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A Guide to the Good Life: the Ancient Art of Stoic Joy - Duty on Loving Mankind

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Anieya St. Juste

BMCC-Spring 2018

Phi 100-1603

Prof Mendoza

“Duty on Loving Mankind”

William B. Irvine’s philosophical book, “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy,” is considered a handbook on understanding stoic philosophy. In the book, he discusses stoicism and gives us advice on how we can help the psychological part of ourselves. In part 3 of the book, Irvine, in a series of chapters discusses multiple topics, such as anger, death, fame, etc..., the chapter that spoke to me was chapter 9, which is called “Duty on Loving Mankind.” This chapter made me reevaluate my life and way of thinking. To add on to his own opinion, Irvine, brings in another philosophers perspective named Marcus Aurelius. Marcus was a Roman emperor and he wrote many books but one in particular Irvine continues to mention is the book, “Meditations.” The book is composed of a series of Marcus’ personal writings, and his thoughts and ideas on stoic philosophy are mentioned in Irvine’s writing.

In the beginning of the chapter, Irvine explains human beings. He explains that as humans we will meet a whole bunch of people that will either be positive or negative impacts in our lives. Also, we want people to like us and think that we are worthy of being their friend. We focus too much on the materialistic things and believe that that is the proper way to earn a friendship. Irvine believes that we become very anxious, and the anxiety stops us from believing that someone can actually like us for ourselves, not for our materials. Irvine says, “We fear that we will make the wrong choices and that other ppl will therefore think poorly of us” (128). To some extent that is true, however society, also, puts demands on us. We see advertisements and commercials that show people wearing the hottest trends and we are guilty of buying it, and thinking that this is the way we can make friends. Irvine, also, notes that to afford all the nice things that we want, which will give us friends, we will have to work very hard for all of that. Even if we work hard and achieve all of that, our anxiety/tranquility won’t be satisfied because we will be thinking about the jealous people and how they don’t like our success but it is inevitable. Irvine says that Seneca says it well: “To know how many people are jealous of you, count your admirers,” (128).

Next, Irvine discusses Stoics and Stoicism. He explains that because Stoics are all about tranquility and they appreciate the fact that certain people can disrupt their peace, we would compare them to cavemen and we believe that Stoics would want us to follow that way of thinking. However, in a way they highly suggest that we follow their way of thinking but they don't want us to not have a relationship with fellow humans. “They thought that man is by nature a social animal and therefore that we have a duty to form and maintain relationships with others.., despite the trouble they might cause us,” (129). Irvine introduces Marcus and the book Meditations. Marcus believes that the gods created us for a reason. We all have a special duty that we need to fulfill. Everything on earth has a duty, for example, a dog does a dogs duty, as well as a bee, and the same goes for a man. Irvine, then, proposes the question: “What is a man’s function?” Stoics believe that the man’s primary function is to be rational. For Marcus, he feels his duty is to



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