Thinking About Reason

The reason of which I’m thinking is the ‘this is the reason why I can’t come to lunch’ meaning of the word. I’m thinking about the ‘Thinking about’, kind of reason. The kind of reason that separates human from beast. There is some debate about whether any ‘beasts’ actually do use reason, but that is something for a different blog post.

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Using reason, considering things more deeply, and moving beyond the obvious into much more, these are the things that help us to do better things, or to do things in a better way. Reason, consciously used, allows us to consider effects, and work to understand the things that occur in our lives. Reason, rather than emotion, is the logical way to get to the actual truth of matters.

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Not sleeping, thinking!

Reason allows us to consider ideas, and apply our own knowledge, and knowledge from other sources, to ascertain the actual truth of things. If we use reason, we will discard false ideas, and endeavour to correct ideas found to be untrue. Reason helps us to think about things, and arrive at responses based on truth, not falsity.

Intuition is often given by some people as the sole reason for a decision, but actions based only on intuition, may well give a totally wrong idea, when further thought and ‘reasoning’ would have taken that intuition, and shaped it into a more nuanced and true idea.  Emotion can also lead a person to false ideas. Wanting something to be true, will never actually make a thing true. But the wanting, connected to reason, can work toward a process that may well bring the wanted thing, into fruition.

Stoic thought goes very strongly toward reason, in fact reason, used properly, will lead to Wisdom, and the gaining of Wisdom, as applied to all in life, is the ultimate goal for all, to lead to the living of the truly Good Life. This is a basic aim of Stoicism. This is not a life where we have all of our wants fulfilled, but rather a life where all of our actions performed lead to the greater, rather than only personal, good.

The satisfaction of hunger, or any base or strictly animal needs, at the expense of higher needs, such as the need for deeper thought, are not going to lead to that greater Good, the Good Life that is or should be the ultimate aim for us all. Hunger is a need that should be fulfilled, yes, but how often to people go overboard with it, and have more than they need?

The consequences of this overindulgence are many, and if all chose to only have enough, instead of too much, what a wonderful thing that would be, for all. Moderation is a key to a better life, meeting needs, but not ‘wants’ …
What do you think about this? Does it seem relevant to living a Stoic life? I’d love to hear/read what you think about this. Please leave a comment!

Still Practicing Stoicism

Becoming a Stoic isn’t like taking up a new religion, and going to the appropriate church, synagogue, or whatever, once a week, or however often is appropriate. You meet up with others of the same religion, listen to the appropriate person – priest, reverend etc, and perhaps go for a cup of tea with some of those attending afterwards.

Then you go home, and perhaps think on the learnings your heard at the service, and maybe do some good works, in accordance with those learnings. Then you probably go back to living your life in a manner much like everyone else, whatever their particular religious, or secular leanings.

Becoming a Stoic is something different though. A Stoic is, or tries to be constantly learning, thinking, and doing their Stoic thing, being a good and virtuous person, the best they can possibly be, for that is what being a Stoic is all about. “Gaining fulfillment in life through living a good and virtuous life in accordance with Nature.”

Living a ‘good’ life doesn’t refer to getting all of the best things in life, the good things that having lots of money, for instance may bring. No, good refers to acting with wisdom, choosing the best thing for self, community, and everything else.

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Stoicism tells us that the only thing we can actually control is ourselves, and to get angry at the actions of others is a waste of time, and causes us unnecessary grief. This is because we are only able to control our own actions and reactions, anything else is beyond our abilities to control.

The actions of others, then, can be seen as good or bad, but we cannot do anything about them, but, if they are bad things, be sorry for the person doing them, for they are harming themselves, as well as perhaps harming others, and nothing really good can come of their bad actions.

Thinking about such matters is not an immediately easy thing to do, seeing other people who look to be living a great life, when we are living a quieter life, living in a moderate way, neither going without what we need, to live, nor to have more than we actually need, to live. Moderate lives, lived in accordance with what is natural to us, being brave, cheerful, courageous, high-minded, accepting, these lead to the Stoic way.

If we feel resentful at what someone else has, are we doing ourselves any good, in that resentment? No, we are not. If we wish for things we can’t afford, or don’t need, are we going ourselves any good? No, the things Nature tells us we need, food, shelter, companionship perhaps, wanting and having these things is a good thing, not bad, as long as no-one is harmed in the process of us getting them.

Some things are difficult, and require hard work to achieve, so we will need to knuckle down and get on with the necessary hard work. This is a good thing. This is courageous, brave, accepting of the reality. But to want for more than we need, is none of these things.

A further issue needs to be considered, the idea of things ‘being in accordance with nature’, refers to acting in accordance of our humanity, the thing that makes us higher than animals. Humans have the ability to reason, and to be rational. And we are born to be social, and to watch out for each other and to work together for the good for all.

Humans can think, and to think about thinking, which is what makes us different from animals, which simply do things, with no further thought on what they have done. Rationality and reason must be the guides we hold to in life, and in holding to them, we can live a life more in accordance with nature, and so a life that strives for the the best life for all, not just ourselves.

Selflessness, rationality, reason, these can lead to that best world for all. I think on these and am aware of the failings of others, but also of my own failings, and I am humbled. I perhaps know things others don’t realise, I understand more, and if they fail, due to ignorance, who am I who fail, even in knowledge of my failings?

Life goes on, I think on where I have failed, and strive do better, be better, achieve higher, and fulfilled life, acting in accordance to what is rational and reasonable. But more than that, I will live a life that adds to the world, and does good for all, not just myself. In doing so, I will be living a wise and fulfilled life, as we all could do …

 

Virtues and Stoics

What Is Stoicism All About?

First of all, the most important thing to sort out is to throw out the idea that Stoicism is all about having a stiff upper lip, and being cold, unemotional and uncaring. The Greeks and then Romans who put much into, and in fact in the case of the Greeks, began the Stoic philosophy.

Wisdom, Temperance, Justice, and Courage – these are the four cardinal virtues of a Stoic life. The Stoic wishes to go through their life, working at these four virtues to achieve their best possible life.

And to a Stoic, their best possible life is one that is lived in accordance with these four virtues. There are particular ways of considering these four virtues, with an emphasis on doing the best thing for themselves, and also for their family, friends and their wider community.

Going on a chocolate binge, while being very tasty, would not meet the virtue of temperance, and so would not be considered a good thing, by a Stoic. And if one had a heart problem and perhaps other health problems, then that’s certainly going to mean no chocolate, or perhaps only the smallest amount, as long as there have been no other dietary indiscretions.

Is it fair? This is an important question for a Stoic to remember and avoid. Life is made up of many things, and to rail against thing;s being ‘fair’ simply because they didn’t go your way is not a wise thing. As in Mindfulness, things that happen are, and it is up to all to deal with them in the best way possible.

And by the ‘best way’ one is not referring to gaining lots of money, or getting the biggest slice of cake. The ‘best way’ is the way that leads to improvements in your life, as it accords to your better understanding, and indeed embodiment of the four cardinal virtues.

I hope this brief look at stoicism has been of interest. If I have got anything wrong, please let me know. I am new at this Stoic life, and I wish to adhere to the proper way.

Virtuous and Stoic Thoughts

These are some of my thoughts about the four virtues of the Stoics. The first is wisdom, the second courage, the third temperance, and the fourth is justice. These virtues, as outlined over two thousand years ago, come together to show how to live the life in a Stoic manner, to live a life that is worth living, and lived in a worthy & virtuous manner.

The wisdom referred to is practical wisdom, that which leads us to living our life in (ethically) good ways. Courage refers to more than just physical bravery, but instead refers more to have the courage to act in the most virtuous way, no matter the circumstances. Temperance leads to the Stoic to live a life not focused on getting the best of everything, and indulging oneself, but instead to appreciate good, if it can come in ways which do not harm self, or others. The final virtue, is the one of justice, which refers to acting in just and fair ways.

These four virtues work together, to create the way to live the good life, as the good Stoic aims to live, so they are continuing to work toward living their best possible life, with ‘best’ referring to living a life that closely adheres to living in accordance with the highest levels of the four virtues they strive to hold to. In Stoicsm, we are to live as a virtuous human being, one who rational (lifted to a higher than the level of animals), in living within our society in ways that are virtuous.

A person should heed to the virtues of Stoicism, then, and ask, is this the best thing to do, the wisest, most courageous, most temperate, and most just, thing to do. A person cannot live another person’s life, and so can only show others the best way to live, by living in that way themselves.

And if you feel others are treating you poorly, remember, it is only your perception that they are treating you poorly. If they hurt your feelings, then you have let your feelings be hurt, and you cannot blame another person for your own feelings. If you can think more wisely, and respond with kindness, then you can more easily heal, and the other person may realise their folly. And if they don’t then that is not your fault, but their own, and they are the ones who will suffer from it.

And if the rude person benefits from their behaviour, while you suffer? They are only seeming to benefit, and in their wrongness, are not really benefiting, as they and others will realise, if and when they look at the situation. They are not living their own best life, as you are, with your own kindness given, in the face of rudeness. Your example may be the thing that can change others, as it further strengthens you.