This article is part of a series of modified excerpts from the introduction to our book "On Virtue." 

Article 7 - The Four Worldviews

Among Western peoples today, there are four primary views of the world. These ways of thinking and their resultant ways of life are Skepticism, Cynicism, Epicureanism, and Stoicism.


As a philosophy of life, Skepticism denies that the human mind can know truth. A dedicated skeptic deals only with probabilities. Therefore, a consistent skeptic might study many things, but he can never claim that he comes to an accurate knowledge of truth.

The self-contradiction of the skeptic is that he claims to know at least one absolute truth – that the human mind cannot know truth. In practice, modern skeptics must inconsistently choose when they want to be skeptical, because their, “anything is possible” is an incoherent way of life. Furthermore, modern technological advancements exhibit human minds discovering, formulating, and utilizing actual laws of nature.

Currently, irrational Skepticism is the leading culprit preventing individuals from knowing themselves and feeling connected to their communities.


Around 350 BC, Diogenes of Sinope began a systematic effort to normalize shamelessness, sexual promiscuity, and the concept of children being raised by the state rather than being the responsibility of a biologically related family unit.

As a way of life, modern Cynicism rejects almost everything considered traditional, such as social norms, national memories, ancient common law, conventional definitions of words, classical respect for authority, and the original intent of national constitutions through mos maiorum (as defined in the previous article in this series, “Article 6 – Virtue or Vice”). The venom in modern cynics is their belief that they want only the best for society and they alone know how to bring it about. This belief poisons civic discourse with cynical intolerance toward those who disagree with them and toward time-honored methods of social progress. Cynicism itself demonstrates the truth in the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Zeno observed that Cynicism trained its disciples to hate wisdom, as was shown by their contempt for the generational wisdom in most ancient norms. Zeno disagreed with cynics; he taught that humans have a natural sense of shame for good reason. Since humans were social animals, social manners were mutually beneficial, because being ashamed to violate traditional norms helped all parties to find the most efficient, the most effective, and the most ethical manner of social intercourse. The cynical “return to nature” considered only mankind’s animal nature and did not create a society any better than that of beasts.

Modern Cynicism is the primary force driving the hateful against the freest societies on Earth.


Around 300 BC, Epicurus moved to Athens and began teaching a way of life that came to be called Epicureanism. He wrote, “We declare pleasure to be the beginning and end of the excellent life because we recognize pleasure to be our first and natural good. From pleasure, we decide what to do and what not to do; and our goal is to judge what is good by how we feel.” For Epicurus, “pleasure” meant the absence of mental anguish and physical pain. He wrote, “Peace of mind and absence of pain are static pleasures.” A disciple of Epicureanism would say, “Beauty, art, virtue, and such things are only valuable if they bring you pleasure. If they do not bring you pleasure, you should reject them.”

Epicurus taught others to avoid any disturbance of their soul. He taught that if something brought somebody stress or made them offended, then they should avoid it. Epicurus taught against pursuing a political life. To Epicurus, individuals could only attain eudaimonia, or peace of mind, by eliminating any fear of the gods or hope for rewards from them and by eliminating any fear of death or hope of life after death. Epicureans lived by the creed, “Eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we die.”

Today, Western capitalism and consumerism is fundamentally Epicurean. Modern marketing is based on physical pleasure and, “if it feels good, do it.” Politicians promise material gratification and marketing departments try to make citizens materialistic. In fact, some of these leaders, consciously try to seduce consumers into confusing greed and hedonism for the natural desire to avoid pain.

Zeno’s school is distinguished from the Epicureans in that Stoicism considers it obvious that humanity is more than herds of mammals. Homo Sapiens have a kinship with something divine and are in touch with something eternal.


As discussed in the first article in this series “Article 1 – What is Stoicism,” Stoicism teaches you:

  1. to find the most happiness in life,
  2. to have healthy relationships with others,
  3. to understand science, and
  4. to improve the world.

However, the more important advantage Stoicism has over Skepticism, Cynicism, and Epicureanism is its social impact. Stoic public policy has always been the West's most successful way to achieve real social justice. This is because, governing free people by reason rather than emotion focuses the people:

  1. on building better relationships by honoring what others hold sacred,
  2. on knowing the truth about the benefits and rarity of their freedoms,
  3. on observational science rather than theoretical drama
  4. on realizing their potential to truly improve the world rather than complain about it.

To demonstrate how Stoicism benefits you while also benefiting society, the next article will discuss the Stoic teaching on love.