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Philosophical Connections

Compiled by Anthony Harrison-Barbet


CHRYSIPPUS

(c. 280 — 207 B.C.)

 

STOICISM

Born at Soli in Cilicia Chrysippus studied under Cleanthes at Athens, succeeding him in 232 as the third head of the Stoic school founded by Zeno of Citium (c. 336 — c. 265). He is important for his development and systematization of Zeno's doctrines; and he was called the 'Column of the Stoa' ('stoa' means 'porch') by his contemporaries because of his impartiality and reasonableness. None of his 705 'books' has survived, but some of his sayings have been recorded by later commentators.

 

LOGIC AND LANGUAGE

[1] Chrysippus held the view that there are but four categories [a], namely: the substrate, the 'essential' basis, the 'accidental' basis, and the 'relative accidental' basis. He also developed a logic of propositions [b] (as contrasted with the logic of terms of Aristotle). Propositions are simple or non-simple. The former are true by virtue of facts (their truth conditions); the truth values of the latter depend on the truths of the simples out of which they are constructed. He made full use of dialectic techniques [c].

 

KNOWLEDGE

[2] According to Chrysippus, all knowledge is grounded in the senses. When we perceive individual material objects and form impressions material traces are left in the soul. Experience arises out of complexes of such traces. In addition to our knowledge of individual things we have knowledge of general ideas [a]. These too are formed by us from out internal traces. But Chrysippus held also that we have some general ideas prior to experience in the sense that we have a natural disposition to produce them [b]. It is our immediate 'apprehensive' perceptions which give us the criterion of truth, and they can be checked by deliberation, that is, by testing them against commonly held notions — similar perceptions we have remembered. From the perceptions we had in childhood our reason develops, by means of which we can come to know reality as a whole.

 

PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE/ METAPHYSICS

[3] According to Chrysippus, reality — the One Substance — has two material principles: the passive principle (to paschon) and the active principle (to poioun). The former is matter without any qualities [a]; the latter is Reason (logos) or God [b]conceived of not as a personal being but as the 'ordering' factor of Nature, exhibited in 'natural law' [b]. God is also identified with Fire [c], a finer matter which permeates the whole universe and dwells in individuals as 'breath' (pneuma). And It is the prime cause of everything which makes up the world of individual bodies (there are no concrete universals for Chrysippus) [d]. The process is supposed to happen in the following way. God as fiery vapour contains within itself 'seeds' (logoi spermatikoi) of individual things [e]. Vapour turns into air, air becomes water. Part of the water remains unchanged, while the rest becomes earth and air — the latter turning back to fire by a process of rarefaction. Thus the world ultimately returns to the primeval Fire though a universal conflagration (ekpyrosis). The whole process then starts all over again [f]. The Stoic 'God' also manifests itself as Fate (or Providence) in its ordering for the best everything that happens [g]. Indeed Chrysippus appeals to the beauty and order of the universe as the basis for a proof of God's existence. He also said that there must be such a being to have a given man such an idea — given his limited powers of reasoning . Moreover there is a common belief in God [h].

[4] God's supposed providence raises the problem of human freedom and evil. Chrysippus says that man remains free to the extent that he can adopt a positive attitude of acceptance towards events [a]. Evil, he argues, does not really exist when considered from the standpoint of the universe as a whole. What seems to the individual to be evil, for example, suffering, is but a logical complement to its opposite, good. Thus, to be able to experience pleasure we must also have the capacity to suffer pain. (This can even be beneficial sometimes, as when it warns us that there is something wrong with us.) As for moral evil, the capacity for virtue is accompanied by the capacity for vice. Chrysippus's general principle therefore is that evil is a privation [b], that is, absence of 'right order' in things.

 

PSYCHOLOGY

[5] Unlike the souls of animals, which posses only imagination and impulsive desires, or of plants, which exhibit only cohesion and movement, the human soul is rational and is itself part of the Divine Fire. It is also simple, devoid of parts [a]. For Chrysippus, consistently with his Stoic materialism, there is no personal immortality — though he allows that the souls of the wise may exist after death until the conflagration of the universe [b].

 

ETHICS

NATURAL LAW THEORY

[6] The aim of the Stoic is to live "according to Nature": he regards this as 'proper' (kathekon), his duty. By this is meant that men should follow their reason, and hence the will of 'God' in so far as man's rational nature is governed by universal law — the 'active principle' [a]. In this way man will be virtuous and hence attain happiness (eudaimonia) [b]. However, virtue is desirable as an end in itself [c]. Although the universe would seem to be a material deterministic system, man can develop a 'right' attitude towards it. If he acts in accordance with right reason he can bring good out of evil by restoring order to what is disharmonious. Intention is all-important: actions in themselves are morally neutral; they are neither good nor bad [d]. In order to develop the right attitude man must be at once courageous, temperate, and just, and must possess wisdom, moral insight, and self-control. Moral training involves the elimination of feelings and desires such as pleasure and fear, which are irrational, that is, do not conform to nature and are therefore of no moral worth. One thereby achieves a state of apathy ('no feeling') [e]. Chrysippus says also that there are no degrees of virtue. An individual either possesses all the cardinal virtues or is non-virtuous. Stoicism, however, is not entirely egoistical. Self-love is transcended in so far as man is a social being; and Chrysippus stresses the role of the family, society, and indeed humanity as a whole in underpinning morality. This is the Stoic cosmopolitanism [f].

 

CRITICAL SUMMARY

Chrysippus is important as the systematizer of Stoic doctrines; and as his thought is characteristic of that school so is it open to the difficulties raised by its philosophy. His theory of knowledge is empirical, yet he appears to hold that some general ideas are innate — albeit as dispositions. Moreover he implies that it is through reason that we gain insight into reality — Fire, the One Substance — and into the 'natural law' which is our guide for ethics. Chrysippus's claim that moral responsibility and hence freedom of choice are compatible with his acceptance of fate, that is to say, the predetermination of events by a non-personal 'God', is questionable. Likewise there might seem to be a problem with his simultaneous commitment to both self-preservation and cosmopolitanism, though he claims there is no incompatibility between self-love and his love for all humanity, all men being kin and parts of the whole, the One.

 

READING

[Chrysippus:] Long and Sedley, op. cit., chs 39-67 passim.

General

T. Brennan, The Stoic Life: Emotions, Duties and Fate (Oxford: Oxford University Press??, 2005).

J. M. Rist, Stoic Philosophy.

Study

J. B. Gould, The Philosophy of Chrysippus

Collections of essays

B. Inwood (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics.

A. Long (ed.), Problems in Stoicism.

J. M. Rist (ed.), The Stoics.

 

CONNECTIONS

Chrysippus

 

[1a] Categories    Aristotle [4a]

 

[1b] Logic of propositions [Influence traceable to Euclides of Megara (fl. 400 B.C.) and   Socrates]→ [sec. 1]

 

[1c] Dialectic    Zeno

   Socrates

[1a]

[1d]

 

[2a] Knowledge and sense-experience: individuals and general ideas

   Plato

   Epicurus

Carneades

Posidonius

Sextus

[6b 7b]

[1a]

[1a]

[2a]

[2a]

 

[2b] Innate ideas (as dispositional)    Plato [sec. 8]

 

[3a b] Monism — one substance: passive matter; active reason (logos) = God

   Heraclitus

   Plato

Posidonius

Seneca

Epictetus

[1f 2a]

[3a 4a]

[1a]

[1a]

[2a]

 

[3b] Divine/ 'natural' law

Posidonius

Seneca

Epictetus

[1c]

[2b]

[2a]

 

[3c] God and fire

   Heraclitus

Posidonius

Epictetus

[1h]

[1b]

[2a]

 

[3d] Prime mover — first cause    Plato [5a b-d f]

 

[3e] 'Seeds' (logoi spermatikoi)

   Plato

Plotinus

[1b c]

[1j]

 

[3f] Universal conflagration (ekpyrosis) — cyclic process

   Heraclitus

Posidonius

Epictetus

   Nietzsche

[1h]

[1d]

[2d]

[1c]

 

[3g] Providence/ fate

Posidonius

Epictetus

Plotinus

[1c]

[1e]

[2b]

 

[3h] God's existence — proofs

   Plato

Carneades

   Posidonius

Cicero

   Augustine

   Descartes

[5g]

[1b]

[2a]

[1d]

[3c]

[3b]

 

[4a] Freedom

   Epicurus

Carneades

Posidonius

Seneca

[2b]

[2c]

[3b]

[2a]

 

[4b] Evil as privation

Carneades

Plutarch

   Augustine

[1c]

[1c]

[5b]

 

[5a] Soul — fiery nature

   Heraclitus

   Plato

   Epicurus

Posidonius

Seneca

Plutarch

Epictetus

[2a b]

[9a c]

[3a b]

[3c]

[1b]

[2a]

[2b]

 

[5b] Immortality

   Heraclitus

   Plato

   Epicurus

Posidonius

Seneca

Plutarch

Epictetus

[2b]

[9b sec. 10]

[3c]

[3d]

[1b]

[2b]

[2c]

 

[6a] Reason, duty, divine will/ natural law — basis for ethics

   Socrates

   Plato

   Epicurus

Posidonius

Seneca

Epictetus

   Peirce

[2b]

[11a b g e 13a]

[1b]

[4a]

[2b]

[1c]

[4a]

 

[6b] 'Well-being' (eudaimonia)    Socrates

   Plato

[2c]

[11f g]

 

[6c] Virtue as end in itself

   Socrates

   Plato

   Epicurus

Carneades

   Augustine

[2c]

[11d]

[4a]

[3a]

[8a]

 

[6d] Intention and rightness of actions

   Augustine

   Abelard

   Bonaventura

   Aquinas

[8c]

[3b]

[7c]

[8b]

 

[6e] Desires and reason; 'apathy'

Epictetus

   Augustine

[1b]

[8a]

 

[6f] Cosmopolitanism

Posidonius

Cicero

Seneca

Plutarch

Epictetus

   Peirce

[4b]

[2e]

[2c]

[3c]

[1h]

[4a]