"Anyway, to go back to the question of can Stoicism be a practical ethics. Stoic ethics don’t make sense unless you have a) universal determinism and b) universal providence.
"If you believe these two things, then the main axioms of Stoic ethics are the only viable way to live. If you jettison one or both of them, then it doesn’t make sense to say that humans can flourish under all circumstances.
"And the free will issue is thorny. The ancient Stoics say we have freedom only in whether we assent to impressions, and not at all in the external world. But how we interpret events affects how we act, so we must be free to some extent to affect the external world.
"The whole thing about free will is it’s a paradoxical notion wherever you go with it. What Stoics are trying to say is, we are a product of antecedent causes, yet we are also self-conscious, so we can determine our lives. We are part of the causal system. We are part of God. We create the Logos. And the Logos also creates us. It can’t function the way it does independently of us. We’re part of it. And not just a mechanical part. The Stoics are really compatibilists. They accept causality, but believe it is also compatible with a degree of human independence."
. . .
"I can’t agree that all values beyond the self are indifferent. I prefer the Aristotelian idea that there are goods and bads external to oneself. It’s the notion of a child dying of malnutrition, and we could have done something about it. For the Stoics, that child is a matter of indifference. Whatever happened, it was meant to be so.
"There’s the point of view of the potentially virtuous agent, who can suffer any situation and use it as an opportunity to practice virtue. But what about the purely passive victim, the child?"
. . .
"Look at where and when it tends to flourish. It flourished during the Hundred Years War, when Lipsius wrote De Constantia. It was immensely popular then. It flourished during the Vietnam War, via James Stockdale. I got to know him quite well, in fact, he’d call me up to ask me some technical points. So it seems it flourishes in times of upheaval, and we are living through such a time now."
. . .
"I would describe myself as a rather inconstant Stoic."