|THE STOIC PHILOSOPHY: |
As Described by Diogenes Laërtius
The first instinct which the animal has is the impulse to self-preservation with which nature endows it at the outset. The first possession which every animal acquires is its own organic unity and the perception thereof. If this were not so, nature must either have estranged from itself the creature which she has
made or left it utterly indifferent to itself, neither of which assumptions is tenable. The only alternative is
that she should have designed the creature to love itself, For in this way it repels what harms it and welcomes
what benefits it. It is not true, as some say, that the first instinct of animals is toward pleasure. For pleasure,
if it is an end at all, is a concomitant of later growth which follows when the nature of the animal in and by
itself has sought and found what is appropriate to it. Under like circumstances animals sport and gambol and
plants grow luxuriant. Nature has made no absolute severance between plants and animals: in her contrivance of plants she leaves out impulse and sensation, while certain processes go on in us as they do in plants. But when animals have been further endowed with instinct, by whose aid they go in search of the things which benefit them, then to be governed by nature means for them to be governed by instinct When rational animals are endowed with reason, in token of more complete superiority, in them life in accordance with nature is rightly understood to mean life in accordance with reason. For reason is like a craftsman shaping impulse and desire. Hence Zeno's definition of the end is to live in conformity with nature, which means to live a life of virtue, since it is to virtue that nature leads. On the other hand, a virtuous life is a life which conforms to our experience of the course of nature, our human natures being but parts of universal nature. Thus the end is a life which follows nature, whereby is meant not only our own nature, but the nature of the universe, a life wherein we do nothing that is forbidden by the universal law, i.e., by right reason, which pervades all things and is identical with Zeus, the guide and governor of the universe. The virture of the happy man, his even flow of life, is realised only when in all the actions he does his individual genius is in harmony with the will of the ruler of the universe. Virtue is a disposition conformable to reason, desirable in and for itself and not becase of any hope or fear or any external motive. And well-being depends on virtue, on virtue alone, since the virtuous soul is adapted to secure harmony the whole of life. When reason in the animal is perverted, this is due to one of two causes, either to the persuasive force of external things or to the bad instruction of those surrounding it. The instincts which nature implants are unperverted.
From R.D. Hicks, Stoic and Epicurean, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910.
RESOURCE: World Civilizations
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