Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Phil 300 - Logic - Fasting to Cure Cancer

Fasting to Cure Cancer

One of the earliest claims of cancer being cured by fasting comes from an avid proponent of the practice, Upton Sinclair.  His claim that fasting cures many diseases, including cancer, is summed up in a book entitled, “Terrors of the Table: The Curious History of Nutrition.”  The author notes,

Without doubt the cheapest of the many prescriptions for dietary health was fasting. The cult has been around since ancient times, but enjoyed a wide resurgence towards the beginning of the 20th century. … A fervent apostle of the creed was the inimitable Upton Sinclair, author of (among many other novels) The Jungle and the most credulous of faddists. He published in 1911 his book The Fasting Cure in which he assured his readers that a strict regime of deprivation would cure any of a long inventory of diseases, including cancer, tuberculosis, asthma, syphilis, locomotor ataxia, and, to cap it all, the common cold. In what passes for a caveat he remarks: 'I have known two or three cases of people dying while they were fasting, but I feel quite certain that the fast did not cause their death'" (Gratzer, 201).

In more modern times, the idea of fasting aiding in and being the cause of people being healed from cancer, seems to be gaining momentum.  Three examples of these claims come from three different people.  First, Dr. David Jockers promotes the idea of fasting as a healer of cancer with this headline: “Using Fasting Strategies for Natural Cancer Healing.”  Second comes from another person who was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer at the age of 19 and who went on to become a doctor, and now claims fasting contributes to the healing of patients from cancer.  Her name is Dr. Nasha Winters, and she tells her story and makes her claims on the Diet Doctor Podcast (Scher).  The last example is a medical foundation based on the idea water only fasts fix many health ailments, including cancer.  The TrueNorth Health Foundation makes many claims about the benefits of fasting and one of their claims is of a woman who was healed of “stage IIIa, grade 1 follicular lymphoma” after she completed a ”21-day medically supervised, water-only fast” and then began eating a plant food only diet (Myers, et al.).

Using Michael Shermer’s “Baloney Detection” questions, I will analyze the claim that fasting cures cancer.  This paper will note each of his questions and then provide an answer to the question.

How reliable is the source of the claim?  The original claim, from Sinclair, does not appear to have any scientific basis.  While I’ve not read his book The Fasting Cure, I did peruse a copy of it online and found that he did not cite any studies, rather, he based his claims from his own experiences and testimonials of others.  As for Jockers, Winters, and The TrueNorth Foundation, it would take a trained scientist to investigate their studies and determine if their conclusions indicate deliberate bias.  However, all three of these sources do stake their reputation on their claims.

Does this source often make similar claims? Sinclair not only claims that fasting cures cancer, but as previously cited in this paper, he claims fasting cures all kinds of other diseases.  With a plethora of outlandish claims, he seems to have gone beyond the scope of the facts.  As for Jockers, his site makes other interesting claims related to fasting.  Reviewing headlines from his website, one of his articles claims “How a 3 Day Fast Resets the Immune System.”  As for Winters, she claims that not only does fasting aid in healing cancer, but she takes an alternative and holistic approach to beating cancer.  Her website states, “Dr. Winters considers the body as one interrelated, integrated system and believes cancer comes from the body being neglected at some level via nourishment, physical stress, psychological stress, or a combination of those stressors” (“MATC Book | Dr. Nasha”).  Lastly, the TrueNorth Foundation site strongly advocates for the use of “water-only fasting and exclusively whole-plant-food diet” for the health of the body (“TrueNorth Health Foundation | Live Longer, Live Better”).

Have the claims been verified by another source?  While an extensive review of all the material from Sinclair, Jockers, Winters, and the TrueNorth Health Foundation would be a significant challenge, all of them, except Sinclair, provide ample citations of studies that back up their claims.  It should also be noted that the general subject of fasting in the aiding of healing cancer, does not have a lot of research to date.  One peer-reviewed article states,

Clinical research studies of fasting with robust designs and high levels of clinical evidence are sparse in the literature.  Whereas the few randomized controlled trials and observational clinical outcomes studies support the existence of a health benefit from fasting, substantial further research in humans is needed before the use of fasting as a health intervention can be recommended” (Horne et al.)

Therefore, while there are some studies that begin to draw connections and conclusions that fasting may heal patients from cancer, the evidence to date has not been fully verified by a broad spectrum of sources.

How does the claim fit with what we know about how the world works?  The generally accepted, main cause of cancer is the mutation of DNA (Mayo Clinic).  There is not much a person can do to be healed from genetic mutations.  However, in the same Mayo Clinic article, it cites that obesity is a contributing factor for DNA mutations and subsequently individuals ought to “maintain a healthy weight.”  Therefore, if an individual safely fasts, it may contribute to him or her having a healthy weight and even contribute to the healing process.  This is what some studies are trying to understand.  Beyond this connection, we know that chemotherapy and other drugs must be used to fight an active case of cancer and that fasting alone won’t heal the person.  Additionally, we also know that fasting can be extremely difficult even under the best of circumstances, let alone having to suffer through side effects of chemotherapy at the same time as fasting.  Even assuming fasting is effective at fighting cancer, the feasibility of the patient completing a fasting routine would have to be considered.

Has anyone gone out of the way to disprove the claim, or has only supportive evidence been sought?  While no research has been designed to disprove fasting as an effective treatment to heal cancer, “[a] group of researchers recently started to develop the so called ‘fasting mimicking diets’” which would imply that fasting is not needed, per se, to cure some cancers (Caccialanza).  In these studies, the patient does not actually fast, but modifies his or her eating habits to mimic the effects of fasting.  If these and future studies are proven efficacious, it would demonstrate that fasting does not heal patients from certain types of cancer.

Does the preponderance of evidence point to the claimant’s conclusion or to a different one?  Clearly, from the lack of ample studies proving that fasting heals cancer, it is apparent that most of the evidence indicates that chemotherapy and drugs are more effective at healing cancer than fasting alone.  And while some studies and cases indicate that fasting aided in the healing process, such as the case with Winters, other studies reveal that fasting in cancer patients introduces other serious health risk factors such as malnutrition and sarcopenia (Caccialanza).

Is the claimant employing the accepted rules of reason and tools of research, or have these been abandoned in favor of others that lead to the desired conclusion?  Sinclair does not employ generally accepted rules of reason and research tools.  However, Jockers, Winters and the TrueNorth Health Foundation do employ them in search of well-established and reasoned conclusions.  Sinclair, on the other hand, begins with a desired conclusion and sacrifices the integrity of the scientific process.  While he may have been influential, his forte was not in scientific research.

Is the claimant providing an explanation for the observed phenomena or merely denying the existing explanation?  Jockers, Winters, and the TrueNorth Health Foundation do much to explain the connection between obesity and cancer and then go on to explain that by addressing the nutrition of the cancer patient and even having the patient fast, cancer cells are deprived of the energy needed to grow and, that fasting activates the immune system to kill cancer cells (Myers).  Sinclair, however, lacks any technical explanation for his claim that fasting heals cancer.

If the claimant proffers a new explanation, does it account for as many phenomena as the old explanation did?  Claims made my Jockers, Winters, and the TrueNorth Health Foundation do not dispute the explanation for the cause of cancer.  Rather, they are focused on factors that contribute to the growth and subsequent fight against cancer cells.  While genetics may be the biggest factor in a person developing cancer, the claims of Jockers, Winters and the TrueNorth Health Foundation are made to widen the aperture of the studies in the fight against cancer, as opposed to offering a new explanation for the cause and cure for cancer.

Do the claimant’s personal beliefs and biases drive the conclusions, or vice versa?  Jockers has an entire business built around books, recipes, programs, and lifestyle coaching.  While Jockers cites many research articles, the bias for financial success may be a factor.  For Winters, she faced imminent death from cancer and through much of her research, has found a way to survive.  Therefore, she may suffer a strong bias from personal experience.  She too has developed a business around her success story.  The TruthNorth Health Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization which is organized around the idea of researching and finding benefits from water-only fasting and whole-plant-food diet.  No significant bias is evident from reviewing their informational web pages.  Lastly, Sinclair may have had ulterior motives for his claims that fasting heals cancer.  He sought political and culture influence throughout his career and therefore may have had other motivations for making his claims.

In conclusion, we must ask, does fasting heal cancer?  After conducting a lot of research on this topic, it does not appear that it can be definitively claimed that when patients fast, they will be healed from cancer.  As noted previously, this area of research is young and is growing with more studies investigating the link between fasting and cancer cell reduction.  As scientists and researchers pinpoint the exact effects of fasting on cancer cells, they may eventually conclude there are other ways to achieve the same outcomes without forcing patients to endure long fasts.

Works Cited

Caccialanza, Riccardo et al. “To fast, or not to fast before chemotherapy, that is the question.” BMC cancer vol. 18,1 337. 27 Mar. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12885-018-4245-5

Gratzer, Walter. Terrors of the Table : The Curious History of Nutrition, Oxford University Press, 2005. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/apus/detail.action?docID=272784. Created from apus on 2022-06-19 17:45:16.

Horne, Benjamin D, et al. “Health Effects of Intermittent Fasting: Hormesis or Harm? A Systematic Review.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 102, no. 2, 1 July 2015, pp. 464–470, academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/102/2/464/4564588, 10.3945/ajcn.115.109553.

Jockers, David. “How a 3 Day Fast Resets the Immune System.” DrJockers.com, 22 Oct. 2019, drjockers.com/3-day-fast-immune-system/. Accessed 20 June 2022.

---. “Using Fasting Strategies for Natural Cancer Healing.” DrJockers.com, 27 Mar. 2018, drjockers.com/fasting-strategies-cancer/. Accessed 19 June 2022.

“MATC Book | Dr. Nasha.” Dr. Nasha, 11 Jan. 2019, www.drnasha.com/matcbook/.

Mayo Clinic. “Cancer - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic, 12 Dec. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20370588.

Myers, Toshia R, et al. “Follow-up of Water-Only Fasting and an Exclusively Plant Food Diet in the Management of Stage IIIa, Low-Grade Follicular Lymphoma.” BMJ Case Reports, 9 Aug. 2018, p. bcr-2018-225520, 10.1136/bcr-2018-225520. Accessed 19 June 2022.

Scher, Bret. “Diet Doctor Podcast #34 — Dr. Nasha Winters.” Diet Doctor, July 2019, www.dietdoctor.com/video/podcast/episode-34-dr-nasha-winters. Accessed 19 June 2022.

Shermer, Michael Brant. “Michael Shermer.” Michael Shermer, 1 Nov. 2001, michaelshermer.com/sciam-columns/baloney-detection/. Accessed 19 June 2022.

“TrueNorth Health Foundation | Live Longer, Live Better.” www.truenorthhealthfoundation.org, www.truenorthhealthfoundation.org/.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Phil 300 - Logic - Fallacies Assignment

Fallacies Assignment

Presumption Fallacies

Complex Question

  • After my 15-year-old daughter arrived home from driving with her mother, I asked her, “How many times did you drive off the road today?”
  • My tongue-in-cheek question has presumed the answer of “yes” to the prior question of “Did you drive off the road while driving today?”  I did not explicitly ask this first question and simply assumed she had driven off the road and therefore I wanted her to answer how often it happened.  My argument was she drove off the road many times and the presumed premise was “since you already drove off the road.”
  • “A complex question is a fallacy in which the answer to a given question presupposes a prior answer to a prior question.” (Source URL: https://www.thoughtco.com/complex-question-fallacy-1689890)

False Dilemma

  • I was raised Mormon and then left my religion a few years ago.  Through the course of talking with my parents about my decision, the following fallacy was committed by them, in an effort to convince me to not leave the religion: “You must either believe in God or you are an atheist!”  In fact, I believe that the concept of God can be quite nuanced – there is a lot of gray between the all-or-nothing alternatives.
  • Their implied premise is “since there can only be two options on the subject of belief in God” and then they argue that I am an atheist since I do not believe in their version of God, when in fact, there could be a 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. alternative to either believing in a specific god or nothing at all.  For example, a middle ground approach is being agnostic – someone who neither affirms nor denies the existence of god, but simply believes it to be unknowable.
  • The ThoughtCo. Article defines the False Dilemma as, “when an argument offers a false range of choices and requires that you pick one of them. The range is false because there may be other, unstated choices which would only serve to undermine the original argument. If you concede to pick one of those choices, you accept the premise that those choices are indeed the only ones possible.” (Source URL: https://www.thoughtco.com/false-dilemma-fallacy-250338)

Relevance Fallacies

Bandwagon Argument

  • Last year, our town finally had a city ordinance expire which ended a telecommunications company’s decade long monopoly on our city’s internet service provider capabilities.  A new company made plans to lay fiber through the whole city.  To infuse money and capital in their infrastructure, they executed a marketing blitz on the residents to get many people to sign up for the service.  The number one tactic they used was to show the growing number of people who were leaving the old ISP and joining the new.  Their premise was: “many people have signed up for our internet service.”  And then they draw the conclusion: “therefore you too should sign up.” 
  • The Bandwagon Argument is an appeal to popularity as opposed to the topic which is relevant; in this case relevant topics would be internet speed , improved reliability or even cost.  If a consumer took the time to compare speed, reliability, and cost, they might have found the two were comparable.  But the new ISP did not emphasize these aspects, but instead focused on getting people to jump on the ”bandwagon.”  (Source URL: https://www.thoughtco.com/argumentum-ad-populum-250340).

Ad Hominem

  • My wife often went to lunch with her friend Fiona.  At one of their lunches, the topic of the exit of the United States from Afghanistan came up.  My wife’s opinion was that the Biden administration mishandled it and should take partial blame and responsibility for the military servicemen who lost their lives helping people to leave the country.  Her friend did not agree with my wife’s opinion and subsequently stopped all communication with my wife, even though my wife has tried to reach out and keep the friendship.  Fiona implied the premise: “you blame the Biden administration for the deaths of the servicemen” and then concludes: “therefore, we can no longer be friends.”
  • The political opinion of my wife is irrelevant to the status of their friendship.  The friendship ought to be based on their shared history, help for each other and camaraderie.  To be dismissed as a friend because of this specific political stance is not a relevant reason to abandon a friendship.
  • ThoughtCo.com states, “the ad hominem argument is a fallacy when the comments are directed against some aspect about a person which is irrelevant to the topic at hand.”  In my wife’s case, the comment directed at her was about her political opinion, when in fact the topic at hand was friendship.  (Source URL: https://www.thoughtco.com/argument-against-the-person-250322)

Ambiguity Fallacies

Equivocation

  • As a side note, I’m beginning to see that “Dad Jokes” are often based in fallacies, as per above with the “Complex Question” fallacy.  Equivocation seems to be another fallacy that a “Dad Joke” leverages.  I overhead this joke recently in the office.  Andy: “Hey Aaron, can you talk real quick?”  Aaron: “Not like an auctioneer, but I can talk faster than normal people.”  Perhaps a better example of an equivocation being used in an actual argument comes from https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/ambiguity.  The example it provides is, “When the judge asked the defendant why he hadn't paid his parking fines, he said that he shouldn't have to pay them because the sign said 'Fine for parking here' and so he naturally presumed that it would be fine to park there.”
  • The word “fine” can be interpreted as a monetary penalty or it could be interpreted as meaning “it is OK.”  So, when the guilty party read the sign, he interpreted “fine” as “it is OK” instead of being ticketed a fee if he parked in the spot.  The defendant understood the premise: “it is ok (fine) to park here” and drew the conclusion: “therefore I will park here.”  But the law understood the premise: “cars parked here will incur a fine; a penalty” therefore, when the defendant parked her, he ought to incur the penalty.
  • “Equivocation is a fallacy by which a specific word or phrase in an argument is used with more than one meaning”  (Source URL: https://www.thoughtco.com/equivocation-fallacy-term-1690672).

Amphiboly

  • Equivocation and amphiboly are very similar in nature, but I think the difference is that ‘equivocation’ hangs on a word or phrase, and amphiboly seems to hang on “grammatical structure” (Source URL: https://www.thoughtco.com/amphiboly-grammar-and-logic-1689084).
  • At work, when communicating via email, I encounter ambiguous grammatical structures, especially with pronouns.  When two men are the subject of the email, sometimes the author will say something like, “Bob will meet with Nick and discuss the next action item he is responsible for.”  Is Bob or Nick responsible for the next action item?  When composing my own emails, I try to be clear with the pronouns in these types of situations.
  • I’ve also seen an example, from Groucho Marx, appear a few times in my search for amphiboles: “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know” (Source URL: https://www.languagehumanities.org/what-is-an-amphiboly-fallacy.htm).  What is ambiguous at first is who is wearing the pajamas.  We assume it is Groucho wearing his own pajamas, but in the 2nd half of the joke, it becomes clear (and absurd) that the elephant was wearing Groucho’s pajamas.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Rawlsian Justice - What Would You Do in the Original Position?

The week of February 28 to March 6 had this topic for our discussion assignment:

Rawlsian Justice

John Rawls claims that justice comes down to a notion of fairness. He proposed a thought experiment wherein he proffers an ideal “original position.” The idea is that representatives of the people operate behind a “veil of ignorance” when determining what policies are in the best interests of all of the citizens. In brief, representatives are ignorant of their “The race, ethnicity, gender, age, income, wealth, natural endowments, comprehensive doctrine, etc. of any of the citizens in society, or to which generation in the history of the society these citizens belong” and “The political system of the society, its class structure, economic system, or level of economic development” (Wenar 4.6). They do understand different people have different life plans, that even if resources are scarce, “there is enough to go around,” and have good common sense.

Discussion task: Imagine you are a representative behind this veil. Discuss and defend several measures you would take to ensure a fair and equitable redistribution of resources.

Wenar, Leif, "John Rawls", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy  Edited by Edward N. Zalta 9 January 2017. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rawls/

And my response:

If I were on this "original position" committee, and if I were tasked with the development and structure of a society that would ensure the fair and equitable distribution of resources, I think I would break it down into a couple of macro steps.

First - we do not live in a totally unconstrained world no matter who states this assumption.  It is fundamentally sound to assume that humans cannot live beyond the laws of physics and constraints of this world, else we might as well assume the original position is one where we are all immortal gods and with unlimited constraints.  Therefore, the first task would have two parts, to determine absolute needs and what the world's resources can support.

Part one - determine the fundamental necessities of the individual human.  This would comprise a summary and list of all the things a person needs to live and have a basic, common life.  The list would include daily food and water intake to sustain a healthy life, without scarcity and without indulgence.  This list also ought to be comprised of a variety of foods so as to not place undue torture on the individual.  The list would also include a common variety of clothes, shelter, transportation needs, personal hygiene, medical care, education requirements, a stipend for some travel and entertainment and multiple ways the person could work to support the common good.  In a sense, part one would be the sum total an individual would consume from and produce for society.

Part two - determine what this world can support in terms of raw resources (excluding human capital).  Determining the sum total of raw resources in the world, and then dividing by the requirements list from part one; this should yield some number of individuals the world can support (i.e. 10 billion people).

Second - for this equation to remain in balance, the variable of individual human desires would need to be kept constant.  Once the list of necessities is set, it is crucially dependent on the desires of individuals to remain constant over a lifetime.  Alternatively, the equation could assume a set number of years for an individual and this set number of years multiplied by the yearly consumption of a lifetime of needs of an individual would yield a 'lifetime consumption number.'  The individual, in theory, could draw down from this number at an even pace, or a slower pace or a quicker pace.  Depending on the rate of drawdown, the person's expiration date (the day they die), could come sooner or later than the average.  The same type of analysis would have to be done for the person's output number.  The consumption and production numbers for the individual would need to be kept in balance.

Society would have to strictly adhere to the 'lifetime consumption number' expiration as well as ensure the individual meets their output number.  As soon as a person has consumed her number and met her output number, she must submit to exiting mortality, else society risks the equation falling out of balance and injustice ensues.  In the situation where a person who dies 'too early' and therefore does not use up all their consumption number and does not meet their production number, the governing body would need to determine how it impacts the overall balance of the system, which could potentially cause a ripple effect of injustice for those people who remain living.

To facilitate the individual's knowledge of their draw-down rate, each person in the world would have to go through some sort of mandatory philosophy class to constrain the human's unlimited drive for desires.  As we see in the real world, some individuals possess an uncanny drive and knack to acquire fame, money and power (i.e. political leaders, entrepreneurs, tyrants, entertainment people, mobsters, thieves and murderers).  A cultural shift away from the desire to pursue boundless wealth, power, money and fame, would have to be inculcated in people to ensure the on-going, fair distribution of the world's finite resources.  Many freedoms and trade would have to be restricted, or a strong educational program would have to be instilled in people from a young age to prevent the need of restricted freedoms and trade.

As not all individuals are born with the same inherent qualities and talents and natural inclinations, this system would have to figure out a way to determine the total lifetime consumption needs of an individual, as well as what this person is capable of producing.  For example, a 6'5, 300 lb. man, born as the last child of seven kids would require more food and clothes and possible produce less than a 4'5 110 lb. woman who was born as the oldest child in a family of 12.  Regardless, each individual's consumption and output would need to be accounted for.  In the long run, perhaps society would genetically drift toward an average build, and the unique calculation of consumption and output would no longer be needed.

As not all regions on the world are the same, there may need to be differences in the consumption and production of individuals between differing regions.  A region near the equator would potentially have few needs in clothing, compared to a region near one of the poles.  Similarly, the requirement for food consumption might differ, as well as the type of food needed to survive and live in the various regions.

The leaders of the society must absolutely live in the same fashion as individuals and citizens.  Any variance between leaders and citizens would cause an unbalancing effect and destroy the entire system.  No special treatment can be given to any one individual no matter the circumstances or justification.

In sum, the major policies I would put in place, in support of justice and fairness for all citizens would be:

  • Education for people to learn what their common needs and talents are; how they draw down and support the common good.
  • As part of that education, a strong emphasis in philosophy and the management of desires would need to take a significant portion.  This education would need to dissuade people from pursuing fame, wealth and power.
  • Science programs would be tasked with understanding what the world can support and what people need to exist.
  • Government administrators and leaders would live exactly like citizens, with no special treatment, access or favors afforded to them.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Moral Compass for Philosophy 200 Ethics Course

Below is the assignment criteria for this paper:

Using the material on moral compasses from weeks 1 and 2, write a paper of no less than 500 words that accomplishes the following:

  • In a section titled "Theories" identify the 1-4 moral theories you will use to build your compass (deontological, utilitarian, common good, virtue, etc.) along with a short documented definition for each theory. ["documented" in the sense of citing and referencing your source.]
  • In a section titled "Explanation" explain for each theory how it would help you make what you feel would be the right decision and in what situations (ex. Using deontology at work to ensure the company’s policies are kept and its reputation is upheld; Using care ethics at home as a way to be equitable with the kids, etc.).
  • Chose one topic from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics (under “Ethics Spotlight” ) or another pressing ethical situation you or others you know are facing at the moment and using ether Framework for Ethical Decision Making (Markkula or Brown), walk through the steps to make an ethical decision and justify what you decide is the moral action to take in this situation. Be sure to be clear on which of the two frameworks you are using.
And here was my submission (received a 100%).

Theories

Stoicism’s moral framework is thoroughly based in virtue ethics.  The telos or end for the human, according to Stoicism, is eudaimonia which ultimately is living in agreement with Nature or the universe.  Applied at the individual level, living in agreement with the universe means “conforming one’s will with the sequence of events that are fated to occur in the rationally constituted universe, as providentially willed by Zeus” (Stephens).  Most events in the world are not up to us – the Stoics call these indifferents.  The only thing that is up to us is our “virtue, [which is] conceived as an excellent internal disposition of the soul; a healthy mind” (Sellars 133).  As such, the individual’s task is to grasp an accurate and correct perspective of events, and then determine the right attitude and action for the right reasons to demonstrate an excellent character, which is virtue or arete.

Another key point of Stoic ethics is the idea of oikeiôsis which can be translated as “orientation” and “appropriation” (Sellars 107).  This is an acknowledgement of humans’ drive for self-preservation.  While many living things strive purely for physical self-preservation, humans have the unique disposition of fulfilling their rational nature, which is the demonstration of excellence of character.  Furthermore, humans are social creatures, and for them to fully flourish, they must not only strive for excellence of self, but also seek and promote the rational well-being of those around them including family, friends, neighbors, fellow citizens, foreigners and any entity in the cosmos.  Anthony Long succinctly notes, “moral development for the Stoics is the recognition that community life and virtue are pre-eminently things which belong to human nature” (Long 191).

Explanation

The practicing Stoic will engage with the world while only focusing on what is up to him.  In other words, the only assets he has at his complete disposal are his rational nature (his ability to learn, reason and remember), and his moral attitude and action (the choice to act with morals such as justice, courage, temperance, diligence, and wisdom).  While recognizing that indifferents (e.g., health, sickness, wealth, poverty, fame, infamy, etc.) are neither good nor bad, he uses them to demonstrate his technical excellence in moral choice.  On these tenets, he assumes his position in life, learns, and carries out his duties in support of the common good.

This framework helps me to recognize my roles in life: a son, a husband, a friend, a father, a neighbor, a co-worker, an employee, a citizen.  While no one role takes up all the time and energy in my life, at times, various roles may come in conflict in terms of demanding attention.  At these moments, I can always ask myself: “what is the right moral virtue to demonstrate in this given circumstance?”  The answer usually provides a guide for my actions.

I think one of the most important choices a person has is whether to be a parent or not.  So many other ethical choices are wrapped up in that one choice.  I think my wife and I made the right decision to choose to have kids.  The second most important decision we faced was how to rear the four children well.  Not only did we need to provide for their physical well-being, but we had to consider their emotional and mental well-being and teach them how to take care of themselves and assume their unique position in the world in support of the common good.  And not only did my wife and I have to teach them these things, but we had to demonstrate it with thousands of our own choices day in and day out.  In every interaction, whether explicitly or implied, we asked ourselves and our children, “what is the correct moral virtue to exercise in this particular circumstance?”  The discussion of the matter and the actual choice have always been enlightening.

Application of Framework for Ethical Decision Making

Lia Thomas recently made national headlines after smashing several women’s swimming records (Chen).  The reason for the headlines is not only the sizable gap between the old and new record, but also because Lia was biologically born as male, and transitioned to become a woman as recently as 2019 (Levenson).  The ethical issue at hand is whether women’s collegiate swimming can be considered fair for most competitors who were born women as they compete against a swimmer who may have an unfair advantage from being born and living as a male but has transitioned to become a woman.  Stated differently, is the collegiate league for women’s swimming harmed by allowing Lia and future transgender athletes to compete?  Roughly following the Brown framework (issue, parties, relevant information, actions and alternatives, decide, act, reflect), I arrived at the opinion that gender leagues should be abolished in favor of a paradigm that more closely aligns with how the Paralympics compete.

Historically, many competitive sports have had separate divisions for men and women to allow women greater access to opportunities traditionally afforded to men.  If women’s sports leagues continue to allow participants who once competed in the male division to switch to the women’s division, does this make it fair for those female participants who have always competed in the women’s division?  Does a male-born individual, whose body produces testosterone for almost two decades, thus giving that person a size and muscle advantage over women who aren’t afforded the same biological benefit, have an unfair advantage?  These questions and considerations are many and complex.  Gathering all the relevant information on this subject area could take a long time for any one individual.

However, more importantly, leagues need to reflect on their aims and goals.  Once this is established and agreed upon, then league administrators could decide a course of action.  If historical continuity is tantamount, then perhaps it would be prudent to preserve male and female leagues, and perhaps create a transgender league to maintain consistency.  Alternatively, society may have advanced to a degree of competitive parity that people could decide all gender-based leagues ought to be abolished and competitive league criteria re-established along agreed upon lines such as body and muscle mass, and other considerations.

In any case, for this issue, it seems that the correct solution would be one that considers and protects the rights for all people involved (male, female and transgender), regardless of gender.  If one group’s right to fair competition is violated, then the entire concept of competition is eroded.  Alternatively, a paradigm could be created to find an appropriate competitive league that supports individuals of all genders.

My own opinion on this matter is that all gender-based sports ought to be abolished and sports ought to begin to follow the concept the Paralympics have established.  One sports sociologist who has studied this topic, contends we should, “remove the label of male or female and replace it with categories based on the ability of bodies to move in that particular sport” (Kerr).  Moving to this model accomplishes the goal of the establishment of fair competitive leagues, allows for people of all genders to compete on a level playing field, and allows for greater integration of women, men, and people of all genders in the spirt of camaraderie and fair competition.


Works Cited

Chen, Shawna. Axios: NCAA Clears Way for Trans Swimmer Lia Thomas to Compete at Nationals. Newstex, Arlington, 2022. ProQuest, https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy1.apus.edu/blogs-podcasts-websites/axios-ncaa-clears-way-trans-swimmer-lia-thomas/docview/2627218038/se-2?accountid=8289.

Kerr, Roslyn. “Why It Might Be Time to Eradicate Sex Segregation in Sports.” The Conversation, 14 Jan. 2018, theconversation.com/why-it-might-be-time-to-eradicate-sex-segregation-in-sports-89305.

Levenson, Eric. “How an Ivy League Swimmer Became the Face of the Debate on Transgender Women in Sports.” CNN, 23 Feb. 2022, edition.cnn.com/2022/02/22/us/lia-thomas-transgender-swimmer-ivy-league/index.html.

Long, A A. Hellenistic Philosophy : Stoics, Epicureans, Sceptics. Berkeley ; Los Angeles, University Of California Press, 1986.

Sellars, John. Stoicism. New York ; London, Routledge, 2014.

Stephens, William. “Stoic Ethics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, iep.utm.edu/stoiceth/.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Divine Command Theory False - Darwall's arguments

PHILOSOPHY - Religion: God and Morality, Part 1

PHILOSOPHY - Religion: God and Morality, Part 2

Darwall's argument is summarized as this:

  • First premise: God exists
  • Second premise: it is immoral to violate God's command
  • Reasons why it is immoral to violate God's command:
    • God is the moral authority; God knows best.
      • However, it follows that if there are separate truths or laws which God simply relies on, then the Divine Command Theory logic fails.  This is related to the Euthyphro Dilemma.
    • God knows what is best for us humans
      • Similar to previous reason, God knowing what is best for us, seems to point to a separate Moral authority, which stands outside the will of God, and therefore the Divine Command Theory logic fails.
    • God has a greater power or authority over humans, similar to a police officer who holds power over people to arrest them or pull them over in a traffic stop.
      • However, in the example of the police officer, what gives the officer power is the legal authority - the law.  The law, then, is the real source of the authority and not the officer.  Applying this to God, the Divine Command Theory fails again, because God's authority would point to something independent of God.
    • Humans love God and humans would not violate God's command since humans love God.
      • This would also mean we obey and respond to others whom we love.  Again, this reason stands independent of God, and therefore the Divine Command Theory logic fails.
    • Darwall then mentions a 5th reason that could bypass the above reasons.  This 5th reason, as to why we should obey God's Divine Command is because of God's power.
      • This fails, when we could not separate God's power from God's authority.  Said differently, it's impossible for God to force us to obey.  As Darwall says, "it's logically impossible for morality to result from force."

In all cases which Darwall describes above, God is simply a go-between separating humans and morality and is not the source of morality.

I find his arguments compelling and think they go a long way to try convince adherents of religions who would fanatically obey God, to reconsider their position.  What the Divine Command Theory attempts to do is to get the follower or adherent to think past the sale.  If some human who claims to speak or write for God, can convince others that it is immoral to violate God's command, then that human wields great power.

Perhaps a more powerful way to prove the Divine Command Theory is false is to begin by talking about the existence of God, and how God communicates.  Exploring these two premises might lead to a more fruitful discussion.  For example, if people cannot agree on the existence of God nor in God's manner of communicating, then how could universal morals (morals which all ought to adhere to) be communicated to humans?  In some regard or sense, most people learn of a concept of God through other people.  How can we know and trust what other people say to us and how could people be convinced independently?  Until these premises are resolved, it is difficult to accept the conclusions.

In addition to the above, another question is raised for those people who disagree with the Divine Command Theory, yet still obey the morals which are supposedly dispensed by God!  As one author put it, "they do not know or cannot reasonably be expected to know what God has commanded. The result is that, if the DCT is true, then for this class of moral agents, moral obligations no longer exist. It is, however, wrong to suppose that reasonable nonbelievers have no moral obligations" (Danaher 383).

However, Darwall's approach opens the conversation to at least allow a dialogue to occur.  He grants the first two premises in order to open the door for trying to convince people of the logical shortfalls of the Divine Command Theory.

Perhaps the most significant ramification of Darwall's arguments is: if God is not the moral authority, then how do humans know what is moral and what is not?  He quotes The Brothers Karamazov, "If God does not exist, then anything is permitted" (Darwall).  For those people who perhaps once believed in The Divine Command Theory and now are persuaded this argument is false, they must reform their reason for why they ought to be moral or they may even have to reconstitute their moral framework to define for themselves what is moral and immoral.  This can be difficult work and may lead many to disastrous life decisions.  Is a moral life about pursuing the most pleasure?  Is it about pursuing the greatest good for the greatest number of people?  This may be the first question and ramification of Darwall's argument: what is an individual's "why" for living.  Answering that may lead to what their moral framework ought to be.

For my own part, having left a religion that adhere to The Divine Command Theory (Mormonism), I have since turned to virtue ethics and in particular, Stoicism.  While Stoicism is based in the belief of a rational, pantheistic God, it also claims that self-physical, self-moral and social preservation drive the reasons for acting morally.  This desire for self-preservation was called by the Greeks "oikeiōsis."  A UC Berkley professor summarized this moral framework as, "While the self-regarding inclination of personal oikeiōsis is used to explain how human beings can progress morally and reach their goal, happiness, by caring for themselves, the other-regarding inclination of social oikeiōsis is used to explain how they can form a community and promote justice by caring for others" (Margin). Acting with moral courage, justice, discipline and wisdom lead the individual to a self-preserving and moral life without the need to reference a divine command.

Works Cited

Danaher, John. "In Defence of the Epistemological Objection to Divine Command Theory." Sophia, vol. 58, no. 3, 2019, pp. 381-400. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/defence-epistemological-objection-divine-command/docview/2289964083/se-2?accountid=8289, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11841-017-0622-9.

Darwall, Stephen. “PHILOSOPHY - Religion: God and Morality, Part 1.” Www.youtube.com, 3 June 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmhiibdwznQ&ab_channel=WirelessPhilosophy. Accessed 15 Feb. 2022.

Magrin, Sara. “Nature and Utopia in Epictetus’ Theory of Oikeiōsis.” Phronesis (Leiden, Netherlands), vol. 63, no. 3, Brill, 2018, pp. 293–350, https://doi.org/10.1163/15685284-12341352.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

College Research Paper: Ancient Greek Philosophical Solutions to Modern Information Technology Delivery Problems

Ancient Greek Philosophical Solutions to Modern Information Technology Delivery Problems

Life does not come with a complete instruction book, nor can we predict what our future holds.  Also, why would we go to great lengths to plan the future of life in excruciating detail to the day we die and then force ourselves to follow that plan, not deviating from it a single time?  Would anyone remain committed to a plan when external circumstances have changed?  Yet this is what traditional project methodologies attempt. On the other end of the spectrum are agile methodologies which endeavor to incrementally deliver value and improve, akin to the approach ancient Greek philosophers used in pursuit of living well.  Life and Information Technology projects have an eerie similarity, and we may learn important clues to managing projects if we look to how ancient Greek philosophers sought to find the good life.

In the complex and rapidly changing arena of IT, managing risks of scope creep, growing costs, and delays in schedule produce overhead.  IT teams can learn and apply ancient Greek philosophical practices to manage these risks.  These practices help teams drive clarity, prepare for adverse events, and improve learning, while enabling individual workers to live holistically.  Many ancient Greek ideas have re-appeared in a contemporary IT delivery method known as Agile, which seeks incremental improvements with tight feedback loops, as a smart way to manage feature creep, burgeoning costs, and delays in schedule.  These constraints have often been called the “Iron Triangle” (see figure 1).  Organizations which successfully manage the risks from these constraints stand to win in the market.


Figure 1 Measey

Two major challenges IT projects face are managing swift shifts in technological solutions and determining the proper project methodology.  Teams unable to grapple with rapid changes in technological landscapes and ascertain the right delivery methodology, risk significant overhead costs related to the Iron Triangle.  The first challenge, rapid technology development, drives much of the economy today.

Technology floods people’s lives and the IT arena plays a significant role in the deluge of solutions to many business problems.  Just as early oil titans rushed to seek, capture, and sell oil in 19th century America, a new rush has emerged in the last 15 years, only this time it is based in data and information.  Tim O’Reilly, founder of the company which creates popular media for learning IT, said the following in 2005, “The race is on to own certain classes of core data: location, identity, calendaring of public events, product identifiers and namespaces” (Dames 14).  This idea of a race to own and manage data was eventually characterized by the phrase “Data Is the New Oil,” meaning the 21st century global economy would be powered by data, as oil drove economies in the 19th and 20th centuries (Dames).  This data rush has birthed numerous companies and solutions to business problems which fuels the frantic pace.

As businesses try to keep pace with innovation, IT project managers’ job has become more difficult to manage scope, cost, and schedule.  An academic researcher and an IT consultant, with more than 30 years’ experience “observed the same phenomenon over and over – the pace of technological change often outruns and undermines the best project management planning efforts” (Durney and Donnelly 642).  If IT project managers effectively manage the delivery, companies will win increased profits.  The second challenge, therefore, is determining which methodology to leverage for IT project management.

Traditional project management methodologies attempt to anticipate and plan for multi-faceted risks to the project via large chunks of work.  Larger pieces of work bring significant overhead costs through detailed planning.  When managers go to great lengths to make exhaustive plans, they fall into the mental trap of never deviating from the plan regardless of changes in landscape.  Today, managers have options other than traditional project management methodologies.   An article in The Journal of Computer Information Systems noted importantly that traditional methods are most likely unsuitable for intricate, ambiguous, and time-constrained projects and therefore, agile methodologies “show promise” (Fernandez and Fernandez 10).  The core mindset of agile methodologies is to focus on delivering value via incremental pieces of work and steadily improve the team’s way of working.

Modern IT workers should take note of the similarities between agile principals and the spirit of ancient Greek philosophy.  One word which ties these two ideas together is: incremental.  Truly agile teams seek to deliver functional solutions with constant feedback from customers and themselves.  Simply stated, they seek frequent, incremental improvement.  Similarly, a recent philosophy author wrote this of Roman Stoicism (which stems from the ancient Greeks),

Roman Stoicism is a kind of path that focuses on making small, incremental amounts of progress each day, one step at a time. No one is perfect, and that’s why Stoicism, at least in part, is a practice: and it’s not just a practice that you undertake, but something that you practice at—in the same way a musician or an athlete practices—to get better at what you do. (Fideler ch. 1)

While there are many comparable practices, this paper will discuss three and how they relate to an agile mindset.

First is the Socratic method, which drives clarity between individuals on an agile team, especially those engaged in paired programming.  The second and third are the Stoic rituals premeditatio malorum and end-of-day review.  These relate to planning and retrospective ceremonies on agile teams and provide strong feedback mechanisms to deliver and improve incrementally.  This essay will discuss each philosophical practice and elaborate on the corresponding agile practice, along with how each one can alleviate the risks of the Iron Triangle while delivering value to customers.  The first practice hearkens back to the person who started this grand conversation: Socrates.

While helping his fellow citizens discover the good life, Socrates pursued his inquiry in an organized fashion, which found its way into academia and the world of Information Technology.  This practice, known as the Socratic dialogue or method, is a form of questioning and discussion.  Through posing questions and answering them, participants confirm definitions, exchange ideas, and solidify clarifications.  The process reveals knowledge through gathered evidence and allows all participants to bring their collective experiences to the discussion (Skordoulis and Dawson 994).  The use of the Socratic method, coupled with an attitude of curiosity, can be valuable for IT teams working in a complex environment.

While the back-and-forth may seem onerous, the organization of the method ensures both parties have mutual comprehension, as evidenced by two IT workers who practiced and shared their experience from using the Socratic method.  The first found it to be effective in curtailing misunderstandings and to drive greater clarity, which reduced recycle time and waste.  The method helped her weed out emotions, put a check on assumptions, elucidate ambiguous ideas and uncover contradictions for the team to “strengthen its foundation for future decision-making or actions” (Apple).  The other IT worker found the approach useful in her paired programming efforts.  As a junior software developer, she learned the method from her mentor, and found it helped her become more mindful of decisions she was making and why.  The process aided the conscious observation of work and prevented waste (Davis).

The Socratic method relates to the sixth principal in the Agile Manifesto, which states, “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”  The Agile Manifesto does not elaborate on the technique of face-to-face conversation, nevertheless, the principal of economical and efficacious communication is the key.  Minimizing communication issues in a team prevents rework and recycle which translates into lower costs and better schedule management, all due to use of the Socratic method.  The next two practices come from the Stoics and act as bookends in terms of time and deliverables.

The second practice is the Stoic premeditatio malorum which was used by ancient practicing Stoics to anticipate unfortunate events before they occurred.  While much has been written on this practice, a recent article in the academic journal Metaphilosophy combines multiple sources to succinctly explain this Stoic ritual.  The author notes,

Events outside our control are indifferent to us, and we must train ourselves to respond to these events with equanimity. To internalize this lesson, Stoics practiced negative visualization, which requires practitioners to vividly imagine painful or tragic outcomes (the Romans referred to this technique as premeditatio malorum, the premeditation of evils). (Hidalgo 422)

Furthermore, this ritual has the specialized effect of contemplating events which matter to the individual.  If the Stoic does not fear the loss of his job, then he would not waste time thinking of this potential harm.  However, if the Stoic fears the loss of his home, then this would be an appropriate mental exercise to contemplate.  The exercise is right sized for the individual.  While a Stoic's practice of this habit has the aim of developing inner calm in the face of adverse events, modern day IT teams increase their agility to respond to unplanned events, by participating in a similar exercise.

Two agile ceremonies, Program Increment Planning, and backlog refinement, take a right-sized approach for dealing with dependencies and blockers to the delivery of software solutions.  Their approaches are akin to premeditatio malorum.  In these regular meetings, teams work with each other, external teams, and customers to widen their mental aperture to anticipate impediments which might prevent the delivery of a feature.  With Program Increment Planning, multiple teams and customers meet to brainstorm risks to the incremental plan.  After noting risks, they discuss each one and decide either to remediate, or own, or accept or mitigate each potential hindrance (“PI Planning”).  The spirit of the exercise is to foresee obstacles and form a plan to address them.  A similar exercise is performed, on a smaller scale, in backlog refinement.  In this meeting the team refines small chunks of work by describing the outcome and conducting a risk review of the work.  As risks are identified, the user story indicates how to address them (Fakihi).  By planning in smaller increments of work, teams lower risk.  Many times, changes in requirements occur, and if a traditional project method spent a significant amount of time planning for such risks, and they do not materialize, then the project experiences waste in time and effort.  But if teams focus on highly probable and foreseeable risks, waste in excessive risk management is prevented.

While premeditatio malorum looks to the future, the third practice is the Stoic ritual which occurs after events and time have passed and is called the end-of-day review.  This exercise was noted by the Stoic Seneca.  In his essay On Anger, he admonishes the practitioner to review the day, and analyze how he acted with virtue or not, self-praising actions performed with virtue and self-forgiving and self-admonishing for acts which require correction (Lucius Annaeus Seneca et al. 91).  Almost 2,000 years later, a Chicago school teacher applied this same end-of-day reflection as she applied Stoic practices in her life and school room.  In one month of practicing the end-of-day review, she noted that despite a challenging month, she made perceptible improvement in her character, simply from observing, noting her reactions and self-coaching (Guenther 217).  In a distinctly similar manner, the agile team’s sprint retrospective not only reviews the past period but seeks to keep constant attention on self-observation and improvement.

At the end of a team’s work sprint, which typically lasts two weeks, the team sets aside focused time to review any aspect of team dynamics.  While teams may concentrate on the work they delivered – how well or poorly it went – other topics from team values, communication issues, conflicts, behaviors, and interactions are open for review, debate, discussion, and follow-up (Derby and Larsen Introduction page).  More mature teams may take time to give each other kudos to instill stronger camaraderie.  If done properly, with openness, trust and transparency, the team retrospective can lead to insights and action items to improve team dynamics, unity, and friendship.  Improved teamwork leads to the team’s ability to deliver efficient, successful IT projects.  The inspect and adapt process is so important, it is one of the bedrock agile principals, stated in the Agile Manifesto: “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

Table 1

The three ancient Greek practices discussed in this paper and summarized in table 1, are only a subset of ideas which have analogues to agile delivery methods.  More could be written on other ancient Greek philosophical mindsets and how they relate to agile practices.  This essay does not necessarily argue that the aims of agile principals and ancient Greek philosophical practices are the same.  But perhaps, there is value for the modern IT worker to be familiar with ancient Greek philosophical practices with the view of practicing philosophy as a way of life.

As cited earlier in the essay, Hidalgo wrote an article on the concept of philosophy as a way of living.  His writing largely drew on the work of Pierre Hadot, who argued philosophy, as we understand it today, is vastly different than how the ancients viewed it.  For the ancients, philosophy was about lived practices, not purely discourse – there was no wall between philosophical discussions and a way of living.  Every dialogue, practice and ritual had the aim of “transformation of one’s way of being and living, and a quest for wisdom” (Hadot et al. 275).  The value and intent of this essay was to open the world of practiced philosophy to the modern IT worker; to show them the richness of practical agile methodologies and their relationship with ancient philosophical concepts.  Indeed, the modern IT worker can live a philosophical life in all that he does, from his personal life, to work on IT projects as a member of a team.  Making connections between efficient agile delivery methods and the heritage of ancient Greek philosophical practices will only enhance his pursuit to live the good life.

Life and delivering IT solutions in an ever-evolving world have much in common.  We change course in life often, based on feedback from what the world has to offer.  With time as our most precious commodity, we owe it to ourselves to take an agile approach to plans and changes.  Like life, IT workers must embrace change and enjoy the journey.  By incrementally making progress towards their aims, via crisp dialogue and tight feedback loops through preparation and inspection, they gain confidence and remove many worries and anxieties of sticking to a rigid plan.  Ancient Greek thought and the agile mindset have much in common and both approaches equip the IT worker with a toolset to tackle any obstacle or challenge in life. 

Works Cited

Agile Manifesto. “Principles behind the Agile Manifesto.” Agilemanifesto.org, 2019, agilemanifesto.org/principles.html. Accessed 7 Jan. 2022.

Apple, Lauri. “How Socrates Taught Me to Talk to Developers.” Opensource.com, 18 May 2017, opensource.com/open-organization/17/5/better-it-socratic-method. Accessed 19 Dec. 2021.

Dames, K. M. "Data is the New Oil." Information Today, vol. 26, no. 8, 09, 2009, pp. 14-15. ProQuest, www.proquest.com/magazines/data-is-new-oil/docview/214797231/se-2?accountid=8289. 

Davis, Joanie. “How to Use the Socratic Method in Pair Programming.” Atomic Spin, 12 June 2021, spin.atomicobject.com/2021/06/12/socratic-method-pair-programming/. Accessed 19 Dec. 2021.

Derby, Esther, and Deena Larsen. Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great. Dallas, Tex., Pragmatic Bookshelf, 2012.

Durney, Christopher P., and Richard G. Donnelly. "Managing the Effects of Rapid Technological Change on Complex Information Technology Projects." Journal of the Knowledge Economy, vol. 6, no. 4, 2015, pp. 641-664. ProQuest, www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/managing-effects-rapid-technological-change-on/docview/1749602652/se-2?accountid=8289, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13132-012-0099-2. 

Fakihi, Mohamed. “Product Engineering or How to Turn Ideas into Products.” Medium, 31 Dec. 2021, fakihi.medium.com/product-engineering-or-how-to-turn-ideas-into-products-7d61c7a01a0b.

Fernandez, Daniel J., and John D. Fernandez. "AGILE PROJECT MANAGEMENT - AGILISM VERSUS TRADITIONAL APPROACHES." The Journal of Computer Information Systems, vol. 49, no. 2, 2009, pp. 10-17. ProQuest, www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/agile-project-management-agilism-versus/docview/232574512/se-2?accountid=8289. 

Fideler, David R. Breakfast with Seneca : A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living, eBook, New York, Ny, W. W. Norton & Company, 2022.

Guenther, Leah. ""I must be Emerald and Keep My Color": Ancient Roman Stoicism in the Middle School Classroom." Harvard Educational Review, vol. 88, no. 2, 2018, pp. 209-226,256. ProQuest, www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/i-must-be-emerald-keep-my-color-ancient-roman/docview/2061868100/se-2?accountid=8289. 

Hadot, Pierre, et al. Philosophy as a Way of Life : Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault. Malden, Ma ; Oxford, Uk ; Victoria, Australia, Blackwell Publishing, 2017.

Hidalgo, Javier. “Why Practice Philosophy as a Way of Life?” Metaphilosophy, vol. 51, no. 2/3, Apr. 2020, pp. 411–431. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/meta.12421. 

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, et al. Anger, Mercy, Revenge. University Of Chicago Press, 2010.

Measey, Peter. Agile Foundations : Principles, practices and frameworks, edited by Peter Measey, BCS Learning & Development Limited, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/apus/detail.action?docID=1759633.

“PI Planning.” Scaled Agile Framework, 10 Feb. 2021, www.scaledagileframework.com/pi-planning/.

Skordoulis, Rosemary, and Patrick Dawson. "Reflective Decisions: The use of Socratic Dialogue in Managing Organizational Change." Management Decision, vol. 45, no. 6, 2007, pp. 991. ProQuest, www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/reflective-decisions-use-socratic-dialogue/docview/212102875/se-2?accountid=8289, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00251740710762044.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Classical Argument Construction - abolish gender based sports at highest competitive levels

This is a blog post for my Critical Thinking class I am taking this semester.  The assignment was to construct an argument using either Classical, Rogerian, or Toulmin types of arguments.  I chose classical.

Introduction

Competitive (e.g. for acclaim or money) gender-based sports should be abolished.  In recent years, the lines between gender have blurred, at least to the public's eyes.  Most of the outrage can be seen when a person who is perceived to be a woman, might actually be more aligned genetically to be a man due to higher levels of testosterone.

Statement of Background

One catalyst event, which brought wide-spread attention to this issue was the 2016 Olympics 800m women's' event.  The gold medal winner was Caster Semenya.  Attention followed her because of the events which lead up to the 2016 Olympics.  In 2009, at the world track and field championships, she won the event by an impressive margin (2 seconds) after which she was accused, by another runner, of being a man.   After the accusation, she "was barred from competition and subjected to sex tests. She returned months later" after "the general secretary of the International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field’s world governing body, said, 'She is a woman, but maybe not 100 percent'" (Longman).

The Semenya issue drove clarity in guidelines for competition events for women.  In 2011, the International Association of Athletics Federations, working with International Olympic Committee Medical Commission established rules for the amount of testosterone a person recognized as a woman by law, can have in her body (“IAAF to Introduce Eligibility Rules for Females with Hyperandrogenism| News”).  Subsequently, some female athletes are subjected to tests to verify if they are qualified to compete as a women.

Position

As the lines blur more and more, and as society begins to deal with similar issues at all levels of competition in sports, perhaps it is time to rethink how competitive categories are established.  As a first step, gender based sports, at the highest competitive levels (i.e. professional, paid, Olympic) should be abolished and new categories established.

One proposal is to follow in the footsteps of Paralympics sports, to recategorize competitive groups "based on functional ability rather than medical conditions" such as the amount of testosterone in the body (Kerr).  This shifts the competitive rules away from lightening rod topics of sex and gender (i.e. medical based), towards a more objectively based criteria.

Proof

Whereas most sports are based on a selective classification (i.e. gender), the Paralympics have moved towards a functional based classification system, thus avoiding problems such as the one faced by Semenya and other hyper androgenous female athletes.  In a functional based system, "the main factors that determine class are … how much the impairment of a person impacts upon sports performance" as well as movements of the body (Tweedy, Kerr).

In the case of running and sprinting, the categorization would move from gender based to muscle mass classification.  The highest category for runners could have a range, from a minimum amount of muscle mass and fast twitch fibers to an unlimited amount.  The next category's upper limit of the range would be just below the minimum range of the top category to some lower limit (Kerr).

Refutation

However, the norms of society are quite strong, and many people are quite used to gender based sports, mostly for the aspects of fairness in play.  This position is not stating that gender based sports at all levels be abolished, but only at the highest levels.  As more spectators and society view the proposed functional based categories, they will adapt and become comfortable with an alternative way to compete.  Some lower levels of competition (e.g. college, high school) may begin adopting this method, especially in open and co-ed leagues.  Change takes time and the very best can lead the way into a more objective based competition system.


Works Cited

“IAAF to Introduce Eligibility Rules for Females with Hyperandrogenism| News.” www.worldathletics.org, 12 Apr. 2011, www.worldathletics.org/news/iaaf-news/iaaf-to-introduce-eligibility-rules-for-femal-1. Accessed 11 Nov. 2021.

Kerr, Roslyn. “Why It Might Be Time to Eradicate Sex Segregation in Sports.” The Conversation, 14 Jan. 2018, theconversation.com/why-it-might-be-time-to-eradicate-sex-segregation-in-sports-89305.

LONGMAN, JERÉ. "Understanding the Controversy Over Caster Semenya. "ProQuest, Aug 18, 2016, https://www.proquest.com/blogs-podcasts-websites/understanding-controversy-over-caster-semenya/docview/1812349822/se-2?accountid=8289.

Tweedy, S. M., and Y. C. Vanlandewijck. "International Paralympic Committee Position Stand-Background and Scientific Principles of Classification in Paralympic Sport." British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 45, no. 4, 2011, pp. 259. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/international-paralympic-committee-position-stand/docview/1779237454/se-2?accountid=8289, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2009.065060.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Letters from a Stoic 124 - On the True Good as Attained by Reason

On the True Good as Attained by Reason

The topic of this letter is "whether the Good is grasped by the senses or by the understanding; and the corollary thereto is that it does not exist in dumb animals or little children."

In sum, the Good can only be grasped and understood by reason.  Animals and little children (and to some extent, non-adults), cannot attain the Good.  This is related to my previous post on letter 123, where I stated "to completely grow and progress into the full bloom of a rational, human adult (logikē psuchē, see Sellars 104-105)."  Animals do not even possess the capacity to reach the cohesion state of logikē psuchē.  But children at least have the capacity to reach that cohesion state.

Sellars writes,

A rational human being, then, will contain pneuma at all four levels of tension. She will have pneuma as hexis giving cohesion to her bones, for instance; pneuma as phusis by virtue of being alive in the most basic biological sense; pneuma as psuchē giving her the animal faculties of impression and impulse; and pneuma as logikē psuchē giving her the rational power of judgement that can intervene between receiving impressions and acting on impulses.

Seneca notes that Stoics associate the Good with the rational mind and not the senses or pleasure.

Those who rate pleasure as the supreme ideal hold that the Good is a matter of the senses; but we Stoics maintain that it is a matter of the understanding, and we assign it to the mind.

...

we condemn men who are slaves to their appetites and their lusts, and we scorn men who, through fear of pain, will dare no manly deed.

The Stoics maintain that eudaimonia is obtained only through reason.

Reason, however, is surely the governing element in such a matter as this; as reason has made the decision concerning the happy life, and concerning virtue and honour also, so she has made the decision with regard to good and evil.

And eudaimonia is attained only according to Nature and that humans are born the the capacity to reach it.

we define as "happy" those things that are in accord with Nature. And that which is in accord with Nature is obvious and can be seen at once – just as easily as that which is complete. That which is according to Nature, that which is given us as a gift immediately at our birth, is, I maintain, not a Good, but the beginning of a Good.

Reason can only be attained and understood by rational humans.  It cannot be attained by animals or children.

In that which does not possess reason, the Good will never exist. In that which is not yet endowed with reason, the Good cannot be existent at the time.

...

the Good cannot be discovered in any random person, or at any random age

Like wheat, the purpose of adult humans cannot be achieved until it is in full bloom.

There is a certain Good of wheat: it is not yet existent, however, in the swelling stalk, nor when the soft ear is pushing itself out of the husk, but only when summer days and its appointed maturity have ripened the wheat. Just as Nature in general does not produce her Good until she is brought to perfection, even so man's Good does not exist in man until both reason and man are perfected.

The Good is:

a free mind, an upright mind, subjecting other things to itself and itself to nothing

...

a matter of the understanding

...

a clear and flawless mind, which rivals that of God, raised far above mortal concerns, and counting nothing of its own to be outside itself. You are a reasoning animal. What Good, then, lies within you? Perfect reason.

How can you know when you have attained eudaimonia?

Only consider yourself happy when all your joys are born of reason, and when – having marked all the objects which men clutch at, or pray for, or watch over – you find nothing which you will desire; mind, I do not say prefer.

And Seneca offers this rule of thumb for know when you have reached that point.

"You will come to your own when you shall understand that those whom the world calls fortunate are really the most unfortunate of all."

Citations

Sellars, John. Stoicism. Berkeley, University Of California Press, 2006.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Letters from a Stoic 123 - On the Conflict between Pleasure and Virtue

On the Conflict between Pleasure and Virtue

In my studies of Stoicism, I've learned the summum bonum is eudaimonia - this is the why of philosophy.  And eudaimonia is the state of having a good soul, or if you earnestly believe the Stoics, it means to align your own part of divinity (your daimon) with the Whole - the Cosmos - Nature, hence the motto live according to Nature (Long, 197; Sellars, 122-123).  Or to put it even more bluntly, to align with, choose with, desire with and will with God (Stephens, 59).

And, in my opinion, the goal is not only to achieve eudaimonia once for a brief moment, but to be able to achieve a constant state of flourishing and excellence - to completely grow and progress into the full bloom of a rational, human adult (logikē psuchē, see Sellars 104-105).

The Stoics will say that avoidance of pain, toil and trials and the pursuit of pleasures and ease are not up to us.  And therefore, if we try to avoid the former and pursue the latter in hopes of achieving eudaimonia, we will end up disappointed and fail in our quest.

But, if we place our desires on the pursuit of exercising moral virtues (and this is entirely up to us), then we have a shot at finding and retaining lasting equanimity, serenity and eudaimonia.

Therefore, all that the Stoics try to teach us, is too focus only on what is up to us and to not get caught up in the avoidance of things (pain, toil, trial) not up to us and the pursuit of things (fame, status, wealth, pleasures) not up to us.  These indifferents are mere materials or mediums for us to exercise what is entirely ours: our will; our volition; our character; our morals.

In this spirit, Seneca attempts to explain how, regardless of circumstances, we can find a way to act with moral conviction.  And he will rail against those whose philosophy is to pursue pleasure and ease, not to make himself feel better or to make others feel bad, but on the contrary - to help people understand the reality of the situation, and to help them find an alternative to folly and disappointment.

nothing is heavy if one accepts it with a light heart, and that nothing need provoke one's anger if one does not add to one's pile of troubles by getting angry.

If your expectations do not match reality, your expectations may need an adjustment.  And your attitude of the situation can be immediately adjusted.  If you find some circumstance to be "heavy" you can simply choose to change your attitude about it.  If something upsets you and you are angry, recognize that by being angry, you are piling on more trouble.

I must not eat until hunger bids me; so I shall wait and shall not eat until I can either get good bread or else cease to be squeamish about it.  It is necessary that one grow accustomed to slender fare

The antidote to gluttony is to delay eating until necessary.  When you complain about the food, wait even longer until the coarse bread becomes rich.

To have whatsoever he wishes is in no man's power; it is in his power not to wish for what he has not, but cheerfully to employ what comes to him.

Folly begins when you find yourself always wishing.  Wishing and desiring for things not up to you will lead to disappointment.  But cheerful acceptance is something you can do something about.

Every circumstance is a test of your character and resolve.  Complaining and anxiety are symptoms of an internal misalignment.  Reflect on these and improve.

viewing one's own troubles not only fairly but calmly, not flying into fits of temper or wordy wranglings, supplying one's own needs by not craving something which was really due, and reflecting that our habits may be unsatisfied, but never our own real selves.

We must be leery of desire infection from others.

how much do we acquire simply because our neighbours have acquired such things, or because most men possess them!   Many of our troubles may be explained from the fact that we live according to a pattern, and, instead of arranging our lives according to reason, are led astray by convention.  There are things which, if done by the few, we should refuse to imitate; yet when the majority have begun to do them, we follow along

Seneca goes so far as to advocate shunning certain people because of their "bad habits."

You should avoid conversation with all such persons: they are the sort that communicate and engraft their bad habits from one to another. We used to think that the very worst variety of these men were those who vaunted their words; but there are certain men who vaunt their wickedness. Their talk is very harmful; for even though it is not at once convincing, yet they leave the seeds of trouble in the soul

I would temper Seneca's advice.  If you are just beginning to practice a philosophical life and if you are trying to drink and eat less, for example, then you should probably not talk much with people who would have you join them at the bar or buffet every week.  A bit more distance from them would be in order.  However, if you have established, good habits, then there is no need for avoiding such people.  Rather, you could be an anchor and boon to them, in helping them see a better way.

Seneca would warn us to avoid such people, because we might catch their tune in our head and soon, we would not be able to get it out of our mind.  Thereafter, we would begin to be persuaded by such devious philosophies such as this:

"Virtue, Philosophy, Justice – this is a jargon of empty words. The only way to be happy is to do yourself well. To eat, drink, and spend your money is the only real life, the only way to remind yourself that you are mortal. Our days flow on, and life – which we cannot restore – hastens away from us. Why hesitate to come to our senses? This life of ours will not always admit pleasures; meantime, while it can do so, while it clamours for them, what profit lies in imposing thereupon frugality? Therefore get ahead of death, and let anything that death will filch from you be squandered now upon yourself. You have no mistress, no favourite slave to make your mistress envious; you are sober when you make your daily appearance in public; you dine as if you had to show your account-book to 'Papa'; but that is not living, it is merely going shares in someone else's existence.  And what madness it is to be looking out for the interests of your heir, and to deny yourself everything, with the result that you turn friends into enemies by the vast amount of the fortune you intend to leave! For the more the heir is to get from you, the more he will rejoice in your taking-off! All those sour fellows who criticize other men's lives in a spirit of priggishness and are real enemies to their own lives, playing schoolmaster to the world – you should not consider them as worth a farthing, nor should you hesitate to prefer good living to a good reputation."

These are siren voices; and we ought to take precautions in order to avoid their messages becoming our philosophy.  And be wary of those who profess to be Stoics, but in reality, they are not.

let us retreat from the objects that allure, and rouse ourselves to meet the objects that attack.

...

only those men bring ruin to our ears, who praise pleasure, who inspire us with fear of pain – that element which is in itself provocative of fear; I believe that we are also in injured by those who masquerade under the disguise of the Stoic school and at the same time urge us on into vice.

The sage is wise and knowledgeable in both intent and actions.

No man is good by chance. Virtue is something which must be learned.

Philosophy fights vice.

philosophy ought not to try to explain away vice.


Citations

Long, Anthony A. Hellenistic Philosophy : Stoics, Epicureans, Sceptics. London, Duckworth, 1986.

Sellars, John. Stoicism. Berkeley, University Of California Press, 2006.

Stephens, William O. Stoic Ethics : Epictetus and Happiness as Freedom. London ; Oxford ; New York ; New Delhi ; Sydney Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Letters from a Stoic 122 - On Darkness as a Veil for Wickedness

On Darkness as a Veil for Wickedness

Seneca does not support various ways of living because, he argues, these ways are not according to Nature.

Here is the list:

  • sleeping in well into the morning or afternoon
  • staying up all night
  • basking in wine and perfumes
  • being idle; becoming fat, lackadaisical and flabby
  • indulging in pleasure
  • drinking alcohol on an empty stomach to feel the effects more strongly
  • cross-dressing
  • craving food out of season; wanting flowers in winter
  • putting toilets over the sea
  • not swimming unless the water is heated
  • desiring notoriety, peculiarity and luxury
  • wanting to be the center of gossip and attention
The root of his argument is that people are not content with the simple life.  They wish to make things complicated and they are focused on overcoming the mundaneness of living and they wish to be noticed.

To a modern reader, and to the aspiring modern Stoic, I would suggest we not get hung up on the specific examples, but reflect on the intent and principal of what Seneca is trying to convey.

He proposes there are ways of living according to Nature, but it is humans who wish to go around Nature or even oppose it, who are indulging in vice.

[They who] desire all things in opposition to the ways of Nature, they end by entirely abandoning the ways of Nature.

And he writes that living according to Nature is simple and straight-forward, but there are some who are "squeamish" at this plainness.

The method of maintaining righteousness is simple; the method of maintaining wickedness is complicated, and has infinite opportunity to swerve. And the same holds true of character; if you follow nature, character is easy to manage, free, and with very slight shades of difference; but the sort of person I have mentioned possesses badly warped character, out of harmony with all things, including himself.  The chief cause, however, of this disease seems to me to be a squeamish revolt from the normal existence.

He ties living simply with having a good character.  A good character will focus solely on the virtues and duty.  Whereas, the bad character will wish to avoid duty and will want to pursue something novel, new, fanciful and fleeting.

I'll conclude with one more quote from the letter.  This one reflects the Stoic pursuit to understand Nature as it is, and then to follow it.  But to not follow Nature as it functions, is to turn to vice.

All vices rebel against Nature; they all abandon the appointed order. It is the motto of luxury to enjoy what is unusual, and not only to depart from that which is right, but to leave it as far behind as possible, and finally even take a stand in opposition thereto.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Letters from a Stoic 121 - On Instinct in Animals

On Instinct in Animals

The theme of this letter is oikeiôsis.  William O. Stephens has a fine explanation of this concept in this Stoic Ethics entry, under the section Theory of Appropriation.

Seneca, in this letter, is exploring the question "what is best suited for man" or in other words, what is appropriate for man?

He delves into the concept of oikeiôsis by observing the nature of self-preservation in animals.  Understanding this, will help the Stoic student understand what is the unique nature of a fully grown, human adult.

The big point of this letter is to prove that there is something inborn and inherent to all animals, which helps them to want to survive and exist.  And this is not learned, but is something entwined with existence from the day the animal is born.  And that thing is the instinct to exist; to live; to survive.

The instinct pushes beyond the experience of pain.

The proof that it is not fear of pain which prompts them thus, is, that even when pain checks them they struggle to carry out their natural motions.  Thus the child who is trying to stand and is becoming used to carry his own weight, on beginning to test his strength, falls and rises again and again with tears until through painful effort he has trained himself to the demands of nature.

And, there are some things about our nature that we simply know or feel, yet cannot fully explain.

Nature is easier to understand than to explain; hence, the child of whom we were speaking does not understand what "constitution" is, but understands its own constitution.

...

We also know that we possess souls, but we do not know the essence, the place, the quality, or the source, of the soul.

...

Everyone of us understands that there is something which stirs his impulses, but he does not know what it is. He knows that he has a sense of striving, although he does not know what it is or its source.

The human has his or her own instincts and appropriations based on the stages of growth.  It takes a lot of work to develop into a full human being and it's probable that some humans, despite their age, never fully blossom.  But, the human does go through stages and has the tools suited to him or her in order to grow into their next stage.  Seneca uses teeth as an example.

But each age has its own constitution, different in the case of the child, the boy, and the old man; they are all adapted to the constitution wherein they find themselves. The child is toothless, and he is fitted to this condition. Then his teeth grow, and he is fitted to that condition also.

...

The periods of infancy, boyhood, youth, and old age, are different; but I, who have been infant, boy, and youth, am still the same

He then summarizes the point.

For even if there is in store for him any higher phase into which he must be changed, the state in which he is born is also according to nature.  First of all, the living being is adapted to itself, for there must be a pattern to which all other things may be referred. I seek pleasure; for whom? For myself. I am therefore looking out for myself. I shrink from pain; on behalf of whom? Myself. Therefore, I am looking out for myself. Since I gauge all my actions with reference to my own welfare, I am looking out for myself before all else. This quality exists in all living beings – not engrafted but inborn.

He further explores other animals who have inborn instincts for survival.

Why should the hen show no fear of the peacock or the goose, and yet run from the hawk, which is a so much smaller animal not even familiar to the hen? Why should young chickens fear a cat and not a dog? These fowls clearly have a presentiment of harm – one not based on actual experiments; for they avoid a thing before they can possibly have experience of it.

...

Hence indeed it is evident that these animals have not reached such a condition through experience; it is because of an inborn desire for self-preservation.

...

each animal at the same time consults its own safety, seeking that which helps it, and shrinks from that which will harm it. Impulses towards useful objects, and revulsion from the opposite, are according to nature; without any reflection to prompt the idea, and without any advice, whatever Nature has prescribed, is done.

He concludes with a bit more evidence about how some insects perform their seemingly incredible arts, which they are born with.  The bees can make honeycomb cells and the spiders can make immaculate webs - "This art is born, not taught."

We are born with an inherent instruction book to prompt us to take care of ourselves.

Nature has communicated nothing except the duty of taking care of themselves and the skill to do so; that is why living and learning begin at the same time.

...

This is the first equipment that Nature granted them for the maintenance of their existence – the quality of adaptability and self-love. They could not survive except by desiring to do so.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Letters from a Stoic 120 - More about Virtue

More about Virtue

Seneca explains how it is that humanity was able to deduce the Good and then he spends quite a bit of the letter providing examples of the sage and what it is we should be striving for.

He briefly re-states that he sees little difference between the Good and being honorable.

only the honourable can be good; also, the honourable is necessarily good. I hold it superfluous to add the distinction between these two qualities, inasmuch as I have mentioned it so many times.  But I shall say this one thing – that we regard nothing as good which can be put to wrong use by any person. And you see for yourself to what wrong uses many men put their riches, their high position, or their physical powers.

We came to learn of the Good by observation.  We observed the body and applied similar reasoning to the mind.

We understood what bodily health was: and from this basis we deduced the existence of a certain mental health also. We knew, too, bodily strength, and from this basis we inferred the existence of mental sturdiness. Kindly deeds, humane deeds, brave deeds, had at times amazed us; so we began to admire them as if they were perfect.

Being disposed to recognize greatness, we observed what was great about the characteristics of certain people.

Nature bids us amplify praiseworthy things: everyone exalts renown beyond the truth. And thus from such deeds we deduced the conception of some great good.

He provides an example;:

Fabricius rejected King Pyrrhus's gold, deeming it greater than a king's crown to be able to scorn a king's money.  Fabricius also, when the royal physician promised to give his master poison, warned Pyrrhus to beware of a plot. The selfsame man had the resolution to refuse either to be won over by gold or to win by poison. So we admired the hero, who could not be moved by the promises of the king or against the king, who held fast to a noble ideal.

Deeds of people, as we have observed them, reveal the Good.

But we have to be quite discerning when it comes to identifying excellence of soul.

vices which are next-door to virtues; and even that which is lost and debased can resemble that which is upright.

For example,

Carelessness looks like ease, and rashness like bravery.  This resemblance has forced us to watch carefully and to distinguish between things which are by outward appearance closely connected, but which actually are very much at odds with one another.

Then he details, in many ways, what the wise human looks like:

we have marked another man who is kind to his friends and restrained towards his enemies, who carries on his political and his personal business with scrupulous devotion, not lacking in longsuffering where there is anything that must be endured, and not lacking in prudence when action is to be taken. We have marked him giving with lavish hand when it was his duty to make a payment, and, when he had to toil, striving resolutely and lightening his bodily weariness by his resolution. Besides, he has always been the same, consistent in all his actions, not only sound in his judgment but trained by habit to such an extent that he not only can act rightly, but cannot help acting rightly. We have formed the conception that in such a man perfect virtue exists.

We have separated this perfect virtue into its several parts. The desires had to be reined in, fear to be suppressed, proper actions to be arranged, debts to be paid; we therefore included self-restraint, bravery, prudence, and justice – assigning to each quality its special function. How then have we formed the conception of virtue? Virtue has been manifested to us by this man's order, propriety, steadfastness, absolute harmony of action, and a greatness of soul that rises superior to everything. Thence has been derived our conception of the happy life, which flows along with steady course, completely under its own control.  How then did we discover this fact? I will tell you: that perfect man, who has attained virtue, never cursed his luck, and never received the results of chance with dejection; he believed that he was citizen and soldier of the universe, accepting his tasks as if they were his orders. Whatever happened, he did not spurn it, as if it were evil and borne in upon him by hazard; he accepted it as if it were assigned to be his duty. "Whatever this may be," he says, "it is my lot; it is rough and it is hard, but I must work diligently at the task."

Necessarily, therefore, the man has shown himself great who has never grieved in evil days and never bewailed his destiny; he has given a clear conception of himself to many men; he has shone forth like a light in the darkness and has turned towards himself the thoughts of all men, because he was gentle and calm and equally compliant with the orders of man and of God.  He possessed perfection of soul, developed to its highest capabilities, inferior only to the mind of God – from whom a part flows down even into this heart of a mortal. But this heart is never more divine than when it reflects upon its mortality, and understands that man was born for the purpose of fulfilling his life, and that the body is not a permanent dwelling, but a sort of inn (with a brief sojourn at that) which is to be left behind when one perceives that one is a burden to the host.  The greatest proof, as I maintain, my dear Lucilius, that the soul proceeds from loftier heights, is if it judges its present situation lowly and narrow, and is not afraid to depart. For he who remembers whence he has come knows whither he is to depart.

We are merely passing though this life, borrowing the things which should be indifferent to us - our body, possessions, husband, wife, children, career, etc.  What we are to demonstrate is duty and honorable use of these indifferents and circumstances.  We ought not to get hung up on mortality, but "we [are to] set eternity before our eyes."  Therefore,

the noble soul, knowing its better nature, while taking care to conduct itself honourably and seriously at the post of duty where it is placed, counts none of these extraneous objects as its own, but uses them as if they were a loan, like a foreign visitor hastening on his way.

The noble soul is steadfast, constant.  "It is indeed consistency that abides; false things do not last."

Whereas, "The greatest proof of an evil mind is unsteadiness, and continued wavering between pretence of virtue and love of vice."

it is a great role – to play the role of one man. But nobody can be one person except the wise man; the rest of us often shift our masks.

...

force yourself to maintain to the very end of life's drama the character which you assumed at the beginning. See to it that men be able to praise you; if not, let them at least identify you.