What is the Stoic Ethics? The Stoics’ EthicsJuly 1, 2021
The Stoic school of philosophy is a school of philosophy founded by Zenon of Cyprus. This school of philosophy was in an influential position in Rome together with philosophers such as Epiktetus and Marcus Aurelius who were followers of the school and played an extremely active role in the intellectual field during their time.
The Stoic school, which influenced Christian philosophy with its ideas in the field of moral philosophy, asserts that nature has a functioning within its own laws. Man is also a part of nature that is in the domain of this process.
According to the Stoic view, man does not have the power to change events that occur outside himself. However, man, who cannot be free in the face of nature, has the freedom and ability to choose the good despite this restriction. According to the Stoic understanding, reaching happiness can be achieved by choosing the good, based on the freedom of the human being to choose the good. The things that will be called good in human life will be virtue-laden behaviors that will be shaped depending on virtue and virtue. From this point of view, what is defined as bad is any behavior that does not contain virtue.
Stoic thought does not discriminate people. According to them, lower-upper class people, rich-poor people, etc. There cannot be any form of inequality between people. The best example showing that there is no such distinction in the Stoic dream is the presence of an emperor philosopher such as Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor in AD 161-180) and a slave philosopher such as Epictetus within the Stoic school. Especially this idea of equality and non-exclusivity of Stoicism seriously affected the Christian belief.
The Stoics’ morals are inseparable from their view of being, which corresponds to a synthesis of ideas from earlier philosophers.
Stoic philosophers, as a result of their teleological approach to the universe, considered the world as a rational system organized according to a purpose, as a beautiful whole in which all beings contribute to its well-being.
They demanded that the universe be viewed as a single living organism, a rational whole. That is why they concluded that the human being, who is a part of this whole, should act in accordance with the purpose of the whole and seek ways to reach the highest perfection.
In this effort of man, according to the Stoics, he had to act in accordance with nature, that is, to arrange his own soul in accordance with the order in nature, and to come under the control of reason, similar to the way nature is governed by logos or universal mind, and put his will under the control of reason.
Subjecting his own mind to the universal mind means living in accordance with reason, being virtuous and living in accordance with nature for a person who has to take his place in the great order. According to this, happiness, which is the purpose of life, consists of virtue, that is, natural life, living in accordance with nature, the harmony of human action with natural law, the conformity of man’s will to God’s will. For Stoics, life in accordance with nature is life in accordance with the active principle in nature and the logos, in which the human spirit also takes a share.
Virtue, according to the Stoic ethical understanding, is the only good because only what is in accordance with nature is good, and for human beings it is the action that is in accordance with nature and reasonable. The most important virtue for man is wisdom. Wisdom, on the other hand, is achieved by man’s seeing himself as an inseparable part of nature and keeping up with the course of nature.
Since man cannot separate himself from the course of the world, the best thing to do is to embrace the way the world is going; It is to accept everything that happens as necessary and beneficial with full reliance. As a matter of fact, Marcus Aurelius said, “Your happiness depends on your thoughts”; Epictetus, a later freed slave, said, “People are disturbed not by events, but by their thoughts about them.”
Indeed, attempting to interfere with the flow of nature and trying to change some results is not only futile, but also wrong and leads to unhappiness. But if man submits to the natural order and accepts the course of the world as it is, he saves himself from unnecessary troubles and anxieties.
Wisdom learns to wholeheartedly approve of everything that happens, so that she can be free in the face of pain and frustration, as well as pleasure and passion.
In other words, what needs to be done is to gain independence in the face of irrational or irrational emotions and passions, which are the source of instability and imbalance for man. The way to this independence is through wisdom.
If a person can free himself from these negative feelings or reach the state of apathy that the Stoics call apathia, he can attain the calmness, peace and happiness that are peculiar to the wise man. For only the wise man can know what his role is. In other words, the situation of man in a rationally organized universe imposes certain duties on man, according to the Stoics, forcing him to choose what is morally and objectively good.