This paper seeks to elucidate the distinctive nature of the rational impression on its own terms, asking precisely what it means for the Stoics to define logikē phantasia as an impression whose content is expressible in language. I argue first that impression, generically, is direct and reflexive awareness of the world, the way animals get information about their surroundings. Then, that the rational impression, specifically, is inherently conceptual, inferential, and linguistic, i.e. thick with propositional content, the way humans receive incoming (...) information from the world. When we suspend certain contemporary assumptions about propositional content, the textual evidence can be taken at face value to reveal why, for the Stoics, rational impressions are called thoughts (noēseis) and how the Stoics’ novel semantic entities called lekta (roughly, the meanings of our words) depend on rational impressions for their subsistence. (shrink)
Void is at the heart of Stoic metaphysics. As the incorporeal par excellence, being defined purely in terms of lacking body, it brings into sharp focus the Stoic commitment to non-existent Somethings. This article argues that Stoic void, far from rendering the Stoic system incoherent or merely ad hoc, in fact reflects a principled and coherent physicalism that sets the Stoics apart from their materialist predecessors and atomist neighbors.
The Stoics have often been compared to the earthborn Giants in the Battle of Gods and Giants in Plato’s Sophist, but with diverging opinions about the lessons they drew in reaction to Plato. At issue are questions about what in the Sophist the Stoics were reacting to, how the Stoics are like and unlike the Giants, the status of being for the Stoics, and the extent to which they were Platonizing with their incorporeals. With these open questions in mind, I (...) reexamine the Sophist from the Stoic perspective, finding eight distinct challenges that are likely to have been salient to the Stoics, and offer a new account of the Stoics as responding to these challenges with an innovative ontology that prises apart something from being to make room for what is not, and a sophisticated one-world metaphysics that grounds everything there is in two fundamental bodies. (shrink)
At the heart of the Stoic theory of modality is a strict commitment to bivalence, even for future contingents. A commitment to both future truth and contingency has often been thought paradoxical. This paper argues that the Stoic retreat from necessity is successful. it maintains that the Stoics recognized three distinct senses of necessity and possibility: logical, metaphysical and providential. Logical necessity consists of truths that are knowable a priori. Metaphysical necessity consists of truths that are knowable a posteriori, a (...) world order according to certain metaphysical principles and natures that god crafts within the constraints of matter. Finally, what is providentially necessary is what occurs according to the chain of fate, but only once it is in process or past. -/- The method of the paper is a close reading of Diogenes Laertius 7.75, adducing broad textual evidence along the way, to show that the Stoic theory of modality embraces Philonian possibility, both that which is capable of being true as a matter of logical consistency, and that which is possible according to the bare fitness of the entity. What differentiates the Stoics from Philo is their additional commitment to possibility as opportunity, resisting the collapse of determinism into necessity. (shrink)
This paper rehabilitates the Stoic conception of blending from the ground up, by freeing the Stoic conception of body from three interpretive presuppositions. First, the twin hylomorphic presuppositions that where there is body there is matter, and that where there is reason or quality there is an incorporeal. Then, the atomistic presupposition that body is absolutely full and rigid, and the attendant notion that resistance (antitupia) must be ricochet. I argue that once we clear away these presuppositions about body, the (...) foundations of Stoic corporealism fall into place. Body is fundamental (not hylomorphic). The two fundamental principles (archai) are bodies: divine active reason (logos) and passive matter (hulē); and these two bodies are two, not matter and form all over again, nor actual and potential, but agent and patient. The independence of the two archai is no threat to the unity of the cosmos, however, because the Stoic theory of body allows for the complete coextension of the archai. The hylomorphic thinker rightly asks, what relation could be tighter than that of the wax and its shape? The Stoic replies: a causal relation, the interaction of agent and patient completely coextended in a through and through blend. (shrink)
The Stoics are famously committed to the thesis that only bodies are, and for this reason they are rightly called “corporealists.” They are also famously compared to Plato’s earthborn Giants in the Sophist, and rightly so given their steadfast commitment to body as being. But the Stoics also notoriously turn the tables on Plato and coopt his “dunamis proposal” that being is whatever can act or be acted upon to underwrite their commitment to body rather than shrink from it as (...) the Giants do. The substance of Stoic corporealism, however, has not been fully appreciated. This paper argues that Stoic corporealism goes beyond the dunamis proposal, which is simply an ontological criterion for being, to the metaphysics of body. This involves, first, an account of body as metaphysically simple and hence fundamental; second, an account of body as malleable and continuous, hence fit for blending (krasis di’ holou) and composition. In addition, the metaphysics of body involves a distinction between this composition relation seen in the cosmology, and the constitution relation by which the four-fold schema called the Stoic Categories proceeds, e.g. the relation between a statue and its clay, or a fist and its underlying hand. It has not been appreciated that the cosmology and the Categories are distinct — and complementary — explanatory enterprises, the one accounting for generation and unity, the other taking those individuals once generated, and giving a mereological analysis of their identity and persistence conditions, kinds, and qualities. The result is an elegant division of Plato’s labor from the Battle of Gods and Giants. On the one hand, the Stoics rehabilitate the crude cosmology of the Presocratics to deliver generation and unity in completely corporeal terms, and that work is found in their Physics. On the other hand, they reform the Giants and “dare to corporealize,” delivering all manner of predication (from identity to the virtues), and that work is found in Stoic Logic. Recognizing the distinctness of these explanatory enterprises helps dissolve scholarly puzzles, and harmonizes the Stoics with themselves. (shrink)
Contains essays on topics in moral philosophy from Plato, Aristotle, Stoicism and Plotinus. See the review at NDPR for detailed descriptions http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/virtue-and-happiness-essays-in-honour-of-julia-annas/.
Everything is Something is a book about Stoic metaphysics. It argues that the Stoics are best understood as forging a bold new path between materialism and idealism, a path best characterized as non-reductive physicalism. To be sure, only individual bodies exist for the Stoics, but not everything there is exists — some things are said to subsist. However, this is no Meinongian move beyond existence, to the philosophy of intentionality (as the language of subsistence might suggest), but a one-world metaphysics (...) that both counts its entities by logical criteria, and grounds them in body by physical principles, yielding a tightly ordered ontology in which everything is Something and nothing is not. -/- This last phrase is not innocent. It invokes the Stoic innovation of Something (ti) as the highest genus of reality, and takes the stand that it is not only principled and coherent, but comprehensive — anything that is not Something is nothing at all (for the initiated: there is no class of Not-Somethings between Something and nothing). Further, everything that is Something is either itself a body, or ontologically dependent on body. Herein lies the Stoics’ non-reductive physicalism, and the beating heart of their response to the Battle of Gods and Giants in Plato’s Sophist: a one-world metaphysics. -/- The foundation of Stoic metaphysics is their ground-breaking corporealism, which introduces an alternative to both atomism and hylomorphism. The Stoics are continuum physicists for whom body as such, i.e. solid, three-dimensional extension, is homogeneous, partless, uniform, and infinitely divisible without reaching minima (atoms). And because body is not conceived along hylomorphic lines, i.e. as a composite of matter and form, the Stoics are free to make body fundamental. Out of two basic bodies, then (the archai), and by the tantalizing mechanism of through and through blending (krasis di’ holou), Stoic physics constructs the cosmos (and every body it contains) in completely corporealist terms, composing one thing out of many. And once those bodies are built, Stoic logic gives an account of their identity conditions, kinds, and qualities according to the vexed schema of the Categories, making now many out of one by the constitution relation, as a statue is constituted by its clay. With these distinct mereological relations of composition and constitution, Stoic corporealism artfully divides the labor of Plato’s Forms between physics and logic. -/- Next in the ontological order, with bodies as their foundation, are the incorporeals (asōmata): space (place, room, and surface), time, void, and the (awkwardly named) sayables, or lekta (roughly, though controversially, the meanings of our words). These entities do not exist; they do, however, subsist, inheriting their physical properties and, hence, their subsistence, from the bodies on which they depend. For example, place depends for its three-dimensional (non-solid) extension on the bodies that occupy or delimit it. The ontological dependence of space, time, and their novel semantic entities (the lekta) on body, is what takes Stoic metaphysics beyond corporealism to non-reductive physicalism, beyond a merely sorted ontology to an ordered, one-world metaphysics. Each incorporeal counts as Something according to the Stoic criterion for subsistence (hence, the theory is non-reductive), and what they have in common as incorporeals (and what makes the account physicalist), is their dependence on underlying body. -/- In addition to the incorporeals, the Stoics also recognize the subsistence of things like creatures of fiction and geometrical limits, which they classify as neither corporeal nor incorporeal. What these entities have in common is that they are products of thought; and since thoughts are themselves bodies according to Stoic corporealism, this remains a physicalist account. As before, the account is not Meinongian; neither all objects of thought, nor all products of thought count as Something. Indeed, the Stoics’ eliminative treatment of universals (and Forms) turns on their denying concepts (ennoēmata) a place on the ontological map altogether — concepts are simply not Somethings (and, again, not some further category of Not-Somethings, intermediate between Something and nothing at all). If all this is right, then the Stoics are not flat-footed materialists or ersatz Platonists, as so often assumed, but our first non-reductive physicalists. (shrink)
In his exciting new book, Plato’s Anti-hedonism and the Protagoras, J. Clerk Shaw paints a masterful portrait of the Athenian majority, or “the many,” as portrayed by Plato not just in the Protagoras (as the title advertises), but throughout the Platonic corpus. Shaw offers an incisive diagnosis of popular “double-think,” which balances the incoherent complex of commitments to hedonism (the view the pleasure is the good), to the possibility of akrasia (weakness of will) and to the belief that injustice is (...) prudent, i.e. in one’s own self-interest to do. Shaw also puts the dialectical context of the Protagoras to good use in identifying the double-talk that Protagoras is forced into by his own conflicting claims and commitments. The central thesis I question is that the sophists have internalized the opinions of the many, thus absorbing conventional morality as their own as opposed to waking the tightrope of popular opinion. Certainly the sophists’ currency is the opinions of the many, reflecting their own views back to them, and this creates difficulties and tensions in their stances (not least because they are reflecting the incoherent double-think that Shaw so beautifully brings out). However, all this can be true independently of the possibility of the sophists’ actually internalizing the views of the many, i.e. without speculating about their psychology at all. I argue that this thesis of Shaw’s is not necessary for his core insights about the many, and (likewise) that we can resist two other interpretative moves he makes. Shaw’s readings of the Protagoras—of Socrates as committed to spirit (thumos), and of the argument that akrasia is ignorance and courage is wisdom as independent of the commitment to hedonis—reveal his sympathies for a so-called “unitarian” interpretation of Plato, which takes the corpus to provide a unified doctrine rather than reflecting the author’s intellectual development. Here too, I suggest, Shaw’s insights can be preserved without running afoul of this interpretive disagreement. (shrink)