Stoicism as cosmophilosophy

by Arran James

The idea of cosmopolitics is popular again today, in part because of Stengers and Bennett. This is one side of the speculative philosophy that has a kind of therapeutics. Against this is the Brassier led side of things that denies this therapeutic, this sop to suffering, and this ‘vibrant’ remystification of the world. The Stoics, who I would see as folded within a pessimist tradition (in the same way that Taoism gets included in anarchism), have a philosophic therapeutic based on the nihilist recognitions of death. They are the Western philosophical source of the practice of making friends with death, this is how they make praxis from the Socratic tradition that others would make theoretic. Below is a video by Julian Evans, a modern day proponent and practitioner of Stoicism, and Donald Robertson, who has written on the links between CBT and Stoicism. Of particular interest to me is the disdain that Robertson has for the idea that Stoicism is a variant of ecophilosophy. It is not his disdain that I like but his jump to say that for the Stoics an emphasis on all things green (even if most ecophilosophy today exceeds this) is too limited, that it must take in all that exists. Cosmophilosophy extends to everything, but knows everything as hurtling toward finality, to death, to exhaustion, to the opposite of vibrant matter. Stoicism then, is, in part, a resource for that brand of pessimism that I sometimes call Catastrophia.

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