Ο Στωικισμός αποτελεί μία σημαντική φιλοσοφική σχολή των Ελληνιστικών και Ρωμαϊκών χρόνων (300 π.Χ. – περίπου 250 μ.Χ.), ιδρυθείσα στην Αθήνα από τον Ζήνωνα τον Κιτιέα με κέντρο την«Ποικίλη Στοά» από όπου και πήρε το όνομά της η Σχολή.
Κατά τους στωικούς, η ανθρώπινη φύση είναι τμήμα της παγκόσμιας φύσης, η οποία καθοδηγείται και κυβερνάται από τον συμπαντικό νόμο της Λογικής. Ο άνθρωπος, ως έλλογο ον, συγγενεύει όχι μόνο με τα άλογα ζώα αλλά και με τους Θεούς και πέραν του ενστίκτου διαθέτει και ηθική αίσθηση.
Κύριο ζητούμενο του βίου είναι συνεπώς το να ζει κάποιος σύμφωνα με την φύση του, η οποία για τον άνθρωπο, μέσω της λογικότητάς του (στα λατινικά ratio), ωθεί προς την Αρετή, άρα το «κατά Φύσιν ζήν» σημαίνει «κατ’ Αρετήν ζήν». Η Αρετή είναι το μόνο αγαθό και μόνο από αυτήν εξαρτάται η ευημερία. Όλα τα υπόλοιπα πράγματα, ευχάριστα ή δυσάρεστα, στερούνται αξίας, είναι «αδιάφορα».
Σύμφωνα με τον στωικισμό, καθήκον του ανθρώπου είναι να θέσει τον εαυτό του σε αρμονία με το Σύμπαν, το οποίο, ως λογικό και αγαθό, τού μεταφέρει τις ιδιότητές του. Με το να βλάπτει κανείς τους άλλους για το υποτιθέμενο ατομικό του συμφέρον, υπονομεύει κατ’ ουσίαν την ίδια του την φύση. Ο στωικός δεν αρνείται τον κόσμο των θνητών πραγμάτων, ούτε όμως και εξαρτάται από αυτόν, απλώς ζει ατάραχα μέσα του ενώ, σε αντίθεση προς την απόσυρση των επικουρείων, συμμετέχει σε όλες τις πτυχές της κοινωνικής ζωής (λ.χ. πολιτική, οικογένεια, κ.λ.π.).
Κατά τους στωικούς, οι άνθρωποι συνδέονται μεταξύ τους μέσω της κοινής λογικής φύσης τους, η αγάπη και προσφορά για την πατρίδα είναι το πρώτο βήμα της αγάπης και της προσφοράς για την μεγάλη πατρίδα όλων μας, την «κοσμόπολι» της ανθρωπότητας και του Σύμπαντος (που κυβερνάται από αιώνιους και αμετάβλητους φυσικούς νόμους), ένας τεράστιος αριθμός πραγμάτων που οι άνθρωποι αποδέχονται από ένστικτο, μπορεί να αποδειχθεί και με την Λογική, ο συμμερισμός των άλογων συναισθημάτων δεν είναι επιθυμητός, το δίκαιο είναι θέμα όχι άποψης αλλά φύσης, ο βίος καθορίζεται από την Ειμαρμένη και, φυσικά, η Μαντική ευσταθεί.
Οι Θεοί εφορεύουν στην τάξη του Κόσμου και αποτελούν πληθύνσεις μίας αρχικής πολυώνυμης θείας οντότητας, «ζώου λογικού, τελείου και νοερού», που εισδύει παντού και παίρνει τα χαρακτηριστικά του κάθε στοιχείου με το οποίο έρχεται σε επαφή. Νόμος όλων των πραγμάτων είναι η Ειμαρμένη, μία ταυτόχρονα φυσική και θεϊκή οργανωτική δύναμη του Κόσμου, που αποτελεί τον Λόγο και την νομοτέλεια του Παντός, δύναμη που διατηρεί και διατηρείται κυβερνώντας και περιλαμβάνοντας τα ενάντια.
Σε αντίθεση προς τους επικούρειους, οι στωικοί δέχονται σε επίπεδο Θρησκείας την προσευχή και την λατρευτική πράξη, μόνο όμως όταν το περιεχόμενό τους βρίσκεται σε συμφωνία με την Μοίρα (Σενέκας, «Naturales Quaestiones», 2. 37 και 5. 25). Η προσευχή δεν μπορεί να αλλάξει τα γεγονότα, μπορεί ωστόσο να φέρει στον άνθρωπο την ορθή πνευματική κατάσταση σε σχέση με αυτά (Μάρκος Αυρήλιος, 9. 40), ενώ ως καλύτερη μορφή λατρείας των Θεών ορίζεται η κατανόηση και μίμηση της αγαθότητάς τους (Σενέκας, «Επιστ.» 95. 47 – 50).
Τέλος, όπως και στον Επικουρισμό, η πιθανότητα προσωπικής αθανασίας (με εξαίρεση την θέση του Ποσειδωνίου, της Μέσης Στοάς) απορρίπτεται.
Stoicism (Greek Στωικισμός) is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC. The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of “moral and intellectual perfection”, would not suffer such emotions.
Stoics were concerned with the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will(called prohairesis) that is in accord with nature. Because of this, the Stoics presented their philosophy as a way of life, and they thought that the best indication of an individual’s philosophy was not what a person said but how he behaved.
Later Stoics, such as Seneca and Epictetus, emphasized that because “virtue is sufficient for happiness”, a sage was immune to misfortune. This belief is similar to the meaning of the phrase “stoic calm”, though the phrase does not include the “radical ethical” Stoic views that only a sage can be considered truly free, and that all moral corruptions are equally vicious.
From its founding, Stoic doctrine was popular with a following throughout Greece and the Roman Empire, including the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, until the closing of all philosophy schools in AD 529 by order of the Emperor Justinian I, who perceived their pagan character as being at odds with the Christian faith.
The Stoics believed that knowledge can be attained through the use of reason. Truth can be distinguished from fallacy; even if, in practice, only an approximation can be made. According to the Stoics, the senses constantly receive sensations: pulsations that pass from objects through the senses to the mind, where they leave an impression in the imagination (phantasia). (An impression arising from the mind was called a phantasma.)
The mind has the ability to judge (sunkatathesis)—approve or reject—an impression, enabling it to distinguish a true representation of reality from one that is false. Some impressions can be assented to immediately, but others can only achieve varying degrees of hesitant approval, which can be labeled belief or opinion (doxa). It is only through reason that we achieve clear comprehension and conviction (katalepsis). Certain and true knowledge (episteme), achievable by the Stoic sage, can be attained only by verifying the conviction with the expertise of one’s peers and the collective judgment of humankind.
Make for yourself a definition or description of the thing which is presented to you, so as to see distinctly what kind of a thing it is in its substance, in its nudity, in its complete entirety, and tell yourself its proper name, and the names of the things of which it has been compounded, and into which it will be resolved. For nothing is so productive of elevation of mind as to be able to examine methodically and truly every object that is presented to you in life, and always to look at things so as to see at the same time what kind of universe this is, and what kind of use everything performs in it, and what value everything has with reference to the whole.
—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, iii. 11.
The ancient Stoics are often misunderstood because the terms they used pertained to different concepts in the past than they do today. The word ‘stoic’ has come to mean ‘unemotional’ or indifferent to pain, because Stoic ethics taught freedom from ‘passion’ by following ‘reason.’ The Stoics did not seek to extinguish emotions; rather, they sought to transform them by a resolute ‘askēsis‘ that enables a person to develop clear judgment and inner calm. Logic, reflection, and concentration were the methods of such self-discipline.
Borrowing from the Cynics, the foundation of Stoic ethics is that good lies in the state of the soul itself; in wisdom and self-control. Stoic ethics stressed the rule: “Follow where reason leads.” One must therefore strive to be free of the passions, bearing in mind that the ancient meaning of ‘passion’ was “anguish” or “suffering”, that is, “passively” reacting to external events—somewhat different from the modern use of the word. A distinction was made between pathos (plural pathe) which is normally translated as passion, propathos or instinctive reaction (e.g., turning pale and trembling when confronted by physical danger) and eupathos, which is the mark of the Stoic sage (sophos). The eupatheia are feelings that result from correct judgment in the same way as passions result from incorrect judgment.
The idea was to be free of suffering through apatheia (Greek: ἀπάθεια) or peace of mind (literally, ‘without passion’), where peace of mind was understood in the ancient sense—being objectiveor having “clear judgment” and the maintenance of equanimity in the face of life’s highs and lows.
For the Stoics, ‘reason‘ meant not only using logic, but also understanding the processes of nature—the logos, or universal reason, inherent in all things. Living according to reason and virtue, they held, is to live in harmony with the divine order of the universe, in recognition of the common reason and essential value of all people. The four cardinal virtues of the Stoic philosophy are wisdom(Sophia), courage (Andreia), justice (Dikaiosyne), and temperance (Sophrosyne), a classification derived from the teachings of Plato.
Following Socrates, the Stoics held that unhappiness and evil are the results of human ignorance of the reason in nature. If someone is unkind, it is because they are unaware of their own universal reason, which leads to the conclusion of kindness. The solution to evil and unhappiness then, is the practice of Stoic philosophy—to examine one’s own judgments and behavior and determine where they diverge from the universal reason of nature.
The Stoics accepted that suicide was permissible for the wise person in circumstances that might prevent them from living a virtuous life. Plutarch held that accepting life under tyranny would have compromised Cato‘s self-consistency (constantia) as a Stoic and impaired his freedom to make the honorable moral choices. Suicide could be justified if one fell victim to severe pain or disease, but otherwise suicide would usually be seen as a rejection of one’s social duty.
In philosophical terms, things that are indifferent are outside the application of moral law, that is without tendency to either promote or obstruct moral ends. Actions neither required nor forbidden by the moral law, or that do not affect morality, are called morally indifferent. The doctrine of things indifferent (ἀδιάφορα, adiaphora) arose in the Stoic school as a corollary of its diametric opposition of virtue and vice (καθήκοντα kathekon and ἁμαρτήματα hamartemata, respectively “convenient actions,” or actions in accordance with nature, and mistakes). As a result of thisdichotomy, a large class of objects were left unassigned and thus regarded as indifferent.
Eventually three sub-classes of “things indifferent” developed: things to prefer because they assist life according to nature; things to avoid because they hinder it; and things indifferent in the narrower sense.
The principle of adiaphora was also common to the Cynics and Sceptics. The conception of things indifferent is, according to Kant, extra-moral. The doctrine of things indifferent was revived during the Renaissance by Philip Melanchthon.
Philosophy for a Stoic is not just a set of beliefs or ethical claims, it is a way of life involving constant practice and training (or askesis, see asceticism). Stoic philosophical and spiritual practices included logic, Socratic dialog and self-dialog, contemplation of death, training attention to remain in the present moment (similar to some forms of Eastern meditation), and daily reflection on everyday problems and possible solutions. Philosophy for a Stoic is an active process of constant practice and self-reminder.
In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius defines several such practices. For example, in Book II, part 1:
Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill… I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together…
Prior to Aurelius, Epictetus in his Discourses distinguished between three topoi: judgment, desire and inclination. According to French philosopherPierre Hadot, Epictetus identifies these three acts with logic, physics and ethics respectively. Hadot writes that in the Meditations “Each maxim develops either one of these very characteristic topoi, or two of them or three of them.”
The practices of spiritual exercises have been described as influencing those of reflective practice by Seamus Mac Suibhne . Parallels between Stoic spiritual exercises and modern cognitive-behavioral therapy have been detailed at length in Robertson’s The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
A distinctive feature of Stoicism is its cosmopolitanism: All people are manifestations of the one universal spirit and should, according to the Stoics, live in brotherly love and readily help one another. In the Discourses, Epictetus comments on man’s relationship with the world: “Each human being is primarily a citizen of his own commonwealth; but he is also a member of the great city of gods and men, where of the city political is only a copy.” This sentiment echoes that of Diogenes of Sinope, who said “I am not an Athenian or a Corinthian, but a citizen of the world.”
They held that external differences such as rank and wealth are of no importance in social relationships. Instead they advocated the brotherhood of humanity and the natural equality of all human beings. Stoicism became the most influential school of the Greco–Roman world, and produced a number of remarkable writers and personalities, such as Cato the Younger and Epictetus.
In particular, they were noted for their urging of clemency toward slaves. Seneca exhorted, “Kindly remember that he whom you call your slave sprang from the same stock, is smiled upon by the same skies, and on equal terms with yourself breathes, lives, and dies.”
The major difference between the two philosophies is Stoicism’s pantheism, in which God is never fully transcendent but always immanent. God as the world-creating entity is personalized in Christian thought, but Stoicism equates God with the totality of the universe, which was deeply contrary to Christianity. Also, Stoicism, unlike Christianity, does not posit a beginning or end to the universe, nor does it assert that the individual continues to exist beyond death.
Stoicism was later regarded by the Fathers of the Church as a ‘pagan philosophy’; nonetheless, some of the central philosophical concepts of Stoicism were employed by the early Christian writers. Examples include the terms “logos“, “virtue”, “Spirit”, and “conscience”. But the parallels go well beyond the sharing and borrowing of terminology. Both Stoicism and Christianity assert an inner freedom in the face of the external world, a belief in human kinship with Nature or God, a sense of the innate depravity—or “persistent evil”—of humankind, and the futility and temporarity of worldly possessions and attachments. Both encourage Ascesis with respect to the passions and inferior emotions such as lust, envy and anger, so that the higher possibilities of one’s humanity can be awakened and developed.
Stoic writings such as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius have been highly regarded by many Christians throughout the centuries. The Stoic ideal of dispassion is accepted to this day as the perfect moral state by the Eastern Orthodox. St. Ambrose of Milan was known for applying Stoic philosophy to his theology.