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Unformatted text preview: THE STOICS, FROM ZENO OF CITIUM TO MARCUS AURELIUS The Stoic school existed as such for five hundred years. It held that the basic task of humankind is to follow the law of nature, and devoted itself to determining what that is. The Stoic lineage can easily be traced back to the cosmopolitan Cynics, with their view of nature as superior to local customs or politics, their Spartan lifestyle, and their belief in the autarkeia, or autonomy, of the virtuous person. Indeed, Stoic teachings are foreshadowed in Heraclitus of Ephesus, with his subordination of the person to the law of nature, to logos or reason, and his belief in eternal change. The Stoics also revered Socrates for his enduring example of rational self-control and the simplicity of his material life. The school itself is said to have begun in 300 B.C. when its founder Zeno of Citium (also sometimes called Zeno of Cyprus, c. 336-262 B.C.), who was born in Citium, Cyprus began lecturing on the Painted Porch (Stoa Poikile) of a temple in Athens named for the paintings of Polygnotus which adorned it. Other early Stoics were the poet and religious visionary Cleanthes (c. 331-232 B.C.) and the systematizer Chrysippus (c. 280-206). From the work of these three emerged the basic Stoic philosophy. Zeno of Citium believed that the world was ruled by a divine plan, that whatever happens occurs for a reason, that to live in accord with nature was the ultimate virtue, and that learning to accept one's fate with indifference, even if suffering was involved, was part of the task that faces us. Like the Epicureans, the Stoics sought to give human beings a stable basis for ethics and inner peace in the face of a chaotic and sometimes hostile environment. Like the Cynics, the Stoics viewed all human beings as participants in the divine Logos, as members of a universal human brotherhood and sisternood. Unlike other philosophies of the time, in the Stoic view each person "was called upon to participate actively in the affairs of the world and thereby fulfill his duty to this great community.... Stoicism, the most broadly representative of the Hellenistic philosophies," writes Tarnas, possessed a loftiness of vision and moral temper that would long leave its mark on the Western spirit" (76). The good life according to the Stoics includes cultivating intelligence, bravery, justice, and self control. Study and imitation of the wise person was said to be one path to wisdom. We can learn to become indifferent to the vicissitudes of fate, yet must hold ourselves and others ethically responsible for every action. We likewise have a responsibility to play the part in civic life that we are suited by our nature to play, but must not attach our happiness to place, power, or possessions....
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This note was uploaded on 11/17/2011 for the course PSY PSY2012 taught by Professor Scheff during the Fall '09 term at Broward College.
- Fall '09