Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

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Something_Different
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by Something_Different » June 25th, 2020, 8:40 pm

rcampb, I may be missing something, but could you be more specific about what part of modern thought would make the ideology of the stoics obsolete?

Since you've mentioned theories of the subconscious, it seems like your argument might be along the lines of:
  1. Subconscious phenomena exist (according to modern psychology)
  2. Therefore the conscious mind is not completely in control of our mental states.
  3. Stoicism requires the conscious mind to exercise complete control over mental states.
  4. Therefore stoicism is not effective.
Though I'm not an expert, I believe that most stoics would admit (2) but deny (3). Haven't there been many people (like chewybrian) who have seen a real improvement in well-being from taking a stoic perspective even though (it might be admitted that) none of us is completely in control of how we feel?

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Felix
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by Felix » June 26th, 2020, 5:23 am

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.
It's a basic tenet of behavioural psychology. What is a memory before you recall it?
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by Gertie » June 26th, 2020, 5:28 am

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.
In a similar way to how Psychology seemed to excavate a new angle on our world view, neurobiology is beginning to do the same.

Now we know about neural correlation, we can think about ''the unconscious'' in more concrete terms, and see it more as a metaphor for the underlying physical processes. Neural processes inter-connect and influence each other, but not all rise to phenomenal consciousness, and our behaviour reflects both. With the thinky voice in our head giving an ongoing commentary which creates a coherent narrative out of it all. The raw material from which meaningful ideas like Stoicism are crafted.

(There's also the issue of focus and attention, so you might 'peripherally' register something without consciously thinking 'I am now noticing those shadows over there move', but react anyway and maybe even later on 'remember' noticing the shadow's move. Or just 'having a feeling' something was off. Like you can instantly like/dislike a person/idea/situation for no conscious reason, but because some unconscious neural connections are firing).

So the unconscious can be thought about as genetic factors and pre-dispositions influencing types of neural development and interaction, combined with experience continuing to do the same. Some phenomenally conscious, some not. Early experience setting and reinforcing neural patterns which might later be triggered by different stimuli. A lot of psychology is about untangling that and trying to set healthier patterns. (Where psychiatry takes a more direct approach in adjusting the chemistry). Philosophies like Stoicism aren't dissimilar to offering cognitive psychological coping methods perhaps. Whatever works for you...

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Felix
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by Felix » June 26th, 2020, 5:39 am

rcampb: 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.
By all accounts, mental illness is far more prevalent in modern society than it ever was in ancient times so why would you presume that modern psychological treatments are more effective? Psychoactive drugs are the only thing we have on them and it's debatable whether that can be considered progress.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by Sculptor1 » June 26th, 2020, 5:46 am

rcampb wrote:
June 24th, 2020, 11:45 am
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.
Error 2.
Aristotle was possibly one of the few figures of ancient thought that DID have some idea of evolution. In fact Darwin quotes him in, I think, the second edition of Origin of Species.

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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by Sculptor1 » June 26th, 2020, 5:53 am

* Aristotle, in his 'Physicæ Auscultationes' (lib. 2, cap. 8, s. 2), after remarking that rain does not fall in order to make the corn grow, any more than it falls to spoil the farmer's corn when threshed out of doors, applies the same argument to organisation; and adds (as translated by Mr. Clair Grece, who first pointed out the passage to me), "So what hinders the different parts [of the body] from having this merely accidental relation in nature? as the teeth, for example, grow by necessity, the front ones sharp, adapted for dividing, and the grinders flat, and serviceable for masticating the food; since they were not made for the sake of this, but it was the result of accident. And in like manner as to the other parts in which there appears to exist an adaptation to an end. Wheresoever, therefore, all things together (that is all the parts of one whole) happened like as if they were made for the sake of something, these were preserved, having been appropriately constituted by an internal spontaneity; and whatsoever things were not thus constituted, perished, and still perish." We here see the principle of natural selection shadowed forth, but how little Aristotle fully comprehended the principle is shown by his remarks on the formation of the teeth.

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chewybrian
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by chewybrian » June 26th, 2020, 8:36 am

Felix wrote:
June 26th, 2020, 5:39 am
rcampb: 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.
By all accounts, mental illness is far more prevalent in modern society than it ever was in ancient times so why would you presume that modern psychological treatments are more effective? Psychoactive drugs are the only thing we have on them and it's debatable whether that can be considered progress.
I definitely agree with your sentiment that we are not more 'enlightened' because we have a bit more technology available to us, as I expressed on the prior page. But, I'm not sure we can fairly judge the frequency of mental illness across the ages, for the same reasons we can only guess at the prevalence of homosexuality.

In the past, admitting a mental illness might have caused you to be mocked, ostracized, imprisoned or even killed. Today, you might get empathetic understanding and special accommodations, and the right to pass off some of your crappy decisions as symptoms of your medical condition rather than evidence of your character flaws. In one instance I get chained in a cell; in another I get a service dog. My willingness to own up will certainly be driven by my perception of the likely outcome of my admission, and therefore the reported numbers between these eras will be poorly related to the truth.
"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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The Beast
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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by The Beast » June 26th, 2020, 2:09 pm

The Stoics had the best psycho-drugs. A fact: The Iatromantis practiced Incubation.

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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by Terrapin Station » June 26th, 2020, 4:47 pm

Felix wrote:
June 26th, 2020, 5:23 am
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.
It's a basic tenet of behavioural psychology. What is a memory before you recall it?
A disposition to have particular mental phenomena, due to fine-grained structural facts in your brain.

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Re: Does ancient Stoicism speak to us today

Post by audiopaynt » June 28th, 2020, 7:41 pm

It depends on the philosopher. Marcus Aurelius was a different man to Plato, much later and in much differing circumstances. Reading Marcus's meditations is an insight into the man that could have everything but made attempts to value having nothing. For me Seneca, is focus on life, time and the ability to recognise 'timeline' is really important for remaining present. Yoga teaches to be present, meditations of all more modern forms also champion being present. Seneca's input for me, adds to that and is a useful aid in furthering my 'swiss army knife' of tools to find presence. Also, first post, big fan.

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