Stoicism week : part 2
Yesterday I began with a look at the main difficulty with Stoicism : why care about anyone's so-called "suffering" if literally everything is a subjective opinion ? If a victim shouldn't care they're being abused, why should an abuser care that they're being abusive ? This does seem to cause real problems for Epictetus, as while he mostly advocates for everyone being nice to each other, he also not infrequently slips into selfishness and victim blaming.
His solution, explored here in part two, appeared to be a quite ingenious one. Nothing matter except opinion... but opinion does itself matter, and can be judged in a more than subjective way. Someone committing criminal acts intrinsically harms themselves. Thus a victim can learn to endure hardship whereas a criminal cannot escape self-harm through their own acts : Stoicism is definitely not supposed to be a license for immoral behaviour.
... except that while this might be a clever solution, it's not terribly convincing. No examination as to what constitutes good or bad behaviour is given, so who gets to decide who's hurt themselves or not ? And if criminals aren't aware that what they're doing is wrong, then it makes very little sense to describe them as "suffering" in any meaningful sense. Most fundamentally of all, how can their actions be said to be immoral if they don't actually hurt anyone else ?
There aren't any easy answers to this. The problem seems to stem from some very definitely absolute ideas about the nature of free will, of which more in part three tomorrow.