Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

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rcampb
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Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by rcampb »

The ancient philosophers didn't know about the existence of the unconscious which was discovered only by modern psychology. We know now that the unconscious has a huge influence over our behaviour and it has changed the modern worldview about the human condition. In the light of this do the ancient Stoics speak to us now, why should we turn to them for guidance instead of modern thought.
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by Wossname »

rcampb wrote: June 22nd, 2020, 6:38 pm by rcampb » Yesterday, 11:38 pm

The ancient philosophers didn't know about the existence of the unconscious which was discovered only by modern psychology. We know now that the unconscious has a huge influence over our behaviour and it has changed the modern worldview about the human condition. In the light of this do the ancient Stoics speak to us now, why should we turn to them for guidance instead of modern thought.

The broad notion of influences that lie outside of the conscious mind is actually very old. The ancient Greeks seemed to think that scientific or artistic inspiration came from sources in the invisible world beyond conscious awareness; (e.g. inspiration might possibly come from a muse, the muses being the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne). Of course, Freud has used the notion of the unconscious to great impact in more modern thought.

The unconscious may influence our behaviour but the conscious mind has considerable influence of its own. I learned from chewybrian that Stoic philosophy provides the underpinnings of cognitive behavioural therapy. While the psychodynamic approach tends to focus on the impact of the unconscious mind on behaviour, the cognitive approach is more focussed on how you are consciously thinking about the world now, and how those thought processes may be irrational and self-defeating. This has proven one of the most effective modern psychotherapeutic approaches for disorders like depression.

Chewybrian may be a good member to have a go at this (if he has the time and inclination) since he knows quite a lot about the Stoic approach and can testify to its usefulness. Broadly, Stoicism, I believe, invites us to look at the world as it is (not how we wish it was), to think about it rationally, and take an approach to it that is pragmatic and useful for our wellbeing. I think these ideas seem as relevant today as they ever did.
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

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rcampb wrote: June 22nd, 2020, 6:38 pm The ancient philosophers didn't know about the existence of the unconscious which was discovered only by modern psychology. We know now that the unconscious has a huge influence over our behaviour and it has changed the modern worldview about the human condition. In the light of this do the ancient Stoics speak to us now, why should we turn to them for guidance instead of modern thought.
I think the word "discovered" here misrepresents the facts. It's more about how you choose to describe a phenomenon.
You've not really said how this relates to Stoicism. If you accept the division between conscious and unconscious, then you might want to say how the recognition of this would change anything they might have said. Why Stoics in particular?
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Thomyum2
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by Thomyum2 »

rcampb wrote: June 22nd, 2020, 6:38 pm The ancient philosophers didn't know about the existence of the unconscious which was discovered only by modern psychology. We know now that the unconscious has a huge influence over our behaviour and it has changed the modern worldview about the human condition. In the light of this do the ancient Stoics speak to us now, why should we turn to them for guidance instead of modern thought.
Interestingly, this very idea was discussed in a recent article in the Guardian entitled "Stoicism in a time of pandemic".
I'll let it speak for itself:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/ ... editations
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by chewybrian »

rcampb wrote: June 22nd, 2020, 6:38 pm The ancient philosophers didn't know about the existence of the unconscious which was discovered only by modern psychology. We know now that the unconscious has a huge influence over our behaviour and it has changed the modern worldview about the human condition. In the light of this do the ancient Stoics speak to us now, why should we turn to them for guidance instead of modern thought.
Stoic philosophy speaks to me. It helped me to overcome anxiety and depression by learning that I don't have to allow the outside world to affect my state of mind. I no longer feel powerless, as I understand that I have the same power all men have always had, which is to form opinions, desires and aversions. I don't have to feel anxious or guilty or anything at all about events outside that scope of my own control. If I am unhappy, I look to myself as both the cause and solution in most cases, and answers are much, much easier to find and implement on those terms.

The 'modern outlook' (at least the one you seem to embrace or understand) would have been to get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or some such thing and take medicine to temporarily relieve the symptoms without addressing my broken outlook on the world. This would have left me feeling powerless, tracking the progression of this 'disease', hoping the medication could solve the problem without any tools to address my state of mind.

An understanding of the existence of some unconscious drives does not negate the consciousness or free will, or render me powerless to understand and resolve my own situation. In fact, I don't see that psychology negates stoicism as much as it validates it. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a direct derivative of stoic philosophy.

https://www.vacounseling.com/stoicism-cbt/
“When I started to get disillusioned with psychoanalysis I reread philosophy and was reminded of the constructivist notion that Epictetus had proposed 2,000 years ago: "People are disturbed not by events that happen to them, but by their view of them." I could see how that applied to many of my clients.”

Albert Ellis (creator of rational emotive behavior therapy, a precursor of cognitive behavior therapy, describing the basis of his system)
Further, existential therapy is focused on the individual making free choices. I would run fast and far from a therapist who told me my unconscious was in control, and the stoics had nothing of value to say to me as a result.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

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I agree that many people find Stoicism helpful for emotional problems and guidance in living. I find that myself and I have also found cognitive behaviour therapy helpful as well. I'm not saying that Stoicism is of relevance. What I mean is that modern psychology has a far greater understanding of human beings than philosophers 2000 years ago whose science and even logic has been superceded by modern science . That's why I wondered if modern psychology would be a more helpful aid for people even if it has its roots in Greek philosophy . The conscious mind can have a big influence in our life of course but the fact that we are evolved from apes and that we are influenced by animal instincts and that all the repressed desires etc which are pushed down into the unscious , what Jing calls our shadow exerts a huge influence on our behaviour. The ancient philosophers were ignorant of that. They thought that these irrational forces were coming from the gods or something like that. CBT or stoicism does not give us a complete picture of the human condition. Jung said that we need to integrate our "shadow" in the unconscious into consciousness otherwise it will find outlets in unhealthy ways such as addictions, neuroses, etc.
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

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I also find Jung's ideas interesting, insightful and useful, but I think I can learn about denial and projection from him without 'unlearning' or discounting the wisdom of the stoics. For me, I find it hard to think that anything would resonate as well as Epictetus and have more impact. If you feel the same about Jung, then I am glad for you. Neither of us must lose for the other to win.

I don't know if I would give any extra credit for any idea being new or old, or assume that we have things figured out better than folks in the past. Were the people killing each other in WWII better because they used tanks instead of spears? Are we better if we use drones? Epictetus says that sheep provide wool to their shepherd, rather than vomiting to showing him how much grass they have consumed. Show me the results of this greater insight and wisdom you see in modern thought, not just a few scientific discoveries or theories. Show me that we are happier and kinder. Show me people behaving with virtue, and I will agree that you are on to something. Otherwise, maybe we are just getting better at making things worse.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by Terrapin Station »

I still don't believe that there are any good reasons to buy that there are unconscious mental phenomena, if that's (presumably) what you're positing.
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rcampb
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

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Im not saying that the ancient philosophers did not possess lots of wisdom. What I'm saying is that there is a huge gulf between 21st century humankind and ancient Greece. They had slavery. Women and children had no rights. Their democracy was more limited than ours. They did not have universities. Their science is all outdated and mostly proven false. Their political and social theories are also outdated. They did believe in evolution. Darwinism and Einstein and Freud have revolutionuzed the modern worldview of reality and human life. Science was only in its infancy during ancient times.
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rcampb
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

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There was an error in my previous comment. It should read " the Stoics did not believe in evolution". Some less known Greek thinkers proposed the theory of evolution but it was rejected by the major figures in Greek thought, Aristotle and Plato.
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

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They were dealing with insane political and social crap, Seneca especially comes to mind, and they knew what worked. Really most of what worked in terms of dealing with the vicissitudes of life and batisht crazy people then probably works better now because there's far less likelihood of physical violence whereas such was rampant back then.

The other thing I'd disagree with slightly - they may not have had psychoanalysis but they had the mysteries and they thought of the interior world as part of the spirit world. To that end they had Egypt to look to, the had the Orphic and Eleusynian schools and traditions to look to, it wasn't that they had no tools for coping with internal struggle - they just had different names for them and a different kind of grip on them.
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

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Clarifier - by 'mysteries' I mean that in the formal sense - ie. mystery schools.
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by Terrapin Station »

rcampb wrote: June 24th, 2020, 11:38 am Im not saying that the ancient philosophers did not possess lots of wisdom. What I'm saying is that there is a huge gulf between 21st century humankind and ancient Greece. They had slavery. Women and children had no rights. Their democracy was more limited than ours. They did not have universities. Their science is all outdated and mostly proven false. Their political and social theories are also outdated. They did believe in evolution. Darwinism and Einstein and Freud have revolutionuzed the modern worldview of reality and human life. Science was only in its infancy during ancient times.
If they didn't buy the notion of unconscious mental content but we typically do, that's one area where we've regressed compared to them.
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by Papus79 »

Terrapin Station wrote: June 25th, 2020, 8:53 am If they didn't buy the notion of unconscious mental content but we typically do, that's one area where we've regressed compared to them.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2440575/

Without it a lot of explanatory power vanishes with respect to human behavior, especially the pragmatic logic to what seems to happen when people are simply feeling rather than thinking and doing things that seem to cut even directly cross-grain with their professed and self-convinced values.
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

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The immortal charioteer:
At Velia was the school of Parmenides. In the mastery of the emotions the Stoics claimed the mind state called the Ataraxia. At the School, the symbolic headmaster was the centaur Chiron in charge of educating the mares of the immortal charioteer.
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