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PHL200Y1 Study Guide - Final Guide: Stoicism

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Lloyd Gerson
Study Guide

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1. The Stoics claim that we should “live in accordance with nature”. Would an Aristotelian
defend this claim? Explain.
Humans are naturally rational for Aristotle as well as the Stoics but the reasoning for why
humans are naturally rational differs because the Stoics were materialists and Aristotle was not.
Aristotle thought that virtue was the pathway to happiness. What is natural is that humans
have the capacity for reason and they can actualize this potential. In order for an Aristotelian to
agree with the Stoic claim, I think that “nature” would have to be replaced with “the natural form
of humans that makes them distinct from everything else that exists by nature”. I say this because
according to Aristotle aligning ourselves with our appetitive souls, spirited souls or the souls of
other living things that are not human, would not lead to happiness even though all of these souls
are natural manifestations from the form of the things. The stoics were materialists. They did not
believe in anything incorporeal and because of this they believed that all natural things were
material. According to the Stoic’s definition of nature, an Aristotelian would not defend this
claim since Aristotelians do believe in incorporeal things that are natural. The Stoic believed that
living in accordance with nature was how one attained happiness. Humans are naturally rational.
When a human is aligned with nature they are most rational since this means that they have
deduced the order of nature from their sensory perception and therefor are able to live a tranquil
2. Cite at least one passage of Platos works that would support the Skeptics’ claim that
knowledge is impossible. Then explain, if knowledge is impossible, why philosophy is desirable
or even possible for Plato.
Plato’s analogy of the divided line states that only opinions can be achieved through
sense perception of the material world. Plato argued that it is impossible to have knowledge of
the material world because the material is fallible and ever-changing. Philosophy is desirable for
Plato because it is the dialectical process of reasoning that allows one to gain true knowledge.
Knowledge can only be gained from the intelligible realm because the intelligible realm is
eternal, unwavering, and never changing. True knowledge is necessary and sufficient for
happiness for Plato. Thus, by gaining knowledge of the intelligible forms one can achieve
happiness by turning away from the material world, allowing the soul to become detached from
the body that is a prison.
3. What is the core strategy of the pluralists response to Parmenides challenge?
Parmenides argued that change was impossible because it would mean that something
was coming to be from nothing. Since it is not possible for something to come to be from
nothing, Parmenides concluded that change was impossible. The pluralists argued that
Parmenides had misunderstood what change is. The pluralists argued that change was the
rearrangement of different “parts” that make up everything. The pluralists didn’t think that
something was coming to be from nothing; they thought that things were simply being re-
4. In what respect was Aristotle correct in saying that Platos philosophy was basically
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