Cicero’s critique of Stoicism, part I

Cicero, bust in the Capituline Museums, Rome (photo by the Author)
Cicero, bust in the Capituline Museums, Rome (photo by the Author)

When one is immersed into a particular philosophy or point of view it is always a good idea to hear some vigorous critique of it. This will help us maintain a critical attitude toward our own beliefs, and as a bonus it will allow us to practice the virtue of temperance, since people are apt to get seriously irritated when their positions are critiqued by others!

That’s why I went through the painful exercise of reading Frank McLynn’s (unfair, in my mind) blasting of Stoicism in his biography of Marcus Aurelius (on the same book, see also here, here, and here). It is now time to look at a more serious, and much more ancient, attack on the Stoics, the one articulated by Cicero in book IV of his De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (On the Ends of Goods and Evils).

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STOICON ’16: Gabriele Galluzzo

galluzzoWe have arrived at the next to the last of our weekly entries in this limited series of posts leading up to the STOICON 2016 conference, scheduled in New York City for 15 October. (More info? Here. Tickets? Here. Looking for cheap accommodation with a fellow Stoic? Here.) The idea is to briefly feature each of the scheduled speakers for our talks and workshops so that people can better appreciate some of the leading figures behind the Modern Stoicism movement (is that what it is?), as well as give their reasoned assent to the impression that this is a conference well worth attending…

It’s the turn of Gabriele Galluzzo, a Lecturer in Ancient Philosophy
In the Department of Classics and Ancient History at theUniversity of Exeter, UK.

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Greek Buddha, part II

BuddhaLet me conclude my brief commentary of Christopher I. Beckwith’s intriguing (and controversial, see also here) Greek Buddha: Pyrrho’s Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia, following up on yesterday’s post on the alleged relationship between Buddhism and Pyrrhonism (and, indirectly, other Hellenistic philosophies, including Stoicism).

We are now going to tackle the phenomenon of the Greek Enlightenment, to which Beckwith devotes chapter 4 of his book, and which he provocatively subtitles “what the Buddha, Pyrrho, and Hume argued against.” (On David Hume and his take on both Pyrrhonian skepticism and Stoicism, see here.)

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Greek Buddha, part I

Greek BuddhaI often say that Stoicism is the Western equivalent of Buddhism, since there are many similarities between the two philosophies, based on what little I have read about Buddhism, and what I am told by friends and colleagues who know much more about it than I do. But could it be that some of these similarities are not the result of convergent cultural evolution, but rather of direct historical influence? It is not a crazy idea, given that we know that the Greeks came into extensive contact with Indian culture at the least in the time of Alexander the Great, and likely significantly earlier.

It is thus with more than a little curiosity that I tackled the reading of Christopher I. Beckwith’s intriguing Greek Buddha: Pyrrho’s Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia.

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STOICON ’16: Don Robertson

156529_10152744795625164_378564046_nWe continue our weekly entry in this limited series of posts leading up to the STOICON 2016 conference, scheduled in New York City for 15 October. (More info? Here. Tickets? Here. Looking for cheap accommodation with a fellow Stoic? Here.) The idea is to briefly feature each of the scheduled speakers for our talks and workshops so that people can better appreciate some of the leading figures behind the Modern Stoicism movement (is that what it is?), as well as give their reasoned assent to the impression that this is a conference well worth attending…

The featured speaker today is Don Robertson, a cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist, trainer, and author who specialises in the treatment of anxiety and the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and clinical hypnotherapy. He is the author of many articles on philosophy and psychotherapy in professional journals, as well as a number of books.

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On the difference between religions and philosophies

Olympian ZeusIs (or was) Stoicism a religion? I would say no, because there are substantive differences (though there is also overlap) between religions and philosophies, and Stoicism was (and is) primarily a philosophy. It is certainly the case that Stoics can be religious or not — this sort of ecumenicism is one of the main reasons I like Stoicism. It is also true that most if not all the ancient Stoics believed in a god, though they embraced a materialist, pantheistic conception of the divinity, something that moderns can somewhat easily accommodate in the guise of Spinoza’s (sometimes referred to also as Einstein’s) God.

But it wasn’t sophisticated philosophical arguments that recently reinforced in my mind the distinction between religion and philosophy. It was, rather, the simple art of traveling and paying attention to what you see around you.

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STOICON ’16: Tim LeBon

Tim LeBonHere is our weekly entry in this limited series of posts leading up to the STOICON 2016 conference, scheduled in New York City for 15 October. (More info? Here. Tickets? Here. Looking for cheap accommodation with a fellow Stoic? Here.) The idea is to briefly feature each of the scheduled speakers for our talks and workshops so that people can better appreciate some of the leading figures behind the Modern Stoicism movement (is that what it is?), as well as give their reasoned assent to the impression that this is a conference well worth attending…

It’s Tim LeBon’s turn! Tim is an experienced and accredited cognitive behavioral (CBT) therapist, psychotherapist, life coach, philosophical counsellor, author, and tutor in private practice in Central London.

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