What does it mean to live according to nature?
The Stoics, the Platonists, and the Epicureans agreed: we should live in agreement with nature. But what does that mean?
“Again, to live according to virtue is equivalent to living according to the experience of natural events, as Chrysippus says in the first book of his work On Goals. For our natures are parts of the nature of the universe. This is why the goal becomes to live according to nature, that is, according to our own nature and that of the universe.” (Diogenes Laërtius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, VII.88)
Chrysippus of Soli, the guy mentioned by Diogenes Laërtius in the quote above, was the third head of the Stoic school, and one of its most influential exponents. But other prominent Greco-Roman philosophers, including the Platonist Cicero and Epicurus, agreed with the general sentiment: we ought to live “in agreement with nature.”
Meaning what, exactly? There is a lot of confusion about this catchy phrase that is justly considered a crucial mantra for the Stoics. I’m going to try to clarify why the phrase does not mean at least three things that it is sometimes taken to mean, finally arriving at what I think is a good and useful sense in which it should be taken.
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