Monday, 29 May 2017

Book Notes: "A Summary of Stoic Philosophy: Zeno of Citium in Diogenes Laertius Book Seven" by Charles Duke Yonge and Keith Seddon

A Summary of Stoic Philosophy: Zeno of Citium in Diogenes Laertius Book SevenA Summary of Stoic Philosophy: Zeno of Citium in Diogenes Laertius Book Seven by Charles Duke Yonge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get into this book. It was recommended by one of the Stoic websites I have visited. I was a little confused when I first picked up the book. It was published by Lulu, a self-publishing platform, and for a time this put me off. But this is actually an annotated work of an original Greek work written some time in the early 3rd century CE, and then translated into English by Charles Duke Yonge in 1853, and then re-worked by Keith Seddon in 2007. The original author, Diogenes Laërtius, has, in effect, written a literature review of some of the major Stoic philosophers, and listed their various works. Unfortunately, only fragments of the original work, The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, of which the present work is drawn, from Book 7, have been recovered. Once I had the provenance under control, I appreciated Seddon's work in resurrecting a Stoic classic, and then the knowledge of how much I don't know began to flow in. Without Diogenes Laërtius' work, the existence of many of the Stoic works would be unknown, as it seems that none of these other works has survived. These Stoic authors wrote on logic and ethics and physics and so on, and were far more sophisticated in their philosophy then simply not budging when somebody punched them in the face. As I am currently reading Aristotle's Rhetoric, there is some congruence with the basic elements of the philosophy that all piece together as I read more of the classics. What surprises me most is that much of my knowledge of the classics, gleaned as it was from the formal education system, is a facsimile of a facsimile copied and recopied and passed on through the ages until what I have been given barely resembles a mere trace of the original. There is too much in this for one reading, and it really is a study piece rather than a work for easy leisure, pointing to further studies to be done more than a standalone piece of literature (as one would expect of a literature review). That scholars were so sophisticated 2,000 years ago makes me wonder how humanity went so backward and has arrived today at what is barely an echo of the wisdom of the past. It haunts me in that if it happened before, it can and will happen again, so our present circumstances could easily dumb things down, if it is not already too late. And all this from reading a book published on Lulu. It is enough to change my opinion of the self-publishing platform!

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