Monday, August 07, 2006

Don't worry, be happy?

I enjoy Alan de Botton, having read his Consolations of Philosophy and watched his TV series on architecture. I am very protestant in theology but Catholic in architecture and have the misfortune to go to an Anglican Church that meets in an old Salvation Army Hall. It needs some work on the inside.

I was watching the Guide to Happiness last night, and the program's on Seneca intrigued me. I really need to read him first hand, but one thing struck me about Stoicism as articulated by him (or at least interpreted by de Botton). Stoicism doesn't provide any sort of Theodicy - no way of dealing with God and evil. It just is, become pessimistic so there are no surprises, so you don't get angry. Now that might deal nicely with anger (and I'll be the first to admit I need work in that area). However, I can't see Stoicism going with biblical Christianity. Things are as they are, so no point in worrying. Things are as they are so why bother to explain them?

It should be said that the bible speaks more of what God is doing about evil more than where it came from, although I think there are enough hints that a free will defense can work, though then we need libertine free will and God creates only the possibility of evil.

Stoicism could be made to work in an atheistic manner if you were happy to put up with natural evil, tornados, earthquakes, etc. But what of the evil of other humans. Sure it is ok to suggest as de Botton does that the agro courier not get annoyed when he is cut off. But what about murder? Mass murder? Genocide and illegal wars? How could Stoicism be applied to law and order.

I think there is a point where being Stoic can work, and another time NOT to accept what happens as "it just is, don't worry, be happy". Add another author to my reading list!

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