Roman Calendar

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stockdale Meditates on Stoicism as He Parachutes Into Viet Nam

From Courage Under Fire:

     "On September 9, 1965, I flew at 500 knots right into a flak trap, at tree-top level, in a little A-4 airplane--the cockpit walls not even three feet apart--which I couldn't steer after it was on fire, its control system shot out. After ejection I had about thirty seconds to make my last statement in freedom before I landed in the main street of a little village right ahead. And so help me, I whispered to myself: 'Five years down there, at least. I'm leaving the world of technology and entering the world of Epictetus.'

     'Ready at hand' from The Enchiridion as I ejected from that airplane was the understanding that a Stoic always kept separate files in his mind for (A) those things that are 'up to him' and (B) those things that are 'not up to him.' Another way of saying it is (A) those things that are 'within his power' and (B) those things that are 'beyond his power.' Still another way of saying it is (A) those things that are within the grasp of 'his Will, his Free Will' and (B) those things that are beyond it. All in category B are 'external,' beyond my control, ultimately dooming me to fear and anxiety if I covet them. All in category A are up to me, within my power, within my will, and properly subjects for my total concern and involvement. They include my opinions, my aims, my aversions, my own grief, my own joy, my judgments, my attitude about what is going on, my own good, and my own evil."

James B. Stockdale. Courage Under Fire: Testing Epictetus's Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Behavior (Hoover Essays) (Kindle Locations 108-116). Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

From "Courage Under Fire"

From the introduction to Vice-Admiral James B. Stockdale's Courage Under Fire: Testing Epictetus' Doctrines in the Laboratory of Human Behavior:

     "[U]ndergirding my new confidence was the realization that I had found the proper philosophy for the military arts as I practiced them. The Roman Stoics coined the formula Vivere militare! - 'Life is being a soldier.' Epictetus in Discourses: 'Do you not know that life is a soldier's service? One must keep guard, another go out to reconnoitre, another take the field. If you neglect your responsibilities when some severe order is laid upon you, do you not understand to what a pitiful state you bring the army in so far as in you lies?' Enchiridion: 'Remember, you are an actor in a drama of such sort as
poor man, or a cripple, or a ruler, see that you act it well. For this is your business-to act well the given part, but to choose it belongs to Another.' 'Every one of us, slave or free, has come into this world with innate conceptions as to good and bad, noble and shameful, becoming and unbecoming, happiness and unhappiness, fitting and inappropriate.' 'If you regard yourself as a man and as a part of some whole, it is fitting for you now to be sick and now to make a voyage and run risks, and now to be in want,and on occasion to die before your time. Why, then are you vexed? Would you have someone else be sick of a fever now, someone else go on a voyage, someone else die? For it is impossible in such a body as ours, that is, in this universe that envelops us, among these fellow-creatures of ours, that such things should not happen, some to one man, some to another'."

James B. Stockdale. Courage Under Fire: Testing Epictetus's Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Behavior (Hoover Essays) (Kindle Locations 98-108). Kindle Edition.

Stoicism and Emotion (Margaret R. Graver)

     Well, I just finished reading Stoicism and Emotion by Margaret R. Graver, and I must say, I find it a truly magisterial treatment of the Stoic view of emotion. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Stoicism!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Apatheia Revisited (from "Stoicism and Emotion")

From Margaret R. Graver's Stoicism and Emotion:

Apatheia revisited

     "The material we have seen here on remorse and shame gives rise to further reflections on the old ideal of apatheia or the disappearance of the pathē. Getting a more precise understanding of that ideal has been a major enterprise of this book. I have argued that while the pathē Stoics sought to eliminate are indeed cases of emotion in our sense, not everything we now call an `emotion' was considered by Stoics to be a pathos and subject to elimination. The pathē are affective responses toward externals, but there are other affect-laden responses that are not pathē. Such are the eupatheiai of the wise: their joy, their eagerness for what is good, their goodwill, friendship, and love. Thus Jerome is only half right when he complains against the Stoics that achieving apatheia would mean becoming "either god or a stone." Being wise and thus free of the pathē does mean that one is godlike, for knowledge is a harmonious condition that resembles the harmony of the god-infused cosmos as a whole. But it does not mean that one becomes like a stone, for there are genuine objects to which the wise may respond affectively. Indeed the Stoic understanding of human nature and of the causes of our feelings implies not only that such responses may occur in the normative person but even that they must.

     We should remember that the attainment of apatheia is not in itself the goal of personal development. For the founding Stoics the endpoint of progress was simply that one should come to understand the world correctly. The disappearance of the pathē comes with that changed intellectual condition: one who is in a state of knowledge does not assent to anything false, and the evaluations upon which the pathē depend really are false. Thus it seems to me philosophically perverse to think of using Stoic arguments to rid oneself of undesired emotions merely because of the way they feel, without coming to grips with Stoic axiology. That approach may be justifiable on a temporary basis, because of the disruptive nature of emotional judgments. But it misses the central and indispensable point of the Stoics' contribution in ethics and psychology: that no rational being wants to believe what is false.

     This chapter has added the observation that even those who are not wise will sometimes respond affectively to integral objects-that is, to features of our own character or conduct. When we do this, it certainly seems possible within Stoic theory that our responses are at least sometimes generated on the basis of true beliefs. These would then have the same status as our other actions have when premised on true beliefs about appropriateness; that is, the status of kathekonta, the ordinary person's 'appropriate actions,' as distinct from the `fully correct actions' (katorthomata) of the wise. Stoic reasons for believing that the pathē would be eliminated in a perfected mind would not apply to them."

Margaret R. Graver. Stoicism and Emotion (pp. 210-211). Kindle Edition.