Friday, November 18, 2005

Encheiridion 5



It is not the things themselves that disturb people, but their judgments [ dogmata] about these things. For instance, death is nothing terrible, or else Socrates too would have thought so. But the judgment that death is terrible, that is what is terrible. So whenever we are frustrated or distressed or grieved, let us never blame others, but only ourselves and our judgments.

I append this oft-quoted passage from the Encheiridion to yesterday's post about being in control of and responsible for actions that flow from our judgments.
If we are to credit Plato's Phaedo, Socrates did indeed come to see death not as an evil or terror. But can you and I, without the benefit of the mythology of a happy and just afterlife, imitate Socrates? How can we say "death is not an evil" if it extinguishes a life trying to be productive & virtuous? Can we will ourselves to believe some mythology or philosophy that views death as a good or at least not an evil?

Perhaps we would be better off to avoid the debate over whether death is a good or an evil, and begin by accepting that death is an inevitability and a permanent & immediate possibility of our fragile lives. That judgment need not inspire fear or terror in us, but focusing on it does make it hard to cultivate a joyful and hopeful attitude towards our life. So where does this leave us? Can we base a serene and tranquil attitude [ euroia, in E's terminology ] to the unadorned, undisguised realities of the human condition?

I have no answer to aver. Yes, I agree our judgment about the matter is the critical thing. But it is also hard to guage in all of this how much or how little we are really in control of judgments about death & dying.

1 Comments:

Blogger Henry Jones said...

>>>Can we will ourselves to believe some mythology or philosophy that views death as a good or at least not an evil?<<<

Probably not. Does Epictetus say that we can?

>>>Yes, I agree our judgment about the matter is the critical thing. But it is also hard to guage in all of this how much or how little we are really in control of judgments about death & dying.<<<

That is because you do not understand Stoic principles. You do not understand them, and then you say that they are false, or do not work in the way that the Stoics think they do.

>>>But can you and I, without the benefit of the mythology of a happy and just afterlife, imitate Socrates?<<<

The Stoics say that we can. If we understand properly what is truly good and bad, and in what human flourishing truly consists, and if we can judge things properly and make the right choices, we can be wholly happy (eudaimôn) and enjoy a smooth flow of life (euroia biou), even in the face of certain and imminent death, just like Socrates.

5:57 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home