APATHY (ἀ, privative; and
πάθος, passion).—(1) The absence of passion; (2) a
voluntary control of feeling preventing its natural rise; (3) indifference to
the higher motives which should govern action; moral inertia—lack of energy
(Kant's Ethics, Abbot, 319).
According to the Stoics, apathy meant the extinction, or, at least, severe
restriction, of the passions by ascendancy of reason, according to the demands
of their austere rule of life. "Those demands, developed to their legitimate
consequences, require the unconditional extirpation of the whole sensuous
nature, an extirpation which was originally expressed by the much vaunted
apathy" (Zeller's Stoics, &c, transl., p. 273).
"By the perfect apathy which that philosophy (the Stoic)
prescribes to us, by endeavouring not merely to moderate but to eradicate, all
our private, partial, and selfish affections, by suffering us to feel for
whatever can befall ourselves, our friends, our country, not even the
sympathetic and reduced passions of the impartial spectator,—it endeavours to
render us altogether indifferent and unconcerned in the success or miscarriage
of everything which nature has prescribed to us as the proper business and
occupation of our lives" (Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, pt. VII. sec. 2).
This is, however, probably an exaggeration of the actual teaching of the Stoics
(see Zeller, Hist. of Greek Phil., Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics, Eng.
transl., p. 273; cf Ueberweg, Hist, of Phil., I. 198).
"In general, experience will show, that as the want of natural appetite to food
supposes and proceeds from some natural disease; so the apathy the Stoics talk
of, as much supposes or is accompanied with something amiss in the moral
character, in that which is the health of the mind " (Butler, Sermon V.)—
"In lazy apathy let Stoics boast,
Their virtue fix'd; 'tis fix'd as in a
Contracted all, retiring to the breast;
But strength of mind is exercise,