Isaiah Berlin’s Stoic revolution: depoliticization

Richard Sorabji

in Gandhi and the Stoics

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199644339
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745812 | DOI:
Isaiah Berlin’s Stoic revolution: depoliticization

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Isaiah Berlin thought that Stoicism marked a revolution, namely the abandonment of political theory and of politics itself. That would make the Stoics unlike Gandhi. But they taught that the wise engage in State affairs unless prevented. Two of Zeno's pupils did so. Later Greek heads were accused of not living up to their principle, but Roman Stoics formed, like Gandhi, some of the leading political resistance. As for theory, Plato, Aristotle and founders of colonies were exceptions in discussing constitutions. The Stoics were more like Socrates, whom Plato recognised as doing politics of another sort. The different picture offered here of Stoic emotional detachment and of Zeno's ideal State would remove the grounds for Berlin's assessment. In retrospect, the two most important themes uniting the Stoics with Gandhi have been those of ‘indifference’ and of the special place of the individual and individual duties, and caution about universal rules.

Keywords: Isaiah Berlin; engagement in politics; roman Stoics; discussion of constitutions; Socrates; emotional detachment; Zeno's ideal state; indifference; individual duties; universal rules

Chapter.  7309 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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