Stoicism’ Major Tenets, History and Ideas

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Topic: Sociology


Stoicism is a school of thought introduced by Athenians in the third century and Zeno of Citium was the first to apply it in Hellenistic philosophy. According to the stoic philosophy, emotions are categorized into various forms and faulty judgments are believed to cause destructive emotions whereas individuals with strong morals rarely make errors in their judgments. The main concern of stoicism is the close relationship between extraterrestrial determinism and individual autonomy because it is believed that the two are incompatible (Graver 38). Based on this, stoicism suggests that maintenance of free will, otherwise referred to as prohairesis, is virtuous because it supports nature.

Stoicism became the lifestyle of many Athenians, as many people learned that behavior was the most important feature of personality as opposed to what a person says. With time, stoics, such as Seneca and Epictetus, suggested that virtue was the most important feature of happiness and advised that wisdom or perceptiveness was something resistant to misfortune (Russell 16). The word stoic calm has been employed variously to refer to the assumptions of stoicism as regards wisdom and its features. Radical stoics go a notch higher to suggest that a sage is the only feature of personality that can be considered truly free because ethical dishonesties are ferocious (Becker 62). The principles of stoicism were applied mostly in Greece and Italy upon its founding, but things changed when the leadership of Justinian I decided to shut down the pagan schools of philosophy because it opposed the teachings of Christianity (Diogenes 112).

Major Tenets of Stoicism

Stoics tried to understand the various things in the world by giving a unified account, such as reserved logic, monistic physics, and naturalistic moral principles. However, they believed that ethics were the most important in the life of an individual because it carries knowledge. First, stoicism teaches its followers to observe self-discipline and courage because it is foundation to defeating destructive emotions, which impedes the moral judgment (Seddon 16). Through this, an individual is likely to offer an objective judgment that is based on logic, as unbiased thinker has a greater opportunity of comprehending universal reason, something they referred to as logos. In this regard, each person should be concerned with acquisition of moral and ethical happiness (Marietta 153). To the stoics, virtue comprises of a certain special will that is always in line with the human nature. In other words, an individual cannot claim to be complete without acquiring certain moral principles that guide him or her in doing things in society (Irvine 89). Application of ethics serves a greater role in interpersonal relationships as well because it helps an individual to keep off from resentment, greed, and covetousness. Additionally, ethical principles allows an individual to accept the less fortunate in society as his or her equals given the fact human beings are simply products of nature and a difference does not exist among them. Stoics believed that morality paved way for equality in the sense that property owners were expected to treat their slaves equally (Mac Suibhne 38).

Ethical principles according to stoicism support deterministic views because they suggest that people without virtues are wicked in the sense that they resemble dogs that are tied to carts and send to any unspecified place. The role of stoicism is to train an individual with an aim of changing his or her will to suit the requirements of the world (Robertson 70). The philosophy supports the idea that an individual should look like a sick person because this is the only way of facilitating happiness. In other words, happiness does not come through fighting and scrambling of resources by through patience, perseverance, and hard work (Ferguson 65).

Stoics were against the idea that an individual should determine his or her own destiny in life instead they supported the claim that the world is predetermined and the role of an individual is simply to follow the social norms, cultural values, and the major principles. For instance, children should grow up knowing that they have to follow a clear path in doing things because each one of them is expected to do something that would promote social justice in the community. The philosophy was against the idea of individual freedom whereby people are allowed to do as they wish. It underscored the fact that human beings are always bad intentional and they always need something that would keep them at toes (Bakalis 17). In the state of nature, there was no order and form because nothing prevented people from doing what they wanted. If society was to prevent the conditions of the state of nature, such as brutality, cruelty, murder, and violence, stoic ethics had to be applied. Human beings will always do things that benefit themselves, in what is often referred to as zero-sum game, but stoicism was against this behavior because it is a result of faulty judgment.

History of Stoicism

Stoicism is philosophy introduced in the third century in Athens, Greece before spreading to various parts of the world, especially Europe. In 301 BC, the philosophy was taught at the Stoa Poikile whereby it gained relevance, as many students were interested in its principles. Zeno was the teacher at Stoa Poikile and is accredited for spreading it in various parts because he employed the best instructional techniques given the fact he taught it a public place (Brooke 41). In Athens, an individual had to enroll for classes before gaining knowledge related to stoicism, but this prevented it from spreading easily. Zeno was able to convince many people to accept the philosophy having worked with ancient philosophers, such as Cynics and Antisthenes who were the students Socrates.

One of the Zeno’s students, Chrysippus, developed stoicism into what it is currently meaning that he facilitated the modernization of the philosophy. Throughout history, followers of stoicism insist that an individual has no control over his or her life because the society has the power to change the views and reasoning of an individual through introduction of morals. The philosophy has developed in various stages, with several thinkers introducing new things. For instance, Diodorus Cronus made an effort of introducing proportional logic having attended Zeno’s classes successfully. Unlike other philosophical views on logic, Cronus ideas suggested that something should be analyzed by giving clear statements or propositions instead of simply assigning terms to it. Understanding of physics and cosmology is another field of stoicism that attracted the attention of many philosophers (Sellars 86). Based on this, stoicism believes that the universe is made up of material things referred to as nature or God. Apart from ethics, the idea of things indifferent is another area of concern for stoicism because the moral law cannot be utilized in understanding indifferent things, as trying to do this would either encourage or thwart moral ends.

Works Cited

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Becker, Lawrence. A History of Western Ethics. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.

Brooke, Christopher. Philosophic Pride: Stoicism and Political Thought from Lipsius to Rousseau. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2012. Print.

Diogenes, Laërtius. Lives of eminent philosophers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000. Print.

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Mac Suibhne, Stephen. “‘Wrestle to be the man philosophy wished to make you’: Marcus Aurelius, reflective practitioner”. Reflective Practice 10. 4 (2010): 429–436. Print.

Marietta, Don. Introduction to ancient philosophy. New York: Sharpe, 2001. Print.

Robertson, Donaldson. The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Stoicism as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy. London: Karnac, 2010. Print.

Russell, Bertrand. A History of Western Philosophy. New York: Routledge

Seddon, Keith. Epictetus’ Handbook and the Tablet of Cebes. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Sellars, John. Stoicism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. Print.