I rather think that modern western culture is about as un-Stoic as it has been at any point since... sometime before Stoicism was invented, and that any explicit endorsement of Stoicism you may find among the remaining sane people is purely a reaction to that.
Stoicism teaches that suffering and misfortune are part of life, and that wisdom comes from learning to deal with this fact. Modern-day Oprah culture teaches that you are a beautiful and unique person and that any suffering or misfortune you may encounter is something that you should probably sue somebody about.
It's the shaming that eventually got to me. It's such a prolific and harmful tactic. The people who do it the most tend to lack virtue themselves, when held up to the light. And it doesn't matter how well your internal sense of guilt works - you can always be judged poorly for reasons that become obviously unfair when pushed to far-reaching conclusions. It encourages you to polarize into a completely fanatical or disengaged state, without a healthy middle. If we've improved any, it's in that outright dehumanization is less common now, replaced with convenient euphemisms that diffuse blame.
Stoicism has the appeal of "It doesn't matter how bad the outside world gets - I am going to do my own thing and fix up my own principles and actions." It encourages you to work on small everyday behaviors instead of constantly diverting your attention to the Big Important Problem that the news is currently pushing at you(and that you can't do much about, without derailing your entire life).
In fact, the opening of the book of John was partially an appeal to the stoics to see that their philosophy is complete in the Christ.
And for what it's worth, Paul dialogued with the stoics in Athens in Acts 17, saying some of what I'm saying here... that stoicism part of a picture completed by the teachings of Christ.
close, but I'd generalize this more and adapt it so that it also relates more to non-US cultures (less Oprah, less suing), and by removing the action (suing) from it and replacing it with what people tend to think, not how they react to it - something like
"Modern-day culture teaches that you are a beautiful and unique person and that any suffering or misfortune you may encounter is somebody else's, or the system's, fault"
At least that is how I perceive the group I think you are targetting here.
The downside to this attitude is that we look down on people who weren't lucky, who had the misfortune to be born into an uneducated family, who weren't in the right place at the right time and so on through no fault of their own.
You are the thing you think you are criticizing.
"Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know this of a truth - that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death."
If some weird signalling is just an annoying valueless externality, then acting (assuming its any good) isn't as relevant as the belief within.
Maybe an analogy with politics, nobody really believes sloganeering except the smallest of minds; its merely a traditional weapon that has to be used as part of the show. Ditto obeisance to political correctness, its just signalling you gotta do in public, nobody believes that stuff internally or in private except a small cadre of insane people. "Emperor has no clothes" moment and all that.
Looking back, this is probably a good reason to wait until studying philosophy until your 30s -- you need some time actually living in order to put things in their proper place. Epistemology, especially, can really take your head for a spin.
But I finally realized that various forms of thought are not solutions, rather they are tools for dealing with the day-to-day issues that life brings. Different situations? Use different tools. The goal wasn't to find an universal answer, it was to fill a tool belt with the tools you'd need for an interesting and rewarding life.
An obvious corollary here: it's okay if the tools don't all work together at the same time. I'm a human, not a math equation. It all doesn't have to add up and be consistent in the end. (Very tough to realize and accept this as well!)
Today the three main tools I use the most are agnosticism, existentialism, and stoicism. Between these three I find that I am safely and soundly able to navigate various difficult ethical, moral, and professional questions. In addition, they give me direction for further joy and fulfillment in life. And extra bonus points: they do not preclude any of the wonderfully human and irrational beliefs I may want to pick up along the way, such as using supplements for life extension, playing the lottery, or choosing to believe in the Great Pumpkin.
Modern life is one of people instantly connecting together in mobs. Nobody can tolerate being bored, and it's very easy to spend a lot of your life without really thinking about what you're doing. Stoicism, existentialism, and agnosticism guides me in mindfulness, self-directed purpose, and the limits of my knowledge. I'm very happy to have them as part of my tool belt.
Could someone who's gone down this path provide a reading list for someone interested in learning more?
- Marcus Aurelius' Meditations (make sure to get the Hays translation! By far the best). Aurelius was an emperor of Rome; Meditations are his musings to himself in later life. It's interesting to reading the internal grapplings of a man who was, to his countrymen, basically a walking god.
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca's Letters from a Stoic
- Epictetus' Enchiridion, which translates roughly as "handbook" and was assembled from the teachings of Epictetus, an exiled former slave, to those who traveled to live and study with him.
I strongly recommend all three. If you're interested in more modern interpretations of the above, a couple good jumping off points would be A Guide to the Good Life by William Irvine (which was mostly pretty good) or The Inner Citadel by Pierre Hadot (which studies Meditations). Ryan Holiday also has a book called The Obstacle Is The Way, though I didn't enjoy it as much as any listed above, to be honest.
A personal favorite gem which, found several years ago: http://stoicletters.blogspot.com/. This blog bundles Seneca's letters into a modern style of prose and is much more accessible while conveying much of the same meaning as the original letters.
If you'd like a vision into what Moores Law or computer science will look like in 2000 years, you could do worse than comparing to the humanities peaking 2000 years ago. In 2000 years there will be academic disciples reading Knuth and the lambda-ites will continually be having "revival" journalist articles written about them every couple years and their heretical un-natural love of parenthesis.
It would be interesting to argue that position against something like geometry where at the entry level there really isn't much new beyond Euclid however at the higher end there has been progress and at the low end modern textbooks don't resemble "The Elements" very closely even if conceptually there is nothing new.
Strong fact based arguments could be made either way. Halting-problem-like, the most effective way to figure it out will probably be to wait 2000 years and see what happens.
A Stoic is a Buddhist with attitude, one who says "f*** you" to fate.
In his philosophical writings, he talks about how during those seven years, when everything else failed him, he could only fall back on that which he could control, the heart of stoic philosophy.
This is from when he is ejected from his plane, after having been shot down by enemy fire:
"After ejection I had about 30 seconds to make my last statement in freedom before I landed on the main street of that little village right ahead. And so help me, I whispered to myself: "Five years down there at least. I'm leaving the world of technology and entering the world of Epicetus.""
Here are the two essays I read, and would recommend.
Here is the second essay: http://www.usna.edu/Ethics/_files/documents/Stoicism2.pdf
- "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga " http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1683876/
- "Oh Boy" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1954701/
- "American Beauty" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0169547/
- "Amélie" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211915/
(and will probably update it in a few hours adding stuff from this thread ;)
Many of the passages out of the Dao De Ching have a striking similarity to passages in Marcus Aurelius' Meditations.
In a lot of ways, the concept of the tiny house movement is sort of a reflection of Stoicism if you think about it.
The general idea is that if you lessen your needs, then what you have becomes abundant. It could also be considered a bit of a reaction to the debt crisis that individuals face on many levels.
As your expenses approach zero, your income approaches infinity.
"Focused on me" culture is not inherently wrong for communities or cultures at at all, but when you compare straight hedonism to "selfless" christianity then its understandable to have some backlash on "me" culture. "Me focus" can also mean basically trying to achieve what is in the Serenity Prayer (written in the 1800s by a Christian theologian) -
"[God] grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference"
Nitpicking, but "Hindu thought" will do! Thanks for the link.
Who is the group X that started the routine of saying "we are group X and we are special and isolated from the rest of human kind because of our unique suffering and/or significance"?
I'll give you a chance to answer.
No one knows -- that pattern is evidenced as far back as recorded history goes pretty much everywhere in the world; its definitely older than writing, and quite possibly as old as the ability to communicate sophisticated enough concepts to express it.
For example, there's a segment of gender critical feminists that believe that transgender activists are uniformly assaulting them on all fronts when in reality transgender activists have been focused on issues of non-discrimination in law (public accommodation, employment, and healthcare as big issues where activists seek redress). Neither side assumes one is special or better/worse than the other but both attempt grand standing on who is more oppressed/harmed by society. And how unique their position is in terms of said oppression. I've rarely seen either side (being trans myself here) extend a hand in regards to trying to understand the other. It seems the most vocal members of this fracas are doomed to bury each other in terrible memes and virtual shouting matches. Some have gone further like Cathy Brennan who has doxxed a transgender teenager (who had no quarrel with her or other gender critical feminists) for the Pacific Justice Institute (a right wing think tank out of California). So, I hope you can see where I'm coming from here.
Behavior patterns of Group X (that is then passed on to other groups):
- being a special and isolated group from the rest of human kind
- having suffered uniquely
- having unique significance
- pulling the special-group card all the time (say, to stifle criticism)
- believing other groups are assaulting them on all fronts (say, like a paranoia towards an outgroup)
- attempting grand standing on their being the most oppressed by society (say, by discussing on a TV show whether their suffering was the most awful of all)
- never admitting they are wrong on something (say, in History, where if you disagree with their version, it can only be because you might hate them)
I gave you many hints but as you can tell, the hints come from your posts. You are so spot on. But now you must guess, who is Group X who is influencing other groups to adopt this same behavior?
Like I said, I took all the hints from things you said. It's clear you see it too. I understand people are very leery of pointing fingers especially when the conversation involves certain untouchable groups. However, as a trans person I'm sure you have courage in spades to study this subject without prejudice and preconceived notions you might have acquired during education in school.
If you still think I'm a troll, I'd really appreciate it if you could explain to me how better I could approach this subject with you without coming across as a troll. I can do it easily in person, but online it seems to always come across as trollish, I suppose because mentioning Jews is something usually seen done by shady characters with hidden agendas. However, I believe one can talk about Yakuza without indicting all Japanese, or talk about the Mafia without indicting all Italians.
(1) not toss drive-by flamebait into the threads, like
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10376183. Those are
low-substance, high-provocation comments that are guaranteed to
produce more of the same, only worse—exactly the opposite of what we
want on HN.
(2) edit out every trace of snark like "But yes, evil Germans and their eugenics,
carry on." That stuff is poison and adds fuel to the fire.
Beyond that: tone down your claims, substantiate them more, and stop using ideological buzzwords.
I promise you I will try to behave as you have proposed here. I think those are fair guidelines. In fact I very much appreciate your laying them down clearly like that. If the "no negativity" policy were as well fleshed-out as you just did here I think it would be more helpful.
I will abide by your rules because I want to keep posting here. But if I abide by the rules and you still detach my threads as off-topic, then it will have been an unfair deal in my opinion.
I'd be curious to know, respectfully, if you chided the user to whom I was replying, since what they said can easily be construed as instigation:
> No, it's not. The Eugenic movement started the quest for the "better" brain nearly a century and a half ago, and we all know how that turned out...
"we all know how that turned out" DOT DOT DOT is instigation and we all know he's rubbing the Holocaust on everyone's faces without spelling it out. To me that is a foul silencing tactic and it needs to be called out on. That is what I attempted to do when I made my "carry on" remark, after having substantially and politely fleshed out the topic in that same reply.
So as you can see, from my end your enforcement sometimes looks biased.
EDIT: In fact I'd like clarification on this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10381398
Their post amounts to nothing more than "Intelligence research is actually 150 years old and it ended with the Holocaust".
Now what do you call that? Isn't that snarky flamebait? It looks like it to me. Shouldn't that claim be toned down a little? Shouldn't it be substantiated a little more?
I want to respect you but for that you will have to uphold your vetting standards equally amongst all players.
So, you don't need a Frankfurt School. Just look at the Protestant and Catholic leagues which formed during the Reformation. You don't need to concoct some bogey man to prove people are inherently defensive in groups. We just do it by design like all primates of our kind.
So before you go throwing out silly concepts like cultural Marxism just take a moment to actually observe people with as little bias as you can muster. You'll see the patterns I'm talking about. And it doesn't require additional parameters to verify.
If I actually had said that Jews are trying to destroy the world, you'd be able to quote that. In fact I do not think Jews are trying to destroy the world, and this can be easily verified by the fact that most of them are content to live their lives as normal human beings.
Secondly, if I thought Jews were trying to destroy the world, then I would be incredibly paranoid of talking about this subject, seeing that those who do foolishly believe in such an outrageous idea receive quite a bit of unpleasantries.
Instead, I am trying to civilly talk to you about a book I've read and the knowledge it imparted to me, and I'm even offering you to pay for the book and shipping so that you too can glance at this knowledge which you already basically understand half of, and your reply to my offer is to slander me and say you wouldn't talk to me in person. I would never expect this level of intolerance coming from a trans person who I'd assume has experienced first-hand the pangs of ostracism.
Please, listen to me. You are severely downplaying the influence of the schools of thought we have been talking about. I extend my offer once again to pay for the book and shipping if you promise me you will read it.
Sorry, I like to answer titles that end in question marks. Because they're questions. Not Titles.
The news gave people what they want, shock and kittens. Blogging rules.