Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stoicism : Weak criticisms.

These criticisms are easy: even I can answer them.
There are three main criticisms of Stoicism; 1) a logical difficulty involving the ideas of freedom and predestination 2) the idea of indifference has consequences which seem paradoxical to common sense, 3) the fact that stoicism appeals only in unusual circumstances thus cannot be accepted as a universal ethic.
Wiki answers :What_are_the_criticism_of_stoicism_philosophy

First criticism:

Firstly, Stoics believe that everything in life is predetermined by a divine being or God or fate; thus everything ranging from the decision to go to the toilet, or to go to the park, or thinking about food during a meeting or to murder a person are all actions or events which had already peen predestined by some divine being. Therefore, if these events were destined to occur, then there is nothing which can be done to alter them. Thus, humans are not 'free' but rather chained to a destiny created by a divine plan. This is inconsistent with the stoic view as they believe nbsp;that a person can alter their character. According to stoicism, a person can learn to become indifferent to things which had once been an important aspect of their lives. Thus, the stoics are implying, that humans are free to alter their character; thus man is both free and not free. If we accept the latter then it is pointless to tell a person to change ones character, because if a character is already predetermined then how can it be changed? Contrary to this, if we are free to alter our characters then the whole theory that everything is predetermined must be false!!!
Defense : 

Stoics view the world in what modern day language would describe as an ecosystem: living and non-living things all linked together. The Stoics were naturalistic: they believed human reason could uncover and understand the nature of the world and thereby discover our place in the natural order. They were deterministic but they accepted human agency had a 'spark' of free will :  the power to reject falsehood.  By rationally examining the impressions from our senses, we could reject the false and therefore 'ascent' to the true. The purpose of philosophy was to help train students to recognize and reject falsehoods, thereby altering their moral character and behavior.

So Stoics do not believe a humans character was entirely predetermined. They believe a humans 'nature' was determined but the ability to reason and to train our 'Prohairesis (moral character) was within mans nature. From Wikipedia:

Both Stoicism and Christianity assert an inner freedom in the face of the external world, a belief in human kinship with Nature (or God)

At it's essence, Stoicism says "Shit happens. Here's how to deal with it". Epictetus puts it a little more succinctly: "Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them." If we are miserable then we are making false judgments about the nature of the world.

Second criticism:

Secondly, the theory of indifference is often rejected by people of common sense. This is because if something bad were to happen, for example a friend were to die, then the idea that indifference are the best way to deal with the situation would seem rather callous. Furthermore, if one were to attain an indifferent stance to all things around them, then acts which would have once seemed immoral would be accepted if treated with indifference such as murder.
Defense : 

The Stoics taught death was both inevitable and natural so we should prepare for the loss of our loved ones by periodically reminding ourselves of this fact and in the process learn to appreciate and enjoy their company all the more. This is not a theory of indifference ! It's unpleasant but pragmatic and enhances the relationship by not taking people for granted.

Moreover, it is both natural and healthy to grieve for a time over the death of a loved one but life must go on. The Stoics recommended we allow ourselves time to grieve but recognize that grief diminishes over time.

"But," you say, "Nature bids us grieve for our dear ones." Who denies it, so long as grief is tempered?" - Seneca

Third criticism:

Thirdly; stoicism gives advice for people living through harsh conditions rather than those in prosperous ones. It provides advice on how to avoid being affected by situations; however, it would be ashamed not to allow oneself to become affected by friendship, love and so on.
Defense : 

I have heard Stoicism condemned both as a philosophy suitable only for good times and I've heard it condemned as a philosophy suitable only for harsh times.

However the Stoics had no objections to enjoying luxurious living; they did however warn against becoming a slave to luxury ("Money is the wise mans servant but the fools master"). They advocated practicing occasional self-denial, both to appreciate better what you do have and to strengthen your character should you find yourself penniless.

As already mentioned, they likewise approved of friendship and love but taught the harsh truth that your loved ones and friends will one day die.

So many funerals pass our doors, yet we never think of death! So many deaths are untimely, yet we make plans for our own infants — how they will don the toga, serve in the army, and succeed to their father's property! So many rich men are stricken before our eyes with sudden poverty, yet it never occurs to us that our own wealth also rests on just as slippery a footing! Of necessity, therefore, we are more prone to collapse; we are struck, as it were, off our guard; blows that are long foreseen fall less violently. And you wish to be told that you stand exposed to blows of every sort, and that the darts that have transfixed others have quivered around you!
Seneca, To Marcia on Consolation
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