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By Lawrence C. Becker, Charlotte B. Becker

This newly revised and up-to-date variation of A background of Western Ethics is a coherent and obtainable review of an important figures and influential rules of the background of ethics within the Western philosophical culture.

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Of particular note is Benedict’s concept of the “ladder of humility” on which the monk ascends from fear of God through the various subordinate virtues such as deference and gravity to the twelfth degree “when the monk’s inward humility appears outwardly in his comportment” (Regula,chapter 5). From perfected humility, the monk progresses to perfect charity and the spiritual power to confront the powers of evil in mortal combat. Humility and charity, from the monastic perspective, constitute primary virtues potentially in conflict with the virtues of classical culture.

Hence too the repetitive and sometimes censorious features of writing moral philosophy at this time. In a brief survey it is impossible to convey the range and richness of ethical reflection to be found in Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Here it has seemed best to indicate their common interest in modes of discourse and practices that provide individuals with ways of evaluating their lives and situations. As Stoics they take moral rules to be grounded in human nature, but it is not what they say about these rules that is chiefly interesting, but the questions, answers, objections, and illustrations they attach to these.

For the first two books he says he is following the work of the Stoic philosopher Panaetius (c. ). This last point is of great interest for the history of Roman ethics. E. ) and Laelius (fl. ), and there is good reason to think that his experience of Rome influenced his interpretation of Stoic ethics. Originally, the main thrust of Stoic moral philosophy was a radical Socraticism. ) had developed a political theory which called in question the principal institutions of Greek community life. In particular, Zeno saw no basis in nature for private property.

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