic doctrine of Stoic ethics is that virtue alone is good, vice alone bad. Everything else traditionally assigned a positive or negative value - health or illness, wealth or poverty, sight or blindness, even life or death - is 'indifferent'. By making this move, the Stoics authorized the use of the word 'good' in a distinctly moral sense - a usage which is still with us, although they themselves bought it at the high price of simply denying that the word, properly understood, has any other sense" (Sedley) .

"Virtue and vice are intellectual states. Vice is founded on 'passions': these are at root false value judgments, in which we lose rational control by overvaluing things which are in fact indifferent. Virtue, a set of sciences governing moral choice, is the one thing of intrinsic worth and therefore genuinely 'good'. The wise are not only the sole possessors of virtue and happiness, but also, paradoxically, of the things people conventionally value - beauty, freedom, power, and so on. However geographically scattered, the wise form a true community or 'city', governed by natural law" (Sedley).

"As far as the theory of value is concerned, a summary account should suffice. For the relevant range, everything can be classified as either good, bad, or indifferent. The only goods are virtue and what 'participates' in virtue; conversely for bad and vice. Everything else is 'indifferent', though here again a distinction is drawn between things which play a positive role in a normal, healthy life (preferred indifferents) and those which play a negative role (dispreferred indifferents). Health is a typical preferred and illness dispreferred. There are also 'absolute indifferents' which play no role at all -- such as whether the number of hairs on one's head is odd or even. This doctrine is the key to understanding the latitude for choice which Stoicism leaves to the rational agent. A startling range of things, indeed virtually everything that human beings normally think about when making morally significant choices, falls into this category. Yet the 'good', virtue and what participates in virtue, is the real determinant of moral success. Preferred things, such as health and wealth, may be natural to us as humans; but they cannot be guaranteed to be the appropriate things to pursue in all circumstances; the recommendation implicit in labelling them 'preferred' can operate only at the level of general types, since in some concrete cases they might in fact be disadvantageous. In contrast, virtue is always and in every case beneficial -- just as one might expect on the basis of Socratic theory" (Inwood).

"Although things such as material comfort, for instance, will be pursued by the Stoic student who seeks eudaimonia, they will do this in a different way from those not living the 'philosophic life' — for Stoics claim that everything apart from virtue (what is good) and vice (what is bad) is indifferent, that is, 'indifferent' with regard to being good or bad. It is how one makes use of indifferent things that establishes how well one is making progress towards aretê (moral excellence) and a eudaimôn ('happy') life.

"Indifferent things are either 'preferred' or 'dispreferred'. Preferred are health and wealth, friends and family, and pretty much all those things that most people pursue as desirable for leading a flourishing life. Dispreferred are their opposites: sickness and poverty, social exclusion, and pretty much all those things that people seek to avoid as being detrimental for a flourishing life. Thus, the preferred indifferents have value for a Stoic, but not in terms of their being good: they have an instrumental value with respect to their capacities to contribute to a flourishing life as the objects upon which our virtuous actions are directed (see Discourses 1.29.2). The Stoic does not lament their absence, for their presence is not constitutive of eudaimonia. What is good is the virtuous use one makes of such preferred things should they be to hand, but no less good are one's virtuous dispositions in living as well as one may, even when they are lacking" (Seddon).

"Now either moral good and evil are the only things that have value or they aren't and indifferents have value too -- and in this case, one will have to explain the difference between these two kinds of value (as Cicero attempts to do in De Finibus 3). But saying that the kind of value indifferents have is "moral" only makes them seem more likely to be good or bad. There is, however, a clear solution to this problem: only moral good and evil have value, but the content of moral good and evil, or virtue and vice, is given by what one does with (i.e. how one selects among) indifferents. What one should do with indifferents is to select those that are according to nature (e.g. usually health) and reject those that are contrary to nature (e.g. usually sickness), and a Stoic therefore needs a thorough understanding of nature in order to know what indifferents are and aren't according to nature" (Kamtekar) [Google's cache].

"Chrysippus held that emotion consists of two distinct value judgments: one that something good or bad (i.e. beneficial or harmful) is at hand, the other that it is appropriate to react in a specified way. When the second judgment is added to the first and the agent assents, impulse and emotion follow. Thus, for example, if one were to lose one's job, one might have a first judgment that this is a bad thing and a second judgment that it is appropriate to grieve over the loss" (Bennett) [Google's cache].

Passions come by assigning too much value to these indifferents" (Xenos).

"For the Stoics...all passion is inappropriate because having any passion can occur only in the circumstance that the agent has an attachment to something that can be only properly preferred or dispreferred." - Keith H. Seddon.

"A classical Stoic tries to separate self from dependence on circumstances. The goal is to establish an "inner citadel" of the mind, free from passion about unworthy externalities: a rock against which waves break and are rebuffed" (Zimmermann).

"3.6.2.5 Key to stoicism is the relationship of virtue and happiness. Everything that is morally significant is under our control. The only true good is virtue; the only true evil is vice. Everything else that we would think of as goods and typically assigned value are indifferents, adiaphora. But within this group if indifferents, some are preferred and others are nonpreferred from the point of view of happiness."

"3.6.2.6 Passions are rational judgments that miss the mark of what is good. The goal is to lead a life above our passions, apatheia.

"3.6.2.7 Virtue is rational choice that controls desire. The virtuous person has no passion, is content, and rids his life of irrational aspects of life. To live in accordance with nature is to order your life in a way that fits with the ordered pattern of the cosmos. All that matters morally is what you do, not what happens to you. Therefore, happiness is non-contingent" (Horner).

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Arrian's Discourses of Epictetus Book I - Chapter

Where then is progress? If any of you, withdrawing himself from externals, turns to his own will to exercise it and to improve it by labour, so as to make it conformable to nature, elevated, free, unrestrained, unimpeded, faithful, modest; and if he has learned that he who desires or avoids the things which are not in his power can neither be faithful nor free, but of necessity he must change with them and be tossed about with them as in a tempest, and of necessity must subject himself to others who have the power to procure or prevent what he desires or would avoid; finally, when he rises in the morning, if he observes and keeps these rules, bathes as a man of fidelity, eats as a modest man; in like manner, if in every matter that occurs he works out his chief principles as the runner does with reference to running, and the trainer of the voice with reference to the voice- this is the man who truly makes progress, and this is the man who has not traveled in vain. But if he has strained his efforts to the practice of reading books, and labours only at this, and has traveled for this, I tell him to return home immediately, and not to neglect his affairs there; for this for which he has traveled is nothing. But the other thing is something, to study how a man can rid his life of lamentation and groaning, and saying, "Woe to me," and "wretched that I am," and to rid it also of misfortune and disappointment and to learn what death is, and exile, and prison, and poison, that he may be able to say when he is in fetters, "Dear Crito, if it is the will of the gods that it be so, let it be so"; and not to say, "Wretched am I, an old man; have I kept my gray hairs for this?" Who is it that speaks thus? Do you think that I shall name some man of no repute and of low condition? Does not Priam say this? Does not OEdipus say this? Nay, all kings say it! For what else is tragedy than the perturbations of men who value externals exhibited in this kind of poetry? But if a man must learn by fiction that no external things which are independent of the will concern us, for this? part I should like this fiction, by the aid of which I should live happily and undisturbed. But you must consider for yourselves what you wish.

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METHOD IN PHILOSOPHY : What Do Philosophers Do and Is There Method in Their Madness?



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