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On Christianity vs Stoicism

Summary

Charles Taylor considers what a moral and fulfilling human life looks like.

Summary

Charles Taylor considers what a moral and fulfilling human life looks like.

Transcript

They’re different, Christianity and Stoicism. Stoicism is very much a Greek philosophical position where the concentration is on an idea of human nature, you know, like a – how shall I put it – morally charged notion of human nature, that is, we define human nature by the proper fulfilment of human nature. And that’s something which remains deeply embedded in the Western tradition through not just Stoics, through Aristotle and through Plato.

But in the Christian case it’s something radically different because it’s the idea of our relationship to the transcendent being. Being called, all this language of being called and so on, doesn’t really make any sense for the Greeks. It’s all enclosed in a notion of nature, as against the idea that we’re called out of our existing situation, to go beyond it. 

So that’s been a strain through the whole period, these two have very much been woven together, but that’s been a strain involved. And there always is this extra idea in Christianity that we’re called to something higher and fuller than simply the fulfilment of human nature as we know it. And that’s been … it’s played out in various points of opposition.