Jacques Maritain Center : A History of Western Philosophy Vol. I / by Ralph McInerny

Part III: The Hellenistic Period

Chapter II

The Stoics

Stoicism is a philosophical school which came to prominence during the Macedonian ascendancy and continued when the Roman Empire had extended its sway over Greece. The founder of the Stoic school was Zeno of Citium on Cyprus. He came to Athens about 320 B.C. and was first associated with the Cynic, Crates. It is thought that Zeno was born about the middle of the fourth century, so he came to Athens as a young man, somewhere between the ages of twenty and thirty, shortly after the death of Aristotle. After Crates, Zeno studied with Stilpo the Megarian. He is also said to have studied under Xenocrates, head of the Platonic Academy. Diogenes Laertius says that Zeno studied altogether some twenty years before beginning to give lectures at the stoa poikile, the place from which his school took its name. Some twenty written works are attributed to Zeno by Diogenes Laertius, but very little of Zeno's actual teaching has come down to us; indeed, with the early Stoics, we are in much the same position we are with the Presocratics, for we must rely mainly on what later writers say they said. This should be kept in mind in assessing expositions of Stoic doctrine, including the one to follow. Zeno's successor as leader of the Stoic school was Cleanthes, a native of Assos, who has a reputation for retaining but not advancing the doctrine of his master and of being of exceptionally admirable moral character. Of the other students of Zeno, mention must be made of Persaeus who was a countryman as well as a follower of the master. Zeno himself is said to have enjoyed a long life and to have brought it to an end himself.

The successor of Cleanthes as head of the school is often called the second founder of Stoicism; he is Chrysippus, born in 280 B.C. in Cilicia. He may have been a student under Zeno; he was certainly a student of Cleanthes. Chrysippus is said to have listened to Arcesilaus and other philosophers of the Academy, and from them to have learned a critical attitude which exerted an influence on his own thought. He had a reputation for having differed widely in doctrine from Zeno and Cleanthes and is said to have been a prolific writer, author of more works than Epicurus, but, once more, very little of his actual teaching has come down to us. Chrysippus died in 206 B.C. having, we are told, brought Stoicism to a form which it continued to retain. His successor was Diogenes of Seleucis who was followed by Antipater whose successor, Panaetius of Rhodes, introduced Stoicism to the Roman world. We will consider the Stoics of the Greek world, but say a word or two about the Romans as well.

While we know that the above mentioned men, as well as a number of others, were members of the Stoic school and that many of them wrote, it is nevertheless the case that our sources for Stoic doctrine are extremely limited and indirect. For this reason, it is necessary to speak of Stoicism rather than of this Stoic or that, and to attempt to set forth the common tenets of the school. Among these common tenets is the view that philosophy is knowledge of things human and divine. Moreover, the Stoics divided philosophy into parts. "They assert that philosophic argument has three parts. One part of it concerns physics, another ethics, and the third logic. This division was first made by Zeno of Citium in his work On Logic." (S. V. F. 45){42} This division was illustrated in a number of ways, according to the following testimony.

And they compare philosophy with an animal, representing logic as the bones and sinews, ethics as the flesh, and physics as the soul. Or again, with an egg. The outside is logic, next is ethics and the innermost part is physics. Or it is like an enclosed field. Its enclosing fence is logic, the fruit is ethics, and the earth and trees are physics. Or they compare philosophy with a walled city rationally governed. (38; Clark)

For some time it was the fashion to see the Stoics as primarily interested in the ethical, subordinating logic and physics to the roles they might play in the acquistion of virtue. On this view, the Stoics appear to reject the Platonic and Aristotelian doctrine that contemplation is the goal of philosophy and any contribution the Stoics may make should be sought in the ethical doctrine attributed to them. The obvious corrolary is that their logic and physics do not amount to much. Recently, with a new assessment of the logic of the Stoics and, more recently, of their physics, the supposed priority of the ethical in Stoicism becomes less acceptable. It must be said that the testimonies concerning the order in which one should learn the parts of the philosophy do not seem to bear out the view that everything was subordinated to the acquisition of moral virtue.

Chrysippus thought it was necessary for the young student first to attend lectures on logic, second on ethics, and then on physics, and similarly at last to take up theology. Since he very frequently made these assertions, it will suffice to add a quotation from the fourth book on Lives. 'First of all it seems to me, conformably to what was so correctly stated by the ancients, that there are three types of philosophic speculation, logic, ethics and physics. Next it is necessary to arrange them by putting logic first, ethics second, and physics third. Now the final division of physics is theology, therefore also they named the teaching of this subject the initiatory rites.'(42;Clark)

This passage indicates that there were subdivisions of the main parts of philosophy, and Diogenes Laertius (VII,41) tells us that Cleanthes spoke of six parts of philosophy, Dialectic, Rhetoric, Ethics, Politics, Physics and Theology. The order of learning the parts of philosophy was based on principle.

The Stoics teach that we should hegin with logic, continue with ethics, and place physics last. For first it is necessary to make the mind sure so that it will be an invincible guardian of the teachings. And dialectics serves to make the reason secure. Second we must subscribe to ethics to improve our character, for the study of ethics is without danger to one who has previously mastered logic. And finally we must proceed to physics, for it is more divine and requires more profound attention. (44;Clark)

It must be said that those who maintain that the Stoic philosophy was primarily directed to a practical end, the acquisition of moral virtue, are not insensitive to the difficulties presented to their position by such texts. Zeller observes that the relationship between ethics and physics is difficult to understand.

On the one hand, ethics appears to he the higher science, the crowning point of the system, the subject towards which the whole philosophical activity of the school was directed; for philosophy is practical knowledge and its object is to lead to virtue and happiness. On the other hand, virtue and the destiny of man consist in conformity to the laws of nature, which it is the province of science to investigate. Therefore, natural science has the higher object. It lays down the universal laws which in ethics are applied to man. To it, therefore, in the graduated scale of sciences, belongs the higher rank.{43}

Whatever the value of Zeller's opinion that the Stoics have always a practical end in view, the texts we have cited indicate the procedure we must follow. We shall examine the doctrine of the early Stoics under the three headings of logic, ethics and physics, in that order. In the course of our examination we shall encounter facts which will enable us to assess the views that a practical end is and is not the goal the Stoics have in mind in their philosophy.

A. Logic

With regard to the ultimate aims of their philosophy, there seems to have been some difference among the earliest Stoics themselves, a difference which emerges when the value of logic is discussed. Thus Aristo, who was a pupil of Zeno, holds that the sole business of man is to pursue virtue and that logic is justified to the extent that it furthers this end, having at best a therapeutic function. Unfortunately, in practise, logic does more harm than good. By the same token, he disparaged physics, holding with Socrates that it transcended the capacity of the human mind. (Zeller, pp. 59-61) Zeno, while he is concerned with the tricks of the dialectician and with sophisms generally, does not equate logic with its abuse. Indeed, he is said to have urged its study. "The business of a philosopher is what Zeno says: to know the elements of argument, what type each of them is, how they harmonize with each other, and what their implications are." (51;Clark) The importance the Stoics attached to logic is perhaps nowhere more evident than in their insistance, as against the Peripatetics, that logic was a true part of philosophy and not simply its instrument. Indeed, the Stoics came to be called Dialecticians and there is increasing concentration on logic during the headship of Chrysippus. This emphasis causes interpreters like Zeller some consternation. (p. 65)

Division of Logic. The Stoics divided logic into rhetoric and dialectic, but sometimes mention is made of a part which deals with definitions and a part which deals with the criterion of truth. This latter part is said to deal with the discovery of truth and to concern itself with the kinds of perceptions we have. It amounts to a theory of knowledge and was thought to have priority over the other parts of logic. Definition is concerned with the recognition of the truth, with apprehension by general notions. Rhetoric is the science of speaking well on matters set forth by plain narrative. Dialectic is the science of correctly discussing subjects by question and answer, or the science of statements, the true, the false, and those which are neither.

Criterion of Truth.

It pleased the Stoics to place first their theory of representation (phantasia) and sensation (aisthesis), because the criterion by which the truth about things is known, is generically a representation, and because the theory of assent and of comprehension and thought, the presupposition of everything else, cannot be formulated without involving representation. For representation comes first, then articulate thought puts into words what representation has conveyed. (52; Clark)

Theory of knowledge precedes any concern with the other parts of logic. Cicero has given us Zeno's graphic description of the degrees of knowledge. Extending his right hand, palm upwards, fingers extended, Zeno said, this is representation (phantasia); bending the fingers, he said, this is assent (sungkatathesis); making a fist, he said this is comprehension (katalepsis); smashing the fist into the palm of the other hand, he said, that is science. The representation is an impression made on the soul, and it is either comprehensive or noncomprehensive.

The comprehensive representation, which they assert is the criterion of things, is that which is produced by a real object, resembles the object itself, and is sealed and stamped on the soul. The non-comprehensive representation either does not come from a real object, or if it does, it does not resemble the object. It is not well formed and distinct. (53; Clark)

As Sextus objects, the Stoics say that the comprehensive representation is that produced by a real object and a real object is one grasped by a comprehensive representation. Sensation is always true; representation is sometimes true, sometimes false. The following passage, reminiscent of Aristotle, indicates how the Stoics viewed the genesis of knowledge.

The Stoics say: When a man is born, the ruling part of the soul is like a sheet of paper suitable for writing. On this he writes off each single thought. -- That which comes through the senses is the first thing written down. For those who perceive something, like white, have a memory which comes from it. And when many similar memories have arisen, then we say people have experience, for experience is the manifold of similar representations. -- But of thoughts, some arise naturally in the aforementioned ways without technical skill, while others come by our teaching and conscious effort. These latter are called thoughts only (ennoia) but the others are also termed preconceptions. -- Now reason, because of which we are called rational, is said to have received all its preconceptions by the time a child is seven years old. And a notion (ennoema) is an image of the mind of a rational living being, for when the image strikes a rational soul, then it is called a notion, taking its name from the mind. -- Therefore all those which strike irrational animals are images only, but those which we or the gods have are both images, generically, and notions, specifically. (83; Clark)

If the images of animals and thoughts of men differ only thanks to their subjects, it is equally clear that knowledge is viewed as a passive reception on the part of the knower of images thrown off by things. Truth and falsity consist in an assent with respect to representations, and the comprehensive representation is one whose falsity is unthinkable; it simply has built into it its own justification. The Stoic theory of knowledge is complicated by the admission of incorporeal entities, things which do not produce images in us, but of which we have representations. Such incorporeals are void, place and time, but most important of all the lekton, which is the concern of dialectics.

Categories. Our sources do not indicate to us where the Stoic doctine of categories was situated in logic; the reports on which we rely most heavily for Stoic logic, have little to say about the categories. The Stoics speak of four categories and also of a highest notion, that of being or of the indefinite something. Being or something is called a highest genus, a designation which perhaps would separate it from Aristotle's doctrine of the way being is common to the various categories. Moreover, also in opposition to Aristotle, for whom categories are mutually exclusive, the Stoics maintained that the categories telescope, so that the first is contained or more accurately determined in the second and so on. We have no information as to how this was actually exemplified. The four categories are substrate or subject, quality, state and relation. The substrate seems to be matter with quality giving it identifiability and distinctness. We have here something like the Aristotelian matter and form spoken of as different categories. The two remaining categories, according to Zeller (p. 107), can be taken to cover whatever is taken to be non-essential, state referring to it as taken by itself, relation in its reference to other things. It is generally felt that this doctrine of categories is a physical and not a logical doctrine;{44} this being so, we shall let this skeletal statement suffice for now.

Dialectic is said to be concerned with signs and with things signified; thus, a first part of dialectic dealt with language, the notion of articulate sound, the letters of the alphabet, syntax, parts of speech. The lekton is the thing signified and is the principal subject of dialectic. To grasp what the Stoics meant by lekton, we must recall the triadic explanation of meaning we have already encountered in Aristotle. There is the sign, the spoken or written word which consists of articulated sound or ink arranged in a certain fashion. It stands for another corporeal thing but not directly; the external, corporeal thing for which the word stands is not the meaning of the word, but its reference or denotation. The meaning or sense of language is what we understand when we hear another speak a language we know; it is not as such the image in his mind. This meaning or lekton is incorporeal and that with which dialectic is concerned. The lekton is said to be that whose content corresponds to some rational presentation.

We have then three things: the sign or sound; what is signified, the meaning or lekton; and that to which the sign refers via the lekton, namely the external object. The lekton is divided into complete and incomplete lekta, the incomplete being the elements of a proposition, the subject alone or the predicate alone. The complete lekton is a proposition, a judgment (axioma) which is either true or false. Complete lekta are simple and non-simple. Diocles, quoted by Diogenes Laertius, gives the following division of simple complete lekta. Negation (e.g. "It is not day"); denial (e.g., No one is walking"); privation (e.g., "This man is unkind"); affirmation (e.g., "Dion is walking); definite (e.g., "This man is walking"); indefinite (e.g., "Some one is walking"). Examples of non-simple or complex lekta are the following, hypothetical (e.g., "If it is day, it is light"); inferential (e.g., "Since it is day, it is light"); compound (e.g., "It is day and it is light"); disjunctive (e.g., "Either it is day or it is night"); causal (e.g., "Because it is day, it is light"); more and less (e.g., "It is rather day than night"). The Stoics also divided propositions into possible and impossible, necessary and non-necessary, with each of these adjectives referring to truth and falsity.

Argument. An argument consists of premisses and conclusion, as for example, "If it is day, it is light; but it is day. Therefore it is light." This would be called a full argument. A mood (tropos) is an outline of an argument; e.g. "If the first, then the second; but the first, therefore the second." Sometimes, for sake of brevity, a combination (logotropos) is used; e.g. "If Plato is alive, he breathes; but the first, therefore the second." Arguments were divided into the inconclusive and conclusive. An inconclusive argument is one the contradictory of those whose conclusion is compatible with the premisses. Conclusive arguments are either non-syllogistic or syllogistic. An example of a non-syllogistic argument is: "'It is both night and day' is false; now it is day, therefore it is not night." Or, "If Dion is a horse, he is an animal; but Dion is not a horse, therefore he is not an animal." These arguments seem to be called non-syllogistic because their major premiss is not true. The syllogistic argument is best exemplified by the five types of immediate inference.

Diocles' account states that Chrysippus taught five kinds of indemonstrable or immediate arguments. In the text these are given as arguments or as moods or with alphabetical symbols. (1) "If the first, then the second; but the first, therefore the second." This argument consists of two premisses, a conditional proposition and its protasis, from which the apodosis follows. (2) "If it is day, then it is light; but it is night, therefore it is not day." Here the premisses are a hypothetical proposition and the contradictory of the apodosis, from which the contradictory of the protasis follows. The mood of this argument would be: If the first, then the second; but not the second, therefore not the first. (3) "It is not the case that Plato is both dead and alive; but he is dead, therefore he is not alive." Here the premisses are a conjunction of a negative proposition and one of the conjoined propositions, from which the contradictory of the other follows. (4) "Either A or B, but A, therefore not B." The premisses here are a disjunctive proposition and one of the alternatives from which the contradictory of the other alternative follows. (5) "Either it is day or it is night; but it is not night, therefore it is day." The premisses here are a disjunctive proposition and the contradictory of one of the alternatives from which the other alternative follows.

The foregoing gives something of the flavor of Stoic logic as it has come down to us by hearsay, with most of our informants unsympathetic to what they are reporting. We know that there was a goodly amount of disagreement among the Stoics on points which we have had to attribute to them as a group; moreover, the Stoics were in fairly lively debate with members of other schools on logical questions. In recent times, judgments about the value of Stoic logic have swung from one extreme to the other, with Zeller and Prantl dismissing it almost venomously as trivial and decadent and with historians like Bochenski and Mates{45} feeling that the Stoics have reached a level of logic which can best be appreciated from the vantage point of contemporary formal logic. The late commentators on Aristotle were quite severe with Stoic logic, although the traditional logic came to incorporate a treatise on the "hypothetical syllogism" which owes something to the Stoics. The trend of recent evaluation of Stoic logic makes any assessment of the argument depend on the large and vexed question of the relationship of contemporary formal or symbolic or mathematical logic to ancient logical works, particularly those of Aristotle. In this connection, the views of Virieux-Reymond are not without interest. She accepts the judgment that the logic of the Stoics is nominalistic.

Of essentially nominalistic inspiration, it is quite differently oriented than is Aristotelian logic. There are no genera and species in nature for nominalism . . . there are in fact only individual facts under the form of things, beings and properties. Only propositions having a singular subject can correspond to these individual facts. (p.150){46}

On this view, the theory of the proposition becomes the study of the links and connectives between singular propositions.

From the moment that there are no longer universal propositions, reasoning bears exclusively on individuals and groups of qualities connected by certain laws. The problem of the modes and figures of the syllogism disappears. The only task incumbent on us is to reduce all the types of conditional syllogisms to the least number possible (namely five) of elementary forms, which indicate the connection of consequent to antecedent, these latter being indicated by ciphers to show clearly that 'it is question, not of a relation of concepts, but of an order of succession' between concrete events. (pp.15O-1)

She summarizes the differences between Aristotelian and Stoic logic thus. (1) The principle of dictum de omni et de nullo is inoperative, since universal propositions are suppressed. (2) The connection of subject and attribute is no longer a relation of inherence or inclusion but of concomitance or sequence. (3) With constant sucession replacing inference, the idea of law replaces that of essence. (4) The Aristotelian teaching that there is science only of the general is replaced by the teaching that there is science only of the necessary. That is, Stoic logic is the expression of a particular view of knowledge and of reality, one in conflict with the Aristotelian. But of course for the Aristotelian there are singular propositions and even if he should incorporate the Stoic indemonstrables, he will tend to make remarks about them that the Stoic would find unacceptable.

No one is satisfied with the information we have of Stoic logic and every attempt at assessment must be qualified with an indication that it is founded on an arguable construct of what is largely lost to us. To praise or blame the Stoics for their logic is always a risky business.

B. Physics

The physics of the Stoics proceeds in terms of a doctrine of two principles of all things.

They believe that there are two principles in the universe, the agent and the patient. The patient is unqualified reality, viz, matter, and the agent is the reason inherent in the matter, viz. God. For he is eternal and, present throughout matter, is the artificer of each thing. (300;Clark)

Zeller takes the Stoics to be accepting the notion of reality Plato sets down in the Sophist, namely that being is that which acts or is acted upon. The two basic principles of the universe, then, are the passive matter and the active God. God is not looked upon by the Stoic as something extrinsic to the universe; he is, in one sense of the term, an element of it, the world soul. If man is a compound of body and soul, what is compounded is not the corporeal and the incorporeal, but rather two corporeal things, since soul too is a kind of body, a body which pervades what we usually mean by body, although there is a governing part of the soul, located in the chest or head. So too God pervades the universe, one corporeal thing pervading another, although individual Stoics would locate God in different places, in the heavens, in the center of the earth, etc. If Stoicism is a materialism it is also a pantheism.

At the very beginning of the discussion, in their assertion of two principles of all things, matter and God, of which one is the maker and one the patient, we might reasonably accuse them of saying that God is mixed with matter, extending through all of it, arranging, forming, and making the cosmos in this way. For if God is a body, as they say, being an intelligible and eternal spirit, and if matter is a body, then, in the first place there will be a body extending through a body, and second, this spirit will be either some one of the four simple bodies, which they also call elements, or a compound of them, as even they somewhere state -- for they conceive spirit to derive its reality from air and fire -- or, if it should be anything else, their divine body will be some fifth reality, asserted without demonstration or defense by those who object to a person who asserts this by proper proofs, on the basis that he is asserting a paradox. (310;Clark)

Sambursky (pp. 18-19) has pointed out the relation of the Stoic categories to this physical doctrine. Matter, the passive principle, is the category of substrate or subject; the pervading Pneuma or spirit gives matter all its qualities and is then the second category. The third category is the specific quality of the body resulting from the proportion of the two principles. The fourth category is the state with reference to an opposite term of change.

Whatever our views on the conscious relationship between the Stoics and the Presocratics, the Stoic Physics seems to bring back the ancient notion of the divine as that which runs like a continuum through the cosmos, which grows and its growth is the history of the cosmos. If the divine is not substrate, it is nonetheless corporeal. Zeller feels that matter and force are simply different aspects of the divine for the Stoics. The justification of this interpretation is to be found in the Stoic cosmogony.

In the beginning there is fire which turns into vapor and thence into moisture. Some of the moisture condenses to earth, some remains as water, some by evaporation becomes air from which fire is enkindled. This is taken to describe the separation of the active and passive, the soul and body of the world, with air and fire being active, water and earth being passive. The present state of the cosmos will terminate in a general conflagration, something the Stoics are thought to have borrowed from Heraclitus, the result of which is that pure fire, the primary being is once again alone and the process can begin again. The inexorability of this process seems to have led to the Stoic notion of Fate or Destiny, which is at once a name of God or the primary being and the law governing the cosmos. Indeed, "nature," "God" and "fate" all name the same thing. One argument for fate or destiny has especial interest, because of its logical overtones.

The argument is attributed to Chrysippus and Cicero records it as follows.

Chrysippus concludes as follows: If there is a motion without a cause not every proposition, which the dialecticians call axioma, is either true or false; for whatever does not have efficient causes is neither true or false. However, every propostion is either true or false. Therefore, there is no motion without a cause. And if this is so, everything that happens, happens by antecedent causes. And if this is so, everything happens by fate. Therefore, whatever happens, happens by fate . . . (952;Glark)

Everything happens by necessity because every proposition must be either true or false and some propositions refer to the future, e.g., "Socrates shall die on such and such a day." Aristotle discussed this matter in On Interpretation and distinguished among propositions about the future those we can call future contingents. These as simple proppositions (e.g., "It will rain on this date two years from now.") are neither true nor false, but a disjunction can be formed which is true (e.g., "Either it will rain on this date two years from now or it won't." -- where the negative covers the possibility that the world will be destroyed in the meantime). The Stoic view seems based on an absolute determinism, something Aristotle rejects. It is a nice question how Stoic fatalism is compatible with the view of possible propositions. Plutarch points out this difficulty.

How could there be no contradiction between the doctrine of the possible and the doctrine of fate? If indeed the possible is not that which either is true or will be true, as Diodorus postulates, but everything is possible that admits of coming true though it may never come about, then there will be many things possible among those which will not happen in accordance with unconquerable, unassailable and victorious Fate. Either the power of Fate will dwindle or, if Fate is as Chrysippus supposes it to be, that which admits of happening will often become impossible. For all that is true will necessarily be, being compelled by supreme necessity, but all that is false will be impossible, the strongest cause preventing it from becoming true. (De stoic. repugn., 1055d-e; tr. Sambursky)

As Sambursky points out, the Stoics reconciled Fate and possible propositions, not by making the course of events less determined, but by referring possiblity to the imperfection of our knowledge. Things seem possible as opposed to necessary because of our ignorance of a determined world.

Monistic, materialistic, deterministic -- these adjectives best describe the cosmology of the Stoics. Other salient features are the acceptance of the supposedly Heraclitean notion of the divine fire and the notion of ecpyrosis, the destruction of the cosmos by a general conflagration which returns all things to fire from which the process begins again.

C. Ethics

Before turning to the Stoic doctrines on human conduct, its goal and the means to achieve the goal, we must take notice of their teaching on the nature of man. The world soul was spoken of on an analogy with the human soul and the latter as well as the former is considered to be material by the Stoics. The materiality of the soul is proved by remarking that it is affected by bodies, and that it is three-dimensional, extending through the obviously dimensional body. The soul is spoken of as fire or as breath diffused throughout the body so as to form with it one thing. The Stoics speak of seven parts of the soul, the five senses, the power of reproduction and the power of speech. Speech and reasoning are almost equated and the reasoning part of the soul is the ruling part with the others reduced to it as to their origin. Personal identity is located in the ruling part of the soul. This is not to say that the Stoics taught personal immortality. Finally all souls will be consumed in the fiery destruction of the cosmos, though some Stoics thought some souls would continue after death until this conflagration. In other words, the human soul is a part of a determined universe, a view which would seem to preclude any ethical theory. Nevertheless, the Stoics had a moral philosphy and, indeed, it was to be the most influential part of their doctrine.

How can there be freedom and responsibility in a world from whose determined course the soul is not excepted? Doubtless, we must recall the manner in which the Stoic could retain the notion of chance by an appeal to ignorance. More important is the Stoic view that the individual must see resignation to the law of the universe as the great goal and this resignation is seen as one to a higher reason than man's. This ideal is expressed in Cleanthes' hymn to Zeus and it is one to which we must return as to the culmination of any presentation of the Stoic ethics.

Harmony with nature. The goal of conduct is happiness and this is achieved in rational activity or virtue. Every creature has a natural impulse to act in accordance with its nature, and happiness will be sought in that which is conformable to nature. This remark has a meaningful ambiguity in Stoic doctrine, since "nature" may be taken to refer to man's nature or to the cosmos; both are intended. Every creature must willy-nilly be in accord with the law of the cosmos; a rational creature has a natural impulse to become conscious of this law and to live in recognition of it. Virtue will consist in action in conformity with the recognized course of the world. Only virtue is a good for the Stoics; only vice is evil. They will not allow that riches and honor or pleasure are goods, though of a lesser order, than the good of reason. Best not to call them goods at all, but rather indifferent to the distinction of good and evil. Stoic happiness becomes, accordingly, a rather austere affair; it can consist only in the good of reason, the rational good and nothing else can increase or diminish happiness. The only pleasure that can be considered a good is that which is the concomitant of righteousness, the inner peace of the virtuous man. This ought not to be made into the object of action, however; some Stoics toyed with the idea that every pleasure was contrary to nature. If pleasure cannot be constitutive of happiness, pain cannot be destructive of it. The Stoic ideal is to rise above the gifts and blows of fortune and to place happiness where it is unassailable, the rectification of reason, bringing it into conscious conformity with the course of the world. The conformity was a conformity with law, with the law of nature and consequently the divine law; human law is at best an attempt to give expression to this law. Obedience to human law thus gains a foundation in the divine and the guidance of law is an expression of our natural call to a life of morality and virtue.

We have remarked that the Stoic ideal of virtue is an austere one. It seems to give little heed to the emotions and passions. The Stoics, however, were not silent on these matters. Emotions and passions are movements contrary to nature; they result from the rational part of the soul, indeed, but from its abuse, for they follow from precipitous judgments. Emotion, then, is not looked upon as something which may sway judgment wrongly, but as a consequent of wrong judgment. This puts the emotions in our power and makes virtue apathy, a state of being free from all emotions. In short, virtue is simply a matter of knowledge, vice of ignorance, and the Stoics had no hesitation in saying the virtue could be taught and learned. The knowledge involved is, of course, ordered to action and cannot be taken as an end in itself.

To complete this picture of the ethical idea, the Stoics drew a hard and fast line between the virtuous and vicious and place the vast majority of men in the latter class. A man was either wholly good or wholly bad, there being such a connection between the virtues that to possess one is to possess them all and to lack one is to lack them all.

Qualifications of the Ideal. The foregoing may be seen, as Zeller would have it, as the general doctrine of morality with subsequent modifications and qualifications as the special theory; or, as Hicks would have it,{47} the Stoics first set up a moral ideal, impossible of realization, and then went on to talk of action in terms of a striving for this ideal. In either case, we find qualifications of the doctrine just sketched, a bringing of it into line with the possible. Thus, while only the good of reason is said to be a good, the Stoics came to recognize that other than rational impulses are also part of our nature and thus intended. The objects of such impulses are then described as analogous to true goods and a scale among them spoken of. This tends to diminish the scope of objects indifferent to the dichotomy of good and evil. Now things which are conducive to virtue or tend to distract one from its pursuit are made objects of pursuit or avoidance and things of little relation to virtue or vice or none at all are called indifferent. The Stoics continue to insist on the difference between what is truly good and what is good only because it is conducive to the true good. By the same token, the Stoics come to recognize a role for the emotions or passions. While the ideal would seem to call for a complete eradication of emotions, the Stoics come to speak of the affections of the wise man and, indeed, it is difficult to read the hymn of Cleanthes without experiencing the deep-seated emotion which suffuses his statement of the need to be subject to the will of God, to the law of nature. Moreover, while the ideal permits of no intermediate stage between good and evil, the Stoics speak of a progress towards the good, the acquisition of virtue, of imperfection and perfect possession of virtue. They were led to this because of the difficulty of citing any concrete example of the virtuous man. Would Socrates be such? No, he was only tending in the right direction. Now this implies that Socrates, not being wholly good, was not wholly evil either and there is, consequently, an intermediate stage, perhaps the best any of us can make of our lives.

There is little point in emphasizing the contradictions which can be pointed up between the theory and its qualifications. Rather let us underline what was influential in Stoicism and gave it, in the days of the Roman empire, an undisputed primacy among the philosophical schools inherited from the Greeks. The Stoic made it incumbent on every man, as a law of nature, to seek after virtue, to bring himself into conformity with the will of God which is equated with the course of the cosmos. It is this rational consciousness of and assent to the law of fate that is the peculiar demand of Stoicism. Its equivocal attitude towards the goods of this world does not obscure the fact that it created a general climate in which the good of man was identified with the rational direction of his life, a life which was not to be the plaything of the emotions or passions, but whose affective side consists of the peace which follows on the ordering of one's life in conformity with the law of nature. The generality of this demand made the individual's pursuit of virtue the pursuit of the common ideal, a matter of social consequence. Moreover, it lifted the moral ideal to a cosmopolitan level and the Stoic looked upon himself as a citizen of the world.

A seemingly paradoxical feature of Stoicism is found in its attitude towards suicide. We have already seen that legend has it that the founders of Stocism ended their own lives. This is regarded, not as an escape, but as an expression of a man's triumph over circumstances, his indifference to pleasure. To die for one's country, to avoid being forced to do something unlawful, to avoid poverty, illness or the weakening of the mind -- all these are cited as reasons for suicide. Now we notice that these are things, which, from the standpoint of the Stoic ideal, would seem to be matters of indifference. Zeller would resolve the paradox by saying that life and death are equally indifferent to the Stoic and that in themselves they cannot constitute an act as moral or immoral. How the acceptance of suicide conforms with the Stoic goal of resignation to the course of events is a problem apparently incapable of solution.

We must also notice the way in which the Stoic explained the existence of evil. For the Stoic, the world is governed by reason, and we should therefore expect that everything happens for the best. And yet there is evil rampant in the world, both physical and moral evil. Physical evil, pain and suffering, would present little difficulty for the Stoic since these are not truly evils, but moral evil is something else again. Moral evil is real evil and, by the Stoic account, there is much more of it in the world than moral good. Why does God permit it? Is he perhaps impotent to prevent it? The Stoic explanation was one which would have a long history. God's ways are not our ways. If the world is governed by reason it is a reason a good deal more perfect than ours and if evil is permitted it is for the sake of the good. Virtue is acquired by resisting vice, and if vice did not exist, how would we know how to act? Thus, moral evil plays a role with reference to moral good and finds its justification in this. This enables us to return to something we posed as a problem at the outset of this presentation of a sketch of the ethics of the Stoics. If ours is a deterministic universe and men are but parts of the universe, how can one man be virtuous and another vicious? There seems to be no room for responsibility and freedom if all men are fated to act as they do. Now the Stoics quite clearly want to make a man responsible for his actions and to retain a qualitative difference between good actions and bad. This difference is had by speaking of a conscious direction of actions in accord with the law of nature. As in the case of moral evil, the Stoic will have it that every element of the whole is governed by the law of the whole, that evil may be conducive to the good of the whole although it is not thereby the good of the individual guilty of it. There is, then, a responsiblity to be resigned to the law of nature, freely and consciously. Whatever we may think of this as a solution, it seems to have been considered one by the Stoics.

D. The Roman Stoics

We cannot close this chapter on the Stoics without mention of the Latin authors who subscribed to Stoicism and were the instruments for giving its ethical doctrine the influence it was to have.

The first of these is L. Annaeus Seneca, born about 4 B.C. not in Rome but in Cordoba, Spain, died by his own hand at the command of the Emperor Nero in 65 A.D. He was brought to Rome in his infancy, became a successful and affluent lawyer and amateur philosopher, in the etymological and redundant application of the adjective. A disturbing fact about Seneca is that his own life does not seem to have been guided by the precepts he expressed so eloquently in his philosophical essays and letters. He has been called the favorite pagan of the Latin church, something resulting from the belief that he had carried on a correspondence with St. Paul. Seneca was the author of a number of tragedies, based on Greek themes, e.g. Hercules Mad, Trojan Women, Medea, Oedipus, etc. Among his more philosophical works is a collection of Dialogues which includes treatments of the happy life, tranquillity, leisure, providence and so forth. There are one hundred twenty-four Letters to Lucilius, seven books of Natural Questions. Seneca is not generally regarded as contributing to Stoicism but as disseminating it in an extremely polished style.

Epictetus (c. 50-138 A.D.) perhaps a native of Phyrigia was in his youth a slave in Rome. Granted his freedom he remained in Rome, leaving in 90 A.D. when the Emperor Domitian expelled philosophers from the city. Epictetus repaired to Nicopolis in Epirus, where he taught until his death. His teachings are preserved for us in the writings of his pupil, Arian, the Discourses and the Enchiridion. As was Seneca, Epictetus is concerned almost exclusively with ethical matters.

Marcus Aurelius, Emperor from 161 to 180 A.D., is author of the Meditations, which he wrote in Greek. The fact that a lawyer successful in the maze of imperial politics, a freed slave and an Emperor were all three exponents of Stoicism gives some indication of the scope of its appeal. With Marcus Aurelius there is a slight indication that the radical materialism of earlier Stoicism is being left behind. The Emperor distinguishes in man a body, soul and mind, with the latter in some sense transcending matter. It is mind or nous which is the spark of divinity (as Epictetus had said) in every man. Nevertheless, this nous will be consummated in the conflagration which ends the cosmos.

{42} Quoted from Gordon H. Clark, Selections from Hellenistic Philosophy, (New York: F. S. Crofts, 1940).

{43} E. Zeller, The Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics, (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1892), p. 67.

{44} See S. Sambursky, Physics of the Stoics (London: L. Routledge, 1959), pp. 17-18.

{45} I. Bochenski, Formal Logic (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1960; B. Mates, Stoic Logic (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953).

{46} A. Virleux-Reymond, La Logique et l'epistemologie des Stoiciens, Lausanne: Librairie de l'Université, 1949, p. 150.

{47} R. D. Hicks, Stoic and Epicurean (New York: Russell, 1961)

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