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Values of the Mercurial Type

 

Why do people do the things they do? What people believe will benefit them, they judge to be good. What they believe will harm them, they judge to be bad. Their beliefs about what is good and bad constrain them to act as they do (Seddon, 2007, pg. 88).

The Stoic doctrine that things not in our power are neither good nor bad can be deduced from a number of other core Stoic beliefs. (see G. Sterling).

  1. Virtue is the only thing genuinely good (see K. Seddon), and vice is the only thing genuinely bad.

  2. The only things in our power are our beliefs and will.

  3. Virtue and vice are types of acts of will.

  4. Ergo, virtue and vice are in our power.

  5. Ergo, things not in our power are neither good nor bad.

The following seem to be the core value beliefs of the Mercurial type. These beliefs give primary value to external things, things not 'in our power' (2005, pg. 219). Therefore, they are false judgments of what is good and bad.


  1. Being abandoned is bad.

    But being abandoned is not in our power. It is not bad.

  2. The other in relationships is alternately good or bad.

    But other people are not in our power. They are neither good nor bad.

  3. The self is alternately good or bad.

    Only our wills and beliefs, and that which is entailed by them, are in our power. Our total being is not in our power. It is neither good nor bad.

  4. Shopping and spending are good. Sex is good. Mind and mood altering substances are good. Fast driving and other exciting activities are good. Eating is good.

    But money and things external are not in our power. They are not good. Sex is not in our power. It is not good. Sexual pleasure is not in our power. It is not good. Pleasure is not in our power. It is not good. Mind and mood altering substances are not in our power. They are not good. Driving and other activities are not in our power. They are not good. Food and eating are not in our power. They are not good.

  5. The expression of health and life threatening behavior is good.

    But pain is not in our power. It is not good. The attention which others give us and the help which others can provide us are not in our power. They are not good.

  6. The unregulated expression of passion in reaction to events and the behavior of others is good.

    Passion in reaction to events and the behavior of others is in our power. It is bad.

  7. Feelings of fullness are good. Feelings of emptiness are bad.

    Feelings of emptiness and boredom are in our power. They are bad.

  8. Events and the things happening to them justify anger, because they are bad.

    But events and the things happening to us are not in our power. They are not bad. Anger is in our power. It is bad

  9. Things expected to happen in the future are bad.

    But the things that will happen in the future are not in our power. They are not bad.


What we judge to be good, we desire; and what we judge to be bad we fear, or desire to avoid. What we desire, we pursue; and what we fear, we try to avoid. The repeated pursuit of objects of desire and avoidance of objects of fear form vices of character, or dispositions to make particular false value-judgments. The habitual false value-judgments listed above constitute the vices that I believe lie at the core of Borderline personality, or character, disorder.

Making proper use of impressions, which is the core of what could be called Epictetus' self-therapy, consists of detecting our false value-judgments/passions and immediately correcting them. This requires an awareness of what is in our power and what is not in our power (Seddon, 2007, pg. 190).


Needs of the Mercurial Type



John M. Oldham and Lois B. Morris (1995). The New Personality Self-Portrait: Why You Think, Work, Love, and Act the Way You Do. Rev. ed. New York: Bantam.

Keith Seddon (2005). Epictetus' Handbook and the Tablet of Cebes: Guides to Stoic Living. New York: Routledge.

_________ (2007).Stoic Serenity: A Practical Course on Finding Inner Peace. United Kingdom: Lulu.com.

_________ (2009). Socrates on Virtue and its Sufficiency for Happiness. International Stoic Forum.

Grant Sterling (2005). "Core Stoicism." International Stoic Forum.





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Key to the Stoic Philosophy of Epictetus