How Stoicism Can Make You Mentally Tough
Zat Rana

OK so we are the source and contributors of value, the good we seek is not an objective matter of external reality, it doesn’t exist there, but only within us. It seems from your account that we are programmed that way and if we are, how do we explain the differences people have in their biological capacities. If we think of these capacities, as being the same as intelligence then we also have to recognise the different ranges of ability

The problem is the existence, formation and role of responsibility. It is at the heart of the matter because it judges and attributes value to things. It is the basis for holding a person to account for wrongs committed. If there are different capacities for taking responsibility then it would seem that we should absolve many on Stoic grounds for their action. Not only the disabled and mentally deficient would qualify as deficient but perhaps, psychopaths as well

Take the case of the holocaust and the Nazis involved in it, who genuinely believed that the jews were a sub-human race, essentially evil and had to be eradicated. How on Stoic terms would we explain this in terms of the different biological capacities?. We normally regard the evil of it as an objective matter, a property inherent in the act itself. There is a kind of evil that emanates from an evil exercise of agency.

My point is that the Stoic philosophy is fine in general outline, it’s a feel good philosophy but with barely an adequate account of the external world. They assume that we are all constituted the same way and perhaps because their views were historical and addressed to a different audience in different circumstances, we can be less judgmental

I know that David Hume would have accepted most of what they held, his view about the human relation to the external world, similarly placed ethical belief within human actors. But there may be a difference: value judgments had no truth value for Hume, I’m not sure whether the Stoics would agree.

But if they do believe that value judgments can have a truth value, then there is a problem about their notion of truth. It would then be a question, of what kind of truth it was, and why it is different from the ordinary concept.

If they don’t believe that value judgments have a truth value and that there is no external thing as evil, then the holocaust example seems to me to be a problem for them. The case of the Nazis belief in the subhuman nature of jews, their need for eradication together with the belief that it was their duty to carry out this eradication, needs explanation. Perhaps the Nazis were ethically blind