PROPATHOS is ‘instinctive reaction’.

There is a widespread misunderstanding that Stoicism demands the crushing of all emotions. However, it is false because such a condition would reduce us to machines, computers, dead things. Instead, Stoics promote the best possibilities of mankind. In fact, they teach to transform emotions in order not to be overwhelmed and not to take decision just because of them. Firstly, emotions are automatic human reactions and we cannot avoid them. Secondly, a reflective/logical mind can detach itself from emotions. Thirdly, once the detachment is actual, the individual can evaluate if giving “assent” or not to those emotions. In other words, only if emotions are treated objectively it is possible to judge if they are appropriate.

Sokratiko Logo

Stoics differentiate between <propathos> (instinctive reaction) and <eupathos> (feeling which results from correct judgement). Their target is <apatheia>, peace of mind resulting from clear judgement and the maintenance of equanimity in life.

Stoics notions of <pathos> and <apatheia> are close to the Buddhist ‘noble truths’. Life has suffering (dukkha); suffering comes from passion and desire (samudaya); meditation and virtue free from suffering (nirodha and marga). Similar concepts are in the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita: the overcoming of dualities such as pleasure-pain, win-lose.

<Propathos> is ‘instinctive reaction’. And ‘instinctive’ means “not according to logic”, “not deriving from reason”. However, for the Stoics, ‘reason’ is not just the use of logic. In fact, it is also understanding ‘nature’, <logos>, ‘divine providence’ or ‘universal reason’. It is understanding the divine reason which is behind everything. Living according to reason and virtue  is to live in tune with the divine order of the universe. It is the acknowledgement of the common reason and essential value of all people. The four cardinal virtues of the Stoic philosophy are wisdom (<sophia>), courage (<andreia>), righteousness (<dikaiosyne>), and temperance/equilibrium (<sophrosyne>).