Occasional reflections on the wisdom of Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. More atmassimopigliucci.com. Please consider supporting Stoic Meditations. (cover art by Marek Škrabák; original music by Ian Jolin-Rasmussen, www.jolinras.info).
The ancient Stoics believed in divination, because the world works by cause-effect. They were wrong on the specifics, but correct about the general idea, which is what still today underpins modern science.
The ancient Stoics used their knowledge of human, animal, and plant anatomy to argue for the intelligence and wisdom of the universe. Similar arguments were still advanced at the beginning of the 18th century.
The ancient Stoics advanced an argument for the intelligence of the universe very similar to the one deployed by modern creationists. The difference is that - given the advances of science - creationists ought to know better.
The Stoics rejected the gods of the Olympian pantheon as obvious projections of human psychology. But modern thinking leads to doubts even about the Stoics' own more sophisticated conception of God as Nature.
Zeno claimed that life can only come from life, and reason from reason, so he concluded that the universe was alive and endowed with reason. It's a beautiful idea, but one that has not withstood the test of modern science.
The philosopher may own wealth, but will not own wealth that has been torn from another, or which is stained with another’s blood: her must be obtained without wronging anyone, and without it being won by base means.
Health, for Aristotle, is a necessary requirement for a eudaimonic life. For the Stoics, it is preferred, other things being equal, but a life worth living is within grasp of everyone, regardless of their specific condition.
Wealth ought to be despised, not that we should not possess it, but that we should not possess it with fear and trembling: we do not drive it away from us, but when it leaves us, we follow after it unconcernedly.
I am not a wise man, so do not require me to be on a level with the best of men, but merely to be better than the worst: I am satisfied, if every day I take away something from my vices and correct my faults.
Let virtue lead the way and bear the standard: we shall have pleasure for all that, but we shall be her masters and controllers; she may win some concessions from us, but will not force us to do anything.
You devote yourself to pleasures, I check them; you indulge in pleasure, I use it; you think that it is the highest good, I do not even think it to be good: for the sake of pleasure I do nothing, you do everything.
Does this not appear great enough, when I tell you that the highest good is an unyielding strength of mind, wisdom, magnanimity, sound judgment, freedom, harmony, beauty? Do you still ask me for something greater?
A person may be called “happy” who, thanks to reason, has ceased either to hope or to fear: but rocks also feel neither fear nor sadness, yet no one would call those things happy which cannot comprehend what happiness is.
These good things which men gaze at in wonder, which they crowd to see, which one points out to another with speechless admiration, are outwardly brilliant, but within are miseries to those who possess them.