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A brief remark as I hang out with my newly home-birthed son. (The goods of home birth definitely transcend all isms.) A recent portion of our pomocon/FPR critical saga has involved a fascinating exchange of allegations of stoicism and praise for certain kinds of stoicism. And it is true that pomocons and FPRicans both wisely let the insane world be insane and be the world — to an extent. Our wranglings over what extent’s best are worthwhile; but I’m sure we’ve all noticed that in this conversation the what is inseparable from the how. And when it comes to the how, there’s a smaller, denser how?-question nestled within the answer of ‘stoically’. Which stoicism — that of individuals, or that of communities? That of independent emotional humans, or dependent rational animals? (Or perhaps codependent rationalizing mechanical animals?) We have a veritable supermall food court of stoicisms from which to choose. The mere-lifestyles problem — surmountable as I’m sure it is, and on our own terms, too — extends to stoicisms.

Robert E. Lee, Martha Nussbaum, Alasdair MacIntyre, and the Wandering Pomocon each advance or inspire a different sort of stoicism. Of the many ways to compare and contrast, the one I want to poke at is along the spectrum of solitude and solidarity, with an eye especially toward two questions: distance from whom, and closeness to whom? Because when I really think about the stakes involved in our ongoing pomocon/FPRican discussion, they seem to boil down to the question of which people you have an obligation to put up with in life, and why. On the one hand, this suggests that there’s a big mushy or mongrel middle zone in which pomocon-like persons may rely on and enjoy FPR-like elements of life, and vice versa. But on the other, that question of who you have to put up with really is a personal one.

I mean personal as in “the stakes are high because they bear right down on YOU,” but today, therapeutically, we often mean personal as in “it’s MY decision; you wouldn’t understand, it’s a ME thing.” I think we can prevent my meaning from inevitably degenerating into the therapeutic or narcissistic meaning. No time this minute to wrap up these thoughts with a bow, but let’s think: how stoic? How social a stoicism? And which kind of social?

More on: Culture, Theory

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