'The Porch and the Cross: Stoicism and Christianity' by Kevin Vost

The Porch and the Cross

by Kevin Vost

From Atheism to Catholicism

     There is quite an interesting history of the intersecting courses of Stoic philosophy and Christian theology. Seneca’s own elder brother, the governor Gallio, is quoted within the pages of the New Testament itself (Acts 18: 14-15), where he refuses to hear a case against St. Paul. There was once even a book claiming to have correspondence between Seneca him­self and St. Paul, but it was found to be unauthentic. Epicte­tus made only a few passing comments about Christians in his writings (recall that he died long before the Bible had been assembled), but lessons from his Enchiridion were incorporated into some ancient monastic rules. Indeed, some medieval Christian writers would even “Christianize” the Enchiridion by substituting, for example, the name of St. Paul when Socrates was mentioned! Although Marcus Aurelius’s reign was marked by some persecution of Christians, it is un­likely that he himself instigated it — but his failure to stop it may point to the limitations of the Stoic philosophy, or at least, to Marcus’s limited knowledge of the Christian faith.

     Some early Church Fathers, such as St. Justin Martyr, Origen, praised the lives and lessons of Musonius Rufus and Epictetus. Tertullian described Seneca as “often ours” in his sentiments. In the Middle Ages, Scholastic schoolmen were also well aware of Seneca, who wrote in Latin. Blessed Humbert of Romans cited him three times in his Treatise on the Formation of Preachers, a tome designed to guide the new Dominican Order in the most effective means to spread the gospel of Christ, and we will see (in a later chapter) that St. Thomas Aquinas would cite him in many places within the Summa Theologica.

    The Stoics also had a very influential role regarding my own personal journey back to Christianity. Since my early 20s, I had been a big fan of Ellis’s Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy because I knew it worked. I also respected the Stoics because I knew they were its main precursors. There was no doubt in my mind that these three ancient sages (Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius – I had yet to encounter Musonius Rufus) knew far more of value about the human mind, emotion, and behavior than any gaggle of modern behaviorist or psychoanalytic psycholo­gists.

   Oddly enough, though, while Ellis was an avowed athe­ist, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus were, in their own ways, believers, one and all. (I figured at the time that nobody’s perfect.) Though we tend to think of the ancient Greeks and Romans in terms of their classic polytheistic pantheon of Olympian gods, some of the Stoics were much more likely to speak of God with a Capital “G.” They did not know Christ, but their reason led some to a belief in one God, which they sometimes referred to as Zeus, or Nature, or Providence, as well. Epictetus, in particular, though, spoke of God in personal terms. Recall this “lame old man’s” hymns to God at the start of this chapter (a citation from Epictetus’s Discourses 1.16). And here’s an anonymous epigram found in the writings of St. John Chryso­stom: “Slave, poor as Irus, halting as I trod, I, Epictetus, was the friend of God.”  It was when I had obtained that leisure which Seneca advised that I found myself freer to focus on my own moral purpose à la Epictetus — and before long, to say of all things and events around me, like Marcus Aurelius, “This has come from God.”

     Actually, though, I profited greatly from two groups of ancient Greek wise men bearing gifts: not only the Stoics, but also the Aristotelians. In the next chapter, we’ll turn to a modern Aristotelian, a contemporary of Albert Ellis, who had actually once debated Bertrand Russell. It was in revisiting his thoughts in my early 40s that I was soon drawn back to Aristo­tle, over to St. Thomas Aquinas, and all the way up to Christ, the same path that this Aristotelian had taken in his 90-plus years of life.

TRUTH BOX #7

Divine Ideas

God is one and the same with Reason, Fate, and Zeus.

     The Stoics were no atheists. Though there were, of course, no new Darwinian atheists at the time of their philosophi­cal heyday, there were indeed materialistic atheists of other schools, such as the Atomists, most notably Democritus and Leucippus, who saw all of reality as composed of at­oms moving about according to chance, leaving no room for the soul or for spiritual beings. Other philosophers, like the Epicureans, most notably Epicurus himself and Lucretius, drew from the Atomists; and, while still believing in gods, paved the way for further atheism by arguing that the gods were uninterested and unable to intervene in our affairs. They also denied an afterlife.

     The Stoics did not deny the spiritual realm, and some saw the reality of a single God. Aided by reason but lack­ing in divine revelation, they had varied conceptions of God that captured pieces and parts of the truths of His nature.

     God was considered a spiritual and active principle that gives shape and meaning to a primary passive principle of undifferentiated matter. The ancient Greeks, you see, had a conception of an eternal universe (“existence exists”) and perceived God as a First Cause in terms of changing mat­ter, rather than bringing the universe into existence ex nihilo — that is, out of nothing. The Stoics had rather vague and sometimes conflicting understandings of God as the shaper of the cosmos or universe (which was believed to periodically perish in cataclysmic fire and then begin anew); as the “soul” of the universe; or as the universe itself. Some held, therefore, a rather panthe­istic view that everything is God, or a part of God. Some saw Him as synonymous with Nature or with Fate. Others at times, especially Epictetus, did see God as a personal, father-like figure interested in our existence.

    Regardless of their rather varying and rather murky concepts of God, the Stoics acknowledged him based on reason alone. They also deduced from his existence our need to live lives of virtue and self-control, and they developed very effective tech­niques to help us achieve this. There is still much that good Christians and all people can learn from those teachers on the porch.

Kevin Vost, Psy.D. taught psychology at the University of Illinois at Springfield and at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee. An author of books on memory and on Thomistic philosophy, Dr. Vost has studied the Stoics since the 1980s. These excerpts are adapted from parts of chapter 7 “Stoic Strivings: The Slave, the Lawyer, the Emperor, and God” in his memoir From Atheism to Catholicism:How Scientists and Philosophers led me to Truth (Our Sunday Visitor, 2010) which is available here. He is now completing The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living (Angelico Press, 2015) which will highlight the lives, lessons, and legacies of Musonius Rufus, Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius.

27 thoughts on “'The Porch and the Cross: Stoicism and Christianity' by Kevin Vost”

  1. Wow – how refreshing to read the wonderful arguments put forward by Kevin Voost, Nigel Glassborow & Tony Malitich – I agree whole heartedly with every word and thank Patrick for publishing this blog. He is a lone voice in a team of none-believers. I am nevertheless greatful to the team who have introduced me to Modern Stocisim which has deepened and enriched the practice of my Christian Faith.

  2. Sergio Fabbri says “Actually, dear Nigel, it looks like it’s you who are attacking non-believers, calling us “blind” men because we can’t see the (pink?) elephant! A bit offensive, isn’t it? (Again, I remind you Epictetus, Handbook, 42.)”

    I am happy for people to be non-believers and I do not attack them for their belief. I challenge the ‘blindness’ of those who attack faith at every opportunity and I am being charitable when I call them ‘blind’. The apparent ‘misunderstanding’ or ‘reinterpretation’ of the texts, the irrationality of their arguments and the illogicality of their claim to having authority from science would suggest either a blindness coloured by their faith in no God or it would suggest duplicity.

    And I know I refer to science regards ‘the Consciousness’, but that is what scientists call it and in doing so they take away the Atheist claim that there is no room for God due to the advances of science. While there is no scientific proof that the Consciousness is what faiths call God, there is certainly no scientific reason to not believe in God.

    I challenge those of the New Atheism school and their agenda – those I call ardent Atheists, with a capital ‘A’.

    If you are simply a non-believer I mean no offence. If you are an ardent Atheist who wants to attack any mention of the fact that Stoicism is a pantheist/theist philosophy then please feel free to be offended – but do consider your recommendation of looking to Epictetus, Handbook, 42. 🙂

  3. Jeffrey Allan asks, “If “modern physics” had proven the existence of God, then why do Stephen Hawking, and I dare say most actual modern physicists, repudiate (or find unnecessary) the idea of God?”

    The answer is that they let their religious belief, that is Atheism, blind themselves to what is in front of them – not so much ‘The Blind Watchmaker’, more ‘The Blind Scientist’. Much as many fall back on supposed scientific truths to support their claims that God is superfluous, there is no proof to be found in what science has discovered that gives cause for ardent atheists to claim there is no God.

    The constant linking of science with atheism is based on a false interpretation of what science can prove. Atheism is given no authority by science. However with ‘the Consciousness’, as some scientists call it, still today being an issue for science it is no longer possible to claim that scientific knowledge leaves no room for God in the scheme of things.

    It is Atheism that is today’s blind faith. It is Atheism that is conducting its own ‘inquisition’ by attacking any and every religious teaching, and not offering a ‘live and let live’ attitude. And through New Stoicism, Modern Stoicism and the like Atheism is trying, against all logic, to claim that Stoicism can still be Stoicism without its pantheistic and theistic origins.

    The fact that atheists feel the need to take on the mantle of Stoicism suggests that they feel that their beliefs are lacking in some way.

    I would suggest that those of us who want to be Stoics should be allowed to discuss its pantheism/theism without constantly being attacked or challenged because of our belief.

    If atheists are interested in borrowing from Stoicism all well and good, but why not turn to your own – such as http://humanistcontemplative.blogspot.co.uk/ where D T Strain is trying to offer atheistic spirituality.

  4. Epictetus frequently speaks of “the gods,” showing very clearly that his conception of divinity was polytheistic, not Abrahamic. You might say that he venerated Father Zeus, but what of Mother Hera, or the rest of the pantheon? He subscribed to the myth and superstition of his day, including rituals of sacrificing animals to various gods. What are we to make of this today? At best, we can see him as time- or culture- bound. We can adopt what makes sense in his philosophy, without embracing nonsense like polytheism, or its better-dressed cousin, monotheism. If one believes that the gods are necessary to derive morality, why is it that the stories about them in Epictetus’ own time full of such abominable behavior: deception, envy, rape, adultery, murder?

    1. Even though I’m indifferent about my blindness, I’m wondering, Jeffrey, if as blind men we both, we can help each other, on the base of a real and Stoic philantropy, can’t we?
      Ciao.

      1. Yes, we can and should one another in our mutual quest to fulfill our human potential. And our most useful tool in this endeavor is human reason. But there is no need to invent a god, or the gods, to notice that we possess reason, or to use it wisely. Do I have reason because there is a “piece” or “spark” of the gods in me (a poetic, but prescientific and silly explanation)–or is the development of this marvelous faculty the result of slow evolutionary processes that are not directed by any preexisting intelligence? My point is that the ancient Stoics were subject to many delusions that can be disposed of now. It’s time for humanity to grow up, take responsibility for the moral compass we have conceived for ourselves, and to live accordingly. Ethics are a distinctively human business, and we learn absolutely nothing about them by projecting morality onto a Big Daddy in the Sky. It just presses the question back further: if X is wrong for us because we are mirror or resemble or take part in the gods, then why is X wrong for the gods?

    2. Jeffrey, Those fables about the gods you speak of were discredited by earlier philosophers long before Epictetus, who taught “What then is the real nature of God?—Intelligence, Knowledge, Right Reason.” (Aphorism 59). I would encourage you to also read the Hymn of Cleanthes, which is a beautiful expression of praise to the “Almighty” and “Sovereign of Nature”

      1. Tony, you picked my least significant comment to address, and I stand corrected on this point. But what about a more important question I raised, like Epictetus’ evident belief in multiple gods, in contrast to the modern religious faiths with which he was compared. The author of the post wanted to hold him up as a specimen akin to Abrahamic faith, but surely the notion of a pantheon of gods counts against that. P.S. I have read the Hymn of Cleanthes, and agree that it is an excellent work of poetry, but I’m afraid that it is unlikely to shed any light on any of these issues. I love Bach’s Masses, but do not give a fig for the theology. A thing can be beautiful and not true.

  5. Dr. Vost, I agree. The writings of Epictetus point to a ‘Father’ God that is recognizable to followers of the Abrahemic faiths. Epictetus calls God ‘Author’, ‘Giver’, ‘Father’ and ‘friend’. We are to ‘sing’ to, ‘praise’, ‘call upon’ and ‘follow’ Him. He places a portion of Himself within each of us so that we are all His children. Through living Virtuously we can grow closer to Him and His kingdom. There is much for a Christian to contemplate and learn from the work of this master Stoic.

  6. Thanks, Dr. Vost, for sharing in a sincere way your thoughts about Stoicism and Christianity. However, I have to say reading your words I felt the same discomfort as always when a believer (in Christ as the only God, I mean) talks about philosophy as a “dépendence” of religion… Perhaps, it is because you argue that God for Seneca or Marcus was the same God for St. Paul: but how can we argue that? If you say “yes”, why not the contrary, then? Many times, thinking to the concept e.g. of “emotion” we are warned about the shift – if not the drift! – of its meaning(s)… Why not about the word “God” too?
    Modern physics is teaching us that all the famous “perennial” laws of the universe are changing along with its expansion… I think this can be an example why the early Stoics studied physics carefully…

    Arrivederci.

    1. Modern physics is teaching us that there is only one Consciousness, one God – there cannot be a drift in what is intended by the word God for all faiths claim that God is beyond description. The God of the Stoics was based on rational consideration of the common ground in all faiths as to the nature of that to which they all turned and as such the Stoics conclude that the experience that is an awareness of God is logical and real.

      As to the different details to be found in various faiths one can turn to the Buddhist story of the blind men and the elephant – each described only that bit they had been paced in front of and could touch but despite their different experiences it was still just one elephant. As to the blind man who had his back to the elephant, he believed that there was no elephant and would continue to believe such until he was willing to turn round and find the truth.

      There are none so blind as those who will not reach out – to adapt the oft used phrase.

      1. “Modern physics” (as if that were some kind of unified voice!) does not tell us anything whatsoever about God or the nature of consciousness. The idea, for example, that some “consciousness” is required to collapse a probability wave into an actuality (Copenhagen interpretation) Was dismissed as a credible theory in the 1930s! It is a common rhetorical trick to appeal to the authority of something not well understood, such as quantum mechanics, to all kinds of metaphysical speculation. If “modern physics” had proven the existence of God, then why do Stephen Hawking, and I dare say most actual modern physicists, repudiate (or find unnecessary) the idea of God? Do you claim to have a clearer understanding of contemporary physics than Hawking? As Richard Feynman famously quipped, anyone who claims to understand quantum mechanics does not!

        1. Jeffrey Allan asks, “If “modern physics” had proven the existence of God, then why do Stephen Hawking, and I dare say most actual modern physicists, repudiate (or find unnecessary) the idea of God?”

          The answer is that they let their religious belief, that is Atheism, blind themselves to what is in front of them – not so much ‘The Blind Watchmaker’, more ‘The Blind Scientist’. Much as many fall back on supposed scientific truths to support their claims that God is superfluous, there is no proof to be found in what science has discovered that gives cause for ardent atheists to claim there is no God.

          The constant linking of science with atheism is based on a false interpretation of what science can prove. Atheism is given no authority by science. However with ‘the Consciousness’, as some scientists call it, still today being an issue for science it is no longer possible to claim that scientific knowledge leaves no room for God in the scheme of things.

          It is Atheism that is today’s blind faith. It is Atheism that is conducting its own ‘inquisition’ by attacking any and every religious teaching, and not offering a ‘live and let live’ attitude. And through New Stoicism, Modern Stoicism and the like Atheism is trying, against all logic, to claim that Stoicism can still be Stoicism without its pantheistic and theistic origins.

          The fact that atheists feel the need to take on the mantle of Stoicism suggests that they feel that their beliefs are lacking in some way.

          I would suggest that those of us who want to be Stoics should be allowed to discuss its pantheism/theism without constantly being attacked or challenged because of our belief.

          If atheists are interested in borrowing from Stoicism all well and good, but why not turn to your own – such as http://humanistcontemplative.blogspot.co.uk/ where D T Strain is trying to offer atheistic spirituality.

          1. Actually, dear Nigel, it looks like it’s you who are attacking non-believers, calling us “blind” men because we can’t see the (pink?) elephant! A bit offensive, isn’t it? (Again, I remind you Epictetus, Handbook, 42.)
            By the way, I think that Stoicism can’t be constraint to a faith (what kind of?) or a mere philosophy: this is the key point of Stoicism – its great point! The “Hic et nunc” (here and now) is not a promise, it’s something we human beings have to try to do in our present.
            Ciao.

          2. Now you are resorting to ad hominem arguments that are entirely off point, and indicate a certain intellectual desperation. Let’s return to the substance of the argument. I was responding to the assertion that “modern physics” asserts the existence of God or “the Consciousness. It does not. The socalled Copenhagen Interpretation has been dead in the water for more than 80 years. Here’s what some of the most prominent physicists say about it:

            “Nature does not know what you are looking at, and she behaves the way she is going to behave whether you bother to take down the data or not.” (Richard Feynman)

            “The universe presumably couldn’t care less whether human beings evolved on some obscure planet to study its history; it goes on obeying the quantum mechanical laws of physics irrespective of observation by physicists.” (Murray Gellmann)

            “It may be somewhat dangerous to explain something one does not understand very well [the quantum measurement process] by invoking something [consciousness] one does not understand at all!” (Anthony Leggett)

            “Caution: ‘Consciousness’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the quantum process.” (John Wheeler)

            “From some popular presentations the general public could get the impression that the very existence of the cosmos depends on our being here to observe the observables. … I see no evidence that it is so in the success of contemporary quantum theory.” (John Bell)

            Consequently, I don’t find your appeal to “modern physics” to support your assertions about God or “the Consciousness” to be convincing. You are simply repeating a bit of philosophical quackery (also popular among certain New Agers) that does not seem to want to go away. You will have to find some other means of buttressing your case for God.

          3. Your quotes are irrelevant. Scientists are today still referring to Consciousness when trying to explain quantum theory. No matter how much you may wish to deny it, this is a fact.

            As it is I do not need to buttress up my belief in God. I am content with what I believe and what I know. As I have already said, I find the attacks on the Stoic belief in God unfounded, irrational and illogical.

            Why do ardent Atheists feel the need to attack such beliefs and to try to rewrite history?

            If you personally do not believe in God why do you bother to involve yourself in a pantheistic/theistic belief system? Why do you feel the need to argue with me when all I am really doing is calling for people not to water down Stoicism?

            If you are one of the ardent Atheists, please stop trying to destroy Stoicism in order to justify the human-centric egotism that is New Atheism. If you are just a non-believer, borrow what you want from Stoicism, but please stop arguing against and challenging those of us who talk of the true nature of Stoicism.

            Please stop trying to poison the well.

          4. Nigel, instead of dismissing the quotations I have provided as “irrelevant,” read them again, and I believe you will agree that they are absolutely pertinent. If you will also take note of the names of those quoted, you will notice that they represent the very best minds in the field. The popular misunderstanding that consciousness of some form is required to collapse the wavefunction into an “actuality” has been widely discredited by the world’s foremost physicists, and not simply on the basis on anti-theistic bias, as you wrongfully assume. I am not attacking your faith, or challenging you for ownership of the Stoic “brand.” I am only questioning your appeal to “modern physics” as offering some kind of evidence for God, or what you call capital-C Consciousness. If you want to talk about “poisoning the well,” I wonder what physicists would make of your naive assertions about their field of expertise.

          5. You say that the idea “that consciousness of some form is required to collapse the wavefunction into an “actuality” has been widely discredited by the world’s foremost physicists” – I assume that all the theoreticians got the email, for unfortunately few who have written books on the subject in recent years have read it. 😉

            However I do not base the Consciousness on being the ‘observer’, for the Cosmos is eternal and so there is no need for an observer to make it exist.

            I sometimes refer to the ‘observer’ idea, that came from scientists, to point out that scientists have a conflict in their thinking process if they are to be both scientist and atheist as so many claim. Just as they started with a theory for black holes not emitting light only to later talk of black holes as being some of the brightest lights in heavens so I have to agree with you that we cannot always rely on what the scientists have said. Science moves on for science does not know it all.

            Scientists talked of and then rubbished the idea of an unseen something called ‘aether’ being needed to explain how the Universe existed as it is. Amongst themselves they then rubbished the idea of a concept that needed the ‘unseen’ to explain the material universe. Now they are returning to the ‘unseen’ to explain how they lost 96% of the Universe – and I am not referring to God.

            Much as Dark Matter and Dark Energy is described by scientists in the same terms that Atheists describe God when they try to ridicule, the scientists are again having to resort to unseen ‘elements’ in the make up of the Cosmos in order to support their theories. I personally agree with those scientists that claim the need for the ‘unseen’ to explain the nature of the Cosmos as it is, albeit that we talk of different things. But the fact that we talk of different things does not make them contradictory – just that we have to recognise that the ‘unseen’ is a probability and that both science and religion can be right – or as close to right as we can all get.

            As it is when it comes to the Consciousness within science, many scientists talk of the problem of marrying consciousness with their other theories. Within their other theories, especially those relating to the subatomic world, they are hard pushed not to talk in terms of consciousness when trying to explain what they see going on. In fact their talk of such things as the ‘Higgs Field’ is getting very close to the point

            The more open minded amongst the scientists will talk of the issue of the Consciousness, but there are those who let their atheism get in the way of good science.

            When I quote science in support of the Consciousness I often quote from books where the author-scientist has tried to rubbish all things spiritual within their introduction, for it is their own words that confirm the need for the ‘unseen’ – contrary to their avowed faith.

            I do not blindly set my beliefs on ‘what the scientists say’, just as Seneca advised not to blindly set one’s faith on what ‘your master says’. I am interested in that which manifests the Cosmos here and now rather than getting tied to the limited study of how it is constructed and how it has evolved.

            Science is a work in progress and has a long way to go. Science is still an infant compared with the Wisdom of the Ages. The Wisdom of the Ages is the common perceptions that the Stoics of old studied, the common perceptions that say that it is rational to believe in a Consciousness being involved in the manifestation of the Cosmos as it is – a point that science is only just beginning to catch up with.

            What one calls the Consciousness or what one claims for the Consciousness, or even if you deny the existence of the Consciousness, none of this will alter one bit that there is a Consciousness. And if you claim to be a Stoic, if you deny the Consciousness, the Divine Fire, you deny your own existence or you do not understand Stoicism.

          6. I came to this site because I am genuinely curious about Stoicism, which I understood to be a philosophy based on reason. Reason, to my way of thinking, is not to prematurely fix one’s mind on an idea (or accept it merely on the authority of one regarded as “wise,”) and then to cast about for rational-sounding justifications to support it. That is not genuine inquiry. A genuinely rational person alters their beliefs to fit the facts, rather than the other way around. You aren’t being true to the spirit of scientific inquiry when you go grabbing about for anything that sounds like it supports your claims, even when you clearly don’t have an understanding of what you have appropriated. You are a dogmatist, pure and simple. You have decided in advance that “the Wisdom of the Ages (meaning the ideas of one school of Ancient Greek philosophy–and not the other, “faulty” ancient wisdoms that differ from these teachings) is true, and will use anything you can find to prop it up. If that is Stoicism, you can have it. Maybe the philosophy and spirit of the Skeptics better suits me.

          7. OOps! Sorry, I appear to have stepped on some toes.

            You say, “You aren’t being true to the spirit of scientific inquiry”. What do you expect. Stoicism is not a science, it is a philosophy and, while acknowledging science, it is interested in metaphysics (a branch of philosophy that looks beyond that which science can study) and it is about understanding how we should live in light of an understanding of the bigger picture – a picture that is bigger than mere science.

            As to ‘the Wisdom of the Ages’, this is not “the ideas of one school of Ancient Greek philosophy” as you describe it – it is a recognised term for the wisdom that is common to *all* schools of spiritual philosophy, Greek or otherwise.

            You say “You are a dogmatist, pure and simple” – as it is, you compliment me. The Stoics of old were described as dogmatists. Not that they had fixed opinions, but rather that they had their own opinions and were willing to adapt to what evidence they came across. To call a person a dogmatist is simply to say they have an opinion, and you are right to claim I have. I do not blindly follow science to support my ideas for science does not have all the answers, which any reasonable scientist will admit too.

            You also say, “Maybe the philosophy and spirit of the Skeptics better suits me” – I would suspect that a Sceptic would question if science actually can know anything. 😉

            However quite clearly your issue is one of understanding the nature of Stoicism. Stoicism is based on the study of ‘common perceptions’ and the reasoned and rational assessment as to if there is any grounds for believing in such. And the conclusion of the Stoics of old was that belief in the Divine Fire is both reasonable and rational. They also concluded that a belief in God was reasonable and rational.

            Of course if you want to define ‘reasonable and rational’ as being only that which is ” true to the spirit of scientific inquiry” that is up to you, but you will have to deny the existence of much that us ‘common folk’ know of through the experience of life.

            Stoicism is based on reason – just not your definition of reason.

            If you were to take the time to study Stoicism with an open mind you might understand what I am saying. But if you want only that which can be studied through the scientific method I am afraid you will be disappointed.

          8. Nigel, I’m going to give you the last word here on this debate. I do have a fine collection of Stoic writings, including Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, much of which I’m giving a second reading now, and I will take what is meaningful and reasonable l to me from them (for example, some of the ethical teachings), but I cannot accept the idea of God on faith alone. Thanks for being willing to see through at least some of these issues in the spirit of conversation and philosophical debate. I wish you well.

          9. Thank you too.

            As you are allowing me the final word I will agree with you. I do not accept the idea of God on faith alone.

            Enjoy your continued study.

          1. Sergio, since my retirement as a librarian, I have been composing and recording contemplative acoustic / electronic music under the name “Chronotope Project.” “Chronotope” refers to the conjunction of time (kronos) and space (topos). I live in Oregon, USA.

          2. Dear Jeffrey,
            I teach physics in high school in Italy (Rimini, south of Venice, approximately). I’m not retired yet, because I’m “only” 60!
            I’m interested in discussing about philosophy as a “way of living”, sharing not just ideas or theories but, more than that, experiences…
            After dismissing my psychoanalitic reads, over recent years I prefer to read about ethics and philosophy at large. I attempted some week ago the week Stoic training – and what I found out has made me really “calm”… I don’t mind defining myself “Stoic” or “Epicurean” or “Pythagorean” or “Cynic”… I’m reading as a “busy monkey” D. Robertson, J. Sellars, W.B. Irvine, Peter Singer, M. Pigliucci and, among the ancient philosopher, Seneca, Cicero, Epictetus (I read Marcus Aurelius some 10 years ago…: it’s not my favourite Sage at the moment!)…
            If you happen to be interested in sharing each other our experiences, if you’re not too scared because of my so-called “English”, I could send you my addresses (email, skype, facebook, and so on and so forth…) in the contact box of your website.
            Have a good afternoon in Oregon.
            Ciao.

  7. One fundamental difference between Stoicism and Christianity is that the latter asserts that salvation comes through the grace and exigency of Christ, while the former lays the responsibility for the attainment of wisdom and the perfection of “divine” qualities on the efforts of the individual alone. Christianity denies that a person can “save” themselves, whereas Stoicism is clear that no one and nothing outside oneself can either bring about or prevent one’s attainment of wisdom or the cultivation of one’s character.

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