To a Stoic Philosopher, the question of Theodicy, or why God permits bad things to happen to good people, why God permits suffering, is simply absurd. The fact is, we do suffer, we will face injustices, we will suffer illnesses and death, and the rain falls on both the good man and the bad man. God will not shield us from suffering and injustice, but God will provide us with the strength to endure the challenges of this life. […]
Was Epicureanism a cult? Or perhaps we should ask, was Epicureanism like a philosophical fraternity? One prominent scholar, AA Long, suggests that Epicurus’ school of philosophy was more a philosophical community centering on personal friendship than it was a formal school of philosophy. Many ancient philosophers wrote about the virtues of friendship, but the virtues of friendship are core to the Epicurean experience, and the Epicureans sought pleasure through their friendships. This community was egalitarian, it was one of the few in ancient world that admitted women and slaves, and in his letters, Epicurus expresses deep affection for his friends and followers. AA Long says this, “those who committed themselves to Epicurus we not so much students ‘reading for a course’ as men and women dedicated to a certain style of life.” […]
Rufus asks, like a good stoic, Why should the exile lament of his condition, why should he complain, how is he oppressed? Has he been exiled from the warmth of sun, has he been exiled from being refreshed by the rain, has he been excluded from the society of men? Rufus adds that in exile we may associate with our friends, our true friends, those friends “who would never betray or abandon us,” but those who shun us are not true friends, we are better off without those who are not truly friends. The most important question Rufus asks is, “How can exile be an obstacle to the . . . acquisition of virtue, when no one was ever hindered from the knowledge and practice of what is needful because of exile?” Rufus dismisses those who insist that exiles are the worse off when they also lose their freedom of speech. Nonsense, Rufus says, for you never truly lose your freedom of speech, for nobody can ever take away your freedom of thought, and if you do not feel free to speak out against injustice or impiety, you are not limited by lack of freedom, you are reined back by FEAR. To the truly courageous who insist on speaking out, the truly courageous who fear neither pain nor punishment nor death, how can they lose their freedom? They are truly free.
We must truly be thankful of all our fortunes and misfortunes, for neither keeps us from seeking virtue, and both can aid us in our journey towards greater virtue, towards salvation, towards the working out of our salvation, for what else does working out our salvation mean, if it does not mean that we work out our salvation through both our blessings and our sufferings? […]
Epicurus would have been horrified by the sex, drugs, and rock and roll culture of the sixties. Baird and Kaufmann describe his beliefs thus: “Epicurus declares that pleasure is the highest good, though some pleasures are unnatural and unnecessary. In contrast to modern understanding of the word epicurean, Epicurus opposed exotic meals and profuse consumption. Such indulgences never bring permanent pleasure and frequently lead to its opposite: pain. Instead Epicurus advocates enjoying only the ‘natural’ pleasures – those most likely to lead to contentment and repose.” […]
Epictetus tells us of someone who stole his lamp one night, he got the better end of the exchange. For Epictetus only lost his lamp, but he kept his faith. The man who stole his lamp, in exchange for the lamp he consented to become a thief, becoming faithless. […]
To Epictetus, only the good can be truly happy, only the good can truly be free, tyrants may take all you own, but they can never take your most prized possession, your freedom of will; tyrants can throw you in jail, but they can never take away the freedom of your mind; tyrants can take your life, but they can never have your soul. Epictetus, the great philosopher of freedom, was a former slave, a slave to a freed man, and was both poor and a cripple, eking out a living by teaching philosophy. Epictetus was not wealthy like Plato, and although Socrates was executed like Jesus, and is often compared to Jesus, Epictetus was closer to Jesus in social status, and like Jesus many of his teachings teach the common man how to live a godly life. Epictetus lived shortly before St Paul, close enough that it is doubtful they directly influenced each other, but like the Church Fathers Epictetus did not seek to teach original teachings, but rather repeated in his own distinctive fashion the teachings of the stoic philosophers who preceded him. […]