1. It's tempting to read this as Nietzche disproving the naturalist fallacy, but if you read this carefully, that's not what Nietzche says. On the contrary, Nietzche is using the naturalist fallacy to claim stoics are wrong because stoicism isn't natural. This completely misses the fact that "natural" does not imply "right" and "unnatural" does not imply "wrong".
2. Early stoics did use the naturalist fallacy to justify their positions, but I haven't come across this frequently when reading modern writers. Indeed the article you are responding to did not make this argument. As such, posting this here is basically a straw man argument: the passage you're quoting attacks a statement that was never stated.
This passage was fallacious when it was written, and it's irrelevant to the contemporary conversation on stoicism.
For Nietzche it does. And one could argue (well Nietzche sure did, elsewhere) that it's also universally true.
Besides even without that, his showing that what's natural could be seen in another different way is enough to deprive the stoics of their claim to naturalness. It is not naturalness the preach, he points, it's "how nature should be according to stoics".
But the even more important insight is this: "And granted that your imperative, "living according to Nature," means actually the same as "living according to life"--how could you do DIFFERENTLY? Why should you make a principle out of what you yourselves are, and must be?"
Why bother depriving the stoics of their claim to naturalness if the claim to naturalness has no value?
And why should we care about depriving the stoics of their claim to naturalness when no one is claiming naturalness in the contemporary conversation?
> But the even more important insight is this: "And granted that your imperative, "living according to Nature," means actually the same as "living according to life"--how could you do DIFFERENTLY? Why should you make a principle out of what you yourselves are, and must be?"
Granted that "living according to nature" means whatever Nietzche wants it to mean, Nietzche can argue anything, but even a cursory reading of the stoics shows that the stoics weren't speaking tautologically when they said "life according to nature". "Life according to nature" in stoic terms is more like "life that acknowledges the limitations placed on one by reality". Stated in English as quoted, Nietzche's argument sounds like Nietzche didn't even read the stoics. However, I suspect that Nietzche's intent may have been lost in translation, as such semantic arguments translate poorly.
Also, saying everything must live according to nature is a tautology that disproves nothing.
Well, we're talking about the natural way of living -- and death is a corner case, as it's not about living, but about the end to life.
Still, even with that, and even with all the grievance about the death of those we know and ourselves, death is seen as an essential part of the cycle of life in almost all cultures (and most, if not all, religions).
But that's orthogonal, as we aren't talking about what cultures view as good or bad, but about what is inherently good or bad. And we haven't established that death is bad anyway. Just that it is sad and painful. But the alternative could be even worse (e.g. for the species at large, or for society, or for the planet's ecology, etc). Death for example is a primary factor in evolution -- we don't know of another way to get to intelligent life and eventually, us. Except, you know, God creating an all-perfect human pair...
Besides, you (in the US) think Baby Boomers are a problem? Imagine having Babylonian-era Baby Boomers in charge still. (Rather, new people wouldn't even been born. The generation beating death will say: ok, we're good as we are. Fuck future generations, and let's keep it to us).
However, while you tied yourself in a not trying to justify some death I already said some deaths are viewed as a good thing. But, for death to be good then all death including preteen cancer patients must be good, or your not saying death is good your saying something related to death is good.
No, but any concept of good or bad presupposes existence.
>However, while you tied yourself in a not trying to justify some death I already said some deaths are viewed as a good thing. But, for death to be good then all death including preteen cancer patients must be good, or your not saying death is good your saying something related to death is good.
For evolution, all kinds of deaths are a driving factor. And without evolution, we wouldn't be here. So?
How is it more natural than anything else? What does that mean?
> While it's viewed positively in some situations no culture views it as a universally good thing.
Without death there would be no biological evolution, so human beings would not exist. It is very easy to argue that death is universally a good thing (from a human perspective).
The state of mind that the stoics advocate is one of acceptance and non-attachment to outcomes. Stoicism and Buddhism are really quite similar in this regard.
This pattern repeats itself endlessly in philosophy. In fact, I would argue that variations in the definition of "is" are responsible for more philosophical writing than the actual questions posed.
One of the things Nietzsche hated most were life denying philosophies. If your philosophy of life made you weaker, then it was evil. He considered Stoicism a philosophy that made you weaker by accepting what was. For example:
From the article: “Starting with things of little value—a bit of spilled oil, a little stolen wine—repeat to yourself: ‘For such a small price, I buy tranquillity.’ ” Nietzsche would ask if you are buying yourself tranquility because you want to? Or because you are too cowardly to say something? Based on how I read the article, the latter is almost definitely true.
I'm not sure I entirely agree with this. I think that Nietzsche observed philosophies and decided some that thought they were life affirming were life denying, but I don't necessarily think built into that is hatred. Indeed, I think you can take out of Genealogy that he rather admired the slaves. Their life denying philosophy served their ends, after all.
I actually think Nietzsche probably has more in common with the Stoics than not. They both seek to overcome a world that might deny them. One through acceptance, one through self-overcoming.
> The sense of doom and delight that is programmed into the human body? It can be overridden by the mind. The eternal war between subconscious desires and the demands of civilization? It can be won.
Nietzsche is saying this is ridiculous because those things are natural, and we are part of nature.
> [You] imagine to yourselves a being like Nature, boundlessly extravagant, boundlessly indifferent, without purpose or consideration, without pity or justice, at once fruitful and barren and uncertain... Is not living valuing, preferring, being unjust, being limited? to be different?
That being said, it is pretty clear from reading that a significant portion of the stoics did fall for that particular fallacy to one degree or another.
As a stoicism fanboy I partly agree, and if it wasn't pouring outside I'd run to my local bookshop to get something from this Nietzsche fella. Any suggestion?
Also, is it ironic that a stoic is waiting until the rain stops to go out and find happiness?
On the Genealogy of Morality is a decent read, I can't think of anything better for a first Nietzsche read. If you've ever heard "slave morality", its from here.
 - https://www.amazon.com/Gay-Science-Prelude-Rhymes-Appendix/d...
I eventually found quality help, who then recommended I read this:
When Anger Hurts
TL;DR: Anger is a cascade: Expectations, disappointment, resentment, blame and then BOOM anger. The fix to anger is to eliminate your expectations.
Awareness of the psychology only got me so far. I struggled to change my habits. Recalling that you can only replace a habit, vs unlearn, I decided to pretend to be happy. I would tell people "I'm fantastic! How are you?!" It started out sarcastic, wry.
About three years later, I woke up one day, thought "I feel phenomenal" and actually meant it. I was shocked. I didn't even notice the change.
TL;DR: How you talk changes how you think.
Good luck. Please believe me when I say the effort is worthwhile.
As Buddha said "Expectations lead to disappointment"
1. William B. Irvine, "A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy", https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Good-Life-Ancient-Stoic/dp/0195...
This is an introduction to Stoic thought as it applies today by a professor in philosophy, very clearly written. Great for first exposure. It (sensibly) skips some of the more arcane stuff, such as Stoic metaphysics (historically relevant, but really obsolete).
2. Donald Robertson, "Stoicism and the Art of Happiness",
This is a touch more academic and historic on one hand, and very practical and text-book-like on the other hand, in that it has self-assessments, key points, exercises for every section. Excellent second book. The author also has a course, blog and FAQ at http://donaldrobertson.name
3. Epictetus' Enchiridion is available on Project Gutenberg, btw. It's very short, and many things are not really relevant today anymore, yet surprisingly many sections still "speak to us".
4. Note also that Tom Wolfe's huge novel "A Man in Full" is suffused with Stoic themes.
I find Stoicism quite wise, and still substantial enough when you subtract all the obsolete superstition (which cannot be said of, for example, Abrahamic religions). Certainly good for tranquility and empathy. Sometimes hard to translate into positive action, though, I find.
Interesting thought! I'd say that "love thy neighbour" is a pretty substantial idea, albeit a "bit" less deep than the average stoic philosophy.
Did anyone try this? Take a religion like Christianity (or one interpretation of it) and remove all the deities and miracles? As an avid Christian who dislikes dogma even more than militant atheists, I'd love to dive into an attempt at this.
I've made the same comment (nothing original, as I said... :) elsewhere in this thread, and someone replied with the golden rule, maybe you want to read the discussion:
Elsewhere, the argument has been made that the miraculous parts of Christianity (virgin birth, resurrection, etc.) are largely not original, but collages of earlier prophets, though I couldn't point you to that literature off the top of my head, and it's not the point we're discussing anyways.
Full text available online, about 20 printed pages.
Edited to add:
Here you can read it, facsimile of the original cut-and-paste (literally...) version by Jefferson. 84 pages, because it's in Greek, Latin, French and English. Love it.
Here's an ePub, if you want to put it on your ebook reader (note: possibly unsavoury site):
I am 2/3 into it, maybe one of the best philosophy book I've ever read.
 Amazon US got the date wrong. Amazon UK is giving the publication date, 2016, right. Derren Brown - the magician and mentalist - is still also a stoic. :D
That view of the universe is in error, people are part of the universe and they certainly care. To view the universe without humanity is to not view the universe.
There is bleakness in the universe for sure, but there is also compassion and caring.
It's practically (literally?) instinctual to feel like the universe is happening to you rather than with you.
I think both the stoics and Buddhism were definitely on to something.
I am hopeful that as we become better at measuring and understanding therapeutic change we can develop a useful model of when and how to best use the components from each approach.
I haven't studied other religions to much but I am dead sure there are timeless pieces of advice.
My opinion, and I stress opinion, is that much of the world's religions offered a way of life that attempted to reduce violence, illness and suffering.
Even kosher and halal, thinking about it, could have been a recognition that these foods can lead to death, especially in a time when germ theory and proper cooking and hygiene methods were not developed. Since disease was associated with evil, it makes sense that "God declares these unclean".
Plus, what would you speculate if you didn't have the knowledge of how the universe, the planets and life, including us, developed? In that case, a creator provides the fewest assumptions.
> I think the same is true for Christianity too
Disagree, concerning the Abrahamic religions, as what is good is rarely original, and what is original is rarely good:
1. What is good (golden rule, some of the 10 commandments) is not very original. The golden rule has appeared in ancient Greece (Thales), China (Confucius), etc. half a millennium before Christianity, and other places independently. By contrast, Stoa and Buddhism were, I'd venture, among the first to arrive at and codify certain substantial insights that constitute large parts of their teachings.
2. What is original is mostly fairly absurd, if looked at dispassionately. If you strip Christianity of the superstitions, its essence is basically gone.
Just as a small example: it is still current position of the Catholic Church that the eucharist is actual transformation in substance of wine and bread into actual blood and flesh of Christ. (There was a (possibly apocryphal) case in Germany of a vegetarian asking whether he could participate in the communion, and he was told that he could not as a vegetarian, because it IS flesh.) If you erroneously believe that it's purely symbolic, you'd be subject to the punishment of anathema (which is worse than excommunication), if the Church were consistent with its teachings.
> religions offered a way of life that attempted to reduce violence, illness and suffering.
Yes, at the time. But not today.
> what would you speculate if you didn't have the knowledge of how the universe, the planets and life, including us, developed? In that case, a creator provides the fewest assumptions.
In that sense, Stoa and Buddhism have aged better than the Abrahamic religions, maybe because they were more empiric.
2. I'm not preaching. I was brought up Catholic and learned enough to reject it. Catholicism and the actions of that church and other splinters are fundamentally at odds with what Jesus actually preached - love your neighbour. Somehow, it was ok to burn your neighbour alive if they did not believe Jesus was God, which the rule did not mention. I am not a Catholic today - there is too much hypocrisy. My assertion was that these, regardless of what we know now, were misguided hypotheses that had mixtures of valuable advice along with ideas that we now know are wrong. The structure built on top of that is perhaps a hypothesis taken too seriously. My thinking is that what originally was the equivalent of Aristotle to some Newton was misunderstood and taken to the extreme. I share your sentiments exactly.
> Yes, at the time. But not today
This was exactly my point. Your English is very good, by the way. If I didn't know better, I'd mistake your German directness as rude and blunt.
I would agree. Perhaps not empiric but more practical which lends itself better to empirical study.
True, you didn't, I had said it ("... there is still a lot of original wisdom and substance left"), to which you replied, that's why I focused in on it.
> I'm not preaching.
Fair enough, I try not to... :-)
> If I didn't know better, I'd mistake your German directness as rude and blunt.
Nailed it, thanks for the benefit of the doubt. Edited to add: This (mostly) works on HN, but lamentably not many other sites...
I'm British - I will apologise if you bump into me.
This being said, I don't think conversion is sought as it is in Islam and Christianity.
The golden rule is not a specialty of Christianity. Some guy - I forgot the name - studied the ethical foundations of world's major religions and found variations of it across many different cultures and religions.
But that kind of underlines your point.
The Golden Rule
Hinduism - 13th Century BC
Do not as to others what ye do not wish done to yourself...This is the whole Dharma. Heed it well.
- The Mahabharata
Judiasm - 13th Century BC
What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor; that is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary; go learn it.
- The Babylonian Talmud
Zoroastrianism - 12th Century BC
Human nature is good only when it does not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.
- The Dadistan-i-Dinik
Buddhism - 6th Century BC
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
- The Tibetan Bhammapada
Confucianism - 6th Century BC
Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.
- Confucious, Analects
(Walking into a bar is, to this very day, a good way of getting to know one another or oneself, but one has to be prepared to face certain facts about oneself.)
There is the evolutionary psychology notion that food preferences are initially wide open: children initially eat everything they're given, basically trusting their parents, but then later those preferences solidify (German proverb: "Was der Bauer nicht kennt, frisst er nicht", i.e. what the farmer doesn't know, he doesn't eat).
So, that would make dietary rules particularly suited as such a tribal shibboleth (easy to create, relatively easy to abide by, hard to fake).
I seem to recall that after the Spanish reconquista, muslims faced conversion or expulsion, and if they chose conversion, they were forced to eat pork to "prove" it...
[Edit: eco-psych -> evolutionary psychology)
The second stage of trichinosis would look quite out of the blue without the foundation of understanding behind it. Almost as if by an act of god, which may have been connected to eating "unclean food prohibited by god".
That said, if it is genuinely a tribal practice, I must accept that and change my opinion.
It'd be interesting to see if those laws developed gradually over time or was by total decree. Perhaps some of the rules are merely incorrect generalisations / reasoning by induction.
Thanks for the info - I've always wondered why. It's quite hard to find the why when learning about these things.
] I don't hold that un-self-aware people are pathological...
It is a very accessible work, still today. The writing is clear and simple.
It's always been a popular work across the centuries, but the form seems to work well for contemporary audiences. You can engage with at different levels, it doesn't require a deep commitment. You can read a few passages before bed time, leave it for years and pick it up again, leaf through it and skip back&forth. As you grow older, the depth of the work reveals itself.
Specifically, given the easy to digest form, Meditations is somewhat of a board room coffee table book, like Machiavelli or Sun Tzu. There is a lot in there about what it takes to be a good leader.
It is a primary work. As a reader, you will take a trip back in time, when people were, for lack of better word, different. The deep religiosity on display can come across as somewhat alien, especially since it is one that focuses on the importance of the observance of rites rather than on establishing a personal spiritual connection. It is very un-american, un-christian, and that journey is valuable in itself.
The breadth is wide. Stoicism is easily dismissed as being somewhat of a dour, pessimistic philosophy. There is undoubtedly a melancholy undercurrent in Meditations, but it is also full with love, joy, kindness, happiness. The opening sets the tone. A thoughtful thank you note to all the people who Marcus feels affectionate to. Near the end, after being reminded a great deal about your mortality, those bright colors will have lost their luster somewhat, but Meditationes leaves you with more confidence in humanity and love towards your fellow man than with less.
Marcus Aurelius was by all accounts an admirable man and an important historical figure. There is somewhat of a voyeuristic kick you get by reading something he never intended to publish. Especially when writing about his wife, his insecurities, his unpleasant views on sex, all are more personal passages than philosophical. It's been 2000 years, I'm sure we're forgiven.
This actually is presented in Buddhism too, which was where I first encountered it before re-discovering similar principles in stoicism and Ellis's Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. See this sutta: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn36/sn36.006.tha...
"When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental. Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, were to shoot him with another one, so that he would feel the pains of two arrows; in the same way, when touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental."
But what is nice about Buddhism is that there is a practical skill-training that comes along with the theory. When disagreeable events happen to you, mindfulness training teaches you not to grasp on to the events automatically and start your own narrative about it, but instead, observe them mindfully. This gives you the opportunity to skillfully deal with the situation. REBT in addition implores you to consider the situation rationally.
These are troubling times (especially where I live in India), and I think a little bit of stoic + Buddhist teachings can go a long way in maintaining our composure even as we engage with the world. I still struggle with this from time to time, but I would have been completely lost without these teachings.
But perhaps above all, (a) the dysfunctional governance system that is incapable of doing anything about any of this, and (b) the gradual descent of the society into a more regressive state.
The Penguin edition of fellow stoic Marcus Aurelius' Meditations is free on Amazon kindle:
Which maybe works for yourself, but most of my significant others of the past would just start complaining that I lost a 20$ bill.
Most people are annoying: educate them or just put up with them, there is no third option. Also, always remember you are equally annoying to at least some of them.
But the author is trying to reason with her anger in the face of perceived slights - verbalise it or hold it inside?
Epictetus suggests that small losses (of wine or of 'face') should simply be forgotten. They are sunk-costs whose expense has been incurred.
One need not pay more - in the form of one's tranquility or contentment - by dwelling on them.
However, the Stoic would advise to do the punishment (where appropriate and possible) without anger, but rather as one would punish a child that has transgressed - for the benefits arising from it.
Is there someone among you HNers who has retained a positive outlook by believing that the universe is a bleak, chaotic place with no intrinsic meaning to the things happening in it?
Yep. Though I'd suggest you take a closer look at that sentence of yours. Specifically the "bleak, chaotic" part. That's already a very negative judgement and in contradiction with the neutral "no intrinsic meaning" part.
>I have found it difficult to really, deeply, accept things as out of my control without resorting to some concept of god or "the universe as a well-meaning entity".
Well it does by necessity lead to a conclusion along the lines of "the world is a cruel place". It's a bit like a lion eating a zebra though - brutal but not inherently evil. It just is what it is.
The universe doesn't care who you are the same way a benevolent god cares about his subject; the universe cares about you in an impersonal kind of way, that is if you do things according to the reality that is already established, then it'll 'care' about you and give what you want. The giving is likely probabilistic.
From your points on conflation, just to clarify, are you saying that meaning does not determine our feelings about the degree of bleakness? Maybe meaning is a multiplier of feelings depending on the direction you are interested in. For non-bleakness, meaningfulness would multiply the amount of enjoyment, and for bleakness, non-meaningfulness would multiply the amount of hatred. Those two assume that state of bleakness is naturally attached with intrinsic feelings.
I wish I've read more about this topic; it is ultra interesting.
Suppose there really was a loving creator that put this all in place just for us. Then, yeah, we've made quite a mess of it, and it really all rather sucks.
However, if it's just a bleak, uncaring universe, then the fact that we're around is amazing in the first place, and the fact that we've managed to carve out a niche where we can, by and large, thrive in ever larger numbers  is outright awesome and amazing.
It also then enjoins us to "keep on fighting the good fight". For example, I don't think there is "automatic karma" imposed somehow - it is incumbent on us humans to impose justice as well as we can.
 The notion that things are terrible and getting worse is wrong, I think. See for example
- Julian Simon, "The State of Humanity"
- Steven Pinker, "The Better Angels of our Nature"
- Max Roser, "Our World in Data", https://ourworldindata.org
It's kind of like asking if the Universe was harmed by the big bang.
Also, the world has many very bad aspects and some of them are getting worse. But, on average the world is getting to be a better place rapidly. Today is the most peaceful, most healthy, most just, most educated, most comfortable time ever. As people who were born and grew up knowing only such good times, we easily forget how so much of what we would consider atrocities today was common a mere few hundred years ago.
We have adjusted to be tremendously more sensitive than our ancestors. And, we are infinitely more informed about every bad thing everywhere in the world. That doesn't make everything OK. But, it is a great sign that more attention and effort is being focused on the remaining problems than ever before. If you are deciding to focus your attention on the problems we still have, then you are a sign of how the world is getting better.
With that attention, you can find problems that remain. With some historical perspective, you can figure out which ones you can best help reduce. With some effort, you can be part of making the remaining problems in the world even smaller.
Yup - I've found the lion/zebra thing to be very useful in explaining something that isn't easy for most people to see. Especially those that grew up with religious notions of good vs evil.
>the universe cares about you in an impersonal kind of way
Personally I'd be very wary of using the word caring at all. It's just atoms & stuff flying about the place to me. I choose to overlay the whole "I want to be a good person etc" on top of that though as a personal choice despite considering it a very artificial & fake construct. Bit of a cognitive dissonance I suppose but much like people choose to believe in god I choose this.
My usage of "care" here is equal to "notice". To make it easier for myself, I imagine an anthropomorphic universe gallivanting around and notice one of its agents doing something that could possibly exert an effect (either null and non-null) and bless it with that effect after spinning the wheel of probability.
My statement was not meant to be an argument or statement of fact but rather a suggestion or hypothesis, which is why I used the word suggest.
I don't think your claim withstands any scrutiny.
If you were able to control for all other conditions, possibly but not necessarily. Thus I don't think comparing homicide rates in the USA, Pakistan and Sweden proves or disproves anything.
So, comparing homicide rates across countries disproves that more religion is necessary or sufficient for an ethical life.
(Let me note in passing that fairly secular northern Europe also has much lower rates of abortions, STDs, teenage pregnancies, and other societal ills, than other, more religious societies.)
Second, if we look at long term trends, violence has come down over the millennia, as religiosity has decreased (see Pinker's Better Angels).
Third, I concede that under certain circumstances in primitive societies you might achieve a reduction in crime by introducing certain religious beliefs (whether they're falsehoods or not). However, we should not strive for that, but for enlightened societies where that is not necessary anymore.
I think you'll be surprised by the amount of cannibalism in the animal kingdom:
Not really the point I was making with the lion/zebra thing, but regardless:
>is a general belief in a authority higher than man.
For some, certainly. I'd venture that it's only one route available. I certainly don't believe in any higher authority whatsoever nor do I even believe that good & evil are particularly sound concepts (Moral Relativism), yet most people that know me will probably judge me a good person.
The writings of C.S. Lewis crystallized a lot of this in my mind.
I'm an atheist, but I certainly have no desire or intention or plan to cease cooperation. Just the opposite, I think it's extremely important, and it is also extremely important that we cherish and enforce and cultivate it.
As just a little example, for me some sort of communal health insurance covering everyone is a matter of course, as for most citizens of developed nations. (I'm aghast at the fact that many people oppose it in the USA, and I note in passing that it appears to be mostly religious people.)
Next, I have the same expectation of basically everyone I encounter (except some sociopaths, against one has to guard appropriately).
Finally, I think there are many good reasons for it, and the position that man is ("just") a higher evolved animal is not at all incompatible with it.
No I'm not saying a belief in God is necessary for what we would agree upon as moral behavior. However, I could easily see the case being made by individuals who might think that what we agree on as morally correct behavior being nothing more than our arbitrary beliefs. And that, from their perspective, rape or pedophilia makes them feel good in the way eating red meat makes them feel good.
So on a spectrum with complete moral bliss on the far left and complete degeneracy on the far right, I think we live somewhere on the left side. Furthermore I think a big reason we live there and not right of center is the wide spread belief in a higher authority/authorities.
> Next, I have the same expectation of basically everyone I encounter (except some sociopaths, against one has to guard appropriately).
Why? From where is your sense of "Fair Play" derived? Does it all boil down to the non-aggression principle and if so, from where is that derived?
Interesting. I am also concerned by moral arbitrariness and relativism, but fear it comes from somewhere else:
I fear that religion opens up the door to moral relativism, because you can go and say "don't eat shrimp" (Leviticus 11:10), or "don't eat pork", or "don't eat cows", or what have you, claiming "it says so right here, in this holy book full of true revelations".
That's a trivial example, but the same applies for more serious issues: morality based on (religious) revelation is hard to verify and discuss, and somewhat arbitrary.
But if we empirically agree on one real world, empiricism and evidence, we have at least a common basis and need very few, very basic moral principles (it really boils down to the golden rule, or somewhat more sophisticated versions of that, like the "veil of ignorance" in John Rawl's Theory of Justice.)
So, in purely practical terms, I think this notion of some psychopath running around claiming "there's no God, thus I can do what I want" is a non-issue.
If you furthermore seek a philosophical "Letztbegründung" (i.e. ultimate reason, where "the buck stops"), there are attempts e.g. in discourse ethics ("if we are talking, we are already implicitly subscribing to certain axioms, otherwise we would not need to talk"). But I don't think it'a a big problem.
The problem lies less in the foundation and more in certain topics, I think (think of abortion, contraception, war).
I think you'd find increased cooperation within many other types of groups. What we should aim for, of course, is to expand this circle of concern ever further, beyond religion.
So, just want to clarify that this might have been an benefit of religion in earlier days, but is by no means an argument for them today.
Imagine that a white blood cell in your body has a consciousness of its own, where it, in its own way does its job when needed, hangs out with its "co-workers", other white-blood-cells, and red-blood-cells etc. You are the "universe as a well meaning entity" for this cell in your body.
Extending on this hypothesis, its not too hard to conclude that you can be a small part of a bigger, well meaning consciousness.
This leaves you with two options:
1.) You can posit some blessed configuration of a biochemical system that magically produces awareness, a property separate from matter. Note that since our neurons are arranged quite differently, this blessed configuration must be quite general.
2.) You can assume that awareness is inherent in matter, and any difference between a group of neurons with coupled biochemistry and a cell with coupled biochemistry exists on a continuum. Thus, any difference in awareness between a neural network and a cell is likely to be one of resolution.
If you think for a minute hopefully you'll realize that option #2 actually involves fewer assumptions.
I feel it is consistent with my stance, that awareness is indeed a property of a configuration of (entirely unconscious) matter.
The configuration is extremely specific in the sense that almost all possible configurations have no consciousness, but somewhat general in that there are still infinitely many configurations that do.
I still stick to option #1. Similarly, it is the specific configuration of the sand/silicon in my computer that allows it to process information, not individual sand particles or silicon atoms (even though their specific properties make it possible).
Part of the problem is that consciousness is a nebulous term that conflates awareness, self-awareness and intelligence. Specifically, I'm only speaking of awareness here.
Also, when sand undergoes chemical reactions, how do you know that isn't a simple form of information processing?
And I've seen the argument being made that consciousness is fundamental and prior to anything else (Chalmers? Don't recall.)
But I disagree for now, and I think awareness is an emergent property dependent on various pre-conditions (like perception, a model of self, possibly "embodied cognition" (not sure about that), etc.), and it's absurd to speak of a few atoms having awareness.
(With modern computers, we might be getting there at some point...)
In polytheism the universe is not chaotic and meaningless - things to not happen at random, but because the gods willed it. But the gods does not always act for the benefit of humans, so the universe is not "fair".
If something bad happens to you, is it really a consolation that it is because an allknowing and just God wants you to suffer?
The standard, and again naive, rejoinder in mainstream Christian theology is that God had a pattern for the World that didn't include such types of pain and destruction but that man chose not to follow God's plan (as allegorised in "The Fall" in Genesis). Thus we chose to go it alone, and you can read the various theories on how that has a Universal effect too.
To raise the basic Argument from Suffering you really should look past the first-tier argument and present it anticipating The Fall.
In my limited understanding suffering appears out of the axioms of free will. To make us human, with the ability to choose to love, choose to care, choose to follow God or not, we require free-will. Otherwise it's just "echo 'i love you'" rather than a genuine emotion.
Your question should be "is it better not to create our Universe, with the possibility for love, if there is also a possibility of suffering". You may come to the same conclusion, that a benevolent being shouldn't turn Creator when faced with those possibilities ... but then if they hadn't you wouldn't be here to make the objection.
tl;dr "The Fall" and "free will" are the standard, Biblical, Christian counter-arguments that stand against Suffering and allow for a loving, benevolent God to be creator of a Universe such as ours.
The mainstream Christian theology is that leprosy, and such diseases came in to the world after, and as a consequence of, The Fall. That if we'd chosen God's way we wouldn't have such things.
>So God inflicted leprocy on humanity //
God created a Universe with free will for man rather than creating a fancy automaton. Mankind chose not to follow God's precepts, the consequences being that disease, pain and suffering entered the world.
It's like if I serve you a hot drink. You can choose to cause pain and suffering with it - throw it at someone, say - or you can follow my instructions to sip it slowly, let it cool and enjoy it, share it. I can't serve you a hot drink without the possibility that you will abuse it, unless I make you into a "hot drink robot" with no free will.
You could couch that as God inflicting the possibility of suffering in order to allow the possibility of beauty, love, passion, humanity.
Of course, I don't think the universe exists to love god, so much as the universe is "god" playing with itself for entertainment.
People have been saying the same things for 2,000 years. The only development is that we can say it's been longer now.
Edit: Oh, you edited your comment to say something different. I guess this comment doesn't make a lot of sense as an answer now.
If something bad happens to you it is not because God wants you to suffer but because God has given evil dominion over this place in order to facilitate free will and choice.
God wants to be reconciled with every person but also wants that reconciliation to be chosen and not coerced.
The suffering of innocents is just an extension of this idea.
The Book of Job in the Bible for example posits that God is almighty but not at all fair. He basically causes Job to suffer on a whim. Not out of some kind of theological necessity, but simply as a cruel experiment. There is no paradox here, because there is no claim that God is always just and benevolent.
This isn't technically true. What God does is choose to not prevent Satan from testing Job. I'm not making a judgement about whether this would be considered cruel or not, I just want the facts stated clearly.
And, Job himself said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15).
I know that I'm stepping on thin ice here, but: My son does not want his teeth brushed. He absolutely hates it, because he does not yet understand that this pain is way lesser than the pain and treatment of tooth decay. So, I still have to do this to him, at least twice every day, because it is necessary.
I DONT mean to say that bone cancer might be good for something eventually, but; if it were, then we might not understand it, because we don't have neither control nor insight over the future.
Really? The laws of physics, evolution etc. are all out of our control.
Positive outlook? Yes, I suppose. The universe is 15 billion years old and nothing we do will have a big impact on it. But we can still make the best of the time we have in it and try to make things better for others.
I was raised with the idea that belief (specifically, The Belief That Jesus Died To Take Away My Sins) is the source of a positive outlook. I think this kind of a warm snuggle (if you can accept a violent and prolonged execution as such) from The Universe is lovely. But it has not been my experience that it has been particularly conducive to my own well-being.
To take this back to your question, rebuking the concept of god is not tied to my well-being either. For me, a positive outlook is largely distinct from cosmology. And a nice side effect of thoughts arranged in this way is that god, the universe, a higher power are un-fundamental. My philosophical approach can constantly grown and change, and that helps me act in a way that is kind and brave.
If you agreed to my rewording of your question up above, then my answer is "yes". YMMV.
And the universe is outside of your control. Therefore you should not let it have any impact on your outlook.
Also, wanting a positive outlook is a desire. And desires are suffering. And having a "positive outlook" is pre-judging things, filling up your mind with assumptions. When you should be trying to empty it. But, I'm more of a Taoist than Stoic (although there seems to be fair amount of overlap).
Active nihilism is much more beneficial and relates to stoicism. It holds that you must find your meaning, which is really what everyone does anyway, whether through a super natural being or friends, family, or one's life work (read Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. The best book I've ever read that relates these ideas as a holocust survivor).
On the other hand and contrary to what you claim Viktor Frankl writes (I have not read his book), Stoicism (and Buddhism) are really forms of passive nihilism, Buddhism of course being the stronger of the two. If there is one word to characterize passive nihilism, it is "Acceptance".
Meditation and being in the moment or at least trying to be in the moment has helped me a lot. There may not be a rhyme or reason to life but that doesn't mean you can't create one and have fun while doing so.
- For me it was the latter too. I remember ( I am probably wrong ) that it was Napoleon who asked Laplace that why was there no god in his mathematics ( apparently before Newton had attributed some stuff to god ). And Laplace (or could be someone else ) that he did not need god to explain his work. That has sort of stuck with me.
I see many living things around me - kittens, birds, squirrels, lizards, dogs - who happily go on living their lives without bothering with such things as the bleakness of the universe or its impermanence or its meaninglessness. I then remind myself that I must appear just as wonderful a creature as a kitten, bird, squirrel or lizard to some alien observer. I would find it absurd if the three playful kittens in my house suddenly developed an existential crisis. They are kittens! Their purpose is to be happy. But the same principle holds for me too.
In other words, the problem of meaninglessness of life is a problem we create by fiat. It's a remarkable fact that we're fragments of this grand, ancient universe that have become sentient. That itself is enough of a reason to be thrilled at our existence and everything around us, including the good and the bad!
Also Ecclesiastes (basically, the Judeo-Christian reimplementation of Buddhism) is pretty vocal on the subject.
I can't reconcile the two and inevitably end up in an existential slump that leads to depression.
Indifferent Universe(high certainty of no Abrahamic God) -> Anything Goes/Nothing Matters as far as humans go -> Existentialists: Great, you can find your own meaning -> Psychopaths/baby seal clubbing enthusiasts/Doomsday Cultists/Uber executives can find their own meaning too -> Might makes right -> Do everything for the lolz -> This is getting deppressing
For extra depression read about cognitive science (Dennett's "Bag of Tricks") or matrix argument.
So you have to say "MU" and just concentrate on more pleasant passtimes.
One solution seems to be ala Bukowski "Find something you love and let it kill you" (preferably slowly)
Stoicism to me just seems a slight improvement to fatalism.
Nice if you have the predisposition but it makes no difference if you are stoic or choleric.
To me, a collection of stars, dancing together around a bigger, brighter star, swirling gases and dust around the ether, until the one large star finally shrinks and explodes, hurtling all that matter out into the universe to become the seeds of new life, is worthwhile.
The universe doesn't have a sense of what is bleak, or chaotic, but it probably does have a sense of what it should do, and does it according to a set of laws and principles.
On the contrary, it's humans who seek to break these laws and bend nature to its will, seemingly for the purpose of saying it could be so. Honestly, nature seems full of meaning, but humanity not as much.
Just enjoy your life. The only real judge is you.
_But_ we can make our lives meaningful by doing things. We can give our lives meaning through our actions, if we can accept that it is only ephemeral - the moment I stop doing it, it ceases to be.
The act of restoring meaning to meaningless life is - to Camus - an act of rebellion against the pointlessness, a refusal to give in. But it takes us back to a place where life is not bleak at all, but something to be savored.
Yes, I have. I tend to see myself as an existentialist.
I think this (the idea that there's some inscrutable higher level of meaning) is either a) a natural human intuition that can be broken down and discarded or b) an outgrowth of growing up in a society where there's a continuity of more-meaningful and less-scrutable things that we receive wrapped in packages that say: "this is important", namely, high arts, and the guilt that you feel when they don't move you (unless you happen to have previously received the necessary context). This reception - it's probably a twisted class thing - is what's wrong. The good art should be obviously good.
This cultural reception isn't limited to art, there's all sorts of disastrous cultural apparatus that causes a youth to end up thinking they're missing something or the world isn't supposed to make sense to your innate intuition.
Ex high school literature, weird jazz, 20th century music in the formal tradition, "modern art", but also lawns, the weird way the king james bible is written, math education, band class, gerrymandering...
Take a breath, breathe out and move along.
Might all be a hologram anyway...
"Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us. Our opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions — in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or, that is, whatever is not our own doing."
From that I take away, whether the universe proves to be a well-meaning entity or a bleak, chaotic, meaningless one, it is not useful^ to attempt to discern its motivations except to the extent you can affect them. As you noted, it is up to you to determine then what really is or isn't in your control.
^ note that this is distinct from the idea of intellectual exploration for your own enjoyment or edification
Stoicism ties though to a lot of modern theories. The concept of resilience springs to the front of my mind (and positive psychology in general). Might be a good place to look. Tends to have the same bent so it can be integrated naturally, but more practical in application. Particularly in a modern context, where the psychological demands are quite different.
Sounds like a fetish.
Basically Stoicism, I suppose, though I've not looked up the term in detail.
I also like this quote by him which I read long ago:
"Practice yourself, for heaven's sake, in little things, and thence proceed to greater."
The Stockdale Paradox is also interesting. Stockdale was influenced by Epictetus.
"The Tao is Silent" by Raymond Smullyan
It blows me away how that part about taking every problem as a chance to learn and become a better "wrestler" fits right in with my natural conclusions. The rest of it describes me adequately also.
I'm reading Epictetus now, thanks for sharing.
It seems to come naturally to some, especially those that tend to adopt a somewhat cold analytical view of the world
I consider myself one of those people so def didn't intend to offend.
Wasn't really meant as a negative judgement - the cold is merely there to emphasise that I meant people that generally don't factor in emotions.
Didn't mean to offend anyone. I can see how it could be interpreted negatively though. :(
Personally I don't see much evidence that this really was the case in the golden era of Stoicsm. Freedom from all passions was not the same as removal of emotion, but it was very close to it.
> not about becoming a hardened robot capable of taking any punishment.
This was exactly what Stoics of the old saw as ideal and this view was propagated in stories. Epicetus was a cripple and according to Origen his leg was broken by his master.
>Epictetus' master one day was twisting his slave's leg to help the time pass. Epictetus said calmly, "If you go on doing that, you will break my leg." The twisting went on and the leg broke. Epictetus observed mildly, "Didn't I tell you that you would break my leg?"
The story of Gaius Mucius Scaevola was also propagated by stoics. Mucius kept his hand over the fire without indicating any pain while it burned.
No, it is not. Read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. The man certainly argued for a certain inner brilliance that does not come from emotionlessness. He'd argue for you to be the even-tempered guy but full of fortitude and pouring your entire being into what you are standing for and doing, but without getting consumed by it. Stoicism is not the rejection of emotion, it is the rejection of uncontrolled desire. That's a huge difference.
It's a philosophy of inaction and accommodation to injustice and oppression. There is a reason it became popular for Roman soldiers under the Empire. Well, at least stoicism does not claim that you are changing the world for the better by creating all these data slurping algorithms. But I wish SV would embrace the Hellenistic philosophy of Cynicism instead.
This is not what I got out of reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and articles on Stoicism. In common English use, "stoic" sometimes implies what you said, but that's not the same as Stoicism-the-philosophy.
"The Stoics held that virtue is the only real good and so is both necessary and, contrary to Aristotle, sufficient for happiness; it in no way depends on luck."
It's also true that Stoicism encourages acceptance of all outcomes, whatever they are, which people misconstrue to imply it's not worth doing your best. Here's a quote by Cicero on doing your best but not letting the outcome influence your emotions:
"Take the case of one whose task it is to shoot a spear or arrow straight at some target. One’s ultimate aim is to do all in one’s power to shoot straight, and the same applies with our ultimate goal. In this kind of example, it is to shoot straight that one must do all one can; none the less, it is to do all one can to accomplish the task that is really the ultimate aim. It is just the same with what we call the supreme good in life. To actually hit the target is, as we say, to be selected but not sought."
If it helps you suffer less: great. But before you dive in, know that you might be able to save a lot of time and avoid a lot of jargon by learning about mindfulness from a secular source.
In a section further down the article she discusses the books "Upheavals of Thoughts" and "Therapy of Desire". There she elaborate how stoicism and emotions relate in a fairly comprehensive way.
Stoicism has been one of the most appealing one to me. However, one issue I have with Stoicism is similar to that of religions.
Most people who follow Stoicism or any other religion, tend to pick and choose to what is the best fit of them.
Stoicism is not about giving up anything (common misunderstanding) but it IS to moderate everything including things like our carnal desires. I do not think anyone does this nowadays.
Does this mean we need a Stoicism 2.0 like we do in many religions? _______ 2.0? Not entirely sure...
Definitely. Though from what I've seen stoicism emphasises rationalising through problems more in my experience.
i.e. Here is a logical argument as to why you should not worry about this thing. Buddhist has some of that too, but the approach tends to be a bit more "spiritual" if that makes sense?
The first paragraph told me that I should stop reading and what kind of Stoicism I would find below.