Roman Calendar

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Food" (from "Musonius Rufus on How To Live")

From Musonius Rufus on How To Live:


Musonius spoke often and very emphatically on the subject of food - as a question of great significance - leading to important consequences: he believed that the foundation of moderation lay in self-control when eating and drinking.

. . .

Gluttony and high living are thoroughly shameful - no one will dare deny it; yet I have observed very few aiming to avoid these vices. Quite the opposite! . . . What else is gluttony except immoderation in the matter of food, causing people to prefer what is tasty over what is good for you? High living is nothing else but excessive luxury on the dinner table. Excess is always evil - but here in particular it reveals its true nature in these people - it makes them greedy like swine or dogs - incapable of proper behavior with hands, eyes, or gullet - the desire for delicacies perverts them completely. It is so shameful to behave this way towards food that we liken them to unreasoning animals rather than to intelligent human beings. Now if this is shameful, the opposite must be good - exercising moderation and manners in eating - demonstrating your self-control there first of all (not an easy thing to do, requiring attention and practice). Why should this be? Because despite there being many pleasures which lure humanity into wrong - forcing us to yield to what is contrary to the good - pleasure in eating is probably the hardest of all to combat."

Worth noting that in the 21st century United States we can certainly sympathize with these sentiments, and whereas in ancient Rome only certain wealthy classes had access to a surfeit of unhealthy food, the modern West has the additional problem that the unhealthiest and least natural foods are the easiest and cheapest to produce, hence the vast majority of people in the West have to be on guard against gluttony and addiction as well as malnutrition - malnutrition is common, even among those who eat far too much!

"For we encounter other pleasures less frequently, and we can avoid some of them for months or whole years - yet we're tempted by this one every day (and usually twice a day), since it isn't possible for us to live otherwise. Thus the more often we're tempted by pleasure in eating, the more dangers there are involved. Each meal is not one hazard, but many:
* eating too much
* eating too fast
* wallowing in pickles and sauces
* preferring sweeter foods to those more healthy
* serving your guests different food, or different amounts, than yourself
* indulging at unseasonable times - putting off something else we ought to have done fist
Since these and other vices are connected with eating, if you wish to show self-control, you must be free of all of them - blameless of any of them - this requires constant practice . . ."

Friday, June 27, 2014

"Obedience" (from "Musonius Rufus on How To Live")

From Musonius Rufus on How To Live:


. . .

Must we obey our parents in all things, or are there circumstances where we don't listen to them? Well it seems a good thing for everyone to obey their mother and father - I certainly recommend it. However, let us examine obedience - what is obedience - who is the disobedient person?

Take this case. A father who isn't a physician or experienced in treating sickness prescribes for his handicapped son something harmful - the son is aware of that fact. Surely by not following his father's prescription he isn't disobeying and isn't disobedient, is he? It wouldn't seem so.

Suppose the father were ill and demands wine and food that he ought not to have - it would aggravate his illness if he took it - and his son, realizing this, wouldn't give it to him - surely he isn't disobeying his father, is he? Certainly you can't think so.

. . .

Sure, disobedience is a word of reproach and shame, but refusing to do what you ought not to do merits praise, not blame. Thus, if your father or the archon or even the tyrant orders something wrong or unjust or shameful, and you don't carry out the order - you are in no way disobeying - as you do no wrong nor fail to do right. Disobedience is disregarding and refusing to carry out good, honourable, and useful orders.

The obedient person listens to anyone who counsels what is appropriate and follows it voluntarily . . .

Don't let your father be an excuse for your own misdeeds - there is no reason for you to follow evil commands . . ."

An early iteration of the principle most firmly established in the Western mind at Nuremburg - "I was just following orders" is insufficient excuse for doing evil.

It is interesting that Rufus focuses so much on parental, and particularly fatherly, authority. This is, no doubt, a reflection of his times, in which patria potestas was largely undiminished.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

"Marriage" (from "Musonius Rufus on How To Live"

From Musonius Rufus on How To Live:


. . .

[I]n marriage there must be, above all, prefect companionship and mutual love - both in sickness, health, and under all conditions - it should be with desire for this (and children) that both entered upon marriage."

Somewhat extraordinary for the time, Rufus refutes many misconceptions (if you will forgive the term) about marriage, including the somewhat silly notion that its purpose is the conception of children (since this "could result from any other sexual union" "just as in the case of animals"), and insists on the voluntary and consensual nature that marriage ought to have.

"Where this love for each other is perfect and shared completely, each setting out every day to outdo the other in devotion - then the marriage is ideal and worthy of envy - for this union is beautiful. But where each looks only to their own interests, neglecting the other, or worse - when one lives in the same house but affixes their attention elsewhere, being unwilling to pull together with their yoke-mate, unable to agree - then the union is doomed to disaster. Though they live together, their common interests crumble; eventually they separate entirely or remain together and suffer what is worse than loneliness.

Therefore those who contemplate marriage ought to disregard:
* family - whether either one is high-born
* wealth - whether on either side there are many possessions
* physical beauty"

I would note that this advice would have been nearly impossible for many women to follow in Rufus' own time, since their fathers arranged their marriages for them with little regard for whether or not they were "contemplating marriage" . . . but today, this is advice anyone ought to be able to follow in the free world!

Rufus then does enter a rather outworn argument for marriage as a basic unit of social cohesion, saying that if one believes that one should look solely to one's own interests, man is no better than a wild beast, continuing:

"Perhaps human nature most closely resembles the bee - which cannot live alone (for it dies when left alone) - but focuses its energy to the common task of his companions and hard-working together with its neighbours. For mankind, evil is injustice and cruelty and indifference to a neighbour's trouble, while virtue is brotherly love and goodness and justice and beneficence and concern for the welfare of your neighbor - with such ideas, I say, it would be each man's duty to consider his own city - making his home a rampart for its protection. But the first step towards this is marriage. Thus, whoever destroys human marriage destroys the home, the city - the whole human race . . ."

As I said, a rather outworn statement of the idea that the individual marriage and household is the basic unit of society and civilization! But one can see a reflection of the deep Greek and Roman values that state that man is a social, political animal, unable to exist as fully human on its own.

"Could you say that the people who take an interest in their city are worse and less just than they who do - they who look out only for their own interests are better than those who look out for the common good? Can it be that the person who chooses the single life is more patriotic, more a friend and partner to his neighbor, than the person who maintains a home and raises children - contributing to the growth of their city as a married person does?"

Rufus here attempts a reductio ad absurdum to which every reader is expected to give a resounding "NO!", despite the fact that many people today would disagree with these ideas. But in his day, it was certainly true that the household and family were the building blocks of the community, and that single, unmarried men (it was almost impossible to be a woman with such status) did not contribute nearly as much to the community. Today, we like to have the choice . . . but it remains true that good families form building-blocks of society that no number of single individuals can match. This is no insult to those who choose to be single, or choose not to rear children, it is simply a true statement that human society as we know it requires families.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

'Work" (from "Musonius Rufus on How To Live")

From Musonius Rufus on How To Live:


To relax (remittere) the mind is to lose (amittere) it. Why are we always lazy, careless, and sluggish - seeking excuses for not working hard and sitting up late to perfect our logical argument?

. . .

The best livelihood (particularly for the strong) is earning a living from the soil, whether you own your land or not. Many can support their families by farming land owned by the state or private landowners. Some even get rich through hard work with their own hands. The earth repays those who cultivate her, both justly and well, multiplying what she received - endowing in abundance all the necessities of life to anyone willing to work - and all this without violating your dignity or self-respect!

No one (unless corrupted by soft living) would say that the labour of the farmer was degrading or unfit for a good person . . . To be sure, the occupations which strain and tire the whole body encourage the mind to concentrate upon the body alone - yet the occupations which require not too much physical exertion don't hinder the mind from reflecting on higher things - increasing its own wisdom - a goal for every philosopher to strive for continually . . ."

No Stoic can ever defame a life of hard work!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Living in Exile (from "Away from Home" in "Musonius Rufus on How To Live")

From Musonius Rufus on How To Live:

"Away From Home

Thrasea was in the habit of saying, 'I would rather be executed today than banished tomorrow.' Rufus said to him - 'If you choose exile as the heavier punishment, what a stupid choice! But if as the lighter, who gave you the choice? Aren't you willing to train yourself to be satisfied with your lot?'

Why should anyone that isn't ignorant be oppressed by exile?

It doesn't deprive us of water, earth, air, or the sun and the other planets, or even of the society of others, for everywhere, in every way, there is opportunity for association with them. So what if we're kept from a certain part of the earth, from association with some people - what is so terrible about that? . . . As Socrates said, surely the universe is the common fatherland of all? . . . The reasonable don't value or despise any place as the cause of their happiness or unhappiness - they make the whole matter depend upon themselves while considering themselves citizens of the city of God - made up of men and Gods. Euripides speaks in harmony with this:
'As all the heavens are open to the eagle's flight
So the earth is, for a noble man, his fatherland.'"

This train of thought from Musonius Rufus speaks to me particularly, as I am myself living in exile. My patria, my "fatherland," is the great state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, but since month of Quintilis in the consulship of P. Ullerius and C. Equitius (A.U.C. MMDCCLXIV, or Anno Domine 2011) I have been living in exile in the deserts of Arizona. I can see the truth in what so many of the ancients maintained, all the way back to Homer, that "nothing is sweeter than one's own fatherland," nevertheless like Socrates I have always considered myself a "citizen of the world."

The trick, for me at least, is that while one cannot allow one's happiness to depend upon one's circumstances, including the place in which one happens to live, one can still enjoy and take delight in one's fatherland. I shall always delight in my own patria, and may return to dwell there one day, but at present I am content where I am.

"Energetic, hard-working and intelligent people, no matter where they go, fare well and live without want. We don't feel 'without' things unless we wish to live luxuriously:
'For what do mortals need beside two things,
The bread of Demeter and a drink of the Water-carrier,
Which are nearby and have been made to nourish us?'
Let me add that those who are worth anything manage well obtaining the necessities of life in exile, and some acquire great fortunes!"

While this has indeed been my personal experience, the fact is that for some people, even the bare requirements of living are beyond their means to acquire, and the opportunity to come by them honestly does not exist. It is entirely too facile to blithely state, "Oh, well, those who are willing to work hard will always fare well enough." Our societies must work to become more just, to open more opportunities to everyone, so that this may be true. But it is not true . . . not yet . . .

"I have been deprived of my country, not my ability to endure exile.

I would like to tell you the reflections which I use for my own benefit (to make exile more bearable). It seems to me that exile does not strip you entirely, not even of the things which the average person calls goods . . . But even if you are deprived of some or all of them, you are still not deprived of the things which are truly good:
* courage
* justice
* self-control
* understanding
nor any of the other virtues which bring honour and benefit - show a person to be praiseworthy - or when absent, cause harm and dishonor. Since this is true, if you are that good person and have their virtues, exile won't harm or degrade you, because present inside of you are the virtues which are most able to sustain you. But if you are bad, it is the evil that harms you - not exile; and the misery you feel in exile is the result of evil, not exile. It is from this you must hasten to secure release, rather than from exile. I used to repeat these things to myself, and I say them to you now. If you are wise, you won't consider exile a thing to be dreaded, since others bear it easily. Evil, however, makes wretched every man in whom it is present."

This is indeed my own experience as well.

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Leadership" (from "Musonius Rufus on How To Live")

From Musonius Rufus on How To Live:


You will earn the respect of all if you begin by earning the respect of yourself. Don't expect to encourage good deeds in people conscious of your own misdeeds.

How can we condemn tyrants, when we are much worse - we have the same impulses as theirs, but lack the opportunity to indulge them.

Rulers don't live long after they become used to defending themselves before their subjects with 'it is my will' rather than 'it is my duty'. Towards the ruled, you should aim to be regarded with awe, not fear. Reverence accompanies one, bitterness the other.

. . .

With the exception of philosophy, there is no study that develops self-control. It teaches you to be above pleasure and greed - admire thrift and avoid extravagance - it trains you to have a sense of shame, and to control your tongue - it produces discipline, order, and courtesy - in general, appropriate action. When these qualities are present in an ordinary person, they impart dignity and self-command - if present in a king they make him more godlike and worthy of reverence.

Courage breeds the fearless, the intrepid, the bold - so how else would you acquire these characteristics other than by having a firm conviction that death and hardships are not evils? For these are the things that unbalance and frighten you - philosophy is the only teacher that they are not evils. If kings ought to possess courage (and they should more than anyone else) - they must study philosophy - since they cannot become courageous by any other means.

. . .

It is of the greatest importance for the good king to be:
* Faultless and perfect in word and action (if he is to be a 'living law' as he seemed to the ancients)
* Ensuring good government and harmony
* Suppressing lawlessness and dissension
* A true imitator of Zeus - like him, father of his people

How could anyone be this king if they were not endowed with a superior nature, given the best possible education, and are possessing all the virtues of humanity?"

There is a lot of emphasis here on the "king", and in particular the idea that a good king is a philosopher, and idea certainly as old as Plato - the ideal "philosopher-king" described in Plato's Republic. Still, much of it is applicable to any leadership position. If one would lead well, one must be wise. The love and study of wisdom is essential to good leadership.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

"Resilience" (from "Musonius Rufus on How To Live")

From Musonius Rufus on How To Live:

"If you want to be healthy, you should spend your life taking care of yourself. Unlike hellebore, reason shouldn't be cast out after the illness is cured - let it remain in the soul to guard your judgment. The power of reason shouldn't be compared to medicines, but to healthy foods - it introduces a good frame of mind into those where it becomes habitual. However, when the emotions are at their greatest heat, wise words and warnings barely have any effect at all. They are like the scents that revive those fallen in a fit, yet don't cure the disease.

To help us cheerfully endure those hardships which we may expect to suffer because of virtue and goodness, it is useful to recall what hardships people will endure for immoral reasons . . .

Anyone will admit how much better it is instead of
* struggling to win someone else's wife - struggle to discipline your desires?
* enduring hardship for the sake of money - train yourself to want little?
* troubling to be famous - take trouble to reducing your thirst for fame?
* trying to injure an envied person - ask how to stifle envy?
* slaving, as sycophants do, to win false friends - undergo suffering to possess true friends?

In general, hard work and hardship are a necessity for all - both those who seek the better ends and for those who seek the worse - it is ridiculous that those who are pursuing the better are not much more eager in their efforts than those who have small hope of reward for all their pains . . .

If we were to measure what is good by how much pleasure it brings, nothing would be better than self-control - if we were to measure what is to be avoided by its pain, nothing would be more painful than lack of self-control.

. . .

It is true that all of us who have participated in philosophic discussion have heard and appreciated that pain, death, poverty, or anything else free from wrong are not evil - similarly that wealth, life, pleasure, or anything else which does not contribute to virtue isn't a good.

. . . .

[T]he person who is in training must habituate themselves not to love pleasure, not to avoid hardship, not to be infatuated with living, not to fear death, and in the case of goods or money not to place receiving above giving."

Some pretty basic Stoic thoughts, but well-expressed!

"Live Well Today" (from "Musonius Rufus on How To Live"

"It isn't possible to live well today unless you think of it as your last day."

~ Gaius Musonius Rufus

Friday, June 20, 2014

On "Law" (from "Musonius Rufus on How To Live")

"To scheme how to bite back the biter, and to return evil for evil is the act of a wild beast - not a human capable of reasoning that most wrongs are done through ignorance and misunderstanding, from which humans will cease as soon as they are taught. To accept injury without a spirit of savage resentment 0 to show ourselves merciful toward those who wrong us - being a source of good hope to them - is characteristic of a benevolent and civilized way of life. How much better is the philosopher who conducts themselves so as to feel forgiveness for anyone who wrongs them, rather than to behave as if ready to defend themselves with lawyers and indictments - while in reality they are behaving inappropriately, contrary to their own teaching. To be sure - a good person can never be wronged by a bad."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"The Good" (from "Musonius Rufus on How to Live")

"'If you do a good thing through your hard work, the work passes - the good remains. If you gain pleasure through dishonour, the pleasure will pass, but the dishonour remains.'

'We begin to lose our hesitation to do immoral things when we lose our hesitation to speak of them.'

'If you choose to hold on to what is right, don't despair in difficult circumstances - reflect on how many things have already happened in your life in ways that you didn't wish, and yet they have turned out for the best. There is no more shameful inconsistency than to think of how weak your body is during the stress of pain, yet to forget this when enjoying pleasure.'"

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

An Introduction to Musonius Rufus's Stoicism

From Musonius Rufus on How to Live by Ben White:

     "Of everything that exists, God has put some in our control, some not. He has put the noblest and most excellent thing in our control (the reason He himself is happy), that is, the power of using our impressions.

     When correctly used, it means serenity, cheerfulness, constancy - justice and law and self-control - virtue overall. All other things He has not put in our control. Thus we ought to emulate the mind of God - dividing up things like this - we ought to completely claim the things in our control - entrust what isn't to the universe: gladly give it whatever it asks for - our children, our country, our body, anything."

~ Gaius Musonius Rufus

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

From "Greeks to Geeks" on Bullying . . .

From Rohan Healey's Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism for the 21st Century:

"Epictetus: 'If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.'

Epictetus: 'If you hear that someone is speaking ill of you, instead of trying to defend yourself you should say, 'He obviously does not know me very well, since there are so many other faults he could have mentioned!"'

Epictetus: 'It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting.'"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Stoicism and Work: We Can Work It Out" (from "Greeks to Geeks"

From Rohan Healey's Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism for the 21st Century:

"Stoicism and Work: We Can Work It Out

After relationships our careers are possibly the next biggest part of our daily lives, even if you just think of the sheer number of hours we spend each year working . . .

Epictetus: 'Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.'

Patience is a virtue when considering work and your career, allow time to pass and things to develop. So often we give up on ventures too early, or rush into things without proper planning leading to problems down the road. Give yourself plenty of time when preparing for some work, or when starting a new job to allow things to settle.

Epictetus: 'Practice yourself, for heaven's sake, in little things, and thence proceed to greater.'

Try not to rush ahead or put yourself in positions where you will be out of your depth in your work. Sometimes we have to, but in general, it's best, when possible, not to . . .

. . . Doing your work well, whatever it is, is a virtue itself. Taking pride in your job, your duty, is an endearing quality and it shows respect for whatever has been placed before you. There's an old Buddhist saying regarding duty, or Dharma, that goes 'What is in your way, becomes your way'. The point is that there are lessons and challenges in every situation that you find yourself in. By all means strive and endeavor to find your ideal job or career, but do not begrudge your current situation, even though it may not be perfect. Be appreciative of whatever positives there may be, take pride in your work, and play your role well . . ."

I have been there and done that, having worked some FAR less than ideal jobs . . .

Monday, June 9, 2014

"Stoicism and Relationships: In Sickness and in Health" (from "Greeks to Geeks")

From Rohan Healey's Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism for the 21st Century:

"Stoicism and Relationships: In Sickness And In Health

Relationships make up a huge part of our life on Earth, sure there are the obvious ones like familial relationships, romantic relationships, work, friends, neighbors etc. But as well as those the fact is that every time you engage in a conversation with someone on the street, a police officer, or a shopkeeper that too is a relationship. Any time you are relating with another is a relationship . . .

There are two main Stoic points that should be remembered in any relationship, the first is that you do not, and cannot even if you wanted to, control the thoughts or actions of another person, people will do what people will do, you can offer advice, or tell them what you'd prefer, but in the end they are their own being . . . The second point is to have full respect and unconditional love of your friends and family, while reserving opinions and judgment for their actions only . . .

Remember that a relationship is made up of a series of deals, or agreements, 'I will do this, as long as you do that', when someone breaks one of these agreements the two (or more), the people involved, must look at the damage and decide whether to continue together, or what new agreements need to be put in place to continue the relationship. Try not to get caught up in believing that these agreements are more than what they are, to begin believing that they are sacred pacts or promises (never make a promise that is determined by forces outside of your control), or that there is good and evil involved, there is not . . ."

Thursday, June 5, 2014

From Aulus Gellius I.VI

From Aulus Gellius' Noctes Atticae (I.VI):

"Verba Metelli haec sunt: 'Di immortales plurimum possunt; sed non plus velle nobis debent quam parentes. At parentes, si pergunt liberi errare, bonis exheredant. Quid ergo nos ab immortalibus dissimile ius expectemus, nisi malis rationibus finem faciamus? Is demum deos propitious esse aecum est, qui sibi adversarii non sunt. Dii immortales virtutem adprobare, non adhibere, debent'."

"These are the words of Metellus: 'The immortal are able to do much, but they ought not to be more indulgent to us than our parents. But parents, if their children persist in doing wrong, disinherit them. What different justice, then, should we expect from the immortal gods, unless we should make an end to our evil ways? Those alone may justly claim the favor of the gods who are not their own worst enemies. The immortal gods ought to support virtue, not supply it'."

"Stoic Warriors" (from "Greeks to Geeks")

From Rohan Healey's Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism for the 21st Century:

"Stoic Warriors: Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Epictetus: 'If you wish your children, and your wife, and your friends to live forever, you are stupid; for you wish to be in control of things which you cannot, you wish for things that belong to others to be your own. So likewise, if you wish your servant to be without fault, you are a fool; for you wish vice not to be vice, but something else. But, if you wish to have your desires undisappointed, this is in your own control. Exercise, therefore, what is in your control. He is the master of every other person who is able to confer or remove whatever that person wishes either to have or to avoid. Whoever, then, would be free, let him wish nothing, let him decline nothing, which depends on others, else he must necessarily be a slave.'

You may be thinking, 'That's all well and good, going about telling people not to care about what they don't control, but is that even possible? It's so hard! It couldn't possibly actually work, could it? It can and does work . . ."

Healey goes on to give examples from the life of Vice-Admiral James B. Stockdale. He cites some quotes from Stockdale, including:

"You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end - which you can never afford to lose - with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"Living In Accordance With Nature" (from "Greeks to Geeks")

From Rohan Healey's Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism for the 21st Century:

"Living in Accordance with Nature

Epictetus: 'Remember that you must behave in life as at a dinner party. Is anything brought around to you? Put out your hand and take your share with moderation. Does it pass by you? Don't stop it. Is it not yet come? Don't stretch your desire towards it, but wait until it reaches you. Do this with regard to children, to a wife, to public posts, to riches, and you will eventually be a worthy partner of the feasts of the gods. And if you don't even take the things that are set before you, but are able even to reject them, then you will not only be a partner at the feasts of the gods, but also of their empire. For, by doing this, Diogenes, Heraclitus, and others like them, deservedly became. and were called, divine.'

Allow life to come to you, states Epictetus in the above passage. Don't go outside of your philosophy in order to attain things, live your life honestly, authentically, and with dignity and let things flow into your life as they naturally do, and partake of them when they are presented to you.
. . .
Marcus Aurelius: 'We are made for cooperation, 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.'

Fairness, equality, and cooperation are central to Stoic beliefs as, like Marcus Aurelius here states, we do not see nature tearing itself apart, or destroying itself, and by that logic neither should the human race."

Monday, June 2, 2014

"Of Tranquility: Preparing for the Trial" (from "Greeks to Geeks")

From Rohan Healey's Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism for the 21st Century:

"Of Tranquility: Preparing for the Trial
. . .
Epictetus: 'Never say of anything, "I have lost it"; but, "I have returned it." Is your child dead? It is returned. Is your wife dead? She is returned. Is your estate taken away? Well, and is that not likewise returned? "But he who took it away is a bad man." What difference is it to you who the giver assigns to take it back? While he gives it to you to possess, take care of it; but don't view it as your own, just as travellers view a hotel.'
. . .
So here's an interesting idea, 'view nothing as your own' . . . unlike many religions and sects where it is necessary and part of the dogma to totally give up, or renounce certain material items, foods, drinks, wealth, and refrain completely from certain rituals or actions, in Stoicism the key is moderation. Should you go overboard or take part in some actions that you are not proud of, you have only disappointed yourself, and even then not beyond redemption, you don't torture yourself, you simply notice what you've done, notice that you dislike that you've done it and tell yourself that you'll try harder in the future, while maintaining full unconditional love and acceptance of yourself."

Radical detachment!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

"Fatalism, Determinism - Be It Gods Or Atoms" (from "Greeks to Geeks")

From Rohan Healey's Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism for the 21st Century:

"Fatalism, Determinism - Be It Gods Or Atoms

Epictetus: 'Remember that you are an actor in a drama, of such a kind as the author pleases to make it. If short, of a short one; if long, of a long one. If it is his pleasure you should act a poor man, a cripple, a governor, or a private person, see that you act it naturally. For this is your business, to act well the character assigned you; to choose it is another's.'

A big part of Stoicism is the idea that our path in life is pretty much mapped out, or at least that it might as well be considering that there will always be only one outcome to anything that we do or try, and we have no way of knowing how things would have turned out should you have tried something different. Now I'm not exactly sure if the Stoics really believed in a 'future is already planned out' fatalism, or if they were simply using what was the common belief at the time to communicate their message to people in a way that they would understand. Then there is the contradiction of when Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius will say that you have free will, indeed that it is all you have, and then later in the same passage talk about how we must accept our fate. This seems like a pretty big contradiction . . .

Determinism: Determinism is the view that every event has a cause and that everything in the universe is absolutely dependent on and governed by causal laws. Since determinists believe that all events, including human actions, are predetermined, determinism is typically thought to incompatible with free will. Basically, there are no coincidences, all is connected.

Determinism states that every event, including human cognition, behaviour, decision, and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. Determinists believe the universe is fully governed by causal laws resulting in only one possible state at any point in time.

Fatalism: Fatalism is the belief that 'what will be will be,' since all past, present, and future events have already been predetermined . . .

Fatalism is seen as a submissive mental attitude resulting from acceptance of the doctrine that everything that happens is predetermined and inevitable. It is also a philosophical doctrine holding that all events are predetermined in advance for all time and human beings are powerless to change them.

Free Will: The theory of Free Will states that human beings have freedom of choice or self-determination; that is, given a situation, a person could have done other than what he did. Philosophers have argued that free will is incompatible with determinism.

Free will is the power to make free choices unconstrained by external agencies.

Indeterminism: The view that there are events that do not have any cause; many proponents of free will believe that acts of choice are capable of not being determined by any physiological or psychological cause.

Indeterminism is a philosophical position that maintains that any form of determinism is incorrect because it is ultimately metaphysical. Quantum physics has shown that not only is it possible for outcomes to be different, but even that millions of alternate realities are playing out all at the same time in different dimensions or spaces.

So these are the most common fields of thought on this subject, all seem contradictory except for one thing they all have in common. The single consistency between these theories is that no matter which you believe, only one thing can actually happen to you at any given time, life is linear, we can't go back and see what would have happened if we had made a different choice.

. . . [W]e still have only one reality to deal with, and no matter how you look at it we have to accept what comes to us. Once something has happened it's already too late, it's time to move into acceptance and making the most of what is put before us. However, in the present moment we do have thoughts, opinions, and beliefs that are fully within our control (or at least seem to be), that we can change as we please, and when you consider that it is these exact opinions and beliefs which shape how we feel about our uncontrollable circumstances we're not doing too bad.

. . . As Epictetus says: 'Don't demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you will go on well'."