The ancient Romans heavily influenced Greek and Hellenistic philosophy. However, during the Roman period, many unique philosophical schools emerged. Let’s take a look at three such thinkers. Stoicism and Posidonius
The first major works on Stoicism in Rome are written in the second century BC. The Stoics’ aims and philosophies were influenced by the lives of various Roman citizens. For example, the philosopher Epictetus was once a slave who lost everything in a shipwreck. But despite this adversity, he never complained. Instead, he criticized his master for destroying his property and asked, “How can a slave be an effective slave if his leg is broken?”
A key idea in Stoicism is that one should not lament for lack, and instead, guide their awareness toward appreciation for what they do have. Unlike most people, Stoics regard misfortune as an opportunity to develop their virtues. Instead of lamenting their troubles needlessly, they actively seek to learn from them. The Stoics’ philosophy is an enduring example for us today. So what is Stoicism in Rome?
The philosophy behind Stoicism was to develop a world that is good. This would include a state of universal happiness, natural rights, and even the right to commit suicide. The philosophy was so influential that it had a profound impact on the philosophy of Christian morality, theology, and modern philosophy. As a result, it remains an important concept in Western culture today. The core principles of Stoicism are as follows:
Thrasymachus in philosophy, a philosophical discussion of the role of justice and injustice, argues that a just person should strive to achieve the highest level of excellence possible. This is contrary to Socrates’ view, in which a just person should overachieve because justice is the highest form of excellence. He then goes on to argue that a just person must be better than unjust ones because being unjust is not a virtue.
Socrates’ definition of the ruler is not clear. While Thrasymachus is a pseudo-expert, he has one important characteristic: he is eager to win. As such, his arguments become less meaningful because he ceases to be a real interlocutor, and instead, he becomes a bluffing yes-no-man. This is an example of what is called an eristic, a philosopher who is only interested in winning arguments and looking clever.
One problem with Thrasymachus’s philosophy is his confused thought. According to Cross and Woozley, Thrasymachus advanced different criteria for justice, and failed to appreciate the fact that different standards of justice do not necessarily coincide. In addition, Thrasymachus is often seen as a precursor to Machiavelli, who later argues in The Prince that the socratic elenchus cannot help someone like Thrasymachus.
The famous Greek philosopher Posidonius was a geographer and astronomer who was a Stoic. His work, “About the Ocean and Adjacent Areas,” popularized his theories on the internal connection of the world, and he detailed the impact of climate on the character of people. This work was influential in establishing the climatic theory and forming the basis for its philosophic interpretation.
The Greek philosopher Posidonius was celebrated as a polymath. He wrote on topics ranging from astronomy and physics to astrology, divination, geology, botany, ethics, and mathematics. His ideas influenced countless Roman philosophers, including Cicero and Plato. In addition to his writings on the physical world, Posidonius also wrote on the nature of human consciousness and the relationship between matter and the universe.
Despite the fact that no complete work of Posidonius’s has survived, his ideas are reconstructed from fragments of sources. Some of these sources had access to the original expositions, while others used intermediate sources and pursued agendas of their own. As a result, his influence is often regarded as dominant, and many of the sources have been based on this assumption. However, this is a flawed interpretation.
In 155 BCE, Stoicism was introduced to Rome, and it was brought by Diogenes of Babylon. In turn, Zeno studied under Stilpo the Megarian, and became a student of Polemo. Stoic philosophy was an alternative approach to governing a society. In its essence, it taught that man must follow the natural laws and reason, and that the greatest happiness comes from conforming one’s will to the divine will.
Although this theory is rooted in Zeno’s paradox of motion, it is difficult to see how Zeno could have known that space and time were discrete. He interpreted the paradox of motion as challenging the idea of discrete space and time, but most commentators don’t think he intended it this way. Zeno’s paradoxes attack both the notion that motion is real and that time is a plurality. In fact, Zeno’s paradoxes attack all kinds of plurality.
Parmenides’ views are not easily accepted, and Zeno’s students were skeptical. His claim that all things are fundamentally the same and that ordinary observation reports them to be such contradicts everyday experience. Therefore, Zeno set out to prove that Parmenides’ view was correct. The result was a series of 40 paradoxes in which the philosopher claimed that the senses were unable to perceive the true nature of reality. These paradoxes became known as the dialectic.
Although Chrysippus is credited with the creation of the Stoa, he was a prolific writer, producing at least seven hundred works. Chrysippus was also a fierce critic of the skeptical Academy, which emphasized the Socratic method and open-ended nature of Plato’s dialogues. His work was still influential, though, and remains highly regarded today.
After the Stoic school of philosophy was founded by Zeno and Cleanthes, Chrysippus was the man to take it further. He wrote fragments of his original works, and he organized propositional logic into an intellectual discipline that was influential in the Stoics’ advancement in science and mathematics. He is credited with coining the term “disjunction,” a term that has become widely used in philosophy today. Chrysippus’ works on logic and the Stoics are included in Diogenes Laertius’ list of the most important philosophers in the Stoic school.
Chrysippus was born in Cilicia, Asia Minor. He was the son of an Apollonian king and studied philosophy in Athens. He was initially attracted to Arcesilaus’ teachings, but chose Stoicism in the end. In fact, the philosophy of Arcesilaus began to undergo a critical phase. This phase was followed by a period of decline for Platonism.
Roman law is the body of rules and regulations imposed by the state on its citizens. These laws developed alongside the empire, providing citizens with a clear understanding of their rights and a system of redress for wrongdoing. The early jus civile system incorporated the concept of a “right” to be punished or exempted from an offense. Today’s legal system attempts to replicate the Roman system, as does its historical background.
The first source of Roman law is the Twelve Tables of Law, which survive only in citations in later sources. This early republican compilation of civil law sought to break the dominance of the patrician and priestly classes over the law. It was intended to be separate from sacred law, but it was ultimately a collection of sentences dealing with only the rights and responsibilities of citizens. This legal body was also the sole jurisdiction of the male head of the family, who had considerable freedom in deciding how to treat slaves.
In addition to the Stoic tradition, Roman jurists benefited from the methods of Stoic logic. As Peter Stein notes, Labeo introduced regulae into legal interpretation and is therefore the inheritor of the Alexandrian and Stoic debates. His method of defining iniuria derived from polysemy rather than the regular meaning of the term. As a result, it is possible to distinguish between the two schools of philosophy in terms of legal interpretation.
Cicero’s philosophy of the republic was rooted in the Roman Republic and reflected his personal life and political beliefs. The philosopher became a popular political leader in 44 B.C. after the death of Julius Caesar. He supported his nephew Octavian, who would become Caesar Augustus. Cicero also made a name for himself in politics by orchestrating political attacks against his opponent, Mark Antony. In a series of speeches, Cicero succeeded in making Antony the enemy of the republican movement.
The letter focuses on the distinction between what is honorable and what is expedient. In the letters, Cicero argues that the two are never in conflict. For example, when you choose to pursue virtue, you do so for the right reasons. In the other letters, he describes the bond between human beings, pointing out that no human action is incompatible with honor. In his letter to Marcus, Cicero argues for following nature, cultivating wisdom, and engaging in political activity.
Cicero’s philosophy of the republic was rooted in political concerns. While philosophy was still very popular in Greece, the emphasis on politics was more prominent in Rome. As a result, Cicero wrote many arguments and justifications for studying philosophy in the republic. Cicero needed to make the subject accessible to the people in Rome. Consequently, his philosophy of the republic reflects the views of the people of the Roman Republic.