Saturday, January 5, 2013

Stoic Week.

So it's Stoic Week apparently,  an experiment run by academics and psychotherapists to put Stoic askeseis (spiritual exercises)  to use in a modern setting.  The details are [here] if you are interested.

But more interesting is the reaction of the religious or 'spiritual' inclined to the experiment. Mark Vernon for example complains the organizers dropped the logos from their experiment:

 It was called the logos – using one of those extraordinarily rich Greek terms that can be translated as word, discourse, reason, activity and principle. The logos, Cleanthes remembers, "moves through all creation". It is the wellspring of unity, direction, purpose. The wretched flee the logos, he continues, and their alienation from it is the cause of their suffering. Because they do not know the logos in their lives they instead seek fame, money, pleasure for pleasure's sake, all manner of passing things that sweep them along and actually destroy what human beings truly wish for. The result is a troubled life of ignorance. "If they obey the logos intelligently, they would have the good life," the hymn continues.

It is striking, then, that Stoic Week makes no reference to the logos (unless a moment of revelation has yet to come on the blog). Presumably that is because the philosophers and therapists behind the experiment feel either that the theological aspect is irrelevant today or that it would distract from the usefulness of the stoic practices that aim to build resilience, gratefulness and aspiration. But I think it is a vital issue to raise. [link]

The logos was a vaguely defined entity which operated upon the material cosmos giving order and purpose, what Christians would later claim took on the human form of Christ.  The concept then can be safely dropped from Stoicism providing we are willing to accept a determined universe discernible to human reason.

Why not complain the experiment does not mention Zeus?


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