Therapy of Desire: Epicureans & Stoics on the good life

Therapy of Desire: Epicureans & Stoics on the good life
[dated from 323 A.D. & the death of Alexander the Great – the Hellenistic Tradition which arose post-Aristotle*]
– they saw philosophy as therapy & that philosophers were healers of people [this first arose in the writing of Plato]
– they established the connection between therapy & truth
– philosophy treated the destructive passions such as fear, anger, shame
– they noted that the destructiveness of such passions was based on false belief(s)

1 – the Epicurean School was founded by Epicureas
– his philosophic community outside of Athens was known as “The Garden”
– a lot of his views are known to us through the Roman poet, Lucretius

2 – the most popular school was the Stoic School
– founded by Xeno
– Kricipus was the 3rd head of the school & was most influential philosophically
– their writings are mostly lost, so we know most about the school through the Romans, including Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, & Cicero (not a Stoic)
– anger was their major focus
– attachments to something outside yourself, then events to these external things can make you anxious, fearful, feel out of control & ultimately anger – they therefore advocated intense personal investment in things outside of your personal control – to avoid all the bad ways life can strike you when you love somebody
[where is the care of the self? The importance of personal love?]
[Adam Smith believed they had gone too far when they eschewed attachment to the family]

3 – the Sceptic School
– through doubts on the other philosophies
– no beliefs at all
– little influence in Rome, but considerable influence during the Renaissance
– they believed that what got people into trouble was that they had definite views about how things “should” be

Emotions, as espoused by the Epicureans & the Stoic, have influenced modern philosophy
– both schools analysed what emotions are
– including how emotions are attached to judgments of value (that they are not just mindless surges, but involves thinking, & what you think matters to you)
– for e.g. The reason you feel grief when someone dies is that you have invested that person with a great sense of importance) [the Stoics]
– the Epicureans realised that people have non-conscious emotions which drives a person in ways that they are not always conscious of, & that this can continue through the whole fabric of their life – and that such emotions were often linked to irrational beliefs which needed to be made conscious & examined
– this included death was a motivating factor in our life [note how Freudian this is]
– they also came up with another Freudian idea – repression – that it is too uncomfortable to live with a fear so a person drives it underground, deep into the unconscious

– both schools liked Plato, & the Stoics liked the philosophy of Socrates
– Aristotle was seen as too moderate by the Stoics – Aristotle believed anger was ok, in balance

Source: The Philosophers Zone | Podcast date: 01.07.2012

* note: most of his work have been lost


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