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Introduction to this collection
Welcome to all guests and followers of my Google+ Collection "Socrates and the Stoics"!

As a general rule this is a one-posts-a-day collection.

What's it all about?
The focus of the collection is the ancient Greek and Roman philosophy of happiness (eudaimonia) which was the most widespread philosophical tradition in the Western world from when it was first extensively introduced in the philosophical dialogues of Plato in Athens in the fourth century BC all the way up to the writings of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the late second century CE. In other words, a period of more than five hundred years. Since the core concepts and questions in this tradition was defined by the Socrates we meet in Plato's dialogues - and since all the following thinkers in the tradition saw themselves as followers of Socrates - it seems to be both fair and informative to call it the Socratic tradition.

So why do I focus almost exclusively on Stoicism rather than, say, Aristotle or Epicurus - or simply on Socrates?
Because I think Stoicism is the most advanced and well-argued version of the Socratic philosophy of happiness.

But why, then, do I focus almost exclusively on the Roman Stoic Seneca and not on, say, Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius?
Here are parts of the answer:

"Seneca remains, for us today no less than for the revivers of Stoicism in the sixteenth century, our best representative of ancient Stoicism. In his case as in few others we have the luxury of reading, with their full contexts, whole works of philosophy by a Stoic. He is still an excellent, indeed indispensable, source for those who may wish to learn about, and learn from, Stoicism and its outlook on life"

Seneca - Moral and Political Essays. Edited and translated by John M. Cooper and J. F. Procopé, Cambridge University Press, 1995, location 446

"Seneca’s writings constitute the fullest surviving evidence for the Stoic view of the emotions"

David Konstan, "Senecan emotions", in "The Cambridge Companion to Seneca", ed. by Shadi Bartsch, Cambridge University Press, 2015, p. 174

I think of Seneca's writings to Lucilius - his letters and the work "On Natural Questions" - as one very comprehensive introduction to Stoicism and I am currently mostly focusing on the letters in this collection. I highly recommend the very recent (2015) complete translation of the letters done by Margaret Graver and A. A. Long for Chicago University Press.

Does all this mean that I believe that Seneca is right about everything?
The answer is no :-) I don't even think it is enough to read Seneca to get a full picture of Stoicism. Cicero is extremely important as well - both as a source for orthodox Stoicism and as a very intelligent writer thinking about Stoicism.

The other sources for Greek Stoicism are extremely important as well. I highly recommend Brad Inwood's collection of sources for early Stoicism, "The Stoics Reader". It's a very comprehensive selection of texts with great comments and notes.

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Write comments that adds value to the discussion. Examples could be: good questions, valid critique, interesting perspectives from other schools of thought, from your own life or from the contemporary debate.

Comments which I think don't add value to the community of people following this collection will almost certainly be deleted without further explanation.

Thank you for your interest!

Best wishes

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I'm currently trying to get a better understanding of the philosophy of Epicurus and highly recommend this excellent selection of sources.

"Athens of glorious name in former days
First brought corn-bearing crops to suffering mortals,
Brought them new life, established laws for them
And Athens first sweet solace gave to life
When she brought forth a man of genius
Who from his lips revealed the truth of things.
His glory, though he be dead, from ancient times
For his divine discoveries so far renowned,
Is even now exalted to the skies.

For when he saw that nearly all those things
Which need demands for living were enjoyed
By mortal men, their life established safe
So far as might be, and when he saw them flourish
With all that wealth and praise and honour bring,
And glorying in the fair fame of their sons,
And saw no less that deep in every home
Were aching hearts and torments of the mind
All hapless, self-inflicted without pause,
And sorrows breeding furious laments,
He understood then that the vessel itself
Produced the flaw, and by this flaw corrupted
All that came into it however lovely.
He saw that it must leak, being riddled with holes,
And so could not by any means be filled.
He saw that, as it were with a noisome flavour,
It tainted everything that entered it.
Therefore with words of truth he purged men's hearts
And set a, limit to desire and fear.
He showed the nature of that highest good
For which all mankind strives, and showed the way,
The strait and narrow path which leads to it
If we go forward with unswerving steps.
He showed the evil in the lives of men
Flying far and wide, caused either by natural chance
Or else by force, as nature so ordained.
He showed the sally-ports within the walls
From which each different attack could best be met.
He proved that mankind mostly without cause Stirred up sad waves of care within their breasts.
For we, like children frightened of the dark,
Are some times frightened in the light of things
No more to be feared than fears that in the dark
Distress a child, thinking they may come true.
Therefore this terror and darkness of the mind
Not by the sun's rays, nor the bright shafts of day
Must be dispersed, as is most necessary,
But by the face of nature and her laws."

- Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe, book VI, line 1-39.

Epicurus on the importance of grasping the laws of nature

"the worst disturbance occurs in human souls [1] because of the opinion that these things [the heavenly phenomena] are blessed and indestructible and that they have wishes and undertake actions and exert causality in a manner inconsistent with those attributes, and [2] because of the eternal expectation and suspicion that something dreadful [might happen] such as the myths tell about, or [3] even because they fear that very lack of sense-perception which occurs in death, as though it were relevant to them, and [4] because they are not in this state as a result of their opinions but because of some irrational condition; hence, not setting a limit on their dread, they suffer a disturbance equal to or even greater than what they would suffer if they actually held these opinions. And freedom from disturbance is a release from all of this and involves a continuous recollection of the general and most important points [of the system]. Hence, one must attend to one’s present feelings and sense-perceptions, to the common sense-perceptions for common properties and to the individual sense-perceptions for individual properties, and to every immediately clear fact as revealed by each of the criteria. For, if we attend to these things, we will give acorrect and complete causal account of the source of our disturbance and fear, and [so] dissolve them, by accounting for the causes of meteorological and other phenomena which we are constantly exposed to and which terrify other men most severely".

- Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, 81-82

"First please observe the earth and sea and sky;
These three, a threefold nature, Memmius,
Three forms so unalike, so interwoven,
One day will give to destruction; all the mass
And mighty engine of the world, upheld
For many centuries, will crash in ruin.
Nor do I fail to see how strange and new
This ruin of heaven and earth must strike the mind,
How hard it is to prove by words of mine;
As happens when some unaccustomed thing
Comes to the ears, something eyes cannot grasp
Nor hands lay hold of, hands the surest way
To bring belief to hearts and minds of men.
Yet I'll speak out. Perhaps the facts themselves
Will bring belief and in a little time
The earth with mighty movements torn apart
You will see and all the world convulsed with shocks.
This far from us may pilot fortune steer,
And reason rather than the event declare
The fearful crash that brings the world's collapse".

- Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe, book 5, 91-109

"One can attain security against other things, but when it comes to death all men live in a city without walls".

- Epicurus, Vatican sayings, 31

"He who is free from disturbance within himself also causes no trouble for another."

- Epicurus, Vatican sayings, 79

"If our suspicions about heavenly phenomena and about death did not trouble us at all and were never anything to us, and, moreover, if not knowing the limits of pains and desires did not trouble us, then we would have no need of natural science.
It is impossible for someone ignorant about the nature of the universe but still suspicious about the subjects of the myths to dissolve his feelings of fear about the most important matters. So it is impossible to receive unmixed pleasures without knowing natural science."

- Epicurus, The principal doctrines XI-XII

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One of the major sources for Epicureanism was only discovered quite recently: a massive inscription on an eighty metre long and four metre tall stone wall in Southwest Turkey - raised in the second century ad by the wealthy Epicurean philosopher Diogenes of Oenoanda.

As he says, he raised the wall

"Not least for those who are called foreigners, for they are not foreigners. For, while the various segments of the Earth give different people a different country, the whole compass of this world gives all people a single country, the entire Earth, and a single home, the world."

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Hi everyone, we're trying to beat our record for participants in Stoic Week 2017. Last year, 3,400 people took part. We've got 2,400 so far this year so anything you can do to help share the link would be much appreciated. Thanks.

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Here's an updated version of the press release from Modern Stoicism about Stoic Week, the free Stoic Week course, Stoicon 2017 and Stoicon-X events.

Please share this widely - especially with media outlets or sites you think would be interested in Stoic Week or Stoicon! Feel free to download it and post it publicly. We want to share this great free course (that's enrolling now) with everyone!
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