The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics

The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics

The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics

The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics

Synopsis

This volume offers an odyssey through the ideas of the Stoics in three ways: through the historical trajectory of the school itself and its influence; the recovery of the history of Stoic thought; and finally, the ongoing confrontation with Stoicism. The study demonstrates how Stoicism refines philosophical traditions, challenges the imagination, and ultimately defines the kind of life one chooses to lead. Advanced students and specialists will discover a conspectus of developments in this interpretation of the Stoics and new readers will be drawn to its accessibility.

Excerpt

Stoicism has its roots in the philosophical activity of Socrates. But its historical journey began in the enrichment of that tradition with other influences by Zeno of Citium almost a century after Socrates' death, and it continued in the rise and decline of the school he founded.An apparently long pause followed during the Middle Ages, although it seems clear that its philosophical influence continued to be felt through a variety of channels, many of which are difficult to chart. In the early modern period, Stoicism again became a significant part of the philosophical scene and has remained an influential intellectual force ever since.

In the middle of the last century, Max Pohlenz, in a book whose value was always limited by the cultural forces of its time and place (Pohlenz 1948), described the school as an 'intellectual movement.' 'Intellectual movement' captured something of the longevity and protean variability of Stoicism. The dynamic connotations of that metaphor are apt, but I prefer the metaphor of a special kind of journey. An intellectual engagement with Stoicism is an odyssey in three ways.First, the historical trajectory of the school itself and its influence is replete with digressions, narrative ornament, and improbable connections, yet moving ultimately toward an intelligible conclusion. Second, the task of recovering the history of Stoic thought is an adventure in the history of philosophy. It can be a perilous journey for the novice, one requiring guides as varied in their skills and temperaments as was Odysseus, whose epithet polutropos ('man of many talents') indicates what is called for.And third, for those readers who find the central ideas of Stoicism appealing either in a purely intellectual way or in the moral imagination, the ongoing confrontation with Stoicism is one which refines philosophical intuitions, challenges . . .

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