Stoicism and emotion - Margaret R Graver


"Getting clear about the emotions was certainly part of the picture for ancient Stoics, but it’s not the key to their system, not at all. For them, the main thing was to get clear about human nature: what it is to be a rational creature, what is our place in the universe and how we connect to one another. It was their view that both we and our world are products of intelligent design. From that it follows that if there’s a capability that belongs to human nature, there should be a right use for that capability. And the capacity to feel deeply, to be elated or eager or even horrified, is indeed part of our nature. The trick is to get our values right, so that the things we react strongly to are the ones that truly matter for a human being. Once a person learns to care intensely about honesty, courage, and compassion, and only provisionally about their income or their reputation or even how long they live, then the emotions, too, fall into line. But getting there is hard – it could be a lifelong project." Margaret Graver


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"In this elegant and clearly written work, Margaret Graver gives a compelling new interpretation of the Stoic position. Drawing on a vast range of ancient sources, she argues that the chief demand of Stoic ethics is not that we should suppress or deny our feelings, but that we should perfect the rational mind at the core of every human being. Like all our judgments, the Stoics believed, our affective responses can be either true or false and right or wrong, and we must assume responsibility for them. Without glossing over the difficulties, Graver also shows how the Stoics dealt with those questions that seem to present problems for their theory: the physiological basis of affective responses, the phenomenon of being carried away by one’s emotions, the occurrence of involuntary feelings and the disordered behaviors of mental illness. Ultimately revealing the deeper motivations of Stoic philosophy, Stoicism and Emotion uncovers the sources of its broad appeal in the ancient world and illuminates its surprising relevance to our own. "

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University of Chicago Press
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