Philosophy10 Mar 2010 11:23 am
Stoicism (the name derives from the Greek word for ‘porch’ (stoa poikilê)- the place where members of the school congregated, and their lectures were held), was a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century B.C. Stoic doctrine was one of the most durable and influential philosophical traditions of the Hellenistic period, and it enjoyed the membership of many of the most educated people in the Graeco-Roman world (including such luminaries as Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius). In modern times, the word ‘stoic’ has become synonymous with ‘philosophical,’ and has come to signify a preternatural courage and calmness in the face of physical, psychological, emotional and situational adversity.
Like most of the educated men of his day (and ours too, come to think of it), Zeno deeply admired the teachings and character of Socrates. Interpreting the Socratic model from the point of view of the Cynics, Antisthenes, Diogenes, and Crates of Thebes (of whom Zeno was for a time a disciple), Zeno was most impressed by Socrates’ strength of character and his ability to detach himself from the trivial concerns of the external world. From Zeno’s point of view, virtue resided not in external fortune, wealth, honor, and the like, but in self-sufficiency and a kind of rational ordering of intention.
Furthermore, the Stoics believed that ‘passionate’ emotions-such as fear, envy or romantic love-arose from false judgments and that a person who had attained a kind of moral and intellectual perfection (the ‘sage’) would not be swayed by them. Stoics were concerned with the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is in accord with nature. Because of this, the Stoics presented their philosophy as a way of life, and they thought that the best indication of an individual’s philosophy was not what a person said but how he behaved.
Stoicism remained popular until the closing of all philosophy schools in 529 AD by order of the Emperor Justinian I, who believed that the pagan character of stoicism was at odds with the Christian faith.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.