Stoic Philosophy and Social Theory

This project considers how ancient Stoic philosophy, and social and sociological theory, respectively situate our individual identity and subjectivity in relation to our broader environments and collective conditions. One purpose of this is to compare portrayals in both fields of the individual as a trace of something communal. A second purpose is to integrate ideas from Stoic philosophy into social and sociological theory, and vice-versa, in order to reconsider established positions. A third purpose is to exhibit transtemporal commonalities in both ancient and modern theses about subjectivity and sociality.

In Progress

1. Article on Cleanthes’ Stoic conception of an all-encompassing universal city.

2. Book that explores ancient Stoic philosophy’s conception of our fulfilment of social roles that outlive our individual existences.

Published

1. Book Chapter “Born Communal: The Stoics’ Sense of the Social Self” in Stoicism Today: Selected Writings, Volume 3. This chapter identifies how, across plural eras of ancient Stoicism, humans are portrayed as fragments of something universally common. The associated position explored is that it is in our rational nature to orient our intentions and actions toward communal ends, whereby our self-preservation is conditioned by being collectively directed. Theory Keywords: Cato the Younger, Chrysippus of Soli, Cicero, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius.

2. Article Respond Rationally to Whatever Happens” in The Stoic. This article explores the relationship between physical determinism and personal responsibility in Stoicism. The purpose of this is to highlight that nothing occurs randomly in what, for the Stoics, is an ordered universe. Theory Keywords: Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Plato, Zeno of Citium.

3. Book Stoic Philosophy and Social Theory. This book is a comparative study of ancient Stoic philosophy and modern social theory. The primary topic concerns how, as individuals, we are socially/communally constituted and oriented. In raising differences and similarities between ancient Stoicism and modern social theory on this topic, new discussions emerge around the established positions that are integrated from each field. Via this tandem analysis I identify new orientations for established ideas in Stoicism and social theory about the mind, being present, self-preservation, knowledge, travel, climate change, the body, kinship, gender, education, and emotions. Theory Keywords: Ancient philosophy (Aristotle, Cato the Younger, Cicero, Epicurus, Plato, Sextus Empiricus, Socrates), ancient Stoicism (Chrysippus of Soli, Cleanthes of Assos, Epictetus, Hierocles, Marcus Aurelius, Musonius Rufus, Posidonius, Seneca the Younger, Zeno of Citium), modern Stoicism (Julia Annas, Lawrence Becker, Brad Inwood, Christopher Gill, Anthony Long, Martha Nussbaum, Massimo Pigliucci, Gretchen Reydams-Schils, Donald Robertson, David Sedley, John Sellars, William Stephens), social theory and sociology (Barbara Adam, Henri Bergson, Pierre Bourdieu, Émile Durkheim, Ann Game, Anthony Giddens, Arlie Hochschild, Julia Kristeva, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Harriet Martineau, George Mead, Andrew Metcalfe, Herbert Spencer, Max Weber).

4. Article “The Stoic Cosmos and Australia’s Wildfires: A Universal View of Local Climates” in Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life. This article concerns an Australian government minister’s claim that it is more practical and urgent to act in relation to currently localised effects of climate change than it is to immediately engage broader considerations of climate change’s sources. I respond via ancient Stoicism’s argument that the most practical action is to view the seemingly hyper-local event through the prism of a systemically global and universal interconnection. Theory Keywords: Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Zeno of Citium.

5. Article “Bringing People Closer: Cicero, Hierocles, and Cosmopolitanism” in Epoché. In this work I firstly unpack the ancient Stoic position that it is rational to treat all humans as closely as possible. I then consider how practical such an ethos is in terms of the protocols that govern current ways of socially interacting. Theory Keywords: Cicero, Epictetus, Hierocles.

6. Article “How to Manage Technological Change: Stoic Responses to Innovation” in Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life. This article details the ancient Stoic belief that change is the inescapable condition of the universe. I then apply this conception to a case study of an Australian prime minister’s demand for Australians to embrace technological change. A difference becomes apparent between the Stoic impression of change, and this recent political interpretation. Theory Keywords: Lawrence Becker, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca the Younger.

7. Article “What is a Stoic’s ‘Social Nature’?” in Stoicism Today. A detailed analysis of Stoicism’s position that humans are inherently social and designed to contribute to the common good. This attends to the Stoic belief that it is rational to be collectively oriented. Theory Keywords: Cato the Younger, Chrysippus of Soli, Cicero, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius.