Explanation and Analysis of Stoic Philosophy
Stoicism is, without a doubt, one of the most widely misunderstood schools of Philosophy ever established and followed by a wide number of people. The common opinion of Stoic adherents is that they are merely cold, somber individuals dedicated to the idea that happiness is evil, emotion is to be avoided at all costs and pleasure is wicked. Although they do stress control over strong emotions and that pleasure is not the sole end of life, this is a gross misunderstanding of Stoicism. According to Dr. Zeno Breuninger, "Stoics believe a person is born with everything he needs." The Stoic seeks to ...view middle of the document...
Where Aristotle would say, "All humans are mortal," the Stoics would phrase it "If some person is human then that person is mortal"(Fieser). This method, later developed by modern logicians such as Bertrand Russell, is the logic of propositions, where a statement is true if it can be reduced to one of the five in demonstrable forms of the If-Then statement, and is considered one of the greatest Stoic contributions(Stanford;Ecole).
In the realm of Metaphysics, Stoics were essentially materialists(Ecole). They adopted from Plato the idea that reality is marked by the ability to act or be acted upon. To this they added that only a body can do this. "Thus, only bodies exist"(Stanford). God must, then, be material. The Stoic vision of God is as a Cosmic order, also referred to as Reason, Logos, and a Creative Fire(Ecole). The Stoic God is, then, Pantheistic, one with the universe. Matter is inert, there to be acted upon by this universal plan. This plan is crafted from the inside, and God acts not as external deity but as a living seed from which the universal order is grown(Stanford).
The Stoics identified with the belief, in vogue at the time, that matter is composed of four elements: earth, fire, air, and water. Fire and air were considered to be active, whereas water and earth were labeled passive. Fire and air, the active elements, combine to form pneuma or breath. This pneuma has a constant simultaneous inward and outward movement that holds matter together and yields it the qualities which it possesses. Pneuma is an interesting concept: It acts upon things, so must be a body, yet it is one with other bodies in the same place at the same time. This blending was apparently allowed by Stoic philosophy, and was necessary as the Pneuma also seemed to serve the function of the soul in higher animals, and take care of bodily functions in both plants and animals(Stanford) thus the soul was both material and one with the physical body.
Another concept set forth in Stoic metaphysics is known as eternal recurrence. This is the idea that the universe repeats itself, that everything is a continuous cycle that completely and exactly repeats. One will, in each successive cycle, be the exact same person he is in the current cycle. Each cycle will begin and end with the same creative fire that began the process, and the other three elements are added into the creation process accordingly(Fieser).
When considering Stoicism, it seems epistemology is generally grouped with logic. According to Fieser, this was the way Zeno considered that they should be. This idea is echoed by other sources as well by the organization of their research. Stoics did not believe in abstract universals such as those proposed by Plato and Aristotle. "Only particular things exist, and our knowledge of them is based on impressions they make upon the soul"(Ecole). Thus, knowledge depends on sensation, for the soul is material. Knowledge comes from giving...