Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics

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Part of 2014/2 PHI110 Stoic Ethics. Content is copied from the library in fair dealing for purpose of research or study. There are other books.

Contents

Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics: An introduction to Hellenistic philosophy

Written by R. W. Sharples. Published 1996 by Routledge.

Available from Amazon and Booktopia.

Extract: How can I be happy?

Also available in PDF.

The Central Question of Ethics

The opposition between Epicureanism and Stoicism is as marked in their ethics as anywhere; and disagreements over how best to live one's life are going to have more practical consequences, and be more noted by society at large, than disagreements over such issues as the infinite divisibility of matter. But once again there are also similarities between the two schools, and indeed with the sceptical schools as well. These similarities are of two types, first those concerning the basic framework of the discussion, and second those concerning some, though only some, of the practical attitudes that the schools recommend.

For the Epicureans and the Stoics, as for other ancient Greek thinkers and notably for Aristotle, the basic question of ethics is not 'what sort of actions are right?' but 'what sort of person should I be?', or 'what life-style and policies should I adopt?' The very term 'ethics' is derived from êthos, which means 'character'. The sort of person one is and the life-style one adopts will indeed have an immediate bearing on the actions one performs, and both Stoics and Epicureans would agree with Aristotle (EN 1.8) that character cannot be divorced from action -- you cannot be a just or courageous person if you behave in an unjust or cowardly fashion; but the emphasis of an ethics that centres upon characters and life-styles is going to be different from that of one that centres upon actions. And that is why I have formulated the title of this chapter in a way that includes a reference to the agent.

This, however, carries with it a further implication. If the primary concern of ethics is with how it is best for me to live, then even when it has been established what sort of actions are 'right', there remains the question whether performing such actions is the best way for me to live, and if so why. (Unless, indeed, we simply define 'right actions' as the ones it is best for me to perform.) Even Plato in the Republic has Socrates commend justice to others by the rewards it brings to oneself, not indeed the material rewards (though once the argument is concluded these are rather optimistically added in; 612D-614A) or rewards in the next world (614A ff.), but the intrinsic reward of happiness which justice brings (361C; 367D; 445A; 588A ff.).

The difference between the ancient Greek ethics of personal 'happiness' and the Kantian ideals of duty which prevailed until quite recently (at least in what people said) can be captured by the thought that for the former 'why should I do what is right?' is a question requiring an answer, while for the latter it no more admits or requires an answer than does 'why should I believe what is true?' In 1960 Arthur Adkins could, famously, declare that 'We are all Kantians now'; but already in 1974 Sir Kenneth Dover could comment on this that 'Unless I am seriously deceiving myself, I and most of the people I know well find the Greeks of the Classical period easier to understand than Kantians.' Nevertheless, in the mid-1970s first-year Classics undergraduates were in my experience still shocked, ostensibly anyway, at the suggestion that one might need a reason for doing what one accepted was right. Not so more recently -- which may just show that moral discourse has become more realistic than it used to be. Perhaps, then, reflecting on ancient Greek moral discourse may have something to tell us about the terms in which discussions might (not 'should') be framed, even if we do not accept the ancients' conclusions.

For Aristotle it was axiomatic that all people both naturally pursue, and ought to pursue, eudaimonia -- conventionally, and subsequently in this book, translated into English by 'happiness', sometimes translated instead by 'flourishing', but essentially the sort of life that brings satisfaction and of which we congratulate or 'felicitate' the possessors. And this approach was shared by Aristotle's successors. Being 'happy' and being a 'good' person necessarily go together; but 'a good person' means not so much a morally virtuous one (though moral virtue is a necessary and important component of goodness and happiness for Aristotle, a necessary component of it for Epicurus, and identical with it for the Stoics) as a human being who is living the best life for a human being. The question, for Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus and Stoics alike, is what sort of life is best, what sort of life constitutes 'happiness'.

It follows that ethics for both Epicureans and Stoics is self-referential; the agent is concerned with how he or she can achieve a happy life, with what is the good for me. Here, however, there is a danger of misunderstanding. There are aspects of both Stoic and Epicurean ethics that may seem to a modern sensibility selfish and self-regarding in a bad sense, inconsiderate of others and lacking in humanity. But these features need not be the inevitable consequences of adopting a self-referential approach to ethics. In much modern thought, influenced by Christianity, there is a polar opposition between altruism on the one hand and selfishness on the other; if we think of ourselves at all, this view would imply, we must be sacrificing the interests of others to our own in a selfish and reprehensible fashion.

Aristotle is aware, to be sure, that there can be such a thing as bad self-love. But he does not regard it as the only kind. And in this he is surely right; concern that one should oneself be the best sort of person possible and live the happiest life may well involve actions for the benefit of others, if these are characteristic of the good and happy person. There may be a more realistic hope of encouraging people to act in the interests of others, if doing so is seen as being a part of acting in one's own true interest too, rather than self-interest and acting in the interest of others being necessarily antithetical. Such at least seems to be the ancient perspective, and we will have cause to return to it not only in this chapter but also in the next.

The Epicureans

For Epicurus the goal of life is pleasure, and the happy life is that with most pleasure and least pain. But this does not mean, as might be thought, the life of perpetual physical self-indulgence -- though Epicurus already in his own lifetime protested against those who understood him so (ad Men. 131 - LS 21B5), and Sedley has shown that a former follower of Epicurus, Timocrates, who quarrelled with him, was partly responsible for encouraging such misunderstandings. Misunderstandings were probably, however, inevitable.

For Epicurus, the limit of pleasure is the removal of pain -- both physical pain and mental anxiety. Once pain has been removed, anything further can only be a 'variation' (poikilmos) -- a 'seasoning', as it were -- of pleasure; it cannot increase it, and so it can be dispensed with:

The limit of magnitude of pleasures is the removal of all pain. Wherever pleasure is present, for as long as it is present, there is neither pain, nor distress, nor the combination of the two. (PD 3 = LS 21C)

Pleasure is not increased, but only varied in the flesh, when once what caused pain because of lack has been removed. (PD 18 = LS 21E)

Lavish banquets may give variety to life, but they do not bring a greater degree of pleasure than does simple food, provided that such food is enough to dispel hunger:

We think that self-sufficiency is a great good, not in order to use only a little in every case, but so that we can make use of a little when we do not have much; being genuinely persuaded that the people who have the most pleasant enjoyment of extravagance are those who need it least, and that everything which is natural is easily obtained, while it is what is empty that is hard to obtain. Simple flavours give as much pleasure as an extravagant diet, whenever all the pain due to lack is removed; and barley-bread and water produce the summit of pleasure, whenever someone in need consumes them. (ad Men. 130-1 = LS 21B)

[How blind you are] not to see that nature barks for nothing else for itself, except that pain should be absent and removed from the body, and that in the mind it should enjoy pleasant sensation with anxiety and fear banished? So we see that for our bodily nature few things altogether are needed, whatever can remove pain, and also furnish many delights. Nature herself on each occasion requires nothing more welcome, even if there are not golden statues of young men throughout the house holding flaming lamps in their right hands to provide light for the night-time banquets, and the house does not shine with silver and glitter with gold, and gilded coffered ceilings do not echo to the lyre -- when lying down together in soft grass beside a stream of water beneath the branches of a lofty tree people pleasantly relax without great wealth, especially when the weather smiles on them and the season of the year sprinkles the green grass with flowers. Nor do hot fevers leave the body more swiftly if you toss under embroidered cloths and ruddy purple, than if you have to lie under the common person's cloak. (Lucretius, 2.16-36 = LS 21W)

Or more succinctly: 'He who knows the limits of life knows that what removes pain due to want and renders the whole of life complete is easily obtained; so that there is no need of deeds which involve competition' (PD 21 = LS 24C).

The Epicurean will enjoy banquets and the good things of life if possible, provided of course he or she does so in moderation and in a way that will not bring more pain in the long run. Epicurus is not an advocate of asceticism like those Platonists or Christians who argued that bodily pleasures were a hindrance to intellectual or spiritual advance. But the Epicurean will not be anxious about maintaining a social and financial position which will ensure that continued availability of banquets, for such security cannot in fact be achieved for certain, and the anxieties involved in the attempt are likely to spoil the enjoyment one would otherwise have; and general frugality makes us more able to appreciate the occasional luxury properly (ad Men. 131 = LS 21B):

The anxiety of the soul is not removed, nor any joy worth mentioning produced, either by the presence of the greatest wealth or by honour and notability among the multitude or by anything else of what comes from causes that know no limit. (Epicurus, Vatican Sayings 81 = LS 21H; my emphasis)

All pleasures qua pleasant are good, but just for that very reason (ad Men. 129 = LS 21B) we need to be discriminating to ensure our course of action will not bring us more pain in the long run. Desires can for Epicurus be divided into three types: the natural and necessary, the natural but non-necessary, and the unnatural and non-necessary; the necessary desires are further subdivided into some of which the satisfaction is necessary for happiness, others for the body's being free from disturbance, others for life itself (ibid. 127 = LS 21B). The necessary desires will presumably include those for food, drink, and shelter, without which we cannot live; for sex, if that is what is referred to by 'the body's being free from disturbance'; and, presumably, for happiness, desire for freedom from anxiety. Natural but non-necessary desires will include those for specific types of food and drink, which are not necessary but bring us natural pleasure if we can get them. And examples of the unnatural desires will include ambition for fame and political power, which many, according to Epicurus and Lucretius, regard as the route to happiness, though in fact they are impelled by a desire for security (which results, whether they know it or not, from the fear of death, as we shall see later), and their ambition will bring them disappointment and misery rather than happiness:

Some people wished to become famous and conspicuous, thinking that in this way they would achieve security from people. So if such people's life is secure, they have gained what is naturally good; but if it is not secure, they have not gained that which they desired in the first place because it was naturally appropriate. (PD 7 = LS 22C)

If anyone would steer his life by true reasoning, it is great riches for a person to be able to live thriftily with equanimity; for there is never shortage of a little. But people have wanted to be famous and powerful, so that their fortune might rest on a sure foundation and so that in their wealth they could live a tranquil life -- all in vain, for by striving to reach the highest honour they have made the path a hostile one, and when they reach the top envy strikes them like a thunderbolt and casts them down in time, despised, to the foul pit... so let them wearily sweat blood to no purpose, struggling along the narrow path of ambition, since their wisdom comes from others' mouths and their search is based on what they have heard rather than on the evidence of their own senses. (Lucretius, 5.1117 ff. = LS 22L)

The best way to achieve security and happiness is rather to withdraw from public life and dwell with a circle of like-minded friends, as Epicurus did in the Garden that gave its name to his school, enjoying the good things of life when one can but being aware how little one really needs.

One might expect that some non-natural desires do bring a degree of pleasure if satisfied, but not enough to justify the anxiety and possible subsequent actual pain involved, while others may be so misguided as never to bring any pleasure at all. If Epicurus was to claim that no non-natural desire ever brings any pleasure, he would be committed to claiming that those who think they enjoy pleasure from such sources are simply deluded. On the face of it, it seems more plausible to say that they are right about the pleasure but wrong about its inevitable concomitants. In conformity with Epicurus' general theory of knowledge, pleasure and pain are sensations which show us the truth about good and evil, and cannot themselves be in error, though we may err in our opinions about how to achieve the greatest pleasure. Nevertheless, the description of non-natural desires as 'vain' or 'empty' (ad Men. 127 = LS21B) does rather suggest that their satisfaction brings no pleasure at all. Perhaps, as we shall see below, the point is that the anxiety and frustration which Epicurus sees as accompanying a life spent in pursuit of non-natural desires will be so great that they will prevent any pleasure at all being felt; if this seems an exaggerated claim, Epicurus' and still more Lucretius' desire to persuade us to a certain way of life need to be borne in mind. Certainly all non-natural desire is misguided and should be eliminated.

The tradition of recommending satisfaction with what one has goes back at least to Democritus (KRS 594). Seneca (Letters on Morals 21.7-9) cites Epicurus for it and continues by saying

These utterances shouldn't be thought to be Epicurus'; they are public property. I think one should do in philosophy what customarily happens in the Senate; when someone proposes something which pleases me in part, I tell him to divide his proposal into two parts, and I support what I approve.

The question, however, arises: just what is the basis on which Epicurus determines that some desires are natural and others non-natural? That pleasure is the good he argued, notoriously, from observation of animals as soon as they are born (Cicero, On Ends 1.30 = LS 21A; the so-called 'cradle argument', which we will meet again, used for a very different purpose, in a Stoic context). Is it by similar criterion that desires are judged natural or otherwise, which would suggest the elimination of the artificialities of civilisation and a 'back-to-nature' ethics? Or is the criterion rather that experience shows (in Epicurus' view) that we are better off not trying to fulfil certain desires which are therefore dismissed as non-natural? Would Epicurus cope with the claims of rival life-styles by arguing that their proponents were wrong about human nature, perhaps all nature (rather as Plato makes Socrates in the Gorgias argue that Callicles is wrong: 508A)? Or would he rather try to convince us that experience shows that lives based on other principles will not achieve happiness in practice? Perhaps, indeed, both; Lucretius 5.1117ff., quoted on p. 87, refers to the ambitious being guided by other people's opinions rather than their own experience. However, while Lucretius' account of the development of civilisation in his fifth book stresses the problems sophistication brings -- a common theme of Roman literature -- it does not idealise the primitive condition. Indeed, it has been well argued that in relation to this issue book 5 should be interpreted not as self-contained but as leading up to the prologue of book 6 which stresses the blessings Epicureanism brings. What matters is not whether your circumstances are primitive or civilised, impoverished or luxurious, but the attitude you have towards them.

But even if we can establish to our satisfaction which desires are natural and which not, it may still be objected that the sort of restrained happiness which Epicurus offers is still going to be hard for most people to achieve. Are not pains and losses of various sorts things about which we are necessarily going to be anxious? Here the Epicurean answer is twofold. The third Principal Doctrine, which asserts that the limit of pleasure is the removal of pain, is immediately followed by the fourth, which asserts that no pain is both great and long-lasting (LS 21C). In the conditions of ancient medicine that was perhaps truer than now; great pain was likely to be swiftly followed by death (or recovery), while in chronic illness, Epicurus argued, there is actually more bodily pleasure present than pain, if (one may add) we choose to be aware of it. And second, physical pain can be outweighed by mental pleasure. The body, or as Epicurus puts it 'the flesh' (see Chapter Four) is confined to the present moment, while the mind can range over past and future (DL 10.136 = LS 21R; Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.95 = LS 21T). This suggests that unfounded anxieties about the future cause even more distress than does physical pain; it also implies that the memory of past happiness can outweigh present physical pain. And so Epicurus, dying after a fortnight's illness with kidney-stone (DL 10.5) which had earlier prompted him to write 'For seven days before writing this I have been unable to pass urine, and there have been pains of the type that bring people to their last day' (Epicurus, fr. 36 Bailey), wrote to his friend Idomeneus

Passing this happy day of my life, and dying, I write this to you. The strangury and the affliction in my guts are progressing, lacking no excess in their severity; but set against all these things is the joy in my soul at the memory of the discussions we have had. (DL 10.22 = LS 24D)

The wise person will be happy when tortured on the rack, even though he or she will cry out and lament (DL 10.118 = LS 22Q); again, past memories do not remove present bodily pain, but they can outweigh it.

Bodily pleasures are fundamental for Epicurus, it seems, not in the sense that we should pursue them indiscriminately, but in that freedom from anxiety, or ataraxia, itself a pleasure in the mind, is ultimately freedom from anxiety about physical pain -- in the form of punishments in the afterlife, for example. This explains such passages as the following, which could on the face of it seem to be advocating gross physical indulgence:

For I for my part cannot understand that good, if I remove those pleasures which are perceived by taste, those which are perceived in sex, those from listening to singing, those pleasant movements too which are received in the eyes from beautiful things, or any other pleasures which come about in the whole person through any of the senses. Nor can it be said that joy of the mind only is among good things, for I recognise a joyful mind by its hope that its nature will be in possession of all things that I have mentioned above, and free from pain. (Epicurus cited by Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 3.41 = LS 21L)

I do not know how I can understand the good, if I remove the pleasures that come through taste and sex and hearing and the pleasant movements caused in sight by beautiful shape. (Epicurus cited by Athenaeus, 7.280A = Epicurus fr. 10 Bailey)

And, notoriously, 'The beginning and root of all good is the pleasure of the stomach; even wisdom and refinements (of culture) are to be referred to this' (Epicurus cited by Athenaeus, 12.546 = LS 21M). As Cicero makes his Epicurean spokesman say, recognition that mental pleasures and pains have their origin in bodily ones does not stop them being much greater than bodily ones (On Ends 1.55 = LS 21U). But one may still wonder whether Plutarch may not have some justification in complaining, in his essay That a Pleasant life is not Possible by Following Epicurus, that Epicureanism neglects the higher aspirations of the human spirit; and even with Epicurus' own doctrine it is difficult to see how the pleasure of remembering past philosophical discussions can be accommodated on this model, unless indeed the pleasurable thing about the discussions was just their removal of anxieties about the future. One fragment of Epicurus speaks of philosophy being distinctive in that enjoyment is present in the whole pursuit and not just at the end (Vatican Sayings 27 = LS 25I); but whether this implies that philosophy has value in itself, rather than as a means to the end of removing unfounded anxieties, and whether if so it entitles us to dismiss as rhetorical exaggeration the passages that imply that the value of philosophy is purely instrumental, is uncertain. (See in Chapter Two, on heavenly phenomena; also

If we were not troubled at all by misgivings about celestial phenomena, and misgivings that death might in some way be our concern, and also by not being aware of the limits of pains and desires, we would not stand in need of the study of nature. It is not possible to dispel fear about the most important things if one does not know what is the nature of the universe, but has some misgivings about the things in the myths. So it is not possible to enjoy pleasures in their purity without the study of nature. (PD 11-12 = LSS 25B)

The ancient sources draw a distinction between 'kinetic' pleasures, or pleasures involving change, on the one hand, and 'katastemic' or 'stationary' pleasures on the other; Epicurus, we are told, recognised both types with reference both to the body (or 'flesh') and the mind, unlike the rival Cyrenaic hedonist school which recognised only the kinetic pleasures of the body (DL 10.136 = LS 21R). The contrast has commonly been interpreted in the light of discussions of pleasure in Plato and Aristotle, as a contrast between (i) the pleasures involved in the process of change that removes a lack -- drinking to satisfy thirst, for example -- and (ii) the pleasure of simply not being subject to any lack, such as the pleasure of simply not being thirsty. Plato had in his Gorgias (493-4) symbolised two attitudes to pleasure by, on the one hand, a leaky jar that constantly needs to be refilled, and on the other a sound jar which needs little topping up; and he made Socrates' opponent there, Callicles, describe the sort of existence suggested by the latter as like that of a corpse or a stone.

To interpret the contrast between kinetic and katastemic pleasures in this way seems natural in the context of the doctrine that the limit of pleasure is the removal of pain. But the pleasure of simply not being thirsty seems somewhat lacking in positive content, and open to the objection -- made indeed by ancient critics: Cicero, On Ends 2.15ff. -- that Epicurus is not really entitled to apply the same term 'pleasure' to the kinetic and katastemic types.

While Plato in writings after the Gorgias had continued to regard the pleasures of replenishment as inferior because of their necessary connection with pain, he had also argued that those who say that pleasure is nothing more than the absence of pain are mistaken (Philebus 44BC) and that there are other, superior pleasures not involving pain at all (ibid. 51-2, cf. Republic 9. 584-5). Aristotle's connection of pleasure with ongoing activity rather than with processes like that of replenishment makes a similar point (EN 10.3, cf. 7.12). For Epicurus too some have therefore suggested that katastemic pleasure is rather a positive sense of well-being that we enjoy when not subject to a lack. This could be connected with the fact that our soul and body atoms are, after all, in constant movement. (Since there is katastemic pleasure of the body as well as of the mind, we cannot argue that katastemic pleasure has positive content because it is just the mental pleasure of reflecting on the fact that the body is not subject to a lack.) Perhaps there is a positive pleasure in having one's atoms moving in harmonious patterns rather than being disrupted by some lack. Parallels have been seen with a text of Democritus which asserts that moderation brings 'good spirit' (euthumïê) and that deficiency and excess produce large movements which exclude this (KRS 594). But the interpretation of this passage in terms of atomic physical theory is controversial in Democritus (cf. KRS p. 432), let alone its extension to Epicurus.

Recently, however, Purinton has argued that the parallel with Plato's and Aristotle's discussions of replenishment is misleading, and that kinetic pleasures are to be interpreted as including all pleasures which we directly experience as such; they may accompany the replenishment of a lack, but do not have to do so (though, as we have seen, once the lack is satisfied pleasure can only be varied and not increased). The role of katastemic pleasure, in Purinton's view, is essentially different, relating to the Epicurean point that in taking the long view, not pursuing any and every pleasure indiscriminately, we should not ignore -- as the Cyrenaics did -- the fact that not being in pain, even if it does not positively feel pleasant in itself, is a good not to be disregarded, and one which may even lead us to endure a lesser pain now for the sake of avoiding a greater one in the future. A life could not indeed be katastematically pleasant without some Kinetic pleasures -- pleasure is something which living creatures need; but getting this particular kinetic pleasure rather than that is less important that the overall katastemic pleasure of a life founded on the principle that the removal of pain is the limit of pleasure.

Moral virtue will play a part in freedom from anxiety. The person who is unjust will be beset by anxieties which will destroy his or her peace of mind, as we shall see in Chapter Six. Cicero indeed suggests that virtue's relation to pleasure for Epircurus is purely as a means to and end, and finds this shocking, citing the Stoic Cleanthes' critical description of the virtues as Pleasure's servants (On Ends 2.69 = LS 21O). Other passages suggest that acting virtuously is pleasant in itself; Virtue will still, however, derive its value from pleasure, which is the sole good, rather than constituting an independent good.

The anxieties which according to Epicurus and Lucretius most trouble people stem from two fears: from fear of divine wrath, and from fear of death which, whether we realise it or not, creates our desire for the wrong sort of security and is thus a major cause of wrongdoing:

The principal anxiety in human souls comes about through thinking that [the heavenly bodies] are blessed and indestructible, and yet have wishes and act and cause things to come about in a way that is inconsistent with this; and in always expecting some eternal terror or being apprehensive of what is in the myths, or also being fearful of the very loss of sensation in death, as if it applied to themselves... (ad Hdt. 81)

Against the fear of death Epicurus' and Lucretius' basic argument is simple: since we do not exist after death, it is no concern to us: 'Death is nothing to us; for what has been dissolved is without sensation, and what is without sensation is nothing to us' (PD 2). Stories of torments in the underworld are therefore false and should cause us no fear.

This, however, is open to a double objection. First of all, it may be questioned -- and is questioned by critics of Epicureanism in Cicero's dialogues -- whether fears of punishment in the afterlife were really as widespread as Epicurus, and especially Lucretius, make out. May they not to some extent be creating a target just in order to attack it? 'What old woman is so stupid as to fear those things which you allegedly would fear if you had not learnt natural science?' (Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 1.48; cf. On the Nature of the Gods 1.86, 2.5).

To this there may be two replies. First, Lucretius argues that people's claims that they are not affected by superstitious fears should not be believed, especially when they say one thing in times of prosperity but behave in quite a different way in times of adversity (the 'churches are fuller in wartime' argument: 3.48ff.). Second, as with fear of the heavenly bodies as divine, Epicurus at least may be aiming his polemic against a specific target: Plato's writings, and here his myths of retribution in the afterlife.

Nevertheless, the suspicion of attacking the wrong target remains; for people's fear of death may be not fear of existing after death in some unpleasant circumstances, but fear of annihilation itself. As Seneca puts it,

Even when you are persuaded that those are fables and that those who have died have nothing more to fear, another apprehension arises; for people are afraid not only that they will be in the underworld, but also that they will be -- nowhere. (Seneca, Letters on Morals 82.16)

Here the best that Epicurus or Lucretius can offer is, first, the claim that it is pointless to worry about the prospect of something that will not trouble us when it is actually present (ad Men., 125 = LS 24A), and, second, an argument from the analogy with the past: the thought that there was a time in the past when we did not exist does not cause us any anxiety, so why should the corresponding thought about the future?

Again, consider how the endless ages that elapsed before we were born are nothing to us. Thus nature shows us this as a mirror of the time that will be after we have finally died. Surely nothing appears there to shudder at, surely nothing seems gloomy; is it not more free from care than any sleep? (Lucretius, 3.972ff.)

But to this the natural reply is that our attitudes to the past and the future in general are not the same, and that the threat of future ills quite generally causes us more anxiety than the memory of past ones; or, putting it another way, that human beings have natural desires concerning future projects which death as annihilation seems to threaten. And we may not all find much consolation in the thought that, however long we may live, we will still be dead for an infinite length of time after that (ibid. 3.1087 = LS 24G). Perhaps to unchanging gods -- Aristotelian, or even Epicurean? -- past and future are alike; and Epicurus claims that by following his philosophy we can be like the gods. But he may, as Martha Nussbaum in particular has forcefully argued, be disregarding what makes human life distinctively human.

Lucretius ends his third book with a whole series of arguments against the fear of death. Where he may seem to be on stronger ground is when he is in fact arguing, though without himself explicitly distinguishing the two points, not so much that death is not to be feared as that to be preoccupied with the fear of death achieves nothing except to ruin the life you already have. Some of his arguments may seem to beg the question, as is natural enough in what is, after all, rhetorical exhortation verging on satire, rather that dispassionate philosophical argument. Thus he likens the person who fears death to a guest at a banquet (3.935ff.; the image is taken up by Horace, Satires 1.1.117-19), and presents Nature personified as saying that if life has been satisfactory one should be content to leave it, if unsatisfactory one should not wish to prolong it:

For if your past life has been pleasant for you, and all its benefits have not, as if poured into a leaky vessel, run out and perished without being enjoyed, why do you not retire satisfied by the banquet of life, and with a calm spirit accept rest free from care, you fool? But if whatever you have enjoyed has been wasted and come to nothing and your life is a burden to you, why do you seek to add more which will in turn perish and come to nothing without being enjoyed; why do you not rather make an end both of life and of trouble? For there is nothing further that I can discover or contrive to please you; all things are always the same. (Lucretius, 3.935ff.)

One might object that a third case has not been taken into account, that of the person who has lived an unsatisfactory and unhappy life so far but could reform and achieve at least some time of happiness (by adopting Epicureanism) if given more time to do it in.

Both Epicurus and Lucretius claim that pleasure is not increased by being prolonged -- in effect, that it is quality of life that matters rather than quantity. Longer life may give you the same pleasure for more time; it cannot, if you have achieved the most pleasurable life that is humanly possible, bring any greater degree of pleasure:

Infinite and finite time contain equal pleasure if one measures the limits [of pleasure] by reason. The flesh takes the limits of pleasure to be unlimited, and pleasure [as requiring] unlimited time to provide it. But the mind, having understood the goal and the limits of the flesh, and removed fears concerning eternity, provides us with a life that is complete, and we no longer need unlimited time; [the mind] neither avoids pleasure nor, when circumstances are making ready our departure from life, does it come to its end as if it lacked anything from the best life. (PD 19-20 = LS 24C; cf. Lucretius, 3.1081)

This, however, raises the question: does Epicurus, in his anxiety to dispel the fear of death, not risk suggesting that there is nothing to choose between living for another twenty years with the maximum happiness possible for a human being, on the one hand, and dying tomorrow, on the other? May Epicurus and Lucretius not end up by presenting existence and non-existence as alternatives between which there really is not much to choose, playing down the joys of life in order to make us less reluctant to relinquish it? Not that Epicurus advocates suicide, except in extreme circumstances; if your life is such that you do not want to continue it, it is your own fault for living in a way that has made it so, and indeed it is paradoxically often the fear of death that produces the anxieties that drive people to suicide. (cf. Epicurus cited by Seneca, Letters on Morals 24.22.)

When Lucretius insists that we should not spoil the life we have by anxiety about our death, which is inevitable anyway, he surely has a point. Nature's speech, quoted above, continues, to the person who complains at the prospect of death even though already old,

Away with your tears, clown, and check your complaints. Having enjoyed all life's rewards, now you are in decline. But because you have always desired what you do not have, and despised what is there for the taking, your life has slipped away, incomplete and without being enjoyed, and death stands unexpectedly beside you before you can depart from your affairs replete and satisfied. (Lucretius, 3.955ff.; my emphasis)

Enjoying the present is in fact the genuine Epicurean version of the 'popular Epicureanism' enshrined in the injunction to 'eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die'. But the popular notion often carries with it overtones of anxiety which are quite un-Epicurean, as in Horace:

Tell them to bring here wine and perfume and the flowers of the lovely rose which do not last, while circumstances and your age and the black threads spun by the three Fates still allow. (Horace, Odes 2.3.13-16)

While we speak, jealous time is flying past; enjoy the present day, trusting as little as possible in tomorrow. (ibid. 1.11.7-8)

The genuine Epicurean will indeed enjoy life (frugally, for the most part) because it is the only opportunity for enjoyment we have. But he or she will do so with due regard for the future consequences of present actions (since, presumably, although we may not be alive tomorrow, we probably will be, and should not risk a greater pain then for the sake of a lesser pleasure now, or avoid a lesser pain now if it will save us from a greater one tomorrow), and without being anxious or preoccupied with the thought of death. Lucretius describes in terms which are not without some present-day echoes the dissatisfaction -- we would call it neurotic anxiety or alienation -- which is, in his view, prompted by the fear of death, whether we realise this or not:

We see people for the most part not knowing what they want for themselves and always seeking a change of place as if they could cast off a burden. The great man often goes out of his lofty doors, which he is bored with being at home, and swiftly comes back since he feels no better outside; he drives his expensive ponies headlong to his country house, as if hurrying to save a house on fire; he starts yawning as soon as he crosses the threshold, and either falls into a deep sleep and seeks oblivion, or again hurries to get back to the city. In this way everyone is running away from himself, but unwillingly he is stuck to and hates the one whom, as it turns out, he cannot escape, because in his sickness he does not grasp the cause of the disease... (Lucretius, 3.1057-70)

Modern sensibilities tent to regard Lucretius as callous when he writes

'Now your happy home will no longer welcome you, or your good wife, and your sweet children will not run to meet you and snatch the first kiss and touch your heart with silent sweetness. You will not be able to prosper in your affairs and protect your family. Alas, alas,' they say, 'one unhappy day has completely taken away from you so many rewards of life.' But what they do not add in these circumstances is 'and now you don't miss any of these things any longer'. (ibid. 3.894ff. LS 24E: my emphasis)

We suppose that we ought to be distressed at the thought that after death we will not be able to protect our families (an even more important matter, indeed, in ancient conditions of social organisation than in modern); and we may resent the fact that Lucretius first shows us a picture of domestic happiness, unusual enough in Roman literature, and then deflates it. Indeed, if he is speaking of someone who dies relatively young, with children not yet grown to adulthood, and who is unable to look after the family when one might naturally expect that one would, then we may be justified in finding his attitude callous; but, like it or not, for all of us, if we do not suffer the misfortune of our children predeceasing us, there will come a time when we will have to leave them to their own devices and will no longer be around to influence them. And since this is inevitable, the Epicurean message goes, we will be happier if we do like it than if we don't. For the Epicurean as for the Stoic, happiness lies in accepting the inevitable. The paradox is that the Epicurean, who believes that each person's attitudes to events and situations are not predetermined, adopts what most would see as a more passive approach to life, while the Stoic, who believes that each person's attitudes are predetermined, adopts a more active one, as we shall see.

Most telling of all, perhaps, in the context of the Epicurean atomic theory, is the argument that we should accept our death because the everlasting atoms of which we, body and soul alike, are made are needed for reuse -- for recycling, in the modern jargon. Lucretius addresses the person who is reluctant to die:

There is need for matter for future generations to grow, and yet they will all follow you when they have finished with life; just so before now generations have perished no less than you, and so they will continue to do. Thus one thing never ceases to spring up from another; no one is granted life as a freehold, but everyone has a temporary lease of it. (ibid. 3.967-71 = LS 24F)

It may seem to the reader that the discussion of Epicurean ethics in this chapter has devoted excessive space to the question of the fear of death. The justification for this is twofold. We are, first of all, constrained by the actual state of our sources, and Lucretius develops this particular theme at length. But second and more importantly, Lucretius' discussion of the fear of death provides us with an extended context in which we can see what Epicurean ethical attitudes amount to in practice -- though we should remember that Lucretius is in this section drawing not just on Epicurean sources but on themes of popular moralising in general, and on the literary genre of consolation to the bereaved in particular.

The Stoics

Plato had made Socrates argue that a wicked person cannot be happy, however prosperous that person is in worldly terms. But he does not make him explicitly argue the converse, that a virtuous person will be happy just by being virtuous, regardless of the material circumstances. Plato's Socrates is challenged (Republic 2.361) to show only that the righteous person who is being tortured is happier than the wicked person who is prosperous, not that he or she is happy tout court. And Aristotle for his part describes the claim that a person who is suffering the greatest misfortune is happy as one that no one would defend who was not arguing for the sake of argument (EN 1.5 1096z1; cf. 7.13 1153b19) -- though he nevertheless suggests that a virtuous person cannot ever be truly wretched, either. (EN 1.10 1101a34; we will have occasion to return to this passage later.) In his rhetoric (1.5 1360b14ff.; adopting a more popular view to suit the context, but cf. also EN 1.8 1099b3) Aristotle regards happiness and much else besides; later writers picked out his follower Theophrastus as 'weakening' virtue by claiming that it was not sufficient for happiness (Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.24; Academica 1.33ff.).

They did so because they required a view to contrast with that of the Stoics. For the Stoics did hold that virtue or wisdom (the two being equated) is sufficient in itself for happiness (DL 7.127 = LS 61I; Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.82 = LS 63M), and that virtue alone is good, wickedness alone evil (DL 7.102 = LS 58A). Where others might say that virtue was so important that no other considerations could outweigh it or come anywhere near doing so -- so that between virtue plus poverty and wickedness plus riches there is no real contest -- the Stoics went further and denied that riches and virtue could enter into the same calculation at all; in judging what is good our only concern should be to behave virtuously:

Indeed, if wisdom [i.e. virtue] and wealth were both desirable, the combination of both would be more desirable than wisdom alone; but it is not the case that, if both are deserving of approbation, the combination is worth more than wisdom alone on its own. For we judge health deserving of a certain degree of approbation but do not place it among goods, and we consider that there is no degree of approbation so great that it can be preferred to virtue. This the Peripatetics do not hold, for they must say that an action which is both virtuous and without pain is more desirable than the same action accompanied by pain. We [Stoics] think otherwise. (Cicero, On Ends 3.44; my emphasis)

Virtuous behaviour, however, needs to be defined. For the Cynics virtue consisted in 'living according to nature', and Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school, who had been a pupil of the Cynic Crates before founding his own school, took over this definition; his successors modified the formulation but preserved its essence (Stobaeus, Selections 2.7.6a, p. 75.11ff. Wachsmuth-Hense, DL 7.87-9 = LS 63BC). For the Cynics it seems that 'life according to nature' was largely a negative slogan, involving the rejection of conventional ways of behaving; but for Zeno and for orthodox Stoics after him it had positive content, indicating that we should live in accordance with our own human nature, and also with the nature of the universe of which we are parts. No human being, not even the Stoic sage, can foresee everything that the future -- which is to say, fate and providence -- has in store; since our knowledge is limited we should follow the guidance of our own nature, but if things turn out otherwise we should accept this as the for best (Chapter Four).

What, then, is the guidance of our own nature? Where Epicurus claimed that the first instinct of any new-born living creature was for pleasure, the Stoics claimed that it was for self-preservation (DL 7.85-6 = LS 57A). The instinct for self-preservation is described in terms of the creature's 'appropriation' to itself -- its recognition of its body, first of all, as its own. 'Appropriation', oikeiôsis, is a term with no very natural English equivalent; its force can perhaps be more easily grasped by contrasting it with its more familiar opposite, 'alienation'. Significantly, for the Stoics it is usually a matter of us being appropriated to things by nature, rather than appropriating them to ourselves. Bulls are instinctively aware of their horns (Hierocles, Elements of Ethics 2.5 = LS 57C); a tortoise placed on its back struggles to right itself, and endures pain in order to do so (Seneca, Letters on Morals 121.8 = LS 57B) -- the point presumably being that if the animal could calculate it might be trading off present pain for future pleasure, but if it cannot it must be instinct that drives it to strive for its natural condition. As Long and Sedley stress (p. 352) the appeal to nature is not intended to imply that we should behave in a certain way because animals do so; rather, observation of animals can help to reinforce our understanding of what is natural for us and for them, and to refute the Epicureans.

As the infant human being grows and develops, its 'appropriation' develops in two ways; it comes to recognise more fully what its own nature involves, and it builds links with other human beings, in its family, its city and so on (DL 7.86 = LS 57A). The latter aspect we will return to in Chapter Six. A human being thus comes to recognise that it is natural to pursue certain things and avoid others; health and wealth, for example, will fall in the first group, sickness and poverty in the latter. Ordinary people think that these are respectively goods and evils; but the person who eventually comes to be a Stoic sage will realise that they are not (Cicero, On Ends 3.21 = LS 59D). For one's own true nature, what really matters is one's reason; virtue, the only good, consists in making the right selections (not choices, for virtue alone is worthy of choice) among external and bodily goods and in attempting to put one's selections into effect as far as one can. This is in our own individual control; whether we succeed is not, and is irrelevant to our happiness.

Virtue alone is good; health and wealth are indifferent, but they fall into a class of 'preferred indifferents'. Wealth is preferred as a means to an end -- it can be used to perform virtuous actions; bodily fitness, however, is preferred both for this reason and for its own sake, because it is natural (DL 7.107; cf. LS vol. 2, p. 355). Sickness and poverty are 'unpreferred indifferents'; that is to say, we should try to avoid them if we can do so without compromising our virtue (we should not steal to pay the doctor's bill, for example), but what is important is that we behave rationally, i.e. virtuously, by trying to avoid them, not that we should succeed in doing so. Other things of no importance at all, such as having an odd or even number of hairs, are indifferents that are neither preferred or unpreferred (DL 7.104 = LS 58B). One early Stoic, Aristo of Chios, rejected the notion of preferred and unpreferred indifferents, arguing that everything except virtue and wickedness was, simply, indifferent; but by adopting this view he risked denying virtue its content and returning to the Cynic position. Cicero indeed compares Aristo to Pyrrho (On Ends 2.43 = LS 2G, 3.50 = LS 581), but Aristo denied only differences in value in things other than virtue and vice themselves, while Pyrrho's scepticism extended to all determinable differences in anything whatsoever.

The Stoic Diogenes of Babylon in the second century BC defined the purpose of life as 'to act in accordance with good reason in the selection and rejection of the things that are in accordance with nature', and his successor Antipater as 'to live selecting what is in accordance with nature and rejecting what is contrary to nature continuously' (Stobaeus, Selections 2.7.6a, p. 76.9ff. Wachsmuth-Hense = LS 58K). Antipater also defined the goal as 'to do everything as far as oneself is concerned continuously and undeviatingly with a view to obtaining the primary things in accordance with nature' (ibid.) (Presumably it is implied 'so long as one does not act immorally in doing so'; or perhaps this is taken care of by virtue itself being in accordance with nature.)

Antipater's second formulation brings out more clearly the implication that the goal is to try to obtain things in accordance with nature rather than actually to obtain them:

See then what results for them, that the end is to act reasonably in the selection of things that have value for acting reasonably. For they say that they do not have or conceive of any other essence of the good or of happiness than this much-honoured reasonableness in the selection of things that have value. -- But there are those who think that this is said against Antipater rather than against the [whole] sect; for he entered into these ingenious arguments under pressure from Carneades. (Plutarch, CN 1072EF = LS 64D)

Critics like Plutarch found the implication that it is selection that is important, rather than the things selected, absurd. But there is nothing in these later formulations alien to Chrysippus' own doctrines, even if -- probably in reactions to Academic criticisms, as Plutarch indicates -- they bring out the distinctive features of the Stoic position all the more clearly. The Stoic sage is like an archer whose goal is not to hit the target, but to do the best he can to hit the target:

All appropriate acts can rightly be said to relate to this purpose, that we may obtain the primary things of nature -- not, however, that this is the ultimate good; for virtuous action is not among the primary natural attractions; it is a consequence that arises later, as I have said... No one should think that it follows that there are two ultimate goods. For we speak of the ultimate good as if someone's purpose was to aim a spear or arrow and something; the man in the example would have to do everything he could to aim straight. That he should do everything to achieve his purpose would be, as it were, his ultimate good, as we speak of the supreme good in life; but that he should hit the mark is as it were to be selected, but not to be desired. (Cicero, On Ends 3.22 = LS 59D, 64F)

Plutarch attacks this image too (CN 1071A = LS 64C); but is it not true that no archer, however good, can guarantee that a stray gust of wind will not throw his arrow off course?

The Stoics are certainly not, as Plutarch also suggests, trapped in a circular argument defining virtue in terms of what we should pursue and what we should pursue in terms of virtue:

They posit, as the essence of the good, the reasonable selection of things in accordance with nature; but selection is not reasonable if it is not with a view to some end, as was stated above. What, then, is this [end]? Nothing other, they say, than acting reasonably in the selection of the things in accordance with nature. First of all, the notion of the good is gone and disappeared; for... being compelled to derive our notion of being reasonable for the end, and to think of the end not apart from this, we fail to think of either. (Plutarch, CN 1072C)

The argument is not circular, in spite of Plutarch's objections, for it is nature that defines what we should pursue, even though it is the pursuit itself rather than the things pursued that are the true end. With more justice, perhaps, critics also protested that the Stoic account of human development contained a sudden break, leaving human nature behind; the transition from being on the way to virtue to having actually achieved it involves realising that the things one thought good in themselves are not in fact so.

But what is there less consistent than their saying that, when they have discovered the supreme good, they go back to nature and look for the principle of action -- that is, of appropriate action -- from her? For it is not thought of action or appropriate action that impels us to desire those things which are in accordance with nature; rather, both desire and action are aroused by those things. (Cicero, On Ends 4.48)

Panaetius was, however, able to give a detailed and not implausible account of how the four cardinal virtues of Greek thought -- wisdom, justice, bravery and moderation respectively -- arise from natural instincts:

Everything which is right arises from one of four parts [sc. of our natural instincts]; it is either concerned with perception of truth and expert skill; or with the preservation of human society, the assignment to each person of their due and faithfulness in undertakings; or with the greatness and strength of a lofty and unconquered spirit; or with order and moderation in all things that are said and done, this constituting modesty and self-control. (Cicero, On Duties 1.15)

The Stoic sage, and the ordinary person who is doing what he or she should, will make the same selections -- e.g., in most circumstances, health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty -- and will try to put them into effect. The difference is in their attitude and motivation. For the ordinary person thinks that it is achieving health that matters, while the Stoic sage will realise that the important thing is trying to do so. A precisely similar action will be a kathêkon (a fitting, or appropriate action; the word that Cicero translated by officium, duty) whoever performs it, but a katorthôma, a correct action, if and only if performed by a sage. (Strictly, it will be a meson kathêkon if performed by somebody other than a sage, Stobaeus, Selections 2.7.8, p. 86.2 Wachsmuth-Hense = LS 59B). The Stoics recognised, indeed, that what is fitting will in many cases depend upon the particular circumstances; some actions, such as sacrificing one's property, are appropriate only in particular circumstances.

The sage's virtue consists in possession not just of individual true judgements but of truth -- a systematic body of moral knowledge. Virtue cannot therefore be easily lost -- or so one might expect, though in fact there was a debate within the school over whether virtue could be lost, by senility or, more oddly, through the sage's getting drunk (DL 7.127 = LS 61I). There is no middle ground between virtue and wickedness, wisdom and folly; though some people who are not virtuous are 'making progress' (prokoptontes) towards virtue, everyone who is not wise and virtuous is mad and bad (Plutarch, SR 31 1048E; Alexander of Aphrodisias, On Fate 28 199.14 = LS 61N):

Whoever is driven blindly along by evil stupidity and ignorance of the truth, him the porch and herd of Chrysippus declares to be insane. This rule applies to all nations and to great kings, to everyone except the wise. (Horace, Satires 2.3.43ff.)

Any falling short of the ideal is a falling short; one can drown just as well half a yard below the surface as at the bottom of the sea (Plutarch, CN 1063A = LS 61T). The Stoics thus insisted that all wrong actions were equal (Stobaeus, Selections 2.7.11o, p. 113.18 Wachsmuth-Hense = LS 59O); this is a deliberate paradox -- true from one point of view, false from another -- which incurred the derision of their critics:

Nor will this principle prevail, that the fault is equal and the same of the person who breaks off young cabbages in someone else's garden and of the one who at night carries off the sacred emblems of the gods. Let there be a rule to demand punishments that fit the crimes, so that you do not use the terrible scourge on what only deserves the whip. (Horace, Satires 1.3.115ff.)

And indeed the very passage of Stobaeus just cited allows that, even if all wrong actions are equally wrong, there is a difference between those that result from inveterate wickedness and those that do not. The latter will presumably include the inevitable mistakes made by the prokoptontes.

Not surprisingly, the Stoic sage is as rare as the phoenix (Alexander of Aphrodisias, loc. cit.); and Chrysippus did not claim that either he himself or any of his teachers or acquaintances was a sage (Plutarch, SR 31 1048E). The final change to virtue when you become a sage is so slight you do not notice it (ibid.). Since death is not in itself an evil, suicide may sometimes be the rational, and therefore virtuous, course to follow (Cicero, On Ends 3.60-1 = LS 66G; DL 7.130 = LS 66H). Seneca in particular -- perhaps because of his personal situation under Nero -- lays great emphasis on suicide as the guarantee of personal freedom, but is perhaps unorthodox in the extent to which he does so.

Modern criticism of Stoic ethics has centred on the seeming inhumanity of the Stoic sage. The objection is well illustrated by the example, not found in this form in ancient sources but reconstructed according to Stoic principles, of the Stoic sage who comes home to find the house on fire and his child inside. (I take the example from Long, Hellenistic Philosophy 197-8.) If there is any possibility of saving the child, the Stoic sage will try to do so. (It would be foolhardy, and so not virtuous, to try if there was no hope; it would be failing to act in accordance with nature not to try to save the child if there was any hope of doing so.) But the sage will try to save the child not, ultimately, from concern about saving the child, but from concern to do the right thing. And if the sage is beaten back by the flames and the child dies there will be no regrets -- and that, it would seem, for three reasons. First, because the sage did the right thing; that is what being a Stoic sage, and hence virtuous, means, and hence it is a logically demonstrable truth that a sage will have no regrets. Saving the child was not in the sage's power; trying to save it was, and that the sage did. Second, death is not an evil but an 'unpreferred indifferent', so nothing really bad has happened either to the child or to the sage himself (Anaxagoras, in the fifth century BC, when he heard of his son's death, said that he know he had begotten a mortal (Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 3.30) and Epictetus said that, if you kiss your wife, you should be aware she is a mortal (Discources 1.1.22)). And third, everything that happens is ordered for the best by Providence, even if we cannot understand how. It would not be alien to Stoic thought to argue that the apparent disaster has given the sage an opportunity to put virtue into practice, both in trying to save the child and in not grieving afterwards, and also that it may have forestalled some real evil for the child if not for the sage (i.e. it may have been destined that the child would grow up to be wicked).

The Stoic attitude may seem harsh, even repulsive. But we should note two things: first, that as far as actions are concerned the Stoic sage acts in just the same way as anyone else, and tries just as hard to save the child; if that is the proper thing to do, it would not be virtuous to do otherwise. Second, the Stoic distinction between what is in our power and what is not has a point. The Stoics certainly push the importance of intentions, as opposed to results, to paradoxical extremes, like so much else in their doctrine; we should beware of watering down the paradoxes in order to make the Stoic position seem more acceptable, but equally we should not disregard what there is to be said in its favour. The claim that virtue alone is good can be seen as an attempt to stress the distinction between moral and non-moral values; the implication that it is not only more in our own self-interest to be unjustly tortured than to do wrong, but that we will be just as happy in those circumstances as if we were virtuous and prosperous, may seem bizarre, but is it any more so than the belief that we should do our duty regardless of the consequences, or the belief that we should act for the greatest happiness of the greatest number even if that does not include ourselves?

Panaetius, though not rejecting any of the traditional positions of orthodox Stoic ethics, laid emphasis on the situation of those progressing to virtue, rather than on the ideal of the sage, unrealised in practice; he also drew a distinction between four ethical personae -- the term originally meaning 'mask' -- to be taken into account in assessing the duties of each individual:

One must understand that we are, as it were, endowed by nature with two personae; one of these is common as a result of the fact that we all share in reason and the superiority that it gives us over the beasts; it is from this that all that is right and fitting derives, and it is starting from this that we inquire rationally about our duty; the second is that which is assigned to individuals as proper to them... To the two personae which I mentioned above is added a third, imposed by some chance or circumstance, and also a fourth, which we ourselves adopt by our own decision. (Cicero, On Duties 1.107, 115 = LS 66E)

And -- although Panaetius is careful to say that we should not go against universal nature, of which more later -- it is our own particular nature that we should follow:

But each person must hold altogether to his own: not to his vices, but to what is proper to him, so that the fittingness [in actions] which we are seeking may more easily be maintained. For we must act in such a way that we do not all strive against universal nature; accordingly, even if there are other things which are more weighty and better, nevertheless we should measure our pursuits by the rule of our own proper nature. For there is no use in fighting against nature or in pursuing anything which you cannot achieve. (ibid. 1.110 = LS 66E)

Antiochus of Ascalon, Cicero's teacher, rejected Academic scepticism, as we saw in Chapter Two, and argued that there had been a single ancient dogmatic philosophy, the essentials of which were shared by Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics (Cicero, Academica 1.24ff., 1.43), though he did recognise certain features of Stoic doctrine as distinctive -- the goodness of virtue alone, the placing of all the virtues in reason, the denial that the sage has passions, the rejection of (Aristotle's) fifth heavenly element, the doctrine of the apprehensive impression and the consequent belief that the senses were (sometimes) trustworthy (ibid. 1.35-42). Even so, as a historical reconstruction Antiochus' single 'ancient philosophy' makes earlier dogmatic philosophies more alike than they really were, though from his perspective it was not inappropriate to group these three schools together and contrast them both with the Epicureans and with the Academic sceptics, and we cannot rule out the possibility that Antiochus' conception of dogmatic Platonism may be more appropriate to Plato's Academy in the time of Polemo, the fourth head of the school and teacher of the Stoic Zeno, than to Plato himself.

Antiochus argued that virtue alone was sufficient for the happy life, but virtue plus external goods would produce 'the happiest' life (Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.21-3, Academica 1.22). But against Antiochus it was rightly objected that happiness is by definition a limit; you cannot be too happy (Cicero, On Ends 5.81). And as soon as one allows that external goods make a difference -- that they really are goods -- how is it possible any more to claim that one can still be happy without them (Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.23)? Antiochus indeed claims that they make only a very small difference (Cicero, On Ends 5.71, 5.91); but he is pretty clearly trying to have it both ways. Annas has shown (420) how Antiochus' position might be seen as interpretation, one still sometimes advanced today but in fact wrong, of a passage in Aristotle's EN (1.10 110a6) which might give the false impression that 'blessedness' is regarded as a higher degree of happiness than happiness itself. Arius Didymus, the court philosopher of the emperor Augustus, understood Aristotle's position more accurately (Annas 415-18).

Cicero criticises the Stoic position by arguing that the sage would choose virtue plus external 'goods' rather than virtue alone, if given the choice (Cicero, On Ends 4.59; cf. Alexander of Aphrodisias, Supplement to the Book On the Soul 163.4ff.). The problem is, however, misconceived; since virtue is defined in terms of making the right selection among external things, then on any given occasion either it will be proper to try to get the external things, or not. The question whether the virtuous person tries to get them because of some extra happiness they bring simply does not arise.

Aristotle had argued that external goods were needed as resources for virtue (EN 1.8 = 1099a31); but the Stoic notion of virtue is different from Aristotle's, and Stoic virtue can be practised even by a slave -- it is a matter of making the right selections in the situation in which you find yourself, even if your power to achieve anything in material terms is restricted. There are texts which suggest that Panaetius and Posidonius allowed preferred indifferents the status of goods (DL 7.103, 128; LS vol. 2, p. 404); but even Chrysippus had been prepared to accept this as a loose use of words (Plutarch, SR 30 1048A = LS 58H), and Seneca (Letters on Morals 87.35 = F170 EK) reports Posidonius as arguing that wealth and health are not goods. When the notoriously inaccurate bishop Epiphanius quotes Posidonius as saying 'that the greatest good among human beings was wealth and health' (Against Heresies 3.2.9) we need not suppose that Posidonius endorsed this opinion himself.

Stoic moral theory, with its emphasis (at least until Panaetius) on the practically unrealisable figure for the sage, may seem hopelessly idealistic. But it may be important to remember that, as was stressed at the start of the present chapter, the emphasis in ancient ethics was on the sort of person one should be, rather than on the right way to behave in a given situation. The Stoic sage may be an unattainable ideal for what a human being may be like; but perhaps ideals ought not to be too easily attainable. We may think that the Stoic sage is not the sort of person we should even want to try to be, but that is another issue.

As we saw in Chapter Three, Panaetius questioned belief in divination and rejected that in the periodic conflagration of the world. This, together with his emphasis on the types of human character, may suggest a shift from the thought about the universe as a whole to specifically human concerns; and it is clear that his concerns were more narrowly centred on the practicalities of ethics that those of earlier Stoics. We are told that Panaetius drew a distinction between practical and theoretical virtue (DL 7.92), but no further detail is given.

There is, however, a more general question: whatever Panaetius' actual position, can Stoic ethical theory be detached from its context in Stoic physics and remain coherent? Annas has argued (159ff., 176ff.) that the cosmic context was not important for early Stoic ethics, and that it is the later, Roman Stoics in particular who stress the idea of each human being as part of a greater whole. The latter point is certainly true, and we will see some striking examples in Chapter Seven. But the image of the dog tied to the wagon is attributed to Zeno and Chrysippus (p. 77), and Chrysippus also said:

As long as what will follow is not clear to me, I always cling to the things better suited by nature for obtaining the things in accordance with nature; for God himself gave me the power of selecting these. But if I knew that it was fated for me to be ill now, I would eagerly seek that; for the foot too, if it had sense, would eagerly seek to be covered with mud. (Chrysippus cited by Epictetus, Discourses 2.6.9f. = LS 58J)

This suggests that the cosmic context was important for the early Stoa too. Annas asks (162) what happiness there can be in conforming to an external standard; but it is important to recognise, first that the standard is not for the Stoics a purely external one, for each human being is part of the larger system, and second that the Stoics are not claiming that submissiveness is a virtue in itself, regardless of what one is submitting to.

There is, however, a distinction to be drawn. The Stoics, both early and late, may indeed introduce a cosmic aspect into ethics by holding that one should accept the failure of one's own attempts, as being in the interests of a greater whole. But Annas is right to stress that early Stoic ethical theory -- and later Stoic theory too, for that matter -- does not base on non-human nature its claims about what course of action is natural for a human being, about what we ought to try to achieve. There is no theoretical difficulty in claiming that human nature should guide our actions, without any reference to the ordering of the universe as a whole. The link (not confined to the Stoics) between human reason and the divine no doubt makes it easier to argue that reason is the most important human characteristic, but it is not essential to that argument; Aristotle too believes in the divinity of reason, but he does not appeal to it in the first book of the EN. What is more problematic is whether specifically Stoic ethics, and the claim that outcomes do not matter and the sage should therefore have no regrets, can be maintained in the absence of a belief that everything in the world happens for the best even if we cannot understand how. Could one adopt the Stoic view of virtue, and of human nature, and above all of happiness, in an essentially hostile and unfriendly world -- an Epicurean one, for example? And could one do so in the absence both of any belief in personal immortality (which the Stoics did not accept, in the sense of an everlasting existence) and of belief that our selves, even if not everlasting, are ultimately parts of a greater whole?

Some passages from Marcus Aurelius in Chapter Seven will direct us to this question again. Meanwhile, we may note that the idea that we are parts of a greater whole is not absent even in Epicureanism, in Lucretius' 'recycling' argument for example (above, p. 99); and the emphasis in his poem on the perishability of all compounds, even our whole world, and the vastness of the infinite universe may in a way provide the human beings who observe and describe it with a sort of vicarious significance:

So the lively power of [Epicurus'] mind won through, and he travelled far beyond the fiery walls of the world, and traversed the whole immensity of space in mind and spirit, and in triumph brought back to us reports of what can happen and what cannot, in short of the principle by which the power of each thing is determined and a deep-set boundary-stone fixed for it. (Lucretius, 1.72-6)

As soon as your [Epicurus'] reasoning, arising from your divine mind, begins to tell of the nature of things, the terrors of my mind flee away, the walls of the world part, and I see the processes taking place throughout the whole of space... then at these things a certain divine pleasure and shuddering awe seizes upon me, because by your power nature is so openly revealed and made apparent on all sides. (ibid., 3.14-30)

First look at the sea, the lands and the sky; their threefold nature, these three bodies, Memmius, three things so different in appearance, three compounds woven together in such ways -- all will be consigned to destruction by one single day, and the massive mechanism of the world, maintained through many years, will fall apart. (ibid., 5.92-6)

But in the first two passages cited Lucretius' concern is more with the benefits for mankind of Epicurus' discoveries, and the cosmic perspective is hardly a central Epicurean idea except in so far as it points up the importance of one's life here and now by contrast. Your lifetime, however long or short it may turn out to be, is all you have to experience and to make the best of, in a scheme of things of which we should make the best we can but which is ultimately indifferent to us. It is certainly of no importance to the Epicurean universe as a whole how you behave, and moral virtue, as we have seen, is justified only as a means to the end of the most pleasant life for you as an individual.

The question what part concern for other human beings plays, both in Stoic and Epicurean ethics, will concern us in Chapter Six. First, though, it seems appropriate to turn to those for whom human happiness was not based on any dogmatic theory, either concerning the universe or concerning human nature.

The Sceptics

The Pyrrhonian sceptics as represented by Sextus reported, as we saw in Chapter Two, that they were led to suspension of judgement about everything. This brought freedom from anxiety or disturbance -- ataraxia, the same term as was used by the Epicureans -- because those who do not commit themselves to the view that death or illness, say, are great evils will be less perturbed by them. But this, characteristically, is reported as something which simply happens:

Scepticism is a power that sets appearances and thoughts against one another in whatever way it may be; from it, on account of the equal strength in the opposed facts and arguments, we come first of all to suspension of judgement and after this to being free from anxiety. (Sextus, PH 1.8)

The Pyrrhonian sceptic does not dogmatically assert freedom from anxiety or disturbance to be the good (though this is less certain where Pyrrho himself is concerned), even though the belief that it is so may be the original starting point of the inquiry:

The originating cause of scepticism is, we say, the hope of coming to be free from anxiety. For people with great natural talent, who were made anxious by the inconsistency in things, and were at a loss as to which of them they should rather assent to, same to inquire what is true in things and what false, on the assumption that they would achieve a state free from anxiety by deciding these things. But the principle of the sceptical system is most of all that to every argument there is opposed an equal argument; for we seem as a result of this to end by ceasing to dogmatise. (Sextus, PH 1.12)

Once the Sceptic has arrived at suspension of judgement (though 'arrived' could mislead; as we have seen in Chapter Two, this is a provisional attitude in the context of ongoing inquiry, not a goal reached definitively once and for all) such freedom from anxiety well presumably seem to be a good, but not be dogmatically asserted as such. To those who denied that it was a good at all the Sceptics would, as Hankinson has recently pointed out, have nothing to say, except to cast doubt on any other good they claimed to recognise.

The question, however, remains: how is the Sceptic to live his life without committing himself to any judgements? The answer is, through the fourfold guidance of nature, affections or emotions, customs and skills; he will do certain things because it is natural or customary to do so, but without any commitment:

Attending to appearances, then, we live in accordance with the observances of life undogmatically, since we cannot be altogether inactive. This observance seems to have four parts, part of it consisting in the guidance of nature, part in the compulsion of the affections, part in the tradition of laws and customs, and part in instruction in skills. The guidance of nature is that according to which we are naturally capable of sensation and thought; the compulsion of the affections is that by which hunger leads us to food and thirst to drink; the tradition of customs and laws is that by which we regard piety in life as good and impiety as base; instruction in skills is that by which we are not incapable of activity in the skills we take up. But we say all these things undogmatically. (Sextus, PH 1.23-4)

Glossary

cf.

cf.
Compare, compare to..
See also.

ibid.

ibid.
Abbreviation of ibidem. Latin: in the same place.

loc. cit.

loc. cit.
In the place cited. From Latin locō citātō.

sc.

sc.
Abbreviation of scilicet. Latin: namely, to wit, as follows.

precept

precept
A rule or principle prescribing a particular course of action or conduct.
Law An authorized direction or order; a writ.

classical antiquity

classical antiquity
The age of ancient history dominated by the cultures of Greece and Rome, about 500 BC to about 500 AD.

terra incognita

terra incognita
An unknown or unexplored land, region, or subject.

proponent

proponent
One who argues in support of something; an advocate.

grandeur

grandeur
The quality or condition of being grand; magnificence: "The world is charged with the grandeur of God" (Gerard Manley Hopkins).
Nobility or greatness of character.

treatise

treatise
A systematic, usually extensive written discourse on a subject.
Obsolete A tale or narrative.

stoa

stoa
An ancient Greek covered walk or colonnade, usually having columns on one side and a wall on the other.

departmentalise

departmentalise
To organize into departments.

philology

philology
Literary study or classical scholarship.
See historical linguistics.

historical linguistics

historical linguistics
The study of linguistic change over time in language or in a particular language or language family, sometimes including the reconstruction of unattested forms of earlier stages of a language. Also called philology.

moralise

moralise
To think about or express moral judgments or reflections.
To interpret or explain the moral meaning of.
To improve the morals of; reform.

sectarian

sectarian
Of, relating to, or characteristic of a sect.
Adhering or confined to the dogmatic limits of a sect or denomination; partisan.
Narrow-minded; parochial.
A member of a sect.
One characterized by bigoted adherence to a factional viewpoint.

parochial

parochial
Of, relating to, supported by, or located in a parish.
Of or relating to parochial schools.
Narrowly restricted in scope or outlook; provincial: parochial attitudes.

factional

factional
Of, pertaining to, or composed of factions.

dogma

dogma
A doctrine or a corpus of doctrines relating to matters such as morality and faith, set forth in an authoritative manner by a church.
An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true. See Synonyms at doctrine.
A principle or belief or a group of them: "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present" (Abraham Lincoln).

undogmatic

undogmatic
Not dogmatic.

antiquarian

antiquarian
One who studies, collects, or deals in antiquities.
Of or relating to antiquarians or to the study or collecting of antiquities.
Dealing in or having to do with old or rare books.

antiquity

antiquity
Ancient times, especially the times preceding the Middle Ages.
The people, especially the writers and artisans, of ancient times: inventions unknown to antiquity.
The quality of being old or ancient; considerable age: a carving of great antiquity.
Something, such as an object or a relic, belonging to or dating from ancient times. Often used in the plural.

canonic

canonic
Of or pertaining to a canon; established by, or according to, a canon or canons.
Appearing in a Biblical canon.
Accepted as authoritative; recognized.
In its standard form, usually also the simplest form; -- of an equation or coordinate.
Reduced to the simplest and most significant form possible without loss of generality. Opposite of nonstandard.
Pertaining to or resembling a musical canon.

atomist

atomist
An adherent of atomism; one who believes matter is composed of elementary indivisible particles.
An adherent of the atomic theory.

tendentious

tendentious
Marked by a strong implicit point of view; partisan: a tendentious account of the recent elections.

elegiac

elegiac
Of, relating to, or involving elegy or mourning or expressing sorrow for that which is irrecoverably past: an elegiac lament for youthful ideals.
Of or composed in elegiac couplets.

couplet

couplet
A unit of verse consisting of two successive lines, usually rhyming and having the same meter and often forming a complete thought or syntactic unit.
Two similar things; a pair.

rebarbative

rebarbative
Tending to irritate; repellent: "He became rebarbative, prickly, spiteful" (Robert Craft).

portico

portico
A porch or walkway with a roof supported by columns, often leading to the entrance of a building.

ethnography

ethnography
The branch of anthropology that deals with the scientific description of specific human cultures.

eclecticism

eclecticism
An eclectic system or method.

eclectic

eclectic
Selecting or employing individual elements from a variety of sources, systems, or styles: an eclectic taste in music; an eclectic approach to managing the economy.
Made up of or combining elements from a variety of sources: "a popular bar patronized by an eclectic collection of artists, writers, secretaries and aging soldiers on reserve duty" (Curtis Wilkie).
One that follows an eclectic method.

antenatal

antenatal
Occurring before birth; prenatal: antenatal diagnostic procedures.

tenet

tenet
An opinion, doctrine, or principle held as being true by a person or especially by an organization. See Synonyms at doctrine.

isonomia

isonomia
The equality of all citizens before the law.

concomitant

concomitant
Occurring or existing concurrently; attendant. See Synonyms at contemporary.
One that occurs or exists concurrently with another.

impinge

impinge
To collide or strike: Sound waves impinge on the eardrum.
To encroach; trespass: Do not impinge on my privacy.
To encroach upon: "One of a democratic government's continuing challenges is finding a way to protect... secrets without impinging the liberties that democracy exists to protect" (Christian Science Monitor).

assent

assent
To agree, as to a proposal; concur.
Agreement; concurrence: reached assent on a course of action.
Acquiescence; consent: gave my assent to the plan.

discomfiture

discomfiture
Frustration or disappointment.
Lack of ease; perplexity and embarrassment.
Archaic Defeat.

tranquillity

tranquillity
The quality or state of being tranquil; serenity.

equipollence

equipollence
The condition of being equipollent; equality of power, force, signification, or application.
Sameness of signification of two or more propositions which differ in language.

supervenient

supervenient
In a relationship with another set such that membership in the other set implies membership in the present set.
Supervening; occurring subsequently; coming after something, especially when not causally connected.

pneuma

pneuma
The soul or vital spirit.

qualified

qualified
Having the appropriate qualifications for an office, position, or task.
Limited, restricted, or modified: a qualified plan for expansion.

inexorable

inexorable
Not capable of being persuaded by entreaty; relentless: an inexorable opponent; a feeling of inexorable doom. See Synonyms at inflexible.

nexus

nexus
A means of connection; a link or tie: "this nexus between New York's... real-estate investors and its... politicians" (Wall Street Journal).
A connected series or group.
The core or center: "The real nexus of the money culture [was] Wall Street" (Bill Barol).

sympathy

sympathy
A relationship or an affinity between people or things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.
Mutual understanding or affection arising from this relationship or affinity.
The act or power of sharing the feelings of another.
A feeling or an expression of pity or sorrow for the distress of another; compassion or commiseration. Often used in the plural. See Synonyms at pity.
Harmonious agreement; accord: He is in sympathy with their beliefs.
A feeling of loyalty; allegiance. Often used in the plural: His sympathies lie with his family.
Physiology A relation between parts or organs by which a disease or disorder in one induces an effect in the other.

fissure

fissure
A long narrow opening; a crack or cleft.
The process of splitting or separating; division.
A separation into subgroups or factions; a schism.
Anatomy A normal groove or furrow, as in the liver or brain, that divides an organ into lobes or parts.
Medicine A break in the skin, usually where it joins a mucous membrane, producing a cracklike sore or ulcer.
To form a crack or cleft or cause a crack or cleft in.

portent

portent
An indication of something important or calamitous about to occur; an omen.
Prophetic or threatening significance: signs full of portent.
Something amazing or marvelous; a prodigy.

conjecture

conjecture
Inference or judgment based on inconclusive or incomplete evidence; guesswork.
A statement, opinion, or conclusion based on guesswork: The commentators made various conjectures about the outcome of the next election.
To infer from inconclusive evidence; guess.
To make a conjecture.

conflagration

conflagration
A large destructive fire.

incongruous

incongruous
Lacking in harmony; incompatible: a joke that was incongruous with polite conversation.
Not in agreement, as with principles; inconsistent: a plan incongruous with reason.
Not in keeping with what is correct, proper, or logical; inappropriate: incongruous behaviour.

postulation

postulation
The act of postulating or something postulated.
Something self-evident that can be assumed as the basis of an argument.

impetus

impetus
An impelling force; an impulse.
The force or energy associated with a moving body.
Something that incites; a stimulus.
Increased activity in response to a stimulus: The approaching deadline gave impetus to the investigation.

soliloquy

soliloquy
A dramatic or literary form of discourse in which a character talks to himself or herself or reveals his or her thoughts without addressing a listener.
A specific speech or piece of writing in this form of discourse.
The act of speaking to oneself.

termagant

termagant
A quarrelsome, scolding woman; a shrew.
Shrewish; scolding.

cognate

cognate
Related by blood; having a common ancestor.
Related in origin, as certain words in genetically related languages descended from the same ancestral root; for example, English name and Latin nōmen from Indo-European *nŏ̄-men-.
Related or analogous in nature, character, or function.
One related by blood or origin with another, especially a person sharing an ancestor with another.
A word related to one in another language.

rhetorical

rhetorical
Of or relating to rhetoric.
Characterized by overelaborate or bombastic rhetoric.
Used for persuasive effect: a speech punctuated by rhetorical pauses.

rhetoric

rhetoric
The art or study of using language effectively and persuasively.
A treatise or book discussing this art.
Skill in using language effectively and persuasively.
A style of speaking or writing, especially the language of a particular subject: fiery political rhetoric.
Language that is elaborate, pretentious, insincere, or intellectually vacuous: His offers of compromise were mere rhetoric.
Verbal communication; discourse.

exhortation

exhortation
The act or an instance of exhorting.
A speech or discourse that encourages, incites, or earnestly advises.

diametrically

diametrically
Separated by a diameter, on exactly the opposite side. Frequently used in the phrase diametrically opposed meaning absolutely in opposition.

felicitate

felicitate
To offer congratulations to: "I felicitate you on your memory, sir" (John Fowles).
Archaic To make happy.
Obsolete Made happy.

antithetical

antithetical
Of, relating to, or marked by antithesis.
Being in diametrical opposition. See Synonyms at opposite.

gilded

gilded
Simple past tense and past participle of gild.
Having the color or quality of gold.
Made of gold or covered by a thin layer of gold.
aving a falsely pleasant appearance; sugarcoated.

coffer

coffer
A strongbox.
Financial resources; funds.
A treasury: stole money from the union coffers.
Architecture A decorative sunken panel in a ceiling, dome, soffit, or vault.
The chamber formed by a canal lock.
A cofferdam.
A floating dock.
To put in a coffer.
Architecture To supply (a ceiling, for example) with decorative sunken panels.

ruddy

ruddy
Having a healthy, reddish colour.
Reddish; rosy.
Chiefly British Slang Used as an intensive: "You ruddy liar!" (John Galsworthy).

asceticism

asceticism
The principles and practices of an ascetic; extreme self-denial and austerity.
The doctrine that the ascetic life releases the soul from bondage to the body and permits union with the divine.

qua

qua
In the capacity or character of; as: The President qua head of the party mediated the dispute.

equanimity

equanimity
The quality of being calm and even-tempered; composure.

strangury

strangury
A condition marked by slow, painful urination, caused by muscular spasms of the urethra and bladder.

kinetic

kinetic
Of, relating to, or produced by motion.
Relating to or exhibiting kinesis.

polemic

polemic
A controversial argument, especially one refuting or attacking a specific opinion or doctrine.
A person engaged in or inclined to controversy, argument, or refutation.
Of or relating to a controversy, argument, or refutation.

neurotic

neurotic
Of, relating to, or affected with a neurosis. No longer in scientific use.
Informal Overanxious: neurotic about punctuality.
A person suffering from a neurosis. No longer in scientific use.
Informal A person prone to excessive anxiety and emotional upset.

anxiety

anxiety
A state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties.
A cause of anxiety: For some people, air travel is a real anxiety.
Psychiatry A state of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting from the anticipation of a realistic or fantasized threatening event or situation, often impairing physical and psychological functioning.
Eager, often agitated desire: my anxiety to make a good impression.

alienation

alienation
The act of alienating or the condition of being alienated; estrangement: Alcoholism often leads to the alienation of family and friends.
Emotional isolation or dissociation.
Law The act of transferring property or title to it to another.

callous

callous
Having calluses; toughened: callous skin on the elbow.
Emotionally hardened; unfeeling: a callous indifference to the suffering of others.

freehold

freehold
Law An estate held in fee or for life.
Law The tenure by which such an estate is held.
A tenure of an office or a dignity for life.

consolation

consolation
The act or an instance of consoling.
The state of being consoled.
One that consoles; a comfort: Your kindness was a consolation to me in my grief.
Sports A second, smaller tournament or round of play for participants who have been eliminated before the final of a tournament, often to determine third and fourth place.

bereaved

bereaved
Suffering the loss of a loved one: the bereaved family.
One or those bereaved: The bereaved has entered the church. The bereaved were comforted by their friends.

tout court

tout court
French for: Just, simply; without addition or qualification; alone.

approbation

approbation
An expression of warm approval; praise.
Official approval.

virtuous

virtuous
Having or showing virtue, especially moral excellence: led a virtuous life.
Possessing or characterized by chastity; pure: a virtuous woman. See Synonyms at moral.

virtue

virtue
Moral excellence and righteousness; goodness.
An example or kind of moral excellence: the virtue of patience.
Chastity, especially in a woman.
A particularly efficacious, good, or beneficial quality; advantage: a plan with the virtue of being practical.
Effective force or power: believed in the virtue of prayer.
Christianity The fifth of the nine orders of angels in medieval angelology.
Obsolete Manly courage; valour.

appropriation

appropriation
The act of appropriating.
Something appropriated, especially public funds set aside for a specific purpose.
A legislative act authorizing the expenditure of a designated amount of public funds for a specific purpose.

ingenious

ingenious
Marked by inventive skill and imagination.
Having or arising from an inventive or cunning mind; clever: an ingenious scheme. See Synonyms at clever.
Obsolete Having genius; brilliant.

porch

porch
A covered platform, usually having a separate roof, at an entrance to a building.
An open or enclosed gallery or room attached to the outside of a building; a verandah.
Obsolete A portico or covered walk.

scourge

scourge
A source of widespread dreadful affliction and devastation such as that caused by pestilence or war.
A means of inflicting severe suffering, vengeance, or punishment.
A whip used to inflict punishment.
To afflict with severe or widespread suffering and devastation; ravage.
To chastise severely; excoriate.
To flog.

inveterate

inveterate
Firmly and long established; deep-rooted: inveterate preferences.
Persisting in an ingrained habit; habitual: an inveterate liar. See Synonyms at chronic.

cosmic

cosmic
Of or relating to the regions of the universe distinct from the Earth.
Infinitely or inconceivably extended; vast: "a coming together of heads of government to take up the cosmic business of nations" (Meg Greenfield).

divinity

divinity
The state or quality of being divine.
The godhead; God. Used with the.
A deity, such as a god or goddess.
Godlike character.
Theology.

A soft white candy, usually containing nuts.

vicarious

vicarious
Felt or undergone as if one were taking part in the experience or feelings of another: read about mountain climbing and experienced vicarious thrills.
Endured or done by one person substituting for another: vicarious punishment.
Acting or serving in place of someone or something else; substituted.
Committed or entrusted to another, as powers or authority; delegated.
Physiology Occurring in or performed by a part of the body not normally associated with a certain function.

perturbed

perturbed
Simple past tense and past participle of perturb.
Disturbed; flustered.

piety

piety
The state or quality of being pious, especially:
Religious devotion and reverence to God.
Devotion and reverence to parents and family: filial piety.
A devout act, thought, or statement.
A position held conventionally or hypocritically.
A statement of such a position: "the liberated pieties of people who believe that social attitudes have kept pace with women's aspirations" (Erica Abeel).

impiety

impiety
The quality or state of being impious.
An impious act.
Undutifulness.

impious

impious
Lacking reverence; not pious.
Lacking due respect or dutifulness: impious toward one's parents.

sanction

sanction
Authoritative permission or approval that makes a course of action valid. See Synonyms at permission.
Support or encouragement, as from public opinion or established custom.
A consideration, influence, or principle that dictates an ethical choice.
A law or decree.
The penalty for noncompliance specified in a law or decree.
A penalty, specified or in the form of moral pressure, that acts to ensure compliance or conformity.
A coercive measure adopted usually by several nations acting together against a nation violating international law.
To give official authorization or approval to: "The president, we are told, has sanctioned greed at the cost of compassion" (David Rankin).
To encourage or tolerate by indicating approval. See Synonyms at approve.
To penalize, especially for violating a moral principle or international law.