1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/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 (στοὰ ποικίλη) on the north side of the market-place at Athens, which, after its restoration by Cimon, the celebrated painter Polygnotus had adorned with frescoes 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 first fruits 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 Panaetius 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 Phoenician 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, Panaetius, 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, Persaeus, 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,Zeno. 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 accomplished 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” (λόγος), 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 approximated 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 psychological principle to the Cynics, received at his hands an extension throughout the natural world, in which Heraclitean 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 heterodoxCleanthes. 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 (εὐτονία) 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 substituteChrysippus. 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 authorship 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 procedure 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.
And first we will inquire, What is philosophy? No idle gratification of curiosity, as Aristotle fabled of his life intellectualConception of Philosophy. (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 charactersPhysics. is described by anticipation in Plato’s Sophist (246 C seq.), where, arguing with those “who drag everything down to the corporeal” (σῶμα), the Eleatic stranger would fain prove to them the existence of something incorporeal, as follows. “They admit the existence of an animate body. Is soul then something existent (oὐσία)? 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;Materialism. 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, νοῦς and νοητά, 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, each in its turn, received solutions.Tension. (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 or tonicity as the essential attribute of body, in contradistinction to passive inert matter, which is distinctively 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 (λόγος) 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 (oὐσία). The active principle makes the matter a given determinate thing, characterizing and qualifying it, whence it is termed quality (ποιότης). For all that is or happens there is an immediate cause or antecedent; 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 coextensive with “matter,” as pervading and permeating it, and together with it occupying and filling space. This is that famous doctrine of universal permeation (κρᾶσις δι’ ὅλου), 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 (σώματα). Obviously, again, the Stoic quality corresponds to Aristotle’s essential form; in both systems the active principle, “the cause of all that matter becomes,” is that which accounts for the existence of a given concrete thing (λόγος τῆς οὐσίας). Only here, instead of assuming something immaterial (and therefore unverifiable), we fall back upon a current of air or gas (πνεῦμα); 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 (λόγος σπερματικός). 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. (c) What then, we ask, is the relation between the active and the passive principles?Matter and Force. 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 Peripatetics, 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 termMonism. Form (εἶδος) they never use, but always Reason 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 conceptions, creations of thought to which nothing real and external corresponded, namely, time, space, void, and the idea expressed in language (λεκτόν). But this inconsistency 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 tales of science.” Before thereCosmogony. 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 differentiation of primitive substance—the separation of force from matter, the emanation of the world from God. The germinal world-making powers (σπερματικοὶ λόγοι), 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, φλόξ) 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 primitive being which Heraclitus had called a progress up and down (ὁδὸς ἄνω κάτω). 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 conditioning 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 reflection among savages and half-civilized men connects vitality with the airPneuma. inhaled in respiration; the disciples of Hippocrates, without much modifying this 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.
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 seq.).Contrast to Heraclitus. They substituted primitive Pneuma for his primitive fire, but so far as they are hylozoists at all they stand upon the same ground with him. Moreover, the commentaries of Cleanthes, Aristo and Sphaerus on Heraclitean writings (Diog. Laër. 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 interchange of material
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.Psychology. 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 presenting 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 (λόγος, νοῦς, ἡγεμονικόν); 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 maintained is that from the centre 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. The ethical consequences of this position will be seen at a later stage. With this psychology is intimately connected the Stoic theory of knowledge.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 (φύσις): 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 foundation of the Stoic physics.
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:Cosmopolitanism. 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 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 (συμπάθεια) 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,Religion. 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:—
To the orthodox theology of Greece and Rome the system 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” (λόγοι φυσικοί 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 divinationDivination. 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.
When Chrysippus died (Ol. 143 = 208-204 B.C.) the structure of Stoic doctrine was complete. With the Middle Stoa we enter upon a periodMiddle Stoa. 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 (καλαμοβόας), who shrank from opposing himself in person to the eloquence of Carneades. The subsequent history 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 continued 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” (πάντα τὰ καθήκοντα ἐπιτελοῦντας ζῆν). 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 constituents 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 well-being” (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” (εὐδοξία) 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” (καθήκοντα). The rigour and consistency of the older system became sensibly modified.
To this result another important factor contributed. In all that the older Stoics taught there breathes that enthusiasm for righteousnessThe Sage. 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. Laër. vii. 162, 117) it may be inferred that the former deemed himself infallible in his opinions, i.e. set up for a sage; Persaeus 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 contemporaries 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 successors 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. Posidonius left even Socrates, Diogenes and Antisthenes in the state of progress towards virtue. Although there was in the end a reactionModifications in Practice. 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, dwelling 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 Rhodes c. 185 B.C., a citizen of the most flourishing of Greek states and almost the only one which yet retained vigour and freedom, Panaetius lived for years in the house of Scipio Africanus the younger at Rome, 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 considerable piece of work, as books i. and ii. of the De officiis are a réchaufé, in Cicero's fashion, of Panaetius “Upon External Duty” (περὶ τοῦ καθήκοντος).
The introduction of Stoicism at Rome was the most momentous of the many changes that it saw. After the first sharp collision with the jealousyStoicism in Rome. 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 Panaetius, 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 different schools what he found most serviceable. All had to be simplified and disengaged from technical subtleties. To attract his Roman pupils Panaetius would naturally choose simple topicsPanaetius. 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 προηγμένον for εὐχρηστον, or else designate it “so-called good,” or even simply “good,” if the context allowed.
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 AureliusThe Later Stoics. are known at first hand. They do not profess to give a scientific exposition of doctrine, and may therefore be dismissed some what briefly (see Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius). We learn much more about the Stoic system from the scanty fragments of the first founders, or even from the epitomes of Diogenes Laërtius 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 1st 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 Thrasea Paetus 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, with few hearers 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 Seneca. 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” (προκοπή), 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” (ἐξαγωγή) 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 Musonius a place beside his more illustrious disciple, Epictetus. As a teacher he commanded universal respect, and wherever we catch a glimpse of his activity 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. Epictetus testifies to the powerful hold he acquired upon his pupils, each of whom felt that Musonius spoke to his heart. The practical conclusion of his philosophy is that he must cheerfully accept the inevitable.
In the life and teaching of Epictetus this thought bore abundant fruit. The beautiful character which rose superior to Epictetus. 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 δαίμων or “guardian angel” as the divine part in each man; sometimes it is more nearly conscience, at other times reason. His ethics, too, have 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.
Epictetus is marked out amongst Stoics by his renunciation of the world. He is followed by a Stoic emperor, M. Aurelius 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 (πνευματίον), and (3) νοῦς 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 the grand simplicity of its monism slumbered for fifteen centuries before it was revived by Spinoza.
Literature.—The best modern authority is Zeller, Phil. d. Griech. iii. pt. i. (3rd ed., 1880)—Eng. trans. Stoics, by Reichel (1879), and Eclectics, by S. F. Alleyne (1883). Further 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. 1-566 (Leipzig, 1882); Ogereau, Essai sur le système des Stoiciens (Paris, 1885); L. Stein, Die Psychologie der Stoa, i. p. ii. (Berlin, 1886–1888); A. C. Pearson, The Fragments of Zeno and Cleanthes (London, 1891); A. Schmekel, Die Philosophie der mittleren Stoa (Berlin, 1892); A. Bonhöffer, Epictet and die Stoa (Stuttgart, 1890); Die Ethik des Stoikers Epictet (Stuttgart, 1894); A. Dyroff, Die Ethik der alten Stoa (Berlin, 1897). Indispensable to the student are H. Diels, Doxographi graeci (Berlin, 1879); J. von Arnim, Stoicorum veterum fragmenta, i-iii. (Leipzig, 1903–1905). (R. D. H.)
- 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 (Journ. of Phil. x. 120) aims at establishing a parallel unification on the spiritualistic side; cf. Rep. x. 612 A.
- Hirzel, Untersuch. ii. 841 seq. 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, τισιν ἐτέροις τῶν φιλοσόφων is an allusion to Panaetius.
- This at least, is maintained by Schmekel.
- 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).
- Cf. C. Wachsmuth, Commentationes II. de Zenone Citiensi et Cleanthe Assio (Göttingen, 1874). Baguet's Chrysippus (Louvain, 1822) is unfortunately very incomplete.