Breaking Into Philosophy
It’s been said that philosophy is like a locked castle with no doors or windows, yet all the “doing” of philosophy happens inside this castle.
How does one enter this proverbial castle of philosophy? How should one get started? This is the biggest and often most disorienting question for the beginning philosopher.
Different philosophers have taken different approaches to this problem. In most cases, it seems to determine what “kind” of philosophy you are most concerned with.
In this article, I am going to explore how the Stoics broke into philosophy, and how it informed their method.
The Stoic Approach
The Stoics, even the earliest Stoics, have always taken an ethical approach to life. They wanted to know how is it that one lives a good life, so their chief questions from the Ancient Greek Stoics to the Late Roman Stoics were always questions that helped us deal with life.
But there is a difference as to how the Ancient Greek and Roman Stoics broke into philosophy. The Ancient Greeks seemed to focus on the metaphysical and mythological questions rather than the ethical questions.
Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school, seemed to focus on the relationship between Virtue and the Logos. We see in the fragments of his work that remain a concentration on the virtue of Wisdom.
“Nature governs the lives of plants and animals. In fact, there is a plant-like or vegetative part of us. But animals have impulse and sense-perception to lead them in search of what is appropriate for them. Yet reason (Logos) is a more perfect leader. So for animals that are rational, life according to reason is life according to nature. Therefore, the telos of life is in agreement with nature.” — Zeno, trans. by Don Adams
He, along with future Stoics like Marcus Aurelius, seem to believe that when we are Wise, we will not act wrongly. In philosophical terms, Wisdom is sufficient for Virtue.
Because Wisdom is sufficient for Virtue and Virtue is the key to living ethically, then we must cultivate Wisdom. So how do we…