Moral Development According to the Stoics

See Cicero, On Final Ends 3.20-22
Excerpted in J. Annas, ed.,
Voices of Ancient Philosophy, Oxford, 2001

Contact: Dr. Jan Garrett

Last modified date: October 22, 2003

Start at Level One

What happens at that level
7 The sage will effectively and consistently act out of loyalty to this order
6 Loyalty shifts to that order or concordance
5 Learning and reason teaches that this order is the highest good (to be praised and sought on its own account)
4 Discovery of an order or concordance in the things one ought to do (i.e., in the appropriate actions)
3 Selection becomes continuous, stable, and in agreement with nature
2 Selection of preferred things (valuable things, natural principles) as a general practice (roughly in accordance with one's appropriate actions)
1 Selection of self-preservation

Note 1. On preferred things, a species of "intermediate" or "indifferent" things, see Values in Stoicism.

Note 2. Actions are appropriate actions (kathêkonta in Greek, officia in Latin) if they are such that a reasonable explanation or justification could be given of their performance. Only the sage performs truly "moral actions" (katorthômata in Greek). Moral actions are appropriate actions, but most appropriate actions are not truly "moral actions." (They are considered to fall within the classification of preferred things.)

Note 3. The levels are linked in the order of time. They are logically linked only in the sense that being in or passing through the later levels presupposes passing through the earlier ones. Thus, if one is now a sage, she must have at some time passed through all the earlier steps. Many people, however, remain stuck at the first two levels.