Saturday, 16 July 2011

Philosophy talk from Australia, back to the old style

Just been listening to a radio show based in sunny Australia.  The show is a slot on ABC radio and it looks to be still running.  This particular show is called "The Philosophers Zone" and has been running since 2005.  Their site must have over 300 dedicated philosophy subjects and guess what? They are all free for download.

Today I was listening to a 25 minute talk hosted by Alan Saunders.  The subject was about the rise of three Greek schools in the Hellenistic period.  The title of the subject is called "The Therapy of Desire - Epicureans and Stoics on the good life".

Alan Saunders
We have Alan Saunders talk to Martha Nussbaum from the University of Chicago, who seems to be a specialist of Greek philosophy.  She mentions about why these schools were founded, their philosophy and influence on later philosophers, especially in towards the Roman period.

So let’s have a brief look at these schools.

The Epicureans

The Epicureans basically looked at philosophy being used for therapy against irrationality and harmful desires.  Their view on life would be an appreciation of beauty, detachment from earthly delights and being free for fear, especially death.  We have the famous quote from Epicurus who said, "When we exist death is not, and when death exists we are not"

The Stoics

Here in this school, the Stoics wanted to spread forth the belief that our emotions can be destructive if we act upon irrationality.  Stoicism pushes forward the idea that men should be free not only from grief, but also from Joy and be steadfast not only in belief, but how we behave.  

Our emotions can obviously be destructive to others if we act irrationally from anger, but worst of all; we can eventually destroy ourselves.

The stoics stressed that each man must live according to the reason within nature.

The Cynics

The talk does not go deeply into what the cynics did, but here is a little breakdown.  Mainly what the modern age knows of the Cynics is that they are doubtful of knowledge and felt that all knowledge should be questionable.  Cynics also taught that people must live free from desires, being wealth, fame, power and even being overly concerned with our health.  Our lives must be lived through a rational agreement with nature.  You might notice some stoicism within the cynics, so their ideas did merge from the two schools.

Why did these schools form?

Well, back in the Hellenistic period, war was rife and it was hard enough to survive. Fights broke out over the simplest things due to anger, desire, fear and irrationality and it seemed the best way to counter such emotions was through rationality. 

What best way to do this then use Philosophy of course!!

With such rationality, we can cure the irrational thoughts that can lead to pain and sorrow, thus people will become peaceful and seek higher forms of living.  Notice I have mentioned peaceful rather than happier, because again being happy might be brought around by irrational thoughts.  These being lust, money, fame can all make one happy, but in the end those emotions (if unchecked) can cause stress to society.

The talk continues on the problems of these philosophies.  Sometimes the philosophies go to their extremes, where one not only detaches themselves away from the painful emotions, but eventually detaches themselves away from their loved ones, even family and friends.  I think its because death takes us all and we must learn not to become too attached to each other. Not only can death destroy our attachments, but people can be un-trust worthy, people can turn on you for the slightest of reasons, so we must hold our emotions back, keep them in check and not be so vengeful. 

The show is quite short and could only cover the ethics taught within these schools.  The schools also looked at logic, poetry, physics and the study of nature.

There are hundreds of episodes from "The Philosophers Zone".  I hope to cover many of them. Feel free to download from their site.

No comments:

Post a Comment