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Thursday, May 5, 2005

Life according to Nature

Just a quick thought I had...

The Stoics believed that living ethically was living in accordance with Nature. Sometimes they used the word Logos, which means "reason". More specifically, they meant the reason by which the natural universe operates. They viewed this as a divine rationality that pervaded the way the entire universe worked, how its parts interacted, and so on.

In the east, the Taoists use the concept of "Li" which means "organic pattern". Here they refer to those complex structures in nature which one can't easily describe, but you know it when you see it. A seashell, a cloud formation, a galaxy, an organism. Understanding Li was part of enlightenment.

In modern times we have a new field of science called complexity. It studies "complex systems", which are systems that lie on the edge of order and chaos. These include stock markets, economies, ecologies, living organisms, flocks of birds, galaxies. In essence, Complex Systems theory studies Li and Logos.

Lastly, I have been reading, thinking, and writing, on the various secular reasons for living ethically for some time. Many of these reasons deal with how and why the various factors of our lives in the society we live in lead us to a fruitful and happy life when we live ethically. It occurred to me just today that, actually, each of our lives themselves are a "complex system" of interacting events. Our behavior plays a roll in the overall flow of those events, and that means that the Stoics and the Taoists were exactly right.

Living ethically is living in accordance with "Nature/Logos/Li/Complexity".


  1. So far as I know, at least if you are referring to Latin and the Latin-derivated languages, "Logos" does not mean "reason". Logos means "the WORD" of God. The written word. Literally, it means the written Word of God as in the Bible. Rahma (spelling may be incorrect - sounds like Ray-mah)means the SPOKEN Word of God as in "And God SAID (Rayma) let there be light". Logos is used in verses like "Thy Word (Logos - written word) is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path". (from Psalms).
    Just an FYI

  2. Actually the word Logos was used long before that, by Greek philosophers. In its original meaning, it meant a "universal divine reason immanent in nature". It is the basis of Stoic philosophy, but they use the term as meaning the "rational structure of the universe" - an impersonal thing comparred to concepts of God. Later, it began being used to refer to an "intelligence" and once the Christian came around (because they were influenced by Stoicism) they used the word to mean the mind/word of God. My post refers to the original Stoic concept, which is more like the Tao of eastern thought. See for more info (although there are many other sources concerning this info online too).

  3. Here, several months later, I should clarify something I said in the above comment. I said, "It is the basis of Stoic philosophy, but they use the term as meaning the "rational structure of the universe" - an impersonal thing comparred to concepts of God."

    Actually, Pre-stoic influence Heraclitus, and perhaps Stoic founder Zeno seemed to describe it as impersonal in my view, but later Stoic Epictetus had a more familiar god-like take on the Logos. There seem to be differing degrees of interpretation regarding how impersonal/personal the Logos is among Stoics (both ancient and modern).