Modern and Ancient Stoicism

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Re: Modern and Ancient Stoicism

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:42 pm

Salvete!

Why do you then not just tell me what the correct word is instead of criticizing my choice?
I am not an English native speaker. German "verweichlicht" is translated as "effeminate" in English. In Latin effeminatio also means "softening", which is also evident in the fact that virtus is derived from vir. The use of the word virtus or "virtue" would then also be a wrong choice, which would make any discussion about Stoic philosophy really absurd.

You have also not told me what the self-denomination of the SJW movement is, since you assume that it is pejorative. In this case there must be a neutral word for it.

It is also very important to understand that a philosopher defines the words that he uses himself. He is not bound by the common use of this word. It is however necessary to define an uncommon use of a word in the text or if somebody asks If you try to enforce dictionary definitions of words, then you are a linguist, not a philosopher. In philosophy it is not permissible to criticize the use of a word, only to ask for a definition.

Furthermore you should not complain, when a thread manages to inspire some activity, even if it is controversial. I tried to get a discussion going about Seneca's letters to Lucilius without any success. Now I prefer just to read them for myself. It makes no sense to have a monologue here. Therefore be happy about the little activity that we have now and do not try to silence it.

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Re: Modern and Ancient Stoicism

Postby Publius Sextius Laevus » Sat Mar 03, 2018 6:24 pm

Salvete Lupe et Omnes

Lupe, other than your definition of "effeminate", I could not find where you had used it (or "verweichlicht") in a post before. First I must confess to have been an utter failure at German - I only passed so that the teacher would never have to see me again. That said, I would need to see the background and context of where you had used it to suggest a more accurate expression. I could not find the historical etymology of "verweichlicht", but if it is a compound word, 'ver weich licht' which google translate tells me is 'see soft light', I might suggest 'discerning, showing good judgement', however I do anticipate that it started as a slur on artistic refinement. I might consider for 'effete' - 'so tied up in intellectual theoretical development as to be unable to act'.

As far as SJW, I have no idea, 'Social Justice Activist'? unless you are referring to a beserker, then it would be SJB. {gurn emoli}

It is right that philosophers be able to use a word as they choose to define it. However it is not prudent for them to try to define a word that is especially overloaded with meanings that are not related to that which they are trying to communicate. To specifically define an overloaded word would convey an alterior meaning. This may be more the fault of the reader than the writer, but it is the writers responsibility say what they intend to say. It is your right to cross the street in a crosswalk, but if the driver is texting, you may be dead right.

So... Lupe, what English translation link did you use for Seneca's letters?

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Re: Modern and Ancient Stoicism

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Sat Mar 03, 2018 9:03 pm

Salve Laeve!

What I tried to say is that I learned German before English. So I encountered the word "effeminate" the first time as translation for "verweichlicht" (weich=soft, weichlich=softened).

And indeed this is one of the two definitions of the word as described in dictionaries.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/effeminate
Definition of effeminate
1: having feminine qualities untypical of a man : not manly in appearance or manner
2: marked by an unbecoming delicacy or overrefinement
effeminate art
an effeminate civilization

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dicti ... effeminate
effeminate in British
(ɪˈfɛmɪnɪt )
adjective
1. (of a man or boy) displaying characteristics regarded as typical of a woman; not manly
2. lacking firmness or vigour
an effeminate piece of writing


The second definition is exactly what I tried to say. So my understanding of the English language was quite adequate.

The words SJA or SJB would probably not be understood, and I doubt that the movement calls itself like this. There are other words like "Cultural-Marxist", "Post- or Anti-Modernism" or "Third-Wave Feminism", but all of them are even more overloaded with unintended meanings and mostly used by the political opponent.

Regarding Seneca's letters, I actually read them in Latin, one per day or one per week depending on my available time. If the text proves to be too difficult, I read the English translation in Wikisource.
The one I liked most so far was the fifth letter, especially the end, when he quotes Hecato about the relation between fear and hope. "Spem metus sequitur."
I have never realized this truth. But it is a neat psychological trick. You can get rid of all anxiety, by just not having any particular expectations.
Seneca finishes all his letters with a short teaching from another philosopher, sometimes even Epicurus. I found these final paragraphs mostly better than the actual letters. They often manage to compress an important teaching into a few words.

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Re: Modern and Ancient Stoicism

Postby Spurius Iuventius Catulus » Mon Mar 05, 2018 9:59 pm

Salvete omines,

The issue here is that in much of the English-speaking world, "effeminate" is also very much a coded insult, both in the sense of gender inequity, but also as an insult to men, with the specific homophobic subtext. This is not even a little bit new, to the extent that I am surprised someone English fluent has not encountered it, but I can understand why it may come as a surprise to someone who is not a native speaker. To describe something as "feminine" or "effeminate" to denote it as soft or weak (and therefore bad, as was written) is not appropriate. It is at best archaic. At worst, it perpetuates illogical and false cultural baggage that is unwelcome in this forum.

Re: "SJW," it's a perjorative coinage that stands for "Social Justice Warrior." It's meant to be an insult toward individuals who are invested in things like the equality of genders, equal rights for LGBTQ persons, dismantling systemic racism, etc. It is explicitly the language of trolls, and unworthy of this forum.

Lupus, given that you're specifically quoting from sources that decry a "feminist agenda," perhaps it might be worth taking some time to interrogate whether using such a source is worthwhile? After all, there is no logical basis for a view that the genders should be anything other than equal, nor a worthy argument that an individual's own self-determination should be curtailed because of their gender or sex.
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Re: Modern and Ancient Stoicism

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Tue Mar 06, 2018 12:08 pm

Salve Catule!

Recte dicis, precise language is very important in philosophy.
But I still have not been told what the neutral word for SJW is. I actually thought this is how these people refer to themselves too. Surely I cannot always write a whole relative clause "individuals who are invested in things like the equality of genders, equal rights for LGBTQ persons, dismantling systemic racism, etc", which would also entail several invalid presuppositions.

What about the word virtus (virtue)? This clearly refers to men (vir = man) and had "manliness" as original meaning. Accordingly we should not be allowed to talk about virtue in this forum either.
Or maybe we should just accept language as it is without over-interpreting the etymology.

The text I quoted was from the currently largest community of modern Stoicism around Donald Robertson at the Berkley University. What is said there is important, because it has the capacity to change the philosophy of Stoicism into something that it was never meant to be. It would not be wise to simply ignore it.

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Re: Modern and Ancient Stoicism

Postby Publius Sextius Laevus » Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:08 am

Salvete Omnes

My read is that Stoicism is not an instruction book on what to think, but instruction on how to develop the ability think clearly. We have have the results of this as written by a few poeple - it is their life solution not yours. If you study music composition, you may study a composer's work, but when you go to write your own work, you do not write out that composer's composition and call it your own. So to we are called to work out our own solution with what we have available to us.

Seneca said in his fifth letter 'Our motto (of the Stoic school), as you know, is "Live according to Nature"'. What is this 'Natural Law', that which some of us have been accussed of committing crimes against? We have been told they are those laws ordained by God(s) that may not be abrogated without divine retribution.

We all know that jumping of a high cliff will result in us falling to the ground and getting fatally hurt - that's 'gravity'. But now we also know if we strap into a Glider, we can fly (Icarus notwithstanding) and land safely - that's 'lift'. The underlying nature has not changed, but our understanding of physics has.

Scientific research has revealed much more than that which was thought apparent in Classical times and it has given us a revised 'Natural Law'. It is this that we should use in the development of our Stoic exploration. The concepts of sex and sexuality are still currently being explored. Although this exploration has been in progress for over a hundred years, some folks are at different stages of understanding/acceptance. Although progress has been made, it is obvious that there are stragglers and the communal binding is stretched a bit thin.

So, Lupe, if you mean 'soft' then say 'soft', but if you mean 'angsthase' then say 'fearful'. It will help get to the core of what we are trying to discern and not get caught up in an unrelated (however worthy to be posted separately) topic.

"manliness" is a nebulous term because it will mean different things to different people e.g. 'Hero', 'Able to beat the crap out of anyone in a bar fight.', 'big muscles - small brain'. Perhaps ascribed attributes e.g. 'stand behind their word', 'keep commitments' or examples of persons exhibiting a virtue. The thing is that men and women are equally capable of being virtuous. Not every individual may have the body strength of another, but these attributes are not divided along the male/female/race/gender-identity/adinfinitum designators. The attributes of 'a man' or 'a woman' no longer made to follow fixed lines.

And perhaps we can derive a few new gender neutral terms from Latin.

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Re: Modern and Ancient Stoicism

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:34 am

Salve Laeve et ceteri!

Me paenitet, sed non consentio
.
There is no necessity to change anything in our language, because politics has no authority over language. Words have a history and the original etymology may not reflect their current meaning. Stoicism is about acceptance, not getting agitated about things but simply accepting them. Our language is patriarchal due to our history, so we just accept it as such.

I notice a sort of obsession with the word "effeminate". If you closely read the text that I referred to, you will notice that the image of Stoicism as having too many "male" attributes was criticized by the author who made direct references to the gender roles. So my choice of the word "effeminate" expressed much better what the rather neutral word "soft" would have said due to its alternate meaning.

I find our conversation quite interesting. Maybe we should open another thread specifically about politics. Although these issues are quiet controversial, it is very important to talk about them. Our society has become so polarized due to the fact that people do not speak with the political opponent any more, only to people who just think like them in some kind of echo chambers. So the polarization only gets worse over time.
Unfortunately I had little opportunity so far to speak to people like Catulus from an apparently opposed political background (mostly due to their aggressive intolerance and their preference for silencing instead of talking).
If we can agree to discuss strictly on topic and not ad hominem, this might be a good opportunity to exchange different views, to listen to the other side and to inspire some much needed interest in the forum of the Collegium Philosophicum. .We only need to understand that personal attacks are useless when seeking the truth, because even if one proves that one's opponent is doing a bad job supporting his position, his position itself has not been disproved. Actually one should even help one's opponent to get his point right, if he is not as skilled in rhetoric as oneself.

It could become a very interesting discussion. But I would not like to start such a thread, if it is understood as a personal attack or an attempt to divide our community. Only if we all agree that we are sincerely interested in exchanging arguments over controversial political topics without trying to argue ad hominem, then we should do it. Such an attempt is risky, because the discussion could escalate, but could be very rewarding, if stick to the rules of logical arguments. Quid opinnamini?

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Re: Modern and Ancient Stoicism

Postby Publius Sextius Laevus » Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:31 pm

Salvete Lupe, Catule et Omnes

In Seneca's Epist. V https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Moral_letters_to_Lucilius/Letter_5 he talks about the philosopher's mean.

Can a sensitive[1] person who is refined[2] and artistically talented[3] be a stoic without loosing that artistic edge[4]?

[1] In touch with their feelings and able to express them, able to empathize, sympathize with other people and nature.
[2] Elegant and cultured in appearance, manner, or taste, discerning.
[3] Recognized as able to naturally express their ability.
[4] That indescribable something that sets them and their works apart from the others.

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Re: Modern and Ancient Stoicism

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:18 pm

Salve Laeve!

Ecce bona quaestio!
Most of the ancient Stoics would probably have answered "yes", others like M. Porcius Cato would probably have answered "no".
Some ancient Stoics have been a little bit inconsistent in their teachings, sometimes their teachings were self-contradicting, sometimes their deeds contradicted their teachings.
In this letter V Seneca defends himself against the criticism by other contemporary Stoics regarding his wealth. Due to his relation to Nero he had become one of the wealthiest men of his time. So he felt that he had to justify himself in this letter.

But this was not the actual question. The question is about art, fashion and style.
If we want to be consistent, then all items we use and the way we dress have to be properly in order, but in no way fancy. Or as Seneca put it: " Non splendeat toga, ne sordeat quidem; non habeamus argentum in quod solidi auri caelatura descenderit, sed non putemus frugalitatis indicium auro argentoque caruisse."

Good Stoics would make bad artists, because the essence of art is beyond reason and rational judgement. Over-refinement beyond utility is contrary to reason. An artist is all the time occupied listening to his emotions about things, a Stoic intends to ignore them.

Whether or not there is in fact any essence in art, which cannot be rationally understood, is even questionable, considering that there is no agreement about what is art and what is not. Craftsmanship and the accurate depiction of nature (Naturalism) are the only things that can be objectively judged.

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Re: Modern and Ancient Stoicism

Postby Publius Sextius Laevus » Mon Mar 12, 2018 3:22 am

Salvete Lupe, Catule et Omnes

Lupe, perhaps there are many ways to be a stoic. Though if your edge in art is your unhappyness, finding release from that, would alter that basis, but even that shift might open up new creativity.

At the end of Seneca's Epist. II, https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Moral_letters_to_Lucilius/Letter_2, he states "Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth? It is, first, to have what is necessary, and, second, to have what is enough." And as you pointed out in Seneca's Epist. V https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Moral_letters_to_Lucilius/Letter_5 "Do not wear too fine, nor yet too frowzy, a toga." (Or as Diogenes the Cynic... no toga :oops: )

1. Is then 'necessary' and 'enough' relative to your environment and time in history?
2. When do you 'fit in' to lead your peers by example and when do you deliberately 'stand apart' to shake things up or to live your life in the now?
3. How wide and deep is your environment?
4. Where to find the place to live in tune with 'nature' or transcend 'nature'?
5. How are we to place 'our true nature' in 'nature'?

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