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Stoicism Is All Too Natural

All we animals have to be stoic, at one point or another, whether we like it, or not, whether human, or not. At some point we have to decide that, whatever it is, will be, and that’s fine. This maximizes happiness. Especially in dismal circumstances. It’s all the eudemonia the abyss offers.

Stoicism is evolutionary given. It would not help to sustain ecology if prey animals systematically fought beyond any hope of surviving, as it would hurt predators (and thus kill them, as the job of predator is highly demanding). Without predators around, there is no more ecology.

Thus animals come complete with endorphins, pain killing hormones related to morphine. When the fighting is hopeless, endorphins suddenly permeate the prey, and it accepts calmly to be eaten alive. That’s often a very long process. It is striking to see an antelope resting on the ground, alert, head high, standing perfectly still, while a lion is feasting deep inside its abdominal cavity.

Hence evolution itself has selected stoicism as a strategy to reach an optimal ecology.

Experiments in human ethology have shown moral monism is a no-go: not all morality comes from just one moral principle. Far from it. Instead, human beings travel a vast moral manifold, with many moral strategies, as opportunity and necessity arise. Thus the attached philosophies are to vary accordingly. Philosophical pluralism is fact and practice. Yet, stoicism will always be a part of the mix (as it is evolutionary given, it’s part of what we are).

But one has to be careful not to confuse appropriate stoicism, and amor fati, with gross selfishness. Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and author of the Meditations is a case in point. He claimed, in his Thoughts that one ought:

“Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things that exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the structure of the web.”

Strange mumbo-jumbo.

Although this train of thought seems to partly anticipate ecological balance theory, the emperor’s motivation, according to all appearances, from historical evidence, was most base. If true, this is extremely shocking: Marcus Aurelius is often viewed as the archetype stoic, in his full glory.

And this is a warning to all those who get carried away with Stoicism, Buddhism, Zen, and the closely related Confucianism and “Inch Allah” religion.

If it’s all one movement, one may as well leave it alone, and go along with the flow. Thus Marcus Aurelius opted to not go into a complicated process to select the next best future emperor, as had been the tradition under the Antonine emperors (and how he himself became Princeps, Imperator, Augustus and what not).

It was simpler, more craftily stoic, to make his son Commodus Caesar at the age of 5, the youngest Consul ever at the age of 15. Then Marcus made Commodus co-emperor at the precocious age of 16. That teenager became perhaps the worst emperor ever.

Why? First, out of apparent stoicism, not to say epicureanism, Commodus gave up territory dearly gained on the Marcomanni, and that it was crucial for Rome to keep (as history showed within a generation).

Stoicism is the acceptance of what cannot be avoided, surrender. It has its place, but only as a mean to not hurt higher values which a disorganized frenzy could compromise.

One should not surrender, especially to evil, in a hurry, affecting haughty indifference. Doing so makes one an accomplice, a collaborator of evil. Stoicism is a help in the abyss, when hope is forever gone, and only pain is left. But stoicism is also an invitation to the abyss, if used inappropriately.

This is not just a problem for those who abide by Stoicism and Buddhism. The religions of Abraham celebrate the submission of their hero (Abraham) to the most monstrous deity imaginable, the one who asks him to slit the throat of his son. In other words, if the boss asks you for the worst crime imaginable, stoically submit.

This is immensely unacceptable to those who have the religion of man, instead of the religion of the boss, fascism.

Stoicism is one misappropriation away from accepting fascism, infamy, or both.

Progress is a more human value strategy than stoicism. All animals are prone to stoicism, as they muddle along. Only humans wish to rise well above Prometheus, and smash fate into a better world.

We created god(s), and should act accordingly.

Patrice Ayme

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