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Stoicism: Philosophy of Empire

Stoicism: Philosophy of Empire

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Stoicism: Philosophy of Empire

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  1. Stoicism: Philosophy of Empire

  2. Polis law and Cosmopolitan Law • Alexander: Pharaoh in Egypt, King in Persia • No Greek system of law: • only Athenian, Corinthian, etc. • = Polis law • Legacy of Greek empire: cultural (phil, art …) • Roman empire is based on Roman law • Cosmopolitan law

  3. Irony of History • Only some are free (Hegel) • Greece: • Accept Principle of enslaving others • Romans enslave them • Rome • Cheap slave-produced grain ruins small farmer • = Destruction of free Roman army, fall of Rome

  4. Compare with US system • House elected based on population • Democratic • Black slaves count 3/5s whites • Senate appointed based on equality of states • Elite • U.S. Constitution as legacy of Roman Law • Rationally organized code (Justinian) • V. England: no written constitution

  5. Some are free • “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.”

  6. Lessons of History #1 • U.S. imitates Roman system • Political: • “checks and balances” • Excludes women, slaves, and native Americans • Legal: written system of law • Some are free. • > Civil War • Shows need to go beyond political limitation of freedom: All are free.

  7. Main Roman periods (compare with Greek periods) • 1) 494-440: “struggle of the orders” > republic: Twelve Tablets (or “Tables”) of the Law, 451 • 2) 405-264 Internal, Italian wars • 3) 264-146 Struggle with dominant external power of Carthage (3 Punic Wars) • 4) 134 -71 BCE --Renewed class warfare: 3 Slave wars: • 5) Fall of Republic (Emperor Augustus Caesar, 27 BCE - 14 CE)

  8. Second wave of class struggles • Tiberius Gracchus, about 133 BC: "Wild animals stalking their prey throughout Italy have dens and lairs to spend the night in, but people who fight and die for Italy have nothing but the air and the light. They wander with their children and wives like homeless vagabonds. The warriors fight and die for others' luxury and wealth; they are called the masters of the universe, yet they don't have a single plot of land."

  9. Self-Defeat of Roman peasant • New kind of threat: not enslavement but economic ruin • Invisible enemy: who to blame? • Cycle of cause and effect (“karma”) • Roman peasants conquer slaves in Greece • Greek slaves in Syracuse produce cheap grain for Roman aristocrats • Roman peasants are ruined: become urban proletariat

  10. Lessons of History #2 • US trade unions (modern proletariat): strike • Veto power of Roman plebeians • What about foreign workers? • = Only some workers are free • Corporations employ cheap foreign labor, move elsewhere • US workers compete with cheaper foreign labor • Wages drop; unemployment rises • Social security declines

  11. Causes of downfall • 1) Democratic institutions cease to operate effectively • 2) Fear: threats to physical security of ordinary people > • People give to new power to authoritarian leaders to exercise military power • 3) Corruption: money undermines over the political system

  12. 1) Destroy democracy by brute force • Later Roman farmers face already existing state made up of their own sons • Goal of Tribunes, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus: land to the Roman farmers • Both are assassinated • Compare assassination of the Kennedy brothers

  13. 2) Fear: Slave Wars • Three Servile Wars • Gladiator Spartacus and 70 others escape • Army of 120,000 threaten Rome • Crassus manipulates Spartacus and Rome • Crucifixion of 6000 on Apian Way • Why is Crucifixion especially horrible?

  14. 3) Corruption: Client system of Politics • Wealthy Romans have “clients” • Huge wealth from victorious wars • Individuals raise their own armies • Clients vote as they are told • > Corruption of electoral system • > Fall of Republic

  15. Lessons of History #3 • Huge cost of running for elections • > Power of private wealth over politicians • See film, Bulworth (Warren Beatty) • > Apathy of voters • Effect on US democracy?

  16. Why not fight back? • Strong Roman army (and no where to go) • State is now in existence • Recall Rousseau’s analysis of early state

  17. Rousseau on the victory of the rich over the poor • The outcome was “. . . the most thought-out project that ever entered the human mind. It was to use in his favor the very strength of those who attacked him, to turn his adversaries into his defenders… to give them other institutions which were as favorable to him as natural right was unfavorable to him.”

  18. Turn to Authoritarian Rule • Plebs support popular Roman generals • Gaius Marius, Julius Caesar • > Generals take more and more power • Octavian “Augustus” Caesar (adopted son of Julius Caesar) made Imperator for life (27 BCE -14 CE)

  19. How Did Augustus “Seize Power”? • ‘A grateful Senate, weary of seemingly endless civil wars, heaped him with honors, including, in 27 BCE, the title “Augustus,” meaning “sacred” or “venerable.”’ (180) • “Augustus rejected the title of monarch, preferring to be called princeps, or first citizen. This gesture of humility fooled no one. With Augustus’ reign, the imperial form of government begins even though the Senate and the consuls and other magistrates survived.” Spodek, 181

  20. Fall of the Republic, Rise of the Empire • Chancellor Palpatine: “In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society which I assure you will last for ten thousand years. An empire that will continue to be ruled by this august body, and a sovereign ruler chosen for life.”

  21. How does liberty die? • PADME: So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause . . . • (Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith)

  22. How democratic was it? • “In 14 C.E. Augustus Caesar announced that there were 4,937,000 citizens, about 2 million of them in the provinces. At that time, the total population of the empire was between 70 and 100 million.” Spodek, 181. = 5 to 7% are free citizens • (Athens: 16%)

  23. Abstractness of Cosmopolitan Citizenship • Legal citizenship is abstract, formal, almost powerless • > Citizens have formal legal rights but not real power to control their society

  24. Greek philosophy of free polis • Recall Socrates • Re wealth and virtue • Re soul and body • Re choice and destiny: we choose our own fate • Socrates does not flee • His life is tied to the Athenian polis • He is a true citizen • He has real citizen power

  25. Stoic philosophy of empire • Stoic position: virtue is unrelated to wealth • Virtue (mind) is in our power not wealth (body)

  26. Slave and Emperor • Two great Stoics • Epictetus the slave (50-138 AD) • Marcus Aurelius, the emperor (121-180 AD) • See film, “Gladiator” • = Philosophy that equates free and slave

  27. What we can and can’t control • “Under our control are conception, choice, desire, aversion . . . • “not under our control are our body, our property, reputation, office . . . • “if you think only what is your own to be your own, and what is not your own to be, as it really is, not your own, then no one will ever be able to exert compulsion upon you . . .” #1

  28. Body and Soul • All can be free internally (in mind) • None can be free without (in body) • Compare Socrates: Virtue (the rightly ordered soul) brings Wealth and all good things (of the body)

  29. Be “realistic” • “Do not seek to have everything that happens happen as you wish, but wish for everything to happen as it actually does happen, and your life will be serene.” # 8

  30. How to be free • Whoever, therefore, wants to be free, let him neither wish for anything, nor avoid anything, that is under the control of others; or else he is necessarily a slave. # 14 • Story of Epictetus and his master • =Freedom of the mind

  31. Accept your role in life • “Remember that you are an actor in a play, the character of which is determined by the Playwright; if He wishes the play to be short, it is short; if long, it is long; if He wishes you to play the part of a beggar, remember to act even this role adroitly; and so if your role be that of a cripple, an official, or a layman. For this is your business, to play admirably the role assigned you; but the selection of that role is Another’s.” # 17

  32. The world is in good order • “In piety towards the gods, I would have you know, the chief element is this, to have right opinions about them, as existing and as administering the universe well and justly—and to have set yourself to obey them and to submit to everything that happens, and to follow it voluntarily, in the belief that it is being fulfilled by the highest intelligence.” #31

  33. Is Socrates a Model Stoic? • See Epictetus #53: “Well, O Crito, if so it is pleasing to the gods, so let it be.” “Anytus and Meletus can kill me, but they cannot hurt me.” • Does Socrates neglect the body? Wealth? Is he a fatalist? • Plato on nature of our fate: we freely choose our lot in life! (NDE of Er)