Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Is MGTOW the Idea of Ancient Stoicism repeating itself?
My knowledge of ancient writings has been limited to the Old Testament and the usual Greek and Latin classics that mainly had to do with history. There was enough in them though which mentioned the bad behavior of women and the worship thereof as goddesses that it reminded me of what we see occurring today in the form of feminism.
During my research on Jezebel I was looking into the Pythia. A class of priestess in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Plutarch who's book I've read on Sparta was also priest there who was responsible for interpreting the omens of the Pythia (Oracle of Delphi).
I thought I would have a look into what that guy had to say about all that when something caught my attention. He was somewhat opposed to Stoics and Stoicism.... what, wait a minute. Was Stoicism a philosophy or some school of thought at one time? Isn't being stoic a manly quality kind of like the way the Spartans were and why would he be opposed to it?
Ok, let's take a look.
Who were the Stoics?
We do not possess a single complete work by any of the first three heads of the Stoic school: the ‘founder,’ Zeno of Citium in Cyprus (344–262 BC), Cleanthes (330-232 BC) or Chrysippus (279-206 BC). Chrysippus was particularly prolific, composing over 165 works, but we have only fragments of his works. The only complete works by Stoic philosophers that we possess are those by writers of Imperial times, Seneca (4 BC –65 AD), Epictetus (55–135 AD) and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121–180 AD) and these works are principally focused on ethics.
What did the Stoics believe?
Stoics were concerned with the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is in accord with nature. Because of this, the Stoics presented their philosophy as a way of life, and they thought that the best indication of an individual's philosophy was not what a person said but how that person behaved.
Later Stoics such as Seneca and Epictetus emphasized that, because "virtue is sufficient for happiness", a sage was immune to misfortune. This belief is similar to the meaning of the phrase "stoic calm", though the phrase does not include the "radical ethical" Stoic views that only a sage can be considered truly free, and that all moral corruptions are equally vicious.
When was this period of Stoicism?
Stoicism was one of the most important and influential traditions in the philosophy of the Hellenistic world. It claimed the adherence of a large portion of the educated persons in the Graeco-Roman world. It had considerable influence on the development of early Christianity. The Roman Stoics, Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius were widely read and absorbed by the Western cultural tradition. Indeed, the very word 'stoic' has, in the popular sense, become synonymous with 'philosophical' and has come to represent that courage and calmness in the face of adverse and trying circumstances which was the hallmark of the ancient Stoics.
That Hellenistic period was time when the world was transitioning from a Greek to a Roman one.
The Hellenistic period is the period of ancient Greek and eastern Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and the subsequent conquest of Ptolemaic Egypt the following year. At this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its peak in Europe, Africa and Asia, experiencing prosperity and progress in the arts, exploration, literature, theatre, architecture, music, mathematics, philosophy, and science. It is often considered a period of transition, sometimes even of decadence or degeneration, compared to the brilliance of the Greek Classical era.
Where was it taught?
The Stoa Poikile or Painted Porch, originally called the Porch of Peisianax was erected during the 5th century BC and was located on the north side of the Ancient Agora of Athens. The Stoa Poikile was one of the most famous sites in ancient Athens, owing its fame to the paintings and loot from wars displayed in it. The Stoa was the location from which Zeno of Citium taught Stoicism. The philosophical school of Stoicism takes its name from having first been expounded here, and was derived from the Greek word stoa. Zeno taught and lectured to his followers from this porch.
Why did it happen?
Stoicism originally emerged at quite a volatile period in Greek history, when Athenian city-states were being conquered by foreign empires. It developed as a way of staying sane amid all that chaos. An important part of the therapy of Stoicism was to remind yourself at all times of what you can control and what you can’t. We can’t control geopolitics, we can’t control the weather, we can’t control the economy, we can’t control other people, we can’t even control our own bodies, not entirely anyway. The world is beyond our control. It’s a rough and unpredictable environment that is constantly changing. The only thing we can really control are our own thoughts and beliefs. If we remind ourselves of that, and focus our energy and attention on our own beliefs and opinions, then we can learn to cope wisely with whatever the world throws at us.
Basically those Stoic Greeks were taking a look around, seeing the ship was sinking and coming to the conclusion early on that there wasn't anything they could do to stop it. May as well kick back, go their own way and enjoy the decline. They couldn't change the world they lived in so they opted to change the world that they could, their own.
This all sounds very familiar.
Getting back to Plutarch (46-120 AD), I can start to understand why he didn't like this Stoic way of thinking. Being a Greek and a priest in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi Greece that would make him a member of the state or ruling class. He would have had an interest in keeping the traditions going. He needed the male disposability of those Greek Warriors coming in consulting his Oracles on their way to fighting wars for the empire but was going out of business as they realized there was nothing in it for them anymore because it was all getting hosed away back home.
The idea of Stoicism moved on into the early Roman world but seemed to have died out as life began to get cushy again. Greek gods and goddesses were replaced by Roman ones all the while Roman Emperors were increasingly declaring themselves to be gods too.
Come to think of it, if ancient hypergamy was alive and well and the women where thinking themselves as goddesses what is a poor mortal Alpha Emperor to do? He would have to one up them in their narcissism. Which they did, then proceed to play the bad boy with impunity, which they did that too.
Once again though the Romans like the Greeks were not too happy with all this nonsense. New ideas of living removed from the world, away from a degenerate society and it's gods came in the form of Christianity in place of Stoicism. They were saying screw this by going off grid leaving the empire to collapse all by itself. Which it eventually did despite all the shaming language and persecution aimed at those pesky Christians determined to go their own way.
There are a few audiobooks out on YouTube that should make for some good listening on the subject.
Of Peace of Mind; Maintaining a Tranquil Mind, by Seneca
The Enchiridion by Epictetus
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
I'll be interested to hear more about this subject.
MGTOW... No worries, it happens all the time.
at 2:58:00 PM