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Stoicism



Such were the aims of Stoicism, founded by Athens about 310 by Zeno of Citium (in Cyprus), and brought to fuller systematic form by his successors a heads of the school, Cleanthes of Assos, and especially Chrysippus of Soli, who died about 206.

Important Stoic writers of the Roman period include Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Their doctrines contained little that was new, seeking rather to give a practical application to the dogmas which they took ready-made from previous systems.

With them philosophy is the science of the principles on which the moral life ought to be founded.

The only allowable effort is towards the attainment of knowledge of human and divine things, in order to thereby regulate life.

The method to lead men to true knowledge is provided by logic; physics embraces the doctrines as to the nature and organization of the universe; ethics draws from them its conclusions for practical life.

Regarding Stoic logic, all knowledge originates in the real impressions of things on the senses, which the soul, being at birth a blank slate, receives in the form of presentations.

These presentations, when confirmed by repeated experience, are syllogistically developed by the understanding into concepts. The test of their truth is the convincing or persuasive force with which they impress themselves upon the soul.

In physics the foundation of the Stoic doctrine was the dogma that all true being is corporeal. Within the corporeal they recognized two principles, matter and force - that is, the material, and the Deity (logos, order, fate) permeating and informing it.

Ultimately, however, the two are identical. There is nothing in the world with any independent existence: all is bound together by an unalterable chain of causation.

The agreement of human action with the law of nature, of the human will with the divine will, or life according to nature, is virtue, the chief good and highest end in life.

It is essentially one, the particular or cardinal virtues of Plato being only different aspects of it; it is completely sufficient for happiness, and incapable of any differences of degree. All good actions are absolutely equal in merit, and so are all bad actions.

All that lies between virtue and vice is neither good nor bad; at most, it is distinguished as preferable, undesirable, or absolutely indifferent.

Virtue is fully possessed only by the wise person, who is no way inferior in worth to Zeus; he is lord over his own life, and may end it by his own free choice.

In general, the prominent characteristic of Stoic philosophy is moral heroism, often verging on asceticism.




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