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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Self-interest and altuism in Stoicism (from "The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy")

     Stoic philosophy is, on its face, a selfish philosophy - it is based on self-interest and self-improvement, and could seemingly be thought of as a self-centered philosophy. However, as Donald Robertson points out in The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the "Stoic and his environment, the brotherhood of mankind and the universe as a whole, form a single organic system, therefore, and not a mere collection of atomized and fragmentary individuals. For the Stoic to care for himself is to care for part of the universe in its relationship with the whole. Stoic ethis is indeed based upon self-interest. However, any change in our view of the self means a change in our view of what self-interest actually means. A metaphysical theory about personal identity therefore determines Stoic ethics. I am part of a whole; my interests are therefore bound up with the question of what it means for me to function well and harmoniously in relation with the whole." So while so much of Stoic focus is on the self, and the self's ability to choose good and evil, nevertheless it is not as self-centered as it initially appears, since the relationship of the self to the rest of creation is a significant part of how one chooses good and evil.

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