Christocentric Panthiesm? Aquinas And Epictetus: Discussions On The Nature Of God

1441 words - 6 pages

A true interpretation of ethics and morality can only be obtained through the understanding of God and divine providence. Without a correct view of God's nature, man would be helpless to understand his role and position in the order of creation. This theory would presuppose the existence of a supreme being or higher authority. This acceptance of a higher authority then mandates the establishment of moral standards. These standards are the basis for all ethical theory, which is a universal standard, effective for all people, excluding none. Once these standards have been given, it is now left under the individual responsibility of the will to define those laws.There are two primary schools of thought capable of defining moral standards in the context of divine authority. The first is a pantheistic view of ethics espoused by Epictetus, a stoic of the first century. To Epictetus, God was a rational principle immanent in the universe functioning as a vital force that creates and governs all things in the universe.*(44) But the stoic continues his explanation of God describing him as a cosmic intelligence which interacts with the universe from within this reality. Humanity, in this rationale, is considered to be part of that cosmic intelligence drawling moral insights from the combined rational of every sentient being.This ability to tap into the universal consciousness allows man to deduce a standard of morality that supports the basis for further exploration of the human experience, of which are three defining questions:1. What is the nature of man?2. How does one decide right and wrong?3. What is the chief good?However, the solution to these questions can only be entertained in the light of universal understanding, and in so doing they develop distinct truisms that pre-define how they may be answered.In the context of the first question, Epictetus asserts that man is in essence a small part of God and the universe. By developing their reason, they become linked with the greater mind, becoming celestial citizens, causing man to recognize his duty to other individuals.* (41) Although, the ultimate conclusion to this belief conforms to the tenant that all nature has an equal portion of God within them, it places man as equals to moss. The only distinguishing characteristic that separates men from moss is the ability for man to use reason in discerning what is right from wrong.The ability to distinguish right from wrong is ascertained from man's use of reason to interpret the moral standard which governs the cosmos. To correctly act on these obligations, man must think of himself as a spectator and interpreter of the divine will.* (18) This understanding creates an atmosphere were divine providence is the chief mover, where personal decisions are acted upon as to achieve a greater harmony with nature. As Epictetus reflects is his Discourses:'I must die - if instantly, I will die instantly; if in a short time I will dine first, and when the hour comes,...

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