Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More on Buddhism, Stoicism and Epicureanism

A redated post from 2/8/05, which followed the last one back then

Apparently I started a discussion that not only really got going here, but has spread to Maverick Philosopher and Big Hominid. where will it end?

Certainly Stoicism is a profoundly religious philosophy; the ideas of the "God-intoxicated Jew" Spinoza are remarkably similar to Stoicism. I'm not at all sure whether Boddha's teaching is supposed to teach us to get our desires calmed down so we can stop suffering, or whether there is a positive element in Nirvana, or enlightenment.

As for what a religion is, it seems as if we learn how to use the word "religion" when we see the religions that are prevalent in our neck of the woods (in this neck of the woods it's Christianity for the most part) and then we look at other cultures and describe as "religious" the things tha they do that are like what we call religion here. Only the way in which we divide life up between the religious and the not religious is probably not how people in other cultures would divide it up; in fact it is pretty unclear whether they would make that kind of a division at all. (Can you say "secular humanism" in Swahili?)

Also, probably the mystical or religious elements of Stoicism probably got washed away or absorbed by the rising tide of Christianity in the ancient world.

2 comments:

HV said...

I think to answer the question about the positive content of Buddhism, you would have to engage with it directly, by speaking with a living teacher. That said, the term "awakening" indicates a positive content.

Victor Reppert said...

The question here had to do with the Buddha's teaching, rather than the teaching of Buddhism. Or at least that's what I had in mind.