The 365 Commitment


This Greek philosopher in the 2nd Century names Hierocles wrote a book known as the Elements of Ethics. Certainly not the first to dive into what should constitute ethical boundaries for human society, he did make a pretty compelling argument for the basis of human ethics. This has become known as the stoic concept of oikeiosis. Loosely translated this term refers to the concept of individual ownership, or at least understanding of what belongs to self. You might have seen at one time, then circle diagram that describes, Hierocles’ theory. Effectively, there is an inner circle that is considered self: what makes up your own mind and body.
When children develop, this is a critical step in their development. You might have encountered a toddler who learns very quickly this concept and is very good at saying, “mine!” The concept of sharing is very difficult to get to, as this very powerful view of self is so critical for the defining of one’s own ego.
The diagram then starts to extend out in wider circles, with the next largest circle being that of family. That young toddler begins to get comfortable around the immediately familiarity of people they interact with everyday. Then comes other people, members of a social circle such as a neighborhood, church, or school. Then members of a larger group, such as citizens of the United States and then the World.
The important part to consider, is that self is central, or core to any extension outward. The idea of denying self for the benefit of others is just plain impossible, as the concept of oikeiosis would clearly indicate. Any ethics that teach the denial of self, or the sacrifice of the individual would be faulty because at the core of every human interaction is the preservation and safety of self. The point here is that it is perfectly ethical, and correct for one to be worried about themselves. In that consideration it is a natural progression that once they become confident with their own selves, or at least safe, then they begin to look outward.
I bring this up because in the pathway to self improvement, the temptation is to be self sacrificing to an extreme. Many people, and not just from the Christian ethic, develop this idea that the only way to be good is to sacrifice self for the benefit of others. This is simply just not accurate. Sure, learning to extend out to others is a very important development in one’s progression but you cannot destroy self and maintain and preserve oikeiosis.

Guy Reams

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