Zeno and the Stoics

Thinking Again about Socrates

Steps of the Poikile Stoa
Steps of the Ποικίλη Στοά , located at the north-west corner of the Agora, the central square in Athens. The foundation of the Hellenistic Gate (which allowed access to the Agora from the north) is in the foreground.

Early Stoicism:

Zeno of Citium, late 4th to middle 3rd century BCE. Founded the school in about 300 BCE.

Cleanthes, late 4th to late 3rd century BCE. He succeeded Zeno as head of the school.

Chrysippus, early 3rd to late 3rd century BCE. He was the third and most influential head of the Stoic school.

Middle Stoicism:

Panaetius of Rhodes, late 2nd to early 2nd century BCE. He succeeded Antipater of Tarsus in about 129 BCE to become the seventh head of the Stoic school in Athens.

Posidonius of Apameia, early 2nd to middle 1st century BCE. He was polymath whose writings have survived only in fragments.

Late Stoicism:

Seneca, late 1st century BCE to middle 1st century CE.

Epictetus, middle 1st to late 2nd century CE.

Marcus Aurelius, 121-180 CE. Roman Emperor from 161-180 CE.
The Stoics take their name from their initial meeting place in the Ποικίλη Στοά. A στοά; is a roofed colonnade. The Ποικίλη Στοά derived its name from its murals.

The Stoics were prolific writers, especially Chyrsippus, but their writings have been almost completely lost.

This process of looking back for inspiration to the classical philosophy of Plato and Aristotle seems to begin with Panaetius, who was a great admirer of Plato.
The reasons for this loss are many, but perhaps the primary one is that Stoicism itself became less popular and by the middle of the third century CE no longer attracted practitioners. Without the school, the books went out of circulation.

The Soul in the Adult is Reason

The early Stoics tried to correct what they saw as mistakes in the classical tradition of Plato and Aristotle. Plato and Aristotle thought Socrates was wrong about the soul and that it has a part with reason and a part without reason. The Stoics thought this was a mistake. They thought that a human being begins life with a soul without reason but that this soul is transformed when a human being becomes an adult. Reason is not added to the soul, as it is in Aristotle for example. In the adult, according to the Stoics, all motivation is in terms of reason.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106 - 43 BCE.

After Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE, Cicero tried but was unsuccessful in opposing Antony. Cicero himself was murdered not long after, but in the last years of his life, he turned to writing philosophy. The dictatorship of Caesar had forced him out of public life, and his personal life was also in disarray. (In 46 BCE, he divorced his wife (with whom he had a marriage of convenience) and married a younger woman. This marriage ended in less than a year, in part because of his grief over the death in childbirth of his daughter from his first marriage.) Cicero decided that since he was unable to serve the public through politics, he would serve through education by setting out Greek philosophy in his native Latin. His writing is a primary source for much of the thought of the Hellenistic philosophers.
"Whereas the ancients claimed the passions (perturbationes) are natural and have nothing to do with reason, and whereas they located desire in one part of the soul, and reason in another, Zeno would not agree with that. He thought that these commotions were equally voluntary and arose from a judgment which was a matter of mere opinion..." (Cicero, Academica I.39).

The Stoic Theory of Impressions

The Stoics developed their theory of “impressions” (φαντασίαι) to clarify what they understood as the Socratic idea that motivation has its basis in reason because it stems from beliefs (knowledge or opinion) about what is good and what is bad.

Impressions are representations. "An impression (φαντασίαν) is an imprint on the soul" (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers VII.45) that represents the world as being a certain way. In adults, the contents of impressions are propositions. So, for example, when someone says "I have the impression that the color of this webpage is white," he has an impression whose content is the proposition "The color of this webpage is white."

Impressions are not restricted to the sensory impressions. In adults, they arise in thinking too.

In adults, because they have reason, impressions are articulated in terms of concepts. The adult sees and thinks of things as things, a shade of white as a shade of white, a human being as a human being. Animals and children lack reason. Their impressions are representations, but they are not articulated in terms of concepts. They represent in terms of images.

Given an impression, the adult can "assent" (συγκατάθεσις) or not assent to it. Assenting to an impression results in belief or knowledge in the propositional content of the impression.

Two kinds of impressions play a special role in how human beings represent the world and act in terms of this representation. They are "impulsive" and "cognitive" impressions.

"[Diocles says that the] Stoics agree to put in the forefront the doctrine of impression and sensation, inasmuch as the standard (κριτήριον) by which the truth of things is tested is generically an impression, and again the theory of assent and that of cognition (καταλήψεως) and thought, which precedes all the rest, cannot be stated apart from impression" (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers VII.49).

Diocles of Magnesia wrote a work entitled Survey of the Philosophers (Ἐπιδρομὴ τῶν φιλοσόφων) that Diogenes Laertius excerpts. Apart from these excerpts nothing is known about him or his work.

"Another division of impressions (φαντασιῶν) is into rational (λογικαί) and irrational (ἄλογοι), the former being those of rational creatures, the latter those of the irrational. Those which are rational are processes of thought (νοήσεις), while those which are irrational have no name." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers VII.51).

"An animal's first impulse, say the Stoics, is to self-preservation, because nature from the outset endears it to itself.... [T]hat pleasure is the object to which the first impulse of animals is directed, it is shown by the Stoics to be false. For pleasure, if it is really felt, they declare to be a by-product, which never comes until nature by itself has sought and found the means suitable to the animal's existence; it is an aftermath comparable to the condition of animals thriving and plants in full bloom. And nature, they say, regulates the life of plants too, in their case without impulse and sensation, just as also certain processes go on of a vegetative kind in us. But when in animals impulse has been superadded, whereby they are enabled to go in quest of their proper sustenance, for them, say the Stoics, the rule of nature is to follow the direction of impulse. But when reason by way of a more perfect leadership has been bestowed on the beings we call rational, for them life according to reason (λόγον) rightly becomes the life according to nature. For reason intervenes as the craftsman of impulse" (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers VII.85).

Some Impressions are Impulsive

The Stoics understand motivation in terms of what they call "impulsive impressions" (φαντασίαι ὁρμητικαί). These impressions function differently in adults and in animals and children. Adults have reason. Animals and children lack reason.

Impulsive Impressions in Children and Animals

To understand implusive impressions in animals and children, consider a model in which maintenance and achievement goals explain behavior. A maintenance goal encodes a relationship with the world an agent tries to maintain through its behavior. When the relationship fails, the maintenance goal tends to give rise to an achievement goal. The achievement goal, in turn, tends to cause the agent to engage in behavior that reinstates the relationship. When animals are hungry, for example, they tend to move to find food and eat it. In terms of the model, the conditional "if I am hungry, I find food and eat it" is instantiated in the animal so that it functions as a maintenance goal. When the animal registers the truth of the antecedent, the content of the consequent is activated as an achievement goal.

The Stoics do not set out this model, but it provides a way to understand how they thought impulsive impressions function in children and animals. Given the model, an impression that triggers a maintenance goal is an impulsive impression. The Stoics think that nature is provident and that it constructs animals and children so that they have certain maintenance goals and can have certain impressions. In this way, according to the Stoics, when animals and children have certain impressions, they naturally behave in ways conducive to their survival.

Impulsive Impressions in Adults

The Stoics think that when a child becomes an adult, although motivation still occurs in terms of impulsive impressions, assent becomes necessary for impressions to issue in impulses. Assent is a function of reason. Because animals and children lack reason, they cannot assent. At the same time, they do not need to assent. In them, nature in its providence arranges things so that impulsive impressions automatically issue in impulses. Adults, however, according to the Stoics, act in terms of reason. To act, they must assent to their impulsive impressions.

In adults, what makes an impulsive impulsive is not that it triggers a maintenance goal. Animals and children naturally behave in accordance with the perfectly rational order of things in nature, but adults have reason. Their impulses are a function of their understanding of what the good is and how it applies the circumstances. In this way, beliefs (opinion or knowledge) in the adult about good and bad function like maintenance goals in animals and childre. If, for example, the adult believes it is good to find and eat food if he is hungry, the impression "I am hungry" is impulsive for him. If he assents to this impression, then given the way nature constructs his psychology, his assent provides him with the impulse to find food.

Some Impressions are Cognitive

"The criterion of truth they declare to be the cognitive impression (καταληπτικὴν φαντασίαν)..." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers VII.54). Adults can assent on the basis of their beliefs (knowledge or opinion), but there is also another way for adults to assent to their impressions. In the transition from child to adult, there is a point at which no assent has been given and hence there are no beliefs. The Stoics explain assent in this situation in terms of a special kind of impression. Nature in its providence makes the soul of the adult so that the presence of this kind of impression automatically results in the assent. The Stoics call these impressions "cognitive impressions" (φαντασίαι καταληπτικαί).

The propositional content of a cognitive impression is true, but merely having a true propositional content is not enough to make an impression cognitive. A cognitive impression is an impression with a true propositional content formed in a certain distinctive way.

The Development of Reason

"When a man is born, the Stoics say, he has the commanding-part of his soul like a sheet of paper ready for writing upon. On this he inscribes each of his conceptions. The first method of inscription is through the senses. For by perceiving something, e.g., white, they have a memory of it when it has departed. And when many memories of a similar kind have occurred, we then say we have experience. For the plurality of similar impressions is experience. Some conceptions arise naturally in the aforesaid ways and undesignatedly, others through our own instruction and attention. The later are called 'conceptions (ἔννοιαι)' only, the former are called 'preconceptions (προλήψεων)' as well" (Pseudo-Plutarch, Placita 4.11; LS 39 E). As human beings mature, their sense-impressions give rise to simple conceptions of things. Children have the same kind of sense-impressions as animals, but unlike in animals, impressions in children give rise to certain "preconceptions" (προλήψεις) of colors, shapes, and other simple perceptual features. More complex conceptions arise naturally from these simple ones. In this way, by arranging things so that human beings have cognitive impressions and the "cognitions" (καταλήψεις) of things that results from assent to them, nature ensures that human beings can think about the world correctly and thus can live good lives.

This general understanding of reason goes back to Aristotle's theory of induction in the Prior Analytics and the Metaphysics.

"Reason, for which we are called rational, is said to be completed from our preconceptions (προλήψεων) during our first seven years" (Pseudo-Plutarch, Placita 4.11).

"But what is more divine ... than reason? And reason, when it is full grown and perfected, is rightly called wisdom" (Cicero, On the laws I.7; cf. 22).
For the Stoics, reason consists initially in the preconceptions and the basic truths about the world they embody. The preconceptions form the basis for the recognition of consequence and incompatibility and thus for the ability to make inferences. Given, say, a preconception of a human being, the adult is in a position to make various inferences. Because it is part of the concept of a human being that there is a relation of consequence between being human and being mortal, the adult can conclude that the human beings he sees are mortal.

Once acquired, the Stoics think that reason is something that can be perfected. This perfection is a matter of grasping the truths embodied in preconceptions and conceptions in such a way that they provide a basis for the life nature has arranged for human beings to live.

Cognition, Knowledge, and Opinion

"Knowledge (ἐπιστήμην) they [the Stoics] say is steadfast cognition (κατάληψιν) or a state which in reception of impressions cannot be shaken by argument. Without the study of dialectic, they say, the wise man cannot guard himself in argument so as never to fall" (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers VII.47).

"[A cognitive impression] being plainly evident (ἐναργὴς) and striking, lays hold of us, almost by the very hair, as they say, and drags us off to assent, needing nothing else to help it to be thus impressive or to suggest its superiority over all others. For this reason, too, every man, when he is anxious to apprehend any object exactly, appears of himself to pursue after an impression of this kind—as, for instance, in the case of visible things, when he receives a dim impression of the real object. For he intensifies his gaze and draws close to the object of sight so as not to go wholly astray, and rubs his eyes and in general uses every means until he can receive a clear and striking impression of the thing under inspection, as though he considered that the credibility of the cognition (τὴν τῆς καταλήψεως πίστιν) depended upon that" (Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians I.257).

"[A]ccording to the Stoics the cognitive impression is judged to be cognitive by the fact that it proceeds from an existing object and in such a way as to bear the impress and stamp of that existing object; and the existing object is approved as existent because of its exciting a cognitive impression" (Sextus Empiricus, Against the Ethicists 183).

"An impression is an imprint on the soul: the name having been appropriately borrowed from the imprint made by the seal upon the wax. Of impressions, some are cognitive and some are not-cognitive . The former, which they say is the criterion (κριτήριον) of reality, is defined as that which proceeds from a real object, agrees with that object itself, and has been imprinted seal-fashion and stamped upon the mind: the latter, or non-cognitive, that which does not proceed from any real object, or, if it does, fails to agree with the reality itself, not being clear or distinct" (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers VII.1.45).

The indiscernibility of identicals
• if x = y, then x and y are indiscernible.

The identity of indiscernibles
• if x and y are indiscernible, then x = y

The indiscernibility of identicals is a truth about identity. The identity of indiscernibles is more controversial.
For the Stoics, cognitive impressions to provide the basis for "knowledge" (ἐπιστήμη). Assent to a cognitive impression issues "cognition" (κατάληψις). All cognitions are true, but not all are knowledge. Knowledge, they think, is the propositional attitude formed in assent that no rational means can convince one to withdraw. They took this to be the lesson of Socrates. As they understood him, although he thought knowledge was possible, he thought that none of his interlocutors had knowledge because none could see their way through his questioning. Only the wise have knowledge, according to the Stoics. Everyone else has "opinion" (δόξα).

"Zeno would spread out the fingers of one hand and display its open palm, saying 'An impression is like this.' Next he clenched his fingers a little and said, 'Assent is like this.' Then, pressing his fingers quite together, he made a fist, and said that this was cognition (and from this illustration he gave that mental state the name of κατάληψιν, which it had not before). Then he brought his left hand against his right fist and gripped it tightly and forcefully, and said that knowledge was like this and possessed by none except the wise man-but who is a wise man or ever has been even they themselves do not usually say" (Cicero, Academica II.145).

Cognitive Impressions are Clear and Distinct

Nature arranges things so that human beings have cognitive impressions in the situations in which their minds are working normally and the conditions are appropriate. So, for example, to determine by looking whether something is true, sufficient light is necessary to make the determination. In situations of this sort, the impression "bear[s] the impress and stamp" of reality in a certain way. It has a certain "clarity" and "distinctness," and nature has arranged things so that the propositional content of a impression with this character is true.

How the Stoics understood this "clarity" and "distinctness" is difficult to see, but the suggestion, first of all, that every object has a set of features that distinguishes it from all other objects. So, according to the Stoics, for all objects x and y

• if x and y are indistinguishable, then they are identical

A cognitive impression of an object represents its distinguishing features. This is the "distinctness" of the impression. Further, it represents these features with a "clarity" that causes a human being to assent to the impression. So when a human assents to a cognitive impression, he assents to a true impression that is distinguishable from every false impression.

"Zeno ascribed reliability not to all impressions, but only to those which manifest, in a certain particular way, those objects which make the impressions. Such an impression, when it is perceived in itself, [makes the objects what] he called graspable... for how else could you express

The Latin perceptio (which is the etymological root of the English word 'perception') means "a taking, receiving; a gathering in, collecting." Cicero uses forms of perceptio to translate κατάληψις ("a seizing or grasp") in the Stoics.
καταληπτόν. But when it is already received and accepted, he called it a grasp, resembling objects gripped in the hand, and in fact he had derived the actual term from manual prehension, nobody before having used the word in such a sense..." (Cicero, Academica I.41).

The Stoic Theory of the Good Life

The Stoics hold that the good life is a matter of having virtue, that having virtue is having a certain wisdom, and that this wisdom includes knowledge of what is good and what is bad. They think that human beings acquire reason as they mature, that knowledge of what the good is is part of reason, and that the actions of the adult are completely a matter of reason. Nature in its providence constructs human beings so that they get a set of cognitions adequate for understanding of certain aspects of the world because human beings need this understanding to think correctly about the world and thus to have the knowledge to live good lives.

In thinking that nature is provident, the Stoics think that the way things happen in nature is completely and perfectly rational. They do not think nature has beliefs about what is good and acts to bring these things in so far as this is possible in the circumstances. This makes it a little difficult to understand how what happens in the world is rational, but the Stoics think that down to the smallest detail nature unfolds in a completely and perfectly rational way, that this rationality in nature is good, and that the good life for a human being is one which the rationality in the human being is perfect and hence that the human being has virtue.

The arrangement in nature is such that human beings develop a preconception of the good, but human beings almost always misapply this knowledge and hence enslave themselves. When they change from children to adults, and thereby acquire reason, they form false beliefs about what is good and what is bad. They come to believe what human beings ordinarily but falsely think about what is good and what is bad: that health is good, sickness is bad, and so on.

"[S]omething divine (δαιμόνιον) comes to me. ... I have had this from my childhood; it is a sort of voice that comes to me, and when it comes it always holds me back from what I am thinking of doing, but never urges me forward" (Apology 31d). "[In my life before this trial] my usual prophetic divine thing always spoke to me very frequently and opposed me even in very small matters, if I was going to do anything I should not; but now, as you yourselves see, this thing which might be thought, and is generally considered, the greatest of evils has come upon me; but the divine sign did not oppose me either when I left my home in the morning, or when I came here to the court, or at any point of my speech, when I was going to say anything; and yet on other occasions it stopped me at many points in the midst of a speech; but now, in this affair, it has not opposed me in anything I was doing or saying. What then do I suppose is the reason? I will tell you. This which has happened to me is doubtless a good thing, and those of us who think death is an evil must be mistaken" (Apology 39e).

"Zeno was the first (in his treatise On the Nature of Man) to designate as the end 'life in agreement (ὁμολογουμένως) with nature' (or 'living agreeably to nature'), which is the same as a life according to virtue, virtue being the goal towards which nature guides us. ... And this is why the end may be defined as life in accordance with nature, or, in other words, in accordance with our own human nature as well as that of the universe, a life in which we refrain from every action forbidden by the law common to all things, that is to say, the right reason which pervades all things, and is identical with this Zeus, lord and ruler of all that is. And this very thing constitutes the virtue of the happy man and the smooth current of life, (τὴν τοῦ εὐδαίμονος ἀρετὴν καὶ εὔροιαν βίου) when all actions promote the harmony of the destiny (δαίμονος) dwelling in the individual man with the will (βούλησιν) of him who orders the universe" (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers VII.87).
The Stoic sage has virtue. He is not confused about the good. He knows that it does not apply to the world insofar as he eats when he is hungry, regains his health when he is sick, and generally gets the ends he pursues. He knows that the rationality in nature is good.

In contrast to the sage, the Stoic fool is confused about the good. He thinks that it is bad not to find food when he is hungry, not to regain his health when he is ill, and so on.

In this way, there is an important difference between the sage and the fool in motivation. Because the sage is not confused about what is good, he does not attribute a value to health, life, and other "goods" that they do not possess and hence he is not distressed if these things are not part of his life. He is not omniscient, but he knows that nature would not be rational if in general human beings did not eat when they were hungry, recover when they were ill, and so on. So it is reasonable for him to think that it is part of the rationality in nature that he will remain healthy and hence that he should try to arrange things in his life so that he maintains his health, but he is not upset if he falls ill and does not recover. He realizes, as he sees that he will not recover, that recovering from his illness in these circumstances in fact is not part of the rationality in nature and hence that it is not an outcome he has motivation to pursue.

The Stoics think that the sage, in living this way, experiences an immense satisfaction and fulfillment that the fool does not experience because he has enslaved himself to things he falsely beliefs are good or bad and is distressed when he fails to achieve or avoid them in his life.

Perseus Digital Library:
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers

Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon:
ἀπάθεια, apatheia, noun, (ἀ "not" +‎ πάθος, noun, páthos, "passion"), "without passion,"

"[The ruler in the just city] makes the least lament and bears it most mildly when any such misfortune overtakes him" (Republic III.387e). The Platonic ideal is μετριοπάθεια, not ἀπάθεια.

δαιμόνιον, daimonion, noun, "divine,"
ἐναργής , enargēs, adjective, "visible, palpable,"
ἔννοια, ennoia, noun, "notion, conception,"
εὐπάθεια, eupatheia, noun, "comfort, ease,"
καταλαμβάνω, katalambanō, verb, "seize with the mind, comprehend,"
καταληπτός, katalēptos, adjective, "capable of being seized,"
κατάληψις, katalēpsis, noun, "seizing,"
πρόληψις, prolēpsis, noun, "preconception,"
συγκατάθεσις, synkatathesis, noun, "assent"

Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary:
cognitio, noun, "cognition,"
comprehendo, verb, to take, catch hold of, seize, grasp, apprehend, comprehend,"
comprehensibilis (also -dibilis), adjective, "that can be seized or laid hold of, comprehendible,"

Cicero uses comprehendibilis for καταληπτός. "'...[Zeno] termed 'graspable' (comprendibile)—will you endure these coinages?' 'Indeed we will,' said Atticus, 'for how else could you express καταληπτόν'" (Academica I.41).

comprehensio, noun, "comprehension,"
perceptio, noun, "a taking, receiving, a gathering in, collecting,"
percipio, verb, "to take possession of, to seize, occupy,"
perturbatio, noun, "confusion, disorder, disturbance,"
ratio, noun, "a reckoning, account, calculation, computation,"
scientia, noun, "knowledge,"
visum, noun, "appearance, impression, presentation,"

"[Zeno] made some new pronouncements about sensation itself, which he held to be a combination of a sort of impact offered from outside (which he called φαντασίαν and we may call a presentation (visum)..." (Cicero, Academica I.40).

voluntarius, adjective, "willing"

Arizona State University Library. Loeb Classical Library:
Cicero, On Ends, On the Nature of the Gods. Academics
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers VII.1 Zeno

"The Stoics revert to Socrates' extreme intellectualism. They deny an irrational part of the soul. The soul is a mind or reason. Its contents are impressions or thoughts, to which the mind gives assent or prefers to give assent. In giving assent to an impression, we espouse a belief. Desires are just beliefs of a certain kind, the product of our assent to a so-called impulsive impression" (Michael Frede, "The Philosopher," 10. Greek thought: A Guide to Classical Knowledge, 3-16).

"[T]he distinctive mark of cognitive impressions is a causal feature in that it makes the mind react in a distinctive way and it is in this sense that the mind can discriminate cognitive and noncognitive impressions. ... But this is not to say that we cannot be aware of the fact that an impression is cognitive or noncognitive, that we cannot learn to tell whether an impression is clear and distinct or obscure and confused. In fact, the Stoic view seems to be that this is a matter of practice and that in principle one can get so good at it that one will never take a noncognitive impression to be cognitive" (Michael Frede, "Stoics and Skeptics on Clear and Distinct Impressions," 168, 169. Essays in Ancient Philosophy, 201-222).

"[The question is] precisely how reason thus conceived gives rise to reasoning and inference. Galen in various places attributes to reason as a basic feature the ability to recognise consequence (ἀκολουθία) and incompatibility (μάχη). These notions play a prominent role in Stoic thought. And it is tempting to think that the idea that it is a characteristic of reason to recognise consequence an incompatibility is of Stoic origin. If we make this assumption, the following account suggests itself. To have the notion, say, of a human being is to see that a relation of consequence or implication obtains between being a human being and being mortal; it also is to see that a relation of incompatibility obtains between being a human being and being devoid of reason. Thus the ability to recognise consequence and incompatibility is part of what it is to have natural concepts or, for that matter, any kind of concepts. But by having concepts, and thus being able to recognise consequence and incompatibility, we also are in a position to reason to make inferences" (Michael Frede "The Stoic Conception of Reason," 55. Hellenistic Philosophy. Volume II, 50-63).

"[T]he Stoic sage does not gain his equanimity by shedding human concerns, but by coming to realise what these concerns are meant to be, and hence what they ought to be, namely the means by which nature maintains its natural, rational order. And we have to realize that in this order our concerns play a very, very subordinate role, and are easily overridden by more important considerations, though we may find it difficult to accept this. But it does not follow from the fact that they play a very subordinate role, that they play no role whatsoever. Nature is provident down to the smallest detail. Hence it must be a caricature of the wise man to think that he has become insensitive to human concerns and only thus manages to achieve his equanimity. Things do move him, but not in such a way as to disturb his balanced judgment and make him attribute an importance to them which they do not have" (Michael Frede, "The Stoic Affections of the Soul," 110. The Norms of Nature: Studies in Hellenistic Ethics, 93-110).

"[E]ven the Stoic sage is not omniscient. He disposes of a general body of knowledge in virtue of which he has a general understanding of the world. But this knowledge does not put him into a position to know what he is supposed to do in a concrete situation. It does not even allow him to know all the facts which are relevant to a decision in a particular situation. He, for instance, does not know whether the ship he considers embarking will reach its destination. The Stoic emphasis on intention, as opposed to the outcome or the consequences of an action, in part is due to the assumption that the outcome, as opposed to the intention, is a matter of fate and hence not only not, or at least not completely, under our control, but also, as a rule, unknown to us. Therefore, even the perfect rationality of the sage is a rationality which relies on experience and conjecture, and involves following what is reasonable or probable. It is crucially a perfect rationality under partial ignorance" (Michael Frede, "Introduction," 16-17. Rationality in Greek Thought, 1-28).

"God constructs them in such a way that they can recognize for themselves what they need to do to maintain themselves (as long as they themselves are needed) and hence will maintain themselves of their own choice and understanding. He constructs them in such a way that they develop reason, and with reason an understanding of the good, and thus come to be motivated to do of their own accord what needs to be done. So, instead of constructing them in such a way that they are made to do what they need to do to maintain themselves, he constructs them in such a way that they do this of their own initiative and indeed can do it wisely, showing precisely the kind of wisdom, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and creativity on a small scale, namely, the scale of their life, which God displays on a large scale. In this way, if they are wise, human beings genuinely contribute to the optimal order of the world, and they find their fulfillment in this. This is what the good life for the Stoics amounts to" (Michael Frede, A Free Will. Origins of the Notion in Ancient Thought, 73-74).

"Human life is a matter of banal things, getting up, eating, doing one's work, getting married, having children, looking after one's family and one's household, pursuing the concerns of one's community, being in practice concerned with the well-being of other human beings. This is what life is about. If there is something non-banal about it, it is the wisdom with which these banal things are done, the understanding and the spirit from which they are done" (Michael Frede, "Euphrates of Tyre," 6. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies. Supplement, No. 68, Aristotle After, 1997, 1-11).

move on go back