Stoicism - Philosophy and "Religion"

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Stoicism - Philosophy and "Religion"

Postby Appius Iunius Seneca » Mon Mar 27, 2017 7:25 pm


As a practitoner of Stoicism I always have a "problem" to understand people who practice Stoicism but in the same time they claim to be atheists etc. From my humbel understanding it is clear that believe in Gods and in Logos are natural and essential part of Stoicism. We can see it in the texts of ancient Stoics.
This is very interesting website which presents this topic in good way: ... he-stoics/

It seems to me that in current time - the "instant one" and "selective one" - people very often take only a part of the things which they like - this is about philosophy or spirituality as well.
Then what they practice it is not more the same thing or the same ideas which were in the origin of it.
Maybe this is the reason why our current world and style of life is not more so deep - it is because we miss the essence of it - the spiritual part of Romanitas - the Faith in Gods.

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Re: Stoicism - Philosophy and "Religion"

Postby Appius Claudius Tuscus » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:02 am

Salve, Iunii Laterensii - atque omnes -

My friend, nice to see your post here!

Can I put in a word or two for the Atheists? As you know, I am an adherent of Stoicism, too, but to be honest I am heterodox, for I cannot simply adhere to the ancient practices without regard to my own knowledge, experience, and understanding. Reason, the divine gift, tends to make Divinity suspect - and so it should be in a philosophical domain.

My own thought is that human knowledge is, after all, merely human. It is limited. We may be a part of the Universal Intelligence, but we are not ourselves Gods. (So often the more headstrong among us forget that.) So while the Whole of the Universe can be imagined and mentally constructed, it cannot be directly and comprehensively known. We perceive things via impressions received from the senses; this leaves us (a) open to misapprehensions, and (b) dependent upon fact-gathering and logical constructions for expanding our sphere of knowledge. For Stoics (as I understand Stoicism) this means that God himself, Universal Nature, is apprehended only partially, both by logical extension of facts and by our own nature as human beings (our preconception of God or the Gods or the Numinous).

In a word, no one has a lock on God. The subject is not settled and never will be. I will argue for two Gods, myself: Universal Nature, on the one hand - Cause and Effect, Time and Motion, the Dynamism at the base of things, Life; and then the organizing factor as it presents itself in us, id est, Human Nature, which is to say Human Reason, weak as it may be.

I would argue that ultimately the Stoic notion is correct - there is a reality, and that it is Universal Nature: but again I cannot prove that or directly apprehend it - and so I must be content with trying to apprehend it, or at least trying to map it out as well as I can. And "as well as I can" involves my human and individual limitations - as it does for the whole of humankind.

Beyond this I will argue that the only honest response to the question of Divinity is Agnosticism - that we don't know for sure, but that, as people, we certainly seem to look for God or the Gods everywhere. Reason makes us a pattern-seeking species.

Given this, it is perhaps not surprising that some Stoics, intent upon the observable and the Rational, cannot reconcile a violent and cruel world with ideas of Universal Reason and Divine Providence. And I think that other Stoics, still learning, may be essentially reacting still against the self-contradictory God presented in the Abrahamic faiths. In both cases I would argue that they are, at root, less Atheists than Agnostics, and perhaps a bit "half-baked" in their assertions.

As to vocal and arrogant Atheists: People who vehemently declare themselves Atheists are often being reactive, over-asserting their Atheism as a protest against religious bigotry they have experienced. The joke to me is that the more extreme Atheists often live their lives passionately attached to anti-Religiosity, and so fall prey (as humans do) to a Passion; they become, in a sense, dependent on the very religions they criticize, deriving their identity from their opposition to them.

While the question of Divinity divides modern Stoics, still - as I hope - Stoicism's philosophical nature should allow both groups to follow Reason, despite disagreeing on this or that point.

Optime vale!

And one thing further: Chris Fisher, whose website you cite, was one of my teachers and in my opinion he's a fine example of a thoughtful and scrupulous modern Stoic. The website is quite worthwhile.
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Re: Stoicism - Philosophy and "Religion"

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:02 pm

Salvete amici!

I do not quite understand what people mean, when they use the word "god" in singular and it seems they do not know it themselves.
For the Stoics pantheism is essential to their system of virtues. Without the assumption that all beings are part of one higher entity, the whole system of virtues can logically not work.
This part of Stoicism is an aspect I fail to understand. In a way pantheism is similar to monotheism. However the statement "God is everything." cannot be logically distinguished from its negation, so it is meaningless (There would be nothing that god is not, which makes the word pointless, since words are used to distinguish things from something else.). I am suprised that the Stoics who put such an emphasis on logic (They actually invented propositional logic.), did not realize this logical flaw.

I follow the Stoic practice in trying to suppress useless emotions and to gain apatheia, but I cannot make sense of their underlying theory (They also believed earth, water, air and fire to be the elements of the world, fire being the most important of them.). Here I prefer to follow Epicurus who had a more reasonable approach.

Stoicism is a philosophy, not a religion, but many modern religions have ventured into philosophy and are more than just religions. This makes the distinction so difficult. The nature of the gods and the forms of their worship is not subject to Stoicism.

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