Stoic Values

The Monist 73 (1):42-58 (1990)


One of the most puzzling things about Stoicism has always been its position concerning the so-called “indifferents”. Let me summarize it. The Stoics seem to hold that all states of affairs other than virtue are indifferent as to goodness. At the same time they seem to think that virtue is partially constituted by a propensity to choose certain such indifferent states of affairs. For they maintain that the end, which they identify with virtue and the sole good, is “to live in agreement with nature”, in a sense that is taken to involve selecting things that are in accord with nature, even though these things, it seems, are indifferent. They make two seemingly evaluative distinctions within the class of indifferents, one between things that are “preferred” and things that are “dispreferred”, and another between “appropriate acts” and others. All of this is well known and uncontroversial.

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