The differences between apathy & stoicism

Written by arlen hershey
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The differences between apathy & stoicism
Apathetic individuals may not care about situations empathetic individuals would care about. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Apathy is related to the philosophy of Greek stoicism, but has evolved into more of a psychological term. Apatheia is the Greek word for stoicism, which was the intentional refusal of emotion. Both apathy and stoicism have benefits and detriments to a human's well-being, but the differences between the two are important. Stoicism is a specific philosophy, borne of a time in history. Apathy is a state of mind, and something that a person does not have immediate control over.

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Pros of Stoicism

The intention of stoicism is to avoid emitting emotion when no emotion need be emitted. For example, if a person is born with red hair, he should not see this as something to be either grieved or excited about, but should simply accept it as a life circumstance. When an individual stoically accepts things which are outside of his control, it leaves open the opportunities to care more about things which are within his control.

Cons of Stoicism

If taken to its extreme, the stoic philosophy can become retroactive. Stoicism would teach that it would be unwise to return an insult for another insult. The stoic always looks inward, analysing all situations according to his own opinions. But if a clash of opinion results in violence, the stoic may eventually lose his life entirely. Stoicism is accepting of all external circumstances, while only attempting to change or control internal and personal affairs. This could result in introversion and seclusion from the outside world.

Pros of Apathy

Negative connotations are usually associated with apathy; however, it is itself a natural function of all humans. When apathy occurs, it may be the appropriate response to a situation. For example, if one feels apathy towards a gazelle that was killed in the wild by a lion, it is a legitimate reaction. The wrong reaction would be to experience a intensified form of apathy that interjects a sense of emotion towards the gazelle, which causes interference within a natural occurrence.

Cons of Apathy

When a person ought to care about an ethical or moral problem, yet responds with apathy, this could be a negative reaction. When apathy is indifference toward something which causes unjust pain or suffering, psychological issues may be at hand. If someone is apathetic towards any personal violence, it may be an indicator to seek psychiatric treatment. Apathy may be a sign of depression, or other mental disabilities. If something otherwise simple results in an inability to function due to apathy, it is a detriment.

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