Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Another text box:
At the time of the New Testament, Stoicism was the most influential of the Greek philosophical schools, and some of Paul’s ethic may reflect Stoic influence.  The school itself was founded by Zeno of Citium (ca. 334-ca. 262BC).  His group became known as the Stoics because they met in the colonnade called the Stoa Poikile, in the Greek agora (marketplace).
The key idea of Stoicism is to “love your fate” (amor fati).  The universe is governed by divine Logos (Word).  It is the Reason or Mind that orders everything.  You can resist it, but it is pointless because the Logos determines what will happen.  We all have seeds of this overall Logos inside of us, logoi spermatikoi.  This is the “divinely implanted word” (cf. James 1:21).

The ideal is thus to live in accordance with the reason that is inside of you.  The Stoics believed that emotions were the enemy of reason and thus that a person should strive to eliminate all emotion, to achieve apatheia or an emotionless state.  Similar to Paul, a person should be content with whatever circumstances come their way (cf. Phil. 4:12).  We should strive for oikeiosis, to accept the situations of our lives as our true home.

Another contribution of Stoicism to moral discussion is the idea of adiaphora, things neither good nor bad, things that are neither appropriate or sins.  Cicero in the century before Christ and Seneca at about the same time as Paul were very influential Roman Stoics.  A mixture of Stoicism with Platonism called “Middle Platonism” may stand behind much of the New Testaments use of the word logos and may have influenced the way early Christians talked about Christ before he came to earth (e.g., John 1:1; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:2).

Already in the chapter we have seen how the words “cynic,” “skeptic,” and “epicurean” have changed their meaning over time.  The word “stoic” today actually remains similar to the ancient Stoics and refers to someone who is very disciplined and rational, without much emotion.  On the other hand, the word apatheia did not mean what the word “apathetic” means in English.  To be apathetic in English has a negative sense, while Stoic apatheia implied no feeling at all.


Mobius Trip said...

In an age of wild men, the description of apatheia would have been a prudent prescription for the development of a virtuous human. Could the opposite be true today?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I don't think that virtue is the primary value to be sought, otherwise we mandate virtue by a form or standard which inhibits choice. Choice is a value that makes for virtue! Choice is about responsible behavior, that is a character, not because of fear of punishment! Social problems could much of the time be alleviated if citizens were responsible to take care of their own lives.

The social problems of overpopulation, STDs and poverty have already been addressed by the U.N. in attempting to limit such social/health issues through birth control. The problem with the U.N. is the lack of human choice in these decisions!

Some countries demand their citizens to act in a certain way regarding reproductive issues. Such a "solution" to social problems is not liberty of choice. Our country presently allows for choice, as it should in any free society.

America allows human choice about reproductive issues, because we believe man has a responsibility for his life. God is not the ultimate controller of "all things". The natural result of sexual intercourse is procreation. But, man's reason must be engaged to deter man from making irrational choices that make for overpopulation, poverty or STDs. Sexual education helps in this regard.

But, what about those that believe that "God controls all things that happen"? Stoicism is the result of such a belief. It is fatalistic! And it will breed an apathetic attitude toward the results of sexual intercourse. Such men/women will feel "trapped" by their lack of taking responsibility, in an unwanted pregnancy.

Self responsiblity and human choice is a value in our country and the West at large that must be defended against, otherwise we will loose the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!