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Virtue is Strength

If you had to define virtue in one word it would be “strength.” In English we use the same root word when we say virility. Virility means a special kind of power. So does virtue.

The Stoic School teaches that strength is a good thing. This is basic to human nature and Nature in general. Nature rewards the strongest in a species with survival and progeny. Nature is a place of struggle. The earth is a place where all animals must exert constant activity to live and must exercise great strength to get ahead. Those who lose their energy fall behind and perish. 

Human society also rewards athletes of great strength or speed. You don’t find yourself wishing you were weaker, do you? 

But, the Stoic School teaches about a strength more powerful than muscles.

First, think about an army. History shows that the most athletic soldiers do not always win. A smaller army with better strategy and equipment often defeats a larger force. Why? Second, a runner or boxer who has beaten a certain opponent previously might lose to him during the Olympics because the opponent trained harder and kept a stricter diet. Third, a weaker army can rout a greater one when the stronger flees the battle field.  Fourth, The ancient play The Suppliants by Euripides illustrates a special kind of power. In the play, the women have no physical power to retrieve the bodies of their dead loved ones who were killed in a battle, because the victors wanted them to rot in the open and be eaten by animals, so what mysterious strength empowered the mothers, wives, and daughters to win?

Our cultural grandparents called the first kind of strength “Wisdom,” the second “Temperance,” the third “Courage,” and the fourth “Justice.”

1) Wisdom is “being smart,” “thinking things through,” “making good decisions.” 

2) Temperance is self-control, self-discipline, and the ability to choose the difficult path that is good rather than the easy paths that are bad.

3) Courage means fortitude, bravery in the face of danger and pain, and risking personal safety, wealth, and reputation in the interest of something more noble.

4) Justice is doing the right thing, recognizing a higher morality than even human laws, and successfully harmonizing with Nature rather than only reading and talking about it.

The Stoic School teaches that the purpose of human life is Virtue. 

Even in human society, Nature requires constant energy to live, to be healthy, to be wise, to control yourself, to be brave, and to be fair to all.

An evidence that Nature intends mankind to be virtuous is that Nature gave humanity the potential for all these strengths. We know of no other creatures with the potential to develop the four Cardinal Virtues as we mean them here. Nature has attributes that can only be understood by those who practice wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. We live in Nature more and more only as we grow in Virtue more and more. 

Another indication that Virtue is our purpose in life is that virtues bind us in stronger friendship with our fellow citizens, our friends, and our family. We are political animals. Nature provides no other species with a social structure anything like human society. There are no other species with commerce, technology, musical instruments, clothing, conversations, etc. anything like human society. But, along with our need to socialize in our uniquely human way, we see that virtue is what binds us together in the bonds of good faith necessary to produce thriving human societies. Individuals who practice Virtue are bound with their friends in stronger bonds of friendship and are praiseworthy among their countrymen. Those who practice vice suffer in their public and private relationships.

We call Wisdom, Temperance, Courage, and Justice the Cardinal Virtues. They remind us of the cardinal directions North, South, East, and West. With only four directions you can get from wherever you are to wherever you need to be in two-dimensional space.  In life, you need a different dimension of directions – virtues.

With the Cardinal Virtues, you can get from any circumstance you are in to where you need to be. The four virtues form a coordinate system that surely navigates you through your entire life, with “magnetic north” being the Good. Whatever crisis or reversal befalls you, the way to maintain happiness and to get where you need to be is always a combination of these four virtues.

The mother of all the virtues is Gratitude. All virtues are a combination of Wisdom, Temperance, Courage, and Justice, and those Cardinal Virtues come from Gratitude. Wisdom, Temperance, Courage, and Justice are the natural response to gratitude for what Nature has done for us, what our friends have done for us, and what our country has done for us.

Logos, a Cause of Providence

Porch Talk

Dialogue 1 – Logos, a Cause of Providence

Evan Howard



Evan Howard shares his notes from immediately after he and 23 other students engaged in their first dialogue with the Scholarch. Not allowed to record or take notes during the dialogues, students later write their recollections. Then, all students meet to compare recollections and fill in gaps of memory in one another. This is Evan’s personal recollection of the first walk with the Scholarch introducing Logos as one of the Causes of Providence. The class collated the complete dialogue with questions later (please see 2015-StoicAnnual-The-New-Class-EHoward-p16).

Audi alteram partem

It might seem that Logos covers many concepts. In reality, it is one truth, which we have written about from various angles. Depending on the writer and the context, Logos can highlight reason, word, argument, numerical computation, doctrine, speech, etc. In formal Stoic teaching, Logos includes a spiritual flavor and a mystical understanding that modern Academics try to sever from Stoicism. This is the key to our teaching. Academics often cloud the issue of Logos by trying to trace a sequential evolution of the concept through Heraclitus of Ephesus, the School, Philo, and John in the New Testament, almost as if Logos has changed. The Stoic School, however, has had an organic and complete technical view of Logos since very soon after Zeno, that has proven correct and is easy to experience.

Eminent Immanence

Of course, the vehicle of Logos is pneuma, but today we stay on Logos.

The Stoic School developed the teaching about Logos much more than the other schools and continues to pry into the meaning of Logos more than other schools. Logos is the principle of all Reason in the Cosmos. Sometimes we speak of Zeus, God, Universal Reason, and Logos interchangeably. There are differences, but making a big deal about the differences only makes sense in very technical discussions. Regardless, Logos is over AND part of all matter. When we pour wine into water during our rituals, it is a mnemonic of how Logos has eminence over and is immanent in all matter. The wine mixes completely with the water, according to our senses. Every pour of the mixture contains water and wine equally. They are inseparable, and the wine is the eminence that drives the nature of the substance. This is the idea we mean when we speak of Logos being immanent and eminent. The idea of “Eminent Immanence” is given various meanings in modern literature. Nevertheless, there is a Reason, a Logos, that permeates all matter. Our scientific research and that of non-Stoic scientists continue to confirm the immanence of Logos. Even at the atomic level, it is plain to see that the nucleus, electrons, and protons act in orderly and predictable ways. Logos is that which causes and maintains that order. In fact, every “ology” and other fields of science are looking for the dominion of Logos in a specific field of matter. Biology can only be investigated rationally if the biologist takes for granted a priori that there is an order and predictability in living organisms that we can understand. Geology assumes that we can understand the earth, because our planet has always acted in a consistent, predictable, understandable way. Chemistry realizes that molecules behave in orderly, reproducible, rational ways. Stoichiometry depends on a rational order permeating each atom. Logos is this order. Logos permeates all matter and is material itself. For example, stoichiometry is nonsense apart from material chemicals, and these chemicals can do nothing apart from the idea of stoichiometry.

How can something permeate matter, govern matter, and be material itself? It is related to E=MC2. It is like water, ice, and steam. Matter is not the same as energy, and ice is not the same as steam. But, the energy frozen in matter governs the nature of that matter as the energy level of water determines whether it is ice, water, or steam. Note well, that with steam, for example, the pressure of the system affects the state of H2O. This is analogous to the will of the well-trained.

At the other end of the size spectrum, Astronomy sees order permeating large bodies as well. Both our research in astronomy and the Academics’ research in mathematics and physics similarly take for granted that reason orders the Cosmos and that humans can understand that order. Reason rules the universe on the atomic and galactic levels. This is the Fractal Effect of Logos.

Fractal Effect in Man

Regarding physical atoms and molecules, we see Logos actively ordering passive matter. In man, that happens a great deal too, but man has Logos in an active state as well. So, Logos resides in man in a special way. Logos spermatikos is the power of reason in the soul of man. The simple residing includes rational thought, planning, judgements, etc. (endiathetos). But there is more potent power in the spoken word, (prophorikos). The very word “logos” comes from lego, “I say,” highlighting the special power of human speech, because sound is vibrations, and ALL is vibrations, or energy.

Electromagnetic radiation, sound, mechanical vibrations, and ocean waves all share a common nature and mathematical description of vibrations (or wave phenomena). Schrödinger’s Equation articulates this. By oratory, the well-trained tap into the very forces of Nature in a resonate way by striking a chord with Nature’s vibrations. This is Logos as a verb, the process of becoming. Our ethics are based on living in this kind of accordance with nature. Living according to Nature is living in mental, audial, and physical vibrational harmony with Logos.

Logos is the reason for Reason, the cause of logic, and the cause of becoming. Nevertheless, for later, remember that when we mention orthos Logos we are actually admitting that there is also wrong reason. There is a dampening effect as well in the Cosmos, because vice exists and shows that we can reason incorrectly. This dampening effect is what destroys the soul and the matter of a person, because it inhibits the natural vibrations in amplitude and frequency in the person. As we say, the Logos carrier wave maintains its fidelity, but the individual’s signal wave corrupts itself out of conveyance of intelligibility. Universal Reason is the carrier wave of the Cosmos, and living a harmonic of it is Virtue. But, we use “harmonic” here in a broad sense, because there are octets and fifths and so on that are more or less pleasing. ALL is vibrations. From the atomic to the cosmic, Virtue is one of the harmonies with the immanent vibrations of Nature, and Nature is not saddened.

Fractal Logos resides in man in a special way, which is beyond the immanently rational actions of all matter making up his body. You witness this special way when you turn on your computer. Not only is your hand and arm an orderly mass of proteins, nerves, muscles, etc. that all act predictably and reasonably by their immanent nature, you have another type of reason that made you think about turning on your computer and moved your entire rational limb in such a way as to turn on your computer. Here is where many non-Stoics get tripped up when they try to explain what we believe. Logos permeates all matter, but it resides in man. Logos permeates man and resides in man. Therefore, man has a share in ordering the Cosmos. This leads to the strengths called Virtue. It allows humanity to direct its evolution.

Ordered Matter Versus Ordered Reason

Moving your arm, however, is a trivial example of man’s special abiding with Logos. After you turn on your computer, you check your email. You read an email and click the reply button and write your own email. When you send the email, you send reason. You send thought and order to your friend. A rational order in you caused your body to move, which caused your computer to organize many electrons in specific order to navigate the internet intelligibly, which delivered your email reply to your friend. Again, here is a point many don’t get – your email could have been gibberish, say all one letter of the alphabet or something like that. Even gibberish would show an order maintained by Logos that you set in motion. However, when you express a thought, there is another kind of reason that causes a thought to go eventually into another mind -  logos to logos and endiathetos to prophorikos. All of this is carried out by way of tensions and contractions – vibrations. Brain waves made your muscles contract and relax (vibrate) to type. Electromagnetic pulses and pauses and radio waves sent the thought in coded form. On and on, ALL is vibrations (waves); the point is, prophorikos is powerful because of waves, vibrations, tensions, or motion. That is how one thought can reside in two minds. During this process there is always matter, and all the matter is governed by a reasonable, ordered principle. This is why we take it as self-evident that Logos is reason, which is immanent in all matter and resides in man. It is God in that it caused the Cosmos to be and it maintains Cosmic order. It also provides all our needs (Providence). Your thinking and your wisdom are possible only while the matter making up your brain continues to behave universally reasonably – Universal Reason governing the matter. This is how Logos causes Providence, but more about that next walk.

Stoic scientists and non-Stoics have photographed the transition of matter from Eminent Immanence to endiathetos. Google “zinc fireworks” or “spark of life.” YouTube has videos of animal eggs at conception. At conception, there is a flash of light. At that moment, light vibrations indicate the egg receives a different order. Before that flash, the egg was ordered and acted rationally as a completely fulfilled egg. After the flash, its order changes to become a new organism. The egg’s and the sperm’s Final Cause is now to become an adult animal in rational, orderly ways. It is the “spark of Logos.” The spark is a silent speech declaring immanent Logos reordering the matter it permeates. The flash at human conception signals an even greater change, because the reorganizing of the matter leads to endiathetos AND prophorikos. So, our scientists witness Eminent Immanence becoming Logos spermatikos.

When Zeus is used as Logos, we mean we are truly his biological progeny. It happens before our eyes. Just remember that not all uses of “Zeus” mean Logos, because the gods also had vices. Cicero’s De Natura Deorum recognizes the vices of the “gods” as one reason many disbelieve in gods and Providence and Universal Reason and Logos.

Paradoxum Stoicum

And here is where many make wrong judgements about appearances of Logos in matter. Even some brilliant minds believe Logos is not immanent in matter. They mention extreme suffering, evil happening to innocents, or good things happening to the wicked. Nature did not give us the ability to feel other people’s feelings, only to think about them. This is obvious nearly every time a heinous crime of child abuse, serial murder, or so on, is discovered. We have all seen interviews of neighbors who say they had no idea anything unlawful was happening or even say they thought the villain was a nice person who was just and took care of his yard. Think what we learn about Logos at times like that. You can live just a few feet from a person being tortured and sleep well at night through it all. Then when you learn of what is going on, you can become sorely troubled. It is not the wickedness and suffering that disturbs you. It is your thoughts about something that does not even exist anymore. How can this be? Well, when the wickedness happened, Nature was not saddened either. You could not discern anything was wicked by some change in the weather or gravity or any other part of Nature. That is how Logos ordered your nature. Your body submits to Nature, but if you submit your reason to Nature, you will share in Nature’s equanimity. Only slaves of Nature are masters of Nature. This is one paradox that Cicero did not have time to write about.

Universal Reason is the main thing. God is the power. Logos is the order. Right Reason is the harmony. Logos is all that is within our power. Many say, “The devil is in the details.” The School says, “The Logos is in the details,” because it is immanent in all matter. In this way, it is a Cause of Providence.

Next, we’ll discuss Providence as a function of Logos. Logos is immanent, but its eminence determines the future, leading to free will, fate, and Conflagration.

Sources:           Annals-6-3-7-1, Epictetus-3-4-8, Cicero-9-1-3, Michaelson-2-2-4, Scholarchs-96-12-2-25, Scholarchs-9-4-78-8, Mandelbrot-1-1-12,, Planck-2-13-76, Schrodinger-3-1-1-8.

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