CERP: Day 23 – Diogenes Ep. 23-27

Standard

XXIII. To Lacydes, greetings (p. 117)
Ha!  I enjoyed both of Diogenes’ barbs.  One, that while Alexander may be King of the Macedonians, he is no king of Diogenes.  And two, that it is just as far to travel from A to B, as B to A, and therefore, since Alexander is not a King over Diogenes, since it is Alexander that desires the meeting, he can very well trundle himself to Athens for the meeting.

XXIV. To Alexander, greetings (p. 117)
Okay, so I did a little reading, and Hephaestion was the boyhood friend of Alexander.  Their friendship was maintained through adolescences and adulthood, even after Alexander became King.  It was reckoned like one of the great friendships of the sagas, that they were like “one soul in two bodies.”  The only evidence they may have been lovers is this one letter, which many historians discount.

Maybe, then, this is like Diogenes being beaten by Antisthenes’ club?  A test to see if he’s worthy of the teaching?  That’s speculation on my part.

XXV. To Hippon (p. 117)
The question here is about death and burial.  Diogenes main point is that worrying over virtue in life is enough of an occupation.

XXVI. To Crates (p. 119)
This made me chuckle.  The Cynic uniform is the mantle of Heracles!  Wear them proudly, defiantly.  By the by, hook a brother up with some beans?  Hahahaha!

XXVII. To Aniceres, greetings (p. 119)
Generally, the Spartans are well spoken of by the Cynics and Stoics.  Diogenes has a cautionary message here, that their external strength has set them up for moral decay.  There’s a poignant message for the west.


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

SLRP: LII. On Choosing Our Teachers (Part 1: 1 – 8a)

Standard

Seneca,

You have noted three classes of men:

  1. Those who achieved wisdom by themselves.
  2. Those who require a teacher to achieve wisdom, and want it.
  3. Those who can achieve wisdom but must be driven towards it by another.

All three of these, you say, Epicurus praises.  I vaguely recall there being three divisions in Buddhism of people who are in one of several states of progress, but it’s not really my wheelhouse, and I can’t recall them specifically.

The thing I take from this letter, is that it should be okay for us to need, ask for, and receive help in our learning and our progress.  Chance are *very* high that we’re not the first class of folks above.

Farewell.


Part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Seneca’s Letters.

CERP: Day 22 – Diogenes Ep.19-22

Standard

XIX. To Anaxilaus the wise, greetings (p. 113)
Ah, Ps-Diogenes clothes himself, as it were, in the Kingly majesty of the Cynic uniform!  Interesting parallels, here.

XX. To Melesippus, greetings (p. 113)
It’s no shame, then, to be beaten by many.  The shame is in being one who would do such a beating.  Not only is this shameful for the individuals involved, it seems to reflect poorly on the whole city-state.

XXI. To Amynander, greetings (p. 115)
This is surely a defacing of the nomos, then.  The relationship of family is ubiquitous.  Musonius, for the Stoics, lays a large amount at the feet of filial duty.  Ps-Diogenes casts even this aside.  This, then, might be one of the stronger positions I’ve seen taken.

XXII. To Agesilaus, greetings (p. 115)
Hmm.  An interesting piece.  A bit of a Stoic memento mori, yet also an appreciation for it despite the uncertainty.  It seems to me that ever letter that reference the gods has a more Stoic tinge than Cynic.

 


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

SLRP: LI. On Baiae And Morals

Standard

Seneca,

Whew.  There’s a lot here.  I’ve never been to Baiae, but I have spent some time on an Adriatic island called Olib.  That sort of Mediterranean island life certainly is pleasant.  Time moves differently in place like that.

You mention that a wise man might choose to wear certain colors, as befits the simple life.  That reminds me of Cato (IIRC), choosing to wear the darkest dyed fabric he could find when light purple and red were the fashion.

EDIT:  Found it.

“And in general Cato esteemed the customs and manners of men at that time so corrupt, and a reformation in them so necessary, that he thought it requisite, in many things, to go contrary to the ordinary way of the world. Seeing the lightest and gayest purple was then most in fashion, he would always wear that which was the nearest black; and he would often go out of doors, after his morning meal, without either shoes or tunic; not that he sought vain-glory from such novelties, but he would accustom himself to be ashamed only of what deserves shame, and to despise all other sorts of disgrace.”

http://classics.mit.edu/Plutarch/cato_you.html

The fact that these material things, such as the place we live, the colors we might adorn ourselves, the furnishing of our homes, etc., are all indifferents might seem confusing to some.  That these material things themselves are indifferents is not questioned; but how we handle them most certainly is not.

Thank you for the letter.

Farewell.


Part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Seneca’s Letters.

“Doing” philosophy: orthodoxy implies orthopraxy.

Standard

If we’re discussing the tenets of Stoicism we can bring up a variety of topics.  Katalepsis (Gr: κατάληψις) separates the Stoics from the several stripes of Skeptics.  That virtue is the only good separates the Stoics from the Epicureans.  That some indifferents might be rightly preferred by their utility to virtue separates the Stoics from the earlier Cynics.  That only those things exist which have a body and extend in three dimensions separates the Stoics from the Platonists.

We can continue on, building a list of doctrinal positions which allow us with some certainty to say, “these are Stoics positions, and these are not.”

These positions, however, are not mere brain candy.  They are not something merely to mull over as a hobby.  If you read the Stoics, and then go about your life unchanged, you’re like a person who has gone to the doctor and disregarded the advice.  You stand in front of a mirror, and ignore what it tells you about yourself.

That is not philosophy.

If there are “right beliefs” of Stoicism, a Stoic orthodoxy, and Stoicism is a philosophy as a way of life, then the implication is that there is also an orthopraxy, or “right actions.”

We can look at Epictetus’ three topoi, and see Disciplines of Assent, Desire, and Action.  Action then is in part practicing the two others.  It means actually doing things.  Things motivated by virtue.

While material things are clearly indifferents, how we handle them certainly is not.

Musonius lays out clear positions for those training to be philosophers.  It’s explicit, and there’s no twisting out from under it saying “it’s a metaphor.”  He says, “do this, don’t do that.”

If we assent to correct Stoic positions on doctrine, we must then also look at the positions on action.  Many modern Stoics set aside the ‘doing,’ however this is inappropriate.  Rather than seeing what must be pared away from the philosophy to make it palatable for the modern person; we should instead see how much we can keep.

That may mean taking certain doctrines and positions for a test a drive, giving the ancients the benefit of the doubt, but testing it with our own reason.  But this, then, is philosophy.

When we actually are doing the things suggested (or maybe discarding the ones after a full examination), we’re putting the doctrine into practice.

CERP: Day 21 – Diogenes Ep. 13-18

Standard

XIII. To Apolexis, greetings (p. 107)
A reminder that there is always still more to learn, and the great mounds of things we once knew for true but now know to be false is no shame, as long as we’re moving towards truth.

XIV. To Antipater, greetings (p. 109)
Paraphrase:  Antipater, you’ve missed the point.  Duh.  Hugs and kisses, Ps-Diogenes.

XV. To Antipater, greetings (p. 109)
“[One] should demonstrate that the spoken claims conform to the way of life.”  Practice what you preach!

XVI. To Apolexis, greetings (p. 109)
I think this is the first reference to Diogenes jug/jar/barrel we’ve come across.  Inspired by even the snails.

XVII. To Antalcides, greetings (p. 111)
“For while I was present you exhibited nothing worthy of
esteem…”  Ouch.  Basically, “put up or shut up.”

XVIII. To Apolexis, greetings (p. 111)
“The Megarian youths appealed to me to introduce Menodorus
the philosopher to you, a very ridiculous introduction, for you will know that he is a man from his portraits, and from his life and words whether he is also a philosopher. For, in my opinion, the sage provides his own introduction.”

Interesting.  Apparently Menodorus is also called Menas, and might have once been a pirate.

 


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.