The Stoic Life: Emotions, Duties, and Fate

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Emotions, Duties, and Fate by Tad Brennan. Emotions, Duties, and Fate 4. Tad Brennan explains how to live the Stoic life--and why we might want to. Stoicism has been one of the main currents of thought in Western civilization for two thousand years: Brennan offers a fascinating guide through the ethical ideas of the original Stoic philosophers, and shows how valuable these ideas remain today, both intellectually and in practice.

He writes in a Tad Brennan explains how to live the Stoic life--and why we might want to.

The Stoic Life

He writes in a lively informal style which will bring Stoicism to life for readers who are new to ancient philosophy. The Stoic Life will also be of great interest to philosophers and classicists seeking a full understanding of the intellectual legacy of the Stoics. Paperback , pages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Stoic Life , please sign up.

Lists with This Book. Mar 29, Michael A rated it really liked it. This book pleasantly surprised me. I will need to read more serious books on the subject, but this one is a good start. The bias in this case seems to be someone with a strong analytic approach -- a heavy emphasis on language analysis and logic, so I thought it refreshing after having read a couple of books that more or less filter Stoicism through self-help. Not that there is anything wrong with the self-help approach, but those books don't begin to explain the whole breadth of Stoic philosophy This book pleasantly surprised me.

Not that there is anything wrong with the self-help approach, but those books don't begin to explain the whole breadth of Stoic philosophy in its logic, epistemology, and what not. I'll start with why I like the book. It delves deeply into the core areas of Stoic psychology, epistemology, and ethical thinking. Then it goes on to examine how these affect and interact with Stoic notions of necessity, free will, fate, and so on.

The treatment of each is in-depth and much more thorough than any other source I have encountered -- and it certainly is a lot more useful than reading an original text from one of the Roman Stoics. In addition to explaining thoroughly, the author then examines all of it through logical arguments and discussions.

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Some of this is eye-opening, especially the treatment of virtue. Virtue, for me, is hard to understand in this philosophy. After all, if a Stoic Sage is virtuous by definition in all that he or she does -- and more, what the Sage does is simply to act according to his own nature and the will of Zeus, following rationality and virtue in this sense -- it doesn't leave a lot of room for what I would consider to be more conventional virtue. A sage wanting to be philanthropic by having money and then using it for other people is actually engaged in vice because the desire for money as a good thing is actually misguided in its thinking.

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It is, in fact, a preferred indifferent and has no bearing on following the path of virtue and rationality in life. And so on and so forth by the way Stoicism defines its terms.

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It does matter whether virtue can be achieved. Finally, I would like to examine more closely the technique of 'translating' crucial Stoic passages into premises. Let's follow the trajectory of a tyro in Stoicism using this book in the case of two examples. Most often the references of the passages quoted are in the notes at the end of the chapter, though sometimes they are included right after the quotation. The latter practice is more helpful if one wants to avoid blurring the distinctions between source text and paraphrase. On page 87, for instance, we are told that 'an impulse is an assent to an evaluative impression.

As a paraphrase, however, it is problematic, because of the ambiguity of the 'is' in this definition.

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Diogenes Laertius indicates that in fully developed human beings 'reason intervenes as the craftsman of impulse' 7. The standard Stoic view is that a-rational animals and children have impressions and impulses, but not acts of assent, which come only with reason Long and Sedley 54 , even though there are exceptions in the sources on this point too. So, it could be that not all impulses require an act of assent.

And the only way to find out about this crucial puzzle is by going beyond Brennan's account, and consulting collections of source material. The second example spans about forty pages in the book We start with two quotations from Cicero on this issue -- again not clearly separated in the layout of the page -- which presumably yield two different procedures, one focusing on virtue, the other on the selection of indifferents. These two models are then discussed, and finally Brennan comes up with a synthesis, admitting even that a crucial point in his earlier discussion may, after all, have been a 'red herring' If we go back to the original passages a reader could indeed be puzzled why we were led down such a long and winding path in the first place: The problem, in other words, is in the interpretation of the passages, not in the texts themselves.