1902 Encyclopedia > Stoics


STOICS, a school of philosophers founded at the close of the 4th century B.C. by Zeno of Citium, and so called from the Stoa or painted corridor (stoa poikile) on the north side of the market-place at Athens, which, after its restoration by Cimon, the celebrated painter Polygnotus had adorned with frescos representing scenes from the Trojan War. But, though it arose on Hellenic soil, from lectures delivered in a public place at Athens, the school is scarcely to be considered a product of purely Greek intellect, but rather as the firstfruits of that interaction between West and East which followed the conquests of Alexander. Hardly a single Stoic of eminence was a citizen of any city in the heart of Greece, unless we make Aristo of Chios, Cleanthes of Assus, and Pansetius of Rhodes exceptions. Such lands as Cyprus, Cilicia, and Syria, such cities as Citium, Soli, Heraclea in Pontus, Sidon, Carthage, Seleucia on the Tigris, Apamea by the Orontes, furnished the school with its scholars and presidents; Tarsus, Rhodes, and Alexandria became famous as its university towns. As the first founder was of Phoe-nician descent, so he drew most of his adherents from the countries which were the seat of Hellenistic (as distinct from Hellenic) civilization; nor did Stoicism achieve its crowning triumph until it was brought to Rome, where the grave earnestness of the national character could appreciate its doctrine, and where for two centuries or more it was the creed, if not the philosophy, of all the best of the Romans. Properly therefore it stands in marked antithesis to that fairest growth of old Hellas, the Academy, which saw the Stoa rise and fall,—the one the typical school of Greece and Greek intellect, the other of the Hellenized East, and, under the early Roman empire, of the whole civilized world. The transcendent genius of its author, the vitality and romantic fortunes of his doctrine, claim our warmest sympathies for Platonism. But it should not be forgotten that for more than four centuries the tide ran all the other way. It was Stoicism, not Platonism, that filled men's imaginations, and exerted the wider and more active influence upon the ancient world at some of the busiest and most important times in all history. And this was chiefly because before all things it was a practical philosophy, a rallying point for strong and noble spirits contending against odds. Nevertheless, in some departments of theory, too, and notably in ethics and jurisprudence, Stoicism has dominated the thought of after ages to a degree not easy to exaggerate.

The history of the Stoic school may conveniently be divided in the usual threefold manner: the old Stoa, the middle or transition period (Diogenes of Seleucia, Boethus of Sidon, Pansetius, Posidonius), and the later Stoicism of Roman times. By the old Stoa is meant the period (c. 304-205 B.C.) down to the death of Chrysippus, the second founder; then was laid the foundation of theory, to which hardly anything of importance was afterwards added. Confined almost to Athens, the school made its way slowly among many rivals. Aristo of Chios and Herillus of Carthage, Zeno's heterodox pupils, Persasus, his favourite disciple and housemate, the poet Aratus, and Sphaerus, the adviser of the Spartan king Cleomenes, are noteworthy minor names; but the chief interest centres about Zeno, Cleanthes, Chrysippus, who in succession built up the wondrous system. What originality it had—at first sight it would seem not much—belongs to these thinkers ; but the loss of all their works except the hymn of Cleanthes, and the inconsistencies in such scraps of information as can be gleaned from unintelligent witnesses, for the most part of many centuries later, have rendered it a peculiarly difficult task to distinguish with certainty the work of each of the three. The common standpoint, the relation to contemporary or earlier systems, with all that goes to make up the character and spirit of Stoicism, can, fortunately, be more certainly established, and may with reason be attributed to the founder. Zeno's residence at Athens

The history of the Stoic school may conveniently be divided in the usual threefold manner: the old Stoa, the middle or transition period (Diogenes of Seleucia, Boethus of Sidon, Pansetius, Posidonius), and the later Stoicism of Roman times. By the old Stoa is meant the period (c. 304-205 B.C.) down to the death of Chrysippus, the second founder; then was laid the foundation of theory, to which hardly anything of importance was afterwards added. Confined almost to Athens, the school made its way slowly among many rivals. Aristo of Chios and Herillus of Carthage, Zeno's heterodox pupils, Persasus, his favourite disciple and housemate, the poet Aratus, and Sphaerus, the adviser of the Spartan king Cleomenes, are noteworthy minor names; but the chief interest centres about Zeno, Cleanthes, Chrysippus, who in succession built up the wondrous system. What originality it had—at first sight it would seem not much—belongs to these thinkers ; but the loss of all their works except the hymn of Cleanthes, and the inconsistencies in such scraps of information as can be gleaned from unintelligent witnesses, for the most part of many centuries later, have rendered it a peculiarly difficult task to distinguish with certainty the work of each of the three. The common standpoint, the relation to contemporary or earlier systems, with all that goes to make up the character and spirit of Stoicism, can, fortunately, be more certainly established, and may with reason be attributed to the founder.


Zeno's residence at Athens fell at a time when the great movement which Socrates originated had spent itself in the second generation of his spiritual descendants. Neither Theophrastus at the Lyceum, nor Xenocrates and Polemo at the Academy, nor Stilpo, who was drawing crowds to hear him at Megara, could be said to have inherited much of the great reformer's intellectual vigour, to say nothing of his moral earnestness. Zeno visited all the schools in turn, but seems to have attached himself definitely to the Cynics; as a Cynic he composed at least one of his more important works, "the much admired Republic," which we know to have been later on a stumbling-block to the school. In the Cynic school he found the practical spirit which he divined to be the great need of that stirring troublous age. For a while his motto must have been " back to Socrates," or at least "back to Antisthenes." The Stoics always counted themselves amongst the Socratic schools, and canonized Antisthenes and Diogenes ; while reverence for Socrates was the tie which united to them such an accom-plished writer upon lighter ethical topics as the versatile Persaeus, who, at the capital of Antigonus Gonatas, with hardly anything of the professional philosopher about him, reminds us of Xenophon, or even Prodicus. Zeno commenced, then, as a Cynic ; and in the developed system we can point to a kernel of Cynic doctrine to which various philosophemes of other thinkers (more especially Heraclitus and Aristotle, but also Diogenes of Apollonia, the Pythagoreans, and the medical school of Hippocrates in a lesser degree) were added. Thus, quite apart from the general similarity of their ethical doctrine, the Cynics were materialists; they were also nominalists, and combated the Platonic ideas ; in their theory of knowledge they made use of "reason" (logos), which was also one of their leading ethical conceptions. In all these particulars Zeno followed them, and the last is the more important, because, Chrysippus having adopted a new criterion of truth,-—a clear and distinct perception of sense,—it is only from casual notices we learn that the elder Stoics had approxi-mated to Cynicism in making right reason the standard. At the same time, it is certain that the main outlines of the characteristic physical doctrine, which is after all the foundation of their ethics and logic, were the work of Zeno. The Logos, which had been an ethical or psycho-logical principle to the Cynics, received at his hands an extension throughout the natural world, in which Hera-clitean influence is unmistakable. Reading the Ephesian doctrine with the eyes of a Cynic, and the Cynic ethics in the light of Heracliteanism, he came to formulate his distinctive theory of the universe far in advance of either. In taking this immense stride and identifying the Cynic " reason," which is a law for man, with the " reason" which is the law of the universe, Zeno has been compared with Plato, who similarly extended the Socratic " general notion" from the region of morals,—of justice, temperance, virtue,—to embrace all objects of all thought, the verity of all things that are.


If the recognition of physics and logic as two studies co-ordinate with ethics is sufficient to differentiate the mature Zeno from the Cynic author of the Republic, no less than from his own heterodox disciple Aristo, the elaboration on all sides of Stoic natural philosophy belongs to Cleanthes, who certainly was not the merely docile and receptive intelligence he is sometimes represented as being. He carried on and completed the assimilation of Heraclitean doctrine; but his own contributions were more distinctive and original than those of any other Stoic. Zeno's seeming dualism of God (or force) and formless matter he was able to transform into the lofty pantheism which breathes in every line of the famous hymn to Zeus. Heraclitus had indeed declared all to be in flux, but we ask in vain what is the cause for the unceasing process of his ever-living fire. It was left for Cleanthes to discover this motive cause in a conception familiar to Zeno, as to the Cynics before him, but restricted to the region of ethics,—the conception of tension or effort. The soul of the sage, thought the Cynics, should be strained and braced for judgment and action; his first need is firmness (eutonia) and Socratic strength. But the mind is a corporeal thing. Then followed the flash of genius : this varying tension of the one substance everywhere present, a purely physical fact, accounts for the diverse destinies of all innumerable particular things ; it is the veritable cause of the flux and process of the universe. Herein lies the key to the entire system of the Stoics, as Cleanthes's epoch-making discovery continually received fresh applications to physics, ethics, and epistemology. Other of his innovations, the outcome of his crude materialism, found less favour with his successor, who declined to follow him in identifying the primary substance with fire, or in tracing all vitality to its ultimate source in the sun, the " ruling power " of the world,-—a curious anticipation of scientific truth. Yet under this poetical Heraclitean mystic the school was far from flourishing. The eminent teachers of the time are said to have been Aristo, Zeno's heterodox pupil, and Arcesilas, who in Plato's name brought Megarian subtleties and Pyrrhonian agnosticism to bear upon the intruding doctrine; and after a vigorous upgrowth it seemed not unlikely to die out. From all danger of such a fate it was rescued by its third great teacher, Chrysippus ; " but for Chrysippus there had been no Porch." Zeno had caught the practical spirit of his age,— the desire for a popular philosophy to meet individual needs. But there was another tendency in post-Aristotelian thought,—to lean upon authority and substitute learning for independent research,—which grew stronger just in proportion as the fresh interest in the problems of the universe and the zeal for discovery declined,—a shadow, we may call it, of the coming Scholasticism thrown a thousand years in advance.


The representative of this tendency, Chrysippus addressed himself to the congenial task of assimilating, developing, systematizing the doctrines bequeathed to him, and, above all, securing them in their stereotyped and final form, not simply from the assaults of the past, but, as after a long and successful career of controversy and polemical author- *N ship he fondly hoped, from all possible attack in the future. To his personal characteristics can be traced the hair-splitting and formal pedantry which ever afterwards marked the activity of the school, the dry repellent technical pro-cedure of the Dialecticians par excellence, as they were called. He created their formal logic and contributed much that was of value to their psychology and epistemology ; but in the main his work was to new-label and new-arrange in every department, and to lavish most care and attention on the least important parts,—the logical terminology and the refutation of fallacies, or, as his opponents declared, the excogitation of fallacies which even he could not refute. In his Republic Zeno had gone so far as to declare the routine education of the day (e.g., mathematics, grammar, &c.) to be of no use. Such Cynic crudity Chrysippus rightly judged to be out of keeping with the requirements of a great dogmatic school, and he laboured on all sides after thoroughness, erudition, and scientific completeness. In short, Chrysippus made the Stoic system what it was, and as he left it we proceed to describe it.

Conception of philosophy.

And first we will inquire, What is philosophy? No idle gratification of curiosity, as Aristotle fabled of his life intellectual (which would be but a disguise for refined pleasure), no theory divorced from practice, no pursuit of science for its own sake, but knowledge so far forth as it can be realized in virtuous action, the learning of virtue by exercise and effort and training. So absolutely is the "rare and priceless wisdom" for which we strive identical with virtue itself that the three main divisions of philosophy current at the time and accepted by Zeno,—logic, physics, and ethics,—are defined as the most generic or comprehensive virtues. How otherwise could they claim our attention? Accordingly Aristo, holding to Cynicism when Zeno himself had got beyond it, rejected two of these parts of philosophy as useless and out of reach,— a divergence which excluded him from the school, but strictly consistent with his view that ethics alone is scientific knowledge. Of the three divisions logic is the least important; ethics is the outcome of the whole, and historically the all-important vital element; but the foundations of the whole system are best discerned in the science of nature, which deals pre-eminently with the macrocosm and the microcosm, the universe and man, including natural theology and an anthropology or psychology, the latter forming the direct introduction to ethics.


The Stoic system is in brief—(a) materialism, (b) dynamic materialism, lastly (c) monism or pantheism, (a) The first of these characters is described by anticipation in Plato's Sophist (246 C sq.), where, arguing with those " who drag everything down to the corporeal" (soma), the Eleatic stranger would fain prove to them the existence of some-thing incorporeal, as follows. " They admit the existence of an animate body. Is soul then something existent (ousia)? Yes. And the qualities of soul, as justice and wisdom — are they visible and tangible? No. Do they then exist? They are in a dilemma." Now, however effective against Plato's contemporary Cynics or Atomists, the reasoning is thrown away upon the Stoics, who take boldly the one horn of this dilemma. That qualities of bodies (and therefore of the corporeal soul) exist they do not deny; but they assert most uncompromisingly that they are one and all (wisdom, justice, &c.) corporeal. And they strengthen their position by taking Plato's own definition (247 D), namely, " being is that which has the power to act or be acted upon," and turning it against him.


For this is only true of Body; action, except by contact, is inconceivable; and they reduce every form of causation to the efficient cause, which implies the communication of motion from one body to another. Again and again, therefore, only Body exists. The most real realities to Plato and Aristotle had been thought and the objects of thought, nous and noeta, whether abstracted from sensibles or inherent in " matter," as the incognizable basis of all concrete existence. But this was too great an effort to last long. Such spiritualistic theories were nowhere really maintained after Aristotle and outside the circle of his immediate followers. The reaction came and left nothing of it all; for five centuries the dominant tone of the older and the newer schools alike was frankly materialistic. "If," says Aristotle, "there is no other substance but the organic substances of nature, physics will be the highest of the sciences," a conclusion which passed for axiomatic until the rise of Neoplatonism. The analogues therefore of metaphysical problems must be sought in physics; particularly that problem of the causes of things for which the Platonic idea and the Peripatetic " constitutive form " had been in turn received solutions.


(b) But the doctrine that all existence is confined within the limits of the sensible universe,—that there is no being save corporeal being or body,—does not suffice to characterize the Stoic system; it is no less a doctrine of the Epicureans. It is the idea of tension as the essential attribute of body, in contradistinction to passive inert matter, which is dis-tinctively Stoic. The Epicureans leave unexplained the primary constitution and first movements of their atoms or elemental solids ; chance or declination may account for them. Now, to the Stoics nothing passes unexplained ; there is a reason (logos) for everything in nature. Everything which exists is at once capable of acting and being acted upon. In everything that exists, therefore, even the smallest particle, there are these two principles. By virtue of the passive principle the thing is susceptible of motion and modification; it is matter which determines substance (ousia). The active principle makes the matter a given determinate thing, characterizing and qualifying it, whence it is termed quality (poiotes). For all that is or happens there is an immediate cause or antecedent o and as "cause" means "cause of motion," and only body can act upon body, it follows that this antecedent cause is itself as truly corporeal as the matter upon which it acts. Thus we are led to regard the active principle "force" as everywhere co-extensive with " matter," as pervading and permeating it, and together with it occupying and filling space. This is that famous doctrine of universal permeation (krasis di' holou), by which the axiom that two bodies cannot occupy the same space is practically denied. Thus that harmony of separate doctrines which contributes to the impressive simplicity of the Stoic physics is only attained at the cost of offending healthy common sense, for Body itself is robbed of a characteristic attribute. A thing is no longer, as Plato once thought, hot or hard or bright by partaking in abstract heat or hardness or brightness, but by containing within its own substance the material of these qualities, conceived as air-currents in various degrees of tension. We hear, too, of corporeal days and years, corporeal virtues, and actions (like walking) which are bodies (somata). Obviously, again, the Stoic quality corresponds to Aristotle's essential form ; in both systems the active principle, " the cause of all that mat-ter becomes," is that which accounts for the existence of a given concrete thing (logos tes ousias). Only here, instead of assuming something immaterial (and therefore unverifiable), we fall back upon a current of air or gas (pneuma); the essential reason of the thing is itself material, standing to it in the relation of a gaseous to a solid body. Here, too, the reason of things—that which accounts for them—is no longer some external end to which they are tending ; it is something acting within them, " a spirit deeply interfused," germinating and developing as from a seed in the heart of each separate thing that exists (logos spermatikos). By its prompting the thing grows, develops, and decays, while this "germinal reason," the element of quality in the thing, remains constant through all its changes.

Matter and force

(c) What then, we ask, is the relation between the active and the passive principles? Is there, or is there not, an essential distinction between substance or matter and pervading force or cause or quality? Here the Stoa shows signs of a development of doctrine. Zeno began, perhaps, by adopting the formulas of the Peri-patetics, though no doubt with a conscious difference, postulating that form was always attached to matter, no less than matter, as known to us, is everywhere shaped or informed. Whether he ever overcame the dualism which the sources, such as they are, unanimously ascribe to him is not clearly ascertained. It seems probable that he did not.


But we can answer authoritatively that to Cleanthes and Chrysippus, if not to Zeno, there was no real difference between matter and its cause, which is always a corporeal current, and therefore matter, although the finest and subtlest matter. In fact they have reached the final result of unveiled hylozoism, from which the distinction of the active and passive principles is discerned to be a merely formal concession to Aristotle, a legacy from his dualistic doctrine. His technical term Form (eidos) they never use, but always Beason or God. This was not the first time that approaches had been made to such a doctrine, and Diogenes of Apollonia in particular was led to oppose Anaxagoras, who distinguished Nous or Thought from every other agent within the cosmos which is its work, by postulating as his first principle something which should be at once physical substratum and thinking being. But until dualism had been thought out, as in the Peripatetic school, it was impossible that monism (or at any rate materialistic monism) should be definitely and consciously maintained. One thing is certain : the Stoics provided no loophole of escape by entrenching upon the "purely material " nature of matter; they laid down with rigid accuracy its two chief properties,—extension in three dimensions, and resistance, both being traced back to force. There were, it is true, certain inconsistent concep-tions, creations of thought to which nothing real and external corresponded, namely, time, space, void, and the idea expressed in language (lekton). But this inconsist-ency was covered by another : though each of these might be said to be something, they could not be said to exist.


The distinction of force and matter is then something transitory and relative. Its history will serve as a sketch of the cosmogony of the Stoics, for they too, like earlier philosophers, have their "fairy tale of science." Before there was heaven or earth, there was primitive substance or Pneuma, the everlasting presupposition of particular things. This is the totality of all existence ; out of it the whole visible universe proceeds, hereafter to be again resolved into it. Not the less is it the creative force, or deity, which develops and shapes this universal order or cosmos. To the question, What is God? Stoicism rejoins, What is God not? In this original state of Pneuma God and the world are absolutely identical. But even then tension, the essential attribute of matter, is at work. Though the force working everywhere is one, there are diversities of its operation, corresponding to various degrees of tension. In this primitive Pneuma there must reside the utmost tension and heat; for it is a fact of observation that most bodies expand when heated, whence we infer that there is a pressure in heat, an expansive and dispersive tendency. The Pneuma cannot long withstand this intense pressure. Motion backwards and forwards once set up goes to cool the glowing mass of fiery vapour and to weaken the tension. Hereupon follows the first differentia-tion of primitive substance,—the separation of force from matter, the emanation of the world from God. The germinal world-making powers (spermatikoi logoi), which, in virtue of its tension, slumbered in Pneuma, now proceed upon their creative task. The primitive substance, be it remembered, is not Heraclitus's fire (though Cleanthes also called it flame of fire, phlox) any more than it is the air or "breath" of Anaximenes or Diogenes of Apollonia. Chrysippus determined it, following Zeno, to be fiery breath or ether, a spiritualized sublimed intermediate element. The cycle of its transformations and successive condensations constitutes the life of the universe, the mode of existence proper to finite and particular being. For the universe and all its parts are only different embodiments and stages in that metamorphosis of primi-tive being which Heraclitus had called a progress up and down (hodos ano kato). Out of it is separated, first, elemental fire, the fire which we know, which burns and destroys ; and this, again, condenses into air or aerial vapour ; a further step in the downward path derives water and earth from the solidification of air. At every stage the degree of tension requisite for existence is slackened, and the resulting element approaches more and more to "inert" matter. But, just as one element does not wholly pass over into another (e.g., only a part of air is transmuted into water or earth), so the Pneuma itself does not wholly pass over into the elements. The residue that remains in original purity with its tension yet undiminished is the ether in the highest sphere of the visible heavens, encircling the world of which it is lord and head. From the elements the one substance is transformed into the multitude of individual things in the orderly universe, which again is itself a living thing or being, and the Pneuma pervading it, and con-ditioning life and growth everywhere, is its soul. But this process of differentiation is not eternal; it continues only until the times of the restoration of all things. For the world which has grown up will in turn decay. The tension which has been relaxed will again be tightened; there will be a gradual resolution of things into elements, and of elements into the primary substance, to be consummated in a general conflagration when once more the world will be absorbed in God. Then in due order a new cycle of development begins, reproducing the last in every minutest detail, and so on for ever.


The doctrine of Pneuma, vital breath or "spirit," arose in the medical schools. The simplest reflexion among savages and half-civilized men connects vitality with the air inhaled in respira tion; the disciples of Hippocrates, without much modifying thiss primitive belief, explained the maintenance of vital warmth to be the function of the breath within the organism. In the time of Alexander the Great Praxagoras discovered the distinction between the arteries and the veins. Now in the corpse the former are empty; hence in the light of these preconceptions they were declared to be vessels for conveying Pneuma to the different parts of the body. A generation afterwards Erasistratus made this the basis of a new theory of diseases and their treatment. Vital spirit, inhaled from the outside air, rushes through the arteries till it reaches the various centres, especially the brain and the heart, and there causes thought and organic movement. But long before this the peculiar character of air had been recognized as something intermediate to the corporeal and the incorporeal: when Diogenes of Apollonia revived the old Ionian hylozoism in opposition to the dualism of Anaxagoras, he made this, the typical example of matter in the gaseous state, his one element. In Stoicism, for the moment, the two conceptions are united, soon, however, to diverge, —the medical conception to receive its final development under Galen, while the philosophical conception, passing over to Philo and others, was shaped and modified at Alexandria under the influence of Judaism, whence it played a great part in the developments of Jewish and Christian theology.

Contrast to Heraclitus

The influence upon Stoicism of Heraclitus has been differently conceived. Siebeck would reduce it within very small dimensions, but this is not borne out by the concise history found at Herculaneum (Index Herc., ed. Comparetti, col. 4 sq.). They substituted primitive Pneuma for his primitive fire, but so far as they are hylo-zoists at all they stand upon the same ground with him. Moreover, the commentaries of Cleanthes, Aristo, and Sphrerus on Heraclitean writings (Diog. L., vii. 174, ix. 5, 15) point to common study of these writings under Zeno. Others again (e.g., Lassalle) represent the Stoics as merely diluting and distorting Heracliteanism. But this is altogether wrong, and the proofs offered, when rightly sifted, are often seen to rest upon the distortion of Heraclitean doctrine in the reports of later writers, to assimilate it to the better known but essentially distinct innovations of the Stoics. In Heraclitus the constant flux is a metaphysical notion replaced by the inter-change of material elements which Chrysippus stated as a simple proposition of physics. Heraclitus offers no analogy to the doctrine of four (not three) elements as different grades of tension; to the conception of fire and air as the ' 'form," in Aristotelian terminology, of particulars ; nor to the function of organizing fire which works by methodic plan to produce and preserve the world (pyr technikon hodo badizon epi genesin kosmou). Nor, again, is there any analogy to the peculiar Stoic doctrine of universal intermingling (krasis di' holou). The two active elements interpenetrate the two lower or more relaxed, winding through all parts of matter and so pervading the greater masses that there is no mechanical mixture, nor yet a chemical combination, since both "force" and "matter" retain their relative characters as before. Even the distinction between "force" and "matter"—so alien to the spirit of Heraclitus—is seen to be a necessary consequence. Once assume that every character and property of a particular thing is determined solely by the tension in it of a current of Pneuma, and (since that which causes currents in the thing cannot be absolutely the same with the thing itself) Pneuma, though present in all things, must be asserted to vary indefinitely in quantity and intensity. So condensed and coarsened is the indwelling air-current of inorganic bodies that no trace of elasticity or life remains ; it cannot even afford them the power of motion ; all it can do is to hold them together (sunektike dynamis), and, in technical language, Pneuma is present in stone or metal as a retaining principle (hexis = hold), explaining the attributes of continuity and numerical identity (sunekhe kai henomena) which even these natural substances possess. In plants again and all the vegetable kingdom it is manifest as something far purer and possessing greater tension, called a "nature," or principle of growth (physis). Further, a distinction was drawn between irrational animals, or the brute creation, and the rational, i.e., gods and men, leaving room for a divergence, or rather development, of Stoic opinion. The older authorities conceded a vital principle, but denied a soul, to the brutes: animals, they say, are zoa but not empsycha. Later on much evidence goes to show that (by a divergence from the orthodox standard perhaps due to Platonic influence) it was a Stoic tenet to concede a soul, though not a rational soul, throughout the animal kingdom. To this higher manifestation of Pneuma can be traced back the ''esprits animaux" of Descartes and Leibnitz, which continue to play so great a part even in Locke. The universal presence of Pneuma was confirmed by observation. A certain warmth, akin to the vital heat of organic being, seems to be found in inorganic nature: vapours from the earth, hot springs, sparks from the flint, were claimed as the last remnant of Pneuma not yet utterly slackened and cold. They appealed also to the velocity and dilatation of aeriform bodies, to whirlwinds and inflated balloons. The Logos is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow. Tension itself Cleanthes defined as a fiery flash (plege pyros). Take the fundamental properties of body—extension and resistance. The former results from distance; but distances, or dimensions, are straight lines, i.e., lines of greatest tension (eis akron tetamene). Tension produces dila-tation, or increase in distance. Resistance, again, is explained by cohesion, which implies binding force. Again, the primary substance has rectilinear motion in two directions, backwards and forwards, at once a condensation, which produces cohesion and substance, and a dilatation, the cause of extension and qualities. How near this conies to the scientific truth of attraction and repulsion need hardly be noted. From the astronomers the Stoics borrowed their picture of the universe, —a plenum in the form of a series of layers or con-centric rings, first the elements, then the planetary and stellar spheres, massed round the earth as centre,—a picture which dominated the imagination of men from the days of Eudoxus down to those of Dante or even Copernicus. As to the physical consti-tution of bodies, they were content to reproduce the Peripatetic doctrine with slight modifications in detail, of hardly any import-ance when compared with the change of spirit in the doctrine taught. But they rarely prosecuted researches in physics or astronomy, and the newly created sciences of biology and compara-tive anatomy received no adequate recognition from them.


If, however, in the science of nature the Stoics can lay claim to no striking originality, the case is different when we come to the science of man. In the rational creatures—man and the gods—Pneuma is manifested in a high degree of purity and intensity as an emanation from the world-soul, itself an emanation from the primary substance of purest ether,—a spark of the celestial fire, or, more accurately, fiery breath, which is a mean between fire and air, characterized by vital warmth more than by dryness. The physical basis of Stoic psychology deserves the closest attention. On the one hand, soul is corporeal, else it would have no real existence, would be incapable of extension in three dimensions (and therefore of equable diffusion all over the body), incapable of holding the body together, as the Stoics contended that it does, herein pre-senting a sharp contrast to the Epicurean tenet that it is the body which confines and shelters the light vagrant atoms of soul, On the other hand, this corporeal thing is veritably and identically reason, mind, and ruling principle (logos, nous, hegemonikon) ; in virtue of its divine origin Cleanthes can say to Zeus, " We too are thy offspring," and a Seneca can calmly insist that, if man and God are not on perfect equality, the superiority rests rather on our side. What God is for the world that the soul is for man. The Cosmos must be conceived as a single whole, its variety being referred to varying stages of condensation in Pneuma. So, too, the human soul must possess absolute simplicity, its varying functions being conditioned by the degrees or species of its tension. It follows that of " parts " of the soul, as previous thinkers imagined, there can be no question; all that can consistently be main-tained is that from the qeutre of the body—the heart—seven distinct air-currents are discharged to various organs, which are so many modes of the one soul's activity. [565-1] The ethical consequences of this position will be seen at a later stage.

Theory of knowledge

With this psychology is intimately connected the Stoic theory of knowledge. From the unity of soul it follows that, all psychical processes,—sensation, assent, impulse,— proceed from reason, the ruling part; that is to say, there is no strife or division: the one rational soul alone has sensations, assents to judgments, is impelled towards objects of desire just as much as it thinks or reasons. Not that all these powers at once reach full maturity. The soul at first is void of content; in the embryo it has not developed beyond the nutritive principle of a plant (physis): at birth the " ruling part" is a blank tablet, although ready prepared to receive writing. This excludes all possibility of innate ideas or any faculty akin to intuitive reason. The source of all our knowledge is experience and discursive thought, which manipulates the materials of sense. Our ideas are copied from stored-up sensations. No other theory was possible upon the found-ation of the Stoic physics.

Note the parallel between the macrocosm and the microcosm. The soul of the world fills and penetrates it: in like manner, the human soul pervades and breathes through all the body, informing and guiding it, stamping the man with his essential character of rational. There is in both alike a ruling part, though this is situate in the human heart at the centre,—not in the brain, as the analogy of the celestial ether would suggest. Finally, the same cause, a relaxation of tension, accounts for sleep, decay, and death of man and for the dissolution of the world ; after death the disembodied soul can only maintain its separate existence, even for a limited time, by mounting to that region of the universe which is akin to its nature. It was a moot point whether all souls so sur-vive, as Cleanthes thought, or the souls of the wise and good alone, which was the opinion of Chrysippus ; in any case, sooner or later individual souls are merged in the soul of the universe, from which they proceeded. The relation of the soul of the universe to God is quite clear : it is an inherent property, a mode of His activity, an effluence or emanation from the fiery ether which surrounds the universe, penetrating and permeating it. A Stoic might consistently maintain that World-Soul, Providence, Destiny, and Germinal Reason are not mere synonyms, for they express different aspects of God, different relations of God to things. We find ourselves on the verge of a system of abstractions, or "attributes turned into entities," as barren as any excogitated in mediaeval times. In a certain sense, Scholasticism began with Chrysippus. To postulate different substances a>s underlying the different forces of nature would have been to surrender the fundamental thought of the system. What really is—the Pneuma—neither increases nor diminishes ; but its modes of working, its different currents, can be conveniently distinguished and enumerated as evidence of so many distinct attributes.


One inevitable consequence of materialism is that subject and object can no longer be regarded as one in the act of perception, as Plato and Aristotle tended to assume, however imperfectly the assumption was carried out. The presumption of some merely external connexion, as between any other two corporeal things, is alone admissible, and some form of the representative hypothesis is most easily called in to account for perception. The Stoics explained it as a transmission of the perceived quality of the object, by means of the sense organ, into the percipient's mind, the quality transmitted appearing as a disturbance or impression upon the corporeal surface of that "thinking thing," the soul. Sight is taken as the typical sense. A conical pencil of rays diverges from the pupil of the eye, so that its base covers the object seen. In sensation a presentation is conveyed, by an air-current, from the sense organ, here the eye, to the mind, i.e., the soul's "ruling part" in the breast; the presentation, besides attesting its own existence, gives further information of its object,—visible colour or size, or whatever be the quality in the thing seen. That Zeno and Cleanthes crudely compared this presentation to the impres-sion which a seal bears upon wax, with protuberances and inden-tations, while Chrysippus more prudently determined it vaguely as an occult modification or "mode" of mind, is an interesting but not intrinsically important detail. But the mind is no mere passive recipient of impressions from without, in the view of the Stoics. Their analysis of sensation supposes it to react, by a variation in tension, against the current from the sense-organ ; and this is the mind's assent or dissent, which is inseparable from the sense presentation. The contents of experience are not all alike true or valid : hallucination is possible ; here the Stoics join issue with Epicurus. It is necessary, therefore, that assent should not be given indiscriminately ; we must determine a criterion of truth, a special formal test whereby reason may recognize the merely plausible and hold fast the true. In an earlier age such an inquiry would have seemed superfluous. To Plato and Aristotle the nature and operation of thought and reason constitute a sufficient criterion. Since their day not only had the opposition between sense and reason broken down, but the reasoned scepticism of Pyrrho and Arcesilaus had made the impossibility of attaining truth theprimary condition of wellbeing. Yet the standard which ultimately found acceptance in the Stoic school was not put for-ward, in that form, by its founder. Zeno, we have reason to believe, adopted the Cynic Logos for his guidance to truth as well as to morality. As a disciple of the Cynics he must have started with a theory of knowledge somewhat like that developed in the third part of Plato's Theaetetus (201 C sq.),—that simple ideas are given by sense, whereas "opinion," which is a complex of simple ideas, only becomes knowledge when joined with Logos. We may further suppose that the more obvious of Plato's objections had led to the correction of "reason" into "right reason." However that maybe, it is certain from Aristotle (Nic. Eth., vi. 13, 1144b, 17) that virtue was defined as a "habit" in accordance with right reason, and (Diog. Laer., vii. 54) from that the earlier Stoics made right reason the standard of truth. The law which regulates our action is thus the ultimate criterion of what we know,—practical knowledge being understood to be of paramount importance. But this criterion was open to the persistent attacks of Epicureans and Academics, who made clear (1) that reason is dependent upon, if not derived from, sense, and (2) that the utterances of reason lack consistency. Chrysippus, therefore, conceded something to his opponents when he substituted for the Logos the new standards of sensation (aisthesis) and general conception (prolepsis = anticipation, i.e., the generic type formed in the mind unconsciously and spontaneously). At the same time he was more clearly defining and safeguarding his predecessors' position. For reason is consistent in the general conceptions wherein all men agree, because in all alike they are of spontaneous growth. Nor was the term sensation sufficiently definite.

Criterion of truth

The same Chrysippus fixed upon a certain characteristic of true presentations, which he denoted by the much disputed term "apprehensive" (kataleptike phantasia). Provided the sense organ and the mind be healthy, provided an external object be really seen or heard, the presentation, in virtue of its clearness and distinctness, has the power to extort the assent which it always lies in our power to give or to withhold.

Formerly this technical phrase was explained to mean "the perception which irresistibly compels the subject to assent to it as true." But this, though apparently supported by Sextus Empiricus (Adv. Math., vii. 257), is quite erroneous; for the presentation is called katalepton, as well as kataleptike phantasia, so that beyond all doubt it is something which the percipient subject grasps, and not that which grasps or "lays hold of " the percipient. Nor, again, is it wholly satisfactory to explain kataleptike as virtually passive, "apprehensible," like its opposite akataleptos; for we find antileptike ton hypokeimenon used as an alternative phrase (ib., vii. 248). It would seem that the perception intended to constitute the standard of truth is one which, by producing a mental counterpart of a really existent external thing, enables the percipient, in the very act of sense, to "lay hold of" or apprehend an object in virtue of the presentation or sense impression of it excited in his own mind. The reality of the external object is a necessary condition, to exclude hallucinations of the senses; the exact correspondence between the external object and the internal precept is also necessary, but naturally hard to secure, for how can we compare the two? The external object is known only in perception. However, the younger Stoics endeavoured to meet the assaults of their persistent critic Carneades by suggesting various modes of testing a single presentation, to see whether it were consistent with others, especially such as occurred in groups, &c.; indeed, some went so far as to add to the definition "coming from a real object and exactly corresponding with it" the clause "provided it encounter no obstacle."

Degrees of knowledge

The same criterion was available for knowledge derived more directly from the intellect. Like all materialists, the Stoics can only distinguish the sensible from the intelligible as thinking when the external object is present (aisthanesthai) and thinking when it is absent (ennoein). The product of the latter kind includes memory (though this is, upon a strict analysis, something intermediate) and conceptions or general notions, under which were confusedly classed the products of the imaginative faculty. The work of the mind is seen first in "assent"; if to a true presentation the result is "simple apprehension " (katalepsis: this stands in close relation to the kataleptike phantasia, of which it is the necessary complement); if to a false or unapprehensive presentation, the result is opinion " (doxa), always deprecated as akin to error and ignorance, unworthy of a wise man. These processes are conceivable only as "modes" of mind, changes in the soul's substance, and the same is true of the higher conceptions, the products of generalization. But the Stoics were not slow to exalt the part of reason, which seizes upon the generic qualities, the essential nature of things. Where sense and reason conflict, it is the latter that must decide. One isolated "apprehension," however firm its grasp, does not constitute knowledge or science (episteme); it must be of the firmest, such as reason cannot shake, and, further, it must be worked into a system of such apprehensions, which can only be by the mind's exercising the "habit" (hexis) of attaining truth by continuous tension. Here the work of reason is assimilated to the force which binds together the parts of an inorganic body and resists their separation. There is nothing more in the order of the universe than extended mobile bodies and forces in tension in these bodies. So, too, in the order of knowledge there is nothing but sense and the force of reason maintaining its tension and connecting sensations and ideas in their proper sequence. Zeno compared sensation to the outstretched hand, flat and open ; bending the fingers was assent; the clenched fist was "simple apprehension," the mental grasp of an object; knowledge was the clenched fist tightly held in the other hand. The illustration is valuable for the light it throws on the essential unity of diverse intellectual operations, as well as for enforcing once more the Stoic doctrine that different grades of knowledge are different grades of tension. Good and evil, virtues and vices, remarks Plutarch, are all capable of being "perceived"; sense, this common basis of all mental activity, is a sort of touch by which the ethereal Pneuma which is the soul's substance recognizes and measures tension.


With this exposition we have already invaded the province of logic. To this the Stoics assigned a miscellany of studies— rhetoric, dialectic, including grammar, in addition to formal logic, —to all of which their industry made contributions. Some of their innovations in grammatical terminology have lasted until now: we still speak of oblique cases, genitive, dative, accusative, of verbs active (ortha), passive (huptia), neuter (oudetera), by the names they gave. Their corrections and fancied improvements of the Aristotelian logic are mostly useless and pedantic. Judgment (axioma) they defined as a complete idea capable of expression in language (lekton autoteles), and to distinguish it from other enunciations, as a wish or a command, they added "which is either true or false." From simple judgments they proceeded to compound judgments, and declared the hypothetical syllogism to be the normal type of reason, of which the categorical syllogism is an abbreviation. Perhaps it is worth while to quote their treatment of the categories. Aristotle made ten, all co-ordinate, to serve as "heads of predication" under which to collect distinct scraps of information respecting a subject, probably a man. For this the Stoics substituted four summa genera, all subordinate, so that each in turn is more precisely determined by the next. They are Something, or Being, determined as (1) substance or subject matter, (2) essential quality, i.e., substance qualified, (3) mode or chance attribute, i. e., qualified substance in a certain condition (pos ekhon), and, lastly, (4) relation or relative mode (in full hypokeimenon poion pros ti pos ekhon). The zeal with which the school prosecuted logical inquiries had one practical result,—they could use to perfection the unrivalled weapon of analysis. Its chief employment was to lay things bare and sever them from their surroundings, in order that they might be contemplated in their simplicity, with rigid exactness, as objects of thought, apart from the illusion and exaggeration that attends them when presented to sense and imagination. The very perfection and precision of this method constantly tempted the later Stoics to abuse it for the systematic depreciation of the objects analysed.


The practical philosophy of the Stoics stands in the closest connexion with their physics and psychology. Holding that man is a being who acts as well as thinks, and that this is the all-important side of his life, they find the link between the two in the mind's assent; for, when impelled towards certain objects by a prompting or "impulse" (horme = movement of the soul seeking to possess itself of certain external things), whether of nature or reason, a man must needs judge the objects to be desirable ; the subsequent movement, as it were, translates this judgment into action. Against the sceptical position it was necessary to maintain—(1) that motion, and therefore moral action, cannot follow upon the mere presentment of an idea, unless the idea so suggested receive assent, and (2) that assent alone does not suffice without the motive faculty which is found in all animals. [566-1] Of our various impulses, some in the mature man are (alpha) rational; some, as in the child, are (beta) non-rational, because anterior to reason; while (gamma) the impulse of the man may be contrary to reason, under the influence of the affections or passions.

Rational impulse

(alpha) Now reason, as a spring of action, has for its aim harmony or self-consistency, a life proceeding upon a single plan (to homologoumenos zen, touto d' esti kath' hena logon kai sumphonos zen): this there is a certain symmetry or beauty, the attraction which excites rational impulse towards it. Clearly this definition of the end of action comes from the Cynics, who pithily expressed it by saying that in order to live man needs either reason or a halter (dein logon e brochon). But during Zeno's early studies another conception had been current, that of agreement with nature. Apparently it had been started by the Old Academy, where probably the technical phrase "first
objects according to nature," ta prota kata phusin, had its origin. Now the slightest acquaintance with Stoic physics shows that reason and nature are at one; we may therefore well believe that Zeno himself had explained his harmonious or self-consistent life to mean a life in harmony with nature (Diog. Laer., vii. 87, quoting Zeno, "On the Nature of Man "). At all events that was the orthodox formula adopted and interpreted by Cleanthes and Chrysippus,—the former, as we might have expected from his Heraclitean tendencies, representing it to mean "harmony with the universal nature," the latter emphasizing that not only is it the nature of the universe, but the particular nature of man, that is meant. Cleanthes's interpretation is at once novel and fruitful: reason being the true self or nature of man, and being essentially the same in him with the reason in the All, its procedure in him should correspond to and reproduce its procedure in the All. It is reasonable, therefore, for the individual to submit to and co-operate with the indwelling reason, or law of the universe, and in obedience to this universal law (koinos nomos) imitate the uniform methodic march of the divine creative fire. Here we note the conception of morality as obedience to an objective law, though, as reason attains to consciousness of itself only in man, it is a law of which he himself, qua rational, is lawgiver. But Chrysippus, in his reading of the formula, had no intention of relaxing the close dependence of ethics upon physics. A new light is thrown upon the study of external nature by the essential unity of reason in the macrocosm and in the microcosm : what we learn of its operations there is pro-fitable for instruction here, and life should be directed in accordance with the experience we have acquired of the course of nature (zen kat' empeirian town phusei sumbainonton, Chrysippus ap. Stob., Ecl., ii. 134). Whether man will comply with the commands of the universal law or not, whether therefore the ethical end is realized in him, must depend upon himself. The whole tendency of the physical theory is towards a system of rigid determinism, nay, almost of fatalism; but, so soon as we reach the ethical region, the problem of indeterminism is forced upon us in all its perplexity.


(beta) Having determined the end of rational action, we must now give a glance at the earlier, instinctive activity of beings properly without reason (i.e., of children and the brute creation); this too has its importance, since before reason is developed the agent follows the " uncorrupted impulses " of nature. Here we come upon a controversy which still has an interest for the psychologist, for Epicurus had declared pleasure to be the end of all instinctive activity, while the Stoics combated his position and sought to prove that not pleasure but self-preservation is really sought. According to them, the child or the animal would speedily be crushed out of existence if it did not move at all or if its movements were not governed by some plan ; a vague consciousness of itself and a love for its own constitution must be postulated to account for the impulse which, together with sensation, distinguishes animal life from the life of the plant. [567-1] That all motion is excited by pleasure in prospect, or the hope of cessation from pain, is (they argue) contrary to fact. Efforts to move are made perseveringly even where they occasion pain. The whole life of unreasoning infancy and of the brutes can be satisfactorily explained on the assumption of sense and impulse acting mechanically, somewhat after the fashion indicated rather than worked out in detail in the Peripatetic application of the practical syllogism to the motion of animals.


In their theory of pleasure itself the Stoics approximate very decidedly to Aristotle. It is, as he said, a concomitant (epigennema), but not of all activities; on the contrary, the highest are without it, and it is invariably of no significance where it is found. Moreover, while Aristotle had asserted that it adds a certain zest or finish to natural activity, the Stoics declared that it never appears at all except as a mark of the decline or relaxation of vital energy, the bloom which is indeed a mark of ripeness but also the certain precursor of decay.

The affections

(gamma) To return to impulse,—there remains the case of action against reason under the influence of the passions. Although nature may guide man towards the right objects, she does not control the impetus or velocity of the soul's movement. If this be in excess, the rational soul is hurried into an inflamed disorderly condition, the source of which is an erroneous judgment or false opinion, though its effects are seen in the evident elation or depression, and the stings of excitement, which are the symptoms of mental disorder. Anxious to uphold individual responsibility, the Stoics pronounced the false opinion to be voluntary; that once granted, the subsequent reaction of the mind (i.e., the emotional effects on which Zeno especially dwelt), the compulsion and extravagance which are characteristic of the passions, may be said to follow inevitably, so that under the sway of blind impulses the man is still acting voluntarily. This sets in a striking light the close dependence of ethics upon psychology. The Peripatetics had made the intellectual soul with virtues of its own something altogether distinct from the lower nature, the seat of the emotions and of the moral virtues which consist in their regulation. The Stoic doctrine of the essential unity of soul is a vehement protest against all this : the soul's unity is shown in a unity of activity, whether it be in a healthy or a disordered state. As all virtues are essentially one, though they differ according to the different relations to which the knowledge of good and evil is applied, so, too, emotion is not something antagonistic to reason, but perverted reason. There is no such struggle of vicious inclinations against virtue, a contest waged by two separate powers, as Aristotle had imagined in his account of moral weakness ; the proper simile is a mutiny or revolt in one and the same city, Mansoul now in allegiance to the rightful authority and now in open rebellion. The lower animals and children are incapable of emotion; it is only found where reason is fully developed. The analysis and classi-fication of these affections start with the false opinion or judgment or imagination, which may relate to the present or the future, to fancied good or fancied ill. Hence there are four types of the affections : all are grouped around pleasure, an impulse towards present fancied good ; desire, an impulse towards future fancied good ; grief, an impulse to shun fancied evil in the present; fear, an impulse to shun fancied evil in the future. On the analogy of bodily disease, these disorders of the mind are further divided into (1) chronic ailments (nosemata), such as avarice, where the belief that money is a good is persistent and deep-seated, leading to a habit of feeling and acting, or ambition, a similar erroneous judgment in respect of public honours, and (2) infirmities (arrostemata), sudden attacks of error to which the patient momentarily succumbs. This remarkable development of Stoic principles leads to the demand for the entire suppression of the affections (apatheia), in contradistinction to that regulation and governance of them for which Plato and the Old Academy contended (metriopatheia). Further, it explains the incessant war which the later Stoics waged with imagination.

Right reason

The end of action has then been explained to be a consistent life, a rational life, and, lastly, a life according to nature. Now the Cynics had already traced back consistency to a certain Herculean strength or force of will, which again is an effect of the bracing or tension of the soul's substance, so that this ever-recurring attribute is as available to explain will as intelligence. Herein we discover, as it were, an internal source of the external harmony and regularity of a consistent life. Our will should be directed to this source rather than to its manifestations,—to "right" (i.e., inflexible and straight) "reason," which has attained a character of intense rigidity, an intensive energy raised to an impassable degree. For this infallible firmness of the reason the technical term is diathesis, a " disposition " which, like straightness or crookedness in a line, admits of no degrees of less or more; thence comes harmony, regularity, and consistency in all our acts, which alone is truly beautiful (kalon = fair or noble ; for which the Romans characteristically said honestum, = honourable). Not even Christianity laid more stress upon inwardness, or taught more explicitly that motive counts for every-thing and external performance for very little. Once let the reason become " right" and it imparts this same character to all that it affects. First the soul is made strong, healthy, beautiful; when, therefore, it thus fulfils all the conditions of its being, it is absolutely perfect.


Now the perfection of anything is called its virtue; the virtue of man, then, is the perfection of his soul, i.e., of the ruling part or rational soul. But "out of the heart are the issues of life": make the soul perfect and you make the life perfect. From such a " disposition " must proceed a life which flows on smoothly and uniformly, like a gentle river (euroia biou). No longer is there anything to hope or fear ; this harmonious accord between impulses and acts is itself man's wellbeing or welfare (eudaimonia). Cleanthes scouts the notion of adding to such perfection that occasional result of a decaying activity entitled pleasure; Chrysippus remonstrates indignantly with Plato for appealing to the " moral bugbears " of future rewards or punishments. There is no " wages of virtue," not even the continuance of her activity; for lapse of time can add nothing to perfect wellbeing ; it is complete, whole, and indivisible now.

Virtue, then, as right reason, is at once knowledge and strength of will; for a right comprehension of Stoic psychology shows that these two are identical. The unity of all virtue is sufficiently apparent, hut the Stoics also acknowledged a plurality of specific virtues grouped round the four cardinal virtues of Plato. Wisdom (phronesis) was, according to Zeno and Cleanthes, the common element; according to Aristo, it should rather he termed knowledge (episteme); and this view was adopted in the school to avoid the awkwardness of using the same term (phronesis) both for a special virtue and for the generic attribute of them all. Wisdom or knowledge in distributing to others is justice, in endeavour it is temperance, in endurance it is courage or fortitude; but in every virtuous act all four of the virtues are implicit. Virtue is thus the unconditional good; it is at once the absolute end and the means to the end.

Goodness must be interpreted, as Socrates used to interpret it, that which furnishes some advantage or true utility; its opposite, evil, as that which produces harm or disadvantage. Obviously only virtue, and that which comes from virtue, confers any real advantage; only vice can really do harm. Goodness is a wider genus than virtue ; all virtue is good, but not all goods are virtues. There are goods of soul, such as habits and happy aptitudes which may be acquired in varying degrees (i.e., they are exeis not diatheseis); others are only single actions (energeiai). A friend again may be a means to good (poietikin telous). All these goods are utilities (ophelemata), and therefore deserve to be sought (haireta). Similarly evils may be classified as—(1) vices, settled dispositions contrary to right reason, proceeding from that ignorance which infallibly attends on a slackening of the soul's fibre; (2) evil habits or inclinations (eukataphoriai); (3) isolated vicious actions. All these evils alike are to be shunned (pheukta); all alike are harmful (blammata); the moral responsibility rests with the individual, in so far as he is ignorant or has his soul relaxed.

Things indifferent

Good and evil, however, is not an exhaustive classification. There is a large class of things which are neither the one nor the other; which do not conduce to attainment of the end, nor hinder us therefrom ; which are neither to be pursued nor shunned, but are simply indifferent (adiaphora). To all these objects the attitude of the Cynics was complete indifference, wherein they were followed by Aristo; that of the sceptics professedly utter insensibility. Now the most original feature of the Stoic ethics is the classification of things indifferent and their arrangement in a certain scale in accordance with the value, positive or negative (axia, apaxia), to be assigned to them either intrinsically or in certain circumstances (kata peristasin). Some objects are so unimportant that in regard to them Aristo's attitude of complete indifference is justified. Placing them at the zero point, we may advance in both directions, assigning to all the objects of instinctive natural impulses a positive value, in virtue of which they are to be picked out (lepta) in preference to other indifferent things not of this description. Thus bodily health, though not a good, is entitled to a certain value; disease, though not an evil, has a certain negative value. The former class is according to nature, the latter contrary to nature; the former are instinctively sought by children as tending to maintain their "constitution" or nature; the latter their "uncorrupted impulses" (adiastrophoi aphormai) lead them to shun as tending to mar, cripple, or destroy life. Similarly, actions may be classified: all virtuous actions are right actions (katarthormata); all vicious actions are wrong actions or "sins" (amartemata). The attainment of any one of the objects in the class of things indifferent, looked at in itself, is neither right nor wrong.

Fitness or external duty

But, if the object picked out be that object out of all at the moment present to us which has the highest value, then the action of selecting it admits of being defended on probable grounds, and as such is entitled to be called (quite apart from the agent's disposition, whether virtuous or vicious), materialiter, an act "meet and fit" to do (kathekon). Such an act need not be preceded by any reasoning at all; in the case of the brutes and of children it is always instinctive, yet in all cases it is capable of being justified on grounds of probability (ho prakhten eulogon ekhei apologian). Similarly with the selection of an object which has less value in preference to one of higher value : such a blunder is not, taken in itself, a wrong action, but it violates fitness (para to kathekon). Amongst fitting actions, some are always fitting, others only at times, under given circumstances ; some indifferent objects we select for their own sakes, others merely as means. The range of such human functions is wide enough to include the acquisition of information, the exercise of temperance and courage, even altruistic conduct. And yet some actions in man are on a level with the nutritive functions of the plant (Diog. Laer., vii. 86). Again, our human functions compose our whole conscious life; even life, then, considered in itself, has in it no moral good ; we may, if need be, under certain circumstances, voluntarily withdraw from it.

The Stoics maintain that the variety of things indifferent is essential to virtue, because it is the field upon which reason is exercised. Virtue is a body, therefore it is corporeal; therefore its active principle needs a passive material to act upon. Things indifferent are capable of being put to a good or a bad use, though some lend themselves to use more easily than others. Nor does virtue merely avail itself, now and then, of things indifferent,—it can do nothing else than avail itself of them. Though they are not goods, and though their attainment does not confer wellbeing, yet all virtue is the selection or choice of them. For how is a virtuous life manifested? In a series of external acts, each one of which is the choice of some natural end, some object according to nature, as possessing at the moment the highest value. The same external act may be done by an irrational agent, and in his case the act is not virtuous. For there is as great a gulf fixed between fitting and virtuous actions as between things indifferent having positive value and the good. No increase of value can raise a thing indifferent to the class of good; no degree of fitness in the external act done can render it virtuous. As right actions consist in following reason in the selection of things according to nature, it follows that such right actions (as distinct from the fitting actions of which all living things are capable) are the exclusive privilege of rational beings. So, too, with wrong actions : only rational beings can perform them ; although children or the brutes may run counter to fitness, and pursue objects contrary to nature, they cannot be said to sin or do wrong. All actions, then, of rational beings must be either virtuous or vicious; there is no mean between the two. But what of fitting actions ? Are not they also done by rational agents ? Is not the distinction between right conduct and mere external fitness continually drawn when the Stoics are referring to the activity of rational human beings ? Unquestionably so ; but in examining a given act it is necessary to view it on the formal as well as on the material side,—as proceeding from a virtuous or vicious disposition, and again as tend-ing, when taken in itself and apart from this disposition, to pro-mote or destroy the agent's nature or constitution, i.e., as something "meet and fit" to do, or as contrary to fitness (or, in rare cases, as having no tendency in either direction). Lastly, the analysis of conduct is incomplete unless the external object which the agent aims at attaining by the act is also taken into account: it may be natural, and may therefore excite desire; or it may be contrary to nature, and excite aversion; or it may be absolutely . indifferent. Now the Stoic classifications of (a) external objects and (b) actions (as they have come down to us from not very discriminating sources) are hampered by the inclusion of right actions and wrong actions, which are made species of the wider genera. Under objects according to nature come (alpha) fitting actions, (beta) right actions, (gamma) virtues; i.e., conduct which is perfect contains all that in the imperfect imitates perfection : a right action has ipso facto all the fitness of a fitting action, and all the accord with nature of a thing according to nature. So with the opposite class: the vicious man, by the very fact of not having the tension of soul which is virtue, commits a sin in his every action ; all that he does, there-fore, is on this ground contrary to fitness and contrary to nature. Any defect in external conduct proves it to be a sin; the mere absence of defect does not establish its claim to be right conduct. It is as easy to prove a given person is unwise (and therefore a sinner) as it is hard to prove him a sage. Virtue is one, vice is manifold.

No act in itself is either noble or base; even the grossest violation of fitness, if it could be done with the right intention, would count as virtue, and the most fitting deeds without that intention are naught (see Orig., C. Cels., iv. 45; Sext. Emp., Adv. Math., xi. 190; Pyrrh. Hyp., iii. 245, is therefore wrong). It does not appear, then, that there is any divergence in principle between the doctrine of the end of action and the doctrine of fitness or relative duty; nor should the latter be regarded (as is done by Cicero and some modern expositors) as an afterthought, intended to soften the too rigorous demands of the Stoic ideal. For from the first it was an integral part of the system: Zeno wrote a treatise peri tou kathekontos; indeed he adopted it as a technical term. That this doctrine was a stumbling-block to the small band of his early disciples seems not unlikely; for Aristo and Herillus, who left 'him, as is believed, on independent grounds, modified it in their own ethical theories afterwards put forth. According to Hirzel (Untersuch., ii. p. 54), however, the views of these two heterodox Stoics more closely approximated than at first sight appears : Herillus, as well as Aristo, maintained that all actions intermediate to vice and virtue are absolutely indifferent (Diog. Laer., vii. 155); and Aristo, like Herillus, defined virtue as knowledge, and held that the wise man will never form opinions, i.e., will not act upon anything short of knowledge.


In their view of man's social relations the Stoics are greatly in advance of preceding schools. We saw that virtue is a law which governs the universe: that which Reason and God ordain must be accepted as binding upon the particle of reason which is in each one of us. Human law comes into existence when men recognize this obligation; justice is therefore natural, and not something merely conventional. The opposite tendencies, to allow to the individual responsibility and freedom, and to demand of him obedience to law, are both features of the system ; but in virtue even of the freedom which belongs to him qua rational, he must recognize the society of rational beings of which he is a member, and subordinate his own ends to the ends and needs of this society. Those who own one law are citizens of one state, the city of Zeus, in which men and gods have their dwelling. In that city all is ordained by reason working intelligently, and the members exist for the sake of one another ; there is an intimate connexion (sumpatheia) between them which makes all the wise and virtuous friends, even if personally unknown, and leads them to contribute to one another's good. Their intercourse should find expression in justice, in friendship, in family and political life. But practically the Stoic philosopher always had some good excuse for withdrawing from the narrow political life of the city in which he found himself. The circumstances of the time, such as the decay of Greek city-life, the foundation of large territorial states under absolute Greek rulers which followed upon Alexander's conquests, and afterwards the rise of the world-empire of Rome, aided to develop the leading idea of Zeno's Republic. There he had anticipated a state without family life, without law courts or coins, without schools or temples, in which all differences of nationality would be merged in the common brotherhood of man. This cosmopolitan citizenship remained all through a distinctive Stoic dogma ; when first announced it must have had a powerful influence upon the minds of men, diverting them from the distractions of almost parochial politics to a boundless vista. There was, then, no longer any difference between Greek and barbarian, between male and female, bond and free. All are members of one body as partaking in reason, all are equally men. Not that this led to any movement for the abolition of slavery. For the Stoics attached but slight importance to external circumstances, since only the wise man is really free, and all the unwise are slaves. Yet, while they accepted slavery as a permanent institution, philosophers as wide apart as Chrysippus and Seneca sought to mitigate its evils in practice, and urged upon masters humanity in the treatment of their slaves.


The religious problem had peculiar interest for the school which discerned God everywhere as the ruler and upholder, and at the same time the law, of the world that He had evolved from Himself. The physical groundwork lends a religious sanction to all moral duties, and Cleanthes's noble hymn is evidence how far a system of natural religion could go in providing satisfaction for the cravings of the religious temper :—

"Most glorious of immortals, O Zeus of many names, almighty and everlasting, sovereign of nature, directing all in accordance with law, thee it is fitting that all mortals should address ... Thee all this universe, as it rolls circling round the earth, obeys wheresoever thou dost guide, and gladly owns thy sway. Such a minister thou boldest in thy invincible hands,—the two-edged, fiery, ever-living thunderbolt, under whose stroke all nature shudders. No work upon earth is wrought apart from thee, lord, nor through the divine ethereal sphere, nor upon the sea; save only whatsoever deeds wicked men do in their own foolishness. Nay, thou knowest how to make even the rough smooth, and to bring order out of disorder; and things not friendly are friendly in thy sight. For so hast thou fitted all things together, the good with the evil, that there might be one eternal law over all ... Deliver men from fell ignorance. Banish it, father, from their soul, and grant them to obtain wisdom, whereon relying thou rulest all things with justice."

To the orthodox theology of Greece and Rome the sys-tem stood in a twofold relation, as criticism and rationalism. That the popular religion contained gross errors hardly needed to be pointed out. The forms of worship were known to be trivial or mischievous, the myths unworthy or immoral. But Zeno declared images, shrines, temples, sacrifices, prayers, and worship to be of no avail A really acceptable prayer, he taught, can only have reference to a virtuous and devout mind : God is best worshipped in the shrine of the heart by the desire to know and obey Him. At the same time the Stoics felt at liberty to defend and uphold the truth in polytheism. Not only is the primitive substance God, the one supreme being, but divinity must be ascribed to His manifestations,—to the heavenly bodies, which are conceived, like Plato's created gods, as the highest of rational beings, to the forces of nature, even to deified men; and thus the world was peopled with divine agencies. Moreover, the myths were rationalized and allegorized, which was not in either case an original procedure. The search for a deeper hidden meaning beside the literal one had been begun by Democritus, Empedocles, the Sophists, and the Cynics. It remained for Zeno to carry this to a much greater extent, and to seek out or invent "natural principles " (logoi physikoi) and moral ideas in all the legends and in the poetry of Homer and Hesiod. In this sense he was the pattern if not the "father" of all such as allegorize and reconcile. Etymology was pressed into the service, and the wildest conjectures as to the meaning of names did duty as a basis for mythological explanations. The two favourite Stoic heroes were Hercules and Ulysses, and nearly every scene in their adventures was made to disclose some moral significance.


Lastly, the practice of divination and the consultation of oracles afforded a means of communication between God and man,—a concession to popular beliefs which may be explained when we reflect that to the faithful divination was something as essential as confession and spiritual direction to a devout Catholic now, or the study and interpretation of Scripture texts to a Protestant. Chrysippus did his best to reconcile the superstition with his own rational doctrine of strict causation. Omens and portents, he explained, are the natural symptoms of certain occurrences. There must be countless indications of the course of Providence, for the most part unobserved, the meaning of only a few having become known to men. His opponents argued, " if all events are foreordained, divination is superfluous"; he replied that both divination and our behaviour under the warnings which it affords are included in the chain of causation. Even here, however, the bent of the system is apparent. They were at pains to insist upon purity of heart and life as an indispensable condition for success in prophesying and to enlist piety in the service of morality.

Middle Stoa

When Chrysippus died (Ol. 143 = 208-204 B.C.) the structure of Stoic doctrine was complete. With the Middle Stoa we enter upon a period at first of comparative inaction, afterwards of internal reform. Chrysippus's immediate successors were Zeno of Tarsus, Diogenes of Seleucia (often called the Babylonian), and Antipater of Tarsus, men of no originality, though not without ability; the two last-named, however, had all their energies taxed to sustain the conflict with CARNEADES (q.v.). This was the most formidable assault the school ever encountered; that it survived was due more to the foresight and elaborate precautions of Chrysippus than to any efforts of that " pen-doughty" pamphleteer, Antipater (kalamoboas), who shrank from opposing himself in person to the eloquence of Carneades. The subsequent his-tory testified to the importance of this controversy. The special objects of attack were the Stoic theory of knowledge, their theology, and their ethics. The physical basis of the system remained unchanged but neglected; all creative force or even original research in the departments of physics and metaphysics vanished. Yet problems of interest bearing upon psychology and natural theology con-tinued to be discussed. Thus the cycles of the world's existence, and the universal conflagration which terminates each of them, excited some doubt. Diogenes of Seleucia is said to have wavered in his belief at last; Boethus, one of his pupils, flatly denied it. He regarded the Deity as the guide and upholder of the world, watching over it from the outside, not as the immanent soul within it, for according to him the world was as soulless as a plant. We have here a compromise between Zeno's and Aristotle's doctrines. But in the end the universal conflagration was handed down without question as an article of belief. It is clear that the activity of these teachers was chiefly directed to ethics: they elaborated fresh definitions of the chief good, designed either to make yet clearer the sense of the formulas of Chrysippus or else to meet the more urgent objections of the New Academy. Carneades had emphasized one striking apparent inconsistency: it had been laid down that to choose what is natural is man's highest good, and yet the things chosen, the "first objects according to nature," had no place amongst goods. Antipater may have met this by distinguishing "the attainment" of primary natural ends from the activity directed to their attainment (Plut., De Comm. Not., 27, 14, p. 1072 F) ; but, earlier still, Diogenes had put forward his gloss, viz., " The end is to calculate rightly in the selection and rejection of things according to nature." Archedemus, a contemporary of Diogenes, put this in plainer terms still: "The end is to live in the performance of all fitting actions" (panta ta pathekonta epitelountas zen). Now it is highly improbable that the earlier Stoics would have sanctioned such interpretations of their dogmas. The mere performance of relative or imperfect duties, they would have said, is something neither good nor evil; the essential constituent of human good is ignored. And similar criticism is actually passed by Posidonius: "This is not the end, but only its necessary concomitant; such a mode of expression may be useful for the refutation of objections put forward by the Sophists " (Carneades and the New Academy ?), "but it contains nothing of morality or wellbeing" (Galen, De Plac. Hipp, et Plat, p. 470 K). There is every ground, then, for concluding that we have here one concession extorted by the assaults of Carneades. For a similar compromise there is express testimony: "good repute" (eudoxia) had been regarded as a thing wholly indifferent in the school down to and including Diogenes. Antipater was forced to assign to it "positive value," and to give it a place amongst "things preferred " (Cic, De Fin., iii. 57). These modifications were retained by Antipater's successors. Hence come the increased importance and fuller treatment which from this time forward fall to the lot of the "external duties" (kathekonta). The rigour and consistency of the older system became sensibly modified.

The Sage

To this result another important factor contributed. In all that the older Stoics taught there breathes that enthusiasm for righteousness in which has been traced the earnestness of the Semitic spirit; but nothing presents more forcibly the pitch of their moral idealism than the doctrine of the Wise Man. All mankind fall into two classes,—the wise or virtuous, the unwise or wicked,— the distinction being absolute. He who possesses virtue possesses it whole and entire; he who lacks it lacks it altogether. To be but a hand's-breadth below the surface of the sea ensures drowning as infallibly as to be five hundred fathoms deep. Now the wise man is drawn as perfect. All he does is right, all his opinions are true; he alone is free, rich, beautiful, skilled to govern, capable of giving or receiving a benefit. And his happiness, since length of time cannot increase it, falls in nothing short of that of Zeus. In contrast with all this, we have a picture of universal depravity. Now, who could claim to have attained to the sage's wisdom? Doubtless, at the first founding of the school Zeno himself and Zeno's pupils were inspired with this hope; they emulated the Cynics Antisthenes and Diogenes, who never shrank out of modesty from the name and its responsibilities. But the development of the system led them gradually and reluctantly to renounce this hope, as they came to realize the arduous conditions involved. Zeno indeed could hardly have been denied the title conferred upon Epicurus. Cleanthes, the "second Hercules," held it possible for man to attain to virtue. From anecdotes recorded of the tricks played upon Aristo and Sphaerus (Diog. Laer., vii. 162, 117) it may be inferred that the former deemed himself infallible in his opinions, i.e., set up for a sage ; Persseus himself, who had exposed the pretensions of Aristo, is twitted with having failed to conform with the perfect generalship which was one trait of the wise man, when he allowed the citadel of Corinth to be taken by Aratus (Athen., iv. 102 D). The trait of infallibility especially proved hard to establish when successive heads of the school seriously differed in their doctrine. The prospect became daily more distant, and at length faded away. Chrysippus declined to call himself or any of his contem-poraries a sage. One or two such manifestations there may have been — Socrates and Diogenes? — but the wise man was rarer, he thought, than the phoenix. If his suc-cessors allowed one or two more exceptions, to Diogenes of Seleucia at any rate the sage was an unrealized ideal, as we learn from Plutarch (De Comm. Not., 33, 1076 B), who does not fail to seize upon this extreme view. Posi-donius left even Socrates, Diogenes, and Antisthenes in the state of progress towards virtue.

Modifications in practice

Although there was in the end a reaction from this extreme, yet it is impossible to mistake the bearing of all this upon a practical system of morals. So long as dialectic subtleties and exciting polemics afforded food for the intellect, the gulf between theory and practice might be ignored. But once let this system be presented to men in earnest about right living, and eager to profit by what they are taught, and an ethical reform is inevitable. Conduct for us will be separated from conduct for the sage. We shall be told not always to imitate him. There will be a new law, dwell-ing specially upon the "external duties" required of all men, wise or unwise ; and even the sufficiency of virtue for our happiness may be questioned. The introducer and expositor of such a twofold morality was a remarkable man. Born at Bhodes c. 185 B.C., a citizen of the most flourishing of Greek states and almost the only one which yet retained vigour and freedom, Pansetius lived for years in the house of Scipio Africanus the younger at Borne, accompanied him on embassies and campaigns, and was perhaps the first Greek who in a private capacity had any insight into the working of the Roman state or the character of its citizens. Later in life, as head of the Stoic school at Athens, he achieved a reputation second only to that of Chrysippus. He is the earliest Stoic author from whom we have, even indirectly, any consider-able piece of work, as books i. and ii. of the De Officiis are a réchauffé, in Cicero's fashion, of Pansetius "Upon External Duty " (peri tou kathekontos).

Stoicism in Rome

The introduction of Stoicism at Rome was the most momentous of the many changes that it saw. After the first sharp collision with the jealousy of the national authorities it found a ready acceptance, and made rapid progress amongst the noblest families. It has been well said that the old heroes of the republic were unconscious Stoics, fitted by their narrowness, their stern simplicity, and devotion to duty for the almost Semitic earnestness of the new doctrine. In Greece its insensibility to art and the cultivation of life was a fatal defect; not so with the shrewd men of the world, desirous of qualifying as advocates or jurists. It supplied them with an incentive to scientific research in archaeology and grammar; it penetrated jurisprudence until the belief in the ultimate identity of the jus gentium with the law of nature modified the praetor's edicts for centuries. Even to the prosaic religion of old Rome, with its narrow original conception and multitude of burdensome rites, it became in some sort a support. Scaevola, following Pansetius, explained that the prudence of statesmen had established this public institution in the service of order midway between the errors of popular superstition and the barren truths of enlightened philosophy. Soon the influence of the pupils reacted upon the doctrines taught. Of speculative interest the ordinary Roman had as little as may be ; for abstract discussion and controversy he cared nothing. Indifferent to the scientific basis or logical development of doctrines, he selected from various writers and from dif-ferent schools what he found most serviceable. All had to be simplified and disengaged from technical subtleties.


To attract his Roman pupils Pansetius would naturally choose simple topics susceptible of rhetorical treatment or of application to individual details. He was the representative, not merely of Stoicism, but of Greece and Greek literature, and would feel pride in introducing its greatest masterpieces: amongst all that he studied, he valued most the writings of Plato. He admired the classic style, the exquisite purity of language, the flights of imagination, but he admired above all the philosophy. He marks a reaction of the genuine Hellenic spirit against the narrow austerity of the first Stoics. Zeno and Chrysippus had introduced a repellent technical terminology; their writings lacked every grace of style. With Panaetius the Stoa became eloquent: he did his best to improve upon the uncouth words in vogue, even at some slight cost of accuracy, e.g., to discard proergemon for eukhreston, or else designate it "so-called good," or even simply "good," if the context allowed.

The part Panaetius took in philological and historical studies is characteristic of the man. We know much of the results of these studies; of his philosophy technically we know very little. He wrote only upon ethics, where historical knowledge would be of use. Crates of Mallus, one of his teachers, aimed at fulfilling the high functions of a " \critic" according to his own definition,—that the critic must acquaint himself with all rational knowdedge. Panaetius was competent to pass judgment upon the critical "divination" of an Aristarchus (who was perhaps himself also a Stoic), and took an interest in the restoration of Old Attic forms to the text of Plato. Just then there had been a movement towards a wider and more liberal education, by which even contemporary Epicureans were affected. Diogenes the Babylonian had written a treatise on language and one entitled The Laws. Along with grammar, which had been a prominent branch of study under Chrysippus, philosophy, history, geography, chronology, and kindred subjects came to be recognized as fields of activity no less than philology proper. It has been recently established that Polybius the historian was a Stoic, and it is clear that he was greatly influenced by the form of the system which he learned to know, in the society of Scipio and his friends, from Panaetius. [571-1] Nor is it improbable that works of the latter served Cicero as the originals of his De Republica and De Legibus. [571-2] Thus the gulf between Stoicism and the later Cynics, who were persistently hostile to culture, could not fail to be widened.


A wave of eclecticism passed over all the Greek schools in the 1st century B.C. Platonism and scepticism had left undoubted traces upon the doctrine of such a reformer as Panaetius. He had doubts about a general conflagration; possibly (he thought) Aristotle was right in affirming the eternity of the present order of the world. He doubted the entire system of divination. On these points his disciples Posidonius and Hecato seem to have reverted to orthodoxy. But in ethics his innovations were more suggestive and fertile. He separated wisdom as a theoretic virtue from the other three which he called practical. Hecato slightly modified this: showing that precepts (theoremata) are needed for justice and temperance also, he made them scientific virtues, reserving for his second class the unscientific virtue (atheoretos arete) of courage, together with health, strength, and such like '' excellencies." Further, Paneetius had maintained that pleasure is not altogether a thing indifferent: there is a natural as well as an unnatural pleasure. But, if so, it would follow that, since pleasure is an emotion, apathy or eradica-tion of all emotions cannot be unconditionally required. The gloss he put upon the definition of the end was " a life in accordance with the promptings given us by nature" ; the terms are all used by older Stoics, but the individual nature (hemin) seems to be emphasized.


From Posidonius, the last representative of a comprehensive study of nature and a subtle erudition, it is not surprising that we get the following definition: the end is to live in contemplation of the reality and order of the universe, promoting it to the best of our power, and never led astray by the irrational part of the soul. The heterodox phrase with which this definition ends points to innovations in psychology which were undoubtedly real and important, suggested by the difficulty of maintaining the essential unity of the soul. Panaetius had referred two faculties (those of speech and of .reproduction) to animal impulse and to the vegetative "nature" (physis) respectively. Yet the older Stoics held that this tpvens was changed to a true soul (psyche) at birth. Posidonius, unable to explain the emotions as "judgments " or the effects of judgments, postulated, like Plato, an irrational principle (including a concupiscent and a spirited element) to account for them, although he subordinated all these as faculties to the one substance of the soul lodged in the heart. This was a serious departure from the principles of the system, facilitating a return of later Stoicism to the dualism of God and the world, reason and the irrational part in man, which Chrysippus had striven to surmount.

Yet in the general approximation and fusion of opposing views which had set in, the Stoics fared far better than rival schools. Their system became best known and most widely used by individual eclectics. All the assaults of the sceptical Academy had failed, and within fifty years of the death of Carneades his degenerate successors, unable to hold their ground on the question of the criterion, had capitulated to the enemy. Antiochus of Ascalon, the professed restorer of the Old Academy, taught a medley of Stoic and Peripatetic dogmas, which he boldly asserted Zeno had first borrowed from his school. The wide diffusion of Stoic phraseology and Stoic modes of thought may be seen on all hands,—in the language of the New Testament writers, in the compendious "histories of philosophy" industriously circulated by a host of writers about this time [cf. H. Diels, Doxographi Graeci).

The later Stoics

The writings of the later Stoics have come down to us, if not entire, in great part, so that Seneca, Cornutus, Persius, Lucan, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius are known at first hand. They do not profess to give a scientific exposi-tion of doctrine, and may therefore be dismissed somewhat briefly (see EPICTETUS and AURELIUS). We learn much more about the Stoic system from the scanty fragments of the first founders, or even from the epitomes of Diogenes Laertius and Stobaeus, than from these writers. They testify to the restriction of philosophy to the practical side, and to the increasing tendency, ever since Panaetius, towards a relaxation of the rigorous ethical doctrine and its approximation to the form of religious conviction. This finds most marked expression in the doctrines of submission to Providence and universal philanthropy. Only in this way could they hold their ground, however insecurely, in face of the religious reaction of the first century. In passing to Rome, Stoicism quitted the school for actual life. The fall of the republic was a gain, for it released so much intellectual activity from civic duties. The life and death of Cato fired the imagination of a degenerate age in which he stood out both as a Roman and a Stoic. To a long line,of illustrious successors, men like Paetus Thrasea and Helvidius Priscus, Cato bequeathed his resolute opposition to the dominant power of the times; unsympathetic, impracticable, but fearless in demeanour, they were a standing reproach to the corruption and tyranny of their age. But when at first, under Augustus, the empire restored order, philosophy became bolder and addressed every class in society, public lectures and spiritual direction being the two forms in which it mainly showed activity. Books of direction were written by Sextius in Greek (as afterwards by Seneca in Latin), almost the only Roman who had the ambition to found a sect, though in ethics he mainly followed Stoicism. His contemporary Papirius Fabianus was the popular lecturer of that day, producing a powerful effect by his denunciations of the manners of the time. Under Tiberius, Sotion and Attalus were attended by crowds of hearers. In Seneca's time there was a professor, badly attended it is true, even in a provincial town like Naples. At the same time the antiquarian study of Stoic writings went on apace, especially those of the earliest teachers,—Zeno and Aristo and Cleanthes.


Seneca is the most prominent leader in the direction which Roman Stoicism now took. His penetrating intellect had mastered the subtleties of the system of Chrysippus, but they seldom appear in his works, at least without apology. Incidentally we meet there with the doctrines of Pneuma and of tension, of the corporeal nature of the virtues and the affections, and much more to the same effect. But his attention is claimed for physics chiefly as a means of elevating the mind, and as making known the wisdom of Providence and the moral government of the world. To reconcile the ways of God to man had been the ambition of Chrysippus, as we know from Plutarch's criticisms. He argued plausibly that natural evil was a thing indifferent,—that even moral evil was required in the divine economy as a foil to set off good. The really difficult problem why the prosperity of the wicked and the calamity of the just were permitted under the divine government he met in various ways: sometimes he alleged the forgetfulness of higher powers; sometimes he fell back upon the necessity of these contrasts and grotesque passages in the comedy of human life. Seneca gives the true Stoic answer in his treatise On Providence: the wise man cannot really meet with misfortune; all outward calamity is a divine instrument of training, designed to exercise his powers and teach the world the indifference of external conditions. In the soul Seneca recognizes an effluence of the divine spirit, a god in the human frame; in virtue of this he maintains the essential dignity and internal freedom of man in every human being. Yet, in striking contrast to this orthodox tenet is his vivid conception of the weakness and misery of men, the hopelessness of the struggle with evil, whether in society or in the individual. Thus he describes the body (which, after Epicurus, he calls the flesh) as a mere husk or fetter or prison of the soul; with its departure begins the soul's true life. Sometimes, too, he writes as if he accepted an irrational as well as a rational part of the soul. In ethics, if there is no novelty of doctrine, there is a surprising change in the mode of its application. The ideal sage has receded; philosophy comes as a physician, not to the whole but to the sick. We learn that there are various classes of patients in "progress" (prokope), i.e., on their way to virtue, making painful efforts towards it. The first stage is the eradication of vicious habits: evil tendencies are to be corrected, and a guard kept on the corrupt propensities of the reason. Suppose this achieved, we have yet to struggle with single attacks of the passions: irascibility may be cured, but we may succumb to a fit of rage. To achieve this second stage the impulses must be trained in such a way that the fitness of things indifferent may be the guide of conduct. Even then it remains to give the will that property of rigid infallibility without which we are always liable to err, and this must be effected by the training of the judgment. Other peculiarities of the later Stoic ethics are due to the condition of the times. In a time of moral corruption and oppressive rule, as the early empire repeatedly became to the privileged classes of Roman society, a general feeling of insecurity led the student of philosophy to seek in it a refuge against the vicissitudes of fortune which he daily beheld. The less any one man could do to interfere in the government, or even to safeguard his own life and property, the more heavily the common fate pressed upon all, levelling the ordinary distinctions of class and character. Driven inwards upon themselves, they employed their energy in severe self-examination, or they cultivated resignation to the will of the universe, and towards their fellow-men forbearance and forgiveness and humility, the virtues of the philanthropic disposition. With Seneca this resignation took the form of a constant meditation upon death. Timid by nature, aware of his impending doom, and at times justly dissatisfied with himself, he tries all means of reconciling himself to the idea of suicide. The act had always been accounted allowable in the school, if circumstances should call for it: indeed, the first three teachers had found such circumstances in the infirmity of old age. But their attitude towards the " way out" (exagoge) of incurable discomforts is quite unlike the anxious sentimentalism with which Seneca dwells upon death.


From Seneca we turn, not without satisfaction, to men of sterner mould, such as Musonius Rufus, who certainly deserves a place beside his more illustrious disciple, Epictetus. As a teacher he commanded universal respect, and wherever we catch a glimpse of his activity in these perilous times—whether banished by Nero, or excepted from banishment by Vespasian, as the judicial prosecutor of that foul traitor Egnatius Celer, or as thrusting himself between the ranks of Vespasianists and Vitellianists, to preach conciliation on the eve of a battle—he appears to advantage. His philosophy, however, is yet more concentrated upon practice than Seneca's, and in ethics he is almost at the position of Aristo. Virtue is the sole end, but virtue may be gained without many doctrines, mainly by habit and training. Epictetus testifies to the powerful hold he acquired upon his pupils, each of whom felt as if Musonius spoke to his heart. Amongst a mass of his practical precepts, we come across an original thought, the famous distinction between "things in our power," i.e., our ideas and imaginations, and "things beyond our power," i.e., the course of events and external advantages. The practical lesson drawn from it is, that we must school ourselves to accept willingly the inevitable.


In the life and teaching of Epictetus this thought bore abundant fruit. The beautiful character which rose superior to weakness, poverty, and slave's estate is also presented to us in the Discourses of his disciple Arrian as a model of religious resignation, of forbearance and love towards our brethren, that is, towards all men, since God is our common father. With him even the "physical basis" of ethics takes the form of a religious dogma,—the providence of God and the perfection of the world. We learn that he regards the daimon or "guardian angel" as the divine part in each man; sometimes it is more nearly conscience, at other times reason. His ethics, too, has a religious character. He begins with human weakness and man's need of God: whoso would become good must first be convinced that he is evil. Submission is enforced by an argument which almost amounts to a retractation of the difference between things natural and things contrary to nature, as understood by Zeno. Would you be cut off from the universe? he asks. Go to, grow healthy and rich. But if not, if you are a part of it, then become resigned to your lot. Towards this goal of approximation to Cynicism the later Stoics had all along been tending.

Withdrawal from the active duty of the world must lead to passive endurance, and, ere long, complete indifference. Musonius had recommended marriage and condemned unsparingly the exposure of infants. Epictetus, however, would have the sage hold aloof from domestic cares, another Cynic trait. So, too, in his great maxim "bear and forbear," the last is a command to refrain from the external advantages which nature offers.

Marcus Aurelius

Epictetus is marked out amongst Stoics by his renunciation of the world. He is followed by a Stoic emperor, M. Aurelius Antoninus, who, though in the world, was not of it. The Meditations give no systematic exposition of belief, but there are many indications of the religious spirit we have already observed, together with an almost Platonic psychology. Following Epictetus, he speaks of man as a corpse bearing about a soul; at another time he has a threefold division—(1) body, (2) soul, the seat of impulse (pneumation), and (3) nous or intelligence, the proper ego. In all he writes there is a vein of sadness: the flux of all things, the vanity of life, are thoughts which perpetually recur, along with resignation to the will of God and forbearance towards others, and the religious longing to be rid of the burden and to depart to God. These peculiarities in M. Antoninus may perhaps be explained in harmony with the older Stoic teaching; but, when taken in connexion with the rise of Neoplatonism and the revival of superstition, they are certainly significant. None of the ancient systems fell so rapidly as the Stoa. It had just touched the highest point of practical morality, and in a generation after M. Antoninus there is hardly a professor to be named. Its most valuable lessons to the world were preserved in Christianity; but bhe grand simplicity of its monism slumbered for fifteen centuries before it was revived by Spinoza.


The best modern authority is Zeller, Phil. d. Griech., iii. pt. i.-(3d ed., 1880),—Eng. transl. Stoics, by Reichel (1879), and Eclectics, by S. E. Alleyne (1883). Of the 214 numbers to which the bibliography of Stoicism extends in Ueberweg-Heinze, Grundriss der Gesch. der Phil. (7th ed., 1886), may be cited F. Ravaisson, Essai sur le Stoicisme, Paris, 1856 ; M. Heinze, Die Lehre vom Logos, Oldenburg, 1872; H. Siebeck, Untersuchungen zur Phil. d. Griechen, Halle, 1873, and Gesch. d. Psychologie, i. 2, Gotha, 1884; R. Hirzel, "Die Entwicklung der stoisch. Phil.," in Untersuchungen zu Ciceros Schriften, ii. pp. 1-566, Leipsic, 1882 ; Ogereau, Essai sur le Systeme des Stoiciens, Paris, 1885; L. Stein, Die Psychologie der Stoa, i., Berlin, 1886. (R. D. H.)


565-1 These derivative powers include the five senses, speech, and the reproductive faculty, and they bear to the soul the relation of qualities to a substance. The ingenious essay of Mr R. D. Archer Hind on the Platonic psychology (Jour. of Phil., vol. x. p. 120) aims at establishing a parallel unification on the spiritualistic side; comp. Rep., x. 612 A.

566-1 pasas de tas hormas sugkatatheseis einai, tas de praktikas kai to kinetikon periekhein, -- Stoebeus, Ecl. Th., ii. 164.

567-1 proton oikeion einai apnti zoo ten hautou sustasin kai ten tautes suneidesin. The sustasis of an organic being is an outcome of internal forces, a mutual relation of varying elements,—in man, a relation of the ruling part of the soul, i. e., the rational soul, to the rest. By oikoiosis is meant that nature inspires this self-love, "for it is improbable that nature should estrange the living thing from itself, or that she should leave the creature she had made without either estrangement from, or affection for, its own constitution."

571-1 Hirzel, Untersuch., ii. p. 841 sq. Polybius's rejection of divination is decisive. See, e.g., his explanation upon natural causes of Scipio the elder's capture of New Carthage, " by the aid of Neptune, x. 11 (cf. x. 2). P. Voigt holds that in vi. 5, 1, tisin heterois ton philosophon is an allusion to Panaetius.

571-2 This, at least, is maintained by Schmekel.

572-1 Works of Posidonius and Hecato have served as the basis of extant Latin treatises. Cicero, De Divinatione, perhaps De Natura Deorum, i., ii., comes in part from Posidonius ; Cicero, De Finibus, iii., and Seneca, De Beneficiis, i.-iv., from Hecato, who is also the source of Stobaeus, Ecl. Eth., ii. 110. Cf. H. H. Fowler, Panaetii et Hecatonis Fragmenta, Bonn, 1885.

572-2 Cf. C. Wachsmuth, Commentationes II. de Zenone Citiensi et Cleanthe Assio, Göttingen, 1874. Baguet's Chrysippus, Louvain, 1822, is unfortunately very incomplete.

The above article was written by: D. Drew Hicks, Fellow and Lecturer, Trinity College, Cambridge.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries