ETHICS ARISE FROM NATURE, THROUGH LIFE, And Its SPONSOR, REASON (Rise & Collapse of Rome, Part IV.)

 

The ancient Greek word êthikos means “relating to one’s character“. Stoicism was an important characteristic of the Roman Republic and its citizens, individually. King Pyrrhus observed that his victories against Rome would lead of the annihilation of his army (as they did), because the Romans took their defeats stoically, and kept on coming, destroying Pyrrhus’ officer corps.

Stoicism is a Republican virtue, all Roman soldiers and officers shared, because it was drilled in them, whereas Pyrrhus’ officer corps was held together by greed.

So how come did I savage old fashion “Stoicism” (and Buddhism, and I should have included Confucianism, as I was at it)? As in many behaviors, the problem with Stoicism arise if it abused.

Greek cities, at the time of their greatest greatness, knew Stoicism (although it had not been formally invented). Certainly, Athens pursuing the Peloponnesian War, in spite of horrendous losses in population and army (up to 50%), was stoic. But, after Stoicism was made into a religion (also known as a philosophical movement), it became a submission (at least in Greece; arguably, Athens had submitted earlier to the Macedonian Pluto-fascists).  

My argument in “WHY ROME COLLAPSED Part II: Stoicism, Fascism, Death Of Humor & Senses”  was that basically Stoicism in Antiquity (and India, and China) became a way hypocrites, weaklings, creeps, opportunists, and gangsters on the make found to accommodate themselves with plutocratic fascism of the oligarchies which ruled those countries.

Thus, I reckon, Stoicism contributed to the Collapse of Roman Civilization: instead of resisting with force, even violence, Stoics went with the flow, as plutocratic tyranny took over the Greek world, and then the Roman democracy. Sure enough, Stoicism merged smoothly with Christian theofascism in the Fourth Century. As Nietzsche, and others, yours truly included, there are few behaviors more unnatural than the noble Stoics’ insistence to follow what they call “Nature” by laying prone and submissive. 

Here is Nietzsche on Stoicism: 

Nietzsche should be mandatory reading for would-be “progressives”, “Antifa”, and those who claim to “resist” the established order.

I go a bit further, as I observed that “Noble” Stoics could be quite ignoble (see Seneca, Marcus Aurelius). And stupid besides: Stoicists are living according to “Nature”, we all are, so why are they trying so hard to promote what we all already do? I gave the answer: to occupy their minds, and those they preach to, away from criticizing the masters too harshly, and having emotions conducive to that. However, in the present essay I rescue “New Stoicism” from the fascist abyss and Nietzsche’s scathing critique.

***

New Stoicism: De Rerum Natura, Including Ethics?

However, there are more modern ways to claim a “New Stoicism”. Massimo Pigliucci’s analysis of  Becker’s A New Stoicism, II: the way things stand, part 1 is quite interesting. I sent a comment, which Massimo generously published. It’s reproduced here in an expanded form:.

***

Most of the texts we have from Greco-Roman Antiquity were preserved by Christian monasteries (150 out of 160, roughly). That does not mean that Christians saved us, it means that most of them killed us, while robbing us of our own civilization, whereas a few braves saved some remnants to tease us with (critical texts, say on Constantine, often went conveniently missing, although secondary works from the same historians were preserved).

Considering that, starting in 363 CE, under emperor Jovian, Christians burned books and libraries, and considering that, after 391 CE, thanks to Theodosius’ law, it was open season on intellectuals judged to be “heretic“, while the Roman imperial government merged with Christian “saints” and bishops, one can be sure that only texts and authors which pleased the Christians in charge, survived.

Greco-Roman civilization if far from us, and, for the longest time, we have looked at it with a telescope equipped with a Christian filter. (Now things are changing, because we have independent means to know antiquity, such as archeology.)

Thus all the big names and their big books and the big philosophical movements of Antiquity which were known or popular in the Middle Ages, bear a Christian stamp of approval. The rest of the gigantic intellectual production of the Greco-Romans mostly disappeared, and can only be found out, or inferred, with exquisite difficulty (such as fragments, or partly erased parchments).

For example we know the Greeks developed Non-Euclidean geometry, more than a century before Euclid, because there are six non-Euclidean geometry theorems in… Aristotle (the Christian fascists loved Aristotle, because Aristotle destroyed democracy, so they preserved him). Aristotle was not a mathematician, the survival of this mathematical activity (rediscovered 22 centuries later) was entirely accidental.

We suspected the Greeks had mechanical computers, because Cicero said so. Then one was found at the bottom of the sea. Thus we know that old arriviste Cicero, who early in his career bought himself a $100 million house (constant 2017 dollars), didn’t make that one up (how could he?)

A text such as Lucretius’ De  Rerum Natura was found by the personal secretary of several Popes, Poggio Bracciolini, in January 1417, in an obscure monastery (Fulda?). There was just one copy (and it got lost after having been copied; there were fragments in other places). Poggio loved to search for old books hidden in secret places; he found several.

The average Christian in charge of the empire around 400 CE, was busy destroying anyway to look at the world not thoroughly compatible with their apocalyptic Jihad. The Book of the Apocalypse promise the Final Judgement, once civilization had been destroyed, so they destroyed civilization. Christians detested physics. They detested Epicurus’ philosophy, inspired by Democritus’ atomism. (Lucretius is centered around atomism, the most important scientific discovery.)

Theology assumed that the universe was in some way a living being (“God”, or “Gods”). All the laws there were, were laws of God, not physics. So books with laws of physics therein, had to be destroyed.

However, we are way smarter (more exactly, we are not intellectual fascists, we just one idea, in their case “God”). Before rejecting that idea outright, that idea that the universe is in some way a living being, we need to inquire all what is meant by “living”. Nobody knows, and this is a question exobiologists, or now Quantum theorists, would like to answer. So, indeed, the search for a modern version of the deity, or deities, is incomplete. So, at first sight, it looks as if we couldn’t anchor ethics upwards.

But ethics can certainly be anchored downwards, as we are chained by the long anchor of billions of years of evolution. Indeed…

“Living according to Nature” faces the problem that, on Earth, “Nature” is life. Indeed, although “Natural”, “Nature” is an art onto itself: what is more artificial than life?

Life evolved, as it is, in part from chance and necessity, and other factors science is barely scratching at as we speak (see the mighty struggles of Quantum Computer engineers, mathematicians and physicists, to get a glimpse of the possibilities q-bits are starting to offer).

So life is an anchor for ethics, but it seems an arbitrary one. If two themes dominate it, they seem to be collaboration and predation. Yes, good and evil, light and dark. One can fairly assume that so it is throughout the galaxies. (And let the vegans recoil in horror, as we reveal to their uncouth selves that the animal most feared by African children when walking around is the elephant, a most clever herbivore…)

If life means mayhem, what is the wise to do? Well, precisely, a discourse, wisdom. And wisdom is central to life: wisdom is basically intelligence, and life is intelligence. (I maintain here a distinction between consciousness, and intelligence!)

Thus, indeed, one should follow reason, as reason (however happenstance it may seem sometimes) is the skeleton of life. (interestingly, the Gospel of John starts by saying “God” is the “Logos”, that is, Reason, a thesis obviously planted to seduce Neo-Platonists and Stoicists (because Bible-God doesn’t seem very rational most of the time). But may be the author of the idea God = Logos really believe it; certainly many did, then…)

Building character according to reason does not mean just controlling reason, but the emotions, and the circumstances giving rise to the emotions. For example, it means inspecting, controlling, even rejecting, the emotional circumstances which mold most people’s minds, while encouraging others (for example don’t expose children to team sports on TV, but expose them to “Nature”).

Ethics, according to “Nature” encompasses much more than what moderns value as “moral” (most ancient religions had human sacrifices; Carthage found ethical to crucify poorly performing generals, while Athens and 18C Britain executed admirals for the same reason).

Thus an ethical system embracing “Nature” will come to embrace much that is considered “immoral” today (therein Seneca’s amazing moral limberness).

An ethics embracing “Nature” is not just correct, it’s eminently practical. Experts consider that the risk of nuclear weapon conflict is the highest ever, and the world’s ethical system is not ready for this. It is actually because it’s not ready for this, that we got into the present predicament.

Embracing “Nature” ethically shows that no quarters shall be given by the hand of fate: “Nature” is an indifferent master. Nuclear Armageddon could kill seven billions, and “Nature” would breathe a sigh of relief. “Nature” is realistic, our masters, too, as they secretly plot our demise, consciously or not, hubristically or not…

We humans are the top predator, to the point of preying onto ourselves (something bears do). A fact & a warning. I disagree with defining as “Stoicism” as the full embrace of reason, human or otherwise, whatever “human” means.

Why? A stoic attitude, and by “stoic” I mean “stoic” in the usual sense, is, all too often, the only reasonable attitude to adopt. However, sometimes, absolute rage and fury, for example, is more appropriate. It’s so very true, many advanced species have these behaviors as completely natural outcomes (“instincts”). Including, of course, humans, and nobody does this rage and fury trick better than humans (something conventional humanism has neglected, to its eternal shame and impotence. That’s how Neanderthals extinguished Cave Bears, and Native Americans kept at bay, and destroyed the formidable galloping giant carnivorous bear, Arctodus.  

Yes, “human” may just be a qualificative for the survival of the fittest. Those at the receiving end will embrace Stoicism as the Romans of the Republic did, but they embraced much more: reason, with its full metal jacket, passion, with all the love and cruelty it implied, and fitness as certified by survival.

When Rome went down, and down, and down, plunging into the abyss of ever more functionality, the upper classes had rejected stoicism, and embraced luxury and corruption instead: Seneca, a multi-billionaire from influence trafficking alone, or even Cicero are examples of this (Cicero bought a mansion in Rome worth 100 million 2017 dollars). Yet Stoicism took ever more importance in Roman society, below the elite, as most of the Roman People had  to submit to emperors and their infernal cortege and of plutocrats.

Stoicism was the behavioral trap the best of the SPQR, Senatus PopulusQue Romanus, fell into. Sometimes one needs a revolution, and it better be violent.

Patrice Ayme’

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

4 Responses to “ETHICS ARISE FROM NATURE, THROUGH LIFE, And Its SPONSOR, REASON (Rise & Collapse of Rome, Part IV.)”

  1. SDM Says:

    Much like contemporary US with tax cuts touted as the only way to job creation. One would think that this tired and failed promise would be unthinkable now yet it continues to live on despite the obvious evidence otherwise. Plutocratic cash keeps piling up in tax havens and jobs continue to be eliminated, shipped overseas or automated out of existence.
    Submission to the absurd and corrupt. Throw in some old time religion and flag waving and it is an easy sell. Perhaps nature with the onslaught of global warming will be the tipping point.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      “Tax Cuts” seduce the upper middle class, which can pay up to 60% tax (I know cases in France of taxes above 75% striking… Unemployed people). However, there are not the problem, indeed. The real problem is that the truly wealth is beyond the range of taxation. “GAFA” an obvious example. I know quite a few (baby?) plutocrats who live the high life, jetting all around the world, luxury hotel to luxury hotel, and that costs them nothing. When they land they influence the politicians and influence makers… THAT is the real problem… And it’s not on the radar of self-described “progressives”, the New York Times, “Antifa”, Daily Kos (I am banned from that one too, for reason never given, so I will provide it: it’s CIA…)

      When Rome collapsed ecologically, the plutocratic oligarchy stayed in place, and… converted to Christianity (while keeping its slaves…)

      • SDM Says:

        Are you talking GAFA as in Google Apple Facebook Amazon? No doubt these corporations are becoming more insidious in their tactics and the corrupted government will not take any measures – anti-trust, tax enforcement, etc.- to keep them in check. The widespread gathering of data and accumulation of power is sure to lead to further violation of civil rights, inequality, and control of the economy. Facebook appears so benign – what could possibly go wrong? Unchecked media influence to keep the people deluded. Nothing is private but what is worse is that real journalism and the essential aspect of the press as a check on government mischief gets gutted.

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Yes, GAFA has made the French government capitulate. The French Treasury claimed, before Macron,m that Google alone owed 2 BILLION Euros (in a similar market, the UK treasury said it was only 200 millions). Once the employee of Banque Rothschild became president of France, the French IRS dropped the idea.
          But the European Union didn’t.
          So Macron looked dumb. So Macron now say that GAFA should be taxed from revenues. Eight (8) enormous European countries, like Luxembourg (600 K inhabitants), Malta (400 K citizens), and Ireland, screamed that was out of the question. Well, F them!
          French and American long range artillery have been picking up one by one Islamist State fighters in Raqqa and Mosul. I don’t see Luxembourg and Malta participating, and ireland cried a lot when Hitler perished (at least it sent its condolences…)

          20% of Twitter is robots (some say), and manipulative robots (I had problems with my tiny twitter account… “Tyranosopher”). The situation at the New York Times is particularly grotesque (I used to be all indignant when Rupert, aka Murderoch, bought the Wall Street Journal, but the WSJ is actually much less Pluto nowadays than the WSJ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Anyway, right the problem of the media is acute, they are completely owned by the plutocrats (which was not the case to this extent in the past…)

What do you think? Please join the debate! The simplest questions are often the deepest!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: