Interview with Larry Becker, part III

Epicurus, not a Stoic...
Epicurus, not a Stoic…

Here is the third part of my ongoing series based on a personal interview with Lawrence Becker, author of A New Stoicism, on which I have commented a number of times before (use the “Becker” category on this site to read all previous posts). Part I is here, II here.

Again, I will not add any commentary of my own, since Larry’s words come through loud and clear. I simply list a series of topics and the approximate times in the linked audio file where we discuss them.

The pertinent file can be downloaded here.

What is the Stoic take on Hume’s distinction between is and ought? (0:00-4:10)

Recent science-based attempts to bridge is/ought and why they don’t work (4:12-6:06)

Can you spell out more clearly how you feel the classical virtues are directly entailed by maximizing one’s agency? As you know, this is a bit of a controversial point in the modern Stoic community, with many having trouble with regard to step 10 of your argument, which states that maximization of agency necessarily implies the development of the virtues. (6:09-14:50)

What psychologists find contributes to a good life, with a nod to positive psychology (14:50-17:06)

Does your argument imply that virtues being an “intrinsic good” is not necessary for a New Stoicism? (17:11-19:23)

What does it mean for something to be intrinsically good? (19:24-20:28)

You mention that “pleasure seekers fall outside the scope” of your argument for virtue as the perfection of agency. Do you have a principled argument against seeking pleasure as the highest good? (20:29-22:32)

In the book you link ancient Epicureanism to modern “welfarism.” Can you elaborate? Difference between welfare and libertarian liberals (22:33-25:27)

One thought on “Interview with Larry Becker, part III

  1. Good thoughts on the “is ≠ ought.” It’s not an equal-direction two-way street. Oughts can be derived from an is, but an is does not necessarily imply an ought. I liked the reference to Pope, and also the thoughts on the moral equivalent of language games.


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