I can see the beginning of what I think of as the stoic viewpoint in statements like those made in some of the fragments of ethical writings by Archytas in Guthrie’s Pythagorean Library.
“The good man, in my opinion, is he who knows how to act properly in serious circumstances and occasions. he will therefore know how to support good and bad fortune; in brilliance and glorious condition, he will show himself worthy of it, and if fortune happens to change, he will also know how to accept properly his actual fate.”
– Archytas in The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, Guthrie, ed.
Of course, that’s a lot like being stoic and accepting what’s handed down the pike. The stoics, to me, stink of the same kind of degenerated ethical elitism as in the philosophy of people like Ayn Rand, who in my opinion has become nothing more than an excuse for individual hedonism, if her work was ever anything more at all. It’s all an excuse for not taking any responsibility for the state of things, or at least some kind of ethereal detachment from reality.
Anyhow, the exhortation to handle fortune’s favours in proportion to them, makes sense to me. I’m not sure it’s very profound, however. There was a point when I wanted to behave in a particularily human fashion. I don’t mean “human” as in falible, but human as in not to behave like a primate. I’m not sure that I figured out exactly what that meant, but I do remember that I’d determined that one of the traits of primates was to turn the head when looking at things. This then is a form of what stereotypical tourists do, gawking and craning their necks around. In particular, since large apes like the Gorilla, cannot really crane their necks around at all, I’d figured it a simple continuum to restricting movement to the eyes only as much as possible. I still find myself attempting to not use more than the movement of my eyes to gaze at the things around me.
I’ve been accused many times of being hard to read, or at least on some level, very opaque when it comes to what my thinking is on subjects. I certainly don’t think of myself as stoic, but definitely guarded. I’m sure that’s an example of not being quick to passion, but I think it leads to behavior that appears to come out of nowhere, when I finally express emotive content.
Now, Archytas holds that the difference between the good man and the happy man is that the good man is good due to virtue and the happy man is happy due to being fortunate. Whereas fortune is subject to uncontrolable fluctuations, the virtue of a good man is not. He also appears to claim that the good man is inherently also a happy one. [Guthrie] I find it hard to believe that proof, as the good man, full of virtue becomes the welcome mat of the individual hedonists and of less ethical people. That’s happiness? Philosophies that advocate acceptance of circumstance seem to be excuses for failure or at least convenient for the winners of any contest to have opponents with such views. However, even at that, there’s something to it all, not necessarily to meet adversity with meek acceptance, but to meet adversity and fortune as in should be met, appropriate to the circumstances. That’s not being meek, but reacting in proportion to the act.
Reminds me of the question I had at times about the idea of “moderation in all things.” Simply put, does that mean moderation in all things, or rather moderation in all things? I tend to think it’s the former, and that the latter is the kind of trap I think was laid by Alester Crowley in “Do what thou wilt.” It seems to me that most people in reading Crowley, end up decyphering his work as saying that one should do whatever one feels like doing or whatever one wants to do, which is tantamount to the same kind of pathetic hedonism of most followers of Any Rand. However, the trick is, I think, Crowley meant to trap people wishing to take to easy way out, but there’s a deeper understanding to be had if one realizes that by saying “wilt” he means that one would do what one’s Will commands, being the higher self. So, in this view, the statement “Do what thou wilt” means to follow one’s true vocation. Understanding that makes it unecessary to bother with the wiccan prefix of “And it harm none …”
The thing I think Archytas is talking about is not to be emotionless nor to be a bending reed in the wind, but rather to meet fortune with right action, by following one’s vocation. I mean, basically, that’s the middle path between Mercy and Severity toward self improvement in the fashion of bringing more light to the world.