Roman Calendar

Friday, May 3, 2013

Godlike: Stoic Terminology

     Needleman and Piazza's The Essential Marcus Aurelius distinguishes the Stoic conception of God from the Christian God (although there are perhaps more similarities in conception than are shared with a pagan god or gods). In the end, it is important to remember that the ancient Stoics were pagans, and believed in many gods, although they had a strong Unitarian streak, declaring all divine things to share in a single divine nature, so that the gods and even the divine "sparks" within us are all of a single kind. They go on to examine the term "godlike" (translating the Greek term theoeidēs), saying that "the Stoic ideal is to live a life that is closer to that of the gods. This notion is based on the idea that we all have a divine 'spark' inside us, which gives us all superhuman, or divine potential. To be merely human is to deny the divine part of ourselves, whereas to tend and cultivate the divine element of ourselves is to be truly human. This theory is most likely influenced by Plato, who says in his dialogue Theaetetus that the best way of like is to be as godlike as possible."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Excellence: The Terminology of Stoicism

     As Needleman and Piazza note in their book The Essential Marcus Aurelius,  the word "excellence" is used to translate the Greek word aretē, and "[m]ost translators have carried over the Latin equivalent virtus into the English 'virtue.' But that word has too much of a strictly moral connotation. We must remember that even well into the philosophical age, the Greek word retained its original functional meaning. A chair possesses aretē when it is well built, thus performing its function well. This word applies to human beings in the same manner. Therefore, we possess aretē when we are living up to our human and moral potential, for which we were made."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Error: The Terminology of Stoicism

     Needleman and Piazza's The Essential Marcus Aurelius on the topic of the term "error" (used to represent the Greek hamartia) - "This concept is also translated . . . as 'mistake' and 'go astray.' Both the related noun and verb originally expressed the idea of missing a target. Hamartia is used in the New Testament and has commonly been translated by the English word 'sin.' Hamartia is also the word that Aristotle used in the Poetics, which we know as 'tragic flaw'." I would only add that we should keep in mind that Greek religion and Roman religion both lacked a concept akin to "sin," so the early Christians appropriated this word, which really just means "failure," "missing the target," "going astray," and so forth.