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A New Stoicism, Revised Edition

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What would stoic ethics be like today if stoicism had survived as a systematic approach to ethical theory, if it had coped successfully with the challenges of modern philosophy and experimental science? A New Stoicism proposes an answer to that question, offered from within the stoic tradition but without the metaphysical and psychological assumptions that modern philosophy and science have abandoned. Lawrence Becker argues that a secular version of the stoic ethical project, based on contemporary cosmology and developmental psychology, provides the basis for a sophisticated form of ethical naturalism, in which virtually all the hard doctrines of the ancient Stoics can be clearly restated and defended.

Becker argues, in keeping with the ancients, that virtue is one thing, not many; that it, and not happiness, is the proper end of all activity; that it alone is good, all other things being merely rank-ordered relative to each other for the sake of the good; and that virtue is sufficient for happiness. Moreover, he rejects the popular caricature of the stoic as a grave figure, emotionally detached and capable mainly of endurance, resignation, and coping with pain. To the contrary, he holds that while stoic sages are able to endure the extremes of human suffering, they do not have to sacrifice joy to have that ability, and he seeks to turn our attention from the familiar, therapeutic part of stoic moral training to a reconsideration of its theoretical foundations.

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Becker Lawrence
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Lawrence C. Becker is a fellow of Hollins University and professor emeritus of philosophy at the College of William & Mary. He was an associate editor of the journal Ethics from 1985–2000, and the editor, with Charlotte B. Becker, of two editions of the Encyclopedia of Ethics.

Preface to the Revised Edition ix
Acknowledgments xvii
1 The Conceit 3
2 A New Agenda for Stoic Ethics 5
3 The Ruins of Doctrine 8
Science, Logic, and Ethics 8
Norms and Moral Training 14
Virtue and Happiness 20
Commentary 23
Acknowledgments 33
4 Normative Logic 37
Norms and Normative Propositions 38
Normative Constructs: Getting from Is to Ought 41
Axioms of Stoic Normative Logic 44
5 Following the Facts 46
Impossibilities 47
A Posteriori Normative Propositions 49
Motivated Norms 56
A Developmental Account of Moral Motivation 60
Heteronomous Endeavors, Autonomous Agency, and Freedom 64
Commentary 75
Acknowledgments 87
6 Virtue 89
Inseparable Agency, Virtue, and Eudaimonia 89
The Development of Virtue through Agency 91
Moral Education and Divergent Paths to Virtue 127
The Argument for Virtue as the Product of Ideal Agency 128
Exalted Virtue 132
Commentary 138
Acknowledgments 153
7 Happiness 155
A Whole Life 155
A Controlled Life 159
Life on the Rack 163
A Good Life 166
Joy 173
Commentary 175
Acknowledgments 191
Appendix A Calculus for Normative Logic 193
Notation and Interpretation 193
Basic Definitions, Rules, and Axioms 197
Normative Constructs 201
Axioms of Stoic Normative Logic 214
Immediate Inferences 215
Commentary 218
Acknowledgments 224
Postscript to the Revised Edition 225
The Virtues of Virtue Ethics in the Stoic Tradition 225
Stoic Politics and Virtue Politics Generally 227
Stoicism as a Guide to Living Well 231
Bibliography 239
Index 253

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