Tragedy happens all the time. You get your heart broken, your laptop get stolen, you fail your audition. Whatever it is, you might have been advised to be stoic about it. We have this idea that being stoic means being emotionnally detached and not letting life get you down. And that’s interesting because stoicism with a capital S is a philosophical word. Stoicism is litterally ancient, it’s a school of thought from the Hellenistic period that’s after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. and after Socrates Plato and Aristotles but before the Roman empire. There were a lot of early Stoics and they didn’t always agree and we only have fragments of what some of them wrote. So what I’m about to tell you might be a little bit distilled down or historically contentious. We begin in the ancient Athens and the raison it’s called Stoicism is because one of its founders Zeno of Citium, used to teach under a covered walkway in the athenian agora, the public square in town and the greek word for one of these covered walkways was “stoa”. So why did the Stoics think that you shouldn’t be emotional and shouldn’t let misfortune upset you ? And did they really think that or is it a kind of simplification ? Well, in order to understand the Stoics, we need to understand their metaphysics. In order to understand the Stoics, we have to understand their metaphysics their picture of what the world was like and what exists in it They thought that matter, stuff, was all that existed, time and space and the meaning of words subsist they depend on matter for their existence, but they don’t really exist on their own. Despite being pretty materialistic, the Stoics did believe in a god, but it wasn’t a god outside the universe and it wasn’t a personal god like a lot of modern religions had. They thought that god was in the universe, everywhere and at all times. Matter, stuff, just exists on its own but god is the organizing principle that orders all matter and causes everything, even the tiniest event, to happen according to its design. God for the Stoics was less like a person and more like, the Force. God is made of “pneuma” which translates has “breath” which is a fiery element that pervades all things and organizes and orders everything. You have a little bit of pneuma in you, your rational soul/mind is made of it in that way, you are like a little piece of god. The Stoics were pretty deterministic in their metaphysics as well. God is maximally rational and therefose it orders the universe maximally rationally and if the universe is ordered in a maxmially rational way there should be, and could be no deviation from that perfect plan, none of these free whale or branching realities stuff here buddy. By the way if you studied any Christian theology, which I have, you might recognize that pneuma is quite similar to the Early Christian idea of logos, or the word the embodied will of God. In christianity, logos gets made into a person, Jesus, and it’s only one aspect of God. You might also recognize the importance of breath, as in breathing life into things these were not new ideas when the Church fathers thought of them they were drawing on, among other things, Stoicism. Being a Stoic isn’t just believing their metaphysics, it’s a way of life. You don’t believe Stoicism, you live it. It’s supposed to be a manual for the good life. The good life is one that is happy but happiness, for the Stoics, doesn’t mean pleasure or even necessarily what we mean by happiness. Now it might sound a little confusing, but the problem arises from transletting the greek word “eudaimonia”. A lot of greek philosophies, including stoicism, have eudaimonia as their end goal it’s usually translated as happiness but “human flourishing” might be a more accurate sense of what it really means Eudaimonia is whatever the good life consists in A lot of Greeks thought the purpose of philosophy was to identify specifically what eudaimonia was and also how to reach it. Eudaimonia for the stoics meant a life filled with virtue and the only virtue they thought, the only thing that was always good without any qualification was being rational Okay, so we have to be rational, but how do we know what being rational involves ? Well god designed the universe perfectly rationally so in order to be rational, and therefore virtuous and therefore live the good life all we have to do, is accord our will with the universe. This includes, but is not limited to, attending to the needs you were born with God deigned you to need food, water and shelter and companionship so accord your will with nature seek those things out. It also includes a certain amount of attending to the needs of others Humans are social creatures, the concerns of other matters to us, that’s part of what being social means so don’t neglect the needs of other people. There is a lot of flexibility built into stoic ethics, sometimes you might have to make trade-offs or sometimes actions that look irrational in certain circumstances can actually be the rational thing to do in others. There isn’t one hard and fast formula for living the stoic life. There is this caracterization of Stoics as emotionless, and it does have some basis in the philosophy. The Stoics thought that you should be without passions, “pathe”, litterally : things that you undergo as opposed to : things that you do. You can’t choose most of your emotions they just happen to you someone breaks your heart and you get sad, you don’t choose for that to happen it just does. But the Stoics said that your soul is made of pneuma, this fiery controlling substance and therefore you should be in control of your emotions, they souldn’t be in control of you. And that will involve curbing your passions. It’s kind of being like Spock. Spock does have emotions, you can hurt his feelings he’s not a robot but he’s a Vulcan, and he thinks that he should control his emotions rather than let his emotions control him. The Stoics thought in particular that you need to control your desire, your pleasure and your fear since they are very good at carrying your reason away and being difficult to rein in they are the most irrational passions. You can still have some emotions like benevolence towards other people that’s appropriate, that’s in line with nature or even a small amount of joy. You don’t have to be totally cold-hearted. So we see how the idea of the detached Stoics who don’t let things bother them does have some purchase in the philosophy. When bad things happen to a Stoic, they don’t let their emotions control them, they rein them in and they realize that the universe is maximally rational, and therefore they should just go with it. Stoicism was a pervasive idea, it became quite popular in ancient Rome. Caesar Augustus, Cicero and Brutus, that is stabby Brutus who killed Julius Ceasar all had a fondness for stoicism at one stage or another in their lives. We’ve already seen how it affected early Christian thought. The medieval christian idea of natural law also have some roots in Stoicism. Some later stoics like Marcus Aurelius enjoyed a revival in Victorian England and contributed to the idea of emotionally reserved stiff upper-lip Brit which Britain is still dealing with today, mainly thanks to the work of my dad. You might also be aware of the supposed dichotomy between reason and emotion this quite sexist dichotomy which has done a lot of damage over history and which is still a part of partiarcal thinking today. Yeah, that has roots in stoicism too. Of course if you don’t believe the Stoic metaphysics it might now be a little bit more difficult for you to be stoic with a small S about your problems. Sorry. What do you guys think of Stoicism ? Can you think of any arguments for it that maybe don’t rely on their metaphysics ? Next time we could either talk about hedonism or we could do “should the prisoners get the vote ?” So leave a comment telling me what you’d like to see next time and for more philosophical videos every Friday, please subscribe. This epiode was sponsored by audible.com if you go to audibletrial.com/philosophytube then you can get a free 30 days try of their audio books service that you can cancel anytime and also a free audio book. Last time we talked about an analogy between the law and comic books. So let’s see guys what you have to say. Patrick Saight said that the episode was quite eurocentric in that he focused on Common Law rather than other forms of law like Civil or Sharia Law. And yes you are quite correct to point that out. The philosopphy of law as it is taught in most western universities, including the one I went to does tend to focus on anglo-american law and that’s probably mainly because it’s mainly written by English speakers and therefore that’s the form of laws they are the most familiar with. It doesn’t all do that but most of it does and sometimes they are changelled on that basis. People do say to these philosophers “maybe this has a narrower focus than you were thinking because it is all so anglo-american”. I don’t think that Ronald Dworkin, the philosopher we were discussing would necessarily have to change anything he said in light of that he could just put it within a qualifier but yeah you are definitely quite correct to point that out. Ian Derk extended the analogy between the law and comic books by saying that sometimes the law can struggle to accomodate new things into its “comic book continuity” like just to take a local example, copyright law is struggling to accomodate some YouTube videos like let’s players and struggling to figure out whether they’re actually transformative or not. Just like comic books can sometimes trying to accomodate a new character or a new idea without raising a whole bunch of question about how they fit into the continuity. I don’t really have a reply to that comment, I just wanted to tell you I thought it was really really clever and I enjoyed reading so thanks. Tyler Graham asks what happens if a judge makes a decision that is out of line with the laws comic book continuity. Well what you’ve hit on there is that the realistic nihilist and although partiarch said slightly more explicitly which is that Dworkin says that when judges make decisions, they need to have a decision that fits with the continuity of the law and the previous cases, that’s called fit and is also a good judgment on its own. It’s fair and it accomodates all the relevant legal principles that’s called substance and its critics have sometimes asked him : how are we supposed to weigh these two things. If we’ve got 2 possible verdicts that the judge could give one has more fit less substance, one has more substance less fit. How are we supposed to choose between them and this is supposed to be a big big problem for him. I have defended him in the past, I don’t fully agree with all of what he says but I do think that you could come back on this point. I said in an essay once that he could prioritize substance because if he prioritized that then that will paint the law in a better light. That will portray the law as being an institution that learns from its mistakes rather than slavishly repeating them. And I think that would work better given what he thinks the purpose of the law is. Chloe Fisher had a similar response and she is actually a student of law so that was very interesting and nice to see. They also said that the ideal judge that Dworkin imagines to make these decisions could not exist because nobody could have infinite time and infinite patience. Well yes you are correct that no such person could exist and Dworkin does anticipate that objection and address it. The thing is that the ideal judgment isn’t really super important for his theories. The ideal judge is there, not as an illustration, that’s slightly more than that but the point of the ideal judge is as a mechanism to explain how legal decisions could be made. He says that when a judge makes a decision there could only be one correct answer, and that is the important bit. There can only be one correct resolution to a legal dilemma. And rather than just leave it there, he then says : Oh and the correct answer is whatever the ideal judge would say It’s just a way of suggesting a mechanism by which that one correct answer could be found But the important thing is that there could be only one. Brett McMullin and Max Schneider asked for a little bit of clarification on why there could be only one correct answer. Well, Dworkin thinks that the law is supposed to coerce people, that is the point of the law and if the law returned to equally good but contradictory verdicts, then it couldn’t coerce anybody it couldn’t say to somebody “You have an obligation to do this” if by its own admission it would be fine if the person did not do that and did something else instead. And that’s not just a bad or an inconvenient consequence that he wants to avoid talking about. He thinks that conceptually it would not make sense for the law to do that because he thinks that the law has this built-in purpose of coercion. If whatever system we were dealing with returned two contradictory verdicts and whatever this system is, healing a law or a mistake has been made somewhere So it’s not just a bad consequence he wants to avoid he actually thinks it would not make sense for the law to do that. That’s all we’ve got time for this week, next week there’s gonna be a very special video on artificial intelligence so come back for that and I will see you then. BYYYYE.