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Mains Practice Questions

  • Q. Examine the Stoic's models of ethics in terms of its suitability for modern civil servants? (150 words)

    21 May, 2020 GS Paper 4 Theoretical Questions


    • Briefly discuss the Stoics ethical models in Introduction.
    • In body mention the ethical notions and cardinal virtues of Stoic.
    • Inspect the suitability of the model properly in terms of their utility for modern-day civil servants.
    • Conclude the answer suitably.


    • Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy which teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions.
    • It does not seek to extinguish emotions completely but rather seeks to transform them by a resolute Asceticism, which enables a person to develop clear judgment, inner calm and freedom from suffering.


    Basic Tenets of Stoicism 

    • The philosophy of Stoicism is often divided into three parts:
      • Logic: a way to determine if your perceptions of the world are correct;
      • Physics (natural science): a structure to understand the natural world; and
      • Ethics: the study of how to live one's life.
    • The main ethical notions held by the Stoic philosophers.
      • Nature: Nature is rational.
      • Law of Reason: The universe is governed by the law of reason. Humans can't actually escape its inexorable force, but they can, uniquely, follow the law deliberately.
      • Virtue: A life led according to rational nature is virtuous.
      • Wisdom: Wisdom is the root virtue. From it springs the cardinal virtues: prudence, bravery, self-control, and justice.
      • Apatheia: Since passion(anger) is irrational, life should be waged as a battle against it. The intense feeling should be avoided.
      • Pleasure: Pleasure is neither good nor bad. It is only acceptable if it doesn't interfere with the quest for virtue.
      • Evil: Poverty, illness, and death are not evil.
      • Duty: Virtue should be sought, not for the sake of pleasure, but for duty.

    Utility for Civil Servants

    • The Stoics classified these different forms of virtue under four broad headings, the four cardinal virtues:
      • Wisdom or Prudence: Includes excellent deliberation, good judgment, perspective, good sense.
      • Justice or Fairness: Includes good-heartedness, benevolence, public service, fair dealing.
      • Courage or Fortitude: Includes bravery, perseverance, authenticity (honesty), confidence.
      • Self-Discipline or Temperance: Includes orderliness, self-control, forgiveness, humility.
    • The goal of Stoicism is freedom from anger through the pursuit of reason.
      • It teaches indifference and a "passive" reaction to external events and equanimity in the face of life's highs and lows.


    • Public service, unlike many other jobs, includes direct interaction with people to resolve their problems. Any deviation from the side of the public servant could have a multi-fold adverse effect.
      • So it becomes essential that he/she should have virtues like wisdom, self-control, fortitude & prudence.
      • It makes a civil servant clear, unbiased and self-disciplined and allows them to understand the things rationally.

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