“Liberty is lost unless we despise those things which put the yoke on our necks.”
My conception of freedom has changed significantly in the last half decade. I read a quote by Frank Herbert, author of Dune, and it goes something like “Seek freedom and become capitve of your desires. Seek self-discipline and find your liberty.”
I didn’t understand that as a teenager, but I’m beginning to.
The brave man is fearless because he recognizes the things to which he may be subjected are not true evils. Vice is slavery, and the yoke it places on us is heavy indeed.
ἄσκησις has been colored by the Christian interpretation, and by the mortifiers of the flesh of India. But the Hellenistic sense is far different. The goal of both Christian and Indian asceticism is a denial of the self, a stripping away until nothing is left but an experience of the divine.
Frank Herbert seems like he may have understood the Hellenistic sense. We train not to deny the self, but to secure it.
I see mentioned often “the ego is clearly bad, what does Stoicism have to say about this?” in the groups. Of course never defining the term.
Epictetus shows something that most like a Cartesian dualism, referring to “a little body,” “scrap of flesh,” “corpse bearing a soul,” etc. While the Ancients seemed to have some disagreement on the import of the body, they surely did not adopt a “no-self” perspective.
Epictetus effectively identifies the self with the προαίρεσις. To abandon that would be to deny what makes us human, it would be a gross impiety. So it is a categorical mistake to see Stoic training as destroying their self.
Thank you for the letter. Until next week…