Since ordinary people and stoic sages take care of their health, except in very exceptional circumstances, the wise and the ordinary person perform the right functions. A correct function becomes a completely correct action (katorthôma) only when it is perfected and therefore virtuously executed as an action of the specific type to which it belongs. In the tradition of Socratic moral theory, the Stoics regard virtues such as courage and justice, etc., as knowledge or science in the soul about how to live. Thus, a specific virtue such as moderation is defined as “the science (epistêmê) of what is to be chosen and what is to be avoided and what is neither” (Arius Didymus, 61H). In a broader sense, virtue is “an expertise (technê) that deals with the whole of life” (Arius Didymus, 61G). Like other forms of knowledge, virtues are characteristics of the command of the soul that are fixed and immutable. The other similarity with Socratic ethics is that the Stoics think that virtues are really just a state of mind (Plutarch, 61B, C; Arius Didymus, 61D). No one can be moderate without being so just, courageous and prudent – even more: “He who acts according to one does so according to all” (Plutarch, 61F). When he who has a virtue, and therefore all virtues, fulfills a right function, he performs it in accordance with virtue or virtue (that is, with all virtues), and this transforms it into a right action or function.
The link between a perfect function and a virtuous function is here in the almost analytic Greek ethical theorization. Virtues are only those qualities that make something a good thing of its kind or allow it to perform its function well. Actions in accordance with virtue are therefore actions that are well executed. The Stoics conclude that the wise (and therefore virtuous) man does everything right within the framework of moral action (Arius Didymus, 61G). This makes it much less strange than it seems at first glance to say that virtue is sufficient for happiness. Since virtue is a kind of knowledge and there is no cognitive state between knowledge and ignorance, those who are not wise do just as badly. Strictly speaking, there is no moral progress for the Stoics (if that means progress in morality), and they give the charming illustration of drowning to clarify their point of view: a person at an arm`s length from the surface drowns as surely as one who has five hundred sons (Plutarch, 61T). Of course, as the analogy also suggests, it is possible to be closer or farther away from finally being able to perform appropriate functions in this perfected way. In this sense, progress is possible. We are finally able to understand and evaluate the Stoic view of emotions, as it is a consequence of their views on soul and goodness. It is perhaps more accurate to call it the stoic view of the passions, although it is a somewhat outdated term.
Passions or pathê are literally “things you go through” and must be contrasted with actions or things you do. Therefore, the view that one should be “apathetic” in its original Hellenistic sense is not the view that one should not care about anything, but rather the view that one should not be psychologically subject to anything – manipulated and driven by it, instead of actively and positively disposing of one`s reactions and reactions to things when they occur or are in perspective. It means a kind of complete self-sufficiency. The Stoics distinguish two main passions: appetite and fear. These arise in relation to what seems good or bad to us. They are associated with two other passions: pleasure and affliction. These result from whether or not to avoid the objects of the first two passions. What distinguishes these states of mind from normal impulses is that they are “excessive impulses disobeying reason” (Arius Didymus, 65A). Part of what this means is that the fear of dogs doesn`t go away with the rational realization that this 3-legged 16-year-old blind Yorkshire terrier poses no threat to you. But that`s not all.
The Stoics call a passion like distress a new opinion that something bad is present (Andronicus, 65B): you may have been excited when you first saw that you had won the race, but after a while, when the feeling of victory is no longer fresh, you can calm down. Remember that the opinion agrees with a false impression.