https://doi.org/10.31979/2151-6014(2017).080107">
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Authors

Michael GOERGER

Abstract

I argue in this essay that Stoic philosophers in the late Greco-Roman period utilized philosophical exercises and spiritual technologies similar in form to a meditative exercise currently practiced in Buddhism. I begin with an in-depth discussion of moral development in the late Stoa, focusing particularly on their theories of cosmopolitanism and oikeiōsis. These theoretical commitments, I argue, necessitated the adoption of exercises and practices designed to guide practitioners toward the goal of universal moral concern. Using insights gained from Buddhist practice, I identify passages in Stoic texts that call for and prescribe moral exercise. While much work in comparative philosophy compares the content of diverse philosophical theories, the form that these theories take can also be compared. Stoic philosophy was viewed as a “way of life” by many ancient philosophers, and thus their philosophical views share several formal characteristics with Buddhist religious practices. The primary good realized by this comparison, I conclude, is to outline the ways in which Greco-Roman philosophies can be enriched by reading these theories in light of the lived, practical traditions that characterize Buddhist thought.

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