A friendly salvo against modern Epicureans

“The thought for today is one which I discovered in Epicurus; for I am wont to cross over even into the enemy’s camp — not as a deserter, but as a scout,” says Seneca to Lucilius in Letter II, On Discursiveness in Reading, 5. He writes this because he had made a habit, for a […]

Becker’s A New Stoicism, I: the map of the territory

With this post I am going to begin an in-depth coverage of the second edition of Larry Becker’s fundamental book, A New Stoicism, without question the most serious attempt to “update” Stoicism from the end of its first half-millennium run, in the second century of the modern era. I have commented on the previous edition […]

Cicero’s Stoic Paradoxes

One of the most famous secondary sources on Stoicism is a collection of six essays by Cicero (who considered himself an Academic Platonist, but was sympathetic to Stoicism), entitled Paradoxa Stoicorum, or Stoic paradoxes. Indeed, the Stoics were well known for a number of precepts and standard phrases that sounded decidedly paradoxical to the uninitiated. […]

How to choose your Hellenistic school

  The Hellenistic period, which is typically defined as going from the death of Alexander the Great (323 BCE) to the rise of the Roman Empire (marked by the battle of Actium, 31 BCE) saw the flourishing of a bewildering number of new philosophical schools, of which Stoicism was of course one. I have discussed […]

Sophia vs Phronesis: two conceptions of wisdom

Wisdom is something that pretty much all philosophical and religious traditions seek. While it isn’t a popular concept in modern academic philosophy departments, that’s a bad reflection on the latter, not on the former. The Greeks since Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics distinguished two different kinds of wisdom: phronesis, or practical wisdom, and sophia, or “transcendental” wisdom. […]

One crucial word

Amathia. It is often translated as “ignorance,” as in the following two famous quotes from Socrates: “Wisdom alone, is the good for man, ignorance the only evil” (Euthydemus 281d) “There is, he said, only one good, that is, knowledge, and only one evil, that is, ignorance” (in Diogenes Laertius, II.31)