Insult Pacifism: Bill Irvine replies to Eric Scott

[This guest post is a response to a critical essay by E.O. Scott, who wrote it in response to W. Irvine’s original post in the Oxford University Press blog. My commentary on Bill’s post and his subsequent talk at STOICON ’16 can be found here.]

By William Irvine

Let me begin by thanking Eric O. Scott for taking the time to respond to my Oxford University Press blog and my STOICON talk on what I call “insult pacifism.” As I like to tell my students, if what we seek is the truth, we have the most to gain from those who challenge our views, since they will be the quickest to discover our mistakes.

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Stoicism after the elections

The US Presidential elections are over, and Donal J. Trump is the unlikely winner. Moreover, the Republican party now has control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, giving it pretty much absolute power to pursue its agendas. Add to this the recent “Brexit” vote in the UK, and this hasn’t exactly been a good political season for socially progressive cosmopolitans such as myself. So be it, reality is what it is, and there is no sense in wishing it away.

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Stoicism and social justice

Justice is one of the fundamental Stoic virtues, together with practical wisdom (or prudence), courage, and temperance. And yet there is rarely talk, in Stoic circles of social justice, in the contemporary sense of the term. This, I will endeavor to argue, should be neither surprising nor problematic, but at the same time I do think that we need to clarify what is a reasonable Stoic take on social justice, which I will also attempt to do here.

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On education, Stoic and otherwise

Isocrates
Isocrates

I’m an educator, so I naturally often think about education. Having taught at the college level for more than a quarter century, I can tell you that things are not going well. You can look up studies and statistics, but they largely back up my personal conclusions based on direct experience: American education is much worse than its European counterparts, and has gotten worse over the past several decades. And the bad news is that a number of European educational systems are following suit because the local politicians got this insane idea that if it’s done in America it must be good. Not really, by a long shot.

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Stoic practical advice, I: duty and social relations

canstockphoto4341112I’m going to start a series of posts summarizing and briefly discussing part III of William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life, which focuses on Stoic advise on a number of practical issues. This is a very good example of just how much Stoicism is a practical philosophy, meant to help people in their everyday living.

The chapter on duty (#9) argues that loving mankind is a moral duty, regardless of how unpleasant many people can actually be, and of just how much they can disturb your ataraxia. Indeed, Irvine begins with a (partial) list of how many people, and on how many occasions, perturb our tranquillity, from being cut off in traffic to annoying colleagues or relatives.

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