The Circles of Care: A Stoic Approach

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In the Stoic view, perception (aisthanesthai, antilēpsis), positive and negative non-indifference (oikeiōsis and allotriōsis) and care (epimeleia, syntērēsis) are not exactly the same. But this does not prevent them from being inseparably connected with each other, like different aspects of the same thing. As it turns out, they cannot take place independently from one another: (a) all perception is intrinsically non-indifference-related and care-related, (b) all positive and negative non-indifference is intrinsically perception-related and care-related, and (c) all care is intrinsically perception-related and non-indifference-related. Secondly, perception has nothing to do with a multiplicity of isolated fragments – with an ‘archipelago’ of unconnected ‘perceptual patches’ scattered across a ‘sea’ of non-perception. And pretty much the same holds true for positive viz. negative non-indifference and for care: there is no such thing as an ‘archipelago’ of isolated ‘enclaves’ of non-indifference – or, for that matter, of isolated ‘enclaves’ of care – scattered across a ‘sea’ of total indifference and carelessness. All three – perception, positive viz. negative non-indifference and care – work as an uninterrupted, unified, complete and coherent whole. In other words, all three have the structure of what might be termed a field: the field-of-perception-non-indifference-and-care. Thirdly, this field has the shape of what might be described as a centred multiplicity or a centred manifold: a series of concentric circles, as it were, revolving around a focal point and constituted in such a way that everything in them is intrinsically related to the focal point and defines itself in terms of its connection with it. Put another way, the field-of-perception-non-indifference-and-care has the structure of Hierocles’ well-known circles. The latter do not describe a particular phenomenon (the specific network of ‘intersubjective’ relationships): in the final analysis they highlight the structure of the whole field – i.e. at the same time (a) its invariable form and (b) the very form of its variability.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophy of Care
Subtitle of host publicationNew Approaches to Vulnerability, Otherness and Therapy
EditorsJoaquim Braga, Mário Santiago de Carvalho
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages40
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-75478-5
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-71240-2
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameAdvancing Global Bioethics
ISSN (Print)2212-652X
ISSN (Electronic)2212-6538


  • Care
  • Epimeleia
  • Hierocles’ circles
  • Oikeiōsis
  • Perception
  • Stoicism

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