Monday, December 17, 2012

Blog #55 - Which Hellenist philosophy works for you?

I kept wondering how Hellenistic philosophy applied to today's world as we briefly discussed it on Wednesday.  I didn't have a lot of time to really go in depth with it, so I included summaries and bumper sticker slogans that could apply, but I still didn't feel like it was enough.  So, I thought, why not dig into this school of thought on the blog?

First, Epicureans - as we explore most philosophy (and most likely religions as well), there seems to be a denial of pleasure or the association that pleasure is at best, a necessary evil. The philosopher, Epicurus, said that the "best sort of one that is free from pain in the body and from disturbance in the mind. That sounds a rather negative credo for a 21st-century devotee of the good life."  There are so many pleasures out there in life that we have been told to stay away from or "wait until you're older."  And, in fact, Epicurus "condemned all forms of over-indulgence, and recommended a simple diet."  But, as you become an adult and temptations increase, where do you draw the line?  Was Epicurus right to withdraw into his garden with friends and live a simple life of pleasure?  How can that work in today's fast-paced, interconnected society?  Do you pull a Henry David Thoreau on everyone and go to live in the woods, simply?  Or is there something in between completing dropping out and total hedonism?

I found an interesting article online: "Epicurus Exonerated":  All the quotes above are from this article. 

Stoicism - When I think of this, I mentioned the British palace guards who tourists like to mess with and try to get them to smile.  But stoicism is much more than that, especially when dealing with such an uncertain, violent world.  This particular quote from Marcus Aurelius, one of the last great Roman emperors, could fit perfectly in our time period:

“I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill… I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman…” - Marcus Aurelius

Stoicism doesn't mean standing idly by while crazy stuff happens.  I think, in many ways, it has to do with the ways in which you react (or don't react) to all the sensationalist news, Chicken-Littles, and Boys-Who-Cried-Wolf out there in the media.  If we believed everything we saw and heard about our world that's dangerous, we'd never get our kids immunized for fear of them getting autism, we'd never buy certain brands of products b/c of an email circulating the globe about the product's danger, and we'd certainly never leave the house. 

This article, "The Modern Wimp's Introduction to Stoicism", is rather crude but funny and tries to dispel the notion that being stoic means not flinching when boys get punched in the groin: 

This article talks about how to be stoic: 

 - However, do we ignore all of the warnings out there about impending doom?  Too many people ignored the oncoming freight train of death that was attached to the subprime mortgage bubble, and you see where that got us in 2008.  Too many people were busy making too much money to listen to the Pollyannas saying, "hold on a minute!"  And sometimes, sifting through the town crier's messages, isn't there just the call for moderation?  If global warming isn't happening exactly as Al Gore said it would, what's wrong with cutting back on our dependence on foreign oil and driving more fuel-efficient cars?  What's wrong with getting involved more with the 3 Rs - recycle, reuse, and reduce?  I don't know who is correct in the global warming debate, nor do I care, but there can't be anything wrong w/ America reducing its carbon footprint. 

Cynics - the ancient Greeks who followed this school of thought often rejcted materialism and strove to live life simply. Cynics today, however, at least the word cynic, generally dismiss peoples' good intentions as having ulterior motives. There is a strain of persistent disbelief and irrational thought that can lie in the cynical outlook today. With the number of politicians and celebrities that have lied to us while embracing the opposite of what they hold dear, while corporations say one thing and do the other, and our government fails to follow through on its promises, it's no wonder Americans didn't become full blown cynics before the Vietnam War and Watergate in the 1960s and 70s.

 - Has cynicism led to an unhealthy belief in conspiracy theories?  When common sense or persistent, reasoned questioing can poke holes in most of the conspiracies almost immediately, why do they still continue to stay alive?  Should we believe in our politicians and leaders and their promises, or just expect them to let us down again? 

Some comments in this paragraph come from:

Skeptics - this school is probably the most easily applicable to today's world because of our almost religious belief in modern science, which practically demands a skeptical viewpoint of the world.  And in many ways, having a healthy skepticism is helpful for a scientist, philosopher, and in general, being an intelligent human being with all the flood of bogus news out there. 

Where skepticism differs from cynics is that with cynics, you've already lost before the battle has begun.  You will not be able to convince your opponent, rhetorical or otherwise, of any good intentions, etc.  If you win, the cynic will probably claim that the game was rigged, and if they win, you weren't a worthy opponent.

I believe that a healthy skepticism in today's life means many things, but I find it hard to explain it w/o resorting to cliches.  "I'll see it when I believe it."   "Proof is in the pudding." 

Craig Damrauer's print from "Modern Art" which
I think sums up the art cynic in all of us.
However, I always leave room for belief if something has been proven correct.  This can extend to just about anything in my life.  I sometimes fear that skeptics have been cast as those who don't believe in anything, and maybe that is where the confusion lies w/ cynicism. 

Your job: Pick one of the four Hellenist schools of thought and explain in 250 words or more how it applies to your life.  If you're having trouble just sticking to one school of thought, or you take issue with something I've said here, then by all means, jump into the fray!


  1. The school of thought that I am most like is the Skeptics. I am most like the skeptics because if there is not one hundred proof for something, I do not have complete faith in it. An example of this is whether people have a soul. Since we don’t know if people have souls, I can’t say that I believe or don’t believe in them, because there is a possibility that the opposite of what I say could possibility be correct. This is a problem to me because I don’t like to put faith in something that could end up being incorrect.

    I also have beliefs that relate to Hellenism. Most of the time before I do something, I make sure that the possible outcomes of what I do will not be outweighed later by negative effects. An example of this could be when I decide to do my homework now and not wait till later because it would be better to not procrastinate, even though I could have more fun presently if I waited.

    One of the schools of thought that I don’t agree with is Stoicism. I don’t believe in Stoicism because of their beliefs on emotions. I feel that in order for humans to do well and live a happy life, they need to express their emotions. Because when people express their emotions, they are much happier.

    Another school of thought that I don’t like is the Cynics. This is because they don’t believe in possessions. This belief conflicts with me because I find that some possessions give me happiness; such as my picture of my grandmother that passed away when I was eight years old.

  2. I would say that I follow the skepticism school. I follow this in a modern fashion where I'm not doubting every single action I do. I feel like during the hellenic era, the skeptics were really afraid of living which not how I am because they doubted life too much. I trust my senses but I am skeptic in the sense that I don't believe everything that comes at me. I think that skepticism is what has helped bloom my personality because I tend to always argue with an idea or look into it a lot before I decide on whether or not I support it. An example of my skepticism usually occurs with my parents, they will tell me things and I will usually think of something else but as I look into it I come up with my idea later on my own. I also think I am stoic. Again, I have a modernized version where I have emotions. I think I am a person that feels a lot but I do understand that in the end, there are things we really cannot change. Last week I found my grandmother was diagnosed of cancer and I was crushed. But I have to endure the pain and support which leads me to believe that I am stoic. The situation with my grandmother also makes me think like an epicurean. I know she is sick but I want to make the most out of it now, I want to live for the day. Carpe diem! But I wouldn't say that I am always an epicurean character because I do always tend to look in the long run.


  3. I think the two schools of Hellenistic thoughts that apply to my life are Cynics and Skepticism. I think that there are elements in both that I deem to be true, but there are other parts of the schools that I am still unsure about. There are bits and pieces of each one that pertains to the historic background of the school and the more modern approach on it. Deciding which ones I agreed with and fit best with my life was a little bit of a challenge.
    While reading about Cynics, I decided that I agree with the fact that true happiness isn’t found in possessions. As cliché as it sounds, I just don’t believe that money can buy true happiness. Buying new clothes or shoes can make you happy in that moment and maybe for a few hours but it’s temporary. True happiness isn’t buying a new pair of shoes. I think this applies to my life today because the things that I value in my life and what makes me truly happy aren’t things I can put a dollar sign on. In society today, I completely agree with the meaning of Cynics as it is used today. I am a cynical person because I am constantly questioning the goodness of people and society as a whole. I am a really observant person and I tend to observe minor, yet crucial details about a person or even just in a normal school day. I watch the news and see these tragic events occurring, or highlights about famous celebrities who completely spit on their own fame. I think my cynical views fall most heavily on politicians and their role in society. I am someone who has countless questions but they never seem to be answered. It just amazes me how people with such high authority are supposed to be as smart as their track record says yet when they are put under the pressure of government their Ivy League diplomas head out of the door.
    Aside from Cynics, I also think that Skepticism applies to my life significantly. I don’t necessarily agree with Plato and Parmenides about the unreliability of our senses because I think that our senses are the absolute core of our entire nervous system. Our senses are what help us detect our surroundings. But, I do agree that there’s no rational ground for preferring one course of action to another because everything’s in doubt. I really liked the example used about how what college you go to really doesn’t matter in the end. I think that this applies to my life because I may not have the credentials to attend an Ivy League school but I still have the potential to make an impact on the world and be extremely successful. It’s not a safe haven for students at an Ivy League school that they will be automatic successful billionaires and create their own corporation. The likelihood of creating something like that doesn’t reflect what school you attended, but it solely reflects the individual. Another part of Skepticism that I think pertains to my life is the ability to enjoy what you have now and not worry about the future. Personally, I think that the future will come when it does and if you don’t take advantage of the present that time will slip by before you even get a chance too. Also, Skepticism heavily reflects my personal views on certain elements of modern science today and politicians. I tend to really question how liable some sources are and if what they are saying is just what society wants to hear or is actually the truth. Finally, I am skeptical about people because I don’t think that politicians are always the golden figures society cuts them out to be and they don’t always really know what they’re doing and those are the people who are governing our country.

    Emily Elconin

  4. I feel like I fit into all four of the Hellenist Schools of Thought because of different reasons. First of all I would say that I am a big skeptic and that I fit into the Skepticism school of thought the best. I tend not to believe things unless there is a scientific explanation or I truly believe it. My parents said that when I was younger I was one of those kids who would just keep asking “Why?” I'm not sure if I was just trying to annoy them, but it has seemed to have carried over even as the years went by. Also I question religion a lot. No one seems to have definite answers about religion, which makes me so skeptical of it. I feel like people use religion as a way to fill in the cracks of what they don’t know, when you can't know everything about the world and its purpose. Also I fit into the Epicureans group because I am a firm believer of rational thinking and weighing the effects of doing something as well as “living for today.” In addition I don’t think there is an afterlife because I have no reason to think so. Nothing has made me think that there is or could be. Also I am a member of the Stoicism group because I think that there will be challenges and there is no point in stressing over them. You just need to grit your teeth and overcome them. Finally, I also believe like the Cynics that true happiness isn’t found in possessions. Of course, possessions are nice, but they are nothing unless you have people to share them with.
    Louis Robinson

  5. Jessica Mooney
    1st Wickersham
    Blog #55-Which Hellenist Philosophy Works for You?
    Between the four types of Hellenist schools of thought; epicurean, stoicism, cynics, and skepticism, I would identify myself mostly as a skeptic.
    On the handout we received, it defines skeptics as people who feel there is no rational ground for preferring one course of action to another because everything is in doubt. I would not agree with this part of the definition because I am not a negative person. I do agree with most of what the blog defines skeptics as. Using the clichés; “I’ll believe it when I see it” and “Proof is in the pudding”, helps me relate and find a connection. I believe as human beings, we tend to wonder what is true and what isn’t, what to believe and what not to believe. As young kids, when we hear about the fat man in the red suit, we want to stay up and watch Santa Claus come down the chimney so we can see it with our own eyes and truly believe it.
    I also agree with the blog in that healthy skepticism is necessary in today’s life. Philosophers and scientist need to question things and be skeptical in order to make breakthroughs and excel in life. I don’t think we can believe everything we hear and sometimes we need to do some research and find out for ourselves what is real and what isn’t.
    Because I define myself as a healthy skeptic, I do not deny all that I hear and I do not have a negative outlook on life. I would have to disagree with skepticism about religion. I have never seen Jesus myself but I do believe in God. Through the bible, Church, religious education class, and my parents, Jesus is all I have ever known and I believe in what I have been taught.

  6. I believe that my life most accurately represents a mix of Epicurean and Stoicism because I like to over indulge in many thinks but also in reality I prefer thinking with moderate and rational thoughts, much like a man of stoicism. In my life people always want me to hang out or go play with them at the park and usually I do because I believe that in life a person should just be free and do what they want, but when problems arise I prefer to just tackle each issue with rational thought and patience because that usually has the most acceptable and moderate result. Although Epicurus and Stoicism are nearly opposites I find myself constantly going between each way of life as each event comes at me. Due to my decisions on either just have fun or think about the most rational and neutral option, the outcomes are always interesting, yet correct in my opinion. In my life the only time I would use the Epicureans view on life would be if one of the options were just to have a good time, and I would select Stoicism as an option if a larger and more important issue were to be presented, such as homework, work, soccer, etc. While my life continues I find myself slowly drifting from Epicurean life style, into a Stoicism life style, as I expect, most people do as they age. This probably happens to people because they have to deal with more important issues as life goes on, but hopefully I never lose my Epicurus way of thought completely.

    Kevin S.

  7. I think the Hellenistic school of thought that most applies to my life would be the Epicurean school of thought. I think that I use this line of thought a lot in my life because I always try to think about consequences of things that I do. In one way that I have matured since I was younger is that I went from being a “troublemaker” in elementary and middle school and not seeing looking into the future at the consequences to becoming a “good kid” in high school where I don’t get into trouble very often because I try to weigh the long term risks of my actions. I also think that over-indulgence is bad and I think that rich people sometimes get out of touch with the common man. Although, I feel like I sometimes don’t follow this school of thought because sometimes I do overindulge. Also, I don’t agree with the idea of just dropping out of society. I think that someone should add to society with his or her life and achievements not just indulge in their simple pleasures alone. Also, I don’t think that it is even possible in today’s fast-paced world to just get up and live in Isolation, like Thoreau did and I don’t think that that would even bring you peace or happiness. Truthfully though, I wouldn’t call myself an Epicurean, I just feel like it is the school that is most reflected in my life, although, I think all the other types of thought are also reflected in my life.

    William Schwartz

  8. I feel that stoicism is a good way to go in life with moderation. Everything we do involves us hiding some facet of our being from a person of malcontent. This person may be your son or daughter of six who spills every little detail about home life and exaggerates what they want on a whim, or an opponent in your field of study/work. Stoicism is used to benefit our society in some facets. In one area divulging all data will allow a people to get the hard facts and used those facts to help their creation, or to help them develop as a human being. On the downside of not having stoicism you would divulge all data and open a floodgate of unnecessary knowledge that would be a hindrance to any type of work. It would be impossible to get anything done if we shared our feelings at every second and told everyone everything we ever experienced or were experiencing. We would have to talk constantly to share our knowledge to everyone in the world. But stoicism would bring the world to a halt. It would stop the economies of the world to plummet since no-one would give in to their wants needs or desires. The human race would not continue as a species one of desires is lust and without it we would not reproduce. Also our hunger would not affect our decisions so we would not eat causing us to die. Stoicism in moderation is key. Take a little bit of self control and filter out the unnecessary data for the problems. Show the future of our society that you should be afraid to get a shot or a haircut. Also let loose every once in a while and share your thoughts and feelings, people are more productive when they are happy. This would in turn better our society.
    Chris Alder

  9. If I had to relate my life to one of the Hellenist philosophies, I would relate it to skepticism. I guess I'll come out and say it since its bound to come up sooner or later in class. I am an atheist. I don't believe in an any deity, the immortal soul or any of that mumbo jumbo. I guess I could attribute my condition to my upbringing. And I say condition because there are a lot of people out there who would tell me I have some sickness of the brain for not believing in god. That's fine though, I'm not the one f%&ing my cousin. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't raised in a hardcore religious house hold or anything, my mom was raised Jewish, my dad Catholic but they never really practiced hardcore. During my adolescent years, my dad "converted" to Judaism, i.e. we celebrated Chanukah in the Carter house hold instead of Christmas. I'm not going to go into ALL the many reasons I don't believe in god(the monotheistic Christian or Jewish God we love here in Murica')since I would exceed the 250 word limit of this blog, but, lets go with this for now. There is no current(nor do I think there will ever be) any DEFINITIVE evidence of any such deity. That's where the whole skepticism thing comes in. If any DEFINITIVE evidence is presented to me, I will review and possibly change my opinion. Notice my emphasis of the definitive, I do this because, YEA WELL WHERE DID DA UNIVERSE COME FROM???, and, IF GODS NOT REAL THEN HOW COME NOTHING RHYMES WITH ORANGE, as definitive.

    -Liam Carter

  10. I believe my life can most relate to Stoicism. Although I am a very sensitive person, I had learned to accept things for what they are and don't let things get to me. Things happen, deal with it and turn a negative situation into a positive one. Everyday I learn more and more. I endure pain,instead of talking about it. I believe that things will one day get better and everything will come out in light. I have accepted that I cannot change things. Things happen for a reason and one day I will understand that reason.

    Stoicism isn't the best way to think, but at the end of the day we should all think this way. Don't let your emotions get in the way of you doing something. Emotions only put a hold on things. I agree that Stoicism is how the way we react to events, not just standing by watching things happen. Stoicism is not supposed to be taken as a way to say screw the world. Stoicism does not mean that when somebody is killed, we show no sympathy and we just say" Well things happen." Stoicism means that when it comes to things that happen to us personally we should get over, especially little things that will not even affect our lives.

    Learning to endure pain makes you a stronger person; however, holding in your emotions is sometimes bad. You can one day just explode because you had so many things bottled up. Sometimes I feel that hiding my emotions makes me see things better and more clear.

  11. There are many modern examples of Cynicism, but the one that I am going to focus on is regarding the promises made by politicians and leaders. This is a big conflict that we face today, since the majority of promises that we are told by are leaders never happen. For example, during presidential elections the candidates tell us exactly what we would like to hear. Some of the things that they say aren't even issues under their control, and other things they say just aren’t realistic. With our system of government we choose who we put in power, so shouldn’t we be able to believe that they will follow through with their promises? This is the big dilemma, we should be able to believe in our government, but they frequently let us down by not following through with what they say. A lot of politicians today seem to care more about their personal gain than the gain of the nation. I think this is completely wrong and that when we give someone a position of power they should stop worrying about their own needs. Our leaders need to realize that we chose them to make decisions for us, and that we expect them to do what’s best for us as a nation. I personally do not believe most of what leaders/politicians say since most of it is just ends up being empty promises. I wait until they actually follow through on their promises, and then I begin to trust them and believe that they might actually do what they say.

    -Emily Prosyniuk

  12. Out of the four listed, I would probably say skepticism applies the most to me. It’s hard for me to believe things without at least some proof of it happening, but I wouldn’t 100% commit myself to being a skeptic. If I don’t know something, I’m not going to concede defeat and assume that I’ll never know, I’ll try my best to find out what I don’t know until I absolutely can’t anymore. As it applies to my life, I’m not certain how my future is going to pan out. I know what colleges I want to get in to, but I don’t really know which ones I will get in to. Also, I know what I want to pursue in college and as a career, but nothing’s saying that can’t change as time goes on. I don’t know if I agree with not worrying about the future and only focusing on the present though. Personally I feel like working on short term with a foundation for what your long term plan is and thinking about how your actions can affect that is best. That probably adds some Epicureans into the mix as well, specifically the part where you weigh short term vs. long term. I’m not saying that you should never consider long term consequences or plan for the future, however, and I guess that’s another part of what makes me not a 100% skeptic. A mix of skepticism, epicureans, and intellectual curiosity is probably how I would describe myself

  13. I feel that stoicism, if any of the Hellenistic views, most fits into my life. I notice that I don’t like to ask for help because it wastes other people’s time so I usually handle things myself. Stoicism, I think, relates to that because a stoic wouldn’t complain about what life throws at them simply because there’s no point. I’m not sure if I agree with Aurelius that anything a person experiences they can handle but there’s no point in acting like you can’t handle it because you would have to anyways. I also really like this from one of the articles: “There are things we can never control, and there are things we can.” I really do agree with that and I don’t think any of that fate stuff has to do with it. All I can tell if that something is going to ultimately kill us but we can always fight it back until we’re ninety or something. For example a soldier doesn’t just stop shooting back because he’ll probably die; a soldier isn’t supposed to waste time by giving up.
    I don’t see any of the other Hellenistic philosophies relating to myself. I don’t think cynicism or skepticism is easy to relate to because I sometimes believe things just because it’s interesting – so I can be gullible sometimes. The epicureans seem really focused on how to be happy which is silly because how do we even know if we’re honestly happy? I wouldn’t much appreciate focusing on how to make myself happy all of the time.

  14. I would consider myself a cynic, after reading about them even though some of the things associated with them are negative I still think that I would fall into their group most, much more than the other 3. When you said how if a cynic loses to someone in a game or a competition of some sort they will claim the game is rigged and what not. Even though it’s hard for me to say I think that is true when it comes to me. It’s a very hard thing for me to accept defeat because I don’t like the thought that someone is better than me. I don’t make excuses for failure but I do rag on certain aspects when I do lose. Part of that is my competitiveness, I take everything as a competition because I hate being behind people. And it is true how you said a cynic would say that someone isn’t a worthy opponent if you beat them. When we play teams in baseball I usually will react that way if we beat a team by a ton. Also to elaborate on more of my cynic views when I am in any type of argument and debate and I am clearly losing it I won’t accept that imp wrong even if I know I am. I will just say something ignorant like “Well you’re wrong because I know that I’m right and nothing that you can say will change that”. Overall I consider myself a cynic because of the way you described it I think it fits me the most out of all of the other options.



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