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This collection makes available in English twelve papers by a distinguished

French scholar of ancient philosophy. The essays deal with problems arising in
the texts and doctrines of the three major philosophical schools of the Hellenistic
period - Epicureanism, Stoicism and Scepticism. The author's strategy is to
focus on some specific problem and then to enlarge the conclusion of his
discussion so as to reformulate or reassess some more important issue. The main
subjects tackled are: problems in Epicurean cosmology and linguistic theory;
aspects of Stoic logic, ontology and theology; the history of Scepticism; and
analysis of some of the conceptual tools used by the Sceptics in their anti-
dogmatic arguments. Two of these pieces are published here for the first time.
The others, with one exception, have previously appeared only in French.
This will be a most valuable book for all scholars and advanced students
working in the field of Hellenistic philosophy.

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Cambridge Books Online © Cambridge University Press, 2009
Papers in Hellenistic philosophy

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Professeur d'Histoire de la Philosophie Ancienne,
Universite de Paris - /

Translated by Janet Lloyd


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© Cambridge University Press 1994

First published 1994

A catalogue recordfor this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress cataloguing in publication data

Brunschwig, Jacques.
Papers in Hellenistic philosophy / Jacques Brunschwig; translated
by Janet Lloyd.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
ISBN 0 521 41712 0
1. Epicurus. 2. Stoics. 3. Sceptics (Greek philosophy)
I. Title.
B512.B78 1994
i8o-dc2O 93-7923 CIP

ISBN 0 521 41712 0 hardback

Transferred to digital printing 2003

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Acknowledgements page ix
Preface xi


1 Epicurus' argument on the immutability of the all i

2 Epicurus and the problem of private language 21


3 Remarks on the Stoic theory of the proper noun 39

4 Remarks on the classification of simple propositions in Hellenistic
logics 57
5 The conjunctive model 72
6 The Stoic theory of the supreme genus and Platonic ontology 92
7 On a Stoic way of not being 158
8 Did Diogenes of Babylon invent the Ontological Argument? 170


9 Once again on Eusebius on Aristocles on Timon on Pyrrho 190

10 The title of Timon's Indalmoi: from Odysseus to Pyrrho 212
11 Sextus Empiricus on the Kpirrjpiov: the Sceptic as conceptual legatee 224
12 The ooov inl TO) Xoyco formula in Sextus Empiricus 244

Bibliography 259
Index of subjects 267
Index of names 269
Index of passages cited 273

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Chapters 1-7 and 10-12 appeared in their original form in the following
publications, and we are grateful for permission to publish them in English.
Chapters 8 and 9 are previously unpublished.

1 'L'argument d'Epicure sur l'immutabilite du tout', in Permanence de la

philosophie (Melanges Joseph Moreau), Neuchatel, La Baconniere, 1977,
pp. 127-50.
2 'Epicure et le probleme du "langage prive"', Revue des Sciences humaines
43, 1977, 157-77-
3 'Remarques sur la theorie stoi'cienne du nom propre', Histoire Epistemo-
logie Langage 6, 1984, 3-19.
4 'Remarques sur la classification des propositions simples dans les logi-
ques hellenistiques', Philosophie du langage et grammaire dans VAntiquite,
Brussels/Grenoble, 1986, pp. 287-310.
5 'Le modele conjonctif', in Les Stoi'ciens et leur logique, ed. J. Brunschwig,
Paris, 1978, pp. 59-86.
6 'La theorie stoi'cienne du genre supreme et l'ontologie platonicienne', in
Matter and Metaphysics, Fourth Symposium Hellenisticum, ed. J. Barnes
and M. Mignucci, Napoli, Bibliopolis, 1988, pp. 19-127.
7 'Sur une fa9on stoicienne de ne pas etre', Revue de theologie et de
philosophie 122, 1990, 389-403.
8 'Did Diogenes of Babylon invent the ontological argument?'
9 'Once again on Eusebius on Aristocles on Timon on Pyrrho'
10 'Le titre des "Indalmoi" de Timon: d'Ulysse a Pyrrhon', Recherches sur la
philosophie et le langage 12, 1990, 83-99.
11 'Sextus Empiricus on the /criterion: the Skeptic as conceptual legatee', in
The Question of'Eclecticism'- Studies in Later Greek Philosophy, ed. J.M.
Dillon and A.A. Long, Berkeley/Los Angeles/London, University of
California Press, 1988, pp. 145-75.

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12 'La formule ooov eirl rco Xoyco chez Sextus Empiricus', in Le Scepticisme
antique, Cahiers de la Revue de Theologie et de Philosophies ed. A.J.
Voelke, Geneve/Lausanne/Neuchatel, 1990, pp. 107-121.

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I am very happy and proud to have been given the opportunity of presenting
the following papers, for the most part translated from French, to an English-
speaking readership. At a time when voices are heard in my country,
sometimes with distinctly chauvinistic overtones, standing out against the so-
called tyranny of the 'Publish in English or perish' injunction, I do not feel any
urge whatsoever to apologize, especially since a similar, if not exactly identical,
collection is about to be published by the Presses Universitaires de France. But
I must confess that I am by no means displeased that the present volume will
slightly anticipate it. This is because its publication is something of a tit-for-
tat: for my taste for Hellenistic philosophers and my attempts to work on them
have been, if not wholly aroused, at least enormously stimulated and fostered
by the powerful revival of interests which they have enjoyed in English-
speaking countries (not to mention others, Italy in particular) for the last
twenty years or so. Not that French scholarship and academic teaching have
neglected them: witness the works of Victor Brochard on the Sceptics, of Emile
Brehier on the Stoics, of Victor Goldschmidt on the Stoics and Epicurus:
pioneering works indeed, as everyone would agree, I believe, and not in the
least dated. Similarly, French academic teaching never forgets the Hellenistic
philosophers for long: the national programme for the 'Agregation de
Philosophie' always contains some ancient philosophy, and when Plato,
Aristotle, and sometimes Plotinus have had their turn, either the Stoics or the
Epicureans come next, thus compelling all French universities to make room
for them, at a quite high level, in their teaching schedule. Thus, as a student, I
was lucky enough to follow a memorable course of lectures by Victor
Goldschmidt, at which all who attended were rewarded by very good marks:
this course of lectures was to become Le Systeme sto'icien et Videe de temps
Nevertheless, to devote one's attention to Hellenistic philosophy in my
country always smacks, to a greater or lesser degree, of accepting some sort of
pis aller. The royal road in ancient philosophy, and for many people in
philosophy tout court, is still the Platonic way, as it has been for centuries (so
much so that any student who ventures to criticize Plato on some point still
expects his instructor to be utterly scandalized). Since the beginning of the
sixties, Aristotle in France has eventually emerged from a long 'Cartesian'

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purgatory. Compared to these giants, the Hellenistic philosophers are con-

sidered, at best, as interesting dwarfs. Even after the 'rehabilitation' of Stoic
logic by Lukasiewicz and others, Hellenistic philosophies still look coarse,
rudimentary, all too easy to understand. If a tree is to be judged by its fruit,
there is nothing really delectable in the Hellenistic philosophical output: a
utilitarian distaste for disinterested speculation; various forms of 'sordid'
materialism, pantheistic immanentism, sceptical deadlocks on the doctrinal
level; a mixture of dry pedantry and talkative populism on the formal one.
Quite significantly, introducing a volume in the series of the Symposium
Hellenisticum, Victor Goldschmidt drew a parallel between the philosophical
situation of post-Aristotelian Hellenistic times and that of our own post-
Hegelian contemporary period (nor was this a matter for self-congratulation):
the Hellenistic period, Goldschmidt wrote, offers us a mirror, even if we do not
take any pleasure in contemplating ourselves in it.
Recent English-speaking work in Hellenistic philosophy helped me to shake
off the last traces of such unease and come fully to appreciate the argumenta-
tive wealth, the intellectual vigour, the philosophical radicality of Hellenistic
debates. In a way, I can also boast of having been, albeit through my
shortcomings, a quite indirect and fortuitous cause in a not unimportant part
of this development. If I may evoke a personal recollection, the crucial
encounter took place for me in September 1976. At that time I had been
entrusted by my University (then the Universite de Picardie at Amiens) to
organize a conference; the subject chosen was 'The Stoics and their logic'; the
conference was to meet in the Centre Culturel des Fontaines in Chantilly. I was
then new and inexperienced in organizing conferences, and it seemed quite
natural to me to send invitations to many people whom I had not personally
met before, but whom I knew from their work as interesting people, and
interested in the subject, whether French or not. The conference was a success
in one sense (as can be seen, I think, from its publication two years later under
the title Les Sto'iciens et leur logique); but in another it was a downright failure.
In proportion to the time allotted to the conference, there were too many
participants, too many speakers, too little time left for discussion. Much later
on, I heard that two English participants managed to have a private talk
together, when walking around the little pond at the back of the garden. They
considered the possibility of organizing more conferences on this kind of
subject. I was not present, but I have no doubt that they assessed the
possibilities of keeping the good sides of the Chantilly meeting, while avoiding
its blatant drawbacks. This talk by the pond eventually gave birth to the 1978
Conference at Oriel College, Oxford, published later as Doubt and Dogmatism.
This conference, in its turn, was so to speak the number zero of the Symposium
Hellenisticum series, so called after its respected ancestor the Symposium
Aristotelicum. From 1980 to the present day the Symposium Hellenisticum
has met every third year; the successive volumes of proceedings constitute, in
my opinion, one of the brightest pieces of evidence of the vitality and

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philosophical interest of recent studies in Hellenistic schools. For me, they also
incorporate the memory of most enjoyable meetings with other scholars
whom I respected and admired from the outset and who are now also very
good friends of mine. 1
The papers included in this collection do not conform to any definite, pre-
conceived strategy, and I have made no attempt to disguise their miscellaneous
character. I simply wrote each one of them when I came across a text or a
problem about which I imagined I had something new, and hopefully
reasonable, to say. I would like to think that their method and style of research
give them a unity of sorts; but it is not up to me to say whether that claim is
justified. Apart from correcting one or two obvious mistakes, I have not
revised or added to them or tried to answer the objections which might be
raised or have been raised against the views I express in them - not that I find
them perfect, far from it, but because I do not feel myself able to improve upon
them further. I preferred to leave them as they originally were; I doubt whether
texts of this kind are really substantial enough to warrant more than one
version. Out of laziness, I have not even attempted to bring the oldest ones up
to date, from the bibliographical point of view: I am sure that many valuable
instruments are available to the reader who would wish to do so.
With the agreement of the Cambridge University Press, I have not included
in this collection a number of papers which bear on similar subjects, but either
are too recent, or have already been published in English, in journals or
collections easily available to the English reader. These are the items men-
tioned in the bibliography as Brunschwig 1980, 1986, 1991, 1992 and
forthcoming. On the other hand, I have included two pieces as yet unpub-
lished: the paper on Diogenes of Babylon and the one on Aristocles, Timon
and Pyrrho.
It is my pleasure and my duty to thank all the persons, known or unknown
to me, who made the present publication possible. Quite special and friendly
thanks must go to Janet Lloyd, who bore my pedantic observations with
equanimity, and produced a magnificent translation, which I have read myself
with an unexpected pleasure. She also kindly agreed to revise the two
unpublished papers, which I had ventured to write directly in English.

I dedicate this book to all my English-speaking friends, past and present.

Through them, I would like to acknowledge a much more general debt to the
British people, a debt of which it is easy to understand why I shall be conscious
as long as I live.

La Roque-Gageac, August 1992
For a different, more poetical version of the story, cf. Sorabji in J. Barnes and M. Mignucci
(edd.) Matter and Metaphysics (Naples, 1988).

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The few lines in the Letter to Herodotus (39.4-8)1 that I propose to study here
have often been discussed by editors and translators of Epicurus. As early as
1920, Ettore Bignone, in his translation of the fragments, devoted a three-page
appendix to this passage, which he described as 'very difficult'.2 More recently,
these lines have constituted one of the - in truth, numerous - points over which
Jean Bollack, who has proposed a new interpretation of the text, has been
strongly criticized, in particular by Pierre Boyance and Olivier Bloch.3 One of
my own reasons for returning to this controversial passage is that I believe I
can suggest for the problem that it poses a solution which I (of course) consider
satisfactory. Another is that, by closely linking our analysis of the text with an
analysis of the discussions to which it has already given rise,4 we shall raise
questions to do with methodology and, more generally, hermeneutics, the
interest of which may even eclipse that of their pretext - questions which are,
perhaps, not unconnected with the preoccupations of Joseph Moreau, the
Greek scholar and philosopher in whose honour these pages are written.
Our text comes at the beginning of the Letter to Herodotus. It follows on
immediately after the statement and demonstration of thefirsttwo fundamen-
tal physical theses: nothing is born from the non-existent and nothing is lost in
it. Although the word for the all, TO nav, has not yet been mentioned in the
text, a new thesis is introduced which affirms and demonstrates the immuta-
bility of that all. This thesis is constructed as a set of three propositions, the
first presented as an assertion, the next two as explanations.
'furthermore, the all has always been what it is now, and will always be such'.

(B) ovSkv yap ioTiv els o /xerajSaAAei (/xerajSaAeiUsener).

(c) napa yap TO irdv ovdev €OTLV o dv elaeXOov els avTO TTJV fieTa^oXrjv

For the moment, I shall refrain from translating propositions (B) and (c) for,
as we shall see, their contents and the way they are linked are precisely what are
For convenience's sake, the Letter to Herodotus is quoted according to the traditional
paragraphs, using the line numbering of the edition produced by Jean Bollack. Cf. Bollack,
Bollack and Wismann 1971, p. 76. All three authors are referred to by the name Bollack.
2 3
Bignone 1920, pp. 253-6. Boyance 1972, pp. 72-3; Bloch 1973, pp. 457-9.
Apart from the works cited above, I have consulted the following: Usener 1887; Hamelin 1910,
pp. 397-417; Apelt 1921; von der Muhll 1922; Ernout 1925; Hicks 1925; Solovine 1925; Bailey
1926; Gigon 1949; Arrighetti 1973; Isnardi Parente 1974.


problematical. In connection with statement (A), let us immediately note that it

is no more than weakly connected with what precedes it, seeming to be
juxtaposed to it rather than coordinated with it.5 Nevertheless, this statement
does seem to be logically related with the theses established before it: for if
nothing is created absolutely nor is lost absolutely, it is clear that the sum total
of all that exists can undergo no modification, in the sense that nothing can be
added to it or taken away from it. If this is why the immutability of the all is
affirmed at precisely this point rather than at any other, one would be led to
understand that immutability as quantitative (the all is immutable in that it can
neither increase nor decrease); however, the vocabulary used to state the thesis
(TOLOVTOV . . . otov) definitely prompts a qualitative interpretation (the all is
immutable in that it cannot change). Herein lies a first difficulty, upon which
the explanations (B) and (c) should throw some light. It is important that they
should do so because, at this particular point in the Letter to Herodotus, one of
Epicurus' preoccupations must be to prevent his reader drawing from the
classically Parmenidean principles that he has just set out equally Parmeni-
dean conclusions. His concern to do so reveals itself in the very name of the
subject to which Epicurus attaches the predicate of immutability, which is also
altogether Parmenidean. It is 'the all' that is immutable; and although we do
not yet know what this all is composed of (only later are bodies and the void
mentioned), the use of that totalizing term already deflects us from the monism
and immobilism of the Eleatics and allows us to assume that the immutability
of the all is itself a global immutability, which by no means rules out the
possibility of movements and changes affecting the parts of this all.6 But the
fact that we already have an inkling of the sense in which we should not
understand immutability makes it all the more pressing for us to know the
sense in which we should understand it.
Without further ado, then, let us pass on to an examination of the
explanatory statements (B) and (c). Both are introduced by yap: at a first
reading, it would thus seem that the function of (B) is to explain thesis (A) and
that of (c) is to explain (B). This 'Chinese box' structure is automatically
reflected in the translations (all those, that is, which respect the double
occurrence of yap).7
Sentence (B), ovdkv yap ionv eh o /xerajSaAAei, has not posed many
problems for translators and commentators. All understand it more or less as
Cf. Denniston 1954, pp. 351-2: *#cat jxiqv often introduces a new argument, a new item in a
series, or a new point of any kind'.
'The invariability of the all, as all' is what Bollack, quite correctly, says (p. 175).
As do Bignone, Apelt, Hicks, Solovine, Bailey, Gigon, Bollack; Hamelin, Ernout, Arrighetti,
Isnardi Parente do not. Later, we shall have to consider whether or not it is out of pure
negligence that they do not do so.
Cf. Hamelin ('il n'y a rien d'autre en effet en quoi il puisse se changer'), Bignone ('perche non vi
e nulla in cui possa mutarsi'), Apelt ('denn es gibt ja nichts, worein es sich verwandeln konnte'),
Ernout ('il n'y a rien en effet en quoi il puisse se transformer'), Hicks ('for there is nothing into
which it can change'), Solovine ('en effet, il n'y a rien en quoi il puisse se transformer'), Bailey
('for there is nothing into which it changes'), Gigon ('denn es existiert nichts, in das es sich
verwandeln konnte'), Arrighetti ('nulla esiste in cui possa tramutarsi'), Bollack ('car il n'y a
rien en quoi il change'), Isnardi Parente ('nulla esiste in cui esso possa mutarsi').
follows: 'in effect, there exists nothing into which it (i.e. the all) changes (or
can change)'.9 The nuances that crop up from one translation to another are of
little importance alongside the unanimity with which all the different transla-
tors, having given the verb fjuera^aXXetv its most natural interpretation, which
is 'to change', 'to alter', 'to be transformed', consequently understand the
preposition els as referring to a change described metaphorically as a
movement, rather than as an actual movement: the complement of els is
accordingly understood as the state in which the thing that changes finds itself
once the change is completed, rather than the place that would be reached by
the thing moving through space.10 The traditional interpretation thus gives
this part of Epicurus' argument the following meaning: the all cannot change
because for it to change, there would have to exist something into which it
could change, something other than the all, for otherwise the all would not
change by changing into it; but, by definition, nothing other than the all does
exist. So the all is immutable.11
We shall be returning to the particularities of this argument. For the
moment, let us see how, in the traditional interpretation, it fits in with the
argument contained in sentence (c), whose function appears to be to justify
(B). This sentence (c) (7rapa yap ro TTOLV ovdev eonv o av eloeXOov els avro rrjv
fjLerafioXfjv TToirjoairo) is understood, very generally,12 as follows: 'for, apart
from the all, there exists nothing which (o, nominative, the subject of
7Toir)oaiTo), by introducing itself into it (i.e. into the all) could bring about a
Some scholars have considered the present tense iierafiaXXei unsuitable for conveying the idea
of a. possibility of change; Usener, followed by von der Muhll, Hicks and Arrighetti, substitutes
the future iierafiaXei. Bailey, Bollack and Isnardi Parente preserve the manuscript reading. No
correction is necessary since, as we shall see, in Epicureanism, the consequence follows not only
from esse to posse, but also from posse to esse.
Linguistically speaking, it is change that is a species of movement, rather than the converse;
passing from one state to another is described metaphorically as moving from one spot to
another. Introducing the term indicating a process of change by els is, of course, classic
practice in Greek. Still in paragraph 39 of the Letter to Herodotus, the term occurs twice, first in
line I (el e<j>Be(,pero 8e TO d(f>avL^ofxevov els ro /AT) 6V), then in line 3 (els a SueXvero). Cf. also
41.2; 42.9; 54.8; 55.8. In English, the metaphor is somewhat obscured by the existence of two
prepositions of place, each with a special function: compare 'to change into a devil' and 'to
move from Oxford to Cambridge'.
It is worth quoting the following comment from Bailey, who is, as usual, very clear and explicit
(1964, pp. 277-78): 'Among phenomena two conditions are always required for change, (1)
something for the original "thing" to change into, something which it may become . . . B u t . . .
the universe cannot change into something else, for there is nothing else which it could
become.' For the second condition, see below, n. 14.
Cf. Hamelin ('il n'y a . . . rien non plus, en dehors de lui, qui puisse agir sur lui pour le faire
changer'), Bignone ('infatti oltre il tutto non vi e nulla, che possa penetrandovi produrvi
mutazione'), Apelt ('denn ausser dem Ganzen gibt es nichts, was in es eindringen und es
dadurch verandern konnte'), Ernout ('et en dehors de l'univers il n'y a rien qui puisse s'y
introduire pour le modifier'), Hicks ('for outside the sum of things there is nothing which could
enter into it and bring about the change'), Solovine ('car il n'existe rien en dehors de l'univers
qui puisse y penetrer et y produire un changement'), Bailey ('for outside the universe there is
nothing which could come into it and bring about a change'), Gigon ('denn neben dem All gibt
es nichts, was in es eindringen und die Verwandlung hervorrufen konnte'), Arrighetti ('ne oltre
il tutto vi e nulla che penetrandovi possa produrre mutazione'), Isnardi Parente ('ne al di la del
tutto vi e alcunche che, penetrando in esso, possa provocare in esso un mutamento'). Bollack's
translation, which differs widely from all these, will be cited and examined below.

change there (TTJV fjLerafSoArjv Troi-qoairo, middle with an object, with an active
meaning)'. 13 This interpretation is in itself perfectly plausible: change requires
there to be not only a final state that is different from the initial state, but also
an agent that is external to the thing which changes and that is capable of
producing this change in it; and it is this second condition that is now,
following the first, excluded in the case of the all. 14
However, this interpretation of sentence (c) raises two considerable difficul-
ties when it is set alongside sentence (B) as it is generally understood:
(1) The preposition eh, used metaphorically in (B) to describe a process of
change and the end result of that process, is used here with its literal meaning,
to designate the movement in space of a hypothetical agent external to the all,
which could introduce itself into it (elaeXdov els avro) and thereby bring about
changes in it. Such an alteration in meaning between line 6 and line 7 would in
itself be upsetting. But even more so, surely, is the abrupt switch that Epicurus
is here supposed to make, from a level of thought so abstract as to be
impossible to express except through metaphor, to a completely different level
of thought, where the representations are all concrete and the spatial expres-
sions are to be taken quite literally. In the earlier proposition (B), the 'outside',
where it would be vain to seek something into which the all could change, is not
a real space that contains that all, but - as it were - a space of possibles that
'surrounds' the 'real' with a margin of variation; in the second proposition (c),
in contrast, it is in a physically real 'outside' that it would be vain to seek a
place external to the all that could serve as a 'launching base' for an agent of
physical aggression which, erupting into the universe from the outside, would
bring about hypothetical transformations there.
(2) There is a second difficulty: it is impossible to see how sentence (c), as
generally understood, could serve as a justification for sentence (B), as usually
interpreted, although it seems that that is what it ought to do (irapa yap TO
TTOLV). If there exists no place outside the universe, no existent that is not
included within the all, which could act upon it by invading it from outside, in
what way can these declarations support the idea that there exists no state in
which, on completion of a supposed change, the all could possibly find itself?
The disparity between the levels on which the two sentences are situated
prevents the one from functioning as a proof of the other. Furthermore, (B)
excludes the very possibility of a change, in principle, whereas (c) excludes
only one possible source of change; for the argument to function correctly, it
would also be necessary to establish that there exists no other possible source
of change, and this the text does not do.
This disparity between the two levels and this fault in the logical construc-
Usener corrected TroirjacuTo to Trooyaat, and Cronert suggested TTOLrjoau (hvvai)To. The
following editors return to the form given by the manuscripts: von der Muhll, Hicks, Bailey,
Arrighetti, although some find it 'curious' (Bailey). As we shall see, the argument over the form
of the verb restarted following Bollack's adoption of his position.
Bailey (cf. above, n. 11) refers to this second condition as follows: '( 2 ) some external agent to
effect the change - by means, as Epicurus held, of a blow'.

tion of the passage will now be manifest, I think, if we reread the text in its
entirety in the translation of, for example, Solovine, which, rendered into
English, runs as follows: The universe has always been the same as it is now
and will be the same throughout all eternity. For there is nothing into which it
can be transformed, for outside the universe there exists nothing which can
penetrate it and produce a change.' There is clearly something amiss in these
few lines.
As we shall see later, a number of interpreters and editors have more or less
clearly perceived this difficulty, to which they have responded by proposing to
operate upon the text in various, sometimes heavy-handed, ways. But, in the
interests of clarity, let us first examine Jean Bollack's more recent attempt to
rectify the traditional interpretation without tampering with the text of the
The reasons for Bollack's dissatisfaction with the traditional interpretation
are not those that we have seized upon above; and perhaps the inadequacies of
the new solution that he proposes may eventually be traced to an inadequate
analysis of the faults in the solution that he sets out to supplant. Here, at any
rate, is how Bollack sums up and criticizes the work of his predecessors:
The argument is usually understood as follows: the all is always as it is: for (yap),
in order for there to be a change, it would be necessary for there to exist an into
which (eh o . . . ) it could turn itself; for (yap) outside the all there is nothing from
which something could come and penetrate into it (o .. . elo-) so as to produce a
change. The absence of an outside, as a place towards which, would thus be
justified (see the second yap) by the absence of an outside as a place from which
that which produces the movement could come (nothing into which . . ., for
outside . . . nothing which into . . .). It is a vicious circle . . . 15

The summary of the traditional interpretation (thefirstsentence in the passage

quoted above) produced by Bollack is absolutely correct, even if he explains
the metaphorical meaning that is usually given to sentence (B) in rather
unusual terms ('in order for there to be a change, it would be necessary for
there to exist an into which it could turn itself). But when he moves on to
criticize that traditional interpretation (from The absence of an outside . . .'
on), Bollack, curiously, produces a kind of retranslation of the metaphorical
acceptation, changing it into a spatial one, the effect of which is, in the first
place, to give the traditional translation of sentence (B) an interpretation
which, so far as I know, has been suggested by virtually nobody else (to wit:
there exists no outside as a place towards which the all could go, and by doing so
change).16 The second effect of Bollack's retranslation is to do away with the
traditional interpretation's incoherent shift from metaphorical to real space,
Bollack 1971, p. 175; author's italics. The fragments of English, given without any reference,
may come either from Hicks or from Bailey.
The elliptical expression 'the absence of a place towards which' is imprecise anyway. No doubt
we should understand not 'there is no place where the all could go, where it could undergo any
qualitative changes', but rather 'there is no place to which the all could go, undergoing a
change through that very removal or expansion'.
since in the image that Bollack now produces all the expressions of place are
literal and spatial ('the absence of an outside, as a place towards which, would
thus be justified by the absence of an outside as & place from which that which
produces the movement could come'). Thirdly and lastly, Bollack's retransla-
tion exposes the traditional interpretation not to the reproach for incoherence
which it deserves, but to the criticism that it is a vicious circle ('on tourne en
rond') which it does not seem to merit. Bollack's retranslation of the
traditional interpretation seems to recast Epicurus' argument as follows: (A)
The all is always as it is. (B) For outside it there exists noplace towards which it
could go; (c) for there exists outside it no place from which that which produces
movement could come. Strictly speaking, this schema does not really deserve
to be accused of being a vicious circle: if the absence of an outside as a place
towards which is justified by the absence of an outside as a place from which, for
there to be a vicious circle you would have to go on also to justify the absence
of an outside as a place from which by the absence of an outside as a place
towards which. Nevertheless, it certainly does seem, to say the least, a hollow
and tautological argument: there is no outside as aplace towards which because
there is no outside as a place from which, which simply boils down to saying:
there is no outside because there is no outside.
Having forged this phantom of an interpretation, which falls into a vicious
circle or what appears to be one because all the spatial expressions in it are
taken literally - both in (B), where the traditional interpretation was otherwise,
and in (c), where it was not - Jean Bollack, logically enough, proposes a new
solution which goes to the very opposite extreme, and attempts to give a
metaphorical sense to all the spatial expressions in the passage (both those in
(B), where he thus finds himself in agreement with the true traditional
interpretation, 17 and those in (c), which is precisely where he explicitly
diverges from it). 18 The treatment of the spatial expressions in this passage
may thus be described schematically as follows:

traditional 'phantom' Bollack's

interpretation interpretation interpretation
Sentence B Metaphorical Literal Metaphorical
Sentence c Literal Literal Metaphorical

Bollack's reworking is accompanied by two other suggestions for changing the

traditional interpretation. In the first place, being keen to make sentence (c)
authentically explanatory regarding sentence (B), for which one can but
applaud him in principle, Bollack is led to see the expression els avro rfjv
That agreement is clearly detectable when one reads the various translations of sentence (B): cf.
above, n. 8. Bollack's translation - for once - is in agreement with the others.
Cf. the very definite affirmation of pp. 175-76: 'The movement towards the outside . . . is here
(i.e. in sentence (c)) only a metaphor for transformation into something' (author's italics).

lA€rafSo\r)v TTonqoairo, in (c), as a periphrastic development of the expression

els o fierafidWei, in (B). And he detects confirmation for this idea in the middle
form TTOLrjoairo, which, ever since Ambrogio Traversari, the first translator of
Diogenes Laertius, has been mistakenly rendered by an active ('to produce
change'), thereby for years on end attributing to Epicurus a 'vicious argu-
ment', 19 when all the time the intransitive and reflexive sense of this middle
form should have been respected ('to change itself, transform itself).
Secondly, this correction makes it necessary to recast the grammatical
structure of sentence (c) in its entirety: given that the all is now the subject of
TTOLrjoaiTo, the relative o, which has ovdev as its antecedent, can no longer be in
the nominative and now has to be interpreted as the prepositionless comple-
ment of the compound verb els-eXdov; this participle eloeXdov can no longer
itself refer to a hypothetical agent which might penetrate the all, but must
instead refer to the all itself, which is the subject of TT-OI^CTOUTO; finally, avro
designates no longer the all but, instead, the hypothetical term for the process
of change that is to be denied.
When put all together, these corrections produce the following translation;
'(B) for there is nothing into which it changes, (c) since outside the all, there is
nothing into which, if it penetrates there, it can transform itself.
One of the weaknesses of this solution is obvious: namely, that it is not
integrally in agreement with the main idea behind it, which is to give all the
spatial expressions in the passage a systematically metaphorical sense. Jean
Bollack summarizes his own interpretation in non-spatial terms. He writes as
follows:20 'the all cannot change ( = B), because there is nothing that it is not
already ( = c)'. But that metaphorization is not followed through in his
translation as a whole: in the words 'if it penetrates there', a trace of spatial
literality subsists, immediately creating an unease and uncertainty analogous
to the unease and uncertainty aroused by the traditional interpretation; one
and the same entity, ill-defined and difficult to define, plays both the spatial
role of a place into which the all might penetrate and the metaphorical role of a
term of transformation into which it might change. 21 At this point one
wonders why, having taken the plunge, the translator did not give a metaphor-
ical meaning to the words o dv elaeXOov, instead of rendering them by this
awkward 'if it penetrates there'. But the answer is not hard to find: he would
then have ended up with a patent absurdity, for a wholly metaphorized
translation, with the grammatical construction that he has adopted, would
produce something more or less as follows: 'outside the all, there is nothing
into which, if it changes itself into it, it can change'. It is so as to avoid this
absurd repetition that Bollack finds himself forced, at the cost of the coherence
of his interpretation, not to carry through his original intention but instead to
retain a little literal island amid his flow of metaphor. But should one not
19 20
Cf. Bollack 1971, p. 18. Bollack 1971, p. 176.
A point that was not lost upon Boyance, who writes, in the review cited above (p. 72): 'Bollack
seems not to notice the strangeness of this all which changes into that into which it penetrates'.

abandon a trail when one cannot follow it right to the end? This attempt to
rectify the traditional interpretation seems no more satisfactory than what it
seeks to supplant.22

To rescue the debate from the situation in which it has become bogged down,
should we turn to Lucretius for help? Many scholars have thought so, and Jean
Bollack has shocked several of his critics by refusing, as a matter of principle,
to make use of Lucretius to explain Epicurus. Pierre Boyance taxes him
severely for forgetting that Lucretius too had written about the immutability
of the all, when the comments of other scholars (Giussani, Bignone, Bailey,
Arrighetti, Robin) should have 'spurred him in that direction'.23 Olivier
Let us not get too deeply involved in the debate over the meaning of the middle TroLr/oairo,
t h o u g h it is one that has been fuelled from all sides. T h e g r a m m a r here seems to provide
interpreters with contradictory instruments and does not appear to be able to resolve
disagreements in interpretation. In m y own view, however, the matter is of no m o r e than
secondary and derivative importance c o m p a r e d with the crucial choice between a literal or a
metaphorical meaning for the expressions of place and movement. However it is worth
recalling a few of the points m a d e in this debate! ( i ) Boyance (1972, p . 73), basing his remarks
on the Bailly and Liddell-Scott dictionaries, points out that, in classical usage, the middle
7TOLCLodaL with its object forms an expression that is the equivalent of a verb of the same family
as that complement; for example, oSov noieiodai is frequently used to m e a n 'to m a k e a
journey'; so TTJV ybera^oX-qv Troieladat means the same as nerafiaXXeiv, with the active
meaning o f ' t o change', just as it is u n d e r s t o o d in the customary interpretation of the passage in
question. (2) In the pamphlet which he published in reply to Boyance's criticisms, Jean Bollack
alluded briefly to this objection, maintaining that he alone respects ' b o t h the g r a m m a r and the
internal logic of the text' (1971, p . 29). (3) Bloch (1973, p. 458) acknowledges that the presence
of the article before /xerajSoA^v is 'unusual', but nevertheless agrees with Boyance and other
supporters of the usual interpretation. H e points out that, in another passage (53.7-9), Bollack
himself has n o qualms a b o u t giving iroitlodai an active meaning. T o set the record completely
straight, I should p e r h a p s add that, in my own view, this passage does not include an article
{roiavTTjv €K6XH/JLV ... Troieiodai), and that elsewhere, where the same expression does include
an article (54.8: ras ^era^oXas . . . 7roi€io6ai), Bollack produces a translation which is
consistent with his translation of the passage in which we are interested. F o r polemical ends,
the occurrence of the article that it would have been w o r t h citing is rather the one at 44.2-3,
where it appears, with an article, in the expression TTJV virepeioiv . . . TroieioQai, yet where
Bollack a d o p t s an active meaning ('to provide support'). Finally, Bloch adds a few more
suggestions to explain the use of the middle form. Given that this form characterizes a process
where the subject is 'internal to the process in which it is the agent' (Benveniste), the agent
whose intervention is first invoked, then p r o m p t l y denied by Epicurus, could be a divine power
which 'changes itself in and by its action u p o n the universe', like the Stoic logos or its
Presocratic antecedents; or, alternatively, it might be a god intervening in the universe, like the
Demiurge of the Timaeus, to organize it with particular ends in mind, that is to say, in Epicurus'
view at least, in his own interest. These suggestions, however ingenious, are probably
unnecessary, as we shall see at the end of this investigation. (4) In a reply to Bloch's review
(1974, 395-97), W i s m a n n , Bollack's c o - a u t h o r of L a Lettre d'Epicure, again returns to this
point, and defends his interpretation, appealing to the parallel of p a r a g r a p h 54 and seizing with
rather too m u c h alacrity u p o n the half-concession m a d e by Bloch with regard to the presence
of the article. In my own view, the example of 44.2-3 shows that these squabbles should not be
assigned too m u c h importance, for they are clearly inspired by other preoccupations.
A p a r t from the references given above, n. 4, cf. Giussani 1896, vol. 11, pp. 195-96. Boyance
(1972, p . 72, n. 1) complains of being unable to find, as indicated, the note 22 to which
Arrighetti refers on p. 452 of the first edition. His reference is in fact to the texts and references
collected under no. 22 on p. 186, all of which concern Book 1 of the IJepl </>ucrecos\ In the second
edition of Arrighetti's work, the reference cue appears on p . 494 and refers to note 23, that is to
say to the texts collected under n o . 23 on p p . 189-90.

Bloch, for his part, is amazed at Bollack's virtually constant refusal to resort to
Lucretius' interpretations, when certain passages in the Letter to Herodotus, in
particular the one in which we are interested, in his view 'demand' to be
compared with the De rerum natura. It is, however, only fair to recognize that,
to judge by the diversity of the readings extracted from Lucretius by those who
have turned to him in attempts to illuminate this passage, a study of Lucretius
gives rise to as many if not more problems than it resolves. If we rapidly
consider a few of those attempts, we shall see that in making the comparisons
that they consider 'demand' to be made, these interpreters, in their selection of
'parallel' texts, exercise a free and fallible choice that leads to widely divergent
From a first analysis, the relevant texts from Lucretius seem easy to identify
and isolate. Pierre Boyance cites two of them, the first from Book n, lines 303-7
('Nor can any power change the sum total of things; for there is no place
without into which any kind of matter could flee away from the all; and there is
no place whence a new power could arise to burst into the all, and to change the
nature of things and upset their motions' (tr. W.H.D. Rouse, Loeb Classical
Library, 1943, slightly modified).24 The second passage appears both in Book
in, lines 816-18, and in Book v, lines 361-3 ('even as the sum of all things is
eternal,... there is no place without it into which its elements may leap apart,
nor bodies to fall upon it and dissolve it asunder with a strong blow'). 25 In my
opinion, as in Olivier Bloch's, a comparison with these texts is fatal to Jean
Bollack's interpretation of Epicurus' sentence (c). Pierre Boyance is assuredly
correct when, in connection with the first of those two passages from
Lucretius, he writes:
. . . it is clear that the second part of the sentence, which begins with neque in
omne, corresponds exactly with Epicurus' rrapa yap TO TTOV KTX. In omne
inrumpere is parallel to elaeXOov els avro, and one can see that, for Lucretius as
for Traversari, avro designates the all and that, for both of them, that which
penetrates into the all (this time referred to as omnem naturam rerum in
Lucretius) determines the change within it (Lucretius adds: 'and upset their
He is also correct in saying, of the second passage in Lucretius: 'Incidere
corresponds to the elozXOov in the text of the Letter and applies, quite
obviously, to that which penetrates the all, not to the idea of the all penetrating
something else'. 26
Nee rerum summam commutare ulla potest vis; \ nam neque, quo possit genus ullum material
\effugere ex omni, quicquam est (extra}, neque in omne \ unde coorta queat nova vis inrumpere, et
omnem \ naturam rerum mutare et vertere motus.
Sicut summarum summast aeterna, neque extra \ quis locus est quo diffugiant, neque corpora sunt
quae \ possint incidere et valida dissolvere plaga.
Boyance 1972, p. 73. In his Lettre a un President, Jean Bollack responds to the attack simply by
swamping it with disdainful generalities: 'Because you know of a passage in Lucretius which
presents a few resemblances with Epicurus' reasoning on the immutability of the all which, you
see fit to pretend, is unknown to me, you rule against respecting both the grammar and the
internal logic of the text, issuing the solemn warning: " / trust that nobody would wish to accuse

But although we are bound to recognize that Boyance scores a point here,
we should also note how deliberately he proceeds to delimit the field in which
he knows he can win. Let us see how he plays his cards. On the first of
Lucretius' texts, he writes: 'If we leave aside the first leg of the sentence
introduced by 'neque\ it is clear that the second, which begins with neque in
omne, corresponds exactly with Epicurus' irapa yap TO TT&V KTX\21 And on the
second, he writes as follows: This eternity (i.e. that of the all) is founded on the
fact that there is nothing outside it into which its constitutive elements could
escape, nor anything that could penetrate it and dislocate if.28 It could hardly be
made clearer, both by the words themselves and by the typography, that
Lucretius is here invited to speak only when his evidence is favourable, and
that Boyance has no hesitation whatever in leaving aside what Lucretius says
wherever the correspondence with Epicurus becomes less 'clear' and less
'obvious'. What does Lucretius actually say? He establishes a close coordina-
tion between two possible sources of change in the universe: (i) the all could, in
theory, transform itself by expanding, by a kind of leakage or outpouring of its
parts to outside itself; it is prevented from doing so because, precisely, there is
no place outside it; (2) in symmetrical fashion, the all could also be trans-
formed by being penetrated by some body from outside itself; however, it is
protected from that kind of aggression since there is, precisely, no body
outside it. To set out the symmetry of these two hypotheses schematically, let
us call the former excursive, and the latter incursive. It is immediately apparent
that nothing in the passage of Epicurus which interests us, as it has been
interpreted so far, corresponds to the excursive hypothesis: sentence (B), as
understood by all interpreters (Bollack included), expresses a completely
different idea, namely the impossibility for the all to change itself into anything
that it is not already. As we have already noted, what it thus excludes is the very
possibility of change in the all, not, as in the excursive hypothesis, a particular
source of such a change. In contrast, Epicurus' sentence (c) corresponds
exactly to the incursive hypothesis in Lucretius. It is also noticeable that the
two Lucretian hypotheses are coordinated {neque . . . neque), whereas the two
propositions in Epicurus are subordinated (A .. .Jor B .. .Jor c). That is why it
is fair to say that Pierre Boyance was only able to score a point against Bollack
by dint of lifting out of Lucretius' text whatever he needed in order to do so,
and that he was only able to make that selection by dismembering the structure
of Lucretius' text.
The partiality of this use of the Lucretian evidence will become even more
apparent if we compare Pierre Boyance's attitude with the attitudes of a
number of his precursors in this field. Carlo Giussani, in the notes to his edition
of Lucretius, starts off by declaring Book 11, lines 303-7 to correspond closely

Lucretius of having at three points misunderstood Epicurus' thought" No doubt in your view, a
scholar's objectivity amounts to no more than an accumulation of evidence. If Lucretius were
to say something different from Epicurus, Mr Chairman, that would not be called a
contradiction, a mistake or even a solecism.'
27 28
Boyance 1972, p. 73; my own italics. Boyance 1972, p. 73; author's italics.
to the passage from the Letter to Herodotus that we are studying. But he
soon notices that the distinction between on the one hand a mode of
transformation of the all through addition (or 'incursion' originating from
outside) and, on the other, a mode of transformation through loss (or
'excursion' of matter towards the outside), a distinction that is 'clearly
expressed here by Lucretius' 30 is, in contrast, no more than 'confusedly
present' in Epicurus' text. That is why, instead of ignoring the faults in the
parallelism so as to retain only the convergences between Lucretius and
Epicurus, Giussani has no hesitation in proposing to rewrite Epicurus' text
entirely, in order to make it agree with Lucretius', and he suggests that it
should be read as follows:... del TOLOVTOV ecrrcu. Flapd yap TO rrdv ovdev eoTiv
els o /xera/JaAef rj o dv eloeXdov els avro KTX.31 This extraordinary suggestion
is assuredly one that no scholar would hazard today. It treats the data
provided by the manuscripts as so many pieces in a puzzle, to be moved about
at will. Drawing the material now from one side, now from another, it puts
together a text the structure of which has nothing at all in common with that of
the text of the manuscripts. 32 It should be added, furthermore, that the exact
meaning that the text in its reconstituted form was supposed by Giussani to
possess does not emerge at all clearly.33 However, despite these considerable
faults, which have been pointed out by, in particular, Bignone and Bailey,
Giussani's suggestion was prompted, as we shall see, by a remarkably accurate
Ettore Bignone, for his part, certainly criticizes Giussani for having
'rewritten the text too freely' and for having assumed there to be a corruption
the origin of which is unintelligible. Nonetheless, he too believes that, in the
light of the Lucretian data, Epicurus' text is in need of correction. According
to Bignone, of the two possible causes of change mentioned, not only by
Lucretius but also by Plutarch, 34 (that is to say the loss and the addition of
' 3 ° 3 - 3 ° 7 e tal quale la sentenza di Epicuro, e traduce quasi il testo della epitome a d E r o d o t o '
(Giussani 1896, vol. 11, p . 195).
Giussani also alludes to line 296 (nam neque adaugescit quicquam neque deperit inde).
' L a distinzione t r a Yadaugescere e il deperire, espressa chiaramente qui in Lucrezio, appare
confusa nel testo di Epicuro, che io leggerei: TOLOVTOV e a r a t . IJapa yap TO ndv KTA.'
W e should note in particular that one of the y a p s disappears a n d is replaced by a n 17, of which
there is n o trace in the manuscripts. T h e structure of Lucretius' text has been imported into the
text of Epicurus.
Giussani gives n o translation of his hypothetical text. T h e logic of his correction dictates that
he should give the first occurrence of els (in els o /xerajSaAcf) the same, spatial, meaning that
this proposition has when it occurs later (eloeXdov els CLVTO). But he undoubtedly interprets the
verb /LterajSaAAeiv in its traditional sense o f ' t o be transformed'; for, pointing out (p. 196) that
Lucretius uses the verb effugere in his description of the excursive hypothesis, at line 305, he
notes: 'it is because the idea of a. place outside the all is naturally implied that Lucretius was able
to substitute effugere for Epicurus' /u-erajSaAAeiv'; so he was n o t tempted t o see effugere as a
translation of/LterajSaAAetv. Accordingly, it m a y be assumed that he would have translated his
hypothetical text m o r e o r less as follows: 'the all has always been as it is now, a n d it will always
be such. F o r , outside the all, there is nothing into which it c a n transform itself o r which,
penetrating into it, could p r o d u c e any change.' It is true that Giussani adds that the t h o u g h t is
'tutt'altro che perspicuo'.
Adversus Colotem 13, 1114A (Usener 296): TO TTOV . . . /XTJT' av^ofievov \JLT)T€
Bignone also refers to Empedoclean precedents (DK 31B 17, 27f.).
elements), Epicurus here recalls (sic)35 only the second. Accordingly, it seems
to him highly probable that a number of words have been dropped out. He
proposes making good this lacuna as follows: ovdev yap iariv els o /zera/3aAer
irapa yap TO irdv ovdev iartv, O(TTOL av TL e£e\6oi, rj o^> av elaeXdov els avro
rrjv iJLerafioArjv nonqoano', which would produce the following meaning:
'there is nothing into which the all can change for, outside the all, there is
nothing <into which a part of the universe could escape or> which, by
penetrating it, could produce a change there'.
Bignone is thus faced with a parallelism between Epicurus' sentence (c) and
the incursive hypothesis of Lucretius' text, and another parallelism (forged by
himself) between 'Epicurus' and the excursive hypothesis. But he does not let it
rest there. There is still Epicurus' (B) sentence to cope with, the affirmation of
the impossibility, in principle, of any change in the whole. None of the
commentators so far mentioned has proposed any Lucretian parallel for this
sentence. Bignone has two points to make on this subject: (i) in Book n, lines
297-302, which immediately precede the first of the passages studied above,
Lucretius affirms the permanence of atomic movements and likewise the
permanence of the laws of birth and development for natural beings;36 (2) in
the summary of Epicurus' physics given by the pseudo-Plutarch, we encounter
the idea that nothing absolutely new comes about in the all. 37 This idea is set
out immediately after the thesis of the immutability of the all (cf. Letter to
Herodotus 39.4-5) and immediately before the idea that the all is composed of
bodies and the void (Letter to Herodotus 39.13)38 . From these two obser-
vations Bignone draws the conclusion that Lucretius and the pseudo-Plutarch,
following an Epicurean model more fully developed than the Letter, but
similarly arranged, are here summing up the well-known doctrine according to
which, in the infinite universe and throughout the infinite time of the existence
of atoms, which are infinite in number but whose forms are not themselves
infinite in number, all the possible combinations of atoms and the void have
already been realized at one time or another, in one place or another. 39 This

'Epicure qui ricorderebbe solo la seconda' (ibid., p. 256). It would be amusing to find a scholar
such as Bignone writing that this text of Epicurus' does not recall all the points mentioned by
Lucretius and Plutarch. But, to be absolutely fair, perhaps he simply meant that he does not
mention them. Apparently, the Italian verb ricordare does lend itself to this ambiguity.
Quapropter quo nunc in motu principiorum \ corpora sunt, in eodem ante acta aetate fuere, \ et
post haec semper similirationeferentur, \ et quae consuerintgignigignentur eadem \ condicione, et
erunt et crescent vique valebunt, \ quantum cuique datum est per foedera natural.
Pseudo-Plutarch, Stromates 8 (Diels, Doxographi Graeci, p. 581, I7(f.): ovSev £evov iv TW
TTCLVTL d7roTeAeiTCu, napa TOV 17817 yeyevrj/jievov xpovov a-neipov. Usener places this sentence at
the beginning of his collection of fragments of physics (no. 266), adding in a note: gravissimum
est axioma et disciplinae Epicureae necessarium.
Although that is true only if a conjectural emendation is accepted in each text. Pseudo-Plutarch
reads as follows: o n TTOLV ion acofxa, which Bignone suggests completing as follows: on (TO)
rrdv ion acL»/Lx,a<ra /cat Kevov). Epicurus (39.13) reads as follows: TO irdv eon, completed since
Gassendi and Usener by (ocofiara /cat T6TTOS). Only Jean Bollack rejects this emendation.
According to Cicero (De nat. deor. 1.19, 50), this law was what Epicurus called isonomia. It is
mentioned several times in Lucretius' poem (apart from 11.297-302, cf. v.528-9 and 1341-6,

same doctrine, condensed to the extreme, is, he claims, recognizable in

Epicurus' sentence (B): there is nothing into which the all can change, precisely
because there are no combinations of atoms that can be produced in the
universe except those that are to be found there already.
As can be seen, according to Bignone, the Epicurean argument boils down
to denying all possibility of change in the all by successively excluding, not two
possible causes of change, but three: the two transitive sources of change that
we know ('excursion' and 'incursion', both of which relate the all to a
hypothetical 'outside') are now supplemented by an immanent source of
change, the appearance of a new combination of parts, actually within the all.
In Bignone's view, the texts should now be organized as follows:

New combinations 'Excursion' 'Incursion'

Epicurus Sentence (B) conjectural addition Sentence (c)
Lucretius 11.297-302 11.304-5 11.305-7

Cyril Bailey's reaction to these suggestions is extremely curious. 40 Addressing

himself, in his turn, to Lucretius' 'parallel passage', which he reckons to begin
at 11.304, he immediately declares that there would be three possible ways for
the universe to change: (i) if there was something outside it into which its parts
could escape ('excursion'); (2) if there was a place from which a new force
could enter into it and alter it ('incursion'). These two causes, says Bailey, are
the most 'prominent' in this section (i.e. line 3O4ff.). But, he adds, there is also
another possibility: (3) change through internal rearrangement, which is, in a
sense, at work in the Epicurean universe, but which cannot be counted as a
change in the all {qua all), because, by virtue of the principle of equilibrium
(loovofjLLa), nothing entirely new can be created by combinations of atoms.
Bailey is well aware that this third cause of change is presented, indeed
presented 'vividly', by Lucretius before the other two, in lines 297-302, that is
to say before what he considers to be the passage that is 'parallel' to the
argument that Epicurus sets out in the Letter. He does not emphasize the fact,
but it is clear that he cannot decide whether or not to recognize the presence of
this third cause in Epicurus' argument. He writes as follows about Bignone's
Bignone hasrightlycalled attention to this third point, and sees a reference to it
in the words ovQtv yap iartv els o ^erajSaAet. I think, on the whole, that it is
more probable that this sentence refers to the first of the causes enumerated
above, change due to dissolution into something else [= 'excursion', J.B.]; but
the idea of change by internal alteration seems to be lurking in Epicurus' mind, as
is shown by his use of
although the authenticity of this last passage has been challenged). This is the Epicurean form
of the idea whose history A. Lovejoy has studied as 'the principle of plenitude' (cf. Lovejoy
1936). On the presence and place of this principle in the work of a number of ancient
philosophers, cf. Hintikka 1973. Bailey 1926, pp. 180-1.

Despite the hesitancy with which he puts forward this extremely original
proposal to consider Epicurus' sentence (B) to correspond to Lucretius'
'excursive' hypothesis, Bailey immediately deduces that, in consequence,
Bignone's conjectural addition serves no purpose: for, if we take it (as he 'on
the whole' does) that change through excursion is what is meant in sentence
(B), there is no need to assume a lacuna and fabricate a text to fill it so that this
mode of change should alsofinda place in Epicurus' text.41 The price paid for
that hesitation is nevertheless considerable: one remains uncertain as to how
clear it is that Epicurus' argument does indeed appeal to the principle of
isonomia, and equally as to exactly where the 'parallelism' with Lucretius' text
is supposed to start andfinish.The reader of Bailey's commentary is thus left
with an impression of doubt and indecision.

We may now bring this long doxographical survey to a close. As the reader has
no doubt noticed, its successive stages, though seemingly inconclusive, have
gradually sketched in the solution to the problem. Let us sum up the main
points that it establishes:
1i) The mainflawin the current interpretation of Epicurus' argument is that
it passes incoherently from a metaphorical use of spatial expressions (in
sentence (B)) to a literal use of those expressions (in sentence (c)).
(2) The only attempt to produce a homogeneous overall interpretation of the
text, made by Jean Bollack, sought that homogeneity in a systematically
metaphorical reading of those expressions. Given that it failed to stick to
that reading right through, it remains unconvincing.
(3) The only point on which Lucretius' testimony is unequivocal is its
confirmation of the literal nature of the spatial expressions of sentence
(c). This proposition of Epicurus' exactly corresponds with the 'incur-
sive' hypothesis in Lucretius' argument.
(4) Apart from this, Lucretius does not seem to put forward any unquestion-
able 'parallel'; and, if forced conjectures are excluded, it seems pointless
to try to superimpose the structure of his argument upon the argument
presented in Epicurus' Letter.
(5) The 'excursive' hypothesis in Lucretius seems to have no equivalent in
Epicurus' text; one is accordingly led to 'leave it aside' (Boyance), unless,
that is, onefitsit in by means of an ad hoc conjecture (Giussani, Bignone)
or else risks suggesting, extremely hesitantly, that this might be what is,
more or less clearly, suggested by Epicurus' sentence (B) (Bailey).
(6) Is the third cause of change (an internal rearrangement of the parts) that
Lucretius perhaps sets on the same level as the other two ('excursion',
'incursion') present in any form in Epicurus' text? Bignone detects a
reference to this third cause in sentence (B) and also an allusion to the
According to Bailey, the schema of correspondences is as follows: new combinations: 'lurking'
in sentence (B); 'excursion': sentence (B) ('on the whole'); 'incursion': sentence (c).

principle of isonomia, which makes it possible to exclude it. Bailey only

recognizes that reference to be present in a 'lurking' fashion.
(7) Now we perceive that the real problem is not so much Epicurus' sentence
(c) as his sentence (B). It is the former sentence that has been the focus of
recent discussions because, of the two, that is the one in relation to which
Jean Bollack distanced himself from the interpretation that is generally
recognized. Meanwhile, sentence (B), which everybody translates in more
or less the same way,42 seems uncontroversial. Nevertheless, the diverse
attempts to unearth a Lucretian equivalent to it (Bignone, Bailey) show,
by their very multiplicity and, in Bailey's case, by their indecision, that
the meaning of this sentence is still far from clear in many scholars'
minds. Let us now concentrate our attention upon this point.
The meaning that it is usually given, one that presupposes a metaphorical
interpretation of the preposition eh, is as follows: 'there is nothing into which
the all can change itself; or, alternatively, according to Bollack's vigorously
shortened version: 'the all cannot change because there is nothing that it is not
already'. These formulations need to be analysed, for despite their apparent,
even peremptory, plausibility, they are open to several different interpre-
tations, according to the exact meaning that is ascribed to the term 'the all'.
And, as we shall see, not one of those interpretations can be easily attributed to
If the 'all' means what Epicurus seems to have taken it to mean,43 namely
the sum total of physical beings, comprising bodies and the void, considered
regardless of the state in which theyfindthemselves and the combinations that
they form, the proposition is true only if the word 'change' is understood in an
unusual, almost fraudulent way. Both the creation and the disappearance of
matter are totally excluded: the all is thus constituted and always will be
constituted by the sum total of these bodies and this void of which it has always
been composed. In a rather tortuous sense, it could thus be said that it can
change as much as it likes (by passing from one state into another), but
nevertheless it will not really 'change', because it will forever retain the same
material composition. Suppose, for example, that all the atoms were dispersed
in the immensity of the void and no composite body remained; or, on the
contrary, that all were concentrated in one single region of space, forming a
single, huge compound: such cosmic upheavals would not count as a change in
the all, as defined, because they would be changes of state, and the all was
described in terms such that the different states that it can assume are, by
definition, not taken into account in that description. Given that the notion of
change is usually understood to mean a process through which an existent
passes from one state to another, it would be rather dishonest of Epicurus to
Cf. above, n. 8.
Cf. Letter to Pythocles 86; Sextus Empiricus, M ix. 333 (Usener 75); Plutarch, Adv. Colot.
1112E (Usener 76). T h e same formula has been introduced by conjecture in the Letter to
Herodotus 39.13 (cf. above, n. 38).

claim in this way to have established that the all does not change; for the
permanence of its material composition is not all that the notion of its
immutability ordinarily encompasses. One might just as well claim that a man
does not change from his birth to his death, simply because he bears the same
name throughout his life.
It would seem, then, that that is not how Epicurus' proposition is generally
understood. For there to be nothing 'that the all is not already', the all must be
defined in such a way as to include, not only the totality T\ of beings that are
physically existent (bodies and the void), but also the totality T2 of the states or
ways of being of those beings. In that case, T1 can perfectly well pass (through
change) from any one state to any other, for both states are, by definition, part
of T2. And it could be said that the 'all' (which is T1 in all the states included in
T2) has not changed. But it should immediately be pointed out that Epicurus
appears never to have defined what he understood by the 'all' in that fashion.44
It should also be pointed out that such a way of demonstrating the immuta-
bility of the all would be hardly less sophistic than the last way. Just now we
defined the subject that was to be demonstrated to be immutable, leaving out
of account the states in which it may find itself; and in those conditions it was
easy enough to go on to say that, even if it changed its state, it did not 'change'.
Now our definition of that same subject does incorporate the totality of states
in which it mayfinditself; but it is still easy enough to conclude that, even if its
state changes, it does not itself'change'. In the example we used just now, the
man did not change because he kept his name; now he does not change because
the identity of a man is made up of what he is at every stage of his life.
Despite these prejudicial obstacles, it is worth sticking to this line of
investigation a little longer. It subdivides into two paths, according to whether
totality T2 is understood as a totality of the real states of the universe or as the
totality of its possible states. In the first case, the all means the totality of
physical beings, considered as the totality of the states in which it has found
itself finds itself and willfinditself Seen from this point of view, Epicurus'
proposition would be tautological: by definition, every real state of the
universe, whether past, present or future, is included in the totality thus
described. Every state of the universe is included in the totality of the states of
the universe: that is a truth that can hardly be challenged but is not particularly
The only text which could suggest this is a passage in Cicero (De nat. deor. 11.32,82 = Usener 75)
which runs: 'Some thinkers again denote by the term 'nature' the whole of existence (omnia),
for example Epicurus, who divides the nature of all existing things into atoms, void and the
attributes of these (corpora et inane, quaeque his accidanty (transl. H. Rackham, Loeb Classical
Library, London and Cambridge, Mass., 1965). This is certainly a remarkable text, but it is
hardly enough to undermine the authority of those cited above, n. 43. It is worth pointing out
that this is a Stoic speaking; his purpose is to contrast the extensional and material character of
the Epicurean idea of nature, which he criticizes, with the dynamic and organic character of the
corresponding Stoic idea. The better to emphasize the unity of the force which, according to
the Stoics, informs and governs living beings and the whole world, he stresses the multiplicity
of elements in the Epicurean formulae, possibly to the extent of tacking an item on to the
canonical list.

interesting. If, on the other hand, one defines the all as the totality of physical
beings, considered in the totality of the states in which it couldfinditself, the
proposition ceases to be empty and tautological. It means that it is possible to
totalize the possible states of the universe, that these cannot increase indefini-
tely, forever producing combinations of elements that are altogether unprece-
dented. As we have seen, that is how Bignone understood it; probably it is also
how Jean Bollack understands it, so far as can be judged from his bald
formulation. What remains to be discovered is whether any allusion to this
authentically Epicurean doctrine can legitimately be supposed to exist at the
point in the Letter where the argument that we are studying occurs. Before
paragraph 39, only two physical theses are stated and demonstrated: the
impossibility of absolute creation and likewise that of absolute destruction.
The reader has as yet come across no mention of atoms, nor of the void, nor - a
fortiori - of the infinite number of atoms, the non-infinite number of their
forms and the infinity of space and time. Now, all these are necessary to make
it possible to demonstrate the non-infinite nature of the possible combinations
of atoms, and to be certain that all have been realized at one time or another
and in one place or another. It will be agreed that it is highly unlikely that such
a complex doctrine can have been mentioned, implied or used so soon after the
beginning of the physical exposition.
From whatever angle it is approached, then, the 'metaphorical' interpre-
tation of sentence (B) leads to dead-ends or to improbabilities. At this point,
the principle for a solution appears with blinding clarity: we must give up this
'metaphorical' interpretation that has hitherto been accepted unanimously
(with the sole, timid exception of Bailey) and weigh up the chances of a literal'
interpretation of this sentence. Whatever Bailey may say, the use of the verb
fiera^aXXeiv is not an obstacle in principle and does not dictate the idea of
change into something; for the verb itself is a metaphor and its literal meaning,
'to pass from one place into another' had certainly not been eclipsed in Greek
usage. Aristotle, for one, uses it in this sense on many occasions, in his
description of the behaviour of migratory animals.45 There is, thus, in
principle, nothing to prevent the sentence ovdev yap eonv eh o fxera^aXXei
from being understood as follows: 'for there is nothing where it (i.e. the all) can
take itself.
The difficulty that remains stems from the logical connections in the
argument as a whole and from the succession of the two yaps. How can the
immutability of the all (sentence (A)) be explained by the absence of any place
to which the all could betake itself (sentence (B)) and this absence in turn be
explained by the absence of any body which might come from outside and
Cf. HA VIII. 12, 596b26, 597a4~5,15,23,25,27-8,30. It is interesting to note that Aristotle does
not hesitate to use the verb juerajSaAAeiy in the same context, to refer to the movement of
animals migrating from one region to another, and the noun /xerajSoA^ to refer to the seasonal
changes of temperature (cf. 596b23 and 24). Perhaps this makes less surprising an interpre-
tation which attributes the same use of these words to Epicurus (/xerajSdAAeiv in the spatial
sense, sentence (B); fjueTapoXr/ in the sense of change, sentence (c)).

penetrate it and upset it (sentence (c))? The coherence and intelligibility of the
argument, which we are laboriously trying to restore, seem further out of our
grasp than ever. Yet very little indeed is needed to recapture them; and it is the
grammarians, all too seldom consulted by interpreters of texts, who will help
us to spring the bolt that has so far impeded all attempts to understand this
passage fully. From the grammarians we learn that when one yap is soon
followed by another, as in the schema A yap B yap c, it is not necessarily the
case that B justifies A and c justifies B: in many cases B and c both justify A. 46 It
becomes immediately clear that if Epicurus' argument may be construed in
this way, the last obstacles in the way of a satisfactory solution to the problem
are smoothed away. We may now translate the text as a whole as follows: '(A)
The all has always been what it is now and will always remain such; for, (B) on the
one hand there is nothing where it might betake itself, and (c), on the other,
outside the all there is nothing which, entering into it, could produce change in it'

A few comments remain to be made. First, we should note that the parallelism
with Lucretius is much closer than might have been expected but that, in order
to find it, it was in a sense necessary not to be looking for it. Those who have
studied the passage in which we are interested taking Lucretius' text as their
guide have seenfiteither to pick and choose according to their needs (Boyance)
or more or less to force the Epicurean text into a new mould, in order to reduce
it to the Lucretian model (Giussani, Bignone). Such behaviour at least
partially justified scholars such as Bollack, who preferred, as a matter of
principle, not to read Epicurus in the light of Lucretius. However, as can be
seen, an internal analysis of Epicurus' text and patient elucidation of its
obscurities has led to an interpretation which eliminates all the apparent
discrepancies between the master's argument and that of his disciple, as
regards not only content but also structure. That goes not only for the
Lucretian passage upon which we have mostly concentrated (n.303-7), but
also for the other passage mentioned (111.816—18 = ¥.361-3). Here Lucretius
quite simply gives a more concrete form of expression to Epicurus' argument,
making it clear that, beyond the 'whole of the wholes', there exists neither any
place into which its parts could escape and disperse, nor any body which could
fall upon them, disintegrating them by the force of its impact. It was legitimate
for him to be more specific in this fashion, since at the juncture where he makes
these explicit points, his reader has already long been aware that the all is
composed of place and bodies. At the level of paragraph 39 of the Letter,
Epicurus could not provide this specific information which makes the argu-
ment clearer and more forceful, since he had not yet analysed the notion of the
all or named its constituent parts.47
Cf. Denniston 1954, p p . 6 4 - 5 : 'Successive y a p s have the same reference'. M a n y of the examples
provided come from the tragedians, historians and orators; one comes from Aristotle. It is
worth noting that, in m a n y of these examples, some philologists have proposed reading 8e in
place of the second yap.
Lucretius m a y also help to resolve the problem that we have left in the air: is the change in the
all that Epicurus seeks to exclude of a quantitative or a qualitative nature? II. 294-6 show that

I should also like to point out that the solution that I am proposing is not
entirely new, not that it matters whether this is in its favour or not. A number
of earlier scholars have already come close to it, some of them very close.
Several translators have omitted the second yap in their renderings of the
argument, 48 and from an objective point of view they were quite right to do so
if, as I believe, the reference of this conjunction is the same both times it occurs.
On occasion, what has been regarded as their 'negligence' in this respect has
been severely criticized.49 In the absence of any justificatory notes left by these
translators, there is no way of knowing whether they translated as they did
truly as a result of negligence, or in full awareness of the grammatical
implications of the passage. Alternatively, they may even have done so
prompted by a correct, if no more than instinctive, intuition as to the structural
necessities of the argument. Whatever the case may be, all that I, retrospec-
tively and laboriously, have done is show that they were right. Similarly, the
solution that I am proposing is, in principle, no different from the one that
Bailey hesitantly suggested in his commentary. All I had to do was override its
hesitancy and liberate it from the false reasoning on which that timidity was
based. More distantly, I hold the conjectures of Giussani and Bignone in
considerable respect. Too extreme to be defensible they may be, but they were
prompted by a recognition of the need to rediscover in Epicurus' text
something that these philologists rightly believed ought to be discoverable
there - as indeed it is, and perfectly detectable, moreover, without our needing
to alter the text as transmitted.
That is why, instead of baldly setting out this interpretation in the few lines
necessary to contain it, I thought it better to leave in evidence the quite massive

in t r u t h no choice need be m a d e : a qualitative change, t h r o u g h an increase or a decrease in the

density of the matter in the universe, would result from a quantitative change, matter having
been either added or lost. By excluding b o t h additions a n d losses, in the first of the two theses
stated in the Letter to Herodotus, Epicurus provides himself with the means to deny all
qualitative change, and this constitutes his third thesis, which we have been studying in the
present paper.
F o r example Hamelin ('II n'y a rien d'autre en effet en quoi il puisse se changer, ni rien n o n plus,
en dehors de lui, qui puisse agir', etc.), E r n o u t ('II n'y a rien en effet en quoi il puisse se
transformer. Et en dehors de l'univers', etc.), Arrighetti {'poiche nulla esiste in cui possa
tramutarsi, ne oltre il tutto vi e nulla', etc.), Isnardi Parente ('nulla esiste in cui esso possa
mutarsi, ne al di la del t u t t o vi e alcunche', etc.). Similarly, Joseph M o r e a u , in a recent article
entitled 'Le mecanisme epicurien et l'ordre de la n a t u r e ' , translates this passage as follows: 'II
n'y a rien, en effet, en quoi il puisse se transformer, de mime qu'en dehors de lui il n'est rien qui
puisse s'introduire en lui p o u r y causer une transformation' (1975, p. 476, n. 3). T h e italics are
T h u s , in his reply cited above, W i s m a n n sternly addresses those w h o are not in agreement with
him: 'the interpretation supported (i.e. by Bloch, Boyance and the tradition) takes no account
of the causal construction of the argument. In an altogether arbitrary fashion, it omits the
second yap, which A. E r n o u t dispenses with: II n'y a rien en effet (yap) en quoi il puisse se
transformer. Et (yap!) en dehors de l'univers (that is to say the all) il n'y a rien qui puisse s'y
introduirepour le modifier. A simple word-to-word check immediately shows that the omission
serves to mask a m o r e profound error, e t c ' Philological discussions would be improved if they
did not seem so concerned to h a n d out dunce's caps. In this particular instance, I hope to have
shown that E r n o u t knew exactly what he was doing, or at least that all the indications are that
he did. It is all too easy to become hoist with one's own petard.

scaffolding that has helped me to reach it. A debt of gratitude was involved
here: without the work of those who have gone before me, and without
analysing their efforts, their differences and their conflicting arguments, I
should certainly not have been able to put my finger on the objective difficulty
in this text, nor to keep on exploring the labyrinth of its culs-de-sac until the
true way out was revealed. Sometimes one does not register the presence of a
complaint until someone else suggests a remedy, even if the cure turns out to be
worse than the evil itself.50 That is why I feel sure that, if the ancient
philosophical texts still contain passages whose meaning needs to be eluci-
dated, the best way of tackling the task is neither to reject the 'tradition' as a
whole nor to follow respectfully in its footsteps. In the history of philosophy,
progress surely entails a critical analysis of its own history.

A good case in point, so far not mentioned, is the suggestion made by Brieger (1901, p. 520),
who proposes suppressing els in sentence (B), thereby obtaining the following meaning: '(B) in
effect, there is nothing that can change the all. (c) In effect, outside the all, there is nothing
which, by introducing itself into it, can bring about a change there.' Of course, this truism is not
altogether satisfactory; but the correction rests upon the justified conviction that, in the
customary interpretation, sentence (c) does not fulfil its presumed role of justification for
sentence (B). Bollack's interpretation (in substance: there is nothing into which the all changes,
since there is nothing into which it can change), by slightly different paths, follows an
analogous logic; and its shortcomings and merits are, in my view, comparable.

Many modern scholars1 have considered that, of all the ancient philosophers'
many theories on the origin and nature of language, the most remarkable and
interesting is that produced by Epicurus. But the difficulty of the texts through
which we know it, in particular the principal one, the famous passage in the
Letter to Herodotus (75-6), is also generally recognized, and many widely
divergent interpretations of it have been put forward.2 It is not my intention to
embark in this study upon a full examination of the problems of comprehen-
sion posed by this theory. My more limited aim is to focus upon a number of
specific aspects in the light of a question which is bound to arise when one
confronts the various competing interpretations. The question is this: does the
Epicurean theory incorporate a notion of what, in our day, is sometimes called
a 'private language', that is to say, roughly speaking, a language that is not (or
not yet) a means of communicating with other users of it, but is simply (or in
the first instance) a purely individual way of organizing one's own experience
and expressing one's own thoughts without anyone else being able, even in
principle, to understand this language?3
Epicurus' account is presented as a historical description of the birth and
development of language. A number of phases in this process are distinguished
clearly, the last of which is the only one that corresponds to the kind of
development and functioning of language of which the observer will, himself,
have had any experience. The earlier phases reconstructed by Epicurus in
accordance with his general methodology, such as those whose existence must
be supposed if what we now perceive, produced through a progressive process
of elaboration, is to be intelligible, necessarily differ in some respects from the
* The original version of this work was delivered as a lecture on 7 April 1976, at the Centre de
Recherches sur l'histoire des doctrines de l'Universite de Lille III, organized by Jean-Paul
Dumont and Pierre Trotignon. I should like to thank all those whose comments, both oral and
written, were so helpful to me in the preparation of this new version, in particular Jean-Paul
Dumont and Jean Bollack.
See Reinhardt 1912, p. 502 ('die beste und durchdachteste [Theorie] des ganzen Altertums'); a
number of similar judgements were collected by Dahlmann 1928, with his seal of approval.
In relation to the Letter to Herodotus I have consulted the following editions, translations and
commentaries: Usener 1887; Hamelin 1910, pp. 3978*.; Bignone 1920; Ernout 1925, vol. 1, pp.
LIX-CXXIII; Hicks 1925; Solovine (1925) 1968; Bailey 1926; Arrighetti (i960) 1973; Bollack
1971; Isnardi Parente 1974.
In the sixties, the notion of'private language' was the subject of an intense discussion based on
L. Wittgenstein's critique of it in Philosophical Investigations. For an account of that debate
and a bibliography, see Castaneda 1967. See also Jones 1971.


Cambridge Books Online © Cambridge University Press, 2009


last phase. Now, one of the most clearly distinguishable of the oppositions that
structure the contrast between the past of language and its present is that
between what is private and what is common. Both those words appear
prominently and insistently in the sections that treat, respectively, of the
origins of language and language as it is now. It is therefore understandable
that some interpreters should have reckoned that, for Epicurus, language
became a social institution and a means of communication only at a certain
point in its history and that up until that moment, although language had
certainly existed, it had lacked that social dimension and that function of
communication. In other words, it had existed in the form of 'private
Before assessing whether that interpretation is well-founded, it is worth
emphasizing one of the purposes of the present discussion. It is not simply a
matter of correctly reconstructing the succession of phases marked out by
Epicurus in his history of language. It is clear enough that, for him as for other
'archaeologists' of Antiquity, the elaboration of the history of phenomenon X
must also be an analysis of the concept of X. The succession of stages in what
happened first and what came later reflects the order of the assembling of
essential and accessory properties. In other words, if it were claimed that
Epicurus' linguistic archaeology makes room for a primitive phase of 'private
language', it would be necessary to declare that, for him, to be a means of
communication is not a part of the essence of language; and then, of course, it
would be necessary to state positively exactly what does, for him, constitute
the essence of language.
Now let us examine the text of the Letter to Herodotus. Paragraphs 75 and
76 succinctly set out a theory of the origin and development of language, which
is incorporated within the wider framework of a general theory of the origin
and development of culture and civilization. For that reason, we must pause
for a moment to consider this general theory, in the first place because
Epicurus goes on to apply most strictly the very same terms to the particular
case of language; and secondly because language is in fact the only particular
case to which Epicurus applies his general theory - which is somewhat
surprising, even in a short summarizing text such as the Letter to Herodotus.
Not a word does he say about crafts, law or religion, the three subjects
that usually follow in the wake of language in ancient attempts at
Kulturgesch ich te.4
What Epicurus says on the subject of his general theory may be translated
more or less as follows: 'We must imagine that nature (</>UCTI?) was instructed
(StSax^vat) and constrained (dvayKaadrjvai) by things themselves, receiving
from them many and various lessons; but that reasoning (Aoyia/xos), at a later
stage (vorepov), specified {eiraKpi^ovv) the things that had been provided by it
(VTTO TavTris\ 'nature' is the only possible reference), adding to them new

See Cole 1967.

Cambridge Books Online © Cambridge University Press, 2009


discoveries {Trpooe^evpioKeiv), more rapidly in some cases, more slowly in

others.' We may skip the next two lines, which pose a textual problem a
discussion of which would lead us too far astray and to little avail, since they
are clearly still concerned with variations in the rhythm of progress.
It is clear that the doctrine consists essentially in distinguishing between two
successive phases, the description of the first being dominated by the idea of
nature (and also by that of necessity), that of the second by the idea of
reasoning (and also that of contingency, which is implicit in the mention of
different degrees of rapidity in the process). Reasoning takes over from nature,
perfecting and completing its contribution. It will, however, be noticed that
these two principles do not play strictly parallel roles, to judge from the
respective grammatical functions of the nouns. Reasoning is introduced as the
subject of active verbs (it specifies the contributions of nature and adds new
discoveries to them). And that it should be so is perfectly normal. More
unexpectedly, however, nature is presented as the subject of passive verbs (it is
instructed, constrained by things themselves); so it is not that which instructs
(for example, that which instructs man as to the means of satisfying his needs);
rather, contrary to all expectation, it is that which is instructed. It is probably
in order to play down this strange fact that many interpreters have decided,
more or less explicitly, that the nature in question here must be human nature.
Some have even specified that what the author has in mind is natural man, man
in a natural state. 5 This substitution of human nature for nature in general has
been forcefully criticized by Jean Bollack, who regards it as a characteristic
deformation of the thought of Epicurus, a way of masking the boldness of a
doctrine which detected in culture 'nature rebounding upon itself (le retour de
la nature sur elle-meme) and did not flinch from describing nature as
'undergoing instruction from its own productions'. 6
Perhaps the debate can be advanced if we note, still on the level of grammar,
that, while it is true that 'nature' serves as the subject of passive verbs in the
first part of this sentence, in the second part it serves as the agent of another
passive verb (reasoning perfects things that have been provided by it). In other
words, implicitly, it is the subject of an active verb (it is nature that has
provided the things that reasoning perfects). From this we may draw the
completely unforced conclusion that, in this affair, nature is both an agent and
a patient. It receives lessons but it has itself provided them in the first place.
When we attempt to explain this paradox, it no longer seems so necessary to
choose between human nature and nature in general: if nature is capable of
affecting itself in this way, in all likelihood the specific place in which it affects
itself is none other than man (of whom there has been no mention in the
sketched-in cosmogony and zoogony that has preceded the sentence that we
are studying, but who is nevertheless bound to be introduced at some point
since the 'reasoning' in question in this sentence can only be his). There is no

5 6
See Hicks 1925. Bollack 1971, pp. 22 and 236.

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need to mention man, because he is not an empire within an empire. Rather, it

could be said, developing the above-quoted formula of Jean Bollack, that he is
that part of nature through which nature finds the means to educate itself.
The next question to be tackled is the following: what is the basis of that
privileged position of man? Presumably, the fact that man is physically and
psychically organized in such a way that his contacts with the rest of the
universe are not exhausted in the moment and at the spot where they take
place, as are those of a rolling stone or even a sentient animal; rather, they
become lodged within him, accumulating in the form of experience, concepts,
language. As it creates a sediment, experience renders progress possible,
progress that includes the selection of useful gestures, the graft of new
discoveries one upon another. 7 And it is language that is probably the essential
instrument of this cumulative fecundity at both an individual and a collective
level, for language as it were plays the role of an information bank. It is
therefore no accident that, having sketched in the general framework of his
theory of human evolution, Epicurus proceeds to apply it to only one
particular case, that of language. The reader of his Letter is implicitly invited
to understand that this is not simply one example among others of man's
natural productions, later to be perfected by reasoning; rather, it can be
representative of all the others, because they are all conditioned by it.8
This first result of our enquiry will be of considerable use to us when we
come to tackle directly the text devoted to language, that is to say the end of
paragraph 75, on the phase of nature, and the beginning of paragraph 76, on
the phase of reasoning. It is in the first of these two passages that some
commentators have believed it possible to detect the idea of a 'private
language'. According to them, Epicurus conceived original language as a
purely individual language, neither affecting any outside party nor controlled
by any, and corresponding to the vocal expression of purely idiosyncratic
sensations and affections. (Interpreters remain divided as to whether or not
that expression was truly linguistic). As these commentators see it, the second
phase of linguistic evolution, in which reasoning and deliberately constructed
conventions play their part, is simultaneously and fundamentally a phase in
which the private languages and personal lexicons, which separate individuals
initially elaborated purely for their own use, were socialized.
It is this interpretation of the text that the present study sets out to examine
and discuss. Afterwards, I shall try to explain the preconceptions on the basis
of which Epicurus has been credited with an idea which, in my opinion, he
never held and why, on the contrary, given the principal essentials of his

See Lucretius v.1456: namque alid ex alio clarescere corde videbant.

See Cole 1967, p. 67: 'Language is not merely something which society makes possible. From
the very beginning it symbolizes the benefits of cooperation and mutual defence and directs
men to them. It is thus the essential medium for the whole process by which men go about
securing these advantages.1

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anthropological and linguistic doctrine, he could never have accepted the

notion of a private language.
First, let us try to give as literal a translation as possible of the passage that
concerns the natural phase in the history of language. Epicurus writes: 'This is
why names (rd ovo/zara), likewise, originally, did not appear through any
institution (deaet).9 It is the very natures of men (auras rds <f>vo€is TWV
avdpcoTTcov), people by people (/ca#5 l/caara eOvrj), which, experiencing private
affections (ISia naoxovoas irdOrj) and receiving private images (ffita
Xa^avovaas ^avTaa^ara), expel air, imprinting upon it a private
configuration (ISiws rov depa €K7T€^7T€iv oreXAofjievov), under the effect of
each of those affections and images, according to the difference which
may also (KCU) arise between different peoples as a result of the places where
they live.' The essential problem posed by the interpretation of this text,
especially from the point of view that interests us, is how to determine the exact
meaning ofi'Sia, which is three times repeated in either adjectival or adverbial
form (i'Sia nddr), tSta (fyavrdafjuara, ISioos areXXofjievov) and three times
emphasized by being placed at the start of the sentence section in which it
appears. Whether one chooses to translate it as 'private', as I have done, or to
use other words such as 'appropriate' (Hamelin, Ernout), 'special' (Hicks,
Bignone), 'particular' (Solovine, Bailey, Arrighetti, Bollack, Isnardi Parente,
Sedley), makes little difference to the problem, since what remains to be
determined is the complement to these adjectives: private to whom or to what?
Similarly, since whatever is private clearly stands in opposition to whatever is
common (see vorepov 8e KOLVCOS at the start of paragraph 76), it is also
necessary to identify the second term in the opposition, that is to say specify
what is meant by the 'common' in relation to which the property of the
'private' is defined as such.
The first possible answer to this question would be to say that nouns which
appear naturally with their 'own private configuration' are private to each
individual. This individualistic interpretation could, seemingly, be supported
in the first place by the remarkable plural in the expression 'the natures of men'
(a plural the most normal purpose of which might be said to be 'to differentiate
between individuals' 10 ); and secondly, even more so, by the correspondence
that the text clearly establishes between the privacy of the vocal configurations
and the 'privacy' of the affections and figments which prompt these vocal
emissions. It is easy to read the 'privacy' of these affections and images from a
solipsistic point of view: whatever each individual perceives when confronted
with the same physical object is an impression which nobody can contemplate
in his place nor can compare with an impression of his own, and it is as
impossible to see what somebody else sees as to suffer from toothache in the
In my own view, it seems impossible, both grammatically and doctrinally, to understand the
sense as follows: originally, no nouns at all appeared (for institutionalization is the only
explanation for their appearance), which is how David Konstan understands it. See Konstan
1973. Bollack 1971, p. 236.

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mouth of somebody else. So it follows that, if vocal productions espouse the

particularity of the mental events that prompt them, it is to be expected that
they be individually differentiated, as are the events themselves. This indivi-
dualistic interpretation is clearly detectable in the translations of Hamelin and
Ernout; and it is absolutely explicit in the commentary of Jean Bollack, who
speaks of the 'immense variety of differences in the expressions that are linked
with the particularity of individuals and of their affections', and who reckons
that every idiosyncrasy results in 'a system of sounds which is individual,
precise and coherent (un systeme de sons individuel, precis et coherent)'\11
However, that is not the only way of understanding this text. When
Epicurus speaks of the 'particularity' of affections and images and of their
vocal expressions, he might well simply be referring to the particularity of
different peoples and intend his description of the first phase in the develop-
ment of language simply to reflect the perfectly observable fact that there are
many different languages. This 'ethnic' interpretation may be supported by the
presence of the expression 'people by people' (Kad* eKaara edvrj), which, by
reason of being placed next to the mention of the 'natures of men', could be
considered as an explanation intended to specify the level to which the
multiplicity of different natures refers. The opposition between 'private' and
'common' would then be that which distinguishes between the various peoples
and the human race as a whole, not between an individual and a group. It is not
beyond the bounds of possibility that Epicurus considered that all the
individuals who made up a particular people receive the same images (given
that they all live in the same geographical location, the identity of the objects
they perceive would serve as a criterion for the identity of their perceptive
images), and that they all feel the same affections (since they all come from the
same ethnic stock - the identity of their affected 'natures' serving as a criterion
for the identity of the affections felt). These images and affections, which are
identical for individuals in the same ethnic and geographical group, but vary
from one group to another, would, according to this interpretation, be
expressed in linguistic reactions which presented the same forms of identity or
differentiation. This is the interpretation that emerges more or less clearly
from Solovine's translation and, above all, from the translation of this passage
that David Sedley proposes in the commentary in his edition of Book xxvm of
the Tlepl cjtvoeajs.12
There remains yet a third interpretation, which commentators do not seem
to have clearly perceived or explored, but which is nevertheless worthy of
consideration. It involves relating the 'particularity' of the images, affections
and linguistic effects to the diversity of the material objects which provoke
those images and that of the internal processes which provoke those affec-
tions. Each image is private to an object to the extent that it differs from the
image conjured up by a different object. And the same goes for affections. This

11 12
Bollack 1971, pp. 236 and 237. See Sedley 1973, pp. 5-83, in particular pp. I7ff.

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'objective' interpretation might be justified by the fact that the problem facing
Epicurus here is not the genesis of language in an indeterminate sense of the
word, but the genesis of a lexicon or of several lexicons (TO, ovofjuara). Hence, it
is completely relevant of him to stress the differentiation of images and
affections, a differentiation which stems on the one hand from the diversity of
the objects that prompt them, on the other from the phonetic diversity of the
vocal expressions that designate them: before explaining why it is that several
words exist, in various languages, to designate for example the sun, it is
necessary to explain why, in any given language, there exists one word for the
sun and another for the moon. Looking at it from this point of view, Epicurus
could be supposed to have perceived the differential nature of linguistic signs
and to have coordinated the system of linguistic differences with that of the
differences between objects, through the mediation of the sensations and
affections. *3 Quite apart from its intrinsic pertinence, this interpretation could
also derive support from the expression that Epicurus uses in the immediate
context of this description of'private' vocal configurations: air, he declares, is
expelled in a differentiated form 'under the effect of each of the affections and
images' (v<fi eKaorcov TCOV iraOcbv KOLL TCOV (^avraoyidrcov).1^ This certainly
seems to imply that it is the diversity of the impressions, rather than the
diversity of the individuals who receive those impressions, that is coordinated
with the diversity of linguistic expressions.
It will be noticed that this 'objective' interpretation does not belong to the
same level as the 'individualistic' and 'ethnic' interpretations. Even assuming
that, in mentioning the particularity of images, affections and expressions,
Epicurus simply has in mind the differentiation of names within a single
lexicon, it would still be necessary to determine whether he conceived the
formation of such a lexicon to be a process reiterated from one individual to
another, or from one people to another. In other words, assuming the
fundamental linguistic fact that Epicurus sets out to explain to be the
production of two distinct words to designate, for example, the sun and the
moon, we still need to know whether his view is that, in the first phase of
language, as many pairs of words of this type appeared as there were
individuals, or only as many as there were peoples. It is thus possible to
imagine two variants to the objective interpretation: one individualistic, the
other ethnic.
Another factor will help us to make some progress in this debate. In the last
statement of paragraph 75, Epicurus does mention the differences between
peoples, suggesting that they arise from the places where they live. The clear
implication is that a natural language is, at any rate, not a universal language.
The difference between languages that experience shows us to exist is assumed
On the 'diacritic' function of nouns, see Plato Cratylus 338B.
See also Lucretius v. 1057-8 {sigenus humanum, cui vox et lingua vigeret, | pro vario sensu varias
res voce notaret), especially if one retains the manuscripts' reading of varias, which is adopted
by Ernout.

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to have existed right from the start. This point is of capital importance, and
Sedley has skilfully shown that one of the great features of originality in
Epicurus' theory of language was to make the argument based on the
differences between languages rebound in favour of the naturalist thesis,
despite the fact that that very same argument had been tritely used by the
partisans of conventionalism to support their own thesis.15 In a move that was
to have a far-reaching impact, the author of the Letter to Herodotus ceased to
consider universality as the criterion/?<zr excellence of naturalness: there exist
human factors that are not universal yet even so should not be classed as 'not
But, in the context of the passage in which we are interested, this reference to
ethnic differences poses a problem the solution to which will make it possible
to form a relative assessment of the rival interpretations. That reference seems
to be an extra factor in the differentiation of languages and lexicons (djg av
7TOT€ /cat 77 Trapa rovg TOTTOVS . . . Sia(/>opa, dependent upon the difference
which may also exist between places). Many translators have overlooked this
important point. If one does take it into account, it becomes necessary to
specify what it is that this new factor seems to be introduced to supplement.
In the individualistic interpretation, the solution at first sight seems easy: the
differentiation of the lexicons peculiar to each of the different peoples is quite
naturally superposed upon the differentiation of individual lexicons. How-
ever, it is difficult to see how the existence of a particular language for each
particular people could be presented as an extra difference, over and above the
existence of a particular language for each particular individual. For if one
supposes there originally to have existed a multiplicity of private languages,
the appearance of a language peculiar to a whole people is a phenomenon
whose most striking aspect is not that this is a language that is different from
that of another people, but rather that it is common to all the individuals who
make up the people under consideration. Epicurus would be unpardonably at
fault if he had assumed the right to posit the appearance of a whole group of
individual languages at the same time as that of a whole group of collective
languages, without even attempting to explain the process by which the human
race moved on from individual languages to collective ones.
In the ethnic interpretation, the problem posed by the last sentence in the
paragraph is no easier to resolve: the sentence becomes inexplicably redundant
in relation to what precedes it. Supposing that the only problem that the
preceding lines set out to resolve were the appearance of different languages
peculiar to different peoples, it would be hard to see why Epicurus should then
introduce ethnic differences as though these were a new element. That is why
the translators who adopt that type of interpretation tend to ignore the
Sedley 1973, p. 18: 'Epicurus' theory . . . is able not merely to explain language differences in
naturalist terms, but even to make them part of its proof. Aristotle had said (De interpret. 1)
that language varies while TOL irpdyixara remain constant, but for Epicurus it is precisely
because TOL npay[iara vary from region to region that language also varies.'

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bothersome /cat (one case in point being Solovine); others, such as Hamelin
and Ernout, assume that Epicurus is here referring to dialect variants, which
divide the language of a single people into a multitude of regional ways of
talking. But that is a desperate ad hoc solution which commands little
credence, given the level of generality at which the text as a whole unfolds.
The ethnic variant of the 'objective' interpretation runs into fewer difficul-
ties in its attempt to account for the text. According to this interpretation, the
distributive expression at the beginning of the text, which introduces the ethnic
differences (/ca#5 eVaara edvrj, people by people) implies that the description
that follows applies to a process that takes place for each people, since the
possibility of that process taking place in different ways among different
peoples is not considered. It is within each separate people that the natural
elaboration of a lexicon takes place, a lexicon in which the distinctions
correspond to the mutual differences of images and affections. Since each
people elaborates a system of differences in ignorance of that being elaborated
by its neighbours, the overall result of all these processes is the production of
many different systems of differences. Epicurus' hypothesis thus manages to
give the most economical account possible, both of the fact that each language
contains different words (i.e. different from each other) for the sun and the
moon (a difference that he attributes to the difference in the impressions that
these different objects produce in us), and also of the fact that the words used
to designate the sun (or the moon) vary from one language to another (a
difference that he ascribes to the different impressions that one and the same
object will make upon different 'natures of men'). Nevertheless, the hypothesis
remains too schematic. It assumes that the environment in which these
different peoples live is identical, and it could only account for precisely
superposable lexicons, in which all the words in one particular language found
their homologues in all the other languages. That is why, at the end of his text,
Epicurus, by way of an extra factor of diversification, reintroduces differences
that separate one people from another 'as a result of the places where they live'.
Since, in many of the domains of their experience (landscape, flora, fauna),
they do not encounter the same objects, different peoples are distinct from one
another not only by virtue of the way in which they refer to certain objects, but
also in that they have names for some but not for others. In this respect, the
diversity of languages not only constitutes a false objection to their natural-
ness, but indeed positively supports it.

After that long discussion, we must now test out the interpretation by
determining whether it is compatible with what follows in the text, that is to
say the beginning of paragraph 76, in which Epicurus moves on to describe the
second phase in his history of languages, the phase in which reasoning,
convention and artifice intervene. This description also falls into two parts. In
the first, the new developments in language are related to conventions that
have become accepted within the ethnic group concerned. In the second,

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further innovations are related to various individual initiatives the end results
of which are the creation and adoption of new words. I will, if I may, limit this
study to the first of those parts, which is the only one that is really relevant to
the present discussion. (The second part raises an extremely thorny problem of
textual interpretation which would lead us far beyond the bounds of the
present study.)
Let us begin with as literal a translation as possible of the portion of the text
that interests us. What Epicurus says is: 'Later, however {vorepov Se), in
common (KOIVCOS), people by people (/<a0' eVaara edvrj), particular [names]
(TO, TSta) were instituted (redrjvai), so that designations (rag SrjXwoets) could
become less ambiguous, one with another (rjrrov a^ifioXovs . . . aAA^Acus-)16
and more concise (owTOfjiajTepas).' This sentence returns us directly to the
problem of 'private language'. At first sight, it appears to lend support to the
commentators who adopt an individualistic interpretation of the preceding
passage. If the new phase is marked by collective institutionalization, is it not
natural to suppose that the earlier phase was an individualistic one? In this
case, Epicurus would seem to be describing the transition from private
language to socialized language, instinctive language to reasoned language,
spontaneous expression to thought-out communication. The word KOLVCOS (in
common), prominent at the beginning of the sentence, is obviously set in
opposition to the emphasis that the previous paragraph laid upon particular-
ity (t'Sta); it would seem that the individuals who now understand one
another 17 must have passed through a stage in which each was isolated within
his own particular linguistic sphere.
Let us seize upon one immediate difficulty, however: the word TSia, far from
being reserved for describing the preceding phase, now appears again in our
text, this time to designate the object of linguistic conventions: particular
names were instituted (TO, TSia Tedrjvcu). What can be the meaning of this
expression? Is it a matter of collectively endorsing the lexicons already
elaborated by individuals? But those lexicons were multiple and all different
and, were they to be adopted by the group, this would entail a selection, about
which Epicurus says nothing at all. Furthermore, it would be strange to call
words 'particular' at the very moment when they cease to be so. Or is it, on the
contrary, a matter of setting up a language particular to, not the contracting
individuals, but the group that they constitute? If that is the case, it would be
necessary to accept that the word t'Sia changes its meaning within the space of
just a few lines. Several translators have resigned themselves to accepting this
but even then are forced to move a considerable distance from the text, as can
be seen by consulting the versions produced by Hamelin ('only afterwards did
each nation institute its own particular language, but one that was common to
We should retain the manuscripts' reading dAA^Aai?, with Bollack, rather than adopt the
correction dXXrjXois, which goes back to the seventeenth century (Meibom) and which,
inexplicably, has been adopted by all other modern editors.
It was probably this representation that prompted Meiboirfs correction cited in n. 16.

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all its members (dans la suite settlement, chaque nation a institue un langage a
elle propre, mais commun a tons ses membresy) and Ernout ('within each
people, a common language was substituted for an individual language (dans
chaque peuple, au langage individuel on substitue un langage commun)'). Jean
Bollack has tried to reconcile an individualistic interpretation of the first
description with a single meaning being maintained for the word t'Sta in both
descriptions. He produces the following translation: 'afterwards they agreed
in common, within in each tribe, upon which particular sounds to retain (apres
coup, Us convinrent en commun, dans chaque tribu, des sons particuliers a
retenir)\ This translation has the merit of introducing the idea - well attested
in most areas of Epicurean doctrine - of a selection: the group is said to sift
through, not the individual lexicons as they stand in their entirety, but the best
expressions contained in each one of them. The group is assumed to pick out
the most effective and adopt them for its own use. However, the decisive
objection to this ingenious solution is that the text contains nothing at all that
corresponds to the 'to retain' (a retenir) that appears in the translation. The
idea of a selective process has thus been imposed upon a text that does not
contain it. Besides, in what language is the group supposed to have discussed
the 'pros' and 'cons' of the various languages invented by its members? If
Epicurus is to be credited with such a theory, he must have exposed himself to
the very objections that he himself directs against his conventionalist
opponents. 18
If an individualistic interpretation of the first phase makes the connection
with the second incomprehensible, the ethnic interpretation would appear to
deprive it of any precise meaning at all. What would be the point of an
agreement the only effect of which would be to confer the force of a law and
institution upon a language that had already been evolved naturally? If
paragraph 76 does not describe the substitution of a public language in place
of a chaos of private ones, what is there that it possibly could be describing? In
order to find an answer to that question, let us first note that the conventions
mentioned here possess an explicit purpose: the act of institutionalization is
deliberate, willed; and it is intended to obtain a result which the parties
involved represent to themselves consciously, seemingly through their already
acquired linguistic experience. Moreover, this graft of artifice upon a natural
basis that necessarily preceded it is in conformity with all that we know of the
Epicurean conception of technical creation. 19 Epicurus here describes the
conscious aim of the linguistic conventions very carefully, and what he says
about the end in view makes it possible - as is so often the case - to form a
better understanding of what he says about the means. The purpose of the
conventions is clear: it is to render the words for things less equivocal and more
concise. In passing, we should do well to admire the sureness of touch of a
theory which submits the evolution of languages to a double principle of
See, for example, Lucretius v. 1050-5.
See for example the account of the origins of metallurgy in Lucretius v. 1252-68.

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gradual elimination of (a) misunderstanding and (b) redundancy, both of
which are implicitly indicated to be specific hindrances to communication.
Above all, however, we should note the use of the two comparatives fjrrov
afjLcfriftoXovs and ovvroyLODTepas: they convey that what is being attempted is
just slightly to improve the univocity and economy of language. The transfor-
mation that the linguistic conventions produce on the natural language is
merely one of degree: it is not a transformation in kind. It would have been
difficult for Epicurus to use those comparatives if he had conceived of the
interconnection between his two phases as a substitution of a public language
for a private one, a substitution which would assuredly constitute a profound
transformation in kind, affecting the very function of language. On top of all
this, we should note the recurrence, in both parts of the text, of the expression
'people by people' (KCL0' eKaora edvr]), which makes it clear that the scale of
the processes described in the two phases is identical. One can now see that,
even in its original phase, language is conceived as a public language, an
instrument of communication in which many interlocutors are engaged. It is,
of course, an instrument that is still imperfect, marred by ambiguities and
redundancies, but it would not change radically in its essence even when, as a
result of rational conventions, it received improving touches that made it more
effective and more practicable. What these conventions instituted were
particular names for each object in a given language (so the sense of the word
TSta remains unchanged from what we have seen it to be in the preceding
paragraph, yet truly does designate what are the names that emerged after the
convention, not those that existed before it). Those names are now more
precise and more sober, but the contract confers upon the language no
fundamental dimension of which the contractors were not already aware. 20
I believe that we may thus conclude that neither the literal text nor the
structure of the theory behind it dictates the hypothesis of an original phase of
'private language'; indeed, both can be explained perfectly well if we dispense
with that hypothesis.

To extend the discussion, I should now like to show that the hypothesis of a
private language was only read into this Epicurean theory as a result of a
number of general preconceptions concerning Epicurean philosophy as a
whole, and that a critique of that hypothesis makes it possible to dispel those
preconceptions, with encouraging results.
Despite the paradoxes that it incorporates from a conceptual point of view,

Here again the restriction is in conformity with a condition that the Epicureans censured their
opponents for not respecting: what is useful cannot be aimed for unless it is known, through
experience, to be useful (see Lucretius v.181-6 and 1046-9). This perfecting which does not
alter the essence of what it perfects corresponds exactly with the idea expressed by the verb
inaKpLfiovv (to describe in detail, with hindsight), used by Epicurus at the beginning of
paragraph 75 to denote the first of the two functions fulfilled by 'reasoning' in the overall
evolution of culture. The second function, expressed by the verb npooegevpLOKeiv (to add new
discoveries), was also to be strictly matched in the description of the second conventional
modality for enriching language.

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the notion of private language may easily be imported into a doctrine that it
has become customary to summarize using three labels: sensualism in the
theory of knowledge, atomism in physics, individualism in ethics.
The general view is that, where Epicurus is concerned, all knowledge stems,
directly or indirectly, from the senses. But if man's only contact with external
reality is through his senses, that contact through sensation is not far from
being a separation; the opening on to the world becomes a closing-in upon
oneself, sensualism becomes solipsism. Even if my own sensations are aroused
only by the physical action of another body on my body, they remain, for all
that, my sensations, that is to say modifications of the self which conceal their
causes from me to the extent that they are only the effects of those causes.
Hence the temptation to read into the mention of 'particular' images and
affections which give rise to natural language an allusion to this consciousness
immured in itself.
This temptation may be encouraged by an impression that has struck many
commentators on Epicurus, even if they have not formulated it as decisively as
did the young Karl Marx in his doctoral dissertation on Democritus and
Epicurus:21 the Epicurean atom appears not only as a physical concept but
also as a figure or metaphor for self-awareness. The obvious parallelism
between the description of the association of atoms in compound bodies and
that of the grouping of individuals in social 'bodies' provides a particularly
striking illustration of this metaphorical relationship.22 However, the rela-
tionship is easy enough to reverse: if the atom is a figure for self-awareness,
self-awareness may be represented on the model of the atom, that is to say as
an undeformable unit, a monolithic block closed upon itself, a little island of
self-presence which is delimited and separated from others by the void. Can
the language that such a consciousness invents naturally for itself be anything
other than a language whose signs have meaning only for the one who
produces them? If one furthermore remembers that Epicureanism is so
susceptible to the radical individuality of beings that, long before Leibnitz, it
expressed a principle of the discernibility of non-identicals,23 one might easily
ascribe to Epicurus the idea that natural language is differentiated just as
individually as the internal world of which it is the instinctive expression.
The logic of this interpretation would be to deny any truly conceptual
character to the instinctive language of the first phase of Epicurus' theory:
according to this view, that phase would involve variously modulated cries
corresponding to the various feelings and emotions, rather than signs whose
discriminatory and informative quality only appears when there is an inten-
tion to engage in relations of exchange and communication with some
interlocutor, that is to say at the stage of socialization.
Such an interpretation has indeed been proposed,24 but it is worth noting
not only that it runs into difficulties of an internal nature (thefirstvocal sounds
See Ponnier's translation, M a r x 1970; see also G a b a u d e 1970; M a r k o v i t s 1974.
See for example Lucretius 11.111 (consociare . . . motus).
23 24
See Lucretius n.342ff. D e Lacy 1939, p p . 8 5 - 9 3 .

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correspond to </>cu>Taor/xara, which are images of objects, as well as to 7ra0rj),

but also that it involves a historical error. 2 5 It seems that Epicurus may indeed
have known of conceptions of the origin of language in which the earliest
phase of human language was represented on an animal model, as the
inarticulate expression of emotions, and that he deliberately rejected that
representation. It was probably present in Democritus, if we agree to follow
the many historians who attribute to him the fundamental elements of a
cultural history traces of which are to be found in much later authors such as
Vitruvius and Diodorus Siculus.26 In Diodorus, for example, the first stage of
the genesis of language is constituted by the appearance of confused sounds
devoid of meaning (<f)covrjs aorjfjLov /cat ovyKexvfJLevrjs);27 only at a later stage
does an articulated language emerge, with distinct names for everything and
reciprocal communication between several interlocutors. But the Epicurean
tradition spectacularly dispenses with such a hypothesis: its naturalism never
lowers the barriers that separate humanity from animality, and the natural
language that it envisages is, right from the start, an articulated language with
conceptual meaning and objective reference. Lucretius, it is true, does
compare the cries of animals and human speech, but he does so a fortiori, in
order to establish the natural character of the latter, without, however, passing
over what makes it specifically different from the former: if the animals
without language (muta) emit various sounds (yarias voces) which correspond
to their various sensations (varii sensus), then, and even more so (quanto
magis), men have been able, ever since the earliest times, to designate different
things (dissimiles res notare), using a gamut of different sounds (alia atque alia
voce).28 Diogenes of Oenoanda, the author of the extraordinary mural
inscription summarizing Epicureanism for the benefit of his fellow-citizens,
rejects even more emphatically any theological or conventional theory of the
origin of articulated sounds ((/>66yyoi) and deems it necessary to specify that
by this he means the nouns and verbs (ovofjidrcov KOLL prjixdrcov) that men 'born
from the earth' emitted for the very first time. 29 Natural language is thus
represented as possessing a semantic and syntactic organization from the very
first moment of its emergence.
In that case why, on an apparently speculative point, did Epicureanism
insist upon distancing itself from a representation of the genesis of languages
which, if it is true that that representation originated in Democritus, probably
formed part of its horizon of references? The answer to this question will
require us to specify what was at stake when Epicureanism declared its own
position to be different. In the first place, it may be assumed that its rejection of
that representation constituted a response to its 'positivist' desire to advance
no hypothesis concerning a past that, by definition, is impossible to seize upon
25 26 27
See Vlastos 1946, p p . 51-9. See Cole 1967. D i o d o r u s 1.8, 3.
Lucretius v . i 0 8 7 - 9 0 .
See Chilton 1967; 1971 (fragment 10); 1962, p p . 159-67; and the judicious assessment of the
discussions on this point by Rodis-Lewis 1975, p p . 312-18.

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directly unless it is guaranteed, in one way or another, by some phenomenon

that is perceptible in our own current experience. Now, the current use of
language, as the Epicurean authors saw it, contains no perceptible trace of a
presemantic and inarticulate state of voice usage, nor of any phase of purely
private language. Lucretius notes that, in the individual evolution of a child,
what precedes the use of language is the gesture of pointing a finger at things,
and this behaviour already refers to the things that the child wants and the
people to whom it is appealing. 30 No doubt Epicurean epistemology does
admit, indeed even recommends, the practice of making conjectures that are
impossible to verify directly, in order to explain phenomena that it is possible
to apprehend. But it does not recommend, indeed positively forbids, forging
hypotheses which cannot be checked by any direct or indirect method of
confirmation - or, at the very least, 'non-infirmation'.
But it is possible to move beyond this first response to the question. As has
already been pointed out, one genetic theory can be set up in opposition to
another, not simply on the grounds that it gives a better account of the
observable data concerning the phenomenon under inspection, but also
because it believes itself to be more faithful to the essential characteristics of
that phenomenon. A diachronic analysis, an account of origins, the conjec-
tures to which these give rise, and the polemics that they provoke very often are
substitutes for the discussion of problems to do with essences, and also for the
synchronic analysis of concepts and the necessary links between concepts. To
include or not to include a phase A in the history of phenomenon B is to
pronounce upon the essential content of the concept of B.
If that is so, it is possible to see that the Epicurean refusal to conceive of
primitive language as an animal and inarticulate expression of the subjective
states of human consciousness corresponds to an analysis of human exper-
ience in which sensations and affections are through abstraction separable
from the language that articulates and structures them. The label 'sensualism'
is particularly misleading here, because there is a danger that it will make one
forget that what ensures the epistemological (incontestable) quality of sensa-
tion in Epicureanism is, precisely, an analysis which, in abstract fashion, takes
to bits a totality whose elements are never apprehended separately in
psychological experience: the famous thesis of the infallibility of sensations is
only valid for a sensation defined as the abstract limit of the analysis. Epicurus
says: 'All sensation is mute (aAoyo?) and admits of no memory (^77^77?
ovSefjiias SeKTLKrj)\3 1 in other words, as soon as there is added to a sensation a
memory which links it synthetically to other previous sensations of the same
kind together with the word which formulates that which is felt in the
sensation, something other than the sensation itself has already come into
play. This other 'something', which does not possess the infallibility of
sensation, but is unaffected by the limitations of the present moment and the

30 31
Lucretius v.i030-2. Cited by Diogenes Laertius x.31.

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proviso that it be unexpressed, is §d£a, judgement, the fundamental tools of

which are notions and words. The role of concepts and judgements in the
Epicurean psychology of knowledge is so vast and so fundamental that it
would not be exaggerated to speak of intellectualism in this connection. To be
convinced of that, one has only to read the rather astonishing passage in which
Lucretius analyses the illusion that makes us believe that our shadow is
following us and copying our movements.32 It informs us that our eyes are
only judged capable of seeing light and shade wherever the latter happen to be
and at the particular moment when they happen to be there. In contrast, it is up
to reason (ratio) to decide (at the risk of making a mistake) whether a series of
images which successively occupy adjoining positions should be interpreted as
the perception of the movement of a single object which remains identical even
when it moves (as is usually the case), or whether, on the contrary (as in the
case of the shadow that seems to be moving), it is a matter of an illusory
synthesis which confers the status and consistency of a real object upon what is
in reality no more than a cinematographic succession of apparitions which
then disappear immediately. There could be no better way of showing that, in
Epicurean doctrine, the fundamental categories of objectivity (unity, identity,
permanence) stem from what, in Kantian vocabulary, might be called logic,
rather than aesthetics. What we perceive of our sensations is not the brute fact
of them but the result of the form that conceptual structures impose upon that
brute fact. It is thus impossible for the history of human culture to dissociate,
in a succession of separate phases, two moments that may be distinguishable in
theoretical reflection but which, as experienced, are inseparable. Language, in
its original form, could not be the pure expression of sensation, for when
sensation speaks it is no longer sensation that is speaking.
Yet - it might be argued - there would be nothing to prevent primitive
language being a conceptual elaboration of experience, even if it were
elaborated in a purely individual fashion which differed from one individual to
another. It would be mistaken to confuse an interpretation which presents it as
a multiplicity of'individual, precise and coherent systems' (Jean Bollack), with
an interpretation which imagined it as 'emotional cries, expressing love, fear
and other sentiments of this kind, but saying nothing that could be specifically
related to external objects' (Phillip De Lacy). Nevertheless, having recognized
that difference, in every individualist interpretation, whatever form its details
may take, we notice the effect of the questionable extrapolation of the model of
the atom into the psychological domain. This model - if it is a model - seems to
me to play a normative role in Epicurean thought, rather than a descriptive
one. The ideal of the individual self (the ideal of the sage) is to come to resemble
an atom, to become, like it, invulnerable, imperishable, inviolate. In this
respect, Epicurus' morality might be presented as a programme for imitating
an atom, which really is the same as a programme for imitating God. But when

Lucretius iv.365-86.

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it comes to describing the constitution of man, Epicurus never forgets that

man is an atomic compound. This physical status includes negative aspects
(every compound is decomposable), but also positive ones: it is thanks to his
composition that man is able to sustain ordered exchanges with the environ-
ment that surrounds him, and to derive from it enrichment on the physiologi-
cal and the psychological levels; it is man's composition that makes him
capable of possessing a history. So if physics can provide a model of
intelligibility for the history of human culture, we must expect that model to be
at the level of compound bodies, which evolve in constant interaction with
other ones, rather than at the level of atoms, which pass through the void of
space and time without being intrinsically affected by it.
This compound nature is at the same time a specific nature, and if we take
the specificity of human nature into consideration, we are bound to rectify the
effects of a unilateral accentuation of the principle of individuation in
Epicurus on the interpretation. It is perfectly true that, in his eyes, no natural
being is exactly the same as another; but it is equally true that individual
differences only count within a field of variation strictly delimited by the laws
of the constitution of natural species. It is a prototypical case of the application
of a schema of free variation within well-defined limits - a schema the
importance and polyvalency of which have been judiciously demonstrated in
every area of Epicurean thought. 33 The stability and specificity of human
nature are but one of the aspects of the regularity that reigns throughout
nature universally, and that, basically, is why it is legitimate for us to extend
our knowledge by the use of induction and analogy. In this respect, it is very
revealing to observe the positions adopted by the Epicureans in the discussions
in which they were opposed by the Stoics over the norms for interpreting
natural signs. (An echo of those discussions is preserved in the De signis of the
Epicurean Philodemus.) 34 According to a simplistic and stereotyped schema
(Stoic 'rationalism', Epicurean 'empiricism'), one would expect to find the
Stoics taking their stand on the basis of the rationality of reality so as to
anticipate regularities by means of reason, and the Epicureans checking the
tendency to generalize by underlining their warnings on the score of the
unpredictable diversity of experience. However, it is, on the contrary, the
Stoics who draw attention to the anomalies of the universe, the possibility that
there may be exceptions to any rule, and the dangers of extrapolating from a
few particular cases noted in the course of experience; while the Epicureans are
busy underlining the analogies of experience, the faithful adherence of nature
to its own laws and the legitimacy of amplificatory induction.
Within such a framework, the Epicurean version of the naturalist response
to the problem of the origin of language may well have passed beyond a
summary equation between what is natural and what is universal, but it was
unlikely to go to the opposite extreme and profess that originally there
See D e Lacy 1969b, p p . 172-4 (summary of a study published in full in Phoenix 23, 1969).
See D e Lacy 1978.

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appeared as many different languages as there were individuals. It is much

more likely that Epicurus imagined the original languages in the form of a
diversity tempered by the limitation of possible divergences and by the
regularity of the determining conditions. The identity of the environment for
the inhabitants of the same geographical zone and the similarity of the natural
reactions of the members of the same ethnic group are in all likelihood the
factors which, in combination, were judged necessary and sufficient to account
for the appearance, here and there, of linguistic codes common to a particular
group of individuals, even before those individuals consciously worked
something out together. In support of this hypothesis, two other arguments
may be mentioned:first,the fact that late doxography attributes to Epicurus a
total assimilation between linguistic emissions and the production of sounds
such as coughing or sneezing, which may be observed amongst all individuals
placed in identical conditions35 (in a mood of polemical irony, this testimony
certainly seems to simplify the matter since it overlooks the ethnic differentia-
tion of languages which, for Epicurus, emerges right from the start; on the
other hand, it prompts one not to carry the indispensable rectification beyond
the point at which this doxographical tradition would become unintelligible);
secondly, the few texts which attest, like it or not, the existence of an Epicurean
form of'racism', asserting, for instance, that the Greeks alone are capable of
The Epicurean theory of language, which reflects the essence of the
philosophy of Epicurus, can thus be seen as a construction whose coherence
with the Epicurean system as a whole is such that it can serve as a point of
departure for a more precise and more discriminatory definition of the
fundamental axes of this system.

See Proclus, In Platonis Cratylum 16 (Usener 335): the first users of language (according to
Epicurus) did not institute n o u n s in a scholarly way (iTTiorrjiJLovws), but t h r o u g h a natural
p r o m p t i n g (^VGIKOJS KLVOVJJL€VOL), like those w h o cough, sneeze, shriek, cry out, groan.
See Clement of Alexandria, Stromates 1.15 (Usener 226). Diogenes Laertius says, similarly
(x.117) that, according to Epicurus, one would not be able to become a sage without a
particular physical disposition or unless one belonged to a particular people. Strangely, this
passage elicits no c o m m e n t a r y in Bollack 1975, p . 23.

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There is not much chance of being wrong when one declares the theory of the
proper noun to be positioned at a strategic crossroads in Stoic thought. It is
fair to say (with the modulated reservations that such a declaration demands)
that it was the Stoics who invented the grammatical category of the proper
noun and it was by no mere chance that they did so. Their logic, unlike
Aristotle's, allots to the singular proposition a place of fundamental import-
ance. Their ontology attributes to every existent an individuality which makes
it, in principle, discernible from every other; their theory of knowledge extends
to representations the discernibility of the objects that they represent. That is
to say, by tugging on the metaphorical string of the proper noun, one could
easily unravel the entire skein of Stoicism, thereby vindicating the constant
claims of systematicity that partisans of the doctrine were in the habit of
advancing.1 In the limited space available here, I shall do no more than sketch
in just such a claim on my own behalf.

The framework for the invention of the proper noun is the theory of the parts
of discourse which the Stoics did not themselves invent but to which they
attached great importance and also made decisive contributions. 2 In listing
the classes of words that make up the logos qua discourse, the description of
linguistic structures per se seems not to have been their sole concern; for they
thought that such an inventory would reveal to them the very elements of the
logos qua reason.3 However, in their divisions of the logical 'place' of

* The present paper is a revised version of one given at the 'Logique et Grammaire' Colloquium,
on 28 January 1983. In it I have tried to take account of the comments that were put to me, in
particular by Claude Imbert and Francois Recanati. I delivered later versions of this paper at
the Universities of Pisa and Rome, where I benefited from further extremely useful remarks. I
am also particularly grateful for the comments of Anthony Lloyd and David Sedley. They
should in no way be held responsible for my failure to heed all their prudent advice.
Cf. Cicero, Definibus m. 74; iv. 53.
Texts in FDS 536-93. (The abbreviation FDS refers to K. Hiilser (ed.), Die Fragmente zur
Dialektik der Stoiker, 4 vols., Stuttgart 1987-9.1 should like to thank Karlheinz Hiilser most
warmly for putting this monumental work at my disposal before publication.)
Epictetus, Discourses iv.8. 12; Chrysippus in SVFn, p. 41,11. 27-33. Cf. Frede 1978, pp. 59-60.
(The abbreviation SVFrefers to J. von Arnim (ed.), Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, Stuttgart
1903-5; unless otherwise indicated, the number of the volume is referred to in Roman
numerals, the number of the fragment in Arabic numerals.)


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philosophy, they drew a fundamental distinction between the study of

signifiers and that of what is signified; and it is where the signifiers are
concerned that they inserted their theory of the parts of discourse.4 In this
respect, they were working as grammarians when, for the first time, they
introduced the proper noun as a type of signifier which they deemed it
necessary to isolate and classify separately.
Actually, they did not introduce the proper noun under its traditional name.
The traditional name came from the ancient grammarians who, according to
Philo of Alexandria, had simply elaborated the discoveries of the philoso-
phers; 5 and on the whole modern scholarship agrees with him, dubbing the
Stoics the founders of western grammar. 6 But although the grammarians
themselves frequently refer to the 'philosophers' (namely, the Stoics), they do
so as to a group to which they do not themselves belong; and they are often at
pains to distance themselves from their doctrines, their classifications and their
vocabulary, as if to underline the philosophical neutrality of their own
scholarship. The case of the proper noun is one example of this: the
grammarians rebaptized the child found by the Stoics.
To be more precise: by Chrysippus. Before him, Zeno and Cleanthes had
recognized only four parts to discourse: the noun, the verb, the article and the
conjunction (or rather what they called by names which are the sources of the
modern grammatical terms 'noun', 'verb', etc.); under the heading noun
(OVO/JLO) they included (as had their predecessors) the common noun, the
proper noun and the adjective (which is easy to turn into a noun in Greek 7 ).
From Chrysippus on and in particular at the hands of Diogenes of Babylon,
his disciple and second successor and the author of an influential treatise
entitled Tlepl (frcovrjs, the list was increased to five8 (and in this form was
to continue to be considered specifically Stoic9) by the addition of the
TTpoarjyopta (appellation). This corresponded to the common noun (and to the
adjective); the word ovo[xa now designated only the proper noun. The
grammarians were to preserve the distinction using a different vocabulary
which distinguished the ovofia Kvpiov (proper noun or, to be more exact, noun
properly speaking) from the ovofjua TTpoor/yopLKov (appellative or common
noun). 10
The change in vocabulary draws attention to one peculiarity of Stoic
nomenclature: OVO/JLCL and Trpoorjyopia are terms that do not resemble each
other. The Stoics did not wish to subdivide 6vo\xa in its wide sense into two
sub-species. For them, 'proper noun' and 'common noun' are two auton-
omous parts of discourse which possess no more affinity with each other than
they do with the three other parts (although, as we shall see, this tendency is
counterbalanced by an opposite tendency to conceive each on the model of the
4 5
Diogenes Laertius vii.43, 44, 57, 62. De congressu 146-50 (SVF 11.99; FDS 4X6).
Cf. Pohlenz 1939, Barwick 1957, Pinborg 1975, Frede 1977/87.
Dionysius of Halicamassus, De Demosthenis dictione 48 (FDS 537), De compositione verborum
8 9
2 (FDS 538). Diogenes Laertius vii.57-8. Cf. FDS 542-44, 548, 549.
Dionysius of Thrace, Ars grammatica 12 (FDS 564).

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other). Only the proper noun is called 6Vo/xa: it and it alone fulfils the function
of naming. The TTpoarjyopta is not an ovofjua; there is nothing that is named by a
common noun, for example 'man' (a critique of Platonism is latent in this
refusal to identify the irpoorjyopia with a species of oVojua11). Can we
understand why the common noun was called a Trpoo^yopial At first sight, the
term seems ill-chosen: people are called by their proper names, addressed by
their proper names; 12 and most beings with a proper name are people, beings
who understand language and who answer to their names (so far as I know, the
Stoics did not consider any other cases). But it is also possible to call individual
X (for example, Agamemnon) 'Y' ('pastor of peoples'); such a construction
may have led to the distinction between appellation and naming, as two
linguistic operations that can both be carried out upon the same object, hence
two operations, each of a different type.
As we shall see, the Stoic definitions of the ovofjua and the Trpoorjyopia are
semantic. It is worth noting, however, that morphological considerations
(differences in the declension system, the presence or absence of patronymic
derivations) and also syntactical ones (the possibility or impossibility of
construing the noun with articles of different genders) had also been invoked
to support the distinction. On the basis of a number of (over-) particular cases,
the Stoics had tried to show that the proper noun and the common noun had
different grammars. 13 But they had not been able to proceed very far along
this track as, in Greek, their grammar is identical in two crucial respects: (a)
both can be construed with an article; (b) both can be declined. I imagine that
the Stoics were very much aware of these characteristics held in common.
In principle, whether the Greek proper noun is presented with or without an
article is not simply a matter of chance. A typical case is where, in a story, a
character is introduced by his own name, X; the next time he appears, he is
presented as 'the X' (i.e. who has been mentioned above). This anaphoric force
of the article stems from its past as a demonstrative pronoun, of which the
Stoics were well aware: they referred to both articles and pronouns as 'articles',
and, in justification of this, cited Homeric examples in which the article
patently possesses a pronominal character. 14 They called the article itself an
'indefinite article' on the basis of expressions such as 6 Trepnrarcbv KIVZITCLI (he
- whoever he may be - who walks, moves). 15 We may suppose, accordingly,
that the possibility of construing a proper noun with or without an article then
suggested the following analysis: just as 6 TTepnrarcov designates him -
whoever he may be - who is walking, just so 6 ZcoKpdrrjs designates him -
whoever he may be 16 - who is Socrates; correlatively the proper noun

Cf. Bestor 1980a and 1980b.

Cf. the Stoic name for the apostrophe, irpooayopevrLKov (Diogenes Laertius vii.67, comple-
mented by Ammonius, In Arist. De interpr., p. 2, 26 Busse, SVF11.188, FDS 897).
Cf. Scholia in Dionys. Thr., p. 356, i6ff. Hilgard (FDS 567).
Apollonius Dyscolus, Depronominibus, p. 5, 2off. Maas (FDS 550). * 5 Ibid., p. 6, 306°.
For example: whether he is young or old, seated or standing, etc.

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g, considered in isolation, must designate the property that being

Socrates consists in possessing.
In support of this hypothesis, let me begin by citing a passage from Diogenes
Laertius (vn.6i) where the notions of the supreme genus and the smallest
possible species are set out alongside each other: 'the most general'
(yeviKwrarov) is that which, being a genus, itself has no genus, for example the
being; 'the most specialized' (elSiKwrarov) is that which, being a species, itself
has no species; and the example here is not the species infima, the species
beneath which there are only individuals, but the individual himself, desig-
nated by a proper noun construed with an article: 6 EcoKpdrrjs. If 6 IcoKpdrrjs
designates the individual who, on his own, constitutes a species, it is plausible
to interpret ZcoKpdrrjs as the designation of the property that characterizes
this species. The particular syntax of the Greek proper noun must thus have
made it possible for the Stoics to take up an anticipatory position on the classic
problem of the theory of the proper noun, namely the problem of whether it
has a meaning, as a common noun does, or only a reference. And we may
suppose (but will need to produce supplementary verification) that their
solution closely resembled the one that a philosopher of our own times
summarizes as follows: '[proper names] have essentially a sense and only
contingently a reference - they refer only on the condition that one and only
one object satisfies their sense'.17 For the Stoics, the use of the article expressed
that distinction graphically, by indicating that the condition in question is
indeed fulfilled.
Before proceeding with an examination of this hypothesis, let us turn our
attention to the second grammatical characteristic that is shared by the proper
noun and the common noun: declension (in which, as we know, the 'cases' still
bear the names conferred upon them by the Stoics). We should note that, for
the Stoics, the theory of declension belongs to the study of what is signified, not
what signifies: they inferred this from the fact that a genitive, for example, is
formed differently in different Greek dialects, 18 but they probably also had
other reasons for thinking in this way.
The declension of a proper noun raises a problem: does Socrates have but
one name or several, and if he has but one, what is it? Why should it be the
nominative ZcoKpdrrjs rather than the accusative ZtoKpaTrjv, or any other
case? More generally, in connection with the common noun as well as the
proper noun, the Stoics had argued against Aristotle on the question of
whether the nominative should be considered as a case (a TTTCOOLS); but it so
happens that the examples used in the sources that record this debate are all
taken from proper nouns. 19 For Aristotle, Socrates' name is the 'nominative'
IcoKparrfs; only the other declined forms are TTTO)O€LS of that noun, literally
'clippings' from it, various figures of its 'decline / declension'. His justification
for favouring the nominative in this way is that only the nominative can
17 18
Searle 1958/67, p. 92. Scholia in Dionys. Thr., p. 230, 24 (FDS 773).
Cf. Ammonius, In Arist. De interpr., p. 42, 3off. Busse (FDS 776).

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combine with a verb to constitute a Xoyog that may be either true or false.20
The Stoics accept neither his argument nor his conclusion. Taking into
consideration not only the standard example to which Aristotle had confined
himself, but also the non-standard one in which an impersonal verb is
construed with an oblique case (for example, icoKpdrei fxeraixeXec: 'Socrates
repents', but literally: 'there is reason for Socrates to repent'), 21 they conclude
that the expression of the subject is not always monopolized by the nomina-
tive, but always appears as one or another case of a declinable term. The
nominative ceases to be that in relation to which the other cases 'decline', and
itself becomes a form of'declension-declining' in relation to a matrix which is
not itself able to be presented linguistically and which may be described as
something signified without a specific signifier, something signified by a family
of signifiers. These ideas certainly played a role in the conception of the proper
noun as possessing a meaning; for when asked whence the 'cases' could
'decline', the Stoics replied 'from the concept that exists in the soul', and it was
again the example of a proper noun that constituted the basis of their
demonstration. 22 We have within us a 'concept of Socrates' (TO ZcoKpdrovs
vorjfjia), which we 'indicate' (S^Aouacu) when we pronounce the name
ZcoKpdrrjs. Leaving aside the matter of what is peculiar to the case of the
proper noun, this analysis makes it possible to understand how it was that the
theory of declension could be considered as belonging to the study of what is
signified, and why commentators continue to put forward conflicting interpre-
tations of the notion of UTCQOIS, the position of which is difficult to pin down in
relation to the distinction between signifiers and signified.23
The fact that the Stoics took into account the two grammatical characteris-
tics that the proper noun shares with the common noun, - i.e. it can be
construed with an article and it can also be declined - may thus explain how it
was that they considered the proper noun to have a meaning. However, there is
also the possibility that those two characteristics may lead one to represent
that meaning differently, in relation to the dogmas of Stoic ontology.
Following the former of these two possibilities, one is led to conceive the
proper noun as the linguistic correspondent of the property which character-
izes the species that a single individual constitutes; to the extent that it makes
from a piece of matter an individual unlike any other, this quality may be
defined as an agent and so as something as real and corporeal as the individual
whom it qualifies. In contrast, following the second possibility, one is led to
give the proper noun a conceptual meaning. Now the status of concepts, in
Stoic ontology, is extremely flimsy: they are 'figments of the soul' of which it
cannot even be said that they are 'something' (like the incorporeals which the
Stoics admitted to 'subsist'); the most that can be said of them is that they are
Aristotle, De interpr., 2, i 6 a 3 2 - b 5 .
A m m o n i u s , In Arist. De interpr., p . 44, 1 iff. (SKF11.184; FDS 791); cf. FDS 793 a n d 795.
Cf. the text cited above n. 19.
O n this point, see Frede 1978, Graeser 1978, Sedley 1982b.

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'almost something' (cboaveLTLva).24 Both these statuses are distinct from that
of the well-known and problematical XeKrov (which is incorporeal but is
nevertheless a 'something') - a matter to which we shall have to return.
Furthermore, they are also distinct from one another; but there is no reason to
doubt their compatibility. A physical object fits into a certain concept if and
only if it possesses a certain quality, and this is not to prejudge either the
ontological status of the concept nor that of the quality. The name that it bears
relates both to the quality that it possesses and to the concept into which it fits.

The Stoic definitions of the common noun and the proper noun that have
come down to us are those of Diogenes of Babylon. It is time that we took a
look at them.
The appellation (Trpoorjyopia) is a part of discourse which signifies a common
quality (cr^/u-cuvov KOLVTJV TroLorrjTa), such as 'man', 'horse'; the noun (OVO/JLCL) is a
part of discourse which indicates a particular quality (SrjXovv Ihiav TTOLOT^TO),
such as 'Diogenes', 'Socrates' (Aioyevrjs, ZWparr?? - no article).25
These definitions are worth examining by reason of both what they share in
common and also what is particular to each of them.
Both define their object by its relation - a semantic relation - to a term
which, in both cases, is a quality, common in the one case, particular in the
other. But these definitions did not become generally accepted and the
grammarians later in both cases replaced TTOLOTI^S by ovata (possibly under-
standing this word to mean essence in the case of the common noun and
substance in that of the proper noun). 26 Neither the Stoics nor the gramma-
rians appear to have thought of saying that a proper noun designates a
substance, a common noun a quality. The categorical homogeneity of the two
types of nouns seems to have been presupposed by both parties. But the reform
introduced by the grammarians draws attention to what is felt to be paradoxi-
cal in the Stoic definitions: namely, the idea that a noun (whether proper or
common) signifies a quality (TTOLOTTJS) rather than an object qualified in a
particular manner (TTOLOV TL). And this provides confirmation that the idea was
a specifically Stoic one - which is exactly what we suspected above.
On the other hand, our two definitions do differ on one important point:
they do not use the same word to express the semantic relationship which links
the noun and the quality. The common noun signifies (orj/jiaLvov) a common
quality; the proper noun indicates (SrjXovv) a particular quality. Here again,
the grammarians were to intervene to restore the homogeneity between the
Diogenes Laertius VII.6I; Stobaeus, Eclogae 1, p. 136, 21 Wachsmuth (SKF1.65; FDS 316); on
this text, see Frede 1977/87. Diogenes Laertius vii.58.
Cf. Choeroboscus, Prolegomena, p. 106, 3-12 Hilgard (FDS 563); Dionysius of Thrace, Ars
grammatica 12 (FDS 564).

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two definitions, using OTHJLOLLVOV in both. The difference that the Stoics tried
to establish is certainly significant and one might be tempted to say that it calls
into question the hypothesis that I have put forward above: in avoiding the use
of orjjjLdLveiv in connection with a proper noun, might not Diogenes have
wished to indicate that he attributed to it no connotation, only a denotation?
However, that is not a very plausible explanation, precisely because it is the
quality, not the individual who is qualified, that is the object of the contro-
versial participle SrjXovv.28 It would be more satisfying to seek the reason for
the change of terminology in the difference between a particular quality and a
common quality. One attractive solution might run as follows: a common
quality is definable. One can state without hesitation that the noun which
designates it has a meaning, because other expressions which mean the same
also exist. By refraining from using the verb cr^/xcuWiv to describe the proper
noun's manner of signifying, Diogenes may have wished to suggest that, on the
contrary, the proper noun has no synonyms and can be replaced by no
definition or paraphrase. The 'indicating' of the particular quality is a task that
nothing else can accomplish in its place.
Whatever the fact of the matter may be on this particular point (to which we
shall also be returning), Diogenes' definition relates the proper noun to a
unique correlative, the particular quality, which is a corporeal reality but is not
identical to the individual whom it qualifies. In view of this, it needs to be
compared with Sextus Empiricus' famous text which is traditionally cited as
the canonical exposition of Stoic semantics (M VIII.I 1-12). The comparison is
all the more desirable given that in this text too a proper noun is used as an
example. Here, then, is a translation of this passage; but in studying it, we
should not forget that it is part of a more general account of the various
answers that the dogmatic philosophers produce in reply to the question of
what is the proper subject of what is true and what is false. According to the
Stoics, what is properly true or false is what is signified (orjfjLaLvofjLevov). Sextus
comments upon this answer in the following terms:

There are three [items] that are linked together: the signified, the signifier and the
bearer (rvyxoivov).29 The signifier is the vocal sound ((fycovrj), for example the
vocal sound 4Dio' (ALCDV, no article); the signified is the thing itself (avro TO
TTpayfjia)30 which is indicated (S^Xovfjuevov) by the vocal sound and which we
seize in exchange (dvTiAa/zj3avoju,£0a: in exchange for hearing the vocal sound?)
as subsisting in our thought, whereas Barbarians do not understand, even if
they do hear the vocal sound; the bearer is the external subject (TO IKTOS
V7TOK€IJJL€VOV), such as Dio himself (OLVTOS 6 Ala>v, with an article). Of these
Or 8r]\ovv in both cases: cf. Scholia in Dionys. Thr., p. 357, 18 Hilgard (FDS 567), p. 215, 1
(FDS 568). Cf. Graeser 1978, pp. 82ff.
This term was for a long time understood as 'what h a p p e n s to exist'. O n the possibility of a
different interpretation, derived from the expression, tTTtooecos Tvyxdvetv, cf. Pinborg 1962, p .
84; Frede 1977/87, p . 64; Graeser 1978, p . 84; Sedley 1982b, p p . 198-9. M y own translation
draws on Sedley's.
O n this use of TTpdyixa, cf. H a d o t 1980, p . 315, w h o translates it as 'sense'.

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[items], two are bodies, namely the vocal sound and the bearer; the third is
incorporeal, namely the thing signified, that is to say what is said (/cat XCKTOV),
and it is precisely this that is true or false.
What this text seems to be saying, as explicitly as possible, is that a proper
noun possesses both an incorporeal meaning (which is a lekton) and a
corporeal reference (which is the actual individual who bears this name).
However, it is not certain that this passage makes it necessary to call into
question all that has been said up to this point. There are several hints which
suggest that the example of a proper noun does not altogether correspond to
the doctrine that it is supposed to be illustrating, and that it may have been
mistakenly slapped on to an exposition for which it was ill-suited.31 (i) Sextus
mentions the vocal sound 'Dio' to illustrate the </><WT], and the physical person
of Dio to illustrate the rvyxdvov; but he maintains a prudent or embarrassed
silence as to what is signified by the sound 'Dio'. (2) The XCKTOV is what Greeks
understand and Barbarians do not, upon hearing the same sequence of vocal
sounds; Barbarians would understand if they heard a different sequence,
determined in an appropriate fashion as a translation of the first sequence. But
a proper noun is the worst possible example to choose in order to put one's
finger on the distinct existence of such a reality, for it is the one element in a
language which, in principle, it is neither necessary nor possible to translate.
(3) The example of a proper noun is no better adapted to illustrate the central
thesis of this passage, to wit the designation of what is signified as the proper
subject of truth or falsehood; for what is signified by the proper noun, however
one conceives it, is certainly neither true nor false. Indeed, Sextus himself
seems to notice this: immediately after the lines cited above, he hastens to
introduce a distinction between an incomplete Ac/crov and a complete one,
explaining that it is only the complete XeKrov, the d^tcofjua, that is properly true
or false. To this it is worth adding that in most other sources an incorporeal
XeKrov is associated with only two types of linguistic expressions, neither of
which is a noun, common or proper: one is a complete sentence, of which one
species, the a|ico/za, carries a true or false meaning; and the other is the part of
that sentence which contains the verb and whatever may complement it. There
is no reason at all to believe that all the parts of a complete XCKTOV must express
an incomplete Ae/crov.32
For all these reasons, it does not seem necessary to attach any particular
importance, in this text of Sextus', to the example of the proper noun, or to
believe that one must take account of it in order to rectify, complete or in one
way or another rearrange Diogenes' definition. That definition, which associ-
ates with the proper noun neither the expression of an incorporeal XeKrov nor
the immediate reference to the physical individual, may continue to serve as
our guide.

Cf. the different interpretations of L o n g 1971, p p . 7 6 - 7 , 1 0 5 , 1 0 7 , n. 11; Frede 1977/8, p p . 64ff.
Cf. Diogenes Laertius vii.63; L o n g 1971, p p . 104-5; Frede 1977/8, p p . 63ff.

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The Stoics studied the conditions of truth in various types of propositions,

including those which are composed of a proper noun and a verb. By studying
their conclusions vis-a-vis the latter and trying to understand the reasons for
their decisions, we may hope to throw a bridge between their grammar of the
proper noun and their logic of the proper noun.
As we know, they drew a distinction between simple propositions and those
that are composed of several simple propositions linked by connectors. Where
simple propositions were concerned, they introduced a tripartite division. This
is transmitted to us by two texts, one by Sextus Empiricus (M vm.96-8), the
other by Diogenes Laertius (vn.68-70). These two simple expositions are not
exactly interchangeable,33 and I lack the space to compare them thoroughly,
so have decided to concentrate on the text by Sextus. That by Diogenes poses a
number of textual problems and does not take into consideration truth-
conditions, despite the fact that these seem to have played a decisive role in the
establishing of this classification.
According to Sextus, there are three types of simple propositions: definite
ones (oopicTfxeVa), indefinite ones (dopiora) and middle or intermediate ones
(fieaa). Propositions in which the subject is a proper noun fall into the third
category (but are not the only propositions to do so). Definite propositions are
those that are 'stated in an ostensive mode' (Kara Sel^iv eK^epofjueva), and
accompanied by a gesture of showing, for example: This one is walking'
(OVTOS 7T€pLTrar€t). In stating this proposition, says Sextus, T indicate, point to
(SeLKvvfit) a particular man.' It could be objected that there is really no need
for that: there is nothing to prevent one uttering that sentence without
bothering to gesture. Possibly the Stoics were at this point thinking of the
movements of the cheeks that accompany the emission of the sounds made by
OVTOS. Chrysippus had pointed out that when pronouncing the word cyc6, we
tend to drop our chin towards our chest, and from this he argued that the heart
is the seat of the directing part of the soul. In the context of this argument, he
goes on to mention the demonstrative eKetvos (that one over there, as opposed
to OVTOS, this one right here), apparently in order to make the point that when
the former word is pronounced the speaker gestures outwards with his chin,
towards an object in the distance. We may presume that the demonstrative
OVTOS was analysed in terms of gestures in a similar fashion. This hypothesis
is of more than merely anecdotal interest: given that the speaker always has a
portion of matter before him, it implies that the deictic always has a reference,
which would not be the case if it had to be accompanied, in a contingent
fashion, by the pointing of a finger.
Indefinite propositions are those in which an 'indefinite particle' governs the
statement, for example: 'Somebody is seated' (TLS KadyTai). Of the various

Cf. Goulet 1978. Galen, PHP 11.2 (SVF 11.895).

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individuals to whom the predicate could apply, the one of whom it is said to
apply is indeterminate, so that the statement could be verified by various states
of affairs.
It is worth noting that the labels chpioyieva and aopiora are chosen in such a
way as not to constitute an exhaustive dichotomy. They leave room for a third
category and this is the one that interests me most directly: the middle
propositions. Unfortunately, Sextus provides no definition; he simply declares
them to be neither definite nor indefinite and, as a sop, he offers us two
examples, remarking that middle propositions are those which are 'of this
model' (ra OVTOJS exovra). The two examples that he provides do not appear
particularly homogeneous. In the first, the subject is a common noun,
construed without an article: avOpajiros Kadrjrat, meaning 'a man is seated'; in
the second, the subject is a proper noun, also construed without an article:
ZcoKpdrrjs irepnTarei ('Socrates walks'). The problem is to understand why
these two types of proposition are considered to be homogeneous and are
classed in the same category, when there would seem to be plausible reasons to
consider the first as indefinite (since it does not determine who the seated man
is) and the second as definite (since it does define who is the subject who is
Sextus does volunteer a few explanations on this matter. He says that middle
propositions cannot be classified as either indefinite or definite. They are not
indefinite because they do 'determine the species' (ethos) - by which, of course,
we should understood 'the species to which the subject belongs'; but nor are
they definite, because the stating of them is not accompanied by any indicatory
gesture (ov yap jjuera Se^ews €/«/>€pera.!,). At first sight each of these
explanations seems apposite for one of the two types of'middle' propositions
and less apposite for the other; but that is precisely why they are instructive. In
the interests of brevity, let us agree to refer to the type of proposition
illustrated by 'a man is seated' as C, and to the type of proposition illustrated
by 'Socrates walks' as P.
The Stoic decision to consider neither P nor C as indefinite was, as we have
seen, easily understood so far as P was concerned, but counter-intuitive in the
case of C: P seems to determine its subject unequivocally (we can leave to one
side cases of homonymy, even though these were frequent in the distribution of
Greek proper names; grammarians often refer to them 3 5 but - so far as I know
- the Stoics never do). On the other hand, C seems to differ from indefinite
propositions only in the degree of indeterminacy. It is accordingly C that raises
a problem in this double decision. That is precisely why the argument that is
provided to justify it has the air of being tailor-made to dissipate whatever is
counter-intuitive in the case of C: 'A man is seated' differs from 'somebody is
seated' in that the species to which the subject belongs is determined (even if
the subject himself is not), and it is this that rules out classing C as an indefinite

Apollonius Dyscolus, Depronominibus, p. 10, 8-17 Maas (FDS 917).

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proposition. Does this argument apply equally well to P, in which the subject
seems to be determined as an individual, not simply as a member of a
particular species? Clearly, the Stoics think so, for they apply this argument to
C and to P indiscriminately; and this constitutes weighty confirmation for the
hypothesis upon which the present exposition rests. For what emerges is that a
proper noun construed without an article is interpreted as determining (just as
does a common noun) the species to which the subject belongs. In this
particular case, the species comprises only one member; but that difference is
not deemed a sufficient reason not to assimilate the two cases; a noun, be it
proper or common, only ever designates the quality that characterizes a
species, whether that species be a 'most specialized' one or not. True, this
seems to result in a paradox: if ZajKpdrrjg designates the peculiar quality, not
the individual peculiarly qualified, should the Stoics not have criticized the
usual turn of phrase ZajKpdrrjs irepnrarei, since it is clear that it is Socrates
himself who is walking, not his peculiar quality? Only with an article (o
ZajKpdrrjs 7T€pnraT€i) would the expression seem to be well formed. If the
Stoics in fact do nothing of the kind, that is because they assimilate P and C; in
C, manifestly, that which is designated by the grammatical subject (the
common quality) is not identical to whatever the predicate needs to belong to
for the proposition to be true (some individual who possesses that quality); in
parallel fashion, P must be interpreted as a turn of phrase in which what is
designated by the expression of the subject (the particular quality) and that to
which the predicate belongs if the proposition is true (the definite individual
who possesses that quality) do not coincide.36
Now let us consider the second of the decisions which underlie the
constitution of the category of'middle' propositions: the decision to consider
neither P nor C as definite propositions. The situation here symmetrically
balances that which obtains in thefirstone; this second decision goes without
saying so far as C is concerned, but is counter-intuitive in the case of P. As is to
be expected, the justificatory argument is designed first and foremost to cover
the problematical case, that of P, that is to say to show how 'Socrates walks'
differs from 'this one walks' to the point where it cannot be classified, as can
the latter statement, in the category of definite propositions. Sextus tells us
that this is so because the stating of 'Socrates walks' is not accompanied by a
gesture of indication. Atfirstsight, the argument seems disappointing: it is as if
the Stoics were stipulating that deixis is the only way of determining a subject,
and that it is in order to abide by that stipulation that they refuse to attribute to
P the quality of a definite proposition.37 But one might also think that the
Stoics' refusal is dictated by their perception of what it is that is authentically

F o r different reasons a n d without taking into consideration the question of the article, Frede
1977/87, p . 66, arrives at c o m p a r a b l e formulae, a fact that has encouraged me to maintain the
T h e extension of the notion of deixis has been m u c h discussed; cf. Frede 1974, p p . 54ff; Lloyd
1978, pp.286ff.

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specific in the use of the deictic, as compared simply with the use of a proper
noun: namely its 'egocentric' nature, the nature of a term whose reference is
fixed if, and only if, one takes into consideration the spatio-temporal
conditions in which the statement is made. One forms an idea of the difference
in nature between the deictic and the proper noun when one bears in mind that
an operation of reference demands the presence (both spatially and tempor-
ally) of a body that is being pointed out faced by a body that is pointing it out;
this is effected by the deictic, and by it alone. The reason why a proper name is
not enough to render a proposition definite is not that it is equivocal; it is
because its use does not require that presence and even makes it possible to
speak without ambiguity of people when they are absent or dead. For the
Stoics, an essential quality of the proper noun is that it can dispense with the
deixis (and, correlatively, what is essential about deixis is that it is what a
proper noun can do without); if the proper noun can contribute to fixing a
reference, it does so under a condition such that making use of the proper noun
is not sufficient guarantee of the condition being fulfilled.
To specify the nature of that condition, we must examine the information
that Sextus provides on the difference in the truth-conditions that apply to the
various types of simple propositions; for, as we shall see, that difference
dictates how they should be classified. Unfortunately, the text contains no
precise information regarding the case in which we are interested, that of
'middle' propositions. In order tofillin the lacunas, we shall have to undertake
a detour. A reliable hint is provided by the strategy that Sextus adopts in his
attack upon the claims of dogmatists. His strategy unfolds in three phases: (i)
first, one shows that it is impossible for a definite proposition to be true; (2)
next, that (1) implies that the same goes for an indefinite proposition; (3) and
finally, that it follows from (1) and (2) that the same also goes for a middle
proposition.38 Presumably this strategy is modelled as a reflection of the Stoic
doctrine, so this must have provided a direct definition of the truth-conditions
for a definite proposition and must have gone on to define first those for an
indefinite proposition in terms of the preceding definition, then those for a
middle proposition, also in the terms used in both preceding definitions. The
first two points in this programme are attested by Sextus. According to the
Stoics, a definite proposition is true 'when the predicate belongs to that which
falls under the deixis'39 (if it is indeed the case, as has been suggested above,
that there is always something that falls under the deixis, it follows that a
definite proposition is always true or false). For an indefinite proposition to be
true, some definite proposition has to be true: 'Somebody is seated' is true if
and only if, for some individual who can be pointed out, 'This one is seated' is
This text of Sextus' does not define the truth-conditions for middle
M viii.99.
I can d o n o m o r e than d r a w attention to the interest of the Sceptic objections to this
proposition, in the next part of Sextus' text.

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propositions; it merely allows us to suppose that they must have referred to
those of the two other classes of propositions. A passage from Alexander of
Aphrodisias 40 enables us to verify the legitimacy of that supposition. The
context is provided by an exposition of the Stoic theory of propositional
negation. As is well known, the Stoics stipulated that, to obtain a contradic-
tion to a given proposition (which is false if the former is true and vice versa), it
is necessary to prefix the negation at the beginning of the proposition as a
whole. The contradiction to 'Socrates is white' is not 'Socrates is not white',
but 'Not: Socrates is white' (in other words: 'It is not the case that Socrates is
white'). The arguments recorded by Alexander include the following one: if the
negation is not placed in that position, both the affirmative and the negative
may be false. For example, 'Callias walks' (KaXXtas TTepnrareL, no article) and
'Callias does not walk' are both false if Callias does not exist. According to
Alexander, the meaning of these statements is, in effect, the following: 'some
Callias exists (eWi rig KaXXlas) and to him (rovrco Se) belong, respectively,
the predicate "to walk" or the predicate "not to walk".'
This analysis provides us with a number of important pieces of information.
The first is that a middle proposition is not logically simple: it may be falsified
by two different situations, one in which Callias does not exist, the other in
which he does not walk. The notion of simplicity in relation to which it is
classified as simple must fulfil criteria other than that of logical simplicity (on a
rereading of the collection of examples used by Sextus, one might suggest that
what gets a proposition classified as simple are the facts that its expression
comprises no more than two words, one for the subject, the other for the
predicate, and that its truth does not depend upon that of another proposition
expressed within its context). Furthermore, Alexander's text implies that the
truth of the middle proposition 'Callias walks' is not defined simply by
reference to that of the definite proposition 'this one [pointing out Callias]
walks'. 'Intermediate' as it is, it is true if and only if two other propositions are
true, neither of which is simple from the point of view of the criteria that I have
just indicated: (i) 'Some Callias exists' {eon ns KaXXias), a proposition
which the presence of the indefinite ng makes it possible to consider indefinite,
but which does not fulfil the first criterion of simplicity, since it comprises more
than two words; (2) 'This one [that is to say this Callias] walks' (ovrog
TTepLTraret), a proposition which fulfils the first criterion, but not the second,
since the demonstrative here has an anaphoric sense, not a deictic one, its
reference being determined by the context. The state of the documentation is
such that there is no way of knowing if and how the Stoics then proceeded with
this analysis up to a point where all that one had to deal with were simple
propositions; nor will I attempt to fill this lacuna by a conjectural reconstitu-
tion of their argument. The essential point to grasp is that a proposition whose
subject is expressed by a proper noun without an article is interpreted as

Alexander of Aphrodisias, In Arist. Anal, pr., p. 402, iff. Wallies (FDS 921).

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incorporating in its very meaning two distinct components: (i) a piece of

information concerning the species whose name designates its characteristic
property: namely, that this species is not empty but comprises one individual
and one only, who is its sole member; (2) a piece of information concerning
that individual, namely that the predicate of the proposition belongs to him
(this analysis would also apply, mutatis mutandis, to the middle proposition of
type C). As a result, the proper noun, in itself, has no existential value: if
Callias is dead, the statement 'Callias walks' is false, but not absurd, nor
impossible; the assertion of existence that it contains in what it signifies may be
true or false; it is not presupposed to be true.
There is another case - and a famous one - in which the Stoics analysed as
false, but not impossible, a proposition in which the subject was a proper
noun, the antecedent of the famous conditional 'If Dio is dead, this one is
dead.') Chrysippus introduced this proposition into his discussion of Diodo-
rus' Master Argument. 41 It is a complex affair to which many commentaries
have been devoted, 42 but let us try to concentrate upon the aspects that
concern us directly. As is well known, the Master Argument rests upon the
incompatibility of three propositions. The one that Chrysippus chose to reject
was the second, to wit: 'from what is possible, the impossible does not
follow'.43 His argument for rejecting it was to propose, as a counterexample,
the conditional in question: el reOvrjKe ALOJV (no article), redvrjKev OVTOS.
According to Chrysippus, this conditional is true 44 if Dio is pointed out
(SeLKWjjLevov rod AIOJVOS, with an article); in this case, the antecedent 'Dio is
dead' is false, but possible, for it may become true at any minute; but the
consequent 'this one is dead' is impossible, because the deictic OVTOS can refer
only to a living person. The substitution of a proper name for a deictic thus
alters the modality of the statement, which is hardly surprising if it is true - as
we have seen it to be on other bases - that the use of a proper name does not
presuppose the physical existence of its bearer.
I have, in passing, drawn attention to the absence or presence of an article in
front of proper nouns. On rereading in its entirety the passage from Alexander
of Aphrodisias which informs us of Chrysippus' position in the quarrel over
the Master Argument (and which has a good chance of being close to an
original text 45 ), one cannot help noticing that its constitution follows the rules
that one would expect on the basis of the hypothesis that I have advanced.
Every time that Dio is mentioned as a living person who can be pointed out,
the article is present: thus p. 177, 28-9 (heiKwybevov rod Aitovos), 34
(v^Lorarat 6 AICJV), p. 178, 3 (ore e^rj 6 ALCDV). In contrast, every time he is
mentioned as dead, the article is absent: thus p. 177, 28 (el redvrjKe ZliW), 31

Alexander of Aphrodisias, In Arist., p. 177, 25ff. Wallies (SVF 11.202a, FDS994).
Cf. Mignucci 1978, who provides n u m e r o u s earlier references.
Epictetus, Discourses 11.19, iff.
I a m leaving aside the question of the criterion of t r u t h for conditionals that is used here.
Cf. (f>r]GL yap (Alexander of Aphrodisias, In Arist. Anal, pr., p. 177, 28 Wallies).

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(airodavovros yap Aicovos), p. 178, 2 (jjuera rov ddvarov rov Aicovos), p. 180, 33
(SeLKWfjLevov Aicovos). The regularity of these instances suggests that there is
nothing accidental about them. The expression 6 A LWV seems to be understood
as 'this Dio whom we know, you and I, as an individual who is currently alive',
so that a statement such as redvrjKev 6 ALOJV, unlike redvrjKe ALOJV, is in
principle as impossible as the statement redvrjKev OVTOS.
One difficulty remains and needs to be examined. If Dio is alive, 'Dio is dead'
is false, but not impossible. But what if he is dead? If every proposition that
begins with a proper noun X can be construed as a conjunction in which one of
the conjoined propositions is 'there exists (currently) a certain X', it would
appear to be impossible to say anything true about a dead man, even that he is
dead; for the conjunction will always be falsified by the falsity of that first
proposition. According - once again - to Alexander of Aphrodisias, this was
indeed an objection that was raised against the Stoic analysis;46 but he also
records the Stoics' reply to this. Let us consider a statement in which the verb is
in the past tense, such as 'Socrates died' (ZcjKpdrrjs aTredavev). The Stoics
claim that there are two ways to account for such a pronouncement: one that is
incorrect, to wit by stating it to be composed of the noun 'Socrates' and the
verb 'died'; another that is correct, to wit by interpreting the statement as a
whole, in a block (SXov), as an 'inflection' (eyKXtois) of the statement in the
present tense: 'Socrates is dying' {diTodvr]GK€i). As has been most pertinently
pointed out, 47 this suggestion boils down to prefixing a temporal operator in
front of a proposition in the present tense, the judgement of existence that this
proposition incorporates being included within the scope of that operator. In
other words, the correct paraphrase of 'Socrates died' is not 'There exists
currently a certain Socrates who died', but 'There was in the past a moment
when it was true to say "There exists currently a certain Socrates who is
dying."' This analysis legitimizes historical discourse but does not mean that
one should suppose that the individual's quality has survived the individual
that it used to qualify, and that it is through that survival that it remains
capable of providing present discourse with its subject. On the other hand, that
same analysis is applicable to all the elements of a biography, so the
individual's quality must determine that unique individual not only at every
moment of the duration of his existence, but also that same individual from
one moment to the next in that existence. The logic of the proper noun thus
leads into a study of what it is that is constitutive of physical individuality.


The problem of this Stoic criterion of identity has recently been tackled in a
remarkable study, 48 which does not treat the grammar and the logic of the

Alexander of Aphrodisias, In Arist. Anal, pr., p . 403, 1 iff. Wallies (FDS 921).
47 48
Cf. Lloyd 1978, p p . 293ff. Sedley 1982a.

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discourse on the individual as its specific themes. That makes it all the more
impressive when it shows how exact are the correspondences between the
physical side of Stoic thought on individual identity and the linguistic side.
The Stoic theory of identity was evolved in response to a paradox known
throughout Antiquity as the Growing Argument (av^avofjuevos Aoyos).49 In
substance, the argument runs as follows: a number to which one adds or from
which one subtracts something does not remain the same number. A piece of
matter to which any particle is added or from which any particle is detached
does not remain the same piece of matter. Now, living creatures, men for
instance, are constantly receiving and losing particles of matter. So one should
not say that they are growing or shrinking, as if there existed a permanent
entity which constituted the subject and which remained identical to itself
throughout time, in the course of a growing or shrinking process. What one
should say is that at every instant beings different from one another appear
and disappear. The man X does not grow between instant t and instant t1; the
man X who exists at instant / is replaced by another man X 1 , who is bigger than
X and who exists at instant t1.
It is fair to observe at the outset that this paradox is impossible to get around
if one adopts a language in which the only authorized statements are those that
make use of the deictic. Whatever falls under the deixis is a transitory segment
of a part of the corporeal universe: a certain mass of matter that can be pointed
out, which currently possesses certain qualities, finds itself in a certain state
and entertains certain relations (starting with the relation that involves being
pointed out, which connects it with the body which is pointing it out). The
deictic identifies its reference at each successive moment: it cannot reidentify it
on the basis of the moment before. If I say first This one is seated', then This
one is getting up', then This one is walking', nothing in that sequence indicates
whether the reference of the deictic is the same in all three cases or different in
each of them. If the only objects about which something could be said were
those that are determined by deixis (that piece of matter there, in front, here
and now), suspicion could systematically be cast upon their identity over time.
The Stoic response to the Growing Argument consists in relativizing the
notion of identity, by considering it to be defined only in relation to a given
description: an object can remain the same F without remaining the same G as
one instant succeeds another. The fact that a man, inasmuch as he is a material
substance, possesses no permanent identity does not prevent him, inasmuch as
he is a being qualified in a particular way, from remaining the persisting
subject of all the processes and changes that affect him, starting with the
process of living that begins with birth and ends with death. So what can one
put in place of X in order to say that an individual remains the same X
throughout his life? No common property seems able to fill that function,
because its very nature as a common property renders it vulnerable to the
Evidence collected by Sedley 1982a; see in particular Plutarch, On Common Conceptions
io83b-c (SKF 11.762); Philo of Alexandria, De aetern. mund. 48 (SVF 11.397, FDS 845). The
obscurity of this last text has been illuminated in masterly fashion by Sedley 1982a, pp. 267-70.

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Growing Argument: since it can, by definition, belong to several different
beings, it could belong in common to a series of individuals, the succession of
whom could be that which, if we described it differently, we could call the life of
a single individual; each one of them, for example, would be a man, but not the
same man as the others. This argument disqualifies not only common
properties but also the collections of common properties that could be made in
such a way as to obtain a definite description, intended to identify its object in a
unique fashion; for every collection of common properties, whatever it might
be, remains open to the objection that could be levelled at its components.50 In
contrast, the notion of individual quality is constructed in such a way that, by
definition, it escapes that objection: the quality of being Dio is such that it
would be immediately contradictory for Dio both to cease to be Dio and to
continue to be Dio, to remain the same Dio and not to remain the same Dio.
The distinction of principle between a common quality and an individual
quality seems to imply the irreducibility of the latter to the former.
It could be said of this reply to the Growing Argument that it is at once naive
and secure, which is what Socrates said of the explanation by means of the
Form, in the Phaedo.51 It is through the form that F things are F. It is through
his individual quality that 'the Dio' is Dio. Platonic ontology treats the Form
in its own particular way, which is to conceive of it as intelligible. Stoic
ontology treats the individual quality in its own particular way, which is to
conceive of it as corporeal. The agent which makes Dio the individual he is and
remains throughout his life must, as an agent, be a body which mixes with the
material substratum to which it communicates its particularity, meanwhile
receiving from it its anchorage in space and time. And if it is true that the
individual quality must not only preserve the identity of an individual
throughout the duration of his existence but also make him recognizable and
reidentifiable as such, it is perfectly normal that the epistemological status of
perceptible reality should be attached to its ontological corporeal status. Even
if, as we have seen, there are reasons to think that the Stoics believe that
individual quality to be indefinable, there can be no doubt that they consider it
to be, at least theoretically (that is to say: for the sage) perceptibly unmistak-
able. In confirmation of that point, we have only to remember with what
tenacity they opposed the Academic thesis according to which two non-
identical individuals might be indistinguishable.52
The Stoic doctrine incorporates consequences which have been considered
peculiar and incomprehensible. Plutarch's complaint53 is that it makes each
one of us into a double being, a couple of twins, a pair of subjects
(uTTo/cet/xeva), one of which is a substance in a state of permanent flux, which is
the subject of no process and no permanence; the other a qualified54 individual
However, cf. the late texts mentioned by Sedley 1982a, p . 261 and p . 273, n. 27.
51 52 53
iood-e. Cf. in particular Plutarch, Comm. not. 1077c. Ibid., 1083C-C
There are lacunae in this part of the text, in the manuscripts. The conjecture TTOLOV, or ISlcos
TTOLOV, seems preferable to TTOLOTTJS; cf. Sedley 1982a, p. 273, n. 26. Cherniss (1976) suggests
TTOI6T7)S in the text, but explains it in a note by LSLCOS TTOLOV.

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who possesses all the opposite characteristics. But, he mockingly remarks, no

human being has ever been able actually to see that duality. Taking the part of
the Stoics, perhaps one might retort that to discover such a tangible manifes-
tation, one has to turn to the language involved. The composition of the
linguistic expression 'the Socrates' corresponds graphically to the compo-
sition of the physical individual; in its totality, it designates a qualified
individual, while each of its parts designates the indeterminate material
substratum and the individual quality the mixture of which constitutes this
qualified individual. If 'Socrates' designates the quality, it is the function of
'the' and 'the Socrates' to designate, respectively, the substratum that is in
itself unqualified and that carries that quality, and the qualified subject that
results from this qualification, that is to say the two viroK^eva which so
scandalized Plutarch. The hypothesis that I have put forward in this paper
could thus resolve a historically recorded difficulty concerning Stoicism, while
at the same time contributing new data to the case to be made out for the
solidarity that obtains between the Stoics' grammar and their ontology.

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T h e first and chief difference among propositions (d£ia>/xara), the dialecti-

cians say, is that between simple (a7rAd) and non-simple (ovx a-nXd)' These are
the words of Sextus Empiricus (M vm.93) and nobody would challenge the
importance of that distinction. The declaration introduces a long passage (93-
129) which sets out the subdivisions within this fundamental division. It is a
passage which historians of logic tend to use as one of the sources that provide
us with information on the Stoic classification of propositions, despite the fact
that the Stoics are not specifically named, for it is generally accepted that
Sextus does refer to them as 'the dialecticians'. The task that faces us, then, is
to compare his text with the classification transmitted to us by Diogenes
Laertius (vn. 68-76), who possibly bases his remarks on Diocles of Magnesia, -
a classification which, for its part, is explicitly ascribed to Chrysippus and a
number of his successors.
These texts, which have often been studied, present a number of similarities
and also a number of differences. They pose many problems involving an
inextricable mixture of historical questions, conceptual complications and
textual difficulties (Diogenes' text is not in a good state). I shall leave aside
many of these problems, in particular that of the identification of Sextus'
'dialecticians', limiting myself to pointing out that it can no longer be taken for
granted that he was referring to the Stoics, since David Sedley (1977) has
demonstrated the existence of a 'dialectic' school which was quite separate
from the school of Megara and whose principal representatives were Diodorus
Cronus and his disciple Philo of Megara. More recently, Theodor Ebert
(1991), in a study which was still unpublished at the time of writing this paper
(see now the bibliography), has powerfully argued that the views which Sextus
sets out in the passage in which we are interested, along with those set out in
many other passages in which he cites 'the dialecticians', are not the views of
the Stoics, but those of members of this 'dialectic' school. Whether Sextus'
classification and that of Diogenes come from two different schools (the
second having known and made use of the research completed by the first) or
from two logicians or groups of logicians within the same school makes little
difference if one intends simply to analyse the differences in the contents of
these classifications, as is my present purpose. In any case, Sextus' classifica-
tion, which is simpler and at the same time more clearly explained, is certainly
earlier than Diogenes', which has the air of a conscious re-elaboration of it. In


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order to avoid pre-empting the case, I have not mentioned the Stoics in my
title, and from now on I shall simply refer to DL or SE to designate the authors
of the doctrines set out in the two passages.
What I propose to do is study the formal characteristics of the classification
of simple propositions, as it is set out by SE and by DL. My principal question
will be whether or not this division is a true partition, that is to say whether it is
of such a kind that every simple proposition necessarily belongs to one, and
only one, of the classes that the division comprises. But in considering that
question, I shall also be addressing myself to another: that of the criteria of the
simplicity of a proposition. The two questions are clearly linked, insofar as
they respectively concern the extension and the comprehension of the concept
of propositional simplicity. That is why I think it a good idea to start off by
saying a word or two about the division of propositions into simple and non-
simple, before moving on to the subdivision of simple propositions.
The nomenclature used in the fundamental division is the same in both the
texts that we are considering: simple propositions are designated positively as
'simple', while the other propositions are designated purely negatively as 'non-
simple'. Both authors avoid mentioning compound or complex propositions,
probably because they are reserving such terms for the description of the
internal composition of simple propositions, that is to say as subject and
predicate (cf. M vm.79, 94), and more certainly because, even at the level of
nomenclature, they are anxious to suggest the exhaustive nature of the
division: it is made immediately clear that no proposition can be neither simple
nor non-simple; and equally clear that none can be at once simple and
Let us nevertheless quickly deal with two possible objections on this point,
(i) Just before the sentence that I cited at the beginning of this paper, Sextus
was preparing the way for his sceptical offensive by writing: 'If what is true is a
proposition (d£uo/xa), it is assuredly a proposition that is either simple or non-
simple, or at the same time both simple and non-simple (/cat airXovv KOLI OVX
airXovv)'. However, we should not imagine from this that he envisages the
possibility of a proposition being at once simple and not simple: despite the
bizarre fashion in which he expresses himself, what he means, quite simply, is
that truth, if it exists, will be found either in simple propositions or in
propositions that are not simple, or in both, (ii) Could not a proposition be
simple from one point of view and not simple from another? As we shall see,
these logicians paraphrase certain types of propositions whose morphological
expression resembles that of simple propositions and thereby reveal that, by
virtue of their meaning, they are complex. But that does not mean to say that it
would be correct to present them as at once simple and non-simple: the
classifications are concerned with d£ia>/zara, that is to say Ae/crd, incorporeal
items that are signified; the propositions in question should thus be classified
purely and without qualification as non-simple.

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If one passes on from the nomenclature to the definitions of simple and non-
simple propositions, the matter becomes rather more complicated. Assuredly,
these definitions aim to guarantee the exhaustivity of the division inasmuch as
they make the simplicity or non-simplicity depend upon the presence or
absence of the same group of characteristics. In the two texts with which we are
concerned, simple propositions are the first to be defined, albeit in negative
terms. According to SE (93), Those are simple which are not constructed out
of a simple proposition stated twice (his Aa/zjSavo^zcVoi;), nor out of different
propositions by means of one or more conjunctions, e.g. "It is day", "It is
night", "Socrates is talking", and every proposition of similar form (rrjs
ojjLOLas ISeas).' The lines that follow specify what that common form consists
of: a simple proposition is not absolutely uncomposite; it is composed of
elements which are not themselves propositions but which are 'certain other
things (e£ aXXcov TLVOOV), about the number and nature of which - it should be
pointed out - we are told nothing at this point except, again negatively, that
none are conjunctions. Were that not so, one would presumably be faced with
either a badly formed expression ('Socrates and speaks') or a disguised non-
simple proposition ('Socrates and Plato speak' = 'Socrates speaks and Plato
In DL, the definition of simple propositions is disfigured by the text that has
come down to us. The best of the conjectures proposed gives a sense that is very
close to that in SE: 'Simple propositions are those that are not composed either
of a repeated proposition (hi<f>opovfjL€vov) or of several propositions.' The
absence of conjunctions is not mentioned, nor is the sense in which a simple
proposition is itself composite. The technical term S^opovfjievov replaces the
more telling expression used by SE, 8ls Xa/jb^avofievov. Some manuscripts and
editors in fact hesitate between Sujtopovfjuevov and hia<f)opov^x4vov.
The significance of that variant reading emerges when we come to examine
the definitions of non-simple propositions which, in both SE and DL, are the
exact opposite of the definitions of simple propositions. In SE, non-simple
propositions are
those which are in some way double (olov Si7rAd), that is to say (KOLI) which are
composed of a proposition repeated twice over or of propositions that are
different (hia<f>€p6vTiov), the composition being effected by means of one or
several conjunctions: for example, 'If it is day, it is day', 'If it is night, it is dark',
'It is day and it is light', 'It is day or it is night'.
If this definition is taken literally, the general division is not exhaustive: it does
not include propositions that are composed of more than two simple proposi-
tions, for example 'if/?, then (if/?, then /?)' or '/? and q and r\ To make the
division exhaustive, it would be necessary to interpret the terms 'two', 'double'
as 'at least two', 'at least double', which is what Ebert (1991, p. 109) suggests;
but there is nothing that dictates that interpretation except - precisely - a

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desire to make the definition exhaustive. Actually, the insistence that the text
lays upon the number two (StTrAd, 8LS) seems to me not to favour such an
interpretation, and the same goes for the examples provided by SE, for these
are all 'double'. Nor could one invoke, in favour of that interpretation, the
expression olov hnrXd (which seems to me intended to differentiate a non-
simple proposition such as '/? and p1 from a badly formed expression such as
'/?/?'), nor the gloss Sia awSea/xou re 77 ovvSeo/Jicov (which can be accounted for
by the repetition of certain connecting words such as KCLI . . . KOLL, YJTOL . . . 77,
which just happen to be used in the examples). It seems more reasonable to
conclude that, in the account given by SE, the division of propositions into
simple ones and non-simple ones is not exhaustive, that it includes only the
most simple of the non-simple propositions and that a complete classification
would necessitate a distinction between different degrees of complexity.
In DL, the definition of non-simple propositions runs as follows (68): they
are propositions 'composed of a repeated (Si^opovfjuevov) proposition or of
(several) propositions (e£ d^ia^arco^)'. The word SiTrAd is not employed here:
the only indication that the number of propositions in the composition is
limited to two is the prefix to Si^opovfjievov. The variant hia<f>opoviievov
(which should be understood as meaning 'multiplied n times') thus elegantly,
by using one extra letter, restores the exhaustivity of the division. As Frede
(1974, p. 50, n. 5) points out, basing his remarks on a point made by
Mutschmann (1914, p. 127), both variants may well have been used. If, as he
does, one considers SE and DL to be Stoics, one will tend to assimilate the two
texts as much as possible and will thus read 8i<f)opovfjL€vov in DL. If, on the
contrary, one believes SE's document to be pre-Stoic, one will tend to
emphasize the Stoic re-elaboration by reading Sta^opovfjuevov in DL. The
second solution has the advantage of bringing out into the open the discreet
argument that seems to have taken place behind the scenes between the
logicians who had (possibly without really noticing it) presented the funda-
mental division of propositions in a form that rendered it nonexhaustive and
the others who, on the contrary, gave it an expressly exhaustive character.

Following that preliminary enquiry, which has shown us that the question of
the exhaustivity of the divisions is raised by the texts themselves, I shall now
tackle the subdivision of simple propositions, beginning with the version given
by SE (vm.96-7):
Among the simple propositions, some are definite (capta/xeva), some are indefi-
nite (aopiara) and others are intermediate (/xeaa). Those are definite which are
expressed through ostensive reference (/caret hei£iv iKcfyepofjueva), e.g. 'This one is
walking', This one is sitting' (OVTOS TrepLTrarel, ovros Kddrjrai): for I am
ostensively referring to one particular man. Those are indefinite, they claim, in
which some indefinite constituent is primary (Kvpievei), e.g. 'Somebody is
sitting' (TIS Kadrfrai). Intermediate propositions are of the form (OVTOJS e'xovra):
'A man is sitting (avOpwiros KaOrjTcuy or 'Socrates is walking Z d

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Is this division exhaustive? The question certainly does arise because, on the
one hand (as Ebert 1991, pp. 88-9, points out), the nomenclature that it
employs appears to imply that it is: by calling the third class 'intermediate' one
implies that it incorporates all the simple propositions which do not fall into
the first two classes; and the fact that this third class, in contrast to the other
two, is not determined by a definition, but only by a reference to the two
examples (which, at first sight, are not particularly homogeneous anyway),
reinforces that impression. On the other hand, however, the examples used to
illustrate the three classes share common characteristics about which one may
well wonder whether or not they are pertinent with regard to the general
definition of propositional simplicity: in particular, all these examples are
affirmative and all of them comprise two and only two words, one for the
subject, the other for the predicate. In these circumstances, we might under-
take an experiment involving variation. It would consist in examining various
types of propositions which in one form or another did not possess those
characteristics, while at the same time did resemble, through other features,
the examples provided in the text under examination; and we could try to
decide whether these propositions should still be considered as simple and
whether, if so, they could be classified as one or another of the species
distinguished by SE.
It seems to me that there are four different theoretical possibilities: (i)
propositions of a given type do, after all, fall into one of SE's three classes,
because the characteristics by which they are distinguished from the examples
provided are not incompatible with either the general definition of simplicity
or the specific definition of one or another of those classes; (ii) they are not, in
reality, simple propositions; it is therefore to be expected that they do not fall
into any of the three classes; (iii) they are not, despite appearances, true
propositions; (iv) they are indeed simple propositions, but they do not fall into
any of the three classes in SE's division, because that division is not exhaustive.
Although we may set out the problem like this in general terms, the only way to
tackle it is case by case, separately examining various types of propositions the
situation of which is not immediately clear from SE's classification; obviously,
the situation is not necessarily the same in all the cases that it is possible to
Let me begin with the problem most often discussed in the relevant
literature, namely the problem of negative propositions. Probably the reason
for it being so frequently discussed is that DL proposes, as well as the three
classes of simple propositions which by and large correspond to those of SE,
three other classes, all of which possess a negative aspect (I shall return to this
point later). A comparison between the two texts invites one to suppose that
SE's classification is not an exhaustive division of simple propositions, but
only a (possibly exhaustive) division of affirmative simple propositions. Such is
the thesis put forward by Frede (1974, pp. 66-7), which starts off by detecting
in SE a number of general indications that are of a kind to suggest that (as a

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division of simple propositions) the division is not exhaustive. The classes are
presented in terms that in no way imply exhaustivity (rwv Se airXcbv nvd fjuev..
. Ttva Se . . . TLVOL 8e . . .); and, above all, Sextus says (vm.99) that if Sceptics
manage to show that none of the three species of simple propositions
mentioned in the division can be true, they will by the same token have shown
that no simple proposition can be true; for these three species, he claims, are
'like the elements of simple propositions (ojoTrep oroixeia rwv dirXtbv
d^iajfjudrcovy. This expression gives one to suppose that the three classes
mentioned represent only a sub-set of simple propositions, that is to say only
the most simple of simple propositions. To these two arguments, the following
could also be added: the section as a whole ends (99) as follows: 'Such, in
summary terms (o>? iv K€(j>a\ai6is), are the pronouncements of the dialecti-
cians on the subject of simple propositions'. It is not certain, but is possible,
that what is left out of this 'summary' account concerns types of propositions
which, although simple, still do not fall into any of the 'elementary' classes
studied above.
Where negative propositions are concerned, Frede (p. 66) puts forward a
specific argument to show that these do not fall into the classes defined by SE.
According to the text (98), an indefinite proposition, such as 'someone is
walking', is true when the corresponding definite proposition is true, that is to
say when there exists an individual of whom it is true to say: 'This one is
walking'. According to Frede, these truth-conditions are not valid for
negatives. Let us consider the following proposition (in which the negation is
positioned in conformity with the well-known Stoic rule): 'It is not the case
that somebody is in Athens'. Far from it being true when there does exist an
individual of whom it is true to say 'It is not the case that this one is in Athens',
this proposition is only true when there exists no individual of whom it is false
to say: 'It is not the case that this one is in Athens'. The conditions of truth
specified by SE would thus seem to be valid only for affirmative propositions.
Admittedly, this argument has been challenged by Ebert (p. 88). According
to him, it is not at all evident that the proposition which Frede takes as an
example should be classed as a negative indefinite one. Construed as it is, with
the negative at the beginning of the sentence, it does not satisfy SE's definition
of indefinite propositions: instead of the indefinite constituent, it is the
negation that is 'primary' (and it is worth remembering, at this point, that
Sextus uses the same verb Kvpievew when he sets out the Stoic theory of
negation, vm.90). On the other hand, if, running counter to the Stoic rule, one
is prepared to position the negation in such a way that it modifies the predicate,
not the subject-predicate relationship, then there is nothing to prevent the
inclusion of negative propositions in the classes mentioned by SE: 'Someone is
not walking' satisfies both the definition and the truth-conditions for indefi-
nite propositions, and by analogy the same applies in other cases. The
advantage of Ebert's position is that it makes it possible to understand why
DL's Stoics could not be satisfied by SE's division: as soon as a distinction was

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drawn between 'X is not walking' and 'it is not the case that X is walking', and
the second of those two propositions was held to be the only true negation of
'X is walking', it became impossible to include the affirmative and its
corresponding negative in the same class, as a general rule, and became
necessary to increase the number of types of simple propositions beyond the
three that had sufficed for SE. However, if we take it that SE did not conceive
negatives according to the Stoic model, it is easy to see why they did not
contradict the exhaustivity of his division.
Now, what happens when what is added to the standard examples is
something other than a negation? Let me first consider the modifications that
concern the expression of the subject. In the standard examples, this is
expressed by a single word (this is true of DL as well as SE). The first
modification to envisage is the one (studied by Ebert, pp. 127-9) m which a
single compound subject would combine several of the simple subjects which
characterize those examples: such would be the case in This man is walking'
and in 'Some man is walking'. These propositions were probably interpreted
as disguised conjunctives, hence as non-simple propositions: 'This one is a
man and is walking', 'Someone is a man and is walking'. If this treatment is
applied to the Aristotelian particular proposition, there are good reasons to
suppose that, by analogy, the same went for the Aristotelian universal; this
could be interpreted as a disguised conditional; 'Every man walks = If
someone is a man, he walks' (cf. Sextus xi.8). And these analyses of course
remain valid for negative forms of these propositions.
Less often discussed but no less interesting is the problem posed by
propositions which, like SE's 'intermediate' ones, have as their subject a noun
(proper or common) but, in contrast to the examples provided for this class,
construe that noun with an article. This problem can be grafted on to that of
the very constitution of this class of 'intermediate' propositions which,
paradoxically enough, groups together types of propositions which have the
air of being heterogeneous. I have already tried to resolve this second question
in another study (above, pp. 39-56), to which I take the liberty of referring the
reader; so at this point I shall limit myself to pointing out, in connection with
the first question, that in any event propositions whose subject is a noun
construed with an article should not automatically be placed in the same class
as those where no article appears. That is particularly clear in the case of a
common noun: whatever the sense of the expression 6 avdpcoTros, that sense
cannot be the same as that of avdpajiros in the proposition avdpoj-nos Kddrjrai,
namely 'a particular man whose identity is not otherwise determined'; clearly,
here the sense and the truth-conditions are modified by the addition of the
Is it possible to be more precise and determine what those modifications are,
doing so in terms that may be applied both to the case of the common noun
and also to that of the proper noun? As a conjecture, let me suggest two ways of
treating a proposition accompanied by an article, both of which are based

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upon Stoic documents and are, furthermore, not incompatible, each one being
suited to a specific situation.
(a) We know that the Stoics referred to what we call 'definite articles' as
'indefinite articles' (dpdpa dopLarcoSrj). To justify this, they adduced a turn of
phrase such as 6 TrepnraTtbv Kivelrai, 'The one who is walking is moving',
which they interpreted as the equivalent of dns TTepirrarei tKeivos Kiveirai, 'if
someone is walking he is moving' (cf. Apoll. Dysc. De pronom., p. 6, 30
Schneider = FDS 550). In some cases at least, the article construed with a noun
can have the same meaning as the article construed with a participle: o
dvdpojTTos TTV€L, for example, could be interpreted as meaning: 'If someone is a
man, he breathes'. This same paraphrase is also applicable in some cases where
a proper noun is construed with an article. To be persuaded of this, one has
only to remember that, according to the Stoics, a proper noun designates a
particular quality (18(a 77010-7-77?), not the individual whom it qualifies (DL
VII.58). ' 0 ZajKpdrrjs + verb' can thus be paraphrased either in the form 'The
one who is Socrates (verbs)' or in the form 'If someone is Socrates, he (verbs)'.
This way of treating propositions with subjects accompanied by an article thus
reveals them as implications, that is to say non-simple propositions. It is
specifically suited to cases where the proposition attributes to the subject
(whether designated by a proper or by a common noun) some essential and
permanent property.
(b) When, on the contrary, the predicate designates a temporary and
accidental action or state (for example, TrepLTTarei or KddrjTcn,) the above
analysis will not do. A statement such as 6 dvdpamos irepnrarei is used to
signify not that every man walks, but that the individual man, of whom we are
speaking, walks: it is the context that removes the indeterminacy of his
identity, and the article here has an anaphoric function. (It is this use that
Apollonius Dyscolus stresses, in the passage cited above, to criticize the Stoic
conception of the article as 'indefinite'. He writes: 'Every anaphora signifies a
pre-existing knowledge, and that which is known is definite.') It seems to me
that from this one must conclude that such a statement, considered in
isolation, does not express an a^ico^a at all. At this point, I would remind the
reader of the Stoic description of the a^i'oo/xa (DL vii.65; Aulus Gellius xvi.8.4;
Sextus PH 11.104) as 'a complete signified item which, so far as itself is
concerned, can be asserted (ACKTOV avroreXes diro^avrov OGOV €</>' avrco)'. The
case is, I think, comparable to that of ypa</>€i, 'he writes', which can be a
complete statement when the context determines who it is one is speaking of,
but which the Stoics consider to be the expression of an incomplete Ae/croV,
precisely because, outside any context, it provokes the question 'Who?' (DL
vii.63). In similar fashion, out of its context, the statement 6 dvOpamos
7T€pLiraT€L provokes the question 'What man?'
Despite appearances to the contrary, this analysis remains applicable in a
case where it is with a proper noun that the article is used. It turns out that, in
certain Stoic texts, the construing of a proper noun with an article presupposes

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that the individual who bears this name is a real individual, currently living
and known to be so by the person to whom the statement is addressed. I came
to this conclusion by analysing the text (In Arist. Anal, pr., p. 177, 19-178, 8
Wallies) in which Alexander of Aphrodisias sets out the famous conditional el
TedvrjKe ALOOV, redvrjKev OVTOS, that Chrysippus had introduced into his
discussion of the Master Argument (once again, see the study cited above,
pp. 39-56). Consequently, if I say 6 ©eohovXos TTepnrarei, I am liable to
provoke the question 'Which Theodoulos?', not because there might be several
of them, but simply because I have - perhaps wrongly - assumed that my
interlocutor knows the individual in question, as I do. On the other hand,
suppose I say KaXXlas Trepiirarei (no article): another text from Alexander of
Aphrodisias (ibid., p. 402, 16-18) tells us expressly that for certain people
(which is generally taken to mean the Stoics), this sentence means: 'There
exists a certain Callias to whom the predicate "to walk" belongs'. In this case,
the assertion of existence is part of the meaning of the statement; my
interlocutor will not ask me 'Which Callias?', because my sentence does not
presuppose that he knows of the existence of this Callias, but is telling him of it,
in case he is unaware of it. By virtue of this difference, KaXXias TreptTraret may
be superposed exactly upon the examples which illustrate the class of
'intermediate' simple propositions in SE, and the corresponding class in DL
(leaving aside, for the moment, the problem posed by the complex meaning
that the Stoic analysis reads into it); in contrast, 6 KaXXtas irepnrarei, I would
venture to claim, is not an d^Lcofjua at all.
Now let me pass on to a number of cases of propositions which differ from
the standard model, not in the expression of their subject, but in that of their
predicate. In SE's examples, the predicate is expressed by a single word, the
verb. It is an intransitive verb which calls for neither an attribute nor an object.
In conformity with the method I have adopted above, I should like to
investigate, in relation to SE's classification, the situation of (i) propositions
which use the verb 'to be' as a copula, that is to say with an attribute, and (ii)
those which use a transitive verb accompanied by an object.
(i) With regard to the first question, we should remember that, in the days
before these Hellenistic logicians, two symmetrical attempts had been made to
reduce the difference between propositions of the 'X (verbs)' type and
propositions of the 'X is (adjective)' type. On the one hand, certain sophists,
concerned not to damage the unity of the subject by seeming to identify it with
an attribute other than itself, had recommended replacing a proposition of the
'X is (adjective)' type by a paraphrase of the 'X (adjectives)' type (cf. Arist.
Phys. 1, i85b28~3i). On the other hand, Aristotle, concerned to reveal the role
of the verb 'to be' as a universal instrument of predication, had, for his part,
affirmed the equivalence of all propositions of the 'X (verbs)' type with a
paraphrase of the 'X is (verbing)' type (cf. Metaph. v, 1 0 ^ 2 7 - 3 0 ) . In both
cases, at a morphological level, the difference between descriptions of actions
and descriptions of states thus disappeared. So far as I know, no text exists

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which tells us how the Hellenistic logicians reacted to these two symmetrically
opposed ways of abolishing the difference in question. However, I am inclined
to believe that they would have condemned them, insisting that, on the
contrary, it was necessary to respect a difference that ordinary language picks
up. SE attests that they adopted the 'X (verbs)' type for their examples of
simple propositions. What would they have made of the 'X is (adjective)' type?
Perhaps they would have noted that its most frequent, if not exclusive, use is to
attribute to the subject a permanent property, in contrast to the 'X (verbs)'
type, which generally attributes to it a temporary action prompted by the
existing circumstances, which is contemporaneous with the utterances of the
statement. On this basis it seems reasonable to suggest that they might have
interpreted descriptions of states as non-simple propositions or, to be more
precise, as conjunctions of propositions dated in relation to the moment when
the statement is made: 'X is (adjective)' would thus be the equivalent of'X has
been (adjective) (before the present moment), is (adjective) (at the present
moment) and will be (adjective) (after the present moment)'.
It is true that this analysis assumes that 'X is (adjective) (at the present
moment)' is itself a simple proposition; and this again raises the question of
whether such a proposition belongs to the same class as 'X (verbs) (at the
present moment)', or whether it represents a different type of simple proposi-
tion, which is not covered by SE's classification. It seems to me difficult to
provide a firm answer to this question; perhaps an analysis of the truth-
conditions would reveal between the two types of proposition a difference that
the Hellenistic logicians would be happy to respect. From a phenomenalist
point of view, which would detect in actions the signs or symptoms of
properties, one could argue that 'X is P' is true if and only if there exists an
action A which is of such a kind that (i) if X does A, X is P, and (ii) X does A. If
this speculation were accepted, we should have to conclude that SE's
classification is incomplete in relation to propositions which use a copula.
(ii) Now, what can be said of propositions which, unlike SE's examples,
comprise an object in the accusative and/or some other oblique case? In
Antiquity, these propositions (for example: 'Socrates loves Plato') were not
interpreted as 'relational judgements' or as propositions which bring into play
a many-placed predicate. According to our Stoic documentation (DL vn.64),
the notion of a predicate (/car^yo/cn^a) could be used with two meanings: the
one a narrow meaning, in which the predicate is that which the verb (pfjfJLa) on
its own expresses, whether this be transitive or intransitive, active or passive;
the other a wider meaning, in which the predicate is what is expressed by all
that remains in a complete statement once one removes the subject, which is
normally expressed in the nominative (I am not taking into account the extra
information which is provided by Porphyry in Ammonius, In Arist. De
interpr., p. 44, I9ff. Bmse = SVF n.i$4 = FDS 791). In the first sense, the
predicate of 'Socrates loves Plato' is 'loves'; in the second, it is 'loves Plato'.
But the texts that we are studying do not relate the division of predicates to

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that of simple propositions. We may attempt to fill in that lacuna in the

following fashion.
When the subject and the object are equally definite, there is no problem: it is
clear enough that This one loves that one' would be classed as definite,
'Someone loves someone' as indefinite, and 'Socrates loves Plato' as interme-
diate. But what of the six possible cases in which the degree of determination of
the two terms is different? Given that the role of the subject is preponderant in
the classification, which is what Ebert quite correctly stresses (1991, pp. 117—
18), one might be tempted to say that it is the degree of determination of the
subject which decides the way in which the proposition should be classed. But
this solution runs into two difficulties: (i) This one loves someone' would
never, despite the determination of the subject, be considered as a definite
proposition; its truth-conditions are those of an elementary indefinite proposi-
tion inasmuch as it is true only if a proposition of the This one loves that one'
type is true; (ii) in the hypothesis that I am examining, This one loves Socrates'
ought to be classed as definite, and 'Socrates is loved by this one' as
intermediate, even though the meaning of the two statements is identical.
In these circumstances one is tempted to fall back upon a different rule:
propositions of this type could be classed at the level of determination which is
that of the most weakly determined of their terms. This rule would make it
possible to class as indefinite the proposition cited above at (i) and to class as
intermediate the two propositions cited above at (ii). But there are disadvan-
tages to this solution too: it would make it necessary to class in the same
category, the category of indefinite propositions, 'Socrates loves someone' and
'Someone loves someone', even though it seems intuitively clear that the two
propositions should not share the same fate.
So the only satisfactory solution is to accept that propositions that comprise
one or more objects do notfitinto the classes of simple propositions defined by
SE. Given that, on the other hand, it is unthinkable to treat them as non-simple
propositions (This one loves Socrates' is not reducible to the conjunctive This
one loves and Socrates is loved'), I conclude that these propositions are
situated at a different level from the species mentioned by SE, that is to say the
level of non-elementary simple propositions, a group for which a more
complex subdivision is required. This confirms that SE only took into
consideration the simplest of simple propositions.

I would like to round off with a few remarks on DL's classification. A number
of differences between it and SE's classification leap to the eye and it is mainly
these that I shall be considering, referring the reader, for the remainder, to the
more systematic studies that have already been devoted to this text.
(1) Three of DL's classes clearly correspond to the three classes of SE. But
even here, the nomenclature of DL is somewhat different. SE's indefinite
propositions reappear in DL with the same name, aoptara; but in DL, what
corresponds to SE's definite propositions is called KarayopevrtKov, and what

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corresponds to SE's intermediate proposition is called KarrjyopLKov. This new

nomenclature strikes me as somewhat heterogeneous and does not seem to me
to obey a single principle, unlike SE's nomenclature, which was based on the
degree of determination of the subject. In DL, the name of the aopiora is the
last remaining vestige of that principle of division. The other terms that are
used, KarrjyopLKov and KarayopevriKov, seem prompted by a desire to
characterize affirmative propositions as such, now that extra classes have been
introduced in the classification, to cover negative propositions. Furthermore,
there is nothing to suggest that the KaTrjyoptKov, the new name for the fjieaov,
possesses an 'intermediate' status, in between the aoptarov and the
KarayopevTiKov, the new name for the ajpiofxevov. On the contrary, the
new nomenclature suggests a desire to indicate a natural affinity between
KarrjyoptKov and KarayopevrtKov; the ternary division here (but not in SE)
can thus be analysed as a system of successive binary divisions, according to a
schema which some authors have described as characteristically Stoic (Goulet
1978, p. 191, n. 20, following P. Hadot). As we shall see, this impression is
confirmed when one examines the definitions of the propositions that are
involved here.
(2) The definitions of the classes of propositions are different in DL and SE -
so far as they can be compared, for SE does not always provide definitions.
Where comparison is possible, we find that DL's definitions are grammatical
or, to be more precise, syntactical; the semantics of the degrees of determi-
nation of the subject play no role here and no appeal is made to a dialectic
consideration of the truth-conditions (it is only when interpreting DL in the
light of SE that Goulet 1978, p. 173 detects a 'dialectic aspect'). A categoric
proposition is defined as consisting 'of a direct case ( = nominative) and a
predicate', for example 'Dio is walking'; a catagoreutic proposition as
consisting 'of a direct deictic case and a predicate', for example 'This one is
walking'; an indefinite proposition (if we agree to the generally accepted
addition made by von Arnim), as consisting 'of one or several indefinite
particles and a predicate', for example 'Someone is walking' (I am leaving
aside the second example, c/ceiVo? Kiveirai, the interpretation of which is
difficult and controversial). These new definitions appear to be dictated by a
desire to provide objective and public criteria of identification, at the risk of
having it forgotten that the entities to be classified are a^tc6/xara, that is to say
they are signified, not signifying. Perhaps the Stoics were indeed positively
disposed to take that risk since, as we have seen in connection with KaXXias
7T€pnraT€i, they sometimes detected a complex meaning in a proposition which
they nevertheless considered to be simple. It will furthermore be noticed that,
upon a closer look at their definitions, the catagoreutic turns out to be
presented as a particular case of a categoric proposition; formally, it satisfies
the definition of the latter. In consequence, the classes described here are not
mutually exclusive.
(3) The principle difference between SE and DL is that instead of presenting

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only three classes of simple propositions, all illustrated by affirmative exam-

ples, as SE does, DL proposes six, three of which present a negative character
(without, however, being regrouped under a common label). Mentioned and
defined, curiously enough, before the others, they are: (i) the negative
(airocfxiTLKov), defined (according to the text reconstructed by Goulet 1978,
pp. 179-80) as being composed of a negative particle and a proposition, for
example, ovxi rj^pa iorlv; (ii) the denegative (apvrjTLKov), defined as being
'composed of a denegative particle and a predicate', for example ovSels
TrepiTraref; (iii) the privative (areprjrLKov), defined as 'composed of a priva-
tive particle and a potential proposition (Kara 8i)vaynv)\ for example
These classes, which are of a negative nature, prompt a number of remarks.
(a) The first thing that one notices is that, in contrast to the definition of
simple propositions in SE, DL recognizes that a simple proposition may
comprise another, as one of its elements: one obtains a negative by prefixing a
negation to an affirmative. The case of a privative proposition is rather
different, for in this a complete proposition is also incorporated, but only 4in a
potential position'. This piece of information probably means that, in contrast
to rjfjiepa €OTLV, which is present as it stands in oi!^i rj/jiepa ioTtv, (ftiAavdptojros
ioriv OVTOS is no more than virtually present in a<j>iAav9pam6s ionv OVTOS, in
the sense that the unity of the word a<j>iAavdp<x>TTos has to be dismembered in
order for the compound proposition to be revealed. A contrario, one may
deduce that for DL the affirmative is actually present in the negative (a fact
that furthermore implies that no distinction is made between the assertion and
the propositional content: on this point, see Kneale 1962, p. 145).
(b) A second problem seems to arise as to how the affirmative and the
negative classes interrelate. This question is particularly thrown into relief by
the example that illustrates the privative, a^iXavdpconos eonv OVTOS'. here the
subject is the deictic OVTOS, the subject that is characteristic of catagoreutic
propositions. How should this situation be interpreted? (i) Supposedly such a
proposition is both privative and catagoreutic (Egli 1967, pp. 37-8): for it does
in fact satisfy the definitions of both these classes, (ii) If one supposes, on the
contrary, that DL's classes are mutually exclusive, one will maintain (with
Ebert 1991, p. 123) that the proposition concerned should be classed as
privative, but not simultaneously as catagoreutic: the presence of a privative
particle would then be the necessary and sufficient condition for such a
classification, without considering the other characteristics of the proposition
under consideration, (iii) Finally, it might be supposed that the privative
propositions were subdivided later, according to whether their subject was
deictic, nominal or indefinite, but using different labels from those used for
affirmatives. Against (ii) the following objection may be made: if there are
good reasons for distinguishing between the attributions of an adjective such
as cjuAavdpajTTos, according to whether the subject is deictic, nominal or
indefinite, it is hard to see why those reasons should cease to be valid when the

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attribute is a^iXavOpooiros. A choice would still have to be made between (i)

and (iii); for reasons of economy, (i) seems to me to be more plausible.
(c) The example of the privative proposition, a^tXdvdPCDTTOS iariv OVTOS, is
also interesting from another point of view: it is the only example in our texts
of a simple proposition that contains a copula and consequently comprises
three words. Should we conclude that DL in general no longer sees any
difference between the 'X (verbs)' type of proposition and the 'X is (adjective)'
type? That would probably be an exaggerated conclusion, for there is a more
economical way of explaining the exception that this example constitutes to
the two-word rule. A linguistic factor may account for it: Greek verbs which
include a privative alpha are formed not by adding that alpha directly to an
existing verb, but by derivation from an adjective that itself includes a
privative alpha (for example aSiKeiv, ahwartiv). It would therefore be
impossible to find a proposition which satisfies the definition of privatives
(that is to say which contained a 'potential' proposition) whose predicate
consisted solely of one verb. The solution that is adopted involves an anomaly:
a proposition such as ovros dSi/cef does not satisfy the definition of privatives
and so, despite its resemblance to privatives, would - like it or not - have to be
classed amongst the ordinary catagoreutic propositions.
I will not further prolong this set of remarks, but will now propose two series
of rather more general conclusions.
(1) DL's classification is in all probability based upon SE's (see, already, Egli
1967, p. 37). It seems to have been arrived at by means of introducing a series of
modifications and additions to the initial system, rather than by systematically
re-examining the problem from start to finish. This could explain the
anomalies that it presents and also the violations to some of the principles
upon which SE's classification - at least tacitly - rested. SE's classes were
mutually exclusive; taken as a whole, they did not exhaust the totality of simple
propositions and do not seem to have been designed to exhaust it. DL's
classification aims to be more complete; however, it does not manage to take in
all the propositional types which, as we have seen, appear not to be catered for
by SE's classification. In his attempt to produce a more complete classifica-
tion, DL has abandoned the principle of mutual exclusivity for the classes and
also that of limiting the classification to elementary types of propositions,
composed of no more than two words. In my view, the result is somewhat
chaotic and not particularly satisfactory.
(2) I have been at pains to leave open the question of whether Sextus'
'dialecticians' are the members of the 'dialectic' school, as Ebert believes, or
are indeed the Stoics, as has generally been believed in the past. Within the
framework that I have set myself, I am not in a position to support either view.
My only working hypothesis has been that SE's doctrine is earlier than DL's,
and it seems to me that all the remarks I have made in this paper tend to
confirm that. However, in conclusion, I would like to underline the following
point of method: if the presupposition that Sextus' 'dialecticians' should be

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identified with the Stoics is abandoned, a more lively reading of these two texts
by SE and DL would be possible: I mean, a reading that would pay more
attention than those of the past to the differences and irregularities within each
text and also to the irregularities of each in relation to the other. The present
paper is designed to be a contribution towards just such a new reading.

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As we know, the conjunctive proposition, called au/xTreTrAey^eVoy by the Stoic

logicians, is a 'non-simple proposition', obtained by linking two or more
propositions by the conjunction 'and'. 1 I should like to show that this
conjunctive proposition constituted a sort of model in Stoic thought, by
reason of the particular features of its truth-conditions. We shall find that the
presence of this model may be detected in several different sectors of the Stoic
system, - its physics, ethics, psychology and epistemology. I shall be trying to
prove that the notion of the conjunctive model may illuminate a number of
difficulties and obscurities in the dogmas of the school. If my proposed enquiry
proves fruitful, we shall thus possess concrete means to verify the organic unity
of Stoic philosophy in one specific instance. It is a unity that is frequently
asserted by the Stoics themselves, as well as by their commentators, and is
solemnly illustrated by the famous images of the orchard, the egg and the
animal,2 but all too often it remains by and large elusive as an effective reality
and so far as details are concerned.
First, it is worth pointing out that what I propose to call the 'conjunctive
model' in point of fact already appears in certain expressions that the Stoics
used to vaunt the systematic coherence of their doctrine. Cato, in Cicero,
stresses the 'marvellous structure of the Stoic system', saying that it would be
impossible to find anything 'so well constructed, sofirmlyjointed'; all the parts
are linked together in such a way that 'if you alter a single letter, you shake the
whole structure'. 3 Now, this structure that is so close-knit that it would
disintegrate were anything to be pulled out of place, is precisely what is
essential in what I understand by the expression 'conjunctive model'. The
conjunctive proposition is characterized by the following twofold feature: for
Cf. Diogenes Laertius \ll.j2 = SVF 11.207: ovixTreirXeyyiivov 8e eonv a^lwfjia o VTTO TIVOJV
OV{JLTT\€KTIKO)V avvheoixcjov ovfjLTreTrXeKTai, olov KCLI rjjjLepa iorl /cat (f)d)s ion.
Cf. Sextus, M VII. 16 and Diogenes Laertius v\\.Ap = SVF \\.T$.
Cicero, De finibus in.74 (tr. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library, London and Cambridge
(Mass.), 1967); admirabilis compositio disciplinae . . .; tarn compositum tarn compactum et
coagmentatum (note the insistence upon the prefix, which calls to mind the redundancy of ovv-
in the definition of the conjunctive cited above, n. 1); sic aliud ex alio nectitur, ut si ullarn
litteram moveris, latent omnia. Cf. also ibid., iv.53; et ais, si una littera commota sit, fore tota ut
labet disciplina; this second text possibly suggests that, in the first, unam should be read in place
oiullam (cf. the note by J. Martha adloc). J.-P. Dumont has drawn my attention to the use of
conjunctio {De nat. deor. 11.147) to describe the reasonable soul's aptitude for connecting
consequences to premisses.


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it to be true, all its components without exception must be true; for it to be

false, it is enough for a single one of its components to be false. Modern
logicians summarize this by saying that the truth-table of a conjunctive
proposition is iooo. 4
The text that will guide us throughout this study is a well-known passage
from Sextus, M vm. 125-9, which is very incompletely reproduced by von
Arnim (SVFn.211); it is the most detailed text that has come down to us on the
Stoic theory of the ovfiTreTrXeyfjievov, which is here set out and criticized.
Sextus starts off as follows: 'The dialecticians say that a conjunctive proposi-
tion is valid if all its components are true, for example "It is daytime and it is
light", and that it is false (ipevSos) if it comprises a false component (TO exov
if)€v8os5)\ This doctrine is confirmed by several other texts, some to be found
in Sextus himself, some in other ancient authors. 6 Modern commentators have
regarded this as proof that the Stoics gave a truth-functional definition of the
conjunction; in other words, that the truth or falsity of a conjunctive
proposition, according to them, depended - and depended solely - upon the
truth or falsity of the conjoined elements, to the exclusion of any consideration
concerning the extra-logical content of those elements. Galen, in his Dialectic
Introduction (chapter 4), deplores precisely the fact that Chrysippus' school
used the word ovfjureTrXeyfjieva to refer to all compositions obtained by means
of 'conjunctions known as co-joiners' (Sia T<2>V OV/JL7TX€KTIKCL)V KaXovfievcov
ovvSeoidLoov), even if they were made up of incompatible (/xaxo^eVow) proposi-
tions or where one was the consequence of the other (OLKOXOVOWV). That is why
the modern historians who are most concerned to avoid anachronisms, such as
Michael Frede, accept that of all the propositional connectors, the conjunc-
tion is, par excellence, what the Stoics unanimously conceived as a truth-
function (in contrast, in particular, to the famous aw^/xevov). 7
Moreover, this simple and rigorous doctrine has seemed so self-evident and
natural to modern scholars that they have granted the Stoics scant credit for
formulating it and have attached little importance to the objections that
certain ancient authors, in particular Sextus and Galen, put forward to the
Stoics on this point. It is as if, in this connection, the Stoic logicians were
If one considers a conjunctive that links no more than two propositions,/? and q, it is true if and
only if/? is true and q is true. In all of the other three possibilities, it is false.
The conjecture TO eV exov ipevSos was suggested by Heintz 1932 and adopted by Mutschmann
(ed. Teubner), Bury (ed. Loeb) and Russo 1975, but not by von Arnim. Notwithstanding the
parallels on the basis of which it appears to be justified in paragraphs 126 (TO eV exov 0eu8o? . . .
€vds Se ipevSovs) and 128 (KCLV ev JJLOVOV exj) ipevSos), it is an unhelpful, even fallacious
suggestion. The fact is that, in the passage cited, if it is important to stress that one single false
constituent is enough to render the conjunctive proposition false, it would be absurd, in the
general definition of the conditions of falsity, to use ev, which means one single, one at the most.
See also PHII.139 (ipev&os yap ion ov^nreTrXeyyievov TO exov iv iavrco ifrevSos).
Cf. PH 11.139, 234; Aulus Gellius, Noct. An. xvi.8. 9ff. (incompletely cited by von Arnim, SVF
II 213).
Frede 1974, pp. 77, 79, 96-7. See also Mates 1961, p. 54; Kneale 1962, pp. 148 and 160;
Mignucci 1967, pp. 149-50; Gould 1970, p. 72 (in which the errors in the statement of the third
indemonstrable should be corrected).

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considered by their twentieth-century colleagues to have done no more than

recognize an unimportant truism,8 while their critiques were judged to be
hopelessly beside the point.9 Yet correct historical methodology indicates that
it would probably be wiser to suppose that those very objections tend to
suggest that, at the time when the Stoics decided to adopt their position, it was
by no means a trivial matter; rather, it constituted one option among other
possible solutions - perhaps the very option that best expressed the Stoicism of
the logicians who favoured it.10 If the theory of the ovixireirXeyixevov were
really so trivial, and if the intellectual obstacles that it had to overcome were

Cf. Kneale 1962, p. 160: 'Of conjunction the Stoics had not much to say'. Frede 1974, p. 77: 'In
the conjunctive statement, one does not know how else the Stoics would have determined the
truth-conditions; it is true that with "p and q" we usually mean more than simply that both p
and q are the case; but it seems impossible to ask here for more than that some connection
between p and q must hold; and this requirement is so vague that we could as well give it up.'
Ibid., p. 96: 'In this case, the truth of a non-simple statement is actually made to depend only on
the truth or falsity of the component statements. But, as we saw, this is no wonder at all, since
there is no logically relevant requirement one could reasonably put on the conjunctive
Cf. Mates, 1953/61, p. 54: 'Apparently there were in ancient times, as now, persons who
thought that a conjunction with only one false member should not be considered wholly false.'
Kneale 1962, p. 148: 'This view was apparently in need of defence; for opponents who failed to
understand that a conjunctive statement should be treated as one said that it would be naturally
described as "no more true than false" if some of its constituents were true and others false,
though they allowed that it might perhaps be called true "if most of its components were true"
(Sextus).' Mignucci 1967, pp. 149-50: 'it is worth noting the strange criticism that Sextus
Empiricus produces against this Stoic theory. Any conjunction - he claims - that has one true
part and one false part cannot be said to be more true than false, just as whatever is composed
of white and black is no more white than black. In reality, Sextus' criticism is a proper
ignorantia elenchi, since it does not take into account the purely functional purpose of Stoic
° A model of the method to be followed is provided, in this respect, by the lines that Brehier 1908,
p. 25-6, devotes to Galen's criticism: 'Already in Antiquity and on this very question, Galen
had reproached Chrysippus' school for being more attached to language than to facts. In a
conjunctive proposition, for example (this is Galen's own example), there is no way of
distinguishing purely from the verbal form whether the facts that are affirmed in each part are
or are not linked consequently: instead of distinguishing between two sorts of conjunctives,
Chrysippus' pupils confuse them as one. The reason for the Stoics laying themselves open to
this reproach is that, right from the start, they had made it impossible for themselves to proceed
in any way other than by grammatical analysis . . . Only the language, with its conjunctions,
enables us to express the different modes of liaison, which correspond to nothing real, and that
is why one not only can, but should, limit oneself to the analysis of language.' Brehier himself
applies the same method, but with less success, it would seem, when he goes on to write, on the
subject of Sextus' criticism (p. 29): 'We only have one critical remark from Sextus on the truth-
condition of the conjunctive proposition. According to him, the Stoics are wrong when they
declare that only a conjunctive in which all the terms are true is true: if one term is false, the
conjunctive is only false in part while the rest of it remains true. Thus criticized, the thought of
the Stoics can only make sense if the conjunction indicates some link between each of the
separate propositions. The criticism is not valid in the case of a simple enumeration.' If, as the
context would appear to suggest, by 'link' Brehier means a consequential link, that is to say the
relation of an antecedent with a consequence in the ovvrmiiivov, he would certainly appear to
be mistaken. The Stoic thesis bothers Sextus because it declares a conjunctive with one single
false part to be false, even if that part is not linked with the other parts in any way except by the
conjunction 'and', that is to say even if, to use Brehier's own terms, it constitutes no more than
a 'simple enumeration'. It is in just such an extreme case that it is most difficult to understand
how the falsity of one part could communicate itself to all the rest.

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really so frivolous, it would be hard to see why Chrysippus devoted to the

subject a treatise that ran to two books, 1 x and why Sextus and Galen expressed
their objections at such length and so bitingly.
The better to understand what is arbitrary, and consequently specific, about
the Stoic theory of the avixTTeirXeyiiivov, let us take a closer look at the
difficulties raised by Sextus and also by Galen. Sextus' critique falls into two
parts, each situated on a clearly distinct level.
Sextus begins by reproaching the Stoics for 'making up their own rules'
(vojjLoderovGLv avrol avTois), that is to say laying down rules that may be
viable and intrinsically coherent but are nevertheless arbitrary and contrary to
common usage. They are, no doubt, committing no fault in so doing and they
must certainly be granted the right to proceed in this way; however, they
should also accept the fact that others deem it right not to accept those rules,
and prefer to follow others that are less paradoxical and more 'logical'
(OLKOXOVOOV). This criticism which, for Sextus, is rather unusual, but crops up
several times in Galen, where it is accompanied by a somewhat unpleasant
note of xenophobia, 13 falls into two parts, the first showing that the rules
arbitrarily laid down by the Stoics lack logic, and second that they lack
common sense.
Sextus claims that, logically, if a conjunctive composed of two true
propositions (TT) must clearly be said to be true, just as a conjunctive
composed of two false propositions (FF) must be said to be false, a conjunctive
composed of one true proposition and one false one (TF or FT, which I
suggest we call a 'mixed conjunctive') is no more true than it is false ((JLTJ JJL&XXOV
aXrjdes etvai 77 i/jevSos). This suggestion does not necessarily deserve to be
treated with scorn and, to discredit it, it is not enough to say - as Martha
Kneale does 14 - that Sextus has failed to understand that a conjunctive
proposition ought to be treated as a single proposition; for it is indeed to the
single proposition 'p and q' (when p is true and q is false, or vice versa) that
Sextus proposes to attribute a truth-value that is neither true nor false but
rather 'no more true than false'. Thus, strictly speaking, his disagreement with
the Stoics concerns, not the unity of the conjunctive proposition, but the
number of truth-values involved. And it must be recognized that in a strictly
bivalent logic, the mixed conjunctive poses a problem analogous to that of
Buridan's ass: what reason is there to attribute to it one rather than the other of
Cf. Diogenes Laertius vn. 190 = SVF 11.13, title 9; and compare the only book devoted to
disjunction (title 17) and the four books devoted to the ovviq^fxivov (title 18).
Apart from in the passage with which we are concerned, vofxodeoia (applied to the laws
'decreed' by the dialecticians) appears only in Mvm. 108, where there seems to be no derogative
Cf. Introductio dialect. 4, pp. 10-11 K = SVF 11.208 {avrol vofjuoOeTovvres 181a orj^aLvo/jLeva);
De diff. puts. II.IO = SKFII.24 {yofxoderti fxev yap ovd/uara irXelov rj ZoXcov *Adr]vaiois lord
TOLS OL^OGL vofAioiJLaTa and further on: vvvl 8e TO Seivorarov ovre yevvrjdels 'Adr/vrjoiv ovre
rpa<f>€LS, aXXa X@*s KCLI Trpcorjv yKtov €K XiAi/cta<r, Trplv aKpifitos avrov eKfiadelv rjvrtvaovv
*EXXa8a (jxjovrjv, *ABj)vaiois vnep ovofxarcov iiTLX^Lpei vofAodereiv); ibid., III. I = SVF 1.33
(iroXfJurjoe /ccuvoTO/xefv r e /cat V7T€pfiaiveiv ro Ttbv 'EXXrjvtov edos iv TOLS ovofxaoiv).
Cf. the passage cited above, n. 9.

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the two different truth-values which attach to each of its components? And in
the absence - at first sight, at least - of any such reason, why not call the
bivalency back into question and why not invent for the mixed conjunctive a
third truth-value, which Sextus calls fjurj (JL&AAOV aArjdes rj i/jevSos, but which
might equally well be called '£' or '0.5', mid-way between 1 = T and 0 = F? Thus
reconstituted, Sextus' position is not absurd; and it lays emphasis, by contrast,
upon the wilful and paradoxical - and on that account specifically Stoic -
aspect of the Stoic logicians' attachment to bivalency, even in cases where
retaining it may raise difficulties. As for their reason for declaring the mixed
conjunctive to be false rather than true, the Stoics would probably have been
able to quiet the Buridanesque scruples of Sextus by explaining that the
unilateral privileging of the F value, in the conjunctive proposition, stems
from the very nature of the conjunctive 'and', and that it is to some extent
compensated by the symmetrical privileging of the T value in the disjunctive
proposition; for if, for a conjunctive proposition to be false, all that is
necessary is that one of its parts be false, for a disjunctive one all that is
necessary for it to be true is that one of its parts be true (truth-table 1110).
According to Sextus, the Stoic rules also clash with common sense in a
second case, that of what might be called a 'majority' conjunctive proposition,
that is to say a case in which the conjunctive proposition comprises a large
number of constituents all of which are true except - for example - one. For the
Stoics, numbers and percentages mattered little: the minute there existed a
minority, however tiny, of false constituents, the conjunctive proposition
became false. Sextus, on the contrary, believed that one ought to be allowed to
disregard what is relatively negligible and accept a majority conjunctive
proposition of this kind as true. 15 Here again, his position is not completely
absurd: in a polyvalent logic comprising a finite number of truth-values, one
might well agree to accept its legitimacy.16 And, once again, it highlights one
of the paradoxical consequences of the Stoic position: if one considers that in a
true conjunctive proposition comprising a very large number of constituents,
all its constituents must be true, then as soon as one adds a single false
constituent, a new conjunctive proposition is created, one which, for its part, is
totally and definitely false (as is pointed out by Aulus Gellius, after the text
which is incompletely recorded by von Arnim 17 ).
As we have already noted, in the next section of his critique, Sextus moves
on to a different level. As he sees it, this is not simply a matter in which one can
Cf. Sextus, M VIII. 126: i^earat 8e KOLI OLXXOLS avTiSiaraTTea^cu KCLL Xeyeiv TO IK irXeiovwv
aXrjdtbv ivos Se ipevSovs ov/JLTTenXey^evov dXrjOes vnapx^LV.
To give a distinct truth-value to conjunction with n elements according to the proportion of
true elements to false elements, there must be (n + 1) truth-values involved. In logic such as this,
a conjunctive of («+ 1) elements, of which only one is false, could reasonably enough be
assimilated to the conjunctive composed of n elements all of which are true, since its 'truth-
rating' is higher than the truth-value immediately below.
Cf. Noct. Alt. xvi.8: Nam si adea omnia quae de Scipione Mo vera dixi, addidero 'et Hannibalem
in Africa superavit', quodestfalsum, universa quoque ilia quae conjuncta dicta sunt, propter hoc
unum quodfahum accesserit, quia simul dicentur, vera non erunt.

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make rules in a totally free and arbitrary fashion: for there is such a thing as a
'nature of things' and to this one can and should try to conform (rfj </)VO€L TCOV
TTpayfjidrcov npooeKreov loriv). Seen thus, on a 'natural' level, the mixed
conjunctive proposition appears as a particular case of a physical mixture, and
the initial suggestion of inventing a third truth-value to cope with it now
receives new support: for just as a mixture (fjLefjLtyfxevov) of black and white is,
objectively, no more white than black, similarly a compound (avvderov) of
truth and falsehood should, for its part, be described as 'no more true than
This comparison between the logical problem of the conjunctive proposi-
tion and the physical problem of a mixture is in fact quite pertinent both from
the point of view of the Stoics and from that of their opponents, for there is
unquestionably a morphological similarity between the two problems: in both
cases it is a matter of determining the properties of the whole, taking full
consideration of the properties of its parts. But Sextus certainly moves in too
fast when, without further examination, he assimilates the case of the mixed
conjunctive proposition and that of the very particular category of mixtures in
which the properties of the components are cancelled out to make way for a
new property, mid-way between the original properties. He should, at the very
least, have asked himself whether another physical model might not have been
as viable as the one that he adopted. We know that the Stoics had gone to
considerable trouble to distinguish between different types of mixtures: the
ovvdeois or juxtaposition of different parts, in which the particles of the
various mixed bodies subsist alongside one another, each retaining its own
particular properties; the ovyxvois or complete fusion, in which the compo-
nents on the contrary lose their own identities and properties; and, in between
those two extremes, the famous 'total mixture' {Kpaois hC 6'Acov), in which the
components interpenetrate each other integrally, to the point where they
simultaneously (and paradoxically) occupy the same space, at the same time
preserving intact their own identities and properties. 18 Moreover, the mixed
conjunctive proposition does not seem, strictly speaking, assimilable to one or
other of these models of physical mixtures, for each of the propositions that
compose it remains distinct from the others and retains its own particular
truth-value, whereas the truth-value of the whole is, depending on the case in
question, identical either to that of the totality of components (T) or to that of
part of them (F). But despite these differences, there does remain a parallelism
between the paradoxes engendered by the mixed conjunctive proposition and
those engendered by the notion of a total mixture, as also between the
indignant or sarcastic reactions that these two theories provoked amongst the
opponents of the Stoic philosophers. Faced with the paradox formulated by
Chrysippus, who maintained, against Aristotle, 19 that 'there is nothing to
prevent a drop of wine mixing with the whole sea' so completely that there
Cf. the texts collected in SKFu.463-81, and Sambursky 1959, pp. 11-17.
Cf. Gen. corr. 1.10, 328327.

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would remain no portion of the sea where the wine was not present, Plutarch
protested, declaring that he knew of nothing more absurd than this theory,
which implies that the drop of wine can stretch to the dimensions of the
universe.20 To my mind, there is a clear relationship between the paradox of
the drop of wine contaminating the purity of an entire ocean and that of a
single false proposition infecting by its own falsity the set of as many true
propositions as one cares to imagine conjoined with it in some gigantic
conjunctive proposition.
However- no doubt due to the incomplete character of this logico-physical
parallelism, which we have already noticed - the Stoics do not seem to have
elaborated a rigorous physical model of the mixed conjunctive proposition.
We know, from Sextus himself, how they set about replying to the physical
objection that he had raised (which proves that this objection was not an
invention of the Sceptic), although unfortunately it is not possible to pinpoint
the precise source of their reply, as Sextus introduces it, with no particular
reference, by a simple <f>aoL Finding themselves attacked by means of a
physical model, the Stoics quite skilfully defended themselves by shifting their
ground and referring to daily experience, as it is expressed in everyday
language. They pointed out that one commonly describes a coat as torn as
soon as there is a rent in it, however small and localized that rent may be; and in
so doing, one completely disregards all the parts that remain intact (vyicov). In
similar fashion, a conjunctive proposition becomes false as soon as one of its
component parts is false, however isolated that part may be amongst all the
others; the case of a majority conjunctive proposition cannot be considered
any differently from that of a mixed conjunctive proposition. Clearly, here
they have not sought to construct a model of a physical mixture, but rather one
of an artificial object, a combination of material parts unified by its form or,
even more, in this case, by its function. If a tiny rent in it causes us to say that
the coat, as such, is torn, that is because ordinary language assumes an
anthropocentric and utilitarian point of view, and that is perfectly legitimate
when it is a matter of a fabricated object: the function of the coat, which is to
cover the body, protect it or adorn it, ceases to be correctly fulfilled the minute
it is, however slightly, torn. This assimilation of the av^-n^TrX^y^ivov to a
woven garment may be well suited to its very name and also to an image that is
far from new in the logico-linguistic analyses of the Greek philosophers, 21 but
it is not quite as innocent as it seems. The fact is that it seems quite naturally to
lead into a unilateral and preferential evaluation of the true conjunctive
proposition; it encourages one to think that the ovfjuTeTrAeynevov has a
function of its own which it fulfils when all its component parts are true but
fails to fulfil as soon as it includes a false proposition. Despite the extra-logical
nature of this evaluation of the true conjunctive proposition, its presence in

Cf. Plutarch, Comm. not. 37, 1078c = SVF 11.480 (von A r n i m left out Plutarch's own
Cf. Plato, Theaetetus 202B; Soph. 259E; Aristotle, Categ. 2, i a i 6 : 4, i b 2 5 ; 10, I 3 b i o , etc.

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Stoic thought seems undeniable. The word vyies (healthy, valid) is, after all,
used in this text to qualify both a coat in a good state of repair or the parts of it
that are untorn, on the one hand, and, on the other, a conjunctive proposition
all of whose conjuncts are true. 22 Just as an untorn coat is a better coat than a
torn one, in that it is a true coat, and worthy of that name, it would seem that
only a true avfjureTTXeyixevov is a proper ovfiTTeTrXeyfjievov, for it is a better
representative of the ovynreTrXey^ivov species than a false ovfX7T€7rXeyiJL€vov
can be.
The extra-logical (and, as we shall see, in the last analysis probably ethical)
prizing of the true conjunctive proposition is strikingly attested by a passage
from Epictetus, which neatly provides a moral panel to complete the triptych
whose logical and physical panels we have already encountered. The text in
question is Discourses 11.9, which is constructed around the following theme:
incapable though we are of correctly fulfilling the function, or 'profession', of a
man, we nevertheless presume to fulfil that of a philosopher. Remplir la
fonction de Vhomme ('to fulfil the profession of a man', English tr. by W.A.
Oldfather, Loeb 1967) is the rather good translation suggested by J. Souilhe to
render rrjv avdpco-rrov errayyeXiav irXrjptboat. In view of the way the term
eirdyyeXfjia is used by the Sophists and by Plato, 23 for whom it designates that
which the Sophists profess to be and to teach, or the programme that they
advertise, one might equally translate this as: 'to complete the programme of a
man'. This programme, or function, of man is clearly to live as a reasonable
animal; whoever behaves as an animal unendowed with reason destroys the
man in himself, fails properly to carry out his job as a man. It is at this point
that Epictetus abruptly goes on (paragraphs 8-10) to say: 'When is it that a
conjunctive proposition is saved (cra^crcu)? When it fulfils its programme, in
such a way that the salvation (aajrrjpLa) of the conjunctive proposition is to be
a conjoining of true propositions (TO ££ dXrjdcbv avfjuTTeTrXexOai).' It is perhaps
only fair to note that the conjunctive proposition is not the only logical
illustration that Epictetus uses here; he immediately follows on with another
sentence, which concerns the disjunctive proposition. This is a parallel to the
preceding sentence, but is significantly shorter. 24 It does not explain what a
disjunctive proposition needs to do in order to 'fulfil its programme'; and the
probable reason for that omission is that the truth-table of the disjunctive
proposition (1110) was hardly of a kind to produce an adequate illustration of
the idea of a 'fulfilment'. On the contrary - and this is a point that should be
stressed - it is the conjunctive proposition which, by virtue of its own
particular truth-conditions, first comes to Epictetus' mind when he seeks a
parallel to the notion of moral fulfilment: in this passage, the opposition
between 'salvation' and 'perdition' is effortlessly superimposed upon the idea

M a t e s 1953/61, p . 136, points out that the passage with which we are concerned is one of the
few in which vyirjs is used to refer to the t r u t h of a proposition (as an equivalent
usually, it designates the validity of an a r g u m e n t or an a r g u m e n t schema.
Cf. Plato, Laches 186C5, Gorgias 447C2, Protagoras 319A6, Euthydemus 274A3.
IJore Sie^evyfxevov (i.e. aco^erai)', orav TTJV inayyeXiav TrXrjpwor).

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of the truth or falsity of a conjunctive proposition, according to whether or not

it is completely full of truth. Logical and ethical concerns are thus closely
intertwined here, so closely that it is hard to decide whether one should speak
in terms of the logical principle of bivalency being imported into the ethical
field here or, on the contrary, of a moral view of the logic of conjunctive
propositions. In any event, it is worth noting that Epictetus has no hesitation
in referring to a true conjunctive proposition as one that is 'saved'; and this
implies that a false conjunctive proposition must be a iost' or 'ruined' one. 25
The true conjunctive proposition is thus an image of moral perfection and
philosophical salvation. The parallelism between what is true and what is good
was certainly a commonplace of Stoicism and had been used in a number of
well-known texts. 26 But standardly it rested upon the concept of truth as it is
applied to propositions in general. Such texts declare that, just as there are no
degrees in truth and falsehood, no more are there degrees in errors and
mistakes. It is easy to see that the parallelism becomes more precise and
stronger given the type of truth that is peculiar to conjunctive propositions; for
the all-or-nothing paradox, the exclusion of degrees, the lack of distinction
between a little and a lot became more acute here, by reason of the cumulative
structure which seems to call for degrees of truth or falsity to be accepted but is
at the same time frustrated in this respect by the laws of conjunction: a false
conjunctive proposition is no more false than another if it comprises a greater
number of false conjuncts; nor is it less false than another if it comprises fewer
false conjuncts. It is easy to see the link between this model and the famous
theory of the equality of sins 27 - a point to which we shall be returning.
At this point we may perhaps consider the existence of a conjunctive model
in Stoic thought to be established. Now let us test out the usefulness of this
model, that is to say, see whether it makes it any easier to understand certain
texts and points of doctrine that have to date remained obscure or ill-
explained. At the moment, I detect three areas in which it seems to me that the
conjunctive model may indeed further our understanding: they are the theory
of right action, the theory of knowledge and the theory of passions.
In connection with the theory of right action, I wonder whether it is not
possible to discern the presence of the conjunctive model in the definitions of
the Karopdcofjua (and of moral concepts in the same configuration), which
introduce the idea of number, apidfjuot in Greek, numeri in Latin (sometimes
with no complement, particularly in Greek texts; generally completed by
officii or virtutis in Cicero). The occurrences ofapidfjios in this context are quite
frequent;28 they seem generally to have been considered enigmatic, to judge by
In the context, ao>£ercu is opposed to airoWvTai (7, 10, 11).
Cf. Diogenes Laertius VII.I2O = S K F m . 5 2 7 ; Stobaeus, Eclogae 11.7 = SVFm.528.
In this connection, see Rist 1969, pp. 81-96.
The references are collected by Rist 1969, p . 82, n. 5. See Cicero, Definibus iv.56 = S F F m . 8 3 ;
Seneca, Epist. 71.16 (not 75.16, as Rist mistakenly has it); Marcus Aurelius m . i ; vi.26 (ndv
KadrjKov ef apidfjucbv TLVOJV ovfjL7rXrjpovTai, where it is interesting to note the recurrence of the
idea of'plenitude'). Stobaeus, Eclogae 11.93.14 = SVFm.500 could also be included in this list,
as well as Seneca, Epist. 95.5 a n d 12.

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the vagueness of the translations and the scarcity of commentaries. Most

scholars try to rule out a literal and purely quantitative interpretation of the
term apid^os. Rist 1969, for example, points out that Diogenes Laertius
provides two different definitions of the KCLXOV. The first makes use of the idea
ofdpiOfios (the KOL\6V is the perfect good, so called because it retains or takes
in, OL7T€X€LV, all the 'numbers' required by nature). The second definition seems
more qualitative (the KCL\6V is, again, that which is perfectly proportioned,
reXeicos av^iJieTpov); it might be designed to discourage a quantitative
interpretation of the first. Rist, prudently enough, concludes that the term
aptdfios seems to be used to convey the idea of exact or inexact proportion;
and he translates numeri officii, numeri virtutis, as 'aspects of duty' and 'aspects
of virtue'. Nevertheless, it would seem that a quantitative interpretation
(however 'crude' it may appear) is dictated by the contexts, which refer to 'all'
the apidfjLOL, or to 'a greater or lesser number' of aptdfjuoL.29 On that account,
and in perfect conformity with the conjunctive model that we have been
studying, I am inclined to regard these apifyzoi as the various 'articles' or
multiple 'items' which are all, without exception, present, fulfilled or satisfied
in the KCLXOV or the KaropOcojjia; if a single one of these is absent or
transgressed, absolute perfection forthwith turns into its opposite. It is even
possible to detect a further ethico-logical parallelism: for just as all moral sins
are equal, yet remain 'tolerable' to varying degrees according to the greater or
lesser number of duty 'items' that they transgress (as Zeno, according to
Cicero, put it 30 ), so all false conjunctive propositions are equally false, despite
the fact that there is obviously more information to be gleaned from a
conjunctive proposition in which all the conjuncts but one are true than from
one in which all the conjuncts but one are false.
In the texts relating to notions of knowledge and truth, one often comes
across terms such as ovoriqixa or adpoio^ia, terms to which the conjunctive
model similarly invites one to give a literal or quantitative meaning (even if,
here again, there is a risk of it seeming crude and, as such, to be avoided if
possible). At the risk of complicating the difficult question as to how the
knowledge of the Stoic sage should be conceived (a question which was tackled
several times in the course of the Chantilly colloquium, 'Les Stoi'ciens et leur
logique'; now see Kerferd 1978), it seems fair to say that the Stoics regarded
truth and knowledge each as an integral sum of true propositions, that is to say
as gigantic and flawless ovuireTrXeyixeva.31 One point in particular deserves to
be clarified in this connection because, if I am not mistaken, the conjunctive

Cf. Cicero, Definibus iv.56 {propterea quod alia peccata plures, alia pauciores quasi numeros
officii praeterirent); 111.23 (omnes numeros virtutis continent); Diogenes Laertius VII.IOO (napa
TO irdvras a.7re^eiv rovs iTTL^rjTOVfJLevovs apidfjiovs vrro rrjs (frvoews).
Cf. Definibus iv.56: peccata autem partim esse tolerabilia, partim nullo modo, propterea quod
etc. (what follows is cited in n. 29).
Cf. Sextus, M VII.386°. = SVFII.841 (inLorrjiJLr) irdvTtov aArjOwv dno^avTiKrj, avonqixariKr] r e
KCLI TT\€L6VOJV adpoLOfJuo)', Galen, PHP V.3 = SVF II.841 (A6yos = ivvoiwv re TLVOJV KOLI
7TpoXrn/j€OJv aOpoLo/jia); Stobaeus, Eclogae 11.74.16 = SKF m.i 12. These texts are collected,
with a pertinent commentary, by Long 1971, p. 99.

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model makes it possible to dismiss the marked hesitation on the part of the
commentators. The relevant text here is one from Stobaeus, 32 in which
knowledge (en-tcrny/x^) is first defined as 4a firm KaraXrjifjis, impossible to
undermine by reasoning'. Having produced this definition,33 Stobaeus
immediately proceeds to give another which may seem like an alternative
definition designed for the same definiendum as the first one, but which could
equally well be a definition of a second meaning of the word eiriGT^ixr]. This
second definition runs as follows: ovGrrj/jia i£ iTnorrjiJLwv TOLOVTCOV, olov fj
Tcbv Kara fjiepos XoytKTj iv rep orrovSaicp imapxovoa. This text perplexed
Wachsmuth, who proposed emending eTnoT-qixcbv to KaraXruJjewv. A. Long
translates it as follows: 'a systerna of specific ideas, like the rational apprehen-
sion of particulars present in the good man.' 34 But he expresses his misgivings
in the following note: 'I cannot be certain that this translation is quite accurate:
my "items" is a translation of the mss. iTTiorrjiJLcov, for which Wachsmuth
offers the likely emendation KaraXriipecov. My translation of Aoyi/o? "rational
apprehension" is based on the assumption that a word like KardXrjifjis must be
supplied.' 35 As I see it, it is possible to dismiss these hesitations and
conjectures by applying the conjunctive model: the two definitions handed
down by Stobaeus are of two different meanings of the word ^77-1(7x77^77, the
second of which is a Gv^-neirXey^ivov of units which correspond to the first;
the expression ITTIGT^^OJV TOLOVTOJV shows clearly that knowledge in the
second sense is the Gv^iTreTrXey^evov of the totality of different items of
knowledge in the first sense. These are isolated, particular items of knowledge
corresponding to what is conveyed by one particular true proposition; they
may be found in the mind of a man who is not a sage, just as an isolated item of
virtue may be displayed in his behaviour. Knowledge in the second sense is a
ovorrjiJLa, a totality whose elements are conjoined and indissociable, as is
probably indicated by the last stage in the famous lesson by gestures that Zeno
had delivered on the theory of knowledge: at this point, the left hand moved
across to fasten upon the right, which was already clenched into a fist.36 It is
this kind of knowledge, knowledge in its second sense, that is possessed by the
sage, as Zeno's lesson suggested and as Stobaeus in his turn indicates, when he
describes it as 'the rational knowledge of particular truths, as it is present in the
person of the sage' (a formula in which it now transpires that the correct noun
to complete the expression rj TCOV Kara fxepos XoyiKr} is none other than
iTnarrujLT]). In exactly the same way, the practical activity of the sage includes
every item of virtue, without exception. The perfection of the sage, in both the
speculative sphere and the practical, is thus constructed on the model of the
Stobaeus, Eclogae 11.74. I 6 = S K F I I I . 122.
The link is made by the words erepav St €7norr}^rjv.
34 35
I97i,p. 99. 1971, p. 112, n. 109.
Cf. 11.144 = SVF'1.66. In an unpublished paper on 'The body and speech in the Stoics',
delivered at the Seminaire de philosophic ancienne de Strasbourg, I tried to analyse the parallel
exegesis to this text and that of Acad. post. 1.408". = SVF 1.55.60-2, which expounds the
doctrinal content of Zeno's reading.

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Finally, the theory of passions enables us to pursue the influence of this

model a little further: for the intrusion of passion into a rational mind is, by
reason of the devastating power of its effects, in every respect comparable to
the addition of a false conjunct to a true conjunctive proposition - an addition
which, as we know, is enough to render false, in its entirety, the new
conjunctive proposition that is produced by this addition. I do not propose to
break new ground in this domain; rather, using a few extra arguments, I aim to
confirm an interpretation which has already been put forward by a number of
other commentators3 7 and which runs counter to the interpretation that has in
the past traditionally been attached to the Stoic theory of passions. It generally
used to be said that Chrysippus' famous thesis, according to which the
passions are judgements made by the hegemonic part of the soul, was a thesis
of extremely frenzied intellectualism, bordering on the absurd, and it was
generally believed that Posidonius had certainly been right to oppose it in the
name of psychological experience and current moral practice.38 In opposition
to this presentation of the matter, it has now justifiably been shown that the
assimilation of passion to a judgement was in no sense a means of rationalizing
it, - quite the reverse.39 If passion could really be reduced to no more than an
erroneous judgement, without at the same time being a sickness of the soul, all
that would be necessary to annihilate it would be to correct the error of
judgement, just as one corrects an error of arithmetic or grammar. Yet it is
quite clear that the Stoics place no confidence at all in an intellectual therapy of
this kind. Chrysippus, on the contrary, constantly draws attention to the
impotence of the logos where those who are impassioned are concerned,
stressing that in their case the logos falls upon deaf ears. He distinguishes
Cf. Goldschmidt 1969, p. 237 ('So it is fair to say that, notwithstanding first appearances, there
are few ancient doctrines which take such account of the passions or so fully recognize the
"irrational passions" as the Stoic doctrine: it is true that it does so n o t to condone them, but to
attempt to exorcize them.')
Cf. for example, D o d d s 1951, p. 239: 'The dogmatic rationalists of the Hellenistic Age seem to
have cared little for the objective study of m a n as he is; their attention was concentrated on the
glorious picture of m a n as he might be, the ideal sapiens or sage. In order t o m a k e the picture
seem possible, Zeno a n d Chrysippus deliberately went back, behind Aristotle a n d behind
Plato, to the naive intellectualism of the fifth century, . . . There was n o "irrational soul" to
contend with: the so-called passions were merely errors of judgement or morbid disturbances
resulting from errors of judgement. Correct the error, a n d the disturbance will automatically
cease, leaving a mind untouched by joy or sorrow, untroubled by hope or fear, "passionless,
pitiless, a n d perfect" (Tarn). This fantastic psychology was adopted a n d maintained for two
centuries, not on its merits but because it was thought necessary to a moral system which aimed
at combining altruistic action with complete inward detachment. Posidonius, we know,
rebelled against it a n d demanded a return to Plato, pointing out that Chrysippus' theory
conflicted both with observation, which showed the elements of character to be innate, a n d
with moral experience, which revealed irrationality a n d evil as ineradicably rooted in h u m a n
nature a n d controllable only by some kind of catharsis.' Galen's text, which D o d d s himself
cites, p p . 256-7, n. 16, suggests that, far from reflecting a disinterested desire to m a k e an
'objective study' of m a n as he is, Posidonius' psychology is motivated just as much as that of
the ancient Stoics by a desire to provide a rational basis for a very specific concept of
pedagogical practice.
Cf. Rist 1969, pp. 22-36, in particular p. 31. T h e most important texts in this connection are
Stobaeus, Eclogae 11.89.4 = S K F m . 3 8 9 ; Plutarch, De virt. mor. 450c = SVFm.390; Galen, De
Hipp, et Plat. deer. IV 6 = S FT7 in.47 5.

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clearly between purely speculative errors, which can be redressed by verbal

instructions, and the errors that account for passion, which remain obdurately
unresponsive to that same treatment. He often supports his views by citing the
most 'pathetic' of the poets (Euripides, for instance), those who are the most
convinced of the devouring force of passion and the inefficacy of words to cure
those gripped by passion. As a number of texts so forcefully note, 40 what
strikes the Stoics most about passion is precisely its irrationality, its impermea-
bility to speech and reason (whether proffered by others or by oneself), a
profound irrationality that is nevertheless accepted by the subject.
So what is the explanation for the apparent reduction of passion to an
intellectual error? Probably the alienation caused by the passions was per-
ceived as so radical that it could no longer be explained by a conflict between
two distinct forces, one rational, the other irrational. If the logos of the
impassioned man was in conflict with his instincts, he would remain intact in
himself. He would still be capable of allying himself with the external logos of
the moralist or the director of conscience, in order to battle to overcome his
passion with a better chance of success. To say that passion is an error of
judgement is to say that it has taken possession of man's very reason, invaded
his being and perverted him to the very marrow of his bones. If the passions are
judgements, it is not because they give way before words of good counsel, but
precisely because they do not. Only a logos is capable of resisting another
logos, but in this case the logos that resists is an internally vitiated one. When
passion breaches the defences, the bulwark of reason crumbles and disinte-
grates just as that of truth does in a conjunctive proposition as soon as the least
falsity slips in. A military metaphor of Seneca's, in the De ira (1.8) describes this
process clearly in terms in which we are at liberty to detect another echo of the
conjunctive model:
The enemy . . . must be stopped at the very frontier; for if he has passed it and
advanced within the city gates, he will not respect any bounds set by his captives.
For the mind is not a member apart, nor does it view the passions merely
objectively, thus forbidding them to advance further than they ought, but it is
itself transformed into the passion (in adfectum ipse mutatur) and is, therefore,
unable to recover its former useful and saving power when this has once been
betrayed and weakened.
(tr. John W. Basore, Loeb Classical Library, London and Cambridge (Mass.),
Faced with this description of a kind of law of the expansion of the irrational,
which invades the entire available psychic space, one is again put in mind of the
physical model of the total dilution of one body within the integral field offered
by another. At the same time, the two sides to this theory of passions, the one
psychological, the other moral, are attested: if passion is a judgement, it is an
affection in which the entire person is engaged. The self commits itself totally
to it and bears the entire moral responsibility for it. If pluralist theories of the
Cf. in particular Cicero, Tuscul. disp. in.61-73, and the comments of Brehier 1910/51, pp. 246R.

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to it and bears the entire moral responsibility for it. If pluralist theories of the
soul are unacceptable, for the master of Stoicism, that is because they tend to
diminish the responsibility of the self and to appease the sense of guilt. If there
is an 'irrational part' in my soul, I can make it into the scapegoat for all my
imperfections; it is not I who am immoral, but another inside me, against
whom I struggle, even if I do so in vain; it does not really involve me in its
turpitude. In opposition to that possibility, which is open to bad faith, Stoic
monism appears as a doctrine, or perhaps an experience, of the total
responsibility of the self.
After that threefold and, I hope, conclusive test of the productivity of the
conjunctive model and the enhanced comprehension that it makes possible, I
should like to round off these remarks by putting forward two hypotheses
which may make them easier to understand. The first hypothesis is of a
historical nature, the second of a structural one.
The historical hypothesis concerns Posidonius, whose name has already
been mentioned in connection with the famous critique in which he attacked
Chrysippus' theory of passions. I shall try to show that Posidonius may also
have opposed the classic Stoic doctrine of the conjunctive proposition and that
the coexistence of those two critiques is by no means fortuitous. I am aware
that I shall be venturing into very uncertain terrain here; however, if real
grounds do exist for my belief, it could perhaps be held that Posidonius
detected the presence of the conjunctive model in the theory of passions, and
on that account found himself goaded into combating both that theory and the
model that it embodied. Let us look into the matter more closely.
First, let us return to an examination of Sextus' text. Sextus, it will be
remembered, had taken it upon himself to reproduce the Stoic response to the
first objections that he himself had raised against the theory of the conjunc-
tion: the Stoic reply had appealed to the paradigm of the torn coat. Returning
to the offensive, Sextus is very scornful of this humble comparison with its
overtones of the tattered Cynic philosopher. He calls it a 'naivety' (evrjdes),
suggesting that one does perhaps have to allow ordinary, everyday language
the use of certain catachrestic terms (Karaxp^oriKois ovoixaoi) since it is not
applied to what is really true but only to that which appears to be so.41 For
example, we say that we 'sink a well', 'weave a tunic', 'build a house', but that is
a misuse of language; for if the well exists, one is no longer engaged in sinking it
since it has already been sunk (OVK opvootrai aXX opdjpvKrai); and if a tunic
exists, one is no longer engaged in weaving it, for it has already been woven.
The abuse of language (Karaxpyois) thus has a place in daily life and current
usage. However, once we set out to explore the very nature of things, it really is
necessary to insist upon precision (rrjs aKpifieias).
Much could be said about these few lines, in thefirstplace about the notion
of catachresis, which was destined for such a brilliant and turbulent future in
Cf. Sextus, M VIII. 129: fjurj TTOLVTOJS TO 7Tpos TTjv (f>voLV aArjOes ^TJTOVVTL dXXa TO npos rrjv

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the later history of rhetoric; 42 secondly, about the examples that show the use
of the different tenses in the Greek verb, a clearly Aristotelian theme. 43
However, lack of space prevents me from following those particular paths, so
let me limit myself to drawing attention to the comical side to this lecture on
philosophical rigour which Sextus takes it upon himself to address to his
adversaries even though, in this instance, all the rigour is manifestly to be
found on their side while he himself is clearly somewhat short of it, given that
he has just suggested considering as true a conjunctive proposition that
comprises a false conjunct - an instance of being hoist with one's own petard, if
ever there was one. But there are other reasons, too, why this passage of
Sextus' deserves our attention. If I am not mistaken, it presents a number of
quite unusual features. In the first place, the critique formulated by Sextus runs
contrary to the habitual respect that he shows for ordinary language and day-
to-day practice: frequently, in his writing, he invokes the awrjdeia in a positive
sense. 44 Secondly, the accusation of laxity and lack of rigour is somewhat at
odds with the criticism of the Stoics' excessive rigour that he expressed only a
few lines earlier. It is bizarre to find these logicians accused, within a few lines,
on the one hand of being pointlessly and paradoxically punctilious, on the
other of being imprecise and more concerned about seeming than being.
Now, strangely enough, this double reproach reappears in Galen, in the
passage to which I have already referred, that is to say in connection with the
theory of the conjunction. 45 Galen writes as follows: 'Here too, the school of
Chrysippus, paying attention to verbal expression rather than to the facts (rrj
Ae^ei (JL&AAOV rj TOLS TTpdyfjuaGL TTpooexovres rov vovv),*6 gives the name
"conjunctives" (au/xTTCTrAey/xeva) to all sentences composed by means of the
conjunctive particles (SLOL TOJV GVJJLTTA€KTIK<JI)V KaAovfievcDv ovvSeajjuov), even if
composed of incompatible propositions, or of propositions such that one
follows from another.' Then he goes on to say, '[They use] names carelessly in
matters in which accuracy of expression is important (iv oh fiiv avyK^nains
d/cptjSeta ScSaaKaAias dfieAws xp^tievoL TOLS ovofiaaw41)', but in matters in
which the words have no difference in meaning, [they legislate] for themselves
private meanings (iv o?s 8e ovSev hia(j>€pov al <f>a>val Grj/jLatvovacv avrol
vofjLodeTovvres ?8ia aT^cuvo/xeva48)' (Kieffer 1964, p. 35; the translation is
slightly modified). It is noticeable that the two symmetrical criticisms, which in
Sextus are quite clumsily juxtaposed, in Galen are set out in an elegant
chiasmus which tones down the paradox of their co-presence and makes it

Cf. in particular Genette 1968; 1966, p p . 21 iff.; Ricoeur 1975, p p . 8 4 - 6 . O n the Stoic roots of
the theory of tropes, cf. Barwick 1957, p p . 88ff.; K e n n e d y 1963, p p . 297ff.
Cf. for example Metaph. 0 6, 1048523-35; Eth. Nic. x, 1173b2; Phys. vi.6.
Cf. Mi. 170-220, 227-247, a n d the commentaries of Russo 1975, p . X L V I .
Introductio dialect., chap. 4, p p . 1 0 - n Kalbfleisch.
Cf. Sextus, M VIII. 127: el Se rrj <f>voei T&V irpayixarojv irpooeKriov eoriv.
Cf. Sextus, ibid. 129: O>OT€ iv fxkv rep j8ia> K<XI rfj Koivfj avvrjdeia TOTTOV €LX€V 77 K
orav Se TOL irpos TTJV <f>voiv ^rjTcbfAev TTpayfjLaTCL, TOT€ €)(€o6ai Set rrjs d/cpijScias
Cf. Sextus, ibid. 126: el [izv yap e^eanv avrots a BeXovoi vocoderelv.

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possible to lay it at his adversaries' door. But although the form in Galen may
be different, the substance, polemical tactics and a number of details of
vocabulary in the two texts present undeniable affinities.
In view of all this, the hypothesis of a common source cannot be dismissed
(especially since we have already come across one indication that Sextus is here
reproducing objections of which he is not himself the author). And although
the name of Posidonius comes a little too trippingly to the tongue of those who
are in need of a link to complete their chain of argument, I myself would also be
inclined to invoke it. J.S. Kieffer, the most recent commentator upon Galen's
Introductio dialectical9 points out that, according to a suggestion made in
oral discussion by Ludwig Edelstein, the particularly sharp tone of the polemic
directed against Chrysippus in chapter 4 of Galen's pamphlet could be
accounted for if the source was Posidonius. Although Kieffer has not himself
followed up this suggestion, in fact has seemed rather to distance himself from
it, 50 it is certainly worth considering. Edelstein presumably had in mind
Posidonius' Ilepl owSeufxcbv, of which a fragment has come down to us. 5 x To
judge by this single fragment, this treatise was a polemical work directed
against those who claimed that conjunctions designate nothing at all (ou
STJXOVGL fiev TL) and do no more than link the discourse together (avro Se JJLOVOV
TTJV <j)pdcnv ovvoeovcn). Posidonius, on the contrary, for his part included
conjunctions in the same 'part of discourse' as the verbal prefixes, which
certainly are considered as significant parts of discourse since they modify the
meaning of the verbal roots to which they are joined. It would thus appear that
Posidonius was opposed to a purely syntactical theory of conjunction and
proposed elaborating a semantic theory. 5 2 Of course, what are at issue here are
conjunctions in the grammatical sense of the term, not simply the conjunction
'and', which is the operator of conjunction in its logical sense. But concepts
relating to the former necessarily affect the notion of the latter; and it is surely
the same anti-formalist point of view that engenders the idea that Galen
presents in criticism of Chrysippus, namely that it is impossible to speak of a
conjunctive proposition without first examining the contents of the conjoined
propositions in order to determine whether or not they are incompatible or
consecutive. It is thus, at the very least, not unreasonable to suppose that
Posidonius was behind those attacks of Galen and Sextus which converged
against the Stoic theory of the GvixTTeirXeyfjuevov; and if that is so, the link that I
Kieffer 1964, p. 24.
Kieffer (p. 84) points out that the use of vofxoBeTovvTts might reflect an Aristotelian influence,
on account of the use of that term in Anal. post. 83a 14 to describe the conventional assignation
of a meaning to a word. Elsewhere (p. 25) however, he states that Galen's argument, in this
chapter 4, 'reads as if it were its own. This chapter, too, seems to be more Galen's than a
transcription from a textbook source.'
Apollonius Dyscolus, De conjunctione, p. 214,4-20 Schneider = Posidonius, ed. Edelstein and
Kidd 1972, no. 45, pp. 59-60.
The question of whether conjunctions have a categorematic or a syncategorematic value was to
be examined by the commentators of Aristotle's Categories. Cf. Simplicius, In Categ. 64, 18
( = Aristotelis Fragmenta, ed. Ross, pp. 102-3), a n ^ Graeser 1978a.

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believe I have detected between the conjunctive model and the theory of
passions would be indirectly confirmed by the fact that Posidonius directed his
attacks against them both.
I shall now, as promised, follow that historical hypothesis with a structural
one. Once one thinks one has detected an isomorphism between several theses
of different types (logical, psychological, ethical), one is understandably
tempted to try to determine the relations of priority or even the relations of
causality between those different theses, and to aim to discern which elements
in them were original and which derivative. Perhaps it would be more prudent
to resist that temptation. I cannot do so, however, because the expression
'conjunctive model' that I have used might suggest that I thought that the
model originated in the field of logic and was then simply exported into the
otherfieldsof Stoic thought. However, that is not my view: if I had to attribute
a determining role to one in particular of the structures of thought between
which I have attempted to discern the links, I should be inclined to attribute it
to the field of ethical structures and to normative options in Stoic thought.
From a strictly logical point of view, the conjunctive connection is simply one
interpropositional conjunction among others, with nothing particularly spe-
cial about it. The reason why it served as a model in extra-logical sectors of
Stoic thought is that, by virtue of the particular structure of its truth-
conditions, it presented features which could be adapted to the extra-logical
role that it would be possible to give it.
The conclusion that it was ethics that played the determining role could be
reached, negatively, in thefirstplace from the difficulties that arise as soon as
one tries to have a thesis of Stoic ethics stem from any thesis external to ethics,
whether it be logical or physical. That is something that I realized when
reading the study that John Rist has devoted to the theory of the equality of
sins,53 a study to which I nevertheless owe much in other respects. Rist tries to
link the moral thesis of the equality of sinsfirstto a logical thesis, namely that
of the non-existence of degrees of truth, then to a physical one, namely that of
the properties of 'pneumatic' movements. On the logical thesis, he writes as
follows: 'If therefore we can see why the Stoics did not wish to posit degrees of
truth, we may be helped in our enquiry [concerning the moral thesis].'54 In
Rist's views that reason is 'fairly obvious': if truth tolerated degrees, there
could be nothing that was absolutely true: if a is more true than b, there can
exist no x of such a kind that nothing could possibly be more true than it. Now,
some things are manifestly true; so truth cannot be one of those realities in
which degrees are tolerated. I must confess that I find this argument less than
persuasive: its major premiss is presented as self-evident; yet does not Platonic
philosophy consist, precisely, in drawing from the antecedent of that major
premiss a consequence that is diametrically opposed to that of Rist's argu-
ment? A Platonist would start from the same principle: some things are more x

53 54
Rist 1969, pp. 81-96. Rist 1969, p. 83.

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than others and some things are less x than others. And his conclusion would
be: there must, then, exist such a thing as x itself, an absolute x, through which
everything that is x in some degree can be so. Wherever there is more and there
is less, there is also a maximum. We know furthermore that this way of arguing
a gradibus was given a perfectly clear formulation on the technical level in
Aristotle's early writings.55 In view of this, it seems hard to believe that the
Stoics' reasons for rejecting the idea of degrees were the same as those which
led some of their most impressive predecessors to accept that same idea, and
one feels inclined to reverse the reasoning: if the consequences that stem from
accepting or rejecting degrees are unclear on a general level (the Platonists'
acceptance leads them to believe in the necessity of a maximum while the
Stoics, according to Rist, conclude that a maximum must be impossible), one
will not be inclined to base the exclusion of degrees, in the ethical theory of
sins, upon their exclusion in the logical domain; on the contrary, one will be
inclined to interpret the Stoic decision to exclude them in the logical domain as
a lateral effect or reflection of their decision to exclude them, as a matter of
principle, in the ethical domain.
However, Rist moves on from his first suggestion. He also proposes deriving
the ethical thesis of the equality of sins from another thesis that is also external
to ethics, belonging as it does to the domain of psychophysiology. He writes as
follows: The only possible explanation, therefore, of the Stoic position is that
something of great importance happens in a similar way whenever any kind of
guilty act is committed. In order to understand what this is, we shall have to
turn to problems of the physiological or rather psychosomatic structure of
man.'56 According to him, this important event is the physical disordering that
affects the movements of the 'pneuma' in all guilty behaviour. Rist goes on to
say: 'It seems, therefore, that the Stoics held that all sins are equal and that
there are no degrees of guilt, because the vibrations in the human rrvevfjua are
either orderly or disorderly.'57 Here again, one may hesitate to follow him, for
while it may be true that the alternative between what is orderly and what is
disorderly may be considered to be entirely logical, the existence or inexistence
of intermediate degrees between order and disorder and equally the existence
or inexistence of degrees of order and disorder are a more debatable matter,
and the inexistence of such degrees cannot be affirmed in all cases without
making a particular examination of the pertinent data and the meaning taken
on by the notion of order in the context under consideration. The movement of
a marble on an inclined surface will be ordered if the surface is smooth and the
marble round, disordered if one of those conditions is not fulfilled; but the
movements of a dancer will not appear so clearly as either ordered or

Cf. 7T€pl (f>i\ooo<f>Las, fragment 16 Ross (KaOoXov yap, lv ots ean n jScArtov, iv rovrois eon n
KOLI apioTov, K T \ . ) . T h e Platonic character of the a r g u m e n t is noted by Simplicius, w h o passes
it o n t o us. F o r m o d e r n discussions of this argument, cf. in particular Jaeger 1923, 1934/48, p .
158; Wilpert 1957, p p . 155-62; D e Vogel i960, p p . 2 4 8 - 5 1 ; Berti 1962, p p . 353-5.
56 57
Rist 1969, p . 86. Rist 1969, p . 88. M y italics.

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disordered. How is it possible to affirm that the vibrations of the 'pneuma',

which are not observable phenomena, can only take place in absolute order or
else in total disorder? And if one decided to maintain that moral faults are not
equal, would it not be extremely easy to imagine that those vibrations can be,
correlatively, either more disorderly or less disorderly! The thesis of the equality
of sins is, moreover, a paradoxical thesis which is not really concerned about
verifications; one would be hard put to it to find any kind of confirmation for
the thesis in legal institutions or in common moral discourse. So it would
certainly be strange for it to have been deduced from a psychosomatic thesis
that itself had no empirical basis and could accordingly provide it with not the
slightest credibility.
Faced with the difficulties that are thus encountered when one seeks the
derivation of the moral thesis of the equality of sins either in a logical thesis
such as that of the absence of degrees of truth or in a physical thesis such as that
of the variations in the pneumatic rovos, one is tempted to reverse the schema
of derivation and, instead, consider the moral thesis to be fundamental, in the
manner of an existential choice, an option for a style of life. The theses that
correspond to it on levels external to ethics would thus be considered as
transpositions, objectivizations or rationalizations of that fundamental
choice. That, eventually, is the direction in which Rist's study moves for, in the
last analysis, he suggests that the key to the dogma of the equality of sins is to
be found in a particular way of responding to moral experience. He writes as
It is often noticed that those men who are morally the noblest do not have a high
opinion of their own moral excellence. In ecclesiastical language, this comes out
as the view, often held by 'saints', that they are the greatest of sinners. This does
not mean that they are committing what are commonly thought of as heinous
crimes. It means that they have a very strong sense of what it means to be guilty.
They recognize guilt where the ordinary man would be insensitive.5*
That last sentence to my mind sums up the essence of what I understand by
'conjunctive model', and pinpoints its ethical kernel. Just such a moral hyper-
sensitivity seems to be what is expressed in the Stoics' conviction that a partial
imperfection is enough to spoil the whole, that anything that is not totally
successful is no better than something that is completely unsuccessful and that
one fumbled note is enough to warrant going back to replay the piece of music
right from the beginning. The Stoics, more than anyone else in Antiquity, had
a sense of the contagious nature of defilement, impurity that spreads like an
oil-stain.59 Using psychological terminology, one might say that there is
something obsessional about their perfectionism. All the Stoic theses that can
be associated with the conjunctive model manifest a common decision: not to
neglect what seems negligible to others. 59 The drop of wine does not disappear
Rist 1969, p . 9 1 . M y italics.
Professor Verbeke a n d F . Zaslawsky have pointed out to me that this pessimism, this principle
of the expansion of evil, which is n o t counter-balanced by a n y principle of the expansion of

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in the ocean, the grain of falsity is not drowned in the sea of truth, the
peccadillo is not wiped out in the good conduct of the honourable citizen. The
explanation for the Stoics' recognition or decision that one should not cheat
with the logic of the conjunctive proposition,60 and for their acceptance of the
purely logical reasons for this,61 is that the truth-conditions of the conjunctive
proposition provided them with precisely the ingredient that they needed to
satisfy their appetite for purity and rigour, spiced with the pinch of paradox
that appealed to their underlying cynicism. All of which perhaps goes to show
that, to be formalist in logic, it is necessary to be formalist in everything.

good, posed a problem within the framework of the radically optimistic interpretation of the
world that the Stoics professed. It is not possible here to develop this point as it deserves; but
perhaps one could say that to be as optimistic as the Stoics are, it is probably necessary to be
extremely pessimistic.
This formulation in itself makes it possible to glimpse the implicitly polemical value of the
conjunctive model to which J.-P. Dumont has been good enough to draw my attention: the
non-negligible reveals itself as such to the extent that others neglect it. However, I am not
convinced that the much-discussed transformation of the 'Chaldaean' conditionals into
negations of conjunctives, suggested by Chrysippus (according to Cicero, De fato vin.15-
16 = SVF .954), can be interpreted in the light of this idea; the truth-table of the denied
conjunctive, in that it is the reverse of that of the affirmed conjunctive, namely 0111, no longer
presents the characteristics of the 'conjunctive model'.
* There is no question of reducing the force of these arguments (I hasten to say this in response to
the anxiety that has been expressed by Professor A.C. Lloyd). However, it may perhaps be
agreed that, through its general structures, Stoic thought favoured taking them into account
and dismissed obstacles which, in other authors such as Sextus and Galen, on the contrary very
clearly do diminish their force.

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TOVT €LVai [JLOVOV O7T€p €\€L TTpOG^oX^V Kdl ilTa^V TIVCL,

Clem. Alex., Strom. 11.4.15 = Plato, Sophist

A number of texts are in agreement1 in attributing to the Stoics a doctrine

which may be summarized by the following four theses:
(1) Something is an existent (I shall hereafter use the abbreviation E to refer
to the term 'existent') if and only if it is a body. By the same token,
something is a 'non-existenf ( = NE) if and only if it is not a body.
(2) The term incorporeal (daco^arov) applies, not to any and every nameable
item which is not a body, but only to a limited and determined group of
such items, namely the void, place, time and the XeKrd. I shall hereafter
refer to this list using the expression 'canonical incorporeals'.
(3) Only bodies and canonical incorporeals may be called something
(4) The term not something (OVTL = NST) denotes the ontological status of
The most striking feature of this doctrine, in the eyes of its ancient critics and
modern commentators alike, is that it presents the rl as the supreme genus
(yevLKcorarov), rather than the 6V, which is relegated to a lower level of
ontological classification; that is why I shall hereafter refer to it as the 'TSG
* This text is a much reworked version of a paper that I delivered at the Symposium
Hellenisticum held at Pontignano. I should like to express my warmest thanks to all those who,
either through their spoken or written comments at the time of the symposium, or in
correspondence later, have contributed so much towards the final elaboration of this study: in
particular, Jonathan Barnes, Bernard Besnier, Myles Burnyeat, Pierluigi Donini, Andre Laks,
Tony Long, David Konstan, Mario Mignucci, Martha Nussbaum, Malcolm Schofield, David
Sedley and Richard Sorabji. I have unfortunately not been able to study the paper entitled
'Une occasion manquee: la distinction du ri et de Yov dans le Sophiste de Platon', presented by
Pierre Aubenque in the course of his Sorbonne seminar. It is now being revised prior to
publication and is to appear in a collection of essays edited by Pierre Aubenque, entitled Etudes
sur le 'Sophiste'. I deeply regret having 'missed the opportunity' to compare my views with his.
(This article has now been published as 'Une occasion manquee; la genese avortee de la
distinction entre "l'etant" et le "quelque chose", in P. Aubenque (ed.), Etudes sur le Sophiste de
Platon, Naples 1991, pp. 365-85.)
Alexander of Aphrodisias,/« Top. 301.19 = SVFw.^i^FDS 711; ibid. 359.i2 = 5'K/7ii.329B,
FDS 709; Sextus, M 1.17 = SVF 11.330, FDS 710; ibid. x.2i8 = SVF 11.331, FDS 720; ibid.
x.234 = SVFu.33i,FDS 719. Also Plutarch, Adv. Colot. 15, mfoc = FDS 721.


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doctrine' (the doctrine of the ri as the supreme genus) and, more specifically
(as we shall have to consider a number of variants), as the 'standard TSG
The standard TSG doctrine may be expressed by the following table:

Something Not something

Bodies Incorporeals Concepts ?
(existents) (canonical)
The TSG doctrine has often been studied, from both the historical and the
philosophical points of view. It poses many problems by reason of its intrinsic
obscurity, the scarcity of sources and the hostility towards Stoicism evinced by
most of our informants. Amongst its many difficulties are two which have been
the subject of many recent studies and about which I do not intend to say
anything in the present paper: (a) the question of whether and how the Stoics
tried to specialize certain verbs (in particular virapx^v and v^Loravai) so as to
turn them into distinct expressions of the modes of reality or existence of
bodies and incorporeals;2 (b) the question of how the TSG doctrine fits in with
what is commonly known as the Stoic theory of categories.3 These two
problems are undeniably related to those that I do propose to discuss here.
However, so far as (a) is concerned, it is impossible to decide in advance
whether the question of verbs with an ontological meaning can throw any light
on the contents of the TSG doctrine or whether, on the contrary, this is a
question that can only be resolved once the contents of that doctrine have been
set out clearly; and so far as (b) is concerned, the question, in itself extremely
complex, arises in a relatively autonomous fashion and I can see no major
disadvantage in leaving it aside.
My intention, essentially, is to attack a common image of the TSG doctrine,
which has both historical and philosophical aspects, and - if possible - to
replace it by a different image. The view that I shall be criticizing depends upon
a number of indications which might suggest that the TSG doctrine is a
On this question, Hadot( 1969), pp. 115-27; Graeser 1971, pp. 299-305; Goldschmidt 1972, pp.
331-44; Sandbach 1985.
According to an interpretation which goes back at least to Plotinus (VI. 1.25) and has found a
number of authoritative partisans among modern scholars (cf. Brehier 1910/51/71^. 133; id.
1936, pp. 30-1; Robin 1948, pp. 414-15; Pasquino 1978, pp. 375-86), the four Stoic 'categories'
fall into two groups, the first of which (substances and qualities) corresponds to bodies, the
second (ways of being and relative ways of being) to incorporeals. Other commentators, in
contrast, are of the opinion that the distinction established by the so-called 'categories' simply
represents four aspects in which each individual body may be envisaged; cf. for example Rieth
1933, p. 90; Goldschmidt 1977, p. 21 n. 5; Hadot 1968, vol. 1, p. 161 n. 1; and most recently
Long and Sedley 1987, vol. 1, pp. 163-6. (This book had not yet been published at the time of
the Pontignano Symposium. I should like to emphasize how very useful it has been to me in
preparing this paper for publication.) Many doubts have been expressed as to even the reality
of the 'Stoic theory of categories', cf. for example Pohlenz 1967, pp. 1298*. n. 1; Gould 1970, p.
107; Sandbach 1985, p. 40.

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relatively late innovation in the history of Stoicism and that, in the course of
that history, it came to replace a less exceptional doctrine, accepted by the
earliest Stoics, according to which the existent (6V) was the supreme genus. I
shall refer to this hypothetical doctrine as the ESG. The explanation as to why
the ESG was replaced by the TSG doctrine at some point in the development
of the Stoic school is supposed to run more or less as follows: when the Stoics
combined the, in itself unexceptional, ESG doctrine with their 'materialist'
identification of the existent (6V) and the body, they realized that they could no
longer ascribe a precise ontological status to things (if there turned out to be
any) which it would be impossible to conceive as bodies, yet which could not be
reduced to purely mental fictions. Having discovered that such 'things' did
exist and having analysed their nature, particularly in the course of developing
their physics and their theory of language, they could hardly deny them any
kind of reality at all. However, being unwilling to jettison their equation
between the existent and the body and in order to accommodate these
recalcitrant realities as well as possible, they proceeded to construct the
strange status of their 'incorporeals' which are 'something' yet are not
'existents' (NEST). At this point, the existent had necessarily to lose its status
as supreme genus, ceding this to the 'something', a genus which included both
bodies and incorporeals. Seen in this perspective, the TSG doctrine appears as
some feat of theoretical acrobatics designed to save one paradox - that of the
'materialist' thesis threatened by the attacks of 'common sense' - but
succeeding in doing so only at the cost of introducing a second paradox, even
more violent than the first: namely, by dethroning the 'existent', which now
lost its traditional status of supreme genus. In these circumstances, more or
less the only interest of the TSG doctrine would be that of a baby ontological
monster born of the embraces between a stubborn dogmatism and a strategy
of despair improvised in order to escape the most immediately disastrous
consequences of that dogmatic stubbornness. Even amongst historians who
accept the antiquity of the Stoics' TSG doctrine, one often comes across the
idea that they only adopted that doctrine under constraint, to some extent
forced to do so by (as Aristotle would have said) 'the pressure of things'.4
In opposition to this image, I would like to try to show that the TSG
doctrine is an essential element in the Stoic philosophy, maturely elaborated in
the crucible of their critical thought on Platonic ontology. The central concept
Cf. Zeller 1904, vol. m.i.i, pp. 94(-5) n. 2; Brehier 1970, p. 2; Pohlenz 1967, pp. 120-1 ('It is
only bodies that can be said truly to exist. But that does not rule out there being also something
incorporeal, in the first place the contents of our thoughts and words . . . Apart from the
contents of our words, there are also other things that we are obliged to recognize to be
"something", even if they lack the mark of true existents (i.e. place, the void, time). [. . . The
TSG doctrine] is the necessary consequence of the assumption of the aacjfjLara). This
interpretation, according to which the Stoics were (so to speak) dragged bodily into adopting
the TSG, has been summarily but decisively rejected by Goldschmidt 1977, p. 14: I t (i.e. this
doctrine) cannot be explained away as merely a response to polemics, for it was this doctrine
itself that provoked them.' I find the rest of Goldschmidt's commentary, which presents the
TSG doctrine as a development of Aristotelianism, or at least of one of its 'tendencies', less
convincing, for reasons that I shall be explaining below.

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of the doctrine, namely that of NEST, does not appear to me to be one that
could possibly have been constructed using the inductive method, that is to say
by collecting the properties common to a certain number of items which could
only be grouped together by virtue of the impossibility of denying them some
kind of reality. In my view, it is possible to suggest that this concept was
constructed on the basis of theoretical considerations, within the framework
of a general and abstract ontology, without paying any particular attention to
the items (canonical incorporeals) which were to constitute its extension. The
critical analysis of Platonism seems to have led the Stoics to discern two
distinct ontological criteria: the one a strong criterion (let us agree to refer to it
as the criterion of existence), in the name of which, in opposition to Plato, the
existent was held to be whatever is corporeal; the other a weak criterion (let us
call this the criterion of reality), in the name of which the Platonic Forms were
denied any extra-mental reality. The relative independence of these two
criteria (all that satisfies the strong criterion also satisfies the weak one, but the
converse does not apply) leaves room for a perfectly well-determined theoreti-
cal position for items (if any such there be) which satisfy the weak criterion
without satisfying the strong one, in other words for 'realities' without
'existence'. This theoretical position is that of the NESTs.
The discussion upon which I shall now embark is divided into six parts. In
the introduction (i), I shall make a few observations on various structural
problems which spring to mind once one examines the TSG doctrine. In part n,
which is devoted to the chronology of the TSG doctrine, or more precisely to a
kind of chronological topology of this doctrine, I shall be analysing a number
of texts which could have been and/or were used as arguments to support the
adoption of the TSG doctrine at a relatively late date in the history of Stoic
thought, and I shall try to show that these texts do not justify such a
conclusion. In the next two parts, I shall try to establish the role that may have
been played by the reading of Plato's Sophist (m) and that possibly played by
critical reflection upon the Platonic theory of Forms (iv) in the elaboration of
the TSG doctrine. In the last two parts, finally, I shall try to put together two
kinds of arguments that confirm my general thesis: to refute the idea that the
TSG doctrine is the fruit of an induction based upon an analysis of the
canonical incorporeals, I shall try to bring to light the disparities that those
incorporeals present and the discrepancies between the various arguments
used by the Stoics tofixtheir ontological status (v). To confirm the role played
by the mediation of Platonism in the construction of the TSG doctrine, I shall
examine some of the objections put to the Stoics by their adversaries on the
subject of this doctrine and the varying degrees of attention that the Stoics
paid to those objections (vi).

The TSG doctrine raises several structural problems which it may be helpful to
mention, if only briefly. Those that seem to me worthy of attention are the

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following: (a) (in connection with thesis 2): is the list of canonical incorporeals
fixed ne varieturi (b) (in connection with thesis 3): is the division of STs into
bodies and incorporeals exhaustive? (c) (in connection with thesis 4): are
concepts the only NSTs? (d) (also in connection with thesis 4): can natural
species and fictional species be distinguished within those NST concepts? (e)
(in connection with theses 3 and 4): why did the Stoics apparently refuse to
assign a common genus to STs and NSTs?

(a) It being my intention to maintain that the concept of NEST was

constructed independently from what was to constitute its extension, it would
have been very much in my interest to discover variants in the descriptions of
that extension that are provided by the texts. However, the hunt for variants
proved disappointing. By calling the four classic incorporeals mentioned in the
texts 'the canonical incorporeals', I am acknowledging this situation and do so
without regret: time, the void, place and the XeKra do indeed constitute a
'canonical' list. The only variant of any importance afforded by our documen-
tation is the list provided by Cleomedes (De mot. circul. p. 16, 2-5 Ziegler) in a
passage not expressly designed to provide it and the text of which is in some
doubt. 5 According to what seems to me the most likely reading, Cleomedes'
list differs from the canonical one in two respects: first, it features 'surface'
(€7TL<f)dv€La) instead of 'place' (TOTTOS); secondly, it is an open-ended list,
comprising an et cetera (erepov n rcov TrapairXrjoLwv). Not much can be made
of the second point; Cleomedes may be thinking of place, which he has
certainly not mentioned, or geometrical limits other than surface (lines,
points), or he may have all these things in mind at once. But the first distinctive
item, which cannot be due to carelessness (for Cleomedes has already declared
elsewhere that surface is an incorporeal, p. 14, 1-2 Ziegler), is useful in that it
draws attention to the difficult problem of the ontological status of surface
and, more generally, of all geometrical limits (Trepara), in the Stoic doctrine.
Limits are sometimes presented as purely reasoned beings, which subsist only
in thought (Proclus. In EucL, p. 89,15-18 = SVF 11.488, FDS 318); but Proclus
also sometimes (mistakenly) presents time, which is a canonical incorporeal,
as 'subsisting only in pure thought' (In Tim. m, p. 95, 7-12 Diehl = SKF11.521,
FDS 716), a fact which renders it difficult to make any use of his testimony on
limits. In other texts, limits are mentioned alongside certain canonical
incorporeals, but in such a way that their being mentioned does not necessarily
imply what their ontological status is: Diogenes Laertius (vii.132) cites them

Cleomedes, seeking to prove the infinity of the extra-cosmic void, here wonders whether that
void could be limited by an incorporeal. But what kind of an incorporeal could that be? In the
Ziegler edition (Leipzig 1891), the following text appears: 77 av ovv ei'77 TOVTO; Xpovos;
*E7n(j)dv€La; AeKreov erepov TL TCOV TrapaTrXiqoiwv; Goulet 1980, p. 186 n. 52, suggests, very
plausibly, that XZKTOV should be read instead of Ae/creov (without, however, pointing out that
XCKTOV is to be found in the L MS, one of the three MSS used by Ziegler, and not the least
important; cf. Ziegler's preface, pp. III-IV). If we accept Ae/crov, an extra question mark
should of course be added after this word, as in Goulet's translation, ibid., p. 92.

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alongside place and the void, but without regrouping the three items under a
common heading; Chrysippus himself (according to Stobaeus 1.142.2-
6 = SVF 11.482, FDS 724) associates surface, line, place, the void and time
under the common heading of 'things that resemble bodies' (ra TOLS oajfjuaaL
TTpoaeoLKora). According to Diogenes Laertius vii.135, Posidonius main-
tained that surface possessed both a mental reality and an objective existence
(KOLL /car' kirivoiav KOX KCLO VTTOOTOLOIV) and this may suggest that his pre-
cursors ascribed to it no more than the status of an ens rationis.
What is certain and is consistent with all this evidence is that, for the Stoics,
limits were not bodies (cf. Plutarch, Comm. not. io8oe = SKF 11.487). But that
negation is compatible with three different ontological statuses: (i) limits could
have the same status as the four canonical incorporeals;6 and in that case they
would either be coordinated with the latter, or subordinated to one of them,
probably place, or might even be identified with place;7 (ii) they might be STs
neither corporeal nor incorporeal, as Long and Sedley, with some hesitation,
admit (1987, pp. 163, 165, 301), which presupposes that the bodies/incorpor-
eals dichotomy does not exhaust the class of STs, a problem that I shall be
examining in section (b); (iii) finally, geometric limits could be considered as
purely mental constructions with no objective reality, that is to say as NSTs.
The most trustworthy sources of testimony concerning the early Stoics do not,
in my opinion, favour (i); and I believe, as will be seen below, that the bodies/
incorporeals dichotomy is exhaustive, the consequence of which is that (ii)
may be excluded. Solution (iii) is the one that seems the most plausible, bearing
in mind the Stoics' fundamentally continuistic conception of the physical
universe. A more specific argument may also be advanced in favour of (iii): if
the Stoics class concepts as NSTs, that is essentially because they are items that
are common or universal (KOLVOL);8 now, geometrical limits are, or may be,
common to several bodies (a surface belonging to at least two bodies, a line
belonging to at least four bodies, a point belonging to at least eight bodies, as
becomes clear when one assembles congruent cubes). That may be a reason for
attributing to them the same ontological status as that of concepts, namely the
status of NST.

(b) Is the division of STs into bodies and incorporeals exhaustive? I believe it to
be so, according to the common interpretation. As noted above, Long and
Sedley are more sceptical. They point out, not without reason, that trichoto-
mies are frequent in Stoic thought (type A, the opposite of type A, neither the
former nor the latter) (1987, pp. 165 and 301). But what could STs be if they
were neither bodies nor incorporeals? Long and Sedley make two suggestions:
(1) they might be geometrical limits; but I have already adduced a number of
reasons for rejecting that idea; (2) they might be 'fictitious entities', such as the
That is the consequence drawn, in polemical fashion, by Plutarch, in the continuation of the
passage cited by SVF; cf. also Brehier 1970, p. 8. Cf. Goulet 1980, p. 186 n. 52.
Cf. Simplicius, In Categ. 105.7-20 = SVF 11.278, FDS 1247.

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Centaurs and Giants mentioned by Seneca in a text (Epist. 58.15) to which I

shall be returning at some length. For that suggestion to be acceptable,
Centaurs and Giants have, of course, to be taken here as fictitious individuals,
not fictitious species, for otherwise they could not pass for STs.9 It is, however,
interesting to note that Seneca speaks of Centaurs and Giants in general
despite the fact that he could quite well have mentioned the Centaur Chiron or
the Giant Atlas. Furthermore, according to at least one testimony, 10 STs can
only be bodies or incorporeals (Kara JJLOVOJV oco/jidToov KOLL docofjudrcov), and
this clearly excludes any third, 'neuter' species of ST. Finally, there undeniably
were some items that the Stoics called 'neither bodies nor incorporeals' but it is
certain (in some cases) or probable (in the rest) that they did not count as STs.
(i) That is certain in respect of concepts. They are neither bodies nor
incorporeals, but NSTs. 11
(ii) It is probable in respect of the 'all' (TO TTOLV), that is to say the combination
constituted by the world and the infinite void which surrounds it, a complex
that is referred to in this way to differentiate it from the universe (TO OXOV),
which consists of only the physical world, without the void (cf. SVF11.522-4).
Plutarch declares explicitly that, according to the Stoics, 'the all is neither a
body nor an incorporeal (OVT€ acofjia TO irdv OUT' dowixaTov eivai Xeyovoiv)'12
But is this all, which is a compound of a finite body and an infinite incorporeal,
a ST? That is a difficult question, for this notion of the 'all' is a nest of
paradoxes (aToirtoTaTov) which Plutarch certainly makes the most of in the
context of the passage cited, in terms that irresistibly call to mind the first
hypothesis in the Parmenides. All the same, in my view, there are good reasons
to deny the status of ST to the all: there is no link, either physical or
conceptual, that can unite the body constituted by the world with the
incorporeal constituted by the void that surrounds it, or that can turn the
combination of the two into an objectively unified totality; the universe (TO
oXov) which in itself does constitute such a totality does not stand in the same
relationship to the all (TO irdv) as a part of the oXov does to the oXov itself.13
Still in this same passage, Plutarch says that the all is infinite, by reason of the
infinity of one of its components, namely the void; and that, as a consequence
of that infinity, it is 'indeterminate and disordered (dopiGTov KCLI araAcrov).' In
his article entitled 'Bits and pieces', J. Barnes draws an apposite comparison
between this Stoic notion of the all and the arbitrarily composed collections
that modern set-theory is prone to evoke, for example a combination such as
That is probably why Long and Sedley (1987), in their commentary, hasten to substitute
Mickey Mouse for Seneca's Centaurs and Giants (p. 164).
Alexander In Top. 359.12-16 = SVF 11.329b, FDS 'jog. According to Long and Sedley 1987, p.
165, this text is 'probably too polemical to carry much weight'. But by how many pages would
their book be shortened if they adopted that criterion in a consistent fashion?
Alexander ibid. On this point, Long and Sedley accept the testimony of Alexander (p. 181).
Plutarch, Comm. not. \oq^D = SVF 11.525.
On the (jL€pos-o\ov relationship, cf. Sextus, M ix.336 = SVF 11.524, FDS 869.

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the Duke of Edinburgh, Pythagoras' Theorem, North Dakota and Roquefort

cheese.14 If, as I suspect, he is right, the Stoic irdv may be considered to be a
purely mental construction, possessing no true unity nor any objective reality
and, accordingly, to be a NST. It is furthermore worth noting that texts
devoted to the distinction between TO TT&V and TO OXOV (SVF 11.522-4) stress
how free one is to consider - or even how arbitrarily one may consider - the
world either 'together with the void' (GVV TCO K€VO>, /xera TOV Kevov), or
'without the void' {xojpls TOV Kevov), The 'all' thus appears as some kind of
ontological monster whose composition depends upon an imaginary (or
fantastical) transgression of the physical and conceptual dividing line between
bodies and incorporeals.
Perhaps this diversion to take in the notion of the 'all' makes it possible
similarly to settle the position of fictitious individuals such as the Centaur
Chiron or Mickey Mouse, that is to say to classify them (despite their apparent
individuality) among the NSTs rather than among the STs that are neither
bodies nor incorporeals (as Long and Sedley do). These authors are certainly
correct when they observe (1987, p. 165) that 'it would be odd to say of Mickey
Mouse either that he is corporeal or that he is incorporeal'. However, that
argument could equally well be used to classify him as a NST rather than a
neutral ST. Despite the fact that he is schematically given an individuality by
his name, his image, his history, his character and so on, Mickey Mouse
nevertheless remains a fictitious monster composed from bits and pieces
borrowed from real men and real mice, a monster which is in many respects
incompletely defined and bound to remain so: for it would be just as odd to say
of Mickey Mouse that he is bigger than a real mouse or not bigger than a real
mouse, that he is more than five years old, or less, etc. If it is the case that a true
individual is altogether individualized (and we are aware of the Stoics'
insistence upon the discernibility of non-identicals, at least in principle), then it
must be said of Mickey Mouse, as of all fictitious individuals, that he is a false
individual, a fiction of an individual, a NST.
Thus none of the candidates proposed to justify the creation of a class of
'neutral' STs (neither corporeal nor incorporeal) seem admissible: neither
geometrical limits, or fictitious individuals.

(c) Are concepts ( e w o ^ a r a ) the only NSTs? My answer to question (b) has
already partly answered this one, for I have suggested that all fictitious
individuals are NSTs. Now I shall try to establish two sub-classes: that of
ivvorujLdTa or universal concepts and that of voovfjueva that are not immedi-
ately conjured up by sensible experience.
We possess several texts which provide a classification for voov^eva (a term
which might be translated, in the most neutral way possible, by the expression
'items conceived'), a classification which is based upon the mode of their
Barnes 1982/3, p. 250.

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formation. The texts vary in value and credibility: Diogenes Laertius vii.52-3
( = SVF 11.87, FDS 2 55) i s particularly disorganized; Sextus Empiricus M vm
56ff. ( = SVF 11.88, FDS 279) is incomplete; M m.40, which is both well-
organized and complete, is not to be found in either SVF or FDS; Mix.393-5,
which is very close to the latter, is no more than mentioned in SVF 11.88.
By and large, what all these various texts say is that items that are conceived
include some that stem directly from sensible experience (a77o alodrjoecos, OLTTO
TTepnTToooeoos), whilst others are produced by a number of different mental
operations (augmentation, diminution, assimilation, composition, transfer-
ence, etc.) carried out upon the material constituted by those 'conceived
items'. 15 It is important, though difficult, to understand whether these
voovjxeva of various kinds are particular (even fictitiously, as Mickey Mouse
is) or universal.
So far as the voovfjueva Kara TT€PLTTTO)GLV are concerned, the texts that we
possess are tantalizingly obscure. The only examples that Diogenes Laertius
VII.53 provides are things that are sensibly perceptible, ra alcdrjrd; Sextus
Empiricus, M 111.40 and ix.394, speaks of the white and the black, the sweet
and the bitter, that is to say simple sensible qualities, but does not make clear
whether these represent classes of qualities or particular samples of those
As regards other classes of voov^eva, some examples, even if expressed in
the singular (the Cyclops, the hippocentaur, the pygmy) may be interpreted
equally well as the names of species or of individuals; but other examples
indisputably are individuals (the Giant Tityos, Diog. Laert. vn.53) and some
are individualized by the context (thus Sextus, at Mm.42, is certainly referring,
not to the cyclops in general, but to the individual Cyclops described by
Homer, Od. ix.191, that is to say Polyphemus). In fact, in Sextus, these
examples are set upon the same level as Socrates, the prototypical example of
an individual, as conceived through his resemblance to his portrait as
perceived. It is also worth noting that, amongst the various operations that
produce non-immediate voovfjueva, no mention is made of any that relate in
some way to a generalization or abstraction: that remarkable absence perhaps
supports the idea that, at least in its original sense, the Stoic notion of the
voovfjL€vov is not that of a universal.
This conclusion, reached through an analysis of fabricated or fictitious
voov/jueva, may perhaps be retrospectively extended to cover voov/jieva that are
produced immediately by sensible experience, those which constitute the
primary material for the various operations of fiction: if the initial voov^eva
were not particulars, it is hard to see how derived voov^eva could be. Sextus, it
is true, says that in order to conceive of the Cyclops or the pygmy, one has
mentally to increase or diminish the size of a KOIVOS avdpcorros (M 111.42, vm
59-60); but whether or not what he means by that is Universal Man, whom he
It is in the first of the texts cited by Sextus Empiricus that the following sentence appears: ovhiv
ioriv €vp€LV tear €7TLVOLCLV o fjLTj €^€i TLS OLVTO) /caret TTepLTTTcooiv iyvojofxevov. It is clearly the
source of the famous Nihil est in intellectu, quod non fuerit primum in sensu.

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has not mentioned in the context of that expression, remains unclear. At M

ix.395, he says more specifically that augmentation takes place ano rod opdv
TOV KOIVOV Kara jjueyedos avOpcoTrov KOLL VTTOTTLTTTOVTCL, which shows that what
he has in mind is not intelligible man, but ordinary man, as perceptible when
seen. It may be concluded that, according to him, it is not conceptually
necessary to have seen more than a single man in order to be able to imagine a
If my analysis of the ontological status of Mickey Mouse and others like
him, in the Stoic system, is correct, the NST category may be extended to
include a whole class of items which are not universal kworniara but particular
voovfjueva or, to be more precise, quasi-particular, fictitiously particular. It
comes as no surprise to find these two classes coexisting within the NST
category for, as we shall see in more detail when we come to examine the Stoic
position regarding the Platonic Forms, Plato's Universal Man is considered by
the Stoics to be a 'quasi-individual', a 'mental construction composed on the
basis of the experience that we have of individual men who exist prior to that
construction, which is one that corresponds to nothing in reality and is highly
suspect since it tends to encourage us to make the logical mistake of treating
that Universal Man as if he were himself a special kind of individual.' 16 The
Universal Man (whom D.N. Sedley appositely likens to the statisticians'
'Average Man' who is the father of 2.4 children) 17 is thus a 'figment of the
soul' 18 who is every bit as unreal as Polyphemus or Mickey Mouse.

(d) As we have seen from the texts, the domain of fiction contains not only
individuals or quasi-individuals, but also species or quasi-species such as those
of the Centaurs, the Giants and other frequently mentioned mythological
species. Their status as NSTs, within the framework of the standard TSG
doctrine, can, naturally, be in no doubt: composed as they are of quasi-
individuals which are themselves NSTs, these fictitious species could even be
considered to be NSTs to the power of two.
But this situation simply renders the question that I should now like to raise
even more acute. The question is this: did the Stoics find means to distinguish
between the ontological status of natural species, such as man and horse, from
that of fictitious species such as cyclops and centaur? In reducing the ewoiqixa
of man to a 'figment of the soul', did not they use up the lowest shelf in their
ontological cupboard and thus find themselves obliged to stack the iworjfjLa of
the centaur on that same shelf, despite the differences that those two
ivvorjfjLara seem to present?
To resolve that difficulty, it seems that we must distinguish between three

These expressions are borrowed from D.N. Sedley's remarkable article (1985), now summar-
ized in Long and Sedley 1987, vol. 1, pp. 181-3.1 owe a great deal to this article, even in relation
to the points on which my own views differ from those of the author.
Cf. Sedley 1985, p. 88; Long and Sedley 1987, p. 181.
Cf. Stobaeus, Eclogae 1, p. 136, 21 Wachsmuth = SKF 1.65, FDS 316; Aetius, Placita
iv. 11 = SVF 11.83, FDS 277.

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levels: that of items conceived or voov/jieva, that of conceptions or cWoicu, and

that of concepts or ivvornjuara.
At the level of items conceived, if we accept the analysis that I have given
above, we are dealing only with individuals or quasi-individuals; the difference
between an individual man and an individual cyclops is basically absolutely
clear, in that the former is conceived immediately through direct experience
(Kara TrepLirroooiv), while the latter is conceived through mediation, by
various mental operations (increasing the size, decreasing the number of eyes,
shifting the sole eye to the middle of the forehead, and so on).
Conceptions (evvoiat) differ both from voovfjueva and from evvor^xara. I
think that they differ from voovfjueva in that they possess a universal character
that voovjjueva lack: the prefix iv- seems to serve to indicate that they are
somehow stored in the soul, starting from a multiplicity of individual
voovfjieva;19 Also, they differ from kvvo^ara in that they constitute a species
of </>avracria, not a species of </>avraa/xa;20 on that account, they are corporeal
modifications of the corporeal soul. They are not the inert contents of thought,
but rather constitute dispositions for thinking and speaking correctly. As A. A.
Long so nicely puts it, 'to have the evvoia of man is to be able to complete a
statement of the following form correctly: 'if something is a man, then it
is .. .'. 21 On this level, there is a perfectly clear difference between conceptions
that correspond to real species and conceptions that correspond to fictitious
species. The type of ability to which A. A. Long's statement refers can no doubt
be acquired where it is a matter of dealing with centaurs, just as it can where it
is a matter of dealing with men, but not in the same fashion: the evvoia of a man
is formed in the rational soul as a result of one's living in the natural world,
that of a centaur as a result of one's reading myths and looking at paintings.
The difference that, at the level of voov\xeva, distinguishes items that are
conceived through direct experience (Kara TrepiTTrajoiv) from those that are
not is, at the level of evvoiai, mirrored in the difference that distinguishes
between conceptions formed naturally in us without the intervention of any
artifice (^VOIKOJS KOLL aveTTirexv-qrcos) and those that are due to teaching and
culture (Si' rj/jierepas SiSaoKaAias KCLI eTTifieXeias).22 This difference suffices to
explain how it is that the Stoics gave a special name, to wit TTpoXrfifje is, to the
former type of conceptions and ascribed to them an epistemological value of
the highest grade. 23
Cf. €vaTfoypd(j)€raL in Aetius, Placita iv.11 ( = SVF 11.83, FDS 2ll), a n d the correction
(iv}a7T0K€i[jL€vas proposed by Pohlenz and a d o p t e d by Cherniss in his edition of Plutarch,
Comm. not. 1085A ( = SVF 11.847, FDS 281). Cf. also [Galen,] Def. med. 126 ( = SVF 11.89, FDS
271), where Pearson {Classical Review 19, 1905, p . 457), also with H. Cherniss's approval,
proposes reading evvoia instead of enivoia.
Cf. Plutarch, Comm. not. io84F = 5 ^ 1 1 . 8 4 7 , FDS 281.
L o n g 1971, p . 113 n. 120. O n the ontological a n d epistemological status of the eWoia, cf. also
Sedley 1985, p. 88. Aetius, Placita 1v.11 = S F F 11.83, FDS 277.
Chrysippus, assailed by the polemics of his o p p o n e n t s , had especially devoted his attention to
this question (cf. Plutarch, Comm. not. io$<)B = SVF 11.33, FDS 301); he had p r o m o t e d the
irpoXiqifjis to the rank of a criterion of the truth (Diogenes Laertius v n . 5 4 = SKF11.105, FDS

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Natural species and fictitious species are thus clearly differentiated at the
level of their basic ingredients, the voov/jueva whether immediate or mediated,
and also at the level of the psychic dispositions which control their conceptual
content, the natural or cultural eVvoicu. There is no major problem about it no
longer being possible to differentiate them at the level of kwo^ara, which are
internal objects or, if you prefer, the intentional objects of the eWoicu.24 That
lack of differentiation should not be considered as a regrettable lacuna or as a
defect in the systematization of Stoic concepts: on the contrary, it is a desired
and accepted consequence of the theory. Universal Man, a phantom-object
created in our imagination by our noetic activity, is a chimaera just as much
and for the same reasons as the universal centaur is.
Having completed the above analysis, I think we are in a position to
complete the right-hand side of the table shown on p. 93, as follows:

Not something
1 .
I 77. I
Concepts Fictitious Individuals
I 1
Natural Artificial
(real species) (fictitious species)

I have not included in this table two items to which my analyses led me,
incidentally, to attribute the status of NST: the all and geometrical limits. If
challenged to do so, I should assign the all, without hesitation, to the class of
fictitious individuals; and geometrical limits - with a degree of hesitation - to
the class of natural concepts.

(e) It would be quite natural to seek also to complete our table at the top, by
ascribing a common genus to STs and NSTs. Although some thinkers, both
ancient and modern, have been swayed by the temptation to do so, I believe it
better to resist it. No text tries to subsume STs and NSTs into a common
genus, nor does any propose a name for such a common genus. On the
contrary, by insistently presenting the ri as the supreme genus (yevLKcorarov),
the texts implicitly reject the idea of a genus which, incorporating both STs and
NSTs, would be superior even to the TL and would alone merit the name of
supreme genus. The Stoics, much to the horror of some of their opponents,
thought that incorporeals and bodies shared enough in common to be
subsumed into a single genus, that of STs; however, they appear to have

Cf. the excellent remarks of Sedley 1985, pp. 88-9: 'For the Stoics, it is not conceptions, ennoiai,
that correspond to Platonic Forms, but the objects of ennoiai, which they distinguish by a
change of grammatical termination as ennoemata, or "concepts". After all, the universal man
is not identical with my generic thought of man: he is what I am thinking about when I have
that thought.' Cf. also Long and Sedley, ibid., p. 182.

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rejected the idea that STs and NSTs shared correspondingly common
properties. It will be easier to understand the reasons for that rejection if we
examine the candidates that have been suggested as occupants of the position
of a common genus to include both STs and NSTs.
Some modern commentators have put forward the idea of the voov^evov25
giving this word the extremely wide sense of a possible object for thought and,
accordingly, also for discourse: STs and NSTs are both conceivable and
nameable. However, if my remarks about the Stoic notion of the voov^evov are
correct, it is immediately possible to see why that suggestion is not acceptable:
given that this notion, in the first instance at least, applies only to items that are
really or fictionally individual, it could not subsume NSTs of a universal type

Another interesting candidate was proposed, in a polemical spirit, by

Alexander of Aphrodisias, 26 namely the One. According to the Commenta-
tor, the Aristotelian theory of the Topics authorizes a refutation of the TSG
doctrine. He points out that if the ri is the genus of all things, it must be the
genus of the One and must accordingly possess an extension equal to or greater
than that of the One. But the One can refer also to a concept, which is neither a
body nor an incorporeal, whereas the TL refers only to bodies and incorporeals.
What is worth noting in this critique is that it draws attention to the interesting
fact that the Stoics set up a contrast between a something and, not a nothing
(which, so far as I know, is used in Greek only in the singular), but a not
something.21 They thereby reserved the possibility of using their two terms in
the plural (rtva, OVTLVOL) as well as in the singular (rt, OVTL). But more
fundamentally, it seems reasonable to suppose that the Stoics would have
rejected the objection on the basis of the following argument: some NSTs, at
least, are arbitrary constructions and, as such, there is no criterion of unity and
identity that can be formally applied to them. Now, such a criterion would
clearly be required for the One to be accepted as the common genus of STs and
NSTs. After all, NSTs are 'figments of the soul'; they have no reality outside
the mind, and the prototypes of those figments are dreams and hallucinations
or - to be more precise - for Chrysippus, they are the hallucinations of Orestes
in the grip of his madness. 28 And who can say whether the Erinyes that he
believes he sees are really three in number, or whether there is just one that he is
seeing in triplicate? Who can say whether the Erinyes that he thinks he sees on
one day are the same that he thought he saw the day before? There is no answer
to these questions or to others like them and they make it possible for us to
understand why the Stoics could never have accepted Alexander's suggestion.

Cf. Rieth 1933, p . 90; H a d o t 1968, vol. 1, p . 162 n. 1.
Alexander, In Top. 3 5 9 . I 2 = S K F I I . 3 2 9 B , FDS jog.
As Sedley (1985) has pointed out, p . 87.
Cf. Aetius, Placita IV.I2.1 = S K F 11.54, FDS 268.

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Following the above observations of a structural nature, I shall now approach
the TSG doctrine from a developmental and, in the first instance, a chrono-
logical point of view. On a philosophical level, chronological considerations
are not necessarily decisive. Nevertheless, it is certain that if there were good
reasons to believe that the Stoics initially professed a theory that attributed to
the existent the rank of supreme genus, and only at a more or less later date
came to replace the existent by the something in the position of supreme genus,
we should have good reasons to regard that substitution as a defensive
strategy, rendered necessary by the difficulties raised by the original doctrine in
conjunction with the other dogmas to which the Stoic School was attached.
The TSG doctrine would then take on the aspect of a made-to-measure, not to
say ad hoc theoretical asylum, designed to provide a refuge for realities for
which it was difficult to find a place in the initial ontological construction. In
this respect, it matters little whether the correction was made at one moment
rather than another in the history of the Stoic School, or whether the idea of
doing so should be credited to any particular Stoic master: it is the chronologi-
cal schema that interests us (the temporal topology, so to speak), not, strictly
speaking, the problems of historical dating.
Certainly, the historical schema suggested by Zeller a long time ago29 seems
to have exerted a considerable philosophical influence even upon more recent
historians of Stoicism, who no longer accept that schema. According to Zeller,
the earliest Stoics adopted the ESG doctrine. Later, possibly as early as
Chrysippus, that doctrine was supplanted by the TSG doctrine, under
pressure from the fact that 'many of our ideas refer to incorporeal and unreal
objects'. According to Zeller, two traces of the original doctrine survived: a
passage in Diogenes Laertius (VII.6I) and Seneca's Letter 58. Ever since Zeller,
all the historians who have tackled this problem have felt in duty bound to
study those two texts, and most of them have tried, in one more or less
laborious way or another, to diminish their value as evidence for Zeller's
Before embarking upon my own examination of those texts, I should like to
point out that other passages also exist which might equally appear to provide
evidence pointing to a late introduction of the TSG doctrine: some, indeed,
have been used for that purpose by A. Schmekel,30 who tried to show that the
date of the appearance of this doctrine was even later than Zeller believed, and
attributed it to Antipater. However, these texts have disappeared from more
recent discussions and there is, I believe, no reason to regret that, since they
were of no fundamental value anyway. But it is on that very account that it is
worth devoting some attention to these past episodes in the history of our
problem: by dint of understanding how and why some of the positions
29 30
Cf. Zeller 1904, vol. m . i . i , pp. 94(~5) n. 2. Schmekel 1938, p. 627 n. 1.

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defended by supporters of the late introduction of the TSG doctrine have been
swept aside, apparently once and for all, we shall perhaps discover motives and
means to address ourselves, with more energy and chance of success, to the
remaining bastions which still appear to offer some resistance, namely the two
texts invoked by Zeller.

(a) Schmekel attached importance, for example, to the fact that the most
ancient evidence concerning the TSG doctrine, namely a text by Philo of
Alexandria, is already far removed from the origins of Stoicism.31 However,
what does this text tell us? Philo declares, making no particular reference to the
Stoics, that a 'something' is 'the most general of existents (TO yevtKcorarov rcbv
6VTOJV)\ It is immediately evident that this formula does not represent the TSG
doctrine at all, since it altogether passes over the latter's most salient
characteristic, namely that the generality of the ST is superior to that of the E.
Far from testifying to the lateness of the TSG doctrine, this text seems rather to
indicate that, by Philo's day, the doctrine was old enough to have been affected
by serious distortions. In another passage, 32 not actually cited by Schmekel,
Philo appears to be equally ill-informed about the specific characteristics of
the TSG doctrine, as indeed about those of Stoic thought in general: he
attributes, not to the Stoics, but to 'the entire chorus of philosophers', a
general division of existents (ovra) into bodies and incorporeals, the latter
being in turn subdivided (albeit with serious lacunae) 33 into terms that are
manifestly borrowed from some handbook of Stoic dialectics. Another
example of a similar type of confusion is provided by a scholium to Aristotle's
Categories** which lists 'the three most universal homonyms', namely the
one, the existent and the something, associating them respectively with Plato,
Aristotle and the Stoics. But the scholiast betrays his total incomprehension
not only in respect of the three doctrines that he is comparing (as can be seen
from his indiscriminate use of the term 'homonym', which is correct only in the
case of Aristotle and, even there, only taking account of the well-known
reservations), but also in respect of the originality of Stoicism, for according to
him each of these three terms refers, in each of the three cited philosophies, 'to
all existents (Kara TTOLVTOOV . . . rcov ovrcov). It would clearly be foolish to expect
texts such as these, which blithely confuse the TSG doctrine with the ESG
doctrine, to provide us with any useful information concerning the historical
order in which those doctrines appeared.
But Schmekel tried to go one better: he thought that he had discovered, in
Sextus Empiricus, proof not only that the TSG doctrine had only been
professed by some Stoics, but also that, on the question of the supreme genus,

Philo of Alexandria, Leg. alleg. 111.175 = 5 ^ 1 1 . 3 3 4 , FDS 714.
Id. Deagr. 139-41 = SVF 11.182, FDS 695.
H e thus divides u p the incorporeals as if they were purely and simply confused with the Aexrra;
time, place and the void are not mentioned at all.
3 4 b 8 - n Brandis = SKiMi.333, FDS j 13.

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the other Stoics certainly professed the ESG doctrine. Upon examining his
reasoning more closely, however, one unfortunately perceives that the first
part of his thesis rests upon a sophism of the crudest kind: one after another, he
refers to a whole collection of passages in Sextus, in which the author mentions
the TSG doctrine, attributing it now to 'certain people' (PH 11.223), now to the
'Stoics' (Mx.218, 234, xi.224), now even to public rumour (PH 11.86, (fraocv)
and he coolly concludes that Sextus attributes the doctrine only to 'certain
Stoics'. 35
As for signs that other Stoics may have adopted the ESG doctrine,
Schmekel discerns these in a single passage of Sextus (M vm.32), in which the
author examines a Sceptic aporia concerning truth. According to the text
unanimously established by the MSS, this aporia rests upon 'the supreme genus,
the existent (and TOV yevLKcordrov TOV OVTOS)''. This, Sextus goes on to say, 'is
the genus which is positioned above all others and which is not itself
subordinated to any other (TOVTL yap TTOLVTOOV fjuev eoriv errava^e^rjKos yevos",
avro Se ovSevl erepco vTreoraAKev).' As Schmekel points out, these formulae
are undeniably very close to those used by Seneca to describe the quod est
(= 6V), to which, as we shall see, he attributes the status of the supreme
genus. 36 But there are, after all, not that many different ways of describing the
notion of the supreme genus and none is organically linked with the adoption
of any particular term to take that role. How is it, though, that since the time of
Schmekel, this passage from Sextus has not attracted the attention of
historians of Stoicism? Probably the answer to that is, in the first place, that it
does not actually mention the Stoics and, no doubt for that reason, does not
feature in SVF.31 Secondly (with the exception of Mutschmann), modern
editors of Sextus have corrected the text of the MSS, the end result of their
emendations being to align this text with those that do attribute the TSG
doctrine to the Stoics.
Are there good reasons to accept one or other of the proposed corrections,
despite the legitimate suspicion always attached to the elimination of anoma-
lies and operations designed to bring texts into line? I think that there are, in
the first place because the text of the MSS has a somewhat bizarre air 38 and
secondly - and above all - because the aporia revealed here by Sextus is exactly
identical to the one that he indicates elsewhere (PH 11.86), in that case in
connection with the 'something', 'which is, it is said, the highest genus of all (TO
rt, oTrep (ftaalv elvai TTOLVTOJV yevLKCOTarov)'. There can be no doubt that the
parallel techniques adopted demand that these two texts should be set
alongside each other. Furthermore, since everywhere else Sextus only ever
refers to the supreme genus in order to ascribe that position to the ST, 39 we
A. Schmekel 1938, p p . 622-3.
Cf. Seneca, Epist. 58.12: Mud genus 'quod est' gener ale, supra se nihil habet, initium rerum est,
omnia sub Mo sunt.
FDS makes just one reference to it, in the commentary o n fragment 718.
The position of the two words TOV OVTOS perhaps suggests an interpolated gloss.
Cf. the passages cited above, n. 1.

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may rest assured that the text of M should be brought into line with that of PH,
rather than the reverse.
Once the principle of the correction is accepted, there are plenty of ways in
which to render that correction in a plausible manner. The simplest is that
suggested in Heintz,40 followed by Bury: it consists in ridding the text of the
two words rod OVTOS, and not replacing them with anything at all.41 This was a
correction that was so successful that it eventually managed to be forgotten -
which is, without doubt, the happiest fate that any correction can hope for: M
VIII.32 is nowadays cited, in all good faith, either as a text that speaks of the
supreme genus without specifying what it is,42 or even as one that testifies, as
do so many others, to Sextus' familiarity with the TSG doctrine.43 That is how
it has come about that this passage which, given its literal form in the MSS and
the use that Schmekel made of that, ought to have been discussed by all those
who regard the TSG as the doctrine common to all Stoics, has been quite
simply eliminated from the most recent discussions.

(b) I must confess that I would be delighted if the two stumbling-blocks

constructed by Zeller succumbed to the same fate, instead of forever continu-
ing to giveriseto knotted commentaries and more or less tortuous attempts to
skirt around the obstacles that they appear to constitute. In my opinion, there
is no need to skirt around those obstacles for the very good reason that they
can be demolished.
First, let us take the simpler case, that of Diogenes Laertius VII.6I, in which,
in present-day editions, the following statement occurs: The supreme genus is
anything that is a genus without having a genus, such as the existent
(yeviKcoTCLTOv 8e eonv o yevos ov yevos OVK €X6t> olov TO 6V).' There can be no
doubt that, if this statement were taken literally, it would testify that the ESG
doctrine could still, even at a relatively late date, be slipped into some or other
handbook of Stoic logic, in the form of an example or illustration provided in
passing; and such a situation would be bound to affect any assessment of the
date of birth of the TSG doctrine. In fact, though, that statement belongs to a
relatively unified sequence of definitions which all relate to the vocabulary of
definition and division. By reason of its technical character, that sequence
certainly seems to belong to a phase of evolution in the Stoic School which
cannot have been the very first: the authors cited are Chrysippus and Stoics
later than him, such as Antipater and Crinis.44 We know, furthermore (from
Cf. Heintz 1932, adloc.
A m o r e complex and elegant solution was proposed by Kayser in 1850; namely, to read ano
rov yevLKtoTOLTov [TOV] OVTOS, and to correct TOVTL, in the next sentence, to TO TI.
42 43
Cf. Hiilser, c o m m e n t a r y to FDS 718. Cf. Long 1971, p . 110 nn. 61 and 63.
T h e notions defined in this sequence are the following: opos (here in the sense of 'definition',
not that of 'term', pace Hicks adloc, cf. Alexander, In Top. 42.27 = SVFn. 228, m Antip. 24,
FDS 628; the text provides two definitions of this term, one borrowed from Antipater, the
other from Chrysippus), viroypafyr) (two a n o n y m o u s definitions), yevos (one a n o n y m o u s
definition, as in the cases of all the terms that follow, except the last), ivvorjixa, €L8OS, 8iaip€cns,
avTidiaipecns, vTroStaipeoLS, fji€pLOfj,6s (definition borrowed from Crinis). Only the definition

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Diogenes Laertius vn.41-2), that the theory of definition (TO opiKov elSos) was
not an essential part of Stoic logic in its earliest versions: some writers had
added it to the traditional divisions of logic (namely rhetoric and dialectic),
while others rejected that addition or subordinated this theory of definition to
one or another chapter of dialectic.45
In order not to have to draw the obvious conclusion that the statement
would force if it possessed an unquestionable authenticity, many recent
historians have suggested complicated and - to my mind, at least - pointlessly
subtle interpretations of it. 46 I hope I may be excused for examining them in
detail. I would simply like to observe that the literal meaning of the text is not
sufficiently well attested here to warrant its being treated with such protective
zeal. In the absence of any completely trustworthy critical edition of Diogenes
Laertius, admittedly, the most that one can do is reluctantly note the
considerable divergences that exist between the critical apparatuses to the
various available editions. If we accept the information provided by U. Egli,
whose interpretations are in this instance backed by the authority of P. von der
Muhll, 47 the reading olov TO OV is not to be found in any of the principal MSS of
Diogenes. B gives olov TOV, P gives olov TOV (sic, no accent), a reading which
has been condemned by a later hand; and F gives nothing at all, which leaves

of the ivvorjfxa, in psychological and ontological terms, stands out in this list of definitional
terms, but it m a y be regarded as an insertion, p r o m p t e d by the occurrence of the word evvoiq^a
in the definition of the yivos (as it is by Mansfeld 1986, p . 367). A p a r t from that exception, the
list is perfectly unified by its subject matter a n d clearly stands out from the rest of the context. It
is preceded by a definition of the Troir^^xa borrowed from Posidonius' flepl Ac£ecos" etcraycoyTJ,
a n d is followed by a definition of the d/x<^ij8oAia as a variety of the Aef t? which may be
borrowed from the same source (as Egli believes (1967, p p . 13 and 18)). It would be tempting to
attribute it to a single a u t h o r , were it not for the n u m b e r of sources mentioned. J. von Arnim,
SVF 11.226, 228, in A n t i p . 23, 24, attributes to Antipater and Chrysippus themselves their
respective definitions of the opos; and to Antipater the two definitions of the closely related
idea oiviroypaufrr), without attempting to dissociate them (SVF m A n t i p , 23). As for the yivos-
fjLepLOfJLos sequence, he attributes the whole of it to Diogenes of Babylonia, as a guess at least
(SVFn Diog. 25). Pohlenz (1967, p . 363 n. 5) criticizes that suggestion, probably on account of
the mention of Crinis which accompanies the last definition in the sequence, that of the
IJiepLOfjLos; perhaps that is also why Egli (1967, p p . 17-18) prefers to attribute the sequence in its
entirety to that same Crinis. Again as a guess, one might suggest picking out two sub-sequences
in this passage: the first, u p to and including the definition of the Siaipeois, takes its examples
from the d o m a i n of natural species, such as 'animal' or ' m a n ' ; the second, which introduces
refinements by distinguishing sub-species in the division {avTihiaiptois, VTT oh ialpea is and
fjuepLGfJios) takes its examples from the field of goods and evils. It could thus be argued that the
two sub-sequences come from different sources: the second might well come from Crinis, who
is n a m e d at the end of it. T h e first might come from a different source, perhaps Antipater or
Chrysippus, b o t h of w h o m are n a m e d at the beginning.
Those w h o proposed such an addition justified it by declaring that the theory of definition
contributed towards recognition of the truth: hia yap rwv evvoitov ra Trpay\xara Xafju^dverai
(Diogenes Laertius vii.42). It is tempting to attribute b o t h the new idea and the argument to
Chrysippus, in the first place because the dialetical-rhetorical pair seems to be strongly
structured in Zeno (SVF1.J5) and in Cleanthes (SVF1.4S2), and secondly because Chrysippus,
as I have already pointed out, had introduced the TTpoXrji/jis, which he defined as evvoia <f>voiKr)
TCOV KCLOOXOV, into the list of criteria of the t r u t h (Diogenes Laertius vn.54).
Cf. Rieth 1933, p. 90; Pohlenz 1967, p. 121 n. 5; Goldschmidt 1977, p p . 13-14 n. 5; Rist 1971,
p. 42. Cf. Egli 1967, p. 7.

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the notion of the supreme genus bereft of examples. A later hand has made
good this apparent lacuna by adding in the margin what has become the
traditional reading, otov TO 6V. AS can be seen, this reading, which passed into
modern editions after being adopted by Menage, on the basis of Aldobrandi-
ni's translation, cannot really boast a very impressive pedigree. And there are
hardly any serious objections to U. Egli's rather cautious suggestion of olov TO
TL (1967, p. 8), nor even to K. Hulser {FDS 621), who baldly prints that reading
with no indication at all that it is based upon any more than conjecture. Even if
Hiilser's solution may seem somewhat cavalier, the fact remains that the
embarrassing otov TO 6V reading does not deserve the excessive respect that has
been accorded to it by treating it to the most refined of exegeses. I will take the
liberty of dismissing it more forthrightly.

(c) The difficulties presented by Seneca's Letter 58 are more complex. In the
first instance, they may be summarized as follows: in this letter, Seneca takes
over a version of the ESG in which the existent or 'what is' {quod est) is
expressly presented as the genus common to both bodies and incorporeals
(14); the latter, represented by two of the canonical incorporeals, namely the
void and time (22), are described as 'quasi-existents' {quae quasi sunt), which is
no doubt the reason why this doctrine assumes justification in classifying them
within the supreme genus of quod est. Elsewhere in this same letter (13), Seneca
attributes to 'the Stoics' the introduction of a supreme genus above even the
'existent'; but, in an apparently contradictory fashion, he attributes to only
'certain Stoics' {quibusdam Stoicis) (15) the identification of that supreme
genus with the 'something' {quid) (15). When it comes to illustrating the class
of NEST, these Stoics refer not to the School's canonical incorporeals but to
fictitious entities such as Centaurs, Giants and other mythical creatures
(although the text does not specify whether these fictitious beings are here
considered as individuals or as species; yet, as I have already had occasion to
remark, there was nothing to stop Seneca speaking of the Centaur Chiron or
the Giant Atlas, had he wished to do so).
Do these data help us to form some idea of the evolution of the theory of the
supreme genus in the history of Stoicism? If we are to make use of them with
confidence, we must replace all the information that Seneca provides within
the context of his Letter, which is presented essentially as an account of Plato's
ontology. 48 Seneca declares that he has just been discussing Plato with a
scholarly friend (8). The conversation once again brought home to him the
poverty of Latin philosophical vocabulary. To render the vocabulum TO 6V, the
only translation that he can suggest is one using a verbum, to wit quod est, a
translation with which he is not altogether satisfied (7). According to his
scholarly friend, Plato himself uses the term TO 6V in six different ways, to refer
to six distinct entities or classes of entities (8,16). However, before expounding
As such, it has been much studied (as has Letter 65) by historians of Middle Platonism: cf. for
example Theiler 1930, p. 11; Hadot 1968, vol. 1, p. 156; Dillon 1977, p. 135.

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the comments of his friend to Lucilius (8), Seneca embarks upon a longish
parenthesis (8-16), in which he sets out for his correspondent, this time in his
own name, the notions of genus, species and supreme genus. As this
parenthesis develops, it first (8-12) provides a list of species and genera in
ascending order of magnitude, starting with species of animals and ending
with quodest, the first and supreme genus, which is reached by rising above the
most all-encompassing division, that between bodies and incorporeals. Seneca
provides no illustration of the class of incorporeals, so it is not possible to tell
whether he is thinking of the canonical incorporeals of Stoicism, nor whether
he speaks here as a Stoic. It is, on the other hand, worth noting that he certainly
does not present this as a Platonic classification.49 He cites Aristotle as
guarantor of the expression homo species est (9), and his use of the first person
is quite insistent.50
The first mention of the Stoics (Stoici, taken as a whole) appears at the end
of this first part of the parenthesis (13). Seneca declares that, in contrast to the
partisans of the ESG doctrine, in the form in which he has just set it out, the
Stoics wish to superpose upon the quod est another genus that is even higher
(magis principale); but he does not immediately name this rival to the quodest.
Opening another parenthesis within the major one, he promises to come back
to it in a moment (statim), as soon as he has proved that he himself was right to
place in the supreme position the genus that he has just mentioned, namely the
quod est (de quo statim dicam, si prius Mud genus, de quo locutus sum, merito
primumponi docuero, cum sit rerum omnium capax). In other words, the Stoics'
common doctrine concerning the supreme genus will be set out only once it has
been shown to be false and that there is no valid reason to unseat the quod est
from its position as supreme genus, as it has been recognized in the preceding
Seneca has thus committed himself to two promises, which he undertakes to
keep in a somewhat surprising order: (a) first to criticize the Stoic doctrine of
the supreme genus and (b) then to set it out. Promise (b) is in effect kept in
paragraph 15, so the only possible place for promise (a) to be kept is paragraph
14. In fact, though, the contents of paragraph 14 hardly rate as a delivery on
his promise. In it, Seneca contents himself with once more running through,
this time in reverse order, the series of genera and species set out in ascending
order in 9-12. This time he starts with the quod est, which is immediately
subdivided into bodies and incorporeals, and gradually works his way down to
the animal species. In other words, Seneca simply reaffirms that incorporeals
are a species of the quod est, although that was precisely what he earlier
promised to prove {merito poni docuero, 13). Only such a demonstration would
have made it possible to establish, in opposition to the Stoic thesis, that it was
pointless to go seeking the supreme genus above and beyond the quodest. The
failure to keep that promise constitutes the first anomaly in this text.

49 50
Pace Rist 1971, p. 42. Cf. 9 rettuli, 10 sic dividam, 11 inposuimus, ut dicamus.

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On the other hand, it cannot be said that promise (b) is not kept. Yet the way
in which it is kept is disconcerting; and this constitutes the text's second
anomaly. As we have seen, Seneca declared that he would be speaking of the
Stoic theory of the supreme genus which is superior to the quod est. By
paragraph 15 he is already speaking only of 'certain Stoics' {quibusdam
Stoicis). And the arguments and doctrines that he attributes to this particular
group of Stoics are as follows:
in their opinion, the first genus is the 'something' (quid). I will explain to you the
reason for their holding this opinion. They say that in nature there are things that
are (quaedam suni) and things that are not (quaedam non sunt): and even those
that are not are incorporated in nature. These are things that present themselves
to the mind (quae animo succurruni), such as Centaurs, Giants and all that,
having issued from false thinking (falsa cogitatione formatum), ended up by
taking on some imagistic consistency (habere aliquant imaginem coepit), despite
having no existence (quamvis non habeat substantiam).

It should be pointed out, without more ado, that Seneca provides not one
word of commentary or criticism on the subject of this exposition.
Before trying to account for the two anomalies that we have noticed in the
unfolding of this text, we should note a salient feature in the development that
follows. Having concluded the major parenthesis which began in paragraph 8,
Seneca returns (16) to the account that he earlier promised to give of Plato's
ontology in six parts. Having listed in turn the universal intelligence, God,
paradigmatic ideas and immanent forms, he comes (at 22) to the 'fifth genus',
that of things which are 'in the ordinary sense of the term' (at least, that is what
I understand the term communiter to mean). He then remarks: 'These are
things that are beginning to concern us' (haec incipiunt ad no s per finer e). What
is the meaning of that nosl It might be thought to refer simply to ordinary man
who, hearing familiar existents such as 'men, animals, things' mentioned,
comes down from the Platonic heights and begins to find himself on familiar
ground. But it seems more likely still that Seneca is here establishing a link with
the classification of existents that he himself, on his own account, set out in the
major parenthesis (8-16): with those few words, he indicates that, for the first
time, one of the divisions in the Platonic series coincides with one of the
divisions in his own series, namely that of bodies. If this convergence between
the two series 'begins' to manifest itself at the level of bodies, we may expect to
find it continuing at the next level; and that is indeed exactly what happens, for
the sixth 'Platonic' genus consists of the 'quasi-existents' (quae quasi suni), the
void and time being given as examples (22). This class manifestly coincides
with that of the incorporeals, that is to say with the second species of the quod
est in the classification that Seneca himself adopts.
The indications provided by paragraph 22 thus teach us two things. In the
first place, they make it possible to reconstitute the critique that Seneca
directed against the Stoic theory of the supreme genus. As we have seen, that

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critique was promised in paragraph 13, but did not appear in paragraph 14,
which should have contained it. Despite that, its impact is taken for granted in
paragraph 22.51 Whether it has disappeared from the text or was never more
than implied, there can be little doubt as to its content: if the Stoics consider
that the quid must be taken to be the supreme genus, not the quod est, that is
because they consider that incorporeals, such as the void and time, do not
constitute existents. But equally, could not the void and time be said to be
quasi-existents and quasi-existents be said to be at least a kind of existents?52 If
that is the case, there is no longer anything to stop the promotion of the
existent to the status of supreme genus (or to prevent it remaining in that
position) and that is a simpler and less paradoxical doctrine than the bizarre
TSG one. If this reconstruction of the reasons why Seneca (or the friend who
inspired him) rejected the Stoic position is correct, it is apparent that the ESG
doctrine which he favours is the fruit of a critique and reworking of an earlier
TSG doctrine and that Letter 58, far from testifying to a late adoption of the
TSG doctrine in the history of Stoicism, proves precisely the opposite.
As for the doctrine which Seneca, in paragraph 15, attributes to 'certain
Stoics', it is certainly one which makes the quid the supreme genus and it is
accordingly a TSG doctrine. However, upon comparing the 'quasi-existents'
of paragraph 22 with the 'things that are not' of paragraph 15, one realizes that
this TSG doctrine is quite different from the one which Seneca's ESG doctrine
assumed to be in the background. The class of NEST is represented, not by the
canonical Stoic incorporeals, but by fictitious entities such as Centaurs and
Giants. It is important not to write off that difference and not to tone it
down,53 for what we have before us is a TSG doctrine that is heterodox or, at
the very least, non-standard. If, as I have pointed out above, Seneca describes
it without making the slightest attempt to criticize it, that may well be because
he considers it to be in no way incompatible with his own ESG doctrine. And
as his account of it gives no particular indication of the position reserved for
the canonical incorporeals, there is every reason to believe that they retained
the same status there as in Seneca's ESG doctrine, namely that of a species of
existent. This non-standard TSG doctrine ought thus to integrate the ESG
doctrine adopted by Seneca, doing no more than add to it one extra layer. It
represents an attempt to synthesize the original TSG doctrine with the ESG
doctrine constructed upon the critique directed against it. As such, it must be
later than both the doctrines that it sets out to combine. In the light of all this,
One might be tempted - as, at first, I was - to explain this situation by a lacuna in the text, which
ought to be placed at the beginning of paragraph 15. But the situation could probably be
equally well explained by a kind of mental lacuna or short-cut.
This 'lax' kind of procedure does not seem to be in conformity with the authentic inspiration of
Stoicism, the 'formalistic' nature of which needs n o demonstration (cf. chapter 5 above). F o r
the Stoics, even if X is quasi Y, X still is n o t Y (cf. SFF1.65).
A s d o , in o n e way or another, Zeller 1904, vol. I I I . I . I , p p . 94(~5) n. 2; Pohlenz 1967, p . 121;
Goldschmidt 1977, p . 13 n. 5; H a d o t 1968, vol. 1, p p . 1566°.; Pasquino 1978, p . 377.

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the chrono-topological development of the classifications may be represented

by the following schema, in which the chronological order should be read from
left to right:

(A) Standard TSG (B) ESG (Seneca) (c) Non-standard ESG


bodies incorporeals bodies incorporeals E NE

(E) (NE) (quasi-E) (fictitious
; I
This table 54 should help us to understand how heterodox Stoics, the authors
of schema (c), may have proceeded. Having accepted schema (B), for the
reasons indicated above, but anxious to renew links with the tradition of
schema (A) by restoring the ST to the position of supreme genus, their task was
to find possible new occupants for the position of NEST, which the canonical
incorporeals could no longer fill since they had been promoted to the status of
'existents' in schema (B). They might have considered the e w o ^ a r a as a
possibility for that role. But that would not have been an economical solution,
since the e w o ^ a i a are classified as NSTs in schema (A); they could,
accordingly, only be made NESTs by producing a further critique of schema
(A). The fact that they did not pursue that particular path may indicate that
their purpose was to preserve, from the early Stoic tradition, everything that
could possibly be preserved following the appearance of schema (B). And it
seems likely (despite the reticence of Seneca's text on this point) that they
preserved intact the opposition between STs and NSTs and classified the
evvor^jLara as NSTs, as had their predecessors. In these circumstances, it is
equally likely that their Centaurs and Giants constituted, not fictitious species,
but fictitious individuals, items which had not been explicitly considered in any
previous schemas and which were thus available to fill the position of NESTs,
now left vacant in consequence of the change in status of the categorical
incorporeals. As I have already pointed out, Seneca's text is not really explicit
on the subject of the individual or specific status of the Centaurs and Giants
mentioned in paragraph 15; but his expression quae animo succurrunt may
perhaps be recognized to render the voovfjueva which, I have suggested, do not
possess a universal character. And the expression aliquam imaginem probably
has a similar meaning. The acceptance of fictitious individuals in the ranks of
NESTs is thus compatible with maintaining fictitious species amongst the
ranks of NSTs.
Interpreted thus, Seneca's Letter 58 is evidence neither that the ESG
Compare with Wurm 1973, pp. 176-7; Pasquino 1978, pp. 375ff.

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doctrine predates the TSG doctrine nor that it postdates it. Rather, it testifies
to the fact that the ESG doctrine postdates one version 0/the TSG doctrine,
that is to say the standard version, while it antedates another version of the
TSG doctrine, namely the non-standard one.55 Hence the inadequacy and
uncertainty of interpretations which have judged it necessary to minimize the
differences between the two versions of the TSG doctrine in order to be able to
extract from this text whatever lessons it contains.56 It is, on the contrary, by
acknowledging those differences that we can avoid having to accuse Seneca of
ambiguity and confusion.57 In truth, no more than the disputed passage in
Diogenes Laertius does Seneca's Letter 58 contain any obstacle to our
regarding the TSG doctrine (in its standard form) as an original and
fundamental dogma of the Stoic School.

If the TSG doctrine was not elaborated at a late date, it seems reasonable to
suppose that its purpose was not to forge an ad hoc status for items that proved
difficult to classify, which could neither be granted a corporeal existence nor
denied some kind of reality; and presumably the status of NESTs was not
constructed by means of an inductive analysis of what was shared in common
I realized somewhat late in the day that this laborious exegesis of Seneca's text more or less
coincides with that provided, with admirable concision, by Hiilser in his commentary on
fragment FDS 715: 'Seneca, selbst ein Stoiker, beschreibt anscheinend ein spateres Stadium
der stoischen Lehre: wenn der Begriff des Korpers neu gefasst wird und daraufhin auch
Unkorperliches zum Seienden gehort, wird das alt-stoische Etwas entbehrlich - so Seneca -;
oder man muss es uminterpretieren. Und das taten einige andere Stoiker, die in Erinnerung an
die Nicht-Etwasse von ehedem ihre neuen Etwasse konzipierten.' I would disagree with this
analysis on the two following points: (1) I am not of the opinion that this doctrinal recasting
was prompted by a transformation of the body (no text testifies to such a transformation nor
indicates any reasons as to why it might have taken place); what seems to have been decisive,
rather, is the notion of the 'quasi-existent' and the authorization that that notion provided for
subsuming the canonical incorporeals into the genus of the existent; (2) it cannot be said that
the new NESTs are a 'memory' of the old NSTs, since the latter differ from the former as to
both their ontological status (NST vs. ST) and the items that they include (the old NSTs
comprise concepts, including those which correspond to natural species, whereas the new
NESTs are - 1 believe I am right in thinking - fictitious individuals). The only thing that could
be said to justify the idea of a 'memory' is that in schema (c) there are NESTs, as there are in
schema (A), and as there are no longer in the schema (B); perhaps this might be called a
structural memory. Cf. the authors cited above, n. 53.
'A most excusable confusion', according to Hadot 1968, vol. 1, p. 161 n. 4; an 'ambiguity'
according to Rist 1971, p. 43. In this study, Rist describes the succession of doctrines in terms
very close to my own, but situating the whole of this development within the Stoic School. It
should be pointed out that, on the contrary, Seneca is not sheltering behind any Stoic authority
when he presents schema (B); he testifies, conversely, that all the Stoics postulated a genus
superior to the quodest. The case of Basilides cited by Rist, pp. 38-9, seems to be both late and
isolated; and the exact meaning of the thesis that is attributed to him {jxrjScv ehai aodjuarov,
Sextus, M vin.258) seems unclear to me. As for the 'inexhaustible quarrel' concerning the
existence of the Ae/crd {ibid. 262), there is nothing to suggest that it took place inside the Stoic
School and the most obvious interpretation is, on the contrary, that it was a quarrel which set
the Stoics in opposition to their adversaries.

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by those remarkably heterogeneous items, the canonical incorporeals. So

what can have been the theoretical motives for that construction? I have
already briefly indicated the reply that I would suggest. The construction
seems to me to have been prompted by critical reflection upon Plato's
philosophy - or, to be more precise, by the combination of a critical reading of
the ontological exposition of the Sophist and an analysis of the motivations of
the Platonic theory of Forms. To be even more precise, that critical reflection
on the Sophist seems to me to have led to a strengthened recognition of the
equation between the existent and the corporeal and the adoption of the ability
to act and be acted upon as a strict criterion of corporeal existence. Reflection
on the Forms, meanwhile, seems to have led to an attempt to specify their
mode of unreality by classifying them as NSTs, which boils down to
establishing the notion of ST as a criterion of reality that is different from and
less strong than that applying to corporeal existence. The relative indepen-
dence of these two criteria makes room for a class of items which, by satisfying
one criterion but not the other, qualifies for the status of NEST.
Before examining these two points in greater detail, the first thing to point
out is that the ancients clearly regarded Plato as an interlocutor on the subject
of ontology who was particularly important for the Stoics. We have already
seen how Seneca expounded the non-standard TSG doctrine in the context of
a letter devoted to Platonic ontology. Plutarch, for his part, noted a point in
common between Plato and the Stoics:58 both he and they introduced reforms
into the ontological vocabulary, and the restrictions that they imposed upon
the legitimate use of the term 'existent' were so exacting that even they seem to
have been unable to respect them invariably. Plato draws a radical distinction
between the intelligible and the sensible, the model and the image, what is
participated in and the participant. When he wishes to express these differ-
ences in a 'purist' vocabulary (KaOapwrepov rrjs Siacfropas arrro^vos rols
ovojtxaat), he reserves the use of the word ov for the first terms of each of these
pairs, referring to the second terms simply as yuvofjuevov; but that does not
mean to say that he wishes to deny any 'nature', any 'use', or even any
'existence' (v-nap^is) at all to what becomes. According to Plutarch, the same
happened to the vewrepoL, that is to say the Stoics. Having refused to call
'many important things' (that is to say the canonical incorporeals) 6Wa, and
being unwilling to refer to them otherwise than as STs, they nevertheless
persist in 'using' them both in their lives and in their philosophy just as if they
were 'subsistent and existent things (cos v^eoroooi KCLI vnapxovoivy'. By virtue
of this structural parallelism between their two varieties of dualism (which are
in many other respects so very different), Plato and the Stoics run into similar
difficulties when they need to say things which apply both to what they call
'existents' and to what they do not wish to call 'existents' even though they
recognize the latter to possess some kind of reality. The adoption of two

Plutarch, Adv. Colot. III6B-C = FDS 721.

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frankly distinct ontological criteria was certainly the neatest solution that
could be found to resolve this problem.
At this point one might even go so far as to evoke - albeit, I suspect, only to
reject it - the hypothesis of a 'direct' Platonic influence upon the Stoic
promotion of the 'something'. That hypothesis might be supported by such
vestiges as remain of the ancients' interpretations of the Timaeus, As it stands,
this famous text seems to be one of those in which Plato expresses himself at an
extreme level of 'purism', to borrow Plutarch's term. At places where the
context might have provided the opportunity to name a supreme genus of
which the ov and the yivo^vov would have constituted the first subdivisions,
he seems both unwilling and unable to give a name to any such genus. Such is
the situation in the famous opening lines of Timaeus' speech (27D): 'First of all,
we must, in my judgement, make the following distinction (rrpwTov § tat pereov
raSe): What is that which is existent always (TL TO OV del) and has no
becoming? And what is that which is becoming always (TI TO yiyvo^evov fxev
&€L) and never is existent?' This strange distinction in the form of a double
question gives no name to what it divides and does not specify what type of
relationship it establishes between what it is dividing and what this is divided
into. In his commentary on this passage, Plotinus (vi.2.1) criticizes the idea
that Plato might here be distinguishing between different species of a supreme
genus (such as the Stoics' TI would be): given the difference between the
ontological levels of the ov and the yiyvofxevov, these two could not possibly be
coordinated as two species of a single genus.
Some modern commentators have supposed that Plotinus' criticisms
implied that the unnamed commentator on the Timaeus whom he is criticizing
had read Plato's sentence without any question mark, so that the meaning of
the sentence would be: 'something is that which is and that which becomes is
also something'. It has even been thought possible to identify one of the
partisans of such a reading without a question mark, namely the Stoically
inclined Platonist Severus, the second-century AD author of a commentary on
the Timaeus which Proclus cites in his own commentary on the same work. 5 9 It
is certainly not impossible that these late documents reflect traces of a Stoic
reading of the Timaeus, and it would be amusing to think that the Stoics' TL
might have been born from a misreading of that double question in the
Timaeus. However, these intriguing chimaeras must be totally rejected.
Neither Plotinus' critique nor Severus' interpretation truly provides evidence
that the sentence was read as an assertion. Commenting on it, Proclus
considers a number of possible ways of understanding it: either as the division
of a whole into its parts, or as the division of a genus into its species (which is
clearly the interpretation criticized by Plotinus), or as a distinction between the
various meanings of a single term, or else a number of other possibilities which
we may leave aside as irrelevant here. But, in Proclus, all these possibilities are

Cf. Wurm 1973, p. 159.

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based upon a definitely interrogative reading of the sentence in question.60 As

for Severus' interpretation, Proclus tells us of it61 and, from what he says, it is
quite clear that Severus' originality consisted in reading Plato's sentence not as
an assertion but as a single question, namely: what is the single genus of which
the ov and the ytyvo/juevov are species? According to Severus, the correct
answer to this question, introduced by the interrogative TI, an answer in
keeping with Plato's own thought, was: the all (TO TT&V).62 The Stoics, for their
part, had never confused the TI', the common genus of both bodies and
incorporeals, with the all, the combination of a body (the world) and an
incorporeal (the infinite void which surrounds it).63 So there is no reason to
think that, in interpreting the sentence as he did, Severus had accepted any
handed-down Stoic reading of the Timaeus.
One detail in Proclus' commentary provides an extra argument which leads
to the same conclusion. Proclus mentions the Stoic ri in his exegesis of the
passage from the Timaeus with which we are concerned. But, strangely
enough, he refers to it in connection with the interpretation according to which
the Platonic division should be understood as an exposition of the various
possible meanings of a single term. In this hypothesis, Proclus says, the only
term in question could be the Stoics' TI; however, he goes on to say, such a
hypothesis must immediately be rejected, for Plato could not have accepted
the existence of a single term of which the ov and the ycyvofievov were two
different meanings. Now, so far as I know, the Stoics themselves never
conceived the TI as an equivocal term that might mean either body or
incorporeal. We may conclude from all this that Proclus was indulging in a
kind of erudite game here and did not have before him any Stoic text based, in
any way, upon the passage from the Timaeus in which we are interested, which
provided any justification for the TSG doctrine.
I believe we must therefore reject the hypothesis that the Stoic ri is directly
derived from Platonic texts or concepts. In the field of ontology, the
relationship between the Stoics and Plato should be described, not in terms of
a direct influence, but rather in terms of a challenge to be taken up. It may be
that the Stoics had noticed, in the Sophist, the passage (237D) in which Plato
seems in advance to oppose their attempt to dissociate the rl and the ov: 'And
this is plain to us, that we always use the word 'something' (TI) of some being
(€77' 6VTI), for to speak of 'something' in the abstract, naked, as it were, and
disconnected from all beings, is impossible.'64 More likely, though, they were
aware of the long ontological passage, the 'gigantomachy' at 245E-249D, in
which Plato, once again in anticipation, seems to be launching a critique
against Stoic 'materialism'.
60 61
Proclus, In Tim. 1, p. 224, I7ff. Ibid., p. 227, 13-17.
A J . Festugiere, in his annotated translation, Commentaire de Proclus sur le Timee, Paris 1966-
8, vol. 11, p. 49, suggests, reasonably enough, that Severus read, or proposed the reading: rl TO
ov .. . /cat [TL] TO yiyvopevov. On the all, cf. the texts cited above, pp. 98-9.
The argument was to be used again, against the Stoics, by Alexander, In Top. 301.19 ( = SVF
II.329, FDS 711): el yap rl, SrjAov on /cat ov.

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It is certainly nothing new to point out the affinities which establish a link
between Stoicism and the position that Plato attributes, in this famous
passage, to those whom he calls the 'Sons of the Earth'. They are affinities of
which the ancients themselves were already aware. The images that Plato uses
to characterize the attitude of the Sons of the Earth were used again to portray
the Stoics;65 and if Proclus imagines - quite incorrectly - that the Stoics
'despise' (KaraiT€(f>p6vrjTaL) the incorporeals, claiming that they are 'inactive,
not existent, and consist only of thoughts',66 the reason is no doubt that he is
lumping the Stoics together with the Sons of the Earth, whom Plato had
described as 'despising' (Karac^povovvres, 246B) all that is incorporeal. But
that is not all: Plato, in anticipation, painted such an accurate picture of the
Stoics that a textual fragment of the Sophist (246AB), cited by Clement of
Alexandria, eventually landed up amongst the Stoicorum Veterum Fragment a,
as I have ventured to note in this paper's epigraph.67 Many other modern
commentators have also noted this.68 However, it seems to me that usually
scholars only mention this analogy in passing, as a quaint curiosity, appar-
ently assuming that the Stoics simply took up the mantle of the Sons of the
Earth, in a spirit of defiance. My own opinion is that they in truth subjected
this passage from the Sophist to a much more attentive and serious study.
In this long passage Plato, as we know, sets out to get over the antagonism
between those who ascribe existence only to sensible bodies, namely the 'Sons
of the Earth' (from now on I shall call them SE) and those who ascribe it only
to the intelligible and incorporeal Forms, namely the 'Friends of the Forms'
(FF). But the point of synthesis was only reached at the cost of proposing or
imposing a number of corrections for the antithetical doctrines, corrections to
which Plato himself draws attention with an openness and honesty not always
detectable in philosophical operations of this kind. It seems to me that the
Stoics made precisely the same attempt as Plato, but they tried to produce a
more rigorously formal synthesis, rejecting the deliberate distortions made by
Plato and making skilful use of issues that Plato had indicated in passing
without, however, exploiting them or, indeed, presenting them as impracti-
cable impasses. Stoicism thus succeeded in toppling Platonism more subtly
and more completely than it is usually credited with doing, for it was not
Cf. Elias, In Porph. hag. 47.26-33, David, In Porph. hag. 111.3-17 = FDS 739, who, to
characterize the Stoic attitude, refer back to the autochthony of Soph. 247c, and the rocks and
oaks of Soph. 246A, which themselves come from Homer, Od. xix.163.
Proclus, In Tim. in, p. 95, 7-15 = S K F 11.521, FDS 716. This erroneous identification of the
inexistent and the unreal is still to be found in certain modern commentators, for example
Christensen 1962, p. 25; Watson 1966, pp. 38-40. Long and Sedley's reaction to this seems
entirely proper (1987, vol. 1, p. 307).
Hiilser (commentary to FDS 739) gives the most charitable interpretation of this situation: by
this J. von Arnim 'clearly meant to say' that Clement was referring to the Stoics through this
quotation from Plato, the better to disqualify their materialism. This would be easier to believe
if von Arnim had given the reference to the Sophist.
For example, Pohlenz 1967, p. 120: 'Zeno was not intimidated by Plato's jibes against the
"Sons of the Earth" who only recognize as existent whatever they can touch with their hands
(Soph. 247c)'. Cf. also Frede 1987, p. 344.

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content simply to rehabilitate an idea that Plato had himself considered

outdated, namely that of the SE; it extracted from Plato's own text the means
of preserving both the concept itself and a way round it, in a form that was
entirely new and different from the Platonic model of getting round it.
Let us return briefly to the text of the Sophist. In the 'interminable battle'
(246c) between the great ontological options (246A), the SE maintain that only
whatever offers resistance and contact is existent, and they identify what is
corporeal with what is existent (246A-B). The FF, for their part, recognize true
existence only in 'certain intelligible and incorporeal Forms' (246B), granting
to bodies no more than a 'mobile becoming' (246B-C). Plato says that, when it
comes to arbitrating in the debate, requesting both camps to justify (Xd^aj^v
Xoyov, 246c) their positions, the first difficulty arises: the SE are not willing to
engage in a rational dialogue to justify their ideas. It would appear that, in
Plato's view, their archaic 'sensualism' is impossible to justify by argument or,
to put it another way, that their empiricism is not capable of logic. The only
solution is to 'improve' them if not 'in fact', for that cannot be done, at least
'verbally' and 'by hypothesis' (246D). In other words, the only way forward is
to replace the original doctrine of the Sons of the Earth (let us call it the
doctrine of the OSE) by a different doctrine, which we may call the doctrine of
the revised Sons of the Earth (RSE).
The RSE agree to modify the position of the OSE on several important
(a) When asked what they think of the soul, they acknowledge that it is an
existent (246E); to be sure, they maintain that it is a body (247B);69 but they
recognize that it is invisible and intangible (247B). At this stage, then, they
retain corporeality as a criterion of existence but abandon perceptibility as a
criterion of corporeality. There is nothing in the text to indicate what replaces
that second criterion.
(b) When asked about the virtues and vices of the soul, the RSE are led to
make a more radical concession. If they acknowledge that the soul can be
described as either just or unjust, they have to accept that those qualifications
correspond to the possession and presence (e£ei KCLI rrapovoia, 247A5) of the
correlative qualities and that those qualities, which can both apply to
something and also disappear from it {irapayiyveodai KOLL aTroyiyveodai,
247A8-9), possess existence. But the same 'bashfulness' that prevents them
from denying their existence also prevents them from making them bodies
(247B-C); they are thus forced to abandon corporeality as a criterion of
existence. Plato notes that it is in this respect that they distance themselves
decisively from the OSE. What, then, would be the position of the OSE with
regard to the virtues and vices of the soul and, indeed, with regard to qualities
generally? At this point the text is extremely interesting from the point of view
Or, to be more precise, that it has a body. But Plato does not seem to make any difference here
between 'having a body' and 'being a body': OW/JLOL TL loxeiv (247B6) and acb^id n K€KTrjodan,
(247B8) are echoed by TTOLVT efvai OOJ/JLOLTCL (247C2).

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with which we are concerned. According to Plato, the impudence of the OSE is
such that they will not back off, whatever paradox confronts them: they are as
capable of denying existence to the qualities as of maintaining them to be
bodies (247c). In other words, impervious to any impulses of 'bashfulness'
such as those that prompted the RSE to agree to important concessions, the
OSE would be capable of using the equation between existents and bodies
either (i) to limit the domain of existents by ejecting from it any realities that
they judged not to be bodies, or (ii) to extend the domain of bodies by
including within it realities that they judge not to be non-existents. But Plato
does not give them the chance to exploit that double possibility fully. In the
very next sentence (247C5-7), he shows them falling back upon their initial
criteria and using them in such a way as to follow course (i): only bodies exist,
and only things that are tangible are bodies. In the name of these criteria, they
deny existence to the qualities of the soul and, by a seemingly necessary
implication, also to the soul itself.70 In a sense, this position is in conformity
with the logic of Plato's strategy: given that the OSE were not willing to take
part in debate, it is to be expected that their position will not have evolved since
it was first stated (246A-B); if the OSE did agree to 'justify their position', they
would not be OSE. However, course (ii), which Plato has fleetingly indicated,
was not to be lost upon everybody.
Now let us return to the RSE. They have acknowledged a minimal sample of
incorporeal realities: namely, the virtues and vices of the soul. That concession
was enough to make it possible to insist that they produce a definition or
common mark of an existent, which can be applied to bodies and incorporeals
alike (247D). So Plato suggests to them, at least provisionally and keeping
open the possibility of revision, the famous formula: whatever has the power
to act or be acted upon, however feebly and even if only on one occasion, is an
6v (247DE, cf. 248c). He does not explicitly say how it could be shown that the
virtues and vices of the soul satisfy that criterion of existence; but it is clear that
it is to the extent that, through their presence or absence, they allow the soul
itself to be either virtuous or vicious. As we shall see, this causal efficacy of the
6v was to provide the Stoics with an argument that they could turn inside out
without having to modify it in any way.
Now let us turn to the FF. These are of a less rebarbative nature than the SE
(246c). Yet they too are required to make concessions and in their case equally
it is possible to distinguish between an original position (OFF) and a revised
one (RFF). The position of the OFF may be summarized in three essential
propositions: (a) the existence of incorporeal Forms is completely 'separate'
from the becoming of bodies (248A7-8); (b) existence and becoming neverthe-
less both relate to us, in the sense that we 'communicate' (cognitively,
It is worth noting the interesting variant to the Y MS at 247C6-7: chs dpa TOVTO [TOVTOJV Y]
ovSev TO Trapdrrav ianv. The singular TOVTO is grammatically justified by the -ndv of 247C5; the
plural TOUTCOV could be an 'intelligent correction' made by some reader who understood that in
substance the conclusion applied to the soul as well as to the virtues.

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with bodies through sensation, and with Forms through reason

(248A10-11); (c) only bodies in the process of becoming have the power to act
and be acted upon, and true existence is incompatible with both those powers
(248C7-9). If those three positions were tenable without contradiction, the
OFF would be able to avoid agreeing with the RSE in recognizing in the
powers of acting and being acted upon a character common both to true
existents and to bodies in the process of becoming. But Plato holds over them
the threat of a contradiction, by means of the following argument: (i) to know
and to be known are forms of action and passion; (ii) to act and to be acted
upon are modes of movement; (iii) so whatever knows moves and whatever is
known is moved; intelligible Forms cannot be at once known, as is held by
thesis (b) of the OFF, and unaffected, as is held by their thesis (c). It would
appear that the OFF would avoid that conclusion by rejecting premiss (i): 71
for them, cognitive relations have no physical significance. But if they did so,
they would avoid contradiction only to fall into improbability; for Plato took
care to define action and passion in the widest possible terms (KOLI irpds TO
oiALKpoTOLTov, 248C5), so that anything that can be expressed by an active verb
(for example, 'to know') passes for an action, and anything that can be
expressed by a passive verb (for example, 'to be known') passes for a passion.
Subjected to this pressure, the RFF accept the premisses (i) and (ii) of Plato's
argument and come to terms with his conclusion (iii), acknowledging it to be
admissible after all: if the notion of movement is given a meaning sufficiently
wide for it to encompass the purely spiritual movement of knowledge, the
Forms may provide objects for the cognitive movement, meanwhile remaining
immutable in every other respect (249B-C). Plato neither indicates nor explores
another possible way of extricating oneself from his argument, which would be
to accept premiss (i) but not premiss (ii), that is to say to acknowledge modes of
action and passion that are not movements either produced or undergone.
It is now possible for us to see with what precision - one might almost say
how systematically - the Stoic ontology was constructed upon the rejection of
all the concessions that Plato demanded from these antagonistic doctrines, in
order to get round their antagonism without forcing rectifications upon them.
As is well known, the Stoics preserve the strict identification between
existents and bodies to which the OSE clung. As is also well known, they are
Like Cornford 1960, p. 240 n. 3,1 understand lines 248D10-E5 to be setting out the reasons why
the OFF refuse to regard knowledge as an action: if, in the counterfactual hypothesis,
knowledge were an action, the object known ought to be acted upon; now (at least according to
the OFF, see their thesis (c)), to be acted upon implies to be moved; if the existence of the Forms
were passive in that it is known, it would be moved in that it was acted upon, but that is
impossible since (according to the same thesis (c)) it has been stated to be 'at rest' and
immutable. I consider this interpretation to be preferable to that of Dies (1950, p. 356), who
regards this passage as setting out a concession to the RFF. For one thing, that would be an
insufficient concession because it would be purely conditional (if one agrees that to know is to
act, then it must be agreed that the object known is moved); for another, a conciliatory move at
this particular point in the text, on the part of the FF, would hardly account for the famous
explosion from the Stranger at 247E7 (TL 8e irpos ALOS KTX).

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not embarrassed by the question of the ontological status of the soul, which
they have no hesitation in declaring to be of a corporeal nature. 72 Where the
virtues and vices are concerned, they do not allow themselves, as do the RSE,
to be drawn into making concessions: taking up Plato's own suggestion, one
that he did not develop fully but considered to be concomitant with the
'impudence' of the OSE, the Stoics maintain that they are bodies, even
perfectly perceptible bodies. 73 We even find them lifting from Plato, and
proceeding to adapt to their own theory of causality, the examples and
vocabulary of the argument which, in the Sophist (247A2-B2), concluded from
the qualifications of the soul that its qualities were real existents: just as, in
Plato, the soul is called <f>povnxos, thanks to the presence {iTapovoia, 247A5) of
the <f>povr]OLs within it, so, in Zeno, the soul is said to (frpovetv if and only if the
<f)p6vr)oLS is present (irapeivai) within it. 74 Although they are not completely
decisive, these echoes may represent a plausible clue as to a Zenonian reading
of the Sophist. What is clear, at any rate, is that, in the hands of the Stoics, the
equation between the existent and the body takes on a new meaning and scope,
which could only be glimpsed between the lines in Plato's text: instead of using
it in a reductionist fashion, to support a deflationist ontology (in which
whatever is not a body is not an existent, even if it appears to be), they use it in
an expansive fashion, to support what might be called an inflationist somato-
logy (in which whatever is an existent is a body, even if it does not appear to be
one). It might be observed in passing that this is probably one good reason for
putting inverted commas around the word 'materialism' when it is used in
connection with the Stoic philosophers.
Having resisted making the slightest concession on the last point, the Stoics
are in a position to take over Plato's formula according to which an existent is
capable of acting and being acted upon, and to turn it round, to work against
his intentions in introducing it. They still use it as a criterion of existence, as
Plato intended it should be used; but, as applied by the Stoics, it reinforces the
OSE's equation between the existent and the body, instead of helping to
destroy it. It also, somewhat ironically, confirms one of the fundamental theses
of the OFF, namely that only bodies have the power to act and to be acted
At the same stroke, the Stoics put themselves in a position to preserve an
essential principle of the OFF and to defend it against all the concessions of the
RFF: since the power to act and be acted upon cannot belong to incorporeals,
there can be no question of using it as a criterion for recognizing the possible
reality of certain incorporeal items. If there are reasons for accepting
incorporeal realities, that is because there are reasons for accepting realities
that are strictly inactive and impassive. The criterion according to which such
realities may, indeed must, be accepted must therefore be quite distinct from
Let m e simply refer the reader to SVFi. 137, 142, 518; 11.467, 773, 774, 790-2, 807; m.305.
Bodies: SKF1.89; 11.797, 848; m.84, 305. Perceptible bodies: SFF111.85.
Cf. Stobaeus, Eclogae 1.138.14 = S F F 1.89, FDS 762.

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the criterion which makes it possible to distinguish between what exists and
what does not exist. And if these realities are of a kind that can be known by us
or can make themselves known to us, that knowability must be interpreted
without in any way diminishing their inactivity and their impassivity.
To begin with this last point, it may be noted that, in the polemics directed
against them by the Sceptics, the Stoics had to face up to a difficulty similar to
that with which Plato had confronted the OFF: if their incorporeals are
knowable, do not the cognitive relations which are established between them
and us imply that they possess some kind of activity or passivity? It is true that
the problem is not posed in exactly the same terms in the two cases: Plato,
taking the verbal expressions of the cognitive relations literally, envisages the
process of knowledge as a process in which the subject possessing knowledge is
active in that he knows, and the object known is passive in that it is known; the
Stoics, on the other hand, envisage the process of knowledge the other way
around, as a process in which the subject with knowledge is passive in that he is
affected by a representation, and the object that is known is active in that it
produces that representation. That is an effect of the sensualist model which
dominates their theory of knowledge. But apart from that reversal, the general
problem is identical: namely, is it possible to maintain both that incorporeals
are knowable and, at the same time, that they are inactive and impassive?
Sextus Empiricus (M vm.4o6-io = SVF 11.85, FDS 272) tells us the answer
that the Stoics produced to one particular version of this difficulty, a version
that concerns the comprehension of proof. He formulates the difficulty as
follows: proof is not a body, since it is composed of incorporeal Ae/<Ta; now,
according to the Stoics, incorporeals are incapable of acting and being acted
upon. Proof is therefore incapable of affecting anything at all and, in
particular, it is incapable of affecting the ^yejxoviKov (controlling part) of the
soul; it can therefore be neither apprehended nor understood.
To extricate themselves from that difficulty, the Stoics replied that 'the
incorporeals do nothing and do not impress us; it is we who are impressed on
the occasion of their occurrence (77/zeis iofiev ol kif €K€ivois <f>avTaoioviAevoi\
and Sextus adds, a little further on, 'on the occasion of their occurrence but not
under their action (in avrois, oi>x VTT avrcov)\15 That is quite an acrobatic
reply; it seems to imply that the rjyefioviKov can be affected of its own accord, if
not in an entirely spontaneous fashion, at least on the occasion of an external
stimulus; certainly, when representing proof to itself, it is passive (cf.
(JHivraoioviievoi) and all passivity in principle presupposes an agent. If that
agent is not the external incorporeal, it can only be the rfye/juovLKov itself.
Sextus' criticisms (406-8) certainly presuppose the Stoics' acceptance of the
notion of auto-affection. To strengthen their reply, they had resorted to some
quite carefully chosen images. The gymnastic trainer can teach his pupil a
Cf. a similar use of eVt + dative, in Simplicius In Cat. 333.31 = SVF 11.185, FDS 801: it may
happen that the action of the agent ceases before the passion of the patient; for instance, a son
may be long-since dead, but his father will continue to grieve for him (iir'avra)).

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movement by taking hold of his hands and impressing the movement upon
them, a procedure which illustrates a case where an external body affects the
rjye/jLovLKov physically. But the gymnastic trainer can also himself make the
movement that he wishes to teach his pupil, at a distance, presenting himself as
a model to be imitated; and it is this procedure that is regarded as illustrating
what happens when the -qyeixoviKov apprehends a proof, which is a complex of
incorporeal Ae/cra. Whatever the demonstrative value of these illustrations,
their example shows how hard the Stoics tried to avoid having to recognize
that cognitive relations involve a relationship of action and passion between
the subject that knows and the object that is known. Here they adopt a variant
of the reply with which the OFF might have countered the argument in the
Sophist, a reply which, as we have noted, Plato neither indicated nor explored.
They accept a premiss which corresponds to premiss (i) in Plato's argument,
namely that, when we understand a proof, we are subjected to a passion
(cf)avTaGLoviJL€voL). But they reject the premiss which would correspond to
premiss (ii) of the Platonic argument, namely that every passion implies the
action of an external motor upon the patient. As the Stoics see it, then, we are
impressed not by the Aex-rd, but on the occasion of their occurrence and, in all
probability, by ourselves. They are accordingly able to reject the conclusion
that Plato forced upon the RFF; the Stoics are in a position to accept a
cognitive relationship between a body - the rjye^ovLKov - and a complex of
incorporeals - a proof- and this is a relationship which is compatible with the
completely different ontological statuses of all the terms involved in it.
If we now return to the more fundamental problem of the criterion
according to which certain incorporeal realities can and must be recognized,
even if the equation between the existent and the body is maintained, we are
bound to recognize that here the Stoic ontology can no longer be presented as a
simple juxtaposition of the OSE doctrine and the OFF doctrine. So far, we
have noted the precision with which the various parts in the debate organized
by Plato were re-used in the Stoic construction, once they had cleared out of
the way the modifications that the author of the Sophist had introduced in
order to make them fit into his own construction. 76 The coincidences are
probably striking enough for it to be reasonable to suggest (even in the absence
of any decisive external proof) that this dialogue played a seminal role in the
formation of the Stoic ontology. Clearly, though, a fundamental difference
still separates the Stoic synthesis from the hybrid system that would be
obtained by purely and simply amalgamating the doctrine of the OSE and that
of the OFF. The difference consists in the fact that, in Stoicism, the place of
inactive and impassive incorporeal realities is no longer occupied by the

It is worth quoting the following passage from Cornford i960, p. 247: 'Just as the reformed
materialist was induced to surrender the mark of tangibility and enlarge his conception of the
real to include some bodiless things, so the reformed idealist must surrender the mark of
changelessness and allow that the real includes spiritual motion, as well as the unchanging

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intelligible Forms, but instead by the collection of canonical incorporeals

whose common ontological status is that of NEST.
It is to explain that difference that at this point we must, I think, introduce
the second component of the Stoic elaboration: namely their critical analysis
of the Platonic theory of Forms.


As I have indicated above, the criterion for accepting those incorporeal

realities had necessarily to be distinct from the criterion to be satisfied by
existents, that is to say bodies. Now, that criterion (also, a fortiori, satisfied by
bodies) consists in being 'something'; and we know already that the Stoics'
attitude to the Platonic Forms may be summed up by their refusal to grant
those Forms any extra-mental reality, for the precise reason that they are not
'something'. One is inevitably tempted to collect together all these data. The
use of the idea of a NST in the ontological disqualification of the Forms was
necessarily complemented by the promotion of the idea of a ST as a criterion of
reality, and if it was in the name of that criterion that the Forms were denied
any extra-mental reality, one had to be ready to grant some kind of reality, in
the name of that very criterion, to items which did not necessarily possess the
substantial existence of corporeals. It is remarkable that, so far as we know,
the Stoics never thought of challenging Plato's ontological exaltation of the
Forms (as their 'ancestor', Antisthenes had)77 by declaring that they are not
bodies, that one could neither see them nor touch them, or that one could
attribute to them no causal activity or efficacy (v/hich, as is well known, was
Aristotle's favourite criticism).78 It is in this respect that one sees that the
heritage of the OFF is combined with that of the OSE in the Stoic doctrines.
The mode of being that they ascribe to bodies is not that which they deny to the
forms and, in this connection, nothing could be more misleading than the
formula by which von Arnim attempts to sum up their doctrines: 'sola corpora
esse, non esse ideas'.19 To render that formula acceptable, one would have to
draw a radical distinction between the two uses of the verb esse here.
The strange, new expression ovriva was certainly not introduced hapha-
zardly to serve as an instrument in the critique of the Platonic Forms; for that
critique, which is a well-known element in Stoic thought, rests upon a less
frequently noted effort to understand and interpret the reasons for Plato's
error. The Forms certainly are chimaeras, but the motives for introducing
them were respectable, if ill-interpreted. A somewhat enigmatic passage from
Syrianus,80 without parallel so far as I know, attests in its own fashion that
throughout the long existence of their school, the Stoics continued to ponder
Cf. the famous declaration attributed to him by Simplicius, In Cat. 208.28.
Cf. on this theme the excellent comprehensive study by G. Fine (1987), pp. 69-112.
79 80
SVFn, p. 123. Syrianus, In Met. 105.19-30 = SKF 1.494, 11.364, m Arch. 13; FDS
31 8A.

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the genesis of Platonism: according to this testimony, the reasons for the
elaboration of the Forms were of a linguistic nature for Chrysippus, for
Archedemus and for 'most of the Stoics', of a semantic nature according to
Longinus, and of a conceptual nature according to Cleanthes; whilst Marcus
Aurelius merged the ideas of Longinus and those of Cleanthes. It is true that
this late text does not rate highly as documentary evidence, for it makes no
mention at all of Zeno and confuses dates blithely, placing Cleanthes after
Chrysippus and Longinus (third century) before Marcus Aurelius (second
century). Nevertheless, it may reflect the reality of an enduring tradition of
interest in the theory of Forms, interest which was not content to take it for
granted that the theory had long since been refuted once and for all, and which
persisted in pondering the reasons for such an unforgettable and ever-renewed
The most famous texts attribute to Zeno himself and to the Stoics who
followed him the reduction of what 'the ancients' called 'Ideas' to 'concepts'
(ivvorujLOLTa), or, to be more exact, to 'our concepts (eworHxara Ty/zerepa)'; and
by that what was meant was no more than 'figments of thought', which are
'neither something nor (something which is> qualified, but almost something
and almost (something which is> qualified {fJirjre TLVOL eivai fji^re rroia, cboavel
8e Twa /cat woavel TTOLa.81 It would be impossible to underestimate the degree
of the ontological devaluation to which the Forms are subjected in this verdict:
the (f)avrdaiJLara are mirages, phantom-objects, the intentional objects of
'empty movements of the imagination', the prototype for which is provided by
dreaming and hallucinations. 82 Nevertheless, the irreality of Ideas does not
condemn Plato's statements to absurdity: it is possible to produce perfectly
acceptable conceptualist paraphrases for them and, as Long and Sedley
emphasize, the Stoics do not appear to have felt any compunction about re-
using the vocabulary of participation, declaring for example that 'we partici-
pate in concepts'; 83 that presumably means, despite the doubts of some
commentators, that, as existent individuals, we belong to the genera and
species illegitimately hypostasized by Plato and that we possess the common
qualities which define them. 84
It is clear that, in Zeno's view, it is the universality of concepts that makes it
impossible to attribute extra-mental reality to them. But it would clearly be
desirable to know whether, by using the expression ixrjre nvd . . ., waavel Se
nva to characterize their way of not being real, he explicitly meant to
distinguish that mode of unreality from the mode of inexistence which might
belong to incorporeal realities, supposing that there were any such things. In
other words, one would like to know whether the dissociation between the rl
and the 6v had already been made by Zeno. What may make one hesitate to
Cf. Stobaeus, Eclogue 1.136.21 = SVF1.65A, FDS 316; Aetius, Placita 1. 10.5 = SKF1.65B, FDS
317. Cf. Chrysippus apud Aetius, Placita iv. 12.1 = SVF 11.54, FDS 2 6 8 -
Cf. what follows in Stobaeus' text cited above, n. 8 1 .
At this point, I a m enormously indebted to the excellent c o m m e n t a r y by Sedley 1985, p . 89,
summarized in Long and Sedley 1987, vol. 11, p . 182.

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advance such a claim is in particular the fact that there exists a variant to the
expression considered above, a variant put forward in the anonymous
definition of the ivvorjiJLa to be found in Diogenes Laertius. According to this
definition, a concept is a figment of thought, ovre rl ov ovre TTOLOV, ojoavel 8e n
ov KQX (baavel TTOLOV.85 The function of the word ov in these formulae prompts
discussion: either one regards it as a simple copula, in which case the two
variants have the same meaning and both withold from a concept the status of
ST; or else ov is construed in apposition to TI, in which case, in Diogenes
Laertius' version, what would be denied of a concept would only be that it is
'something existing'. In this second construction, the dissociation between ri
and ov, which is a fundamental element in the TSG doctrine, would still not be
clearly attributable to Zeno. But it is probably possible to argue in favour of
the first construction, pointing out that the ambiguous ov in Diogenes
Laertius' version in all probability represents the ehai in Stobaeus' version
which, for its part, quite unambiguously does possess a copulative function.
Even if a degree of uncertainty did remain on this point, other arguments
could be found to attest the precise intentions nursed by Zeno when he
formulated his critique of the metaphysics of the Forms with the aid of the
notion of the ST. Zeno's critique may be compared with that of Stilpo, which
probably provided his starting point. 86 Stilpo, we are told, used the following
argument: k'Xeye rov Xzyovra avdpamov efvcu ynqheva. ovre yap rovSe €LVCLL
ovre rovSe. riyap fiaXXov rovSe rj rovSe; ovS' dpa r6v8e.81 The text is far from
clear and, to improve it, a number of rather heavy-handed corrections have
been proposed. 88 But what at any rate is certain is that the nub of the objection
was the distinction between man in general (avOpaj-nov) and any particular,
determined man (roVSe). The situation envisaged by Stilpo may have been one
in which man in general was simply referred to, or else one in which something
was said about him; and in the second case, what was said may have been that
he exists or that he is this or that. In any case, to mention man as such is not to
mention any man in particular, and to state something about him is not to
state it about any man in particular. To clarify the matter and because in this
case it is the most probable supposition, let us assume that Stilpo had in mind a
situation in which it is declared that man (in general) exists. In making that
declaration, it is not affirmed that any particular, determined man exists: for
why should it be one rather than another? From this, Stilpo seems to have
concluded that the existence of all men, one by one, was denied; so that,
Diogenes Laertius VII.6I = SKF1.65C, FDS 315.
Zeno h a d been Stilpo's pupil, cf. Diogenes Laertius 11.114, 120; vn.2, 24; a n d it is certainly
correct to describe as 'Stilponian' the primacy of the particular which immediately character-
izes the logic a n d the ontology of the founder of the Stoic School, as Rist does (1978), p . 349.
Diogenes Laertius 11.119 = fr. 199 Doring (in Doring 1972).
Roeper 1854 proposed reading Xeyetv twice instead of elvai. T h a t correction is accepted by
Doring 1972, pp. 155-6 n. 6, and by a n u m b e r of scholars before him. There are other possible
solutions, cf. n. 89.

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paradoxically, the declaration 'man exists' in his hands came to mean 'no man
exists'; /XT/SCIS may be substituted for avdpaj-rros.89
It seems to me highly likely that Zeno discerned a flaw in this argument of
Stilpo's: not to affirm the existence of any man in particular is not the same as
denying the existence of all men. Even if the affirmation 'man exists' does not
imply any affirmation such as 'Socrates exists', 'Plato exists', etc., the lesson to
be learned from this is not that avOpooiros may be replaced by firjSeis, as Stilpo
believed, but simply that avdpajiros cannot be replaced by rig. We can see from
this just how much interpenetration - almost to the point of indistinguishabi-
lity - there is between interpretation and critique in the Stoic reading of the
theory of Forms. What Zeno understood, in the argument that I am
attributing to him, is that the existence of a Form does not imply the existence
of any of its sensible participants. In other words, it could perfectly well
happen that man as such existed although no individual flesh-and-blood man
did. Even today, that is a perfectly respectable interpretation of the Platonic
XojpiafjLos.90 The status of 'figment of the soul' attributed by the Stoics to
universals is simply a more economical ontological way of taking account of
their 'separation' from sensible particulars, that is to say of taking account of
the very character that prompted Plato to turn them into eternal Forms. 91 In
the adjustment that Zeno made to Stilpo's critique of the Forms, there can thus
be detected at the very least the seed of the crucial dissociation between the ri
and the 6V: what the Forms do not have, and what prevents them from being
seen as extra-mental realities, is not only the full mode of existence of any
particular individual body, taken with all its sensible determining characteris-
tics (oSe); furthermore, and from the start, they also lack the mode of reality
that is possessed by any particular individual, even an indeterminate one (TIS).
What they lack even more fundamentally than determination is particularity.
T h e textual correction best suited to this interpretation of the a r g u m e n t is probably the
following: rov Xiyovra avdpconov efvcu (avdpajirov elvai) fxrfSeva.
Or at least of the Platonic ^topia/Ao? according to Aristotle. Cf. on this point, Fine 1984, p p .
31-87 a n d in particular the following passage (p. 44): 'if to say t h a t F o r m s are separate is just to
say that they can exist independently of sensible particulars; and if, as Aristotle and I believe,
F o r m s are universals, then to say t h a t the F o r m s are separate is just to say t h a t (some)
universals can exist uninstantiated (by sensible particulars).' See also p p . 78-81 of this article,
on the Timaeus, and the very interesting discussions between Fine and M o r r i s o n (1985, p p .
125-57, 159-65, 167-73).
This could be a way of resolving the p a r a d o x of the Stoic attitude to the Platonic F o r m s , a
p a r a d o x that is excellently described by Sedley (1985), p p . 89-90: 'the logical a n d metaphysical
outlawing of concepts is not a denial of their epistemological value. It is a warning to us not to
follow Plato's p a t h of hypostatising them.' Cf. also L o n g a n d Sedley 1987, vol. 1, p . 182. T h e
fact that one and the same a r g u m e n t m a y be used to support diametrically opposed
conclusions is a c o m m o n p l a c e in philosophy as it is elsewhere. Siparva componere licet, I will
cite the following dialogue between a F r e n c h m a n a n d an Englishman on the comparative
advantages of powdered sugar a n d l u m p sugar. I guarantee its authenticity. T h e F r e n c h m a n :
'The good thing a b o u t l u m p sugar is that you k n o w exactly h o w m u c h you are taking.' T h e
Englishman: 'The good thing a b o u t powdered sugar is that you k n o w exactly h o w m u c h you
are taking.'

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All that Chrysippus had to do was pick up and proceed with Zeno's thought
on the Platonic Forms and also his use of the notion of the ST in the recasting
of their ontological status. In his case too, a polemical intention was
inseparable from an attempt at analysis and theoretical comprehension, as is
shown by the remarkable interpretation of the Platonic theory that he is said
by Geminus92 to have produced. He declared that certain mathematical
theorems established the equality of an indefinite number of surfaces or
volumes contained within the same limits; for example, all parallelograms with
the same base and the same height are equal, whatever the angle at which their
sides meet their base; similarly, according to Chrysippus, 'the Ideas embrace
within determined limits the genesis of an infinity of things (eKetvat rwv
0L7T€ipa)v iv irepaaiv (LpLo/Jievois rrjv yeveaiv TrepiXayifiavovoivy — a statement
which Brehier judiciously comments upon as follows: The Idea only indicates
the limits that an existent must satisfy in order to exist, without determining
that existent's nature more closely: it can be what it likes within those limits;
consequently, what is determined is not a single existent but an endless
multiplicity of them.'93
Another document attests that Chrysippus may have meditated upon the
debate between Stilpo and Zeno. In a passage of his commentary upon the
Categories (105.7-20 = SVF 11.278, FDS 1247), Simplicius ponders the
question of whether, in the opinion of those who grant existence (VTTOOTCLOIS)
to the genera and the species, these may or may not be called rdSe. In this
connection, he notes that Chrysippus, likewise, wondered {airopel) whether
the Idea can be called roSe n. This Aristotelian expression does not appear to
have constituted part of the ontological vocabulary of the Stoics; furthermore,
Simplicius immediately goes on to note that, in the general opinion of the
Stoics, common or universal terms (KOLVO) are called ovnva. In these
circumstances, one may wonder whether Chrysippus' problem actually was
formulated in these terms, and it is quite tempting to read r o S e ^ ) TL, which
would make the contents of Chrysippus' aporia more interesting: should the
problem of the ontological status of the Idea be posed with reference to the
determined peculiarity of the roSe or with reference to the indeterminate
peculiarity of the TI ?
Whatever the value of that suggestion, Chrysippus may certainly be
attributed a role of capital importance in elaborating a sort of test for
distinguishing between STs and NSTs. We know that he had thought much
about the paradox known as the paradox of the ovns, devoting to it at least
two treatises, or possibly three, one comprising eight books.94 Now Simpli-
92 93
Cited by Proclus, In Eucl. 395.21-31 = SVF 11.365, FDS 458. Brehier 1970, p. 3.
Cf. the list in Diogenes Laertius vii.198. Sandwiched between the two titles of treatises
expressly devoted to the ovns is a third which, as Frede 1974, pp. 56-8, has shown, relates to
the same subject. The exact wording of the paradox, which is incompletely cited or imperfectly
transmitted by the usual sources (Simplicius, ibid.; Diogenes Laertius vii.82 = SFF11.274, FDS

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cius, in the passage cited above, shows that this paradox constituted the basis
of the Stoic reduction of the KOLVOL to the ovnva. The paradox is set out as
follows: 'if someone (ris) is in Athens, he (OVTOS) is not in Megara; now man is
present in Athens; so man is not present in Megara.' 95 The lesson to be learned
from this paradox is that it is not legitimate to substitute a universal term such
as 'man' for the indefinite ris. As Simplicius accurately notes, such a
substitution boils down to using a 'not something' as if it were a 'something'.
So one can see how, correctly interpreted, the paradox becomes a test for
reality. It goes without saying that individual bodies pass the test successfully:
if Socrates is in Athens, he is not in Megara, and he thus qualifies, without any
problems, as a ST. But we should note that his corporeal nature, as such, is not
in question in his lack of ubiquity. This may be borne out by submitting two
antithetical examples to the ovns test: on the one hand the example of a body
designated in terms of mass, 'water', for instance; on the other, the example of
a particular incorporeal, the place occupied by Socrates, for instance.
Although a body, the first example does not pass the test: the fact that there is
water in Athens does not permit one to conclude that there is none in Megara.
The second, though incorporeal, does pass the test: if the place occupied by
Socrates is in Athens, that place is not in Megara. It is thus as a ST, not as a
body, that Socrates himself was successful in passing the test.
By collecting together the conclusions provided by the Stoic reading of the
Sophist and those that may be drawn from the polemic directed against the
theory of Forms, it may thus be said that their critical analysis of Platonism
made it possible for the Stoics to distinguish two separate ontological criteria,
a physical criterion of existence and a logical criterion of reality, and the
independence between those two carves out an ontological niche for NESTs.
Before bringing this section of my investigation to a close, I should like to
draw attention to the care with which the Stoics so to speak mounted guard
over the borders of that ontological niche. If it was not to be invaded by its
neighbours, it had to be defended on two fronts, as the following schema

In the next section, by examining the canonical incorporeals, we shall see what
arguments the Stoics used to secure their peculiarity, thus avoiding both
1207), has been re-established by this author on the basis of a scholium to the commentary on
the Categories by Philoponus (app. crit. p. J2 = FDS 1248); cf. also Elias, In Cat. 178.1-
12 = FDS 1249.
To translate this into more or less correct English (or French), one has to manipulate the
Greek, which is much more direct: ei TLS ianv iv 'Adrjvais, OVTOS OVK ZOTLV iv Meydpois '
avdpioiTOS 84 ioriv iv *Adr}vais • avOpcoTros apa OVK eonv iv Meyapois.

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conceptualizing them and also thereby allowing the NSTs to cross the frontier
separating them from the STs. I would like to show here that, as they
developed what I have called an inflationist somatology (by virtue of which
they presented as bodies many things that were not habitually conceptualized
as such - qualities, virtues, etc.), the Stoic philosophers handled their criterion
of corporeality, that is to say of existence, with precaution and moderation, so
as to avoid having the Es encroach unduly upon the NEs. By themselves
imposing a certain number of restrictions upon the legitimate use of this
criterion, they demonstrated once again that their theory of incorporeals that
are NESTs is not a concession that they were driven to make, but a
complementary element that they were only too happy to add to their critique
of the Platonic incorporeals, which are relegated to the status of NSTs.
To be sure, a thing is a body if and only if it acts or is acted upon.96 But what
is it to act, what is it to be acted upon? In contrast to Plato who, as we have
seen, gave these words as wide a meaning as possible, the Stoics understood
them in a strictly physical sense; in this way, they were not obliged to confer
corporeality upon any and every item which, in a true statement, would appear
in the position of the subject of an active or a passive verb. When they
undertake to show that such-and-such an item is a body, they stress the purely
physical character of the actions that it executes or the passions to which it is
subjected. What is common to the acting and the being acted upon is the
movement that impresses or is impressed (SVF 11.497) an< l that movement is
defined as a local movement (SVF 11.492). The action presupposes proximity
and contact (SVF 11.342); the action and the passion imply impulse, resistance
and impact (SVF 11.343). To show that the voice ((/XJOVYJ), for instance, is a body,
the Stoics show that it moves physically from the speaker to the hearer (SVF
in, Diog. 18) and that, in the phenomenon of the echo, its trajectory may be
broken by a wall, just as the trajectory of a ball would be (SVF 11.387).
Similarly, to show that the soul is a body, Chrysippus supplements Cleanthes'
rather impressionistic argument (*SKFi.5i8) with one whose blatant physica-
lism borders on provocation (SVF 11.790: 'death is the separation of the soul
and the body; now nothing incorporeal can be separated from a body; for
neither can the incorporeal touch the body'). In all these examples, the
insistence upon the physical nature of the actions and passions which serve as
Like Plato, the Stoics are here using a disjunctive formula (I should like to thank R. Sorabji for
showing me that the exceptions to this rule that I believed I had found were in fact no such
thing). An important consequence is that the two fundamental principles of Stoic physics, the
Logos-God which is active and only active, and matter which is passive and only passive, are
both bodies. That is what Diogenes Laertius VII.I34 = SVF 11.299 declares, according to the
MSS. However, such is the power to shock that this conclusion retains that von Arnim corrected
ocofjuara to aoojfjidrovs, on the basis of the article apxrj in the Suda, and that correction has
enjoyed a surprising success. It is accepted by the modern editors of Diogenes Laertius, R.D.
Hicks and H.S. Long; and several commentators who are in favour of preserving the text of the
MSS consider that Diogenes Laertius' testimony is substantially erroneous, either so far as the
Logos on its own is concerned (e.g. Kahn 1969, p. 168, n. 21), or even concerning both
principles (e.g. Sandbach 1985, pp. 73-4).

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indicators of corporeality ends up, paradoxically, by depriving the criterion of

its operational value: for in order to show that x is a body, it is necessary to
show that x acts or is acted upon; but for the demonstration to be conclusive, it
is necessary to show that x acts or is acted upon 'corporeally' (croo/xaTiKcos, cf.
SVF 11.343), not in some metaphorical or catachrestic sense (SVF 11.345).
These constraints affecting the implementation of the 'official' criterion of
corporeality perhaps explain why it is that, in practice, the Stoics often resort
to other ways of demonstrating statements taking the form of 'x is a body'.
Sometimes these supplementary procedures are used to reinforce the normal
procedure; but sometimes they supplant it, and one thus perceives that the
criterion of action and passion will perhaps not suffice to demonstrate the
corporeality of everything that the Stoics take to be bodies. The most
distinctive of these supplementary procedures is what I shall call 'the graft of
corporeality'. It rests upon the following argument: x is a body because it
maintains with y, which is a body, a relationship r which implies that x is also a
body. 97
This procedure is used to reinforce the normal one in, for example, the case
of the </)ojvrj. As we have seen, this is a body because it acts physically. But a
secondary demonstration of its corporeality is latent in the definition of it
given by Zeno (SVF1.74) and Diogenes of Babylon (SVF m, Diog. 17), namely
that of drjp TTtTrXeyixevos, 'air that is struck'; for air that is struck is air (that is
to say a body) in a particular state. The intention behind this definition
appears in the contrast, surely deliberate, that it draws with the definitions of
the 4>ojvrj to be found in Plato {Tim. 67B) and Aristotle (De an. 11.8, 42ob29):
both had called it TrXrjyr] aepos. The opponents of Stoicism did not fail to seize
upon that reversal and criticize it: Simplicius (in Phys. 426.1 = SVFm, Diog.
19, FDS 480) censures the Stoic definition for substituting the affected subject,
namely the air that is struck, for the affection, namely the striking of it, and for
wrongly concluding that the C/XJOVYJ is a body and presenting it as a species of the
genus 'air'. 98
In the case of the c/xjovrj, this type of argument is a supplementary procedure,
but it is used on its own when it comes to demonstrating that truth (as opposed

Naturally, not all relations have this 'corporealizing' effect: a place, for example, is occupied by
a body, but does not on that account become a b o d y itself. It would be interesting to discover
where the Stoics had at their disposal a precise criterion to distinguish relations that
'corporealize' from those that do not.
T h e same objection, with a reminder of the Platonic definition, is to be found in Schol. in Dion.
Thr. 482.5 ( = FDS4% 1), and also, with a different example, in Alexander In Top. 360.9 ( = SVF
11.379, FDS 839): a fist is not 'a h a n d in a particular state', for it is not a hand; it is in a h a n d , as in
a subject. It is worth noting that this is precisely the objection that Aristotle himself (Top. iv.5,
I27a3f.) m a d e to some of Plato's definitions, for instance that of snow as 'frozen water' (Tim.
59E), and that of m u d as 'earth mixed with moisture' (Theaet. 147c). The Stoics are thus using,
against one of Plato's particular definitions, a type of definition that Plato himself had also
used. In so doing, they take no account of the objections that Aristotle had raised against that
type of definition. O n this particular point, it is fair to say that Aristotle remains outside the
debate that the Stoics are engaged in with Plato.

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to what is true) is a body." In this demonstration, no attempt is made to

suggest that truth acts or is acted upon. The only argument used consists in
declaring that truth is a science and that science is the '^ye^oviKov (that is to
say a body) in a certain state', just as a fist is 'a hand in a certain state.' 100
Perhaps the author of this demonstration decided that it would be too difficult
to claim that truth acts in any other sense than metaphorically. At any rate, he
made no attempt to do so.
By thus combining a principal criterion of corporeality, which they handle
very strictly, with secondary criteria which enable them, when necessary, to
make use of the 'grafts of corporeality' to which I referred above, the Stoics as
it were provided themselves with a driving-wheel that enabled them to steer
their course with great precision between excessive rigour and excessive laxity
in their selection of candidates for membership of the club of bodies or fully
paid-up existents: all of which shows yet again, should it still need to be shown,
that there was nothing naive about their 'materialism' and that, far from being
overwhelmed by events over which they had no control, when they safe-
guarded the position of the NEST they knew exactly what they were doing and
were doing exactly what they meant to.

In this section I shall, as I have said, attempt to find means of confirming my

hypothesis from two different points of view. In the first place, if it is true that
the TSG doctrine and its essential element, the status of NESTs, were not
fabricated expressly to accommodate the four canonical incorporeals on the
basis of an inductive analysis of their common properties, but instead were
produced from the purely theoretical interaction between two ontological
criteria that had emerged from the critical analysis of Platonism, then we may
expect to find the Stoics running into a number of difficulties when it comes to
having to accommodate a whole collection of relatively heterogeneous items
within a single ontological category which was not specially created to hold
them and them alone. In my view, that expectation is fulfilled on a number of
It is nothing new to point out the heterogeneous nature of the group of
canonical incorporeals. 101 The most glaring disparity is that which separates
the 'logical' incorporeals (the Ae/cra) from the 'physical' incorporeals (place,
the void and time). But that is not the most serious disparity. These days, there
is an increasing tendency to devise ways of stressing that the status of the
XeKTov was first defined on the basis of the case of the Kar^yoprj^ara (SVF
Cf. Sextus, M v n . 3 8 = SVFn.132, FDS 324; P//11.81 = FDS 322. O n this text, see L o n g 1978c.
A definition which, as we have seen above, n. 98, is criticized by Alexander of Aphrodisias.
Cf. Brehier 1970, p . 60 ('The profound originality of this theory is to have associated within
the same g r o u p such very different beings'); with a slightly different perspective, Goldschmidt
1977, p . 26 ('Incorporeals are not all inexistent to the same degree'); L o n g and Sedley 1987,
vol. 1, p . 199 ('Why are they [i.e. the Aefcra] grouped together with place, void and time whose
incorporeality seems unproblematic?').

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1.488, FDS 763), which subsequently, within a more comprehensive theory,

were interpreted as incomplete XeKrd. Now, the incorporeal status of the
KarrjyoprjjjLa is connected with a characteristic theory of causality, in which it
represents the incorporeal effect of a corporeal cause acting upon a patient
that is also corporeal. 102 This status is thus defined in physical terms, not
logical, dialectical or semantic ones - or at least that is the case initially. Of all
the differences that separate the four canonical incorporeals, I would myself
stress rather those that are directly related to the various modalities of their
insertion into the class of NESTs.
If it is by virtue of their universality that, as we have seen, concepts are
classed as NSTs, then STs are necessarily particulars, whether they are bodies
or incorporeals. In this regard, two cleavages appear within the group of the
four incorporeals: the first is that which separates three of them, which are
continuous and infinitely divisible, namely time, place and the void (cf. SVF
11.482a, FDS 724) from the fourth, which is not (the complete XeKrov certainly
does have parts some of which constitute incomplete XeKrd, but clearly
division cannot be continued ad infinitum). The second cleavage is that which
separates off the two of them which are both unique and infinite (namely time
and the void) from the other two which are multiple and finite (places and the
XeKrd). This twofold division illuminates something which is immediately
manifest anyway: the special position of the XeKrd, which are multiple, finite
and not infinitely divisible.
There can be no shadow of a doubt that the XeKrd are particulars, even if it is
quite difficult to pin down exactly what it is that constitutes their particularity.
To resolve that problem, or even to express it correctly, it would no doubt be
necessary to study each species of the XeKrd separately, since not all XeKrd are
complete, not all complete XeKrd are d^Lcofiara, not all dgicofjuara are simple,
etc. For example, an incomplete XeKrov such as is expressed by a verb without
a subject ('... walks'), certainly seems to be common to an indefinite family of
complete XeKrd, those that are produced by combining some subject or other
with that verb ('Socrates walks', 'Plato walks', etc.). Accordingly, if two of
these complete XeKrd are taken into consideration, it is highly likely that we
should count them as two complete XeKrd and one incomplete XeKrov.
Furthermore, one might wonder whether the peculiarity of a XeKrov results
from the peculiarity of the sequence of sounds that expresses it (and if so,
whether that sequence should be considered as a type or as a token, a
particular sample of that type); or, alternatively, does it result rather from the
peculiarity of the 'logical representation' (^avraata XoyiKrj) which might be
expressed in words in such a sequence (and in this case too one ought to resolve
the ambiguity between type and token, probably settling for type). 103
Cf. S F F 1 . 8 9 , FDS 762; SKF11.341, FDS 765.
I c a n n o t go into these difficult problems in detail here. O n the one h a n d , the Ae/crov seems to
be individualized by the 'logical representation' that it expresses: it 'subsists' /caret XoyuK-qv
<j>avraoiav, as Sextus Empiricus puts it at vm.70 ( = SFF11.187, FDS 699), that is to say in
liaison with a mental event which differs from one person to a n o t h e r as it does at different
m o m e n t s within a single person. O n the other h a n d , however, the d£ia>/u,a, which is a

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However, whatever the difficulties to be resolved in order to determine from

precisely where each XeKrov derives its peculiarity, it certainly does possess a
peculiarity and, even if there exist situations in which one might be uncertain
whether one was dealing with a single XZKTOV or with several, it would in
principle be possible to dispel that uncertainty.
The infinite divisibility of the other three incorporeals - time, the void and
place - raises difficulties of a different order. If they are infinitely divisible, how
can one attribute to them a peculiarity that does not forthwith crumble into an
indefinite multiplicity of parts, not one of which has any chance of, in its turn,
passing for 'something', since its own singularity is liable to give rise to a new
dissolution? However, this problem would only be truly serious if infinite
divisibility were a quality that belonged only to these incorporeals and was
incompatible with the nature of corporeals. In a physical system in which
bodies are not infinitely divisible, that is to say in atomist physics, the physical
indivisibility of the atom would coexist uneasily with the infinite divisibility of
the place that it occupied, since the unity of the atom was assumed to be
incapable of impressing the slightest form of unity upon the place that it
occupied (which is why Epicurean atomism very logically conceived of
indivisible minima of geometrical extension at a sub-atomic level). But, as we
know, the Stoics avoid that distortion by adopting the opposite course: they
attribute an infinite divisibility to bodies as well as to the three incorporeals in
question. They even go so far as to maintain that those three incorporeals, and
likewise the geometrical limits mentioned above, are in this respect 'similar to
bodies'. 104 In these circumstances, the whole problem takes on a different
aspect: if infinite divisibility is a property of bodies, it must be assumed that it
threatens neither their existence nor their unificatory principle (whether this,
according to the well-known distinction, be e^ts", <f>vois or ifjvxr])', nor, a
fortiori, the peculiarity through which they are STs.1 ° 5 If that is the case, there
is, in principle, nothing to prevent infinitely divisible incorporeals from
enjoying an analogous peculiarity.
It is in connection with place that it seems possible to resolve the problem in
the most simple fashion. If bodies, whilst being infinitely divisible, at the same
particular species of ACKTOV, certainly does seem to subsist, and remain identical to itself, quite
independently from any actual assertion m a d e at a particular m o m e n t by a particular person.
It is 'assertable to the extent that it is itself concerned' (airo^avrov ooov e 0 ' eavrw), as
Chrysippus says, cited by Diogenes Laertius vii.65 ( = SKF11.193, FDS 874); and it remains
the same d^ico/xa as the changing circumstances render it now true, now false (ibid.). Long
and Sedley 1987, vol. 1, p. 202 seem to me to strike the right note: ' N o r should it be a s s u m e d . . .
that rational impressions are nothing m o r e t h a n the thoughts of their corresponding lekta.
The same proposition can be thought in a variety of ways by the same person or by different
persons. The rational impression that my cat is hungry will be a different thought if I see the
cat or hear the cat or reflect that I failed to feed it this m o r n i n g . W h a t lekta correspond to will
be the propositional content, not all the circumstances and individuality, of a rational
Cf. Chrysippus a p u d Stobaeus, Eclogae 1.142.2 ( = 5 f KFn.482A, FDS 724).
Cf. Goldschmidt 1977, p . 38: 'one should n o t conclude from this text (SVF 11.509) that
Chrysippus, teaching the infinite divisibility of time, intended to show the unreality of time,
for just such a conclusion would equally reduce the reality of bodies to nothing.'

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time possess a true and objective unity, the places that they occupy must
benefit derivatively from that unity, once it is divested of the purely physical
aspects (that is to say those related to modes of action and passion, and in
particular avrirviria, i.e. resistance) which characterize it as the unity of such-
and-such a particular body. To put it another way, the relation of bodies to the
places that they occupy is enough, it would seem, to guarantee the latter their
multiplicity, their limitation and their peculiarity: 'place subsists in liaison
with bodies {rrapv^iGrarai TOLS oco/jLaoLv) and from them it receives its limit to
the exact extent that it is filled by those bodies'. 106 To be sure, we should not
over-simplify the question and imagine that there exists between a body and its
place a bi-univocal correspondence: even if every body occupies a place, it is
not strictly true that one body corresponds to each place; for in Stoic physics,
which is known to admit total mixture, a single place may be occupied by
several bodies. It is no doubt so as to do justice to that possibility that
Chrysippus produces a disjunctive definition of place: 107 'place is what is
entirely occupied by an existent (VTTO OVTOS = by a body), or which is of a kind
to be occupied by an existent and is entirely occupied either by something or by
several things (eire VTTO TWOS CLTC VTTO TIVOJI/)'. Provided one does not imagine
that the use of TWOS and TLVCOV in the second definition introduces incorporeal
STs, this second definition clearly seems to resolve the difficulty raised by the
possibility of total mixture: even if a place is in fact occupied by one or several
bodies, that does not prevent it from being 'occupiable' by a single body, and
this restores to it the unity that might seem threatened by the multiplicity of
bodies which, in certain circumstances, might in effect occupy it. Given that
two bodies could occupy the same place, there was an urgent need to find a
means of preserving the identity and unity of that place, for otherwise it would
not be possible to distinguish this case from one in which two bodies occupied
two different places. The definition of place as 'occupiable' by a (single)
corporeal existent answers that need.
If we now pass on to the cases of the void and time, other difficulties come to
light, stemming first from the two characteristics which are common to both of
them and that distinguish them from the other two canonical incorporeals: in
the first place, they are both infinite, the void in all three dimensions of space,
time in the directions of both the past and the future; 108 secondly, their names
both function as 'mass-terms', as likewise do the names of certain bodies: 'the
word "time" can be used in two senses, as can "earth", "sea" and "void".
These words designate both the whole and its parts.' 109 It is, of course, when
they are considered as wholes that time and the void are infinite (except insofar

Iamblichus a p u d Simplicius, in Cat. 135.25-8 = SVF 11.507, FDS 734.
Stobaeus, Eclogue 1.161.8 = SVF 11.503, FDS 728.
Stobaeus, Eclogae 1.106.5 = SVF 11.509A, FDS 808. Cf. also Posidonius a p u d Stobaeus,
Eclogae 1. 105. 17 = Edelstein-Kidd fr. 98: time as a whole (au/u,7ras) is infinite Kara -nav\ the
past a n d the future are infinite Kara r t , since each of t h e m is limited only at the level of the
present (Kara TOP irapovra fxovov).
Cf. Stobaeus, Eel. 1.106.5 = S T F 11.509A, FDS SoS.

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as two parts of time, the past and the future, are equally infinite but 'only in one
direction'). Moving on from there, one may well wonder whether it is the
representation of time and the void as wholes or as parts that is dominant in
determining their status as NESTs. But the question cannot be posed in the
same way for these two cases.
Let us begin with the void, which is the less complex case. Although, as we
have seen, it 'resembles bodies' insofar as, like place, time and geometrical
limits, it is infinitely divisible, in another sense it presents itself as the purest of
all incorporeals, even, one might say, as the incorporeal par excellence. By
definition 'a desert devoid of bodies (iprj [xla ac&^aros)' (SVF1.95), it does not
pose either the Stoics or the ancient 'physicists' in general the problem of
whether it is incorporeal, but only that of whether it is real, and in what sense.
For if it is real, it could not be other than incorporeal. The distinction between
the void and place allows the Stoics not to conceive of the void as remaining
that void once it is occupied by a body; it has the capacity to accommodate a
body without ever actually accommodating it, as such;110 this capacity to
accommodate a body is the only positive determination that may be attributed
to it.x 11 Limitless (SVF11.503, FDS 728), without internal differentiation (SVF
11.550) and without dimensional orientation (SVF 11.557), t n e notion of the
void is 'as simple as could possibly be' (SVF11.541); it coincides so perfectly,
with neither excess nor default, with the notion of incorporeality that one
might be tempted to wonder how there could possibly be any incorporeals
other than it. Accordingly, the Stoics' main argument to prove the reality of an
extra-cosmic void (that is, the need for a space in which the world can dilate
when periodic conflagrations take place, cf. SVF 11.537 a n d 609) is not
concerned also to show that this void is incorporeal: given that the world, by
definition, contains all things corporeal, whatever leaves it room to expand
must be incorporeal. The same applies in the argument of the 'space
traveller',112 one which, curiously enough, does not even envisage the
possibility that the traveller, having reached the limit of the sphere of the fixed
stars, could then stretch out his hand through a body that does not offer
sufficient resistance, be it subtle aether or even air of a more vulgar nature.
The difficulty in these circumstances is to understand why the void, lacking

Cf. Alexander apud Simplicius, In De cael. 285.28 ( = SVF 11.535B). This capacity to
accommodate a body without being actually occupied by any body itself implies incorporea-
lity, as is indicated in a passage of Diogenes Laertius vn. 140 ( = SKF11.543, FDS 723), which
seemed 'absurd' to von Arnim (cf. app. crit. adloc, and 1.95B, app. crit.) only because he took
it to be a definition of the incorporeal, whereas it is no more than a justification of the
incorporeality of the void.
Cf. the description by Cleomedes, De mot. circ. 8.11-14: 'its notion is extremely simple: it is
incorporeal and intangible, it has no form and cannot receive one, it is neither acted upon nor
does it act, it is purely and simply capable of receiving a body' {SVFu.541).
Cf. Simplicius, In De cael. 284.28 = SKF11.535A. I should note in passing that this is the only
text I have come across which uses rt twice in the same breath, the first time to designate the
void outside the world, and the next time to designate the body which would prevent a
traveller from extending his hand if he was not truly at the edge of the world.

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positive determining features to such a degree, should still be classed as a ST,

rather than as a NST or even, in the manner of the early Atomists, as
'nothing'. 113 It is worth noting that the oifrt? test does not justify classifying
the void among the STs; for that test is disqualified for 'mass-terms' and, as we
have seen, the Stoics had recognized the void to be one of those terms. Let us
consider the following syllogism: if something is outside the world, it is not in
the world; there is (the) void outside the world; so there is not (the) void in the
world. The position of the Stoics vis-a-vis this syllogism is a strange one: for
them both premisses and the conclusion are all true, as is the consequence that
may be drawn from the syllogism, namely that the void is a ST. However, the
syllogism is not valid since the void is a mass-term. In that case, two
alternatives follow: either the Stoics consider that it is valid, in which case they
are clearly mistaken; or else they consider it invalid, in which case they forgo
the means of applying to the void their habitual instrument for proving that a
given item is a ST.
How did the Stoics steer clear of this double reef? The first thing to note is
that it did not occur to them to use the syllogism that we have imagined: even if
the existence of the void outside the world is proven, they do not consider that
they are dispensed from demonstrating the inexistence of the void inside the
world. The two theses are presented as logically independent (cf. fjuev and 8e in
SVF1.95 and 96); and the second rests, not upon an argument analogous to the
syllogism cited above, but upon the 'phenomena' (SVF 11.546), that is to say
the avfJLTTvoLa, the Gvvrovia (SVF 11.543) a n d the avfjiTrddeia (SVF II.546)
which, between them, unite the various parts of the world.
In view of all this, the solution to the problem appears to be as follows: once
it has been proved, by two independent demonstrations, that there is no void
within the world and that there is one outside it, the term 'void', while
remaining a term denoting mass, applicable in the same sense both to the
whole and to its parts, no longer means anything more than a continuous
whole of a single nature when it is applied to the whole (cf. SVF1.94, ddpoov;
SFF1.96, awexrj), except, that is, for the enclave within it represented by the
world, which limits it internally just as a hole limits the continuity of a Gruyere
cheese; 114 and when the term 'void' is applied to the parts of the whole, it

It will be remembered that the ancient Atomists had called the void ovSev, as opposed to the
body or whatever was full, which they called hev (DK 68A37, A49, B156).
In more poetic vein, I would like to cite the following lines from P. Valery ('Ebauche d'un
serpent', in Charmes):
Tu gardes les coeurs de connaitre
Que l'univers n'est qu'un defaut
Dans la purete du Non-etre!

(You keep hearts from knowing

That the universe is simply a fault
In the purity of Non-being!)
Needless to say, this reversal of ontological values is in no sense Stoic.

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simply designates parts arbitrarily selected from that continuous whole. In

these circumstances, the void successfully passes a revised form of the OVTIS
test. The double demonstration of its existence outside the world and its
inexistence inside the world bestowed upon the term 'void' the more precise
meaning of 'void outside the world', whether considered as a whole or in its
parts. Accordingly, it may be said that if it exists outside the world, it does not
exist inside the world; it thereby qualifies as a ST by the ordinary means of the
OVTLS test.
The Stoic theory of time is much more difficult than their theory of the void,
for reasons that have to do with the very nature of the thing (well known to
have embarrassed many philosophers, from Plato and Aristotle down to
Bergson and Heidegger, and including Saint Augustine, and many other
minds of comparable calibre), and also with the obscurity of the few remaining
passages that testify to the thought of the early Stoics on this question. Finding
myself following on after Victor Goldschmidt's great work, Le Systeme
sWiden et Videe de temps, and in the same field as the very fine study which
Malcolm Schofield (1988) devotes to a crucial aspect of the problem, I will, if I
may, limit myself here to a few remarks on one particular question: is the
ontological status that the Stoics attributed to time, namely that of a NEST,
primarily motivated by an analysis of time as a whole, which is then extended
from the whole to the parts, or is it, on the contrary, initially attributed to the
parts (or to certain specific parts) of time and then extrapolated to apply to
time as a whole?
In studying this question, we cannot depend on the characteristics that are
common to both time and the void, although these are by no means
unimportant: time, like the void, is a term that is applied both to the whole and
to the parts of that whole; and time, like the void, is infinite, although not in
exactly the same sense. 115 However, the parallelism collapses at several points
that are no less important. The parts of the void (like the parts of space) are
strictly homogeneous amongst themselves and also in relation to the whole,
whereas the parts of time (or at least those which could be called 'egocentric'
parts: the past, the present and the future) are ontologically different from one
another and also from time as a whole. 116 Furthermore, in the temporal
domain, there exists no concept - or at least no term - which stands in the same
relation to total and infinite time as place does to the void. It is true that one
can try to re-establish the symmetry, as Goldschmidt does, by appealing to the
following analogy: what the infinite void is to a place limited by the body which
occupies it, total and infinite time (what Marcus Aurelius was to call the alcov)
is to time limited by the action which occupies it, that is to say the present. 117
Cf. Stobaeus, Eel. 1.106.5 ( = SKFn.5O9A, FDS 808).
Ibid. This is the famous text in which Chrysippus says that only the present virdpx^iv, whereas
the past and the future v^eoravai. Despite having decided not to go into the question of
interpretation raised by these verbs, at this point I cannot refrain from remarking that it
remains a complete mystery to me why Chrysippus is not willing to say that the past vvrjp^
and that the future uTrapfei (particularly in view of his theory of destiny).
Goldschmidt 1977, p. 39.

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But this analogy seems to me to be flawed by several differences: in the first

place, the limited parts of time are not necessarily determined by an action in
the present ('last year'; 'the day after tomorrow'); and secondly, there is no
such thing as 'empty' time which is beyond the limits of the time occupied by
the movements of the world (SVF 11.510, FDS 807).
So let us return to the specific problem of time, taking as our point of
departure the extremely original idea recently put forward by David Sedley.
According to him, 118 the items of a temporal nature which in the eyes of the
Stoics count as 'actual incorporeals' are 'individual portions of time' (for
example, 'yesterday'); time itself, as a 'species' to which those individual
portions belong, is a universal concept, and so is a NST. The textual basis for
this interpretation seems somewhat inadequate: it is true that, according to
Sextus Empiricus, 119 the Stoics recognized four ecSr] of incorporeals, one of
which was time. But that does not necessarily mean that each of the items on
this list is a species that incorporates individual members of its own; the text
may simply mean that the Stoics recognized four forms of incorporeals; and
even if the term ciSos should be understood to mean 'species', that term, as
Sedley himself notes, 120 can be used by the Stoics with a 'supremely specific'
(elSiKtoTdTov) sense, according to which an individual such as Socrates is
himself an eiSos with no etSo?.121 Otherwise, so far as I know, there is no text
that attests that the Stoics considered time (or the void, another mass-
incorporeal) as a whole whose relation to its parts was that of a species to its
individual members. Furthermore, in the work which he has produced with
Anthony Long, David Sedley himself seems to have appreciably toned down
the boldness of that interpretation. It is true that he still writes that an
incorporeal 'like a time' does not exist, insofar as it is not a body; and he
continues to take 'today' as an example of an expression that is taken to 'name
something even though that something has no actual or independent exist-
ence.' 122 But nowhere in this work, unless I am mistaken, is time 'as a species'
assimilated to a 'universal concept' (certainly not in the commentary on the
texts on time, pp. 306-8). On the contrary, Long and Sedley (quite rightly, in
my opinion) criticize Proclus for having inferred the incorporeality of time
from its purely conceptual nature, 123 remarking that this is 'probably an
incorrect inference' (p. 307).
Having said which, it might still be supposed that the ontological status of
time was determined on the basis of an analysis of its individual parts, or those
of its parts that were individualized by the particular movement of a corporeal
individual, an analysis then extended to apply to time as a whole. However, the
surviving texts do not support that supposition; and the infinity of time, which
belongs only to time as a whole and to those parts of it that are limitless,

1985, p . 91 n. 5.
Sextus M x . 2 l 8 ( = SVFII.331, FDS 720): TCOV SC aocofJidrcov reoaapa e'i8rj Kar
1985, p . 91 n. 19.
Cf. Diogenes Laertius vn.61. O n this point, p e r h a p s I m a y refer the reader to chapter 3 above.
122 123
1987, vol. 1, p . 164. Cf. Proclus, In Tim.iu.9s. 7-15 ( = S K F n . 5 2 i , FDS 716).

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namely the past and the future, seems to have played a decisive role in the
demonstration of its incorporeality. Chrysippus, speaking of the infinite and
incorporeal void, associates it with time in the following terms: 'just as
whatever is corporeal is finite, so that which is incorporeal is infinite: thus, time
is infinite, as is the void.'x 2 4 This text presents infinity and incorporeality as the
necessary and sufficient conditions of one another, which is something that
could put the Stoics in a tricky position when they have to attribute the status
of incorporeality to non-infinite realities, such as places and the XeKrd.125 At
any rate, it shows clearly that when they think of time as incorporeal, they
above all think of it as infinite, that is to say in its totality, and, more precisely,
as being composed of the infinite past and the infinite future. 126
Nor is that all: not only does the incorporeality of time appear as a
characteristic attribute of time taken in its totality, but furthermore one may
well wonder whether that incorporeality is truly transmitted to all its parts,
particularly the parts of time that one might call 'natural' or 'cosmic', those
that are determined by the cycles of the sun and the moon. According to
Plutarch, 127 Chrysippus set out the following argument in Book I of his
Questions on Physics:
It is not the case that the night is a body and the evening and the dawn and
midnight are not bodies; and it is not the case that the day is a body and the first
day of the month is not also a body and the tenth and thefifteenthand thirtieth
and the month and the summer and the autumn and the year.
This passage and its context are worth examining closely: are the 'cosmic parts'
of time bodies?
In presenting Chrysippus' argument, Plutarch tells us that it takes the form
of a sorites (Kara yuKpov Xoyos). According to the current interpretation, that
sorites should be understood as a modus ponens: the initial premiss ('night is a
body') is considered to be accepted by Chrysippus, and the other statements
that are 'step by step' implied ('the evening is a body', 'the dawn is a body', etc.)
are considered to be justifiably deduced from that initial premiss. 128 This
interpretation produces a definitely paradoxical consequence: namely, that
Cf. Stobaeus, Eclogue 1.161.8 ( = SVF 11.503, FDS 728). T h e deployment of the articles rules
out any ambiguity as to the distribution of subjects and attributes: KaQairep Se TO ooj^ariKov
T h e contradiction between the theoretical finiteness of bodies and the infinity of the void,
which can nevertheless be occupied by a body, is exploited by an anti-Stoic objection m a d e by
Alexander a p u d Simplicius, In De cael. 285.28 ( = SKF11.535B).
Cf. Stobaeus, Eel. 1.106.5 ^ S K F 11.509, FDS 808): TOV xpovov iravTa aneipov elvai l(f>
€KaT€pa • /ecu yap TOV TrapeXrjXvBoTa /cat TOV /xiXXovTa aneipov efveu.
Plutarch, Comm. not. 1084c ( = SVF 11.665, FDS 971).
Here are a few samples of this current interpretation: Zeller 1904, vol. m . i . i , p . 124 ('Wollte
Chrysippus mit diesem freilich hochst ungelenken A u s d r u c k wohl schwerlich etwas anderes
sagen als, dass das Reale, was jenen N a m e n entspricht, in gewissen korperlichen Zustanden
liege'); Goldschmidt 1977, p . 41 ('We k n o w , for example, that the Stoics defined winter as " t h e
air above the earth, which cools as a result of being distant from the s u n " (Diogenes Laertius
VII. 151 = SVF 11.693); similarly, a m o n t h , taken n o t as a purely temporal determination (and,
as such, incorporeal (cf. Cleomedes, de mot. circ. 202.11-23)), but as a body, is " t h e m o o n
turning its shining side towards u s " (Chrysippus a p u d Stobaeus, Eclogae 1.219.24 = SVF

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the cosmic parts of time are bodies and that time as a whole is incorporeal. Yet
this is not an intolerable paradox: for one thing, it is not the case that there are
no examples of incorporeals having parts that are not incorporeal; 129 for
another, a number of texts give definitely 'corporealizing' definitions of one or
another cosmic part of time. 130 This explains how it was that the positive
interpretation of Chrysippus' sorites became accepted, so far as I know
without challenge.
I myself shall nevertheless now challenge it, for the following reasons:
(a) When you look closely at the set of definitions that the Stoics produced
for the cosmic parts of time, you notice that they were operating on a number
of different levels, tending now to 'corporealize', now to 'decorporealize'
them. The definitions of the four seasons in Diogenes Laertius (vii.151-2) are
extraordinarily diverse in this respect. Those of winter and summer are, so to
speak, directly corporealizing: the position of the definitional genus is
occupied by a body, namely the supra-terrestrial air. 131 The definition of
spring might be said to be indirectly corporealizing: here, the position of the
genus is occupied by a quality, the balanced mixture {evKpaola) that affects a
body, to wit the air; 132 since this quality of a body is itself corporeal, the spring
may be said to be the object of one of those 'grafts of corporeality' that I
referred to earlier. As for the autumn, it is defined as an effect,133 that is to say
as an incorporeal. A similar heterogeneity reappears in other contexts.
Chrysippus produces different definitions for a month (/XT^) and a lunar phase
(jLtet?). His definition for the former is definitely decorporealizing ('the period
of the course of the moon'). For the latter, he produces two alternative
definitions linked by the conjunction rj: the first is, so to speak, de-objectivizing
('the visible aspect that the moon takes on from our point of view', TO
<f)aLv6fjL€vov 7-779 aeXrjvrjs), while the second is forthrightly objectivizing ('the
moon having one part which has a visible aspect from our point of view,
aeXrivrj jjuepos exovaa (/>aw6fjL€vov TTpos ^/xd?). 1 3 4 The somewhat pedantic
mind of Cleomedes imposes appreciable order upon all this: according to
him, 135 the word 'month' may be understood in four senses: (a) the moon
itself, when it is shaped like a sigma; (b) the very state of the air from one
conjunction-point to another; (c) the temporal interval {XPOVIKOV Staarry/xa)

11.677B)'); L o n g a n d Sedley 1987, vol. 1, p . 308 ('If time as such is not a body, Chrysippus was
prepared to treat day and night a n d longer durations of time as bodies. H e seems to have
reasoned that these are physical changes produced by the sun's movements').
According to Frede's analysis (1977, p p . 63ff.= 1987, p p . 347ff.), a complete XCKTOV is an
incorporeal all of whose parts are n o t incorporeals. O n the same point, cf. L o n g and Sedley
1987, vol. 1, p p . 2 0 0 - 1 .
Cf. the texts mentioned by Goldschmidt, in the passage cited above, n. 128.
Winter: 'the supra-terrestrial air cooled by being distant from the sun'. Summer: 'the supra-
terrestrial air warmed by the sun moving n o r t h w a r d s ' .
Spring: 'the balanced mixture of air produced by the sun drawing closer to us'.
A u t u m n 'is produced (yiveoSai) by the opposite course of the sun moving away from us'.
Cf. Stobaeus, Eclogue 1.219.24 ( = SFF11.677B). T h e definition cited by Goldschmidt (above,
n. 128) as that of a m o n t h is in reality the second definition of the lunar phase; furthermore, I
consider the translation to be questionable. Cleomedes, De mot. circ. 202.11-23.

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which separates one moment in time from another; (d) any period of thirty
days. Cleomedes explains that a 'month' is a body in senses (a) and (b) and an
incorporeal in senses (c) and (d), 'for time, too, is incorporeal', This last
remark suggests that incorporeality is indeed transmitted from time as a whole
to its cosmic parts, but only on condition that these be considered as temporal
intervals, not inasmuch as their names can designate bodies or the qualities of
bodies which determine those intervals. We may conclude from this analysis
that Chrysippus' sorites might be a modus ponens, but that this is not
necessarily the case; and that if Chrysippus is here using the names of the
cosmic parts of time in their strict sense, his sorites must, on the contrary, be a
modus tollens.
(b) Positive arguments in favour of interpreting this sorites as a modus
tollens do exist, (i) As Jonathan Barnes has shown in his masterly study of
these kinds of arguments, generally speaking, Chrysippus did not object in
principle against the logical validity of the sorites as such. 136 When the sorites
claims to gain acceptance for a conclusion that is manifestly false, it is possible
to object that at least one of its premisses is false, even if it seems to be
plausible, (ii) More specifically, the context of the quotation favours such an
interpretation. Plutarch himself has just constructed an anti-Stoic sorites
which is without doubt presented as a modus tollens (if, as the Stoics claim,
vices, virtues and activities are living existents, they must also recognize that
laughter, weeping, coughing and sneezing, etc., are likewise living existents;
the manifestly absurd consequences dictate the rejection of the Stoic
premisses). He then goes on to comment that the Stoics cannot complain if
they are subjected to this type of argument Kara fjuKpov, since Chrysippus
himself proceeds in this fashion (OVTOJ Trpoodyovros) in his argument concern-
ing the cosmic parts of time. It would be remarkably clumsy of Plutarch to cite
a sorites of Chrysippus' in modus ponens in order to get the Stoics to accept his
own sorites in modus tollens, for he would thereby lay himself open to the
retort: 'yes, we are in the habit of accepting the consequences of our premisses,
even when they are paradoxical.' Plutarch's strategy only makes sense if one
assumes that, on the contrary, he is aware of the context of Chrysippus' sorites
and knows that it involves an argument that is used as a modus tollens. (iii)
Carneades had been fond of using the sorites as a modus tollens.131 One of his
arguments uses the same series of subjects as Chrysippus' sorites (day, month,
year, dawn, midday, evening) but with a different predicate ('. . . is a god'
instead of'. . . is a body'). Very likely he is, as is his wont, playing with the
weapons provided by Chrysippus. 138 In view of the change in predicate and in
context, we cannot totally dismiss the hypothesis that he may be twisting into a
Cf. Barnes 1982, esp. pp. 47-53 (Chrysippus a 'conservative opponent of the sorites', not a
'radical opponent'). Cf. Sextus, Mix. 182-4.
His acknowledgement of his debt to Chrysippus is well-known, Diogenes Laertius iv.62. A
comparison between the two texts does not seem to have been envisaged by Burnyeat 1982.

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modus tollens a sorites which Chrysippus had used as a modus ponens.

However, it is far more likely that, in order to reject a premiss that is
unquestionably Stoic ('the sun is a god').139 what he is doing here is parodying
a sorites of the modus tollens variety, which Chrysippus has already used, (iv)
We have seen above that the Stoics were not inclined to use their criteria of
corporeality in a lax fashion: apart from their direct applications of the
criterion of action or passion, the only auxiliary argument to which they resort
is what I have called the 'grafting of corporeality'. But I do not think that there
are any texts in which that grafting of corporeality is used repeatedly so as to
demonstrate the corporeality of a whole chain of items. If the sorites cited by
Plutarch was used in modus ponens, this would - so far as I know - constitute a
unique case in which a Stoic sorites links together a whole chain of demon-
strations of corporeality.
From all this one may, it would seem, conclude that, just as there was no
reason to set the incorporeal parts of time in opposition to time conceived as a
whole, there is no reason to set the corporeal parts of time in opposition to
incorporeal time as a whole. Our initial problem was badly set out: the
determination of the ontological status of time operates in exactly the same
way whether one considers time as a whole or in its various parts. Time is
incorporeal insofar as it is the dimension according to which the speed or
slowness of movement of bodies is measured, whether the body involved be the
world or a chicken which steps across the farmyard, and whether that
movement be the revolution of the cosmos which is punctuated by periodic
conflagrations or the progress of the chicken which pauses when itfindsa grain
of corn. Chrysippus is not contradicting himself when, on the one hand, he
takes over Zeno's definition of time as a general 'interval of movement' (SVF
1.93,11.509) and, on the other, he replaces that definition as follows: 'an interval
in the movement of the world' (SVF 11.510). The coexistence of those two
definitions corresponds to a double acceptation of time: inseparably both a
whole and its parts. The status of NEST that is attributed to time is not
attributed in thefirstplace to time as a whole, and derivatively to its parts, nor
is it the other way round. Whether infinite or finite, total or partial, time is
always characterized by the individuality of the body whose movement it
measures and by the unity of that movement which it measures.
I hope I have now shown that each of the canonical incorporealsfitsinto the
category of NESTs in its own particular way and in accordance with
arguments which are adapted to the particular characteristics of each of them.
The very variety of those ways of fitting in confirms that the category in
question was not constructed simply by fastening upon their common

Cf. Cicero, 11.119( = SKF11.92); Philodemus,Depiet. 11 ( = SVFu.1076);Cicero,De
nat. deor. 1.15.39 ( = SKFn.iO77).

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To confirm that the TSG doctrine was born from Plato's thought, I must now
apply myself to the objections to that doctrine raised by the ancient opponents
of Stoicism, and also to the degree of attention that the Stoics themselves paid
to those objections.
I think we may summarily classify the ancient objections to the TSG
doctrine into three categories:
(a) First, by way of a reminder, let me mention - but not dwell upon - the
objections which may be termed prejudicial, because they do no more than
reject the propositions of the doctrine that they are criticizing, in particular the
idea that ST is a genus that is superior to E and that the relations between the
two, as between the ST and its other species, are those that ordinarily exist
between a genus and its species. Sextus Empiricus, for example, seeks to prove
that if ST can be neither a body nor an incorporeal nor both at once, it is
nothing at all.140 Similarly, Plotinus postulates that a ST must be either an E
or a NE and proceeds to draw disastrous consequences from both those
alternatives.141 We may place in the same category the argument by which
Alexander of Aphrodisias, on the basis of the common evidence that anything
which is ST is also E,142 thinks that he can prove that ST cannot be a genus of
E: a ST receives the definition of an E, whereas a genus cannot receive the
definition of one of its species.143 True, Alexander does realize that this
objection is misleading in relation to the Stoic theory, since the latter in point
of fact rejects the implication (x) (STx->Ex). Accordingly, even as he protests
against the arbitrary reduction of Es to bodies,144 he tacks on another
argument, which is of a kind to undermine the Stoics' thesis despite their
'loophole'. But this new argument is quite different from the earlier ones.
(b) Another type of objection consists in not stopping the Stoics postulating
a genus superior to E, but showing the technical difficulties to which they
expose themselves by setting up this genus as the supreme genus, either
because there exist other candidates better suited for that role, or because the
very notion of a supreme genus raises insurmountable difficulties. The former
tactic is adopted by Alexander of Aphrodisias, who tries to catch the Stoics in
the following trap: (a) if the ST were the supreme genus, the One would have to
be subordinated to it; but the One is predicated of the ST itself;145 (b) not only
can the One not be subordinated to the ST, but the ST must be subordinated to
the One, for 'the One is equally predicated of the concept, whereas the ST is
predicated only by bodies and incorporeals, and the concept is neither the one
140 141
Sextus, M x . 2 3 4 - 6 ( = SF/'ii.33i, J FDS' 719). Plotinus, Enn. vi. 1.25 ( = FDS 712).
Evidence already mentioned by Plato, Soph. 237D; cf. above, n. 64.
Alexander, In Top. 301.19 ( = SVF 11.329A, FDS 711).
H e claims that, in this respect, the Stoics 'are making u p their own rules (vofMoOerrjoavres
avTois). It is a reproach frequently levelled by opponents of Stoicism: cf. Sextus Afvm. 125-6
( = FZ)S968), 108 ( = FDS952); Galen, Introductio dialect. 4 ( = SVF 11.208, FDS 951).
This is the agreement introduced in the passage cited above, n. 143.

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nor the other, according to the partisans of this doctrine.' The second tactic
is adopted by Plotinus, who points out that the Stoics 'have not held in reserve
differences which could help them to divide the ST. 147 This is the rule
according to which the genus can be divided into species thanks to differences
that these have acquired outside of it. Aristotle had made use of it to establish
that being is not a genus.148 It may, of course, be used to block all attempts to
set up as supreme genus any kind of notion of universal extension.
These technical objections are of definitely Aristotelian inspiration. The
first makes use of the Aristotelian laws relating to the genus, as they are
established in the Topics', the second applies to the ST Aristotle's argument
against the idea that being is a genus. So far as I know, no Stoic text or
document attempts to respond to these difficulties. The Stoics use the notion of
a supreme genus seemingly unaware that it has already given rise to objections
of principle. The simplest explanation for this is that they were indeed unaware
of the fact.
(c) A third type of objection stems, in contrast, from Platonic inspiration.
These are metaphysical objections, which establish such a great ontological
distance between bodies and incorporeals as to rule out the position of a genus
that could be common to both. It is for a reason of this kind that Plotinus
considers the Stoics' ST to be 'incomprehensible and irrational (dovverov Kal
a\oyov)\ Nothing could possibly be suitable both for incorporeals and for
bodies; it is not possible to include in the same genus both the anterior and the
posterior, the being and the non-being.149 Yet had not Plato himself proposed
defining a being in terms of its ability to act and to be acted upon - a definition
that was intended to include both the incorporeal being and the corporeal?
Admittedly, he had taken care to present that definition as a provisional one
that was subject to revision; and in the remaining part of the Sophist he seems
to have forgotten about it.150
Unlike in the cases of thefirsttwo kinds of objections, the Stoics do seem to
have thought very seriously about the problem brought to light by this last
type of objection. Possibly some of their opponents who claimed to belong to
the Platonic tradition attacked them on this point. It is also possible that their
internal development of the theory prompted them to pose the following
question themselves: what is it legitimate to attribute to bodies and incorpor-
eals in common? On the one hand, they did indeed claim that the qualities of
bodies are corporeal and the qualities of incorporeals are incorporeal;151 on
Alexander, In Top. 359.14-16 ( = SVF 329B, FDS 709). I have tried above (p. 104) to
reconstitute the Stoic reply. Plotinus, Enn. vi.1.25 ( = SKF11.371, FDS 712).
Cf. Aristotle, Top. iv.2, I 2 2 b i 5 ; Metaph. B. 3, 989b23~7; / 8, iO58a6-8.
Cf. Plotinus, Enn. vi.1.25.5-7 ( = SVFn.3'ji, FDS 712); vi.1.25.15-23 ( = FDSS2-j); vi.2.1.
Soph. 247DE, 254AB. M a n y m o d e r n translators and c o m m e n t a t o r s still refuse to translate the
opov of 247E3 as 'definition', preferring instead to render it using terms such as ' m a r k ' or
Cf. Simplicius, In Cat. 209.1 ( = S K F 11.388, FDS 859); 217.32 ( = SVF11.389, FDS 1 858). We
possess very little information as to the incorporeal qualities of incorporeals. T o understand
this state of affairs, it is perhaps worth remembering that the Stoics' originality lay in the first

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the other, they presented the ST as the common genus of both corporeals and
incorporeals. Now, qualities do not determine things accidentally or superfi-
cially. It is they that make things what they are, determine wherein they differ
from all other things and what they identically remain throughout time. So
how is it possible for corporeal realities and incorporeal realities, whose
respective identifying qualities necessarily belong to distinct genera, to belong
to a common genus? It was to tackle this internal doctrinal difficulty that an
obscure idea about which we know very little seems to have been developed:
the notion of the KOLVOV ov/jLTTTaj/jLa acofidrcov /cat daco/xaraw.
This idea, which one might attempt to translate as 'a coincidental character-
istic common both to bodies and to incorporeals', surfaces a number of times
in the long and difficult chapter on quality, in Simplicius' Commentary on the
Categories. Given that chapter 8 of Aristotle's Categories had received the
traditional title nepl TTOLOTTJTOS /cat TTOLOV, the problem of the relationship
between items of the 'whiteness' type (TTOLOTTJS, quality) and items of the
'white' type (TTOLOV, something qualified or a qualifier) occupies a large part of
this commentary.
To make my exposition as clear as possible, I shall begin by examining a
passage which is not concerned with either the rt or the KOLVOV ov/jLTTTcofjia,
because an analysis of it will prove useful for the rest of the exposition.

(A) Aristotle had defined the TTOLOTTJS as 'that according to which some are said
to be 7T0L0L (TTOLorrjra 8e Xeyco KCL8' rjv TTOLOL TLV€S Aeyovrat)'. This definition
assumes that, each time a being is qualified in a certain manner (for example as
'white'), it is possible to designate the quality (here 'whiteness') by which it is
thus qualified. This law of correspondence had been challenged by 'some of the
Stoics (TCOV Se ITCX)'LKCOV TLVZS), Simplicius tells us (212,12ff. = SVF 11.390, FDS
852). These Stoics distinguished three meanings of the TTOLOV, the first two of
which were wider (inl -rrXeov) than that of the TTOLOTTJS, while the third, or - to
be more precise - part of the third, coincides exactly (ovvaTrapTL%€Lv) with it.
(a) In the first sense of TTOLOV, which is the widest, everything which is
determined or differentiated in some way or other (TTOLV TO Kara Sta</>opdV) is
TTOLOV, whether that determination is constituted by a movement (for example,

part of their thesis, that is to say in their conceiving the qualities of bodies to be themselves
bodies. Simplicius, in the first passage cited, sets their doctrine in opposition to that of the
'ancients', who conceived all qualities to be incorporeal (he is thinking of the Platonic idea and
the Aristotelian form). This is also the point on which he criticizes them in the second passage
cited: 'they are mistaken because they believe that causes are of the same nature (o^oouaia) as
what is realized through them, and because they suppose there to be the same relationship
(KOLVOV \6yov) between the cause <and whatever it works upon) in the case of bodies as in that
of incorporeals'. In my opinion, the KOIVOS Xoyos here is neither 'einen gemeinsamen Begriff
der Ursache' (Hiilser adloc), nor 'a common account of explanation' (Long and Sedley 1987,
vol. 1, p. 169), but, to be more precise, a relationship of analogy: the cause that makes a body
what it is must be corporeal, just as the cause that makes an incorporeal what it is must be
incorporeal. The Stoics acknowledged that it was possible to speak of incorporeal causes
KaraxpiqariKibs KO.1 olov aiTicoStbs, in a manner of speaking and in an approximate fashion
(Clement of Alexandria, Strom. vm.9 = SVF 11.345, FDS 763).

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'the one who is running') or by an attitude or a more or less lasting disposition

of the body or soul ('the one who brandishes his fist', 'the prudent one'). It
would seem that we are to understand that 'the one who is running' is
qualified, even though that does not mean that it is by virtue of a quality that
he possesses: the 'running' is not a quality by which a person can be qualified as
'a running person'.
(b) In the second, already more limited, sense of TTOIOV, movements are
eliminated, but the differentiated attitudes and dispositions of the soul and the
body are retained. 'The prudent one' and 'the one who is on his guard (o
TTpoPepXrjfjLevosy are said to be TTOLOL. However, these qualifications still do not
correspond to particular qualities, because some of them remain 'external' to
the subject, whereas a quality must be possessed intrinsically by the subject (cf.
Simplicius' critique, 213.1-6).
(c) Finally, in the last and most specific (elStKcoTarov) sense, 152 only
subjects qualified in a stable and permanent fashion are said to be TTOLOL (which
excludes fleeting physical attitudes such as brandishing one's fist or being on
one's guard). Only then is there established a correspondence between the
qualifications of the subject and the quality upon which that qualification is
based or, at least, only then can such a correspondence be established; for the
subtle Stoics whom Simplicius is citing introduce an extra distinction at this
(ci) Some subjects are qualified in a rigorously adequate fashion, both
linguistically and conceptually (dTTrjpTLOjJLevajs Kara TTJV eK<f>opdv avrtov Kal
TTLvoLOiv €LGL TOLOVTOL), in the sense that they are nothing more nor less
TrXeovd^eL ovre eAAeiVei) than what the dispositional quality that they
possess makes them be: for example, the scholar, the prudent person, and also
the gourmet and the wine buff (^t'Aoi/fo?, <J>L\OLVOS).
(c2) In other cases, the subject is qualified in a way that implies not only an
internal disposition, but also an external activity and the possession of the
physical organs necessary for the exercise of that activity. In this respect, the
gourmet and the wine buff are distinguished from the heavy eater and the
heavy drinker (di/jo^dyos, oiVo'0Au£). The latter are only said to be heavy eaters
and drinkers if they possess not only the dispositional qualities which
characterize the former, but also the physical organs which allow them to
function; if those organs are not operational, even if the disposition remains,
the qualification disappears. A gourmet who loses all his teeth remains a
gourmet; a heavy eater who loses all his teeth remains a gourmet but ceases to
be a heavy eater. If a quality is a permanent disposition, a constituent part of
the identity of the subject throughout the course of time, one can see how it is
that the qualification 'gourmet' corresponds adequately to a quality while the
qualification 'heavy eater' does not.
Who were the individual Stoics whose views this passage of Simplicius
I should point out here that lines 212.19-22 of Simplicius' text are omitted in SVF, as a result
of a haplography. They should be restored between lines 38 and 39, vol. 11, p. 128.

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transmits to us? The vocabulary in which the distinction between (ci) and (c2)
is expressed may suggest Antipater. In a passage which we have already
examined from another point of view, Diogenes Laertius passes on to us the
definition that this second-century BC Stoic gave of the definition: \6yos KCLT*
avdXvoLv aTTdpTL^ovTOJs €Ac<£epo/x€vos.153 Alexander of Aphrodisias records
the same definition anonymously and explains the adverb aTrapn^ovrajs as
follows: TO fjbrjTe virepfiaWeiv fju-qre ivSeiv.15* If we apply this concept of the
definition to the text of Simplicius that we have considered, we could say that
the TTOLOV corresponds to a TTOIOTT/? when it is defined by the possession of that
quality: according to Antipater's criteria of definition, a prudent individual is
defined as one who possesses prudence.

(B) Antipater also crops up, but this time with full credits, in a slightly earlier
and more complex passage in Simplicius' Commentary (209.10-29 = FDS
860). The previous context is spoilt by a lacuna, which does nothing to
improve our understanding of it. According to what Simplicius tells us here,
the Stoics also referred to the TTOLOTTJS as e£t?, while the 'Academicians' called
the etwees 4€ACTa', a word derived from the verb ex^odai, on the model of a
number of technical terms which it is not necessary for us to consider here. In
giving the name <zi;is to the TTOLOTTJS, the Stoics probably had in mind meanings
of i&s that were attached etymologically to the active uses of €x€Lv: they define
the TTOIOTTJS as nvevfjud TTOJS %XOV V WATJV TT<*>S exovaav,lss and the e£is itself as
TTvevna aco^aros OVV€KTLKOV.156 "E^LS thereby acquired meanings which
could be rendered as 'disposition', 'habit', 'tenor' 157 or 'characteristic'. It is
perhaps in order to give full weight to other aspects of the notion that the
'Academicians' cited by Simplicius call the e|eis 'e/cra', derived from the
passive exeadai; in this sense, the €KTOL are 'possessibles'. But this does not
involve any profound doctrinal divergence: as we shall see, according to
Simplicius, the Stoics themselves were quite prepared to call qualities 'e/cra'.
In the next part of the text, Simplicius describes a kind of drift in the
meaning of £KTOV which, though at first firmly at one with the sense of e£is,
progressively drifted away from it and came to apply to items increasingly
different from egeus. As used by certain unnamed philosophers, the term €KTOV
was extended successively to cover: (a) attitudes (oxeoe is), such as being on
one's guard or sitting down; then (b) movements, such as walking; then also (c)
patterns of movements and attitudes, such as dancing. Simplicius also
mentions, as having been successively annexed into the extended meaning of
the term e/crdv, various items even further distant from the point at which the
drift in meaning began (relative movements, relative attitudes, items accepted
by some as belonging to the category of movements and attitudes, but not by

Diogenes Laertius VII.6O ( = S K F 11.226B, m A n t i p . 23, FDS 621).
Alexander, In Top. 42.27 ( = SVF 11.228B, m Antip. 24, FDS 628).
Alexander, In Top. 360.9 ( = S K F 11.379, FDS 839).
Achilles Tatius, Isag. 14 ( = SVF 11.368, FDS 854).
' T e n o r ' is the translation adopted by L o n g a n d Sedley 1987, cf. in particular vol. 1, p . 289.

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others), and he illustrates these by examples some of which are extremely

puzzling and which I shall leave aside. For my purposes here, what is essential
is Simplicius' recapitulation of that progressive extension of the meaning
(209.22-6): 'Some think that the £KTOV is extended only from the egeus to
activities; others include the passions; finally Antipater extends the word £KTOV
to the KOLVOV au/LtTTTco/xa acofjudrcov /cat daoD/xaraw'; and in the Kalbfleisch
edition, Simplicius' text adds, by way of illustration or explanation: olov rov TL
Let us begin by clearing out of the way this unusual mention of Aristotelian
'quiddity', for it clearly has nothing to do with the context. Here again, the
explanation is to be found in the critical apparatus, which tells us that the word
y\v is crossed out of the J MS and omitted in the A MS, which makes it altogether
justifiable to write olov rov TL elvai. If we admit this correction, and if we
attribute to olov the meaning 'that is to say', which is highly probable in the
context, the text tells us that, according to Antipater, 'the coincidental
characteristic common to bodies and incorporeals alike' consisted in 'being
something' and that 'something', inasmuch as it is 'possessible', is the meaning
furthest away from eg is, that is to say from 'quality'.
It is worth noting an obvious reversed symmetry between passage (A), which
lists the meanings of TTOLOV starting with the widest and ending with the
narrowest, the latter being the only one in which the TTOLOV coincides with the
TTOLOTTJS, and passage (B), which lists the meanings of £KTOV starting with the
narrowest, which is the only one in which the £KTOV coincides with the e£is, and
ending with the widest. The correspondence between the two passages is
confirmed even in the detail of the successive stages: as its meaning narrows,
the TTOLOV eliminates first movements, then non-permanent attitudes; as it
widens, the £KTOV takes in first non-permanent attitudes, then movements. So
in all likelihood we were not mistaken in supposing that the 'certain Stoics' of
text (A) in fact did refer to Antipater.
What exactly was Antipater's role in all this? The texts that we have
considered so far in no way suggest that he should be regarded as the inventor
of the TSG doctrine, as Schmekel believed he should. 158 On the other hand,
they do suggest that he invented the formula KOLVOV ov^nToy^a aajfjbdrwv KCLL
dooj^drojv, and hint at his motives for doing so and for using it as a correct
description of what it is 'to be something' and also to distance that ontological
determination as far as possible from the e£i? and from quality. As I have
noted above, the TSG doctrine incorporated an internal difficulty: how was it
possible to attribute a common genus to bodies and incorporeals if the
qualities of bodies are corporeal and those of incorporeals are incorporeal?
The notion of KOLVOV av/jLTTrajfjua, as Antipater understands it, seems directly
designed to resolve that difficulty. To say that 'something' is the KOLVOV
of bodies and incorporeals is a way of not saying that it is a KOLVTJ
of bodies and incorporeals. Thanks to the disconnection effected
Cf. Schmekel 1938, p. 627 n. 1. It is strange that the textual correction that I have suggested
above did not occur to Schmekel, for it might have seemed to support his thesis.

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between TTOLOV and TTOLOTTJS, and between €KTOV and e^cs, it is possible to
maintain both that bodies and incorporeals share no common quality and that
one can notwithstanding qualify them equally as being 'something'. Being
something is certainly a determination of every body and every incorporeal, a
'possessible' feature; but it is not a 'way of being', a c^is, for there is no way of
being which is not either specifically corporeal or, by analogy, specifically
incorporeal. Whatever is something is, by that very token, differentiated from
whatever is not something; to that extent, it is 77010V in the widest sense of the
term, the sense that comprehends TT&V TO Kara 6\a</>opdV. Yet no quality
corresponds to this qualification. If some Antisthenes redivivus were to come
and tell the Stoics: I can certainly see something, but I can see no 'something-
ness', Antipater would explain to them why and in what terms they ought to
agree with him.

(c) A third passage in Simplicius' Commentary

FDS 853) will, I think, allow us to throw some light upon Antipater's work, by
noting what material he selected for it. Here mention is made of the Stoics, not
further specified, so presumably the classic masters of the School before
Antipater's time. They too were against the idea that whatever is qualified
owes its qualification to a quality. But their reasons were not the same as those
of the particular Stoics referred to in text (A). For these, it was because of the
differences between certain types of predicates that certain qualifications
depend on qualities while others do not. For the Stoics of the text in question
here, the determining differences are those between different types of subjects:
only unified subjects possess qualities; subjects made up of contiguous parts,
such as a ship, or even separate parts, such as a chorus or an army, have none.
Nevertheless, they are 7701a: a chorus continues to exist over a period of time,
as a differentiated entity, by reason of the type of exercise that ensures its
organization and its finality. But these are things that are qualified without
reference to any quality (Si'xa Se TTOLOTTJTOS eanv 7701a); their lack of unity is
also a lack of egts. Thus, the Stoics had managed to dissociate TTOLOV from
77010T77?; but because they called qualities 'possessibles' (c/cra, 214.26-7), that
dissociation was not accompanied by a parallel dissociation between CKTOV
and e£ts; in their system, only unified subjects had €KTOL (214.27).
If we accept that the doctrine attributed in this passage (c) to the Stoics in
general is that of masters earlier than Antipater, we may attribute to Antipater
himself a work which involved, on the one hand, going back to and
systematizing the dissociation between 77010V and TTOLOTTJS, by showing that
even a unified subject (a man, for example) could have qualifications some of
which corresponded to a quality but others of which did not (text A); and, on
the other hand, exploiting and extending a parallel and analogous dissociation
between CKTOV and e£is, an endeavour to which philosophers from other
schools also seem to have set their hands (text B). That double dissociation
made it possible for him to attribute to the 'something', a determination with

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no determined content or, so to speak, a naked determination, the status of a

'possessible' as far removed as possible from any determined egts, of a
qualification as different as possible from qualifications which correspond to a
quality. That, it seems to me, is how we should understand his notion of the

Before bringing the examination of that notion to an end, it is worth

mentioning two other passages from Simplicius' Commentary, for they raise
problems with regard to the interpretation that I have suggested, in that one of
them appears to deny that any such KOLVOV au^Trrco/xa of the bodies and the
incorporeals exists, while the other seems to maintain that more than one does.

(D) At 222.30-223.2 ( = SVF 11.378, FDS 857), Simplicius draws attention to

the Stoics' attitude to the question raised by the Aristotelian thesis according
to which a 'quality' has several meanings: do these different meanings share
anything in common and, if so, what? Simplicius tells us that, according to the
Stoics 'what is common to the quality which pertains to bodies (TO KOLVOV rrjs
TTOLOTTJTOS TO €TTL Ttov oojjjLaTojv) is to be that which differentiates substance
(8La(/)opav OVOL'OLS), not separable per se, but delimited by a concept and a
peculiarity (els ivvorjixa KOLL ISLOTrjra diroXriyovoav), and not specified by its
duration or strength, but by the intrinsic "suchness" (TTJ i£ avTrjg TOLOVTOTTJTL)
in accordance with which a qualified thing is generated.' 159 Without dwelling
upon this passage, which is not directly relevant to my thesis, let us simply note
that Simplicius, seeking a Stoic solution to the problem of the common essence
of a quality, leaving aside all the diverse species and varieties of such a thing,
seems only to find an answer that is limited to what exists in common to
qualities where bodies are concerned (em T<hv ocofjudTcov). The formula that he
cites seems to attempt to fasten upon what, in this domain, is shared by
common qualities and individual qualities alike. 160 We should bear in mind
that limitation as we read what follows in the text: 'but in these things (eV §e
TOVTOLS), if, according to the thesis of these people (/card rov €K€LVCOV Xoyov), it
is not possible that there should be a common feature that coincides (KOLVOV
avjjLTTrojiJLa) in bodies and incorporeals, quality can no longer be a unique
genus; it must be different in the case of bodies and in that of incorporeals, and
for that reason it will itself fall into other genera.' This statement could easily
pass for a negation of any KOLVOV aviJUTTaj/jLa between bodies and incorpor-
eals. 161 But such a conclusion would fail to take the context into account. The
widest characterization of quality produced by the Stoics applies only to
bodies (em TOJV oajfjuaTCjov) and can, by reason of its content, apply only to
In translating this difficult sentence, I have been helped by the translation that Long and
Sedley provide, 1987, vol. 1, p. 169, and also by their c o m m e n t a r y , p. 174.
So this passage cannot be used to elucidate the notion of a c o m m o n quality, since this stands
in opposition to the notion of a particular or individual quality, pace Rist 1971, p . 51.
T h e index of the SVF, for which M . Adler is responsible, s.v. ovfjLTTrojfxa, notes only this
occurrence of the expression, with the following gloss: fjurj olov r e KOLVOV eivai o.
Kdl aoojfxdrojv.

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them (8ia<f>opav OVOLOLS); in this particular domain (iv TOVTOLS) there can be no
KOLVOV GVfjL7TTcoixa between bodies and incorporeals. It thus seems to me that
this passage does not contradict the idea that there does exist such a KOLVOV
aviJiTTTcofjia, and that it confirms the idea that this KOLVOV GV\XTTT(X>[I(X is not a

(E) AS Antipater used it (text B, 209.25-6), the KOLVOV Gv\nmxi\xa of bodies and
incorporeals was presented as being unique: the coincidental characteristic
common to both consisted in their being something. All the same, it should be
pointed out that in another passage of his Commentary (216.19-24, absent
from SVF and FDS), Simplicius refers to the doctrine of 'certain' (TLVCS)
philosophers, not further specified, and his description of this doctrine uses the
expression KOLVOL ovpLTrrcj^ara aojfidrcov /cat daco/xarajv in the plural. This
passage, the text of which is not in a good state, follows a reference to a number
of philosophers (the Eretrians, Dicaearchus and Theopompus) who, like
Antisthenes, denied any but a purely mental existence to abstract qualities
such as gentleness, humanity, 'horseness'. Such company is ill suited to the
Stoics; but as the passage that follows has sometimes been studied as though it
related to them, 162 we should take a look at it. What Simplicius says is: 'Some
people derive qualities (irapdyovoL ras TTOLorrjras) from what we customarily
call predicates (CXTTO T<X>V eloydorojv AeyeoOaL KarrjyoprjiJLdTcov), in just the same
way for things that exist <as for things that do not exist), 163 and in conformity
with the coincidental characteristics common to bodies and incorporeals alike
(/caret re rd KOLVOL au/x77Ta>/xara aoo/xaraw /cat docojxdTcov)'. for example, they
derive roofing (SOKOJOLV) from being-roofed (diro rov ScSo/ccoorflai), equality
from being-equalized (d-rro rov locoodaL laorrjra) and corporeality from
being-corporeal {drro rov acbfjua virapx^w oco/jLarorrjray.
Despite the bizarre nature of these examples, the thesis set out is relatively
clear, and the criticisms that Simplicius makes of it in the lines that follow also
help us to understand it. The philosophers in question here maintain that the
presence of a quality in a subject is nothing other than the fact of the
corresponding predicate attaching to or supervening on this subject, and also
that the quality itself is nothing other than the fact of being predicated for the
corresponding predicate. Simplicius objects to this idea, pointing out that a
quality may be present even without the predicate having attached to the
subject (for instance, there may be a space between columns without their
having been spaced out one from another), and that, far from deriving from or
being consequent upon the predicates, qualities must be ontologically and
causally prior to the predicates that they import into the subjects that possess
them (for instance, the <f)p6vrjoLs imports the <f>pov€Lv which really belongs to
that particular subject).
Cf. Rieth 1933, p . 55; Graeser 1975, p . 87.
This part of the sentence is added by Rieth t o improve a text which Kalbfleisch considered to
be incomprehensible.

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In this context, it seems to me that the controversial expression /card ra

KOiva ovfjuTTTcofjuara aojjxdrojv /cat dato/xartoy may be understood in the
following fashion: these philosophers need there to be a law of correspondence
between predicates and qualities, in order to be able to derive the latter from
the former. Borrowing from the Stoics, if only to serve their own purposes, the
idea that qualities are bodies and predicates are incorporeal, they describe this
law of correspondence as being founded upon 'the coincidental characteristics
common to bodies and incorporeals alike': to each predicate, expressed by a
verb, there corresponds a quality, expressed by a noun. What is common to the
predicate and the quality is expressed linguistically by the morphological
proximity between the name of the predicate (SeSoKaxjOai, loioodai) and that
of the quality (SOKCOGIS, IOOTTJS). In each predicate/quality pair there exists
such a 'coincidental characteristic', - hence the use of this expression in the
plural. This would appear to be quite different from Antipater's KOLVOV
ovfjLTTTcoiJLa, which was a predicate common to all bodies and all incorporeals
('to be something') and to which, precisely, no quality (no 'somethingness')
To confirm that the philosophers whom Simplicius mentions here are not
Stoics nor any particular group of Stoics, even if they were involved with the
Stoics (probably polemically), the following arguments may be adduced:
(a) The general intention of these philosophers is clearly to depress the
ontological status of qualities, by reducing their presence to the supervening of
corresponding predicates. Even if, to further their own argument, they make
use of the Stoic thesis of the corporeality of qualities and the incorporeality of
predicates, that use seems ironical and polemical, since the being of qualities
turns out, in the conclusion to the argument, to be dependent upon the being of
predicates. The Stoics, in contrast, aimed to promote the ontological status of
qualities by making them bodies.
(b) As we have seen, Simplicius introduces these philosophers in the context
of a review of the doctrines which consign, or threaten to consign, qualities to
'non-existence' {awn 6 or aros), by making them appear to be 'pure concep-
tions expressed in the void and corresponding to nothing that is existent'
(iptXas 8e fjuovas ivvocas avras VTreXd^avov StaKevcos Xeyofxevas /car'
ovSefjLL&s vTToardaeojs). Elsewhere, he obviously classes the Stoics amongst
those who do grant them an 'existence' (VTTOOTCLOLS) (209.1-3 = SKF 11.388,
FDS 859).
(c) Some of the bizarre examples used in the passage that we have considered
reappear in a discussion in Sextus Empiricus, of which we possess two parallel
versions (.P//111.99, Mix.343). Admittedly, the context is different here: it is
not a matter of comparing qualities and predicates, but rather wholes and
parts. 164 The hiaoraois is nothing other than TOL SteoTcbra, the SOKQJGLS
nothing other than the SeSoKcofxeva; here, these examples seem to support the
idea that the whole is nothing other than the sum of its parts, it is nothing but 'a
These passages of Sextus Empiricus have been studied in detail by Barnes (1982/3), p. 277-80.

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name and an empty appellation, with no existence at all of its own (vTrooracnv
IScav). Despite the difference in the problems under consideration, the two
arguments are prompted by a common intention: in both cases the purpose is,
by means of reductionist tactics, to inflict an ontological devaluation upon the
terms illustrated by the hidaraais or the SOKCOGIS, that is to say, in Simplicius'
text upon the qualities, and in Sextus' upon the wholes. I am not sure whether
the double appearance of these externally unusual examples makes it possible
to identify the philosopher who is behind both passages.
(d) Andreas Graeser, 165 for his part, believes that Simplicius' text relates to
the Stoics: to illustrate their tendency to 'determine qualities on the basis of the
predicates suited to the body', he cites a passage from Plutarch 166 in which
Chrysippus is criticized for having generated 'a swarm of virtues', by inventing
abstract nouns for virtues never before heard of, on the basis of existing
adjectives: for example, just as in common speech we find avhpeia derived
from avSpeios, one introduces a virtue known as iadXorrjg deriving it from the
adjective iodXos, and so on. We are certainly confronted here by the same
problem as that of the philosophers evoked by Simplicius, namely the problem
of the relationship between qualificatory predicates and qualities. But Chry-
sippus' point of view is diametrically opposed to that of the philosophers with
whom we are concerned. They regard predicates as the ratio essendi of
qualities, the ontological status of which is thereby devalued and relegated to
secondary rank. Chrysippus, in contrast, treats qualificatory predicates as the
ratio cognoscendi of qualities: they make it possible to discover the reality of
certain virtues which have no name in common speech, but which nevertheless
exist as particular qualities, on the model of the qualifications which corres-
pond to them in ordinary speech. 167
For all these reasons, it seems to me that the philosophers cited by
Simplicius may be considered as opponents of Stoicism, opponents with
Sceptic or Academic tendencies, 168 who make use of the vocabulary of the
Stoics and certain of their theses in order to turn them against the hyper-
realism of the Stoic theory of corporeal qualities.
This collection of extracts from Simplicius' Commentary undoubtedly
deserves to be studied more systematically and in greater depth than it has
been in this preliminary sketch. However, I hope that this essay has managed
to indicate that a long dialogue developed between the Stoics and certain
interlocutors/opponents, sometimes expressly stated to be Academicians,
sometimes plausibly identified as such, around the problem which, right down
to the period of Neo-Platonism, was to constitute the major objection against
165 166
Graeser 1975, p . 87. Plutarch, De virt. mor. 441 AB ( = S K F I I I . 2 5 5 ) .
V o n A r n i m prints as a q u o t a t i o n from Chrysippus the general principle which Plutarch
ascribes to him here: Kara TO TTOLOV aperrjv I8iq TTOI6TT)TI ovvioraodai vofiL^wv.
In a long letter on the subject of this chapter in Simplicius, which has been of great assistance
to me in preparing this study, David K o n s t a n has suggested to me that they might have been a
g r o u p of Academicians w h o t o o k u p T h e o p o m p u s ' challenge. I should like to t h a n k him most
warmly for his help.

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the TSG doctrine: namely, what can there be in common between bodies and
incorporeals? From Plato's Sophist down to the critiques of Plotinus, a single
thread thus runs through the many twists and turns in the argument, the
replies and also the replies to those replies, a thread that in my opinion
confirms the fact that the Stoic doctrine of the supreme genus, which evolved
out of their critical meditation on Platonic ontology, never ceased to be a
subject of hot debate with the various heirs of Platonism.

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There are many Stoic ways of not being, or - to be more precise - of not being a
'being' (6V). The only one with which I shall be concerned here is that which
consists in being the intentional object of an impulse (o/o/xiy), or of some kind or
other or a sub-kind of impulse (opegis, tendency; eTndvfjita, desire; j8ou-
Arjcns, will; ai'pecns, choice, etc.). The technical formulation of this aspect of
Stoic 'meontology' can be summed up in three statements: (i) impulses are
directed towards (cvrt) predicates (Kar-qyoprujLara); (ii) predicates are incor-
poreals (as, in general, are the Ae^ra, of which they are a species); (iii)
incorporeals are not beings, for only bodies are beings. Statement (i) is to be
found in particular in the Ti text (see Appendix to this chapter). I shall
henceforth refer to it as the POI thesis (it is a Predicate that is the Object of an
Impulse). Statements (ii) and (iii) crop up all over the place.
To explain my choice, let me take as my starting point two extracts from
Long and Sedley's splendid work (1987). On the one hand, they note in their
bibliography (vol. 11, p. 498) that 'there has been much interest in the thesis that
the object of a practical impulse is a predicate'. Yet on the other hand, they
write as follows (vol. 11, p. 165): 'Since interaction is exclusively the property of
bodies, the Stoics cannot allow these incorporeals to act upon bodies or be
acted upon by them. How then do they play any part in the world? No
satisfactory discussion of the problem has survived. But E [ = my T4] is
evidence that they attempted an answer in at least one connection - how our
corporeal souls can think about incorporeals.'
T4 does indeed set out a Stoic response to the following problem: how can
our corporeal soul seize upon a demonstration, that is to say a XEKTOV
composed in a particular way, which is, accordingly, an incorporeal? The Stoic
answer to this question may be less unsatisfactory than Long and Sedley
appear to believe,1 but this is not the place to go into it. My only concern here is
to note that these two authors present T4 as the sole testimony of the Stoics'

* Two slightly more detailed versions of this study have been given as lectures, one at the
Colloquium organized by the University of Geneva in memory of Henry Joly, who was a very
dear friend to me, the other at the seminar of ancient philosophy run by Monique Dixsaut and
Denis O'Brien at the Universite de Paris-XII. On those two occasions I benefited greatly from
the valuable remarks made by many of the participants, amongst whom I must mention at least
Jacques Bouveresse, Myles Burnyeat, Monique Canto, Curzio Chiesa, Claude Imbert, Jean
Lallot, Kevin Mulligan and Andre Voelke. My thanks go to them all.
I am grateful to Myles Burnyeat for having helped me to understand it better.


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only attempt to explain how incorporeals can 'play some part in the world'.
Yet they are clearly familiar with the POI thesis and aware of the interest that is
being shown in it these days. Now, whatever the exact meaning of this thesis, it
certainly shows that incorporeals 'play some part in the world'. Moreover it
assuredly shows this better than T4, since T4 is regarded as explaining how we
think of certain incorporeals, whereas the POI thesis is supposed to explain
how we desire certain incorporeals. Now, while it is possible that our thoughts
do not modify the world, our desires certainly do, at least to the extent that we
gratify them through and in our actions. So here we are presented with a case in
which an incorporeal, the KaTrjyoprjjjLa which is the object of the impulse,
incontestably does 'play a part', in the first place in the mechanism of human
action, secondly, and indirectly, in the transformations that this action
produces 'in the world'.
Perhaps the reason why it did not occur to Long and Sedley to cite the POI
thesis in this context is that it may have the air of a marginal curiosity in the
way in which Stoicism is organized. It is particularly likely to assume that air if
one starts off by explaining the Stoic psychology of action in 'materialist' terms
as, in an initial analysis at least, it seems opportune to do: the soul, the
impressions that it receives and the actions that it performs in response to
those impressions are all bodies, or corporeal movements, in other words they
are invariably corporeal (SVF 11.385, 848). If one approaches the question
from this point of view at the outset, one is bound to be puzzled later, when
faced with texts which introduce into the analysis of action incorporeals such
as the KaTTjyoprjfjLara. These texts seem to introduce into the picture a
conflicting, non-materialistic analysis which is incompatible with the basic
Stoic doctrines or those regarded as such; at this point, one wonders why the
Stoics went to the trouble of creating such difficulties for themselves.2
My main purpose in this paper will be to try to show, albeit in summary
fashion, that the POI thesis is no marginal curiosity.

Perhaps the first thing to say is that the relations between desire and non-being
were a subject of longstanding interest well before the Stoics. The Stoics were
not the first to point out that one desires what one does not have; one desires to
be what one is not; one desires things to be as they are not. That is why to say
that one desires something that exists, such as a particular fruit or a particular
woman, involves something of a paradox, or at least a misuse of language. In
reality one desires to eat the fruit, or to possess the woman. As Tsekourakis
(1974, p. 107) has noted, in Plato a number of remarks in a sense make that
very point. In the Symposium, for example, Diotima raises the following
question (204E): 'Someone who loves good things, what is it that he loves?'
Socrates' reply is: 'that they should eventually be his' (yeveodai avrcp, 204E).
Later on (T5), admittedly, Socrates seems to forget that reply and to accept the

For a typical presentation of the problem in these terms, see Kerferd 1983.

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statement 'men love the good'. But Diotima reminds him that he should add
the clarification (in view of the context, that is how I understand TTpoodereov)
that 'they love the good to be theirs' and also that 'they love it to be not merely
theirs but theirs forever' (transl. N.R.M. Lamb, Loeb Classical Library,
London and Cambridge, Mass., 1967, slightly adapted). However, it is worth
noting that the complete construction that Plato suggests here to determine
the precise object of the verb ipdv is an infinitive proposition ('what is good to
be theirs forever') rather than a simple infinitive ('to possess what is good').
Perhaps Plato deliberately avoids the latter formulation in order to leave pride
of place, in the subject position, to 'what is good'.
Such preoccupations were not necessarily shared by those for whom such an
observation possessed not so much an ethical or ontological relevance but
rather stemmed primarily from the study of language or what might be termed
the grammar of desire. Such people might consider the normal form of an
expression of desire to be a construction with an infinitive: 'I want to walk', 'I
want to eat this fruit', etc. Now, we do possess some evidence of the interest in
this construction that was evinced by certain 'dialecticians' who preceded the
Stoics and influenced them on this point. It seems that these dialecticians had,
in this very context, used the notion of KarrjyoprjjjLa - which is not altogether
surprising, given that Clinomachus, said to be the founder of the 'dialectical'
school (DL 11.19),3 was also considered to be the first philosopher to have
written irepl d^LCJfidrojv KOLL KaTrjyoprjfjLdrajv (DL II. 112).
The first item of testimony comes from Cicero (T6). Speaking of the libido
(indubitably irndv/jLia), he says that 'it has as its object things that are said of a
thing or things (the term used by the dialecticians being Kar^yoprj^ara, as for
instance a man longs to have riches, to obtain distinctions' 4 (transl. J.E. King,
Loeb Classical Library, London and Cambridge, Mass., 1966, slightly
adapted). This text attests the 'dialectical' origin of a version of a thesis of the
POI type that is already perfectly precise, but is restricted to desire and its
object: let us refer to it as the 'POD thesis'. In the context of Cicero, the libido,
which is borne towards predicates ('to have riches', 'to receive honours') is set
in opposition to another form of psychic movement the objects of which are
the very things mentioned in those predicates, namely honours, money.
Unfortunately, the identity of the term that is thus contrasted to the libido is ill-
determined: in the latest manuscripts and according to most editors, it is
indigentia; in the oldest manuscripts, approved by Giusta (1967, vol. 11, p. 228),
it is diligentia. Indigentia is defined, a few lines earlier, as a libido inexplebilis,
that is to say a particular species of libido; so it is hard to see why its objects
should be of a different type from those of the libido itself. For that reason one
On the dialectic school, see the decisive study by Sedley 1977 and also the more recent work by
Ebert 1987.
It is interesting, in passing, to compare the definition given here of the Kar-qyoprjixa, 'things
that are said of a thing or things', with one of the definitions which Diogenes Laertius cites in
his book on the Stoics (vii.64), attributing it to Apollodorus: TTpdy/xa OVVTOLKTOV ixepi TWOS rj

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is strongly tempted to stick to diligentia, as Giusta proposes, but forced to

recognize that a Greek equivalent would be hard to find (afpccris?) and that its
meaning remains somewhat obscure.
The second item of testimony comes from Seneca's Letter 117 (a text which
should be included in its entirety in the collection of texts bearing upon this
subject). It gives an account of the Stoic distinction between sapientia, wisdom
(which is a good, acts usefully and is, accordingly, corporeal) and sapere,
being-wise (which is an inactive incorporeal). Hampered by problems of
translation as he is, Seneca does not explain the POI thesis very clearly.
However, he does provide one precious piece of information when he says (T7)
that the type-distinction between a substantive subject and an infinitive
predicate (sapientialsapere, on the model of ager/agrum habere) originated
with the dialectici veteres, and that the Stoics took it over from them. This
confirms that Cicero's dialectici were themselves not Stoics, but pre-Stoics.
Pooling the information provided on the one hand by Cicero, on the other by
Seneca, we may thus take it to be highly probable that these pre-Stoic
'dialecticians' attributed a predicative status to the objects of desire. It is also
worth noting that in both these texts the 'predicate' is expressed as a verb in the

The first concern of the Stoics seems to have been to generalize this grammar of
desire which was part of their heritage, by transposing it from the particular
case of desire (eindv^ia) to what they regarded as the genus of desire, namely
impulse (opfjufj). That generalization produced the POI thesis itself, as it is set
out in Ti and is referred to, comparatively, in T2. A development of that
generalization can, furthermore, be perceived in T8, despite the facts that the
logic of the passage (and even its text) remain uncertain, and that Clement's
Stoic terminology here co-exists alongside religious preoccupations of a
purely Christian nature. It may nevertheless be noted (i) that all the concrete
observations mustered in the text relate to the predicative nature of the object
of the eTnOv/jLLd, that is to say the libido of Cicero's dialecticians ('nobody
wants a drink, what one wants is to drink the drink; nobody wants a heritage,
what one wants is to inherit it', etc.); (ii) that the case of the erndv^ia is
certainly the one from which the other cases are extrapolated; (iii) that the
'pagan' part of that extrapolation takes place within the field of a controlled
and hierarchized lexicon, in a fashion altogether in conformity with the Stoic
system, through the concept of op/x^y (cf. KOLI OXCJS at op^ai). T8 may thus be
regarded as testifying to a transition between the POD thesis of the 'old
dialecticians' and the POI thesis of the Stoics.

The fact that the Stoic POI thesis is rooted in the robust realism of the pre-
Stoic POD thesis makes it easy to find a reply to those who have found the
Stoic thesis artificial and unrealistic. In identifying an incorporeal predicate,
rather than a corporeal, active and beneficent good, as the object of impulse,

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the Stoics are not, whatever the appearances, letting go of their prey in order to
chase after shadows. On the contrary, they are simply stressing the very simple
idea that a particular good only concerns us and stirs us into action to the
extent that we wish to enjoy it personally, through ourselves and for ourselves.
But one may still wonder whether that idea is correctly expressed by saying
that our impulses are directed towards 'predicates'. The expression remains
strange because it seems to imply that we are chasing after linguistic items. One
accordingly feels obliged to get around the difficulty by saying, for example
(Kerferd 1983, p. 95) that the doctrine can be made to make sense if one points
out that an impulse is always an impulse to do something, and that 'to do
something' itself already implies what is expressed by an infinitive verb. But as
an impulse 'to do something' is an impulse to do something in the real world, it
is hard to interpret it as a movement of the mind towards a XZKTOV. It is thus
necessary to say (as did already Zeller) that, strictly speaking, the object of the
impulse is not the KarrjyoprjiJLa, but rather the activity that the Karrjyoprjfjia
designates. This analysis presupposes that the Kar^yoprj/jia is taken to be a
'grammatical phenomenon', a 'purely grammatical term' (as Kerferd puts it),
that is to say a signifier (confusion is no doubt encouraged by the traditional
translation of the Greek term as 'predicate'). To dispel the difficulty, perhaps
all that is necessary is to remember that the KarrjyoprjfjLa, like the XEKTOV in
general, is not a signifier but something that is signified. So when the Stoics
declare an impulse to be an impulse to do something, there is no need to oppose
the KarrjyoprjiJLa and the activity that it designates or to distinguish between
them; for that activity is none other than the Karr}y6prjixa itself, and this is
exactly what is signified by the infinitive verb which constitutes its signifier.

One remarkable application of the POI thesis may be observed in definitions of

the Stoic reXos and the commentaries designed to justify those definitions. As
Tsekourakis (1974, p. 108) points out, it is assuredly not by chance that all the
Stoic formulations of the reXos use an infinitive, usually substantiated: to
resolve the question of the reXos is, after all, to insert something between the
article TO and the infinitive ^rjv.5 The corresponding noun, the jSi'o?, qualified
in one way or another, should be called OKOTTOS, an aim, rather than a Te'Aos, an
end. It is the active and substantive entities such as 'happiness' (rj €uScu/x(Wa),
a 'happy life', that corresponds to the OKOTTOS, an external aim that exists
physically as does the target facing an archer. And it is the predicates
associated with those substantive entities, 'to achieve happiness' (TO TVX^IV
TTJS evSatfjiovLas), 'to be happy' (TO evSaifioveLv) (T9, Ti 1) that correspond to
the re'Aos, the internal object of one's aim. Catachrestically, one could
probably define the T<EXOS as a particular kind of life, /3LOS; but the point is that
to do so would be to substitute a OKOTTOS for a T4XOS, and that is legitimate only

Cf. Arius apud Stobaeus, Eclogae p. 76,3: Zeno's successors, imagining that his formulation of
the reAos, TO ofxoXoyovfxevcos £,rjv was an incomplete predicate (eAarrov Kanqyopy^fxa), added
to it the famous complement rfj <j>vo€L. Cf. also the interesting T 11.

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because one is then referring to the 'associated predicate' (TO irapaKeLfjuevov

KarrjyoprujLa) which is 'to live' (£,fjv) in a particular manner' (Tio).
Long and Sedley (1987, vol. 1, p. 400) consider this distinction between
evSatfiovia and evSacixovetv 'rather strained'. That seems to be because, as
they can see it, the normal form of a predicate is a personal verb without a
subject ('... is happy'), an impersonal infinitive ('to be happy') being only a
secondary form of predicate. So they think that, to explain the idea that our
end is 'a predicate', that is to say something essentially 'incomplete', it is
necessary to say that our wish is that this predicate should become true of us.
They write as follows: 'We aim at happiness in order that 'being happy' can be
truly predicated of ourselves' (my italics). I must confess that this explanation
seems to me even odder than the oddity that it is supposed to explain. To be
sure, 'to be happy' can be truly predicated of us if and only if we are happy. But
in an intentional context it is not legitimate to substitute one of these
expressions for the other. What a peasant wants is that it should rain, not that
it should be true that it is raining. What we actually want is to be happy, not
that the predicate 'to be happy' should be truly predicated of us. There is no
advantage in suggesting that the POI thesis is more adequately represented by
the second formulation than by the first; all that this achieves is to create a
difficulty which can, on the contrary, be avoided if one accepts that in the
context of the POI thesis, as in that of its pre-Stoic antecedents, the normal
way to express the 'predicate' is by the infinitive.6

What remains to be done is examine the most difficult and best known texts
that relate to this subject, namely T1-3. Leaving aside, for the moment, the
major difficulty that they incorporate, - namely the question of the exact
meaning of the verbal adjectives alperov and alpereov, the doctrine that they
present is a transposition of one with which we are already familiar. The
general distinction between the corporeal things that we desire to possess and
the incorporeal predicates that we desire is transposed, at the level of the sage's
psychology, into a distinction between goods, ayaOd, and 'benefits', OX/^AT?-
IJLaTa. Virtues, such as <j>povr]Gis, are goods; the corresponding 'benefits' are
predicates such as (f>poveiv or e'x^v rrjv <f>p6vrjoiv. In my view, there is no need
to distort that transposition by untimely injections of'morality'. For example,
there is no good reason for thinking that the beneficiary of the 'benefit' must be
someone other than the virtuous man himself (even if it is also true that those
close to him - his friends and fellow-citizens - may well derive some advantage
from his virtuous actions). Nor can I see any reason to draw a distinction
between €x€iv TVV <t>p6vrjoiv and (f>povetv, interpreting the former expression as

The formulation of the predicate in the infinitive is customary, as we have seen, in the dialectici
veteres, and it is equally so in the context of the POI thesis (see T2) and in that of the theory of
causality, which is possibly the original context of the notions of Ae/cTov and Kar-qyopiq^a (cf.
SFF1.89,488, n.341,349, and the study by Frede 1980). The formulation in the indicative is, on
the other hand, customary in the possibly later context of the analysis of language (cf. SVF
11.183, 184).

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a description of a disposition ('to possess wisdom', 'to be of a wise disposition')

and the latter as a description of an exercise or activity ('to exercise wisdom',
'to act in conformity with a wise disposition').7
What remains to be understood is why the distinction between the good,
which is a body, and the benefit, which is a predicate, is also expressed by a
distinction between two types of verbal adjectives, the one ending in -TOS, the
other in -reog. If we try to give these suffixes a meaning authorized by usage
and limited to whatever sense is strictly necessary in the context, I think the
following suggestions may be made:
(i) The benefit, which is a predicate, is alpereov, 'to be chosen'. However,
the texts with which we are concerned do not say that it is alpereov because we
have to choose it, or because we ought to choose it (in any sense of
psychological necessity or moral obligation); they simply say that it is aipereov
because we do choose it (cf. T2). The suffix -reov could thus mean no more than
that the benefit is 'to be chosen' because it is, in this instance and in the
domain defined by the corresponding good, the only thing that we can choose.
Presented with a liquid that is drinkable and of a kind to quench thirst, the only
thing that we can wish is to drink it; presented with a virtue that is 'possessible'
and of a kind to make us happy, the only thing that we can wish is to possess it.
(ii) The good, which is a body, is alperov. Here the situation is complicated
by the multiplicity of the possible meanings of the Greek suffix. Those
meanings include two to which the texts in question make no allusion: they do
not say that a good is aiperov because it is possible to choose it, nor that it is
aiperov because it is worthy of being chosen. They simply say that, even if
goods are not alperia as benefits are, they nevertheless relate in some way to
the ai'pecis, and the relationship may be expressed by the term alperov (cf.
jjL€vroL in T2 and el apa in T3); and they also say that goods are alperd because
to have them is what we choose (cf. Sio in T2). The term alperov - and this is
also a possible meaning of the suffix - could thus mean simply that goods are
'chosen', it being understood, as is indicated by the context, that they are
chosen in the particular sense that we choose to possess them. In other words,
they are 'chosen' in the sense that the notion of choice is an essential element in
the expression of our relationship to them.

Lack of space prevents me from discussing as I should the interpretation given of this passage
by a number of authors, such as Dumont and Long. Favouring a differentiation between
<f>pov€Lv and e'xciv TTJV </>p6vr)oLv, Long (1976, pp. 87-9) bases his thesis on the difficult
expression TO (f>pov€iv, o deuiptirai napa TO €X^LV TTJV $p6vr\oiv (T3), which he understands as
follows: 'the exercise of practical wisdom, which is understood to depend upon the possession
of practical wisdom'. Perhaps it could be objected that in the parallel texts, a perfect
equivalence is posited between the simple expression of the predicate and its compound
expression (cf. T 9 : TO TVX^LV TTJS evdaifjiovLas, oirep TCLVTOV efvcu TO> €V8OLL[JLOV€IV); in T 3 itself,
that equivalence between <f>pov€iv and ex€iv TTJV <f>povr)oLv seems implicit (cf. aipovfjueOa JJLCV . . .
TO </>pov€Lv, a n d e^eiv auTO [ = TO alp€T6v = T7]v <j>p6vr)oiv] alpov^ieQa). These arguments
suggest that the controversial expression of T3, TO <j>pov€iv, o dewpehaL -napa TO ex€iv TTJV
(/>p6vr)oiv, should be interpreted as an equivalence. For my own part, I would suggest the
following: Wo <f>pov€Lv, which is the conceptual equivalent to TO CX^LV TTJV <j>povqaiv\

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The distinction between the alperov and the alpereov could thus result from
there being two possible ways of breaking up statements of the alpovfjueda
€X€LV TVV <f>P°vr)<JLV type. By breaking it as follows: atpovfjueda / e'x 6tv TVV
(f>p6vrjGiv, the verbal expression of choice {alpovixeda) is isolated and the exact
nature of the proper object of the choice is determined, for that object is
designated by the rest of the statement (ex^tv TT)V cfrpovrjoiv). By separating
da ^x^iV I TVV <l>P°vrIGLV' o n e isolates the designation of the good (rrjv
and one determines the exact nature of the relation that we have
with that good, a relation which is designated by the remainder of the
statement {

Now we must replace the POI thesis within the interesting and important
context in which it appears in Ti. Nothing in Ti is incompatible with the
distinction drawn between the corporeal good and the incorporeal predicate,
which is the distinction with which we have been concerned so far. However,
that theme is now replaced by another, in which incorporeal predicates are
contrasted no longer to corporeal realities, but to other incorporeals: the
d^LOjfjiara or propositions. This pair of XeKrd of different kinds is here related
to two different types of psychic acts: assents (ovyKaradeoeis) are given (when
they are given) to propositions whereas, in conformity with the POI thesis,
impulses (opfxat) are directed towards predicates, to wit the predicates that are
in some way contained (nepLexofjievd TTOJS) within the propositions which
constitute the object of assents. In the texts which we examined earlier, the
predicate was essentially considered as an incorporeal, and inasmuch as it was
distinct from the corporeal realities to which it was related. In Ti, the
predicate's essential feature is that it is incomplete, and distinct from the
incorporeals which are complete, that is to say the propositions, to which it is
related in some way.8
The Stoics were faced with the task of accommodating the POI thesis with
the theory of assent. In itself, the POI thesis was in danger of short-circuiting
the moment of moral responsibility in an action: in a possible description of
the action, the <j>avraoia of a good automatically brings into being an impulse
which is directed towards the predicate associated with that good; and that
impulse in its turn prompts a corresponding action. But, as is well known, the
Stoics were concerned to introduce into the analysis of human action the
moment of assent which lies 'within our power' and in which the responsibility
of the agent is concentrated. They also held (as it is reasonable to infer from the
testimony of Sextus, M vn. 154) that the normal and primary object of assent is
a proposition. To accommodate both the moment of assent and the moment
of impulse, they accordingly had to accommodate both the propositions
which are the object of assent and the predicates towards which impulses are
directed. That is what Ti does, albeit, unfortunately, in a somewhat covert
This double perspective corresponds to the one sketched in above on the basis of the double
expression of the predicate as both an infinitive and as an indicative without a subject.

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fashion, by declaring the predicates in question to be 'contained in some way

(TTCOSY within the propositions in question.
Is it possible at least to conjecture the substance behind that exaggeratedly
unspecific TTOJS!
The simplest hypothesis is to assume that the proposition which is the object
of assent is what might be called a judgement of appropriateness which bears
directly upon the action towards which the agent is impelled. For example, one
could say:9 by giving our assent we accept the truth of a proposition such as 'I
ought to take some exercise'. A genuine assent to that proposition is
accompanied by an impulse to take some exercise, an impulse which would be
expressed linguistically as an imperative: Take some exercise!' The impulse is
directed not towards the proposition 'I ought to take some exercise' in its
entirety, but towards the action to which we are impelled by the assent that we
have given to it and which is expressed by the predicate contained by that
proposition, namely 'to take some exercise'.
But I detect in that suggestion the following difficulty. According to the
analysis proposed, the predicate ('to take some exercise') is not, strictly
speaking, 'contained in some way' in the judgement of appropriateness which
is supposed to constitute the object of assent: on the contrary, it is contained
there as explicitly as it possibly could be. 10 Furthermore, it is hard to
understand the necessity for the ploy undertaken by Ti, which starts out by
suggesting that all impulses are assents and then corrects that assimilation
(77S77 84) by distinguishing between assent and impulse by means of the type of
category to which their respective objects belong. If the proposition which
constitutes the object of assent was the judgement of appropriateness 'I ought
to do such-and-such a thing', there would seem to be no difference between
assenting to that judgement and having an impulse to do that thing. At any
rate, one of the properties of assent and impulse is necessarily common to
both: if the judgement of appropriateness is true, the assent and the impulse
are both correct; if that judgement is false, both the assent and the impulse are
incorrect. In these circumstances, to distinguish between the assent and the
impulse by invoking a difference between the types of category to which they
respectively belong seems to be pointlessly pedantic.
That would not be the case if there were reason to take into consideration
cases in which the parallelism between the correctness of the assent and that of
the impulse is broken. If, for example, it happened that assent given to a false
proposition were accompanied by an impulse to act correctly, it would become
crucially important to draw a distinction between on the one hand the
proposition approved by the assent and, on the other, the predicate to which
the impulse is directed. And this is indeed a situation which the Stoics not only
studied but also considered to be of the first importance.
They studied it in the context of their famous distinction between what is
See Long and Sedley 1987, vol. 11, p. 200.
This remark remains valid whatever the more or less imperious formulation of this judgement
of appropriateness ('I ought', 'I must', 'it is necessary', etc.).

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true and the truth. T12 explains, in this connection, why and how it is that the
sage can 'speak falsely' on occasion without, however, being 'a liar'. The same
applies to certain ordinary types of expert - doctors, generals, grammarians;
and their example helps us to understand the behaviour of the sage. For
example, a general may forge letters announcing the arrival of reinforcements,
in order to raise the morale of his troops. In this way, he gets them to give their
assent to a false proposition, namely 'reinforcements are arriving' and also
(but implicitly) to a true judgement of appropriateness, which in a way results
from that false proposition, namely 'we ought to remain at our posts'; and this
also produces in them an impulse to remain at those posts. The predicate
which constitutes the object of their impulse ('to remain at our posts') is, in this
instance, not spelt out within the proposition which constitutes the object of
their explicit assent ('reinforcements are arriving'). However, the link that I
have just indicated perhaps justifies our saying that it is contained there 'in a
It may be objected that the above is an exceptional situation. But, on the
contrary, so far is it from being exceptional that it provides the Stoics with the
model according to which they conceive the operation of divine and providen-
tial destiny where men who are not sages are concerned, that is to say with
regard to all of us ordinary people. According to T13, Chrysippus, wishing to
show that an impression was not a sufficient cause of assent, went back to the
example of the sage telling a falsehood and thereby producing false impres-
sions in the mind of a non-sage: if the impression were a sufficient cause of
assent, the sage would be morally responsible for the prejudice to which the
non-sage is subjected when he gives his assent to the false proposition - and
this cannot be the case. But, according to Ti 3, a god acts exactly as a sage does:
both produce false impressions in the minds of non-sages, that is to say all of us
ordinary people; not because they need (SeofxeVou?) us to give our assent to
those impressions but because, to realize their providential plan, they need us
to feel the particular impulse that will accompany our assent, and to act
according to that impulse. It is we ourselves, poor, predictably credulous fools
that we are, who give our assent to those false impressions; so it is we who bear
the moral responsibility for that incorrect assent.11 However, that does not
prevent us from acting exactly as the god 'needs' us to act.
It is true that the position which Plutarch here attributes to Chrysippus has sometimes been
considered 'absurd'. According to Inwood 1985, pp. 85-6, Chrysippus could not have adopted
it unless under extreme polemic pressure which forced him to take refuge in it in the absence of
any other alternative. However, that disqualification of Plutarch's testimony would only
become necessary if the text attributed to Chrysippus the notion, clearly unacceptable from a
Stoic point of view, of a human action without assent; but in reality, this notion is clearly
presented as a consequence that Plutarch is trying to force upon Chrysippus. For Chrysippus,
the god does not need the <f>avAos to give assent to a false proposition; but that does not mean to
say that he does not need the </>av\os to give the slightest assent to any proposition at all. The
<f>av\os does not act without giving assent; he acts as destiny wills him to act, without destiny
willing him to give the assent that he does in fact give. The idea that an end may be willed
without the inevitable means to that end, as such, being willed may be disputed, but it is
certainly not absurd.

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In this way - and let this be my conclusion - we can see that the POI thesis,
which may have derived from the fascinating discourse of Clinomachus Ilepl
d^icujjidTcov KCLL KarrjyoprjiJidTojv, eventually, having been further developed
by the Stoics, served to accomplish one of the most difficult tasks that these
philosophers set themselves: that of reconciling divine providence and human
responsibility. God makes us chase after good predicates, at the same time
giving us the chance to grant our assent to bad propositions. The Portuguese
have a way of expressing this. They say that 'God writes straight in curved

Tl = Arius Didymus apud Stobaeus, Eclogae n, p. 88, 1-6 W = SFF111.171 = LS 331.
IJdoas 8e rds op^ids ovyKaraOeoeis etvat, rds 8e Trpa/crt/cas" /cat TO KLVTJTLKOV
7T€pL€X€tv. "H8rj 8e dXXto JJL€V elvai ovyKaradeoeis, err dXXo 8e opfids- /cat
ovyKaradeoeis /xev a^taj/xaat'rtatv, 6pp,ds 8e eirl /car^yopT^aTa, rd irepiexoyievd TTOJS
ev TOIS d^LCOfjLaoiv < ols > at ovyKaradeoeis.

T2 = ibid, n, pp. 97, 15-98, 6 = 5KFm.9i = LS 33J.

Ata<f)€p€LV 8e Xeyovot, tooTrep alperov KOLI alpereov, OVTCO /cat opexrrov /cat p
/catfiovXrjTOv/catfiovXrjTeov/cat dnoheKrov /cat diroheKTtov. Alperd [JL€V yap ehai /cat
PovXrjrd /cat 6p€Krd < /cat a77oSe/cra ray add • rd S^chc^eXrjfjLara atperea /cat fiovXrjrea
/cat 6p€KTea> /cat aVo^e/CTea, Kary]yopy\\xara ovra, irapaKelyLeva S' dyadols.
AlpeioSai fJL€v yap r)[JLas rd alperea /cat ftovXeoOai rd fiovXrjrea /cat opeyeoOai rd
opeKrea. Karrjyoprjfjidrcxjv yap at' re alpeoeis /cat ope^eis /cat fiovXrjoeis ytvovrat,
ojovep /cat at opfjuai • €X€LV ^VTOL alpov^eOa /catfiovXofjieda/cat OJJLOICOS opeyop^eda
rdyaOd, 8LO /cat alperd /cat flovXrjrd /cat ope/cra rdyadd ion. Tqv yap (frpov-qoiv
aipovfAeda c^etv /cat rrjv oaxfrpoovvrjv, ov jLta Aid TO (frpovetv /cat oaxfipoveiv, doajfJLara
b'vra /cat Kar^yoprj/jLara.
T3 = ibid. n.jS.j-i2 = SVF 111.S9.
Aiacf>€p€iv 8e Xeyovoi TO alperov /cat TO alpereov. Alperov fjuev etvat < aya^ov> 77av,
alpereov 8e dxf)eXr)p,a rrdv, o Becxipeirai irapd TO eyeiv TO dyadov. AC o alpovfjieda \xev
TO alpereov, otov TO (frpoveLV, o dewpeiraL irapd TO ex^iv rrjv (frpovrjotv • TO 8e alperov
ovx alpovfjueda, aAA' el apa, ex€lv CIUTO alpovjjueda.
T4 = Sextus Empiricus, M viii.409 = SVF 11.85 = LS 27 E.
"Qorrep yap, <f>aoiv, 6 7Tai8orpl^T]s /cat OTrAojLta^os" eoO' ore fjiev Xafiofievos rcbv ^^tpcoF
rod TratSo? pvdfjLi^ei /cat StSaa/cet rtva? Kiveiodai KLvrjoeLS, eod' ore 8e drrwOev eorajs
Kai 77cos KLVOV(JL€VOS iv pvdfia) TTape^et eavrov eKecvco irpos fiifjurjaiv, OVTOJ /cat rcbv
(f>avraorchv evia fjuev olovel i/javovra /cat Oiyydvovra rod rjyefjLOVLKOV rroielrai TTJV ev
TOVTCO TV7TCOGLV, OTToiov eon TO XevKOV teal fieXav /cat KOLVtbs TO acDjtxa, eVta 8e
Tocavrrjv exet (jtvotv, rov TjyefjLOViKov err avrols c^avraoLOVfjuevov /cat ovx ^7r> avrtov,
oiTOid eon rd dacofxara Xexrd.

T5 = Plato, Symp. 206A.

Mp' ovv, fj 8'^, ovTws dirXovv eon Xeyeiv on ol avdpooiroi rdyadov ipcbotv; - Nai,
e(f)7]v. — TL 8e', ov irpoodereov, ecfrrj, on /cat etvat TO dyadov avrols epcooLV, —
npoadereov. — ^Ap ovv, €<f>rj, /cat ov JJLOVOV etVat, aAAa /cat act efvat; — Xat rovro
TTpoadereov. — "Eonv apa £vXXrjl38r}v, e</)r], 6 epcos rov TO dyadov avrto elvai del.

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T6 = Cicero, Tusc.disp. i\.2i=SVFm. = FDS 7S9.

Distinguunt illud etiam, ut libido sit earum rerum, quae dicuntur de quodam aut
quibusdam, quae /car^yo/o^ara dialectici appellant, ut habere divitias, capere
honores, diligentia rerum ipsarum sit, ut honorum, ut pecuniae.
diligentia codd. vett. Giusta (11,228): indigentia codd. recc. edd.

T7 = Seneca, Epist. 117.12.

Dialectici veteres ista [sapientia, sapere] distinguunt: ab illis divisio usque ad Stoicos
venit. Qualis sit haec, dicam. Aliud est ager, aliud agrum habere, quidni ? cum habere
agrum ad habentem, non ad agrum pertineat. Sic aliud est sapientia, aliud sapere.

T8 = Clement of Alexandria, Strom, vii.7 = SVF m. 176.

' Qv fJL€V OVV a t 6p€^€LS €IQI KCLL €7Tldv[JLiai KOLL oXtOS a t OpfJLCLl TOVTCOV €L(jl /Cat a t C U ^ a i ' '
dAAa TOV KXrjpovofjLrjoai • OVTOJOI 8e ov8e yvwoetos aAAa TOV yvcovai • ov8e yap
TToXiTtias opOrjs, dAAa TOV TroXireveoOai • TOVTLOV OVV at evx^h ^>v KOI atV^aets" • KCLI
TOVTCOV at atTT/act? cov /cat at €7rt^u/xtat • TO Se evxeodai KCLI opeyeodan, KaTaXXrjXous
yiyveadai els TO %x€iv T®- d y a ^ d /cat TOL TrapaKeLfieva c u ^ ^

T9 = Arius Didymus apud Stobaeus, Eclogae 11, p. 77, 23-7 W = SVF 111.16 = LS 63A.
. . . TTJV €v8atfjLovLav elvai XeyovTts [sc. Cleanthes, Chrysippus and all their followers]
ov\ €T€pav TOV evSaifJiOvos j8toi>, /catrot ye Aeyovre? TTJV fjuev evSaifjLOVtav OKOTTOV
€/c/cetor$at, TeXos 8'efvat TO ri>^€tv TTJS euSat/xovta?, oirep TOLVTOV etvat TW ev8atjLtov€tv.

T10 = Arius Didymus apud Stobaeus, Eclogae 11, p. 76, 16-21 W = SVF111.3.
To Se TeXos XeyeoOaL Tpix&S . . . Aeyoucrt he /cat TOV OKOTTOV TeXos, otov TOV
OfJLoXoyovfxevov jStov ava<f>opLKtos XeyovTes errt TO TrapaAcetjLtevov

T i l = Herophilus, De Stoico nominum usu, apud Origen, In Psalmos, PG xn, 1053 A -

B = FDS 241.
TEXOS 8'etvat Aeyouat KaTrjyoprjfjLa, ov eve/cev TOL XOLTTOL npaTTOfjiev, avTO 8e ovSevos
€V€KCL, TO Se ov^vyovv TOVTCp, KaddiTep rj evScufjuovia TCO evSaifjioveiv, OKOTTOV • o Sr)
k' €OTL TLOV alp€TtOV.

T12 = Sextus Empiricus M vii.43-4.

. . ./cat chs ol apioTOL TLOV oTpaTr^ywv irpos evdvfjLiav TLOV vnoTaTTOfjuevcov OLVTOIS
Aeyofat, ov i/»euSovrat Se oca TO fjurj diro Trovrjpds yvtojjirjs TOVTO iroieiv, . . . cbSe /cat o
GO(f)6s, T0VT€OTLV 6 TY)V TOV dXrjdoVS lTnGTr\\XV)V e^tOV, ip€L fJL€V 7TOT€ l/j€v80S, l/j€VO€TCLL
8e OVO€7TOT€ Old TO (JL7) €X^LV TTjV yVO)jJL7]V l/j€VO€l 6^

T13 = Plutarch, De Stoic, repugn. 1055F-1056A, 1057A-B.

. . . TTJV yap <f>avTaoiav fiovX6(j,€vos [sc. Chrysippus] OVK ovoav avTOTeXrj
ovyKaTadeoetos atVtdv diTooeiKvveiv, e'iprjKev OTL flXdi/jovoiv OL oocfroi f
<f>avTaoias efnroiovvTes, dv at (^avraatat TTOLCOOLV avTOTeXcbs Tas auy/car
TroAAd/ctS" y a p ol ao<f>ol i/jevSet ^pcuvrat irpos TOVS (f>avXovs /cat cfravTaoiav TrapiGTaot
7ndavrjv, ov JJLTJV air lav TTJS avyKaTadeaecos, lirel /cat TTJS VTroXrji/jecos curia rfjs
i/jevSovs eorai /cat TYJS dwarfs. . . . avdis 84 (farjoi Xpvonnros /cat TOV deov ip€v8eis
ifjL7TOi€iv <j>avTaoias /cat TOV oocfrov, ov ovyKarariOeiJLevtov ov8' €IK6VTLOV Seo/xcvoi;?
rjfjLcov dAAa TTparrovTcov JJIOVOV /cat opfxcovrcov iirl TO cfraivofjievov, rj^ds 8k (fyavXovs
ovras vrf daSeveias ovyKararide06ai rais roiavrais <f>avTaoiais.

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The so-called 'Ontological Argument' (hereafter: OA), which claims to

establish the existence of God on the basis of his essence alone, is probably,
together with the Liar Paradox, the Third-Man Argument and some other
jewels of the same water, one of the most fascinating legacies of the whole
Western philosophical tradition. Its official inventor, as is well known, is
Anselm of Canterbury (eleventh century); new versions of it were devised by
Descartes and some of his most prominent followers; a radical criticism was
offered by Kant; and some modern philosophers have tried to revive it under
new guises (Plantinga 1965, Hick and McGill 1967, among others, offer
comprehensive reviews of this long story). As usual, some historians invoked
the nil novi sub sole philosophico, and claimed that the OA had been already
adumbrated, or even actually elaborated, by some ancient philosophers.
Plato's name was mentioned in this context, by virtue either of some
'ontological' moves in the final argument for the immortality of soul in the
Phaedo (e.g. Gallop 1975, p. 217; Schofield 1982, p. 2; Dumont 1982, p. 389 n.
6), or of the unique ontological properties of the Good in the Republic
(Johnson 1963); some statements of Aristotle's about necessary and eternal
being have also been invoked circumstantially (Hartshorne 1965, pp. 139-49);
passages from Philo, Boethius and Augustine are standardly quoted as well.
But the most promising candidates for the role of Anselm's forerunners seem
to be the Stoics, first because one of the key phrases of Anselm's Argument, the
famous 'something than which a greater cannot be thought of, is to be found
in a number of Stoic texts;1 but also, and much more importantly, because a

Anselm's standard formulation is aliquid quo nihil majus eogitari possit (Proslogion 2).
Compare in particular Cicero, De nat. deor, 11.18 (atqui certe nihil omnium rerum melius est
mundo, nihil praestabilius, nihil pulchrius, nee solum nihilest, sedne eogitari quidem quidquam
melius potest), Seneca, NQ 1. 13 (sic demum magnitudo illisua redditur, qua nihil majus eogitari
potest). But the phrase is not used as part of a premiss to the conclusion that God (or the god-
world) exists; the argument standardly takes the existence of the world for granted, and
proceeds to establish that it possesses various predicates (reason, divinity, etc.). Strangely
enough, what seems to be, in the whole of Cicero, De nat. deor., the closest approximation to an
'ontological' proof of (more than one) God's existence is attributed to Epicurus, cf. 11.46 (placet
enim illi [ = Epicurus] esse deos, quia necesse sitpraestantem esse aliquam naturam, qua nihil sit
melius); the Epicurean school seems to have endorsed, generally speaking, inferences from
notion to existence (cf. Sextus, M vm.337). But the crucial eogitari potest is missing in the De
nat. deor. passage (and the argument is possibly Stoicized, cf. Pease (M. Tulli Ciceronis De
natura deorum libri m, Cambridge, Mass., 1955) adloc.


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definite anticipation of the OA has been found, on apparently good grounds,

in a passage of Sextus Empiricus (M ix. 133-6), which reports an argument
elaborated by Diogenes of Babylon.2
A disciple of Chrysippus, and later on of Zeno of Tarsus, Diogenes of
Babylon (or of Seleucia) was the fifth scholarch of the Stoa, between his master
Zeno and his own disciple Antipater. According to Obbink and Vander
Waerdt (forthcoming), he 'has not yet been accorded the attention his
philosophical and historical importance merits'. There are many signs that this
situation is beginning to change. Diogenes' chronology, standardly located
between c.240 and c.150, has been revised and put somewhat later, between
c.230 and c. 140 (Dorandi 1991, pp. 29-30,61,69-71); a side effect of this move
is that Diogenes was a little less old when he visited Rome in 155, at the time of
the famous embassy of the three Athenian philosophers; thus he was possibly
able to make a better show, next to the brilliant Carneades. His originality and
intellectual powers have been recognized for quite a long time, albeit in general
terms (cf. e.g. Baldassari 1971, p. 549): he was known as an important
philosophical writer in grammar, linguistics and dialectic (his treatises Ilepl
(fxjDvrjs and Ilepl SiaXeKTiKrjs have left crucial traces in DL vn), in music and
rhetoric (his views in this field being tolerably well known through Philode-
mus), in ethics and the theory of reXos, and also in theology. But his originality
and personal contributions have been traced out much more precisely in quite
recent times: suffice it to refer to the works of Frede 1977 on Diogenes'
grammatical studies, Delattre 1989 and Nussbaum 1993 on his views about
music, poetry and education, Nussbaum 1993 again on his psychology and
theory of passions, Annas 1989 on his social ethics and his famous debate with
Antipater (reported by Cicero, De off. in), Vander Waerdt 1991 and Obbink
I have not found out when the parallel between Diogenes' and Anselm's arguments was first
proposed; I was not able to consult Esser 1910, who, according to Hartshorne 1965, p. 149,
actually concludes that no genuine proof from the mere idea of God is to be found before
Anselm. Diogenes' argument seems to have gone unnoticed by the hundreds of commentators
of the OA; it has not been commented upon very often by scholars in ancient philosophy.
Baldassari 1971 thinks that the OA has indeed been formulated by Diogenes, at least in its
essential structure; he does not claim priority for his thesis, but does not mention any real
predecessor either. That some of the Stoic arguments for the existence of the gods qualify as
'ontological' is taken for granted by Dragona-Monachou 1976 (cf. the index and references, p.
318). In France, the pioneering paper is Dumont 1982, to which I owe much, even if I disagree
with its main claim and some of its arguments. In an unpublished, fascinating paper on the
subject, composed in 1982, Schofield could still write: 'to my mind the page of the Loeb edition
which contains this sequence [M ix. 133-6] is one of the more interesting pages of the four
volumes which Sextus fills both from a philosophical and an historical point of view. But it has
not excited much comment in the scholarly literature, nor is there any standard authoritative
treatment to which the curious reader may turn.' I am extremely grateful to Malcolm Schofield
for having kindly allowed me to read his excellent piece and to quote from it, although he did
not wish to publish it; I shall try to indicate clearly the many borrowings I made from his work
in the present paper, which is a constant dialogue with him, and which has been the subject of
new talks between us. I also thank my Paris students, who diverted me from reading with them
Cicero's De nat. deor. 11 (where Diogenes' argument is not mentioned) by defying me to make
satisfactory sense of each and every detail of Sextus' passage. It is not for me to say whether I

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and Vander Waerdt (forthcoming) on his political philosophy. Diogenes thus

seems to emerge as responsible for some very important innovations or shifts
of emphasis in Stoic doctrines, which used to be standardly attributed to the
so-called 'Middle Stoa' (in particular to Posidonius), and to the general
influence of the Roman world and to its particular ideology. This recent
revival of interest in Diogenes should shortly take a concrete form, in new
editions of his fragments, announced from various sides, and designed to
replace the old collection of SVF 111.210-43 (by taking into account, in
particular, the new readings of the Philodemian papyri).
Here, then, is the picture before us: a fascinating argument in search of
ancestors, a brilliant and long-neglected philosopher in course of reevalua-
tion, a precise piece of apparent evidence that the philosopher came close to
the argument. It is tempting to match all these terms together, and to take sides
with the scholars who have already claimed that Diogenes of Babylon is the
inventor of the OA. However, my main claim in what follows will be that we
must resist this temptation. It is not only, in my opinion, that Diogenes simply
failed to invent the OA, which would be a rather uninteresting conclusion; it is
also - and this might prove more interesting - that he distinctly saw the
possibility of reasoning on the lines of the OA, and he quite consciously
refrained from doing so. A close and perhaps boringly meticulous analysis of
the text will support this claim - or so I hope.
And now, let us turn to the text (Sextus Empiricus, Mix. 133-6 - 1 give the
Greek text in the Appendix to this chapter). For convenience's sake, it will be
easier to set it out in the following way.3
[A) Zeno propounded the following argument:
(AI) A man may reasonably honour (evAoyws av rt? TLficorj) the gods.
(A2) But: those who are non-existent (rovg 8e (JLTJ ovras) a man may not
reasonably honour.
Therefore (A3): the gods exist.

(B) TO this argument some people make an objection in the guise of a parallel

(BI) A man may reasonably honour wise men.

(B2) But: those who are non-existent a man may not reasonably honour.
Therefore (B3): wise men exist.
Now this conclusion [i.e. (B3)] was repugnant to the Stoics, who hold that
their wise man has been undiscovered till now.

(c) But in reply to the parallel Diogenes the Babylonian says that the second
premiss (AT/JU^CI) in Zeno's argument [i.e. (A2)] is virtually (SzW/zei) as
Bury's text (Loeb); translation after Bury and Schofield (1982). Divisions and lettering are
mine; when quoting other scholars who adopted different numberings and letterings, I modify
them accordingly.

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(C2) Those who are not of such a nature as to exist (TOVS Se fxrj ire^vKoras
etvai) a man may not reasonably honour.
For if this premiss is taken that way, it is clear that:
(C3) The gods are of such a nature as to exist.

(D) But if so [i.e. if (C3)], then (D3): they do actually exist (/cat elalv r/Sr]). For
(DI) If they existed once upon a time (el yap arra^ irore rjoav), they also exist
now (vvv) -just as, if atoms existed, they also exist now; for such things are
indestructible and ungenerable according to the concept (ewoia) of bodies.
Hence the argument will be conducive to a consequent conclusion.

(E) AS for the wise, it is not the case that since they are of such a nature as to
exist, they d o actually exist (ol 8e ye oocf>ol OVK eirel ir€<f>vKaoiv efvcu, T/STJ KCLI

(F) Other people4 say Zeno's first premiss [i.e. (AI)], 'A man may reasonably
honour the gods', is ambiguous: for one of its meanings is (A 1 *) 'A man may
reasonably honour the gods' another is (Ai**) 'hold them in honour
(TLfjLTjTiKcbs e'xoi)'. But one must take the first as a premiss, which will be
false in the case of the wise.
Roughly speaking, what we have here is, under (A), an argument by Zeno;
under (B), a 'parallel' to (A) (a irapafioXrj) by an unnamed opponent, designed
to nullify (A); under (c + D + E), Diogenes' defence of (A), claiming to avoid the
TrapafSoXrj by making explicit the appropriate 'potential' (hvvaixei) meaning of
the second premiss of (A); 5 (F) introduces another defence of (A), based on an
alleged disambiguation of the first premiss of (A).
Before examining the whole passage step by step, let us first raise a general
problem. On the one hand, Diogenes introduces in the whole story a new and
crucial expression, 'of such a nature as to exist', which seems to convey the
notion that existence is included in the concept of certain entities - an inclusion
which is, of course, the very nucleus of the OA. On this account, Zeno's
argument (A) was not an ontological argument, since he did not make use of
this characteristic phrase. Diogenes of Babylon may thus be thought to have
transformed a non-ontological argument, Zeno's, into a properly ontological
one. On the other hand, Diogenes only claims to make explicit the appropriate
It is of course perfectly clear that this second defence of Zeno's argument against objection (B)
has nothing to do with Diogenes of Babylon (cf. aXXot 8e <j>aoiv); SVFm Diog. Bab. 32 quite
rightly omits to quote it. However, it will be seen that we should preferably keep it within sight
when discussing Diogenes' argument.
It seems clear (in spite of some doubts raised by Schofield 1982) that (c), (D) and (E) go together,
and quite likely that they may be jointly attributed to Diogenes, at least substantially, (c)
exposes what becomes of Zeno's argument when the new premiss (C2) is substituted for (A2).
Since the conclusion of the revised argument is (C3), which is not an assertion of the existence of
the Gods, Diogenes is committed to offer something like (D), showing the route from this new
conclusion to the existential conclusion (A3) of Zeno's original argument. As for (E), it locates
the exact difference between the case of the gods and the case of the wise, a task which is
mandatory for Diogenes if he is to disarm this or any irafi

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meaning of one premiss in Zeno's argument; so that if we trust him, and if his
own argument is actually a genuine version of the OA, Zeno's argument
already was an ontological one, at least covertly. Hence there are reasons for
considering Zeno's argument as substantially ontological; and there are also
reasons, on the other hand, for considering Diogenes as responsible for the
decisive 'ontologization' of a non-ontological argument. Both positions have
found more or less confident partisans in modern literature: Zeno's argument
is essentially a version of the OA according to Schofield 1982, pp. 1-14 (but not
according to Schofield 1983), and Dragona-Monachou 1976, p. 41 (the latter
with a question-mark, however); only Diogenes' argument is a genuine form
of the OA according to Baldassari 1971 and Dumont 1982. Both positions
have their drawbacks: if we adopt the first, we have to accept that the
introduction of the notion of 'being of such a nature as to exisf does not, after
all, make a big difference; if we adopt the second, we have to think that
Diogenes was mistaken when he claimed that Zeno's (A2) was 'virtually'
identical with his own (C2).
These symmetrical drawbacks give some a priori reasons for preferring a
third option: namely, that neither Zeno's nor Diogenes' argument is 'ontologi-
cal'. This is the course I shall follow.

In order to be convinced that Zeno's argument (A) is not equivalent to any

version of the OA, it is enough, in my opinion, to look at the transformations
imposed upon it by the scholars who did see in it a version of such an
argument.6 Schofield 1982 refers to a brief passage in Barnes 1972, pp. 17-18,
in which Barnes discusses a version of the O A sometimes presented (wrongly)
as Descartes' argument, namely:
(GI) A God is perfect.
(G2) Everything perfect exists.
Therefore (G3): A God exists.
If such an argument can count as a form of OA, then, Barnes says, 'there is an
OA to be found some 1500 years before Anselm'. He proceeds to quote Zeno's
argument in Sextus, M. ix.133, which he translates as follows:
(A 1 a) A man can properly honour the gods.
(A2a) A man cannot properly honour what does not exist.
(A3a) Therefore: There exist gods.
This argument, Barnes adds, 'might fairly be set out as follows:'
This is only one among the very interesting problems raised by Zeno's seemingly strange
argument; these problems are acutely discussed in Schofield 1982, and more compendiously in
Schofield 1983. Here I wish to concentrate on Diogenes' argument, therefore I shall be very
brief on Zeno's; but I do hope that Schofield will consider publishing his paper, or some version
of it. On the other hand, it does not seem necessary to defend Zeno's argument against the
formal objections questionably raised by Dumont 1982, pp. 391-2.

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(Aib) A God is worthy of honour.
(A2b) Non-existent things are not worthy of honour.
(A3b) Therefore: A God exists.
Schofield has pellucidly shown, in both his papers on the subject,7 that Barnes'
very interesting suggestion is the product of a definite choice between two
construals of (AI); let us call them the anthropocentric construal and the
theocentric one. In any interpretation, the meaning of (AI) must be such that it
does not make (A2) redundant or pre-empted; in other words, (AI) must be
construed as if it was prefixed by something like: 'whether the gods exist or not,
it is reasonable to honour them'. Now, why is it or might be evXoyovl
The anthropocentric answer to this question would be something like this:
because it is prudentially safer. 'The gods', in this perspective, are those beings
which are talked about by religious traditions, the poets, and so on. To honour
them is to make sacrifices, to utter prayers mentioning their names in the
appropriate form, and so forth. It is evXoyov, here 'highly reasonable', to
engage in this sort of activities, because all in all it can do no harm, and it could
do some good. This first, anthropocentric answer has been very aptly
expressed by Schofield 1982, p. 9 (in terms which strongly recall Pascal's
wager, explicitly mentioned in Schofield 1983, p. 39):
I do not know whether or not there are gods, nor whether - if they exist - they
care for man and pay attention to his prayers and praises. I do not know whether
to trust Homer and the poets and the traditional beliefs of the Greeks in these
matters. But it would be prudent in any event to honour the gods with sacrifices
and the other traditional observances. If there are no gods, no great harm is
done: a little time may be wasted, but after all time saved is often wasted in some
other way. If there are gods, and they are as most Greeks and most of the poets
believe them to be, they may well cause me injury if I omit to honour them but
reward me if I give them worship.
The second answer, the theocentric one, instead of paying attention to what
good and harm the gods are traditionally supposed to do to men, relies rather
on the intrinsic properties conceptually assigned to a god (if there is any such
being) by virtue of his very nature. 'The gods', in this second perspective, are
whatever beings answer to the concept of a divine being (involving every kind
of conceivable perfection). To honour them is to pay them the intellectual and
spiritual homage we owe to such a cluster of perfections. It is evXoyov, here
'perfectly appropriate', to endorse this sort of attitude, not because of the
expectable advantages and disadvantages of playing or not playing with the
gods the game of give and take, but because respect and homage are the right
attitude to adopt towards their conceptual perfection, whatever may come out
of it.
The crucial word evXoycos, used by Zeno, does not by itself commit the
With more details, and more sympathy for Barnes's suggestion, in Schofield 1982 than in
Schofield 1983.

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reader to any of these alternative interpretations: it may be evXoyov for X to

adopt a given attitude towards Y either because this attitude is prudent, given
X's basic desires and interests, or because it is justified, given Y's intrinsic
nature. It is perfectly clear that Barnes's rewriting of (A),firstin the form (Aa),
where the translation of evXoyws as 'properly' unobtrusively points to specific
intrinsic properties of divine being, and then in the form (Ab), where 'honour'
is something a God is worthy of, rather than something a man would be well-
advised to pay him, implies a theocentric view of the argument.8 Such seems,
then, to be the condition on which Zeno's argument can be considered as a
(rather well concealed) version of the OA.
It is certainly very hard, if we look only at this very brief argument, to decide
which interpretation, the anthropocentric or the theocentric, hence the non-
ontological or the ontological, is the right one. Schofield 1983, who advocates
the anthropocentric interpretation, offers only presumptions.9 Of course I
could argue that Diogenes' argument is not ontological (as I shall try to show
later on) and that it is just a transformation of Zeno's argument (as Diogenes
himself claims it to be), so that Zeno's argument would not be ontological
either. But it would be vastly preferable to have independent reasons for
arguing that neither argument is ontological. As far as Zeno's argument is
concerned, two indications might be invoked in favour of the anthropocentric,
i.e. non-ontological interpretation: first, that the word evXoyov, in Zeno's
usage, seems rather to point to prudential considerations,10 secondly, that the
Stoic general line, regarding religious behaviour, seems to endorse much of the
traditional notion of an exchange of services between gods and men.11 These
arguments perhaps do not go much further than Schofield's 'impressions'; but
I give them for what they are worth.
Section (B) of our passage contains the anonymous objection raised against
Cf. Schofield 1982, p. 13 ('One of the distinguishing features of Barnes's reading, in fact, is the
way it confines the scope of the reasons adumbrated in "reasonably" to considerations about
the nature of the gods or the non-existent, excluding separate attention to the rationality of
propositional attitudes to them' - his emphasis) and 1983, pp. 38-9 (The major drawback to
this [i.e. Barnes's] reading of [Zeno's] syllogism is its interpretation of the first premiss: it
converts what looks like a thesis about the rationality of human behaviour, based presumably
on empirical or at least contingent considerations, into an a priori statement about the nature
of the divine (viz. that it is such as to give us reason to honour it).').
Cf. Schofield 1983, p. 39: 'It seems preferable to stick with the impression that the premiss (AI)
is indeed about the rationality of pious or religious behaviour.'
Cf. the definition of the KadrJKov as o npaxOev evXoyov ur^ei ajroXoyioyiov, 'that for which,
when done, a reasonable defence can be adduced' (DL vn.107). Diogenes Laertius adds that
Zeno was the first to use the term KadfJKov, and that he explained it through the etymology and
TOV Kara nvas rJKew, 'from what is incumbent on certain beings'. It seems clear that nvas
refers to the agents which have a reasonable motive to behave in such and such way, not to the
beneficiaries towards which, given their intrinsic nature, it is reasonable to do so.
Schofield 1982, pp. 4-5, discusses at length an argument quoted by Sextus, Mix. 123, which has
some obvious affinities with Zeno's argument, and which might be by Chrysippus, namely: 'if
Gods do not exist, piety (euae/Seia) is non-existent; but piety exists; therefore Gods exist'. In
explaining the argument, Sextus quotes what apparently is a Stoic definition of eiWjSeia as 'the
science of service to the gods' {kiriariqixiq Oecov depairzias). The word Oepaireia seems to imply
that gods are to be pleased and taken care of, not just disinterestedly venerated. But cf. n. 15

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Zeno's argument (an objection which has often been compared with the
celebrated Lost Island objection of the monk Gaunilo to Anselm), in the form
of a 'parallel' (TTapafioXrj). A 'parallel' is an argument which is formally and
semantically as close as possible to the argument under attack, and which
comes to a conclusion which is either absurd or repugnant to the adversary. It
was described in some detail by Philodemus (Rhet. I . I I . 17-30), and more
recently very aptly christened as 'the "You-might-as-well-say" manoeuvre'
(Wisdom 1952, p. 80, both quoted by Schofield 1983, p. 35). We know of other
objections to arguments by Zeno which follow the same strategy: one of them
is attributed to the Dialectician Alexinos (cf. Sextus, M. ix. 108-9, who also
reports the answer made by 'the Stoics' to Alexinos' rrapa^oXiq.12 The
Trapa^oXrj in (B) is a fine instance of the kind. The premiss (BI) is quite close to
(AI), the only difference being the substitution of the wise men for the gods;
and it is hard to see, at first view, how one could find (A 1) plausible and (BI) not
equally plausible (the authors of the second defence (F), in 136, will make a
brave attempt in this direction). The premiss (B2) is identical with (A2). The
conclusion (B3) is not absurd in itself; but it is unpalatable to the Stoics, who
made a notorious fuss about the empirical existence of their Wise Man. The
objection is therefore strictly ad hominem. It would be open to the Stoics,
among other courses, to abandon, or to mitigate, their dogma about the Sage,
to realize that a totally uninstantiated ideal is little sustenance, and to admit
that there are or were indeed some Wise Men after all.
Section (c) shows that this is not the line of argument Diogenes adopted. In
order to disarm the TrapafioXrj, he rather suggested that the real meaning of
(A2) was what he expressed by (C2): 'Those who are not of such a nature as to
exist (TOVS Se firj ire^vKorag elvai) a man may not reasonably honour.' The
exact meaning of the crucial phrase ne^vKores elvat is not immediately clear; I
shall provisionally, and conventionally, refer to it by the phrase 'naturally
existing'. But I think it preferable to defer the detailed discussion of what it
means until we see what sort of conclusions Diogenes allows himself or forbids
himself to draw from a statement saying that beings of such and such type are
or are not naturally existing. For the moment, I shall only offer some
preliminary remarks.
It is likely that the predicate 'naturally existing' is supposed to constitute the
relevant difference between the gods and the wise; the gods are 'naturally
existing', the wise are quite probably not (more on this later); the introduction

Alexinos, a contemporary of Zeno, seems to have been a specialist in anti-Zenonian
TrapafioXai (cf. Schofield 1983, pp. 34-8). In view of the narrow parallelism of the sequence in
M ix. 104-1 o (argument by Zeno - TTapafioXrj by Alexinos - Stoic answer to the TrapafioXrj) and
the one in M ix. 133-5 (argument by Zeno - anonymous TrapafioXr] - answer to the irapafioXr)
by Diogenes of Babylon), it is more than tempting to attribute the anonymous irapa^oXiq of
ix. 133 to Alexinos (thus Schofield 1983, pp. 36-7 - better than to Carneades, pace Baldassari
1971, p. 549 n. 114, and Dumont 1982, pp. 391-3) and the anonymous reply of ix.109-110 to
Diogenes. This is of course speculative, but note the use of the idea of'absolutely (or: once for
all) better (Kaddna^ Kpelrrovy in this latter reply, and Diogenes' visible concern with various
aspects of the notion of the absolute (Baldassari 1971, pp. 549fT).

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of this predicate is presumably designed to break the irapafioXri. We must

understand that from (AI) and (C2) it is legitimate to conclude (C3). Are we
supposed to understand that from (BI) and (C2) it would not be legitimate to
conclude that (C3*) the wise men are of such a nature as to exist? In other
words, is the revised syllogism immune to any new TrapafioXrp. The answer to
this question is far from clear. Schofield 1982, pp. 17-18, asks the question:
why could not an opponent build a new irapafioXrp. It would have the
following form:
(BI) A man may reasonably honour the wise.
(C2) Those who are not of such a nature as to exist a man may not
reasonably honour.
Therefore (03*): The wise are of such a nature as to exist.
(C3*) is probably no less repugnant to the Stoics than (B3) was: whatever the
exact meaning of'naturally existing' may be, the wise are likely to be conceived
as not naturally existing; otherwise the substitution of (C2) for (A2) could not
be expected to work efficiently against the first irapafioXrj. If so, the only way of
not being saddled with the conclusion (C3*) of the second irapafioXri would be
to question ( B I ) , 1 3 and to turn the syllogism upside down, as follows:
(Not-C3*) The wise are not of such a nature as to exist.
(C2) Those who are not of such a nature as to exist a man may not
reasonably honour.
Therefore (Not-Bi): A man may not reasonably honour the wise.
The only trouble is that this course of reasoning could perfectly well have been
used against the first irapafioXr} as well: if the Stoics are committed to agree
that it does not make sense to honour the wise, it matters little whether it is for
the simple reason that they do not exist or for the sophisticated reason that
they do not 'naturally exist'. The first premiss of the irapa^oXr} (BI) should
have been rejected out of hand. By choosing to revise Zeno's second premiss
(A2), kept untouched by the opponent in his (B2), Diogenes seems to have
aimed at the wrong target: it would have been much more reasonable of him to
attack the first premiss of the irapa^oXrj (BI) and to show that it was no real
'parallel' to Zeno's first premiss ( A I ) . 1 4
Let us note that this is exactly what the authors of the second defence (F)
tried to do, by distinguishing two different meanings of 'honouring', one
strictly applicable only to the gods ('honouring strictly speaking'), another
applicable both to the gods and to the wise ('holding in honour'). If (AI) is
Schofield 1982, p. 17, detects in Section (E) 'an attempt to show why no convincing T p j
to the new version of the argument [i.e. (c)] can be devised'. In my opinion, this section (E) deals
not with the first step of Diogenes' argument, i.e. the revised syllogism to (C3) offered in (c), but
with the second step of Diogenes' argument, i.e. Section (D), which goes from (C3) to the
assertion of the gods' actual existence.
Schofield 1982, p. 18, makes the point roundly: 'Diogenes' proposal to save Zeno's syllogism
by reading (A2) as (C2) is ( . . . ) a disaster'.

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meant in the stricter sense, then (BI) is simply false, and Alexinos'
However, it might be said that the distinction made by the authors of (F) in
respect to the gods, at the level of (AI), was implicitly made by Diogenes, at the
more general level of (A2) read as ( d ) , in respect to the 'naturally existing'
beings. I here quote some excellent remarks on this point by Schofield 1982,
pp. 18-20: '(C2) contains an idea of great interest. It is only a pity that
Diogenes spoilt its presentation by offering it as a general claim about giving
honour, when it is really a persuasive and penetrating observation about
something else. What he has actually put his finger on is a feature of the
concept of worship,15 i.e. of the concept of a particular form of honour
appropriately bestowed only upon divine beings. 16 (...) We may accordingly
rewrite Diogenes' argument as follows:
(ci*) A man may reasonably worship the gods.
(C2*) A man may not reasonably worship those who are not of such a nature
as to exist.
Therefore [03): The gods are of such a nature as to exist.'
Such an argument, Schofield says (1982, p. 20), is immune to any
since by definition there is no genuine 'parallel' whatsoever to the gods as
worthy of a reasonable worship.
Now, whether we consider Diogenes' original formulation of his revised
syllogism, from (ci) and (C2) to (03), or Schofield's rewriting of it, from (ci*)
and (C2*) to (C3), we should observe that (C3) is, precisely, a conclusion. This
should drive us to make a radical distinction between Diogenes' argument
(thus far) and at least some versions of the OA, namely those where the
inclusion of existence in the very essence of God is given the status of an
immediate and evident truth, straightforwardly readable, so to speak, in the
concept of God, and only in that concept. The notion of being naturally
existing, far from being discovered in the sole occasion of a scrutiny of this
peculiar concept, is introduced by Diogenes in abstracto, in (C2), and then
applied to the gods in the conclusion (C3). The only immediate truth about the
gods is that it is reasonable to honour them; the only immediate truth about
A word which, according to Schofield, has no exact equivalent in Greek, as far as range of use
and connotation are concerned. Perhaps, however, OOIOTTJS would fill the bill, at least to a
certain extent. Sextus M ix.124 quotes an argument parallel to the piety argument (cf. n. 11
above), where OGIOTTJS is substituted for euaejSeia and defined as SiKaioovvr) rig npos deovs.
The force of TLS could be to expel the utilitarian connotations of hiKaioovvrj, so that OOIOTTJS
would correspond to a disinterested conception of the god-man relation, as opposed to
evoefieia conceived as a kind of utilitarian depaneta.
I cannot quite see, however, how Schofield (1982, pp. 18-19) c a n h°kl (i) that the implicit
delimitations of the concept of worship by Diogenes is 'a persuasive and penetrating
observation'; (ii) that the authors of the second defence (F) 'were perhaps driving at the same
sort of conceptual differentiation between honouring and worship which (...) is the true basis
of Diogenes' proposal'; and (iii) that this second defence 'otherwise looks like a remarkably
feeble attempt to defend Zeno's argument'. It seems to me that this defence does not contain
anything in addition to the conceptual differentiation in question.

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naturally existing beings is that it is reasonable to honour only such beings.

There is no immediate truth linking the concept of god with the concept of a
naturally existing being. Of course, the conclusion (C3) might serve as a
premiss in a new argument which would be some version of the OA; but it is
not a primary premiss in such an argument.
Still more importantly, we must observe that (C3) is a conclusion different
from Zeno's original conclusion (A3), i.e. from the assertion that the gods
exist. Diogenes' revised syllogism (c) is no OA whatsoever, for the simple
reason that it does not conclude to the gods' existence. To this extent,
Diogenes' implicit claim that he just saved Zeno's argument against the
irapafioXr} by eliciting the real meaning of its second premiss is seriously
misleading: actually the substitution of (C2) for (A2) entails a radical watering
down of Zeno's original conclusion, since the new conclusion (03) is not
identical with (A3), but considerably weaker. In this respect, the Trapa^oXrj has
been quite successful: Diogenes has not been able both to disarm the
irapa^oXr] and to preserve the existential import of the original conclusion. If
he wants not to leave the matter at that, he is committed to devise a
supplementary argument, leading from the conclusion of his revised syllogism
(C3) to the conclusion of Zeno's original syllogism (A3), an argument for which
the model provided by Zeno obviously offers no clue. This is, I think, the job
which Diogenes assigns himself in the following section of the Sextian passage,
i.e. (D). 1 7

Section (D) is probably the most difficult and unmanageable section of the
whole Sextian passage. It has been rather ill treated by those scholars who
discussed Diogenes' argument. Dumont 1982 is silent about it. Baldassari
1971, pp. 561-2, has an enormous and tortuous sentence on the subject, the
essential meaning of which seems to be that he is pretty well embarrassed by
this section. Schofield 1982, p. 23, candidly confesses that something in the
deduction of (D3) from (C3) is incomprehensible to him. The temporal
considerations (airai; TTOT€ rjoav, vvv eloiv) which show up in the argument are
obviously intriguing. Can we hope to make things a little better?
A first important lesson of Section (D) is to be drawn from its very existence.
For we could be otherwise tempted to think that (03), T h e gods are of such a
nature as to exist', means that they actually exist and that their existence is of a

As a matter of fact, Diogenes commits himself to coming to the slightly different conclusion
(D3) that 'the gods actually exist' (elolv ^ST?). The adjunction of rjSrj (rightly translated by
Bury, I think, as 'actually') seems to be dictated by a concern for stressing the conceptual and
logical distance between 'to be of such a nature as to exist' and '[actually] to exist'. Diogenes
obviously wants to emphasize both that (C3), the intermediate conclusion of his revised
syllogism, is not equivalent to an assertion of existence, and that nevertheless it can be used as a
way to reach a full assertion of existence. Zeno's conclusion will be reached at one remove, but
without losing anything of its force. But it seems clear that in Diogenes' view, (D3) does not
differ substantially from (A3).

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particularly strong type of existence, let us say 'necessary existence' (not only
that if they exist, then they enjoy necessary, not contingent existence).18 If such
were the case, Section (D) would be pointless: (D3), the Diogenian version of
(A3), would be immediately implied by (C3), since (D3) is one of the conjuncts
of (C3) if (03) is read as the above conjunction. The existence of Section (D)
thus rules out giving to the predicate 'naturally existing' the meaning 'existing
and enjoying necessary existence'. This is a first constraint, helpful though
negative, on the meaning of 'naturally existing'.
Another possible way from (C3) to (D3) would be to make use of an implicit
universal premiss which would run as follows: 'Everything which is of such a
nature as to exist actually exists', or else, still more generally, 'Everything
which is of such a nature as to be F actually is F'. Combined with (C3), this
premiss would yield (D3) without more ado. Such an argument would
undoubtedly count as a version of the OA, since it would use a particular
feature of the essence of God (C3) to deduce his actual existence (D3). We can
only observe that Diogenes does not proceed in this way at all. He claims to
have a way of going from (C3) to (D3): what I have dubbed Section (D) begins
with the expression of this claim: el 8e rovro (i.e., if (C3)), KCLI elalv rjSrj (i.e.,
then (D3)). But Diogenes' way of justifying the inference from (C3) to (D3), as
we shall see, is quite unexpected (and utterly frustrating) for anybody who
would be tempted to see in him the inventor of the OA. On the other hand, it is
quite refreshing for anybody who is suspicious about the philosophical virtues
of the OA, since it is hard to deny that Diogenes was on the verge of offering
some version of it (he had all the ingredients in hand). For such a reader, it is
rewarding to see that the first philosopher who clearly foresaw a possibility of
demonstrating the existence of gods along the lines of the OA consciously
refrained from offering such a demonstration.
What does he offer instead in the way of demonstration? 19 Why and how are
bizarre temporal considerations (ctVa^, vvv) smuggled into the argument? The
text is difficult, perhaps compressed or abridged by Sextus or his source; but I
think that nothing essential to its understanding is really missing. The
transition from (C3) to (D3) (el 8e TOVTO, KCLI elalv rjSrj) is supposed to be

Schofield 1983, p. 39, in his rather brief discussion of our passage seems to take this line. He
glosses (C2) in the following terms: 'This interesting proposal is perhaps best considered as
stating a feature of one sort of honour, namely worship: it is appropriately offered only to
necessary beings (not contingent, like the wise).' If (C2) is construed this way, (C3) would
presumably mean that the gods are indeed necessary beings, i.e. beings who exist and
necessarily so {not: who exist necessarily if they exist at all).
The reasoning from (C3) to (D3) is presented as 'conclusive' (OVVOLKTIKOS, cf. Kara OLKOXOVOOV
€Tn<f>opav ovvdgei 6 Xoyos, 135). It seems to me that, taken by itself, it possesses the
characteristics of a demonstration, in the Stoic technical sense of the term (cf. Brunschwig
1980). By contrast, the syllogism concluding to (A3) or to (C3), either in the Zenonian form or in
the Diogenian, seems to fall short of a demonstration, in virtue of its €v\6ya>s premiss (cf.
Baldassari 1971, pp. 565, 574).

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justified (cf. yap immediately after) by a syllogism in modus ponens, the second
premiss of which is left unexpressed:
(DI) If the gods existed once upon a time (el yap aVa£ rrore rjoav), they also
exist now (vvv).
(D2, suppressed premiss). The gods existed once upon a time.
Therefore (D3*):20 The gods exist now.
A first problem with this syllogism is the following. As we just saw, the
syllogism is supposed to justify the transition from (C3) to (D3); but it
completely fails to mention (C3) among its premisses. The idea that the gods
are of such a nature as to exist does not play any explicit part in the reasoning.
However, it would be hard to suppose that it has been forgotten halfway
through. So we have to try to find out if and how (C3) is still present and
logically active, in some sense, either behind (DI) or behind (D2).
Let us first try ( D I ) as a possible candidate. The principle behind the
hypothesis would be something like this:
(DI *) For all X, if X is of such a nature as to exist, then if X existed once upon
a time, then X exists now.
But to say that if something existed once upon a time, then it exists now is the
same as to say that it is imperishable. Thus we can abbreviate (DI*) and
express it as follows:
( D I * * ) For all X, if X is of such a nature as to exist, then X is imperishable.

( D I * * ) is not very plausible by itself in the first place, given the ordinary
meaning of'nature' in such philosophical contexts. What happens to things is
by no means coextensive to what they are of such a nature as to do or to
undergo: lots of things happen to things contrary to their nature, if only
I dub this conclusion vvv elaiv (D3*), because it is at least morphologically different from (D3)
(eiCTiV 17S77). But I take it that (D3*), i.e. 'the gods exist now', implies (D3), i.e. 'the gods exist
actually', so that if (D3*) is validly deduced, so will (D3) be. Why does Diogenes undertake to
deduce (D3*) in his modus ponens syllogism, instead of directly deducing (D3) ? Possibly because
the best conditional premiss he could find to do the required job was (DI), the consequent of
which involves the notion of existing now. In any case, the yap in el yap a-nat; -nork rjoav seems
to indicate clearly enough that elalv 17817 is a way of anticipating the conclusion (namely vvv
eloiv) of the supporting argument which follows. I realize, however, that this way of dealing
with the difference between (D3) and (D3*) might be a weak point in my interpretation. -
Another way of construing the argument (suggested to me by Malcolm Schofield in
correspondence) could be summarized as follows, (i) Elolv fj8r) (D3) means 'they actually exist
at some time or other', (ii) (C3) immediately entails (D3), by virtue of a version of the so-called
'Principle of Plenitude', (iii) The modus ponens syllogism is a way of disarming the possible
objection that (D3) could be true without the gods existing now. The yap-clause explains why
the objection does not work, by introducing the new premiss (DI). The entire train of reasoning
is thus: (C3), so (D3); now (DI), SO (D3*) - from (D3) + (DI). This is undoubtedly an attractive
suggestion; however, it seems to me that the crucial inference from (C3) to (D3) needs some
justification (in Schofield's reading, Diogenes would take it as obvious); now, if some
justification is needed, the yap-clause is more naturally construed as precisely giving this
justification (instead of answering an unexpressed objection). I am therefore inclined to stick to
my proposal, which is, as will be seen below in more detail: (C3), so (D2); now (DI), SO (D3*) -
from (D2) + (DI); hence (D3).

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appropriate external causes act on them in the appropriate way, preventing the
standard display of their nature. Man e.g. is something which is of such a
nature as to see; this does not prevent some men from being or becoming blind;
similarly, something which is of such a nature as to exist can perish, if only it
meets some external cause strong enough to destroy it, that is contrary to its
nature in some appropriate degree.
In addition to that, to suppose that (DI*) is present in the argument of
Section (D) raises a number of difficulties, as might be shown by the problems
which Schofield finds himself involved in when he claims (1982, pp. 22-3) that
'[Sextus'] source seems to be trying to explicate the notion of "having a nature
such as to exist" and its consequences by precisely assimilating them to the
conception of the imperishable and its consequences' (his emphasis). The basis
of this claim is the analogy with atoms which is developed in ix.135. Like the
gods, the text says, the atoms are such that if they existed once upon a time, 21
they also exist now; the equivalence of this implication with the attributes of
imperishability and ungenerability is ensured by what comes after (a<f>dapra
yap Kal dyevrjra TOL TOIOLVTOL ian). Now the imperishability of the atoms is
contained in the very notion of such bodies (Kara rrjv ewoiav rcov creo/zcn-cov).
It is of course tempting to assimilate what is implied by the nature of something
and what is contained in the notion of something. Thus Schofield: 'Where [C3]
speaks of its being in the nature of a god to exist, Sextus' source here remarks
that "according to the conception of atoms they are incapable of being created
or destroyed"' (his emphasis). But the price to pay for this assimilation (which
is not explicit in Sextus' text) is high, first of all because one might hold, as
Schofield himself says, that there is 'a world of difference between having such
a nature as to exist and being conceived of as imperishable'. Moreover,
assimilating the two notions creates an insuperable muddle in Diogenes'
argumentation. For the imperishability of atoms cannot and does not imply
their existence - least of all for the Stoics, who are notoriously hostile to any
atomistic conception of the physical world. So if (C3) was the ground for (DI),
that is to say, if the 'naturally existing' character of the gods was taken as a
ground for their imperishability, no advance at all would be made along the
road to a demonstration of their existence, and the modus ponens syllogism
from (DI) to (D3*) would be seriously in danger of total inefficiency.22
In order to save the argument from this fatal collapse, I think we must, on
the contrary, keep carefully separate the two predicates of 'being of such a
nature as to exist' and 'being imperishable'. The second predicate belongs both
to the gods and to the atoms. It seems quite likely that, in Diogenes' view, the
first belongs only to the gods. 'Being imperishable' pertains to the atoms in

T h e text simply says el aro/txot tfoav, but it is clear, from the context, that a V a f is to be
Cf. Schofield 1982, p p . 2 2 - 3 (after noticing t h a t the imperishability of a t o m s does n o t imply
their existence): 'Is not this exactly analogous to what we should say a b o u t Diogenes' attempt
to derive the existence of gods from their nature?'

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virtue of their evvoia: the word is important, because we know that in the Stoic
conception, there are lots of ewoiai which are notions of nothing existing (cf.
DL VII. 53); the famous irpoX^Ls, which does have the force of a criterion (DL
VII.54), is only a very special kind of eWoia.23 Even for a Stoic philosopher,
who does not believe that there are atoms, it is perfectly possible to say, on the
basis of the evvoca of atom, what properties an atom would have if there was
such a thing as an atom. The choice of atoms as a support for the analogy,
which has embarrassed some scholars because the Stoics do not believe that
there are atoms, is, on the contrary, quite helpful: it is precisely designed, in my
view, to isolate hypothetical statements about things we have evvoiai of from
categorical ones about things we have 7Tpo\r)ifj€Ls of: //"something like an atom
existed, it would be imperishable, an implication which is all the more
interesting and useful in the argument as there is nothing like an atom.
Presumably, the same implication holds good of the gods, on the sole basis of
the simple evvoia of god: if there were gods, they would be imperishable. But
this implication does not make use of the idea that gods are of such a nature as
to exist, which is presumably based not on the eWoia, but on the TrpoXrjifjig of
god. 24 Thus it seems better to give up the idea that the mode of presence of (03)
in the modus ponens syllogism is its being the ground for (DI): 'being of such a
nature as to exist' and 'being imperishable' must be considered as independent
predicates, neither of which implies the other.
Now we can turn to the second candidate, namely the suppressed premiss
(D2): the gods existed once upon a time. This fairy-tale-looking premiss is
charming but intriguing; we need it all the same, if the modus ponens is to work
at all. So where are its credentials? Is it anyhow likely that (C3) is the
justification for (D2), i.e. that because the gods are of such a nature as to exist,
they existed once upon a time?
There are two ways of giving an affirmative answer to this question. The first
is to say that (C3) means (D2); the second is to say that (C3) is a premiss out of
which (D2) can be obtained.
The first way is not as completely silly as it appears. We could perhaps
understand rre^vKores efvcu, in an etymologizing mood (from C/)VGLS as
'birth'), as 'having existed at the beginning of things', in particular 'having
existed before the time when men began to exist'; then to say that the gods
7T€(f)VKaaLv elvai would be to say that they existed once upon a time, namely at
the beginning of things, as the poets say. However, we cannot go very far along
this road: for such a reinterpretation of the phrase TrecfrvKores elvac should be

O n the non-existential import of cWota or kirlvoia in Hellenistic philosophical vocabulary, cf.
Sextus, M VIH.334A-336A: it is 'just a m o t i o n of the intellect', which involves no judgement, no
assertion whatsoever concerning whether the conceived object exists or not. See my comments
o n this question in chapter 11 below, p p . 224-43.
The main distinguishing feature of the irpoX^ifjis is that it is the p r o d u c t of a natural genesis
( D L VII.53-4). Presumably, a knowledge a b o u t what things naturally are is to be reached
t h r o u g h the irpoXrjifHs which they causally imprint into the mind, by virtue of their own nature,
and in a natural way.

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referred back on its first occurrence, i.e. ( d ) ; and the Diogenian revised
premiss would then mean that a man may not reasonably honour those who
have not existed at the beginning of things. This principle would leave
reasonable honourability to those beings who indeed existed at the beginning
of things, but disappeared since then, e.g. evil powers overcome by the first
gods; it would debar from reasonable honourability those beings who did not
exist at the beginning of things, but who share some relevant features with the
first gods, e.g. their sons and descendants, or the founding heroes of the cities.
Whatever interest Diogenes might have in such mythological niceties, it is very
doubtful that he had this sort of thing in mind.
We should accordingly try the second way, namely to explore the possibility
that (C3) is a premiss out of which (D2) can be obtained. In order to get this
result, we must admittedly suppose a second suppressed premiss, ( D I * * * ) , SO
as to build the following syllogism:
(03) The gods are of such a nature as to exist.
(DI ***) Everything which is of such a nature as to exist existed once upon a
(D2) Therefore, the gods existed once upon a time.
(DI ***) is interesting, because it helps to give its exact meaning to the predicate
'naturally existing'. I have already given some reasons for arguing that this
predicate cannot be equivalent to 'existing and enjoying necessary existence';
(DI ***) confirms this point, since the predicate now turns out to imply nothing
more than existence 'once upon a time'. On the other hand, 'naturally existing'
appears to mean more than just 'possibly existing' since according to (DI ***) a
being of such a nature must have actually existed once upon a time. 25 In sum,
the predicate 'naturally existing' must be weaker than 'necessarily existing',
and stronger than 'possibly existing'. It must be weaker than 'necessarily
existing', since otherwise it would immediately imply 'actually existing', and
Diogenes' argument would be a form of the OA; but the needed premiss
(DI ***) shows that it implies less than that. It must be stronger than 'possibly
existing', because possible existence implies no form whatsoever of actual
existence, even 'once upon a time', and ( D I * * * ) precisely shows that 'being of
such a nature as to exist' does imply having existing once upon a time. 26
How then to define more precisely the meaning of'naturally existing', if we
try to avoid both the Charybdis of a too strong reading and the Scylla of a too
Here I disagree with an oral suggestion m a d e by A. L o n g and quoted by D r a g o n a - M o n a c h o u
1976, p . 4 3 : ' "If something is of a n a t u r e to exist" is equivalent to "If something can exist". A n d
it does not follow from the fact that something can exist that it has existed, unless we a d d the
premiss that nothing can exist which has not previously existed.' It seems to me that suppressed
premisses are not multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, so that it is preferable to take the
implication in ( D I * * * ) at its face value, rather t h a n inserting an additional premiss in order to
m a k e it intelligible (even if L o n g interestingly claims that his additional premiss should be
accepted by the Stoics, on the basis of their theory of the cyclical repetition of events).
A n additional reason is that in the Stoic view the wise presumably are possible beings, and are
not 'naturally existing'.

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weak one? If we rely on the entailment expressed in ( D I * * * ) , we can perhaps

suggest the following solution. As I briefly hinted above, the properties which
a given type of being possesses by nature are normally possessed by any token
of this type; a given token of the type cannot be deprived of any of these
properties, unless by accident, or, if this language looks too Aristotelian for
Stoic 'determinism', unless through the action of prohibiting external causes.
This seems to be just an essential part of the concept of nature, as conveyed by
phrases like 7T€<f>vKaoiv etvai; and that is why no principle such as the OA-
directed 'Everything which is of such a nature as to be F actually is F' was
assumed in the first place. Let us admit, then, that (C2), 'those who are not
TTt^vKores €IVOLL a man may not reasonably honour', means that it would not
be reasonable to honour a being who exists only accidentally, or through the
action of specific external causes which would counteract its normal inexis-
tence (a perfectly defensible idea by itselF 7 ); and that (C3), 'the gods
7T€(f)VKaGLv elvai\ means something like: tokens of the type must normally
exist, they are not such that if they exist, they do so only accidentally. It is not
excluded that there are no such tokens now, or that there has been none or will
be none at some other time; but if such were the case, it would be by accident,
through the prohibiting action of specific external causes (cups are of such a
nature as to be broken; they normally break, unless one - or even lots of them -
have sunk in the depths of sea). On the other hand, it is excluded that at every
time in the past, the gods did not exist, because any failure of them to exist can
only be accidental or contrary to their nature; now prohibiting, anti-natural
causes do not regularly overcome natural ones; by definition the accident
cannot be the rule (it cannot be the case that no cup ever broke). Thus, even in
the case where the gods did not exist now, it would be legitimate to say that
there has been, in the indefinite past, one moment (at least) when they existed.
In this interpretation of'naturally existing' as 'normally existing' (understood
as above), the implication expressed by ( D I * * * ) seems perfectly justified: if we
give to 'normally' the appropriate meaning, everything which normally exists
has existed at least at some moment of the past.
Now that I have established, or so I hope, that (C3) is indeed tacitly present
in the modusponens syllogism which starts from (DI) and concludes to (D3*),
not however as the ground for (DI), but as the ground for (D2), we can come
back to this syllogism as a whole. The two independent ideas that (i) z/the gods
exist, they are imperishable, and that (ii) they are of such a nature to exist, can
now combine to generate the desired conclusion. The first idea, probably
extracted from the evvoca of god (given the comparison with the atoms), is the
ground for the conditional premiss (DI); the second one, the conclusion of
Diogenes' first revised syllogism, is the ground for the separate assertion of the
antecedent (D2). All in all, Diogenes' careful procedure ensures the transition
'We can't help feeling that the worthy object of our worship can never be a thing that merely
happens to exist' (Findlay, quoted by Schofield 1982, p. 20). But 'not merely happening to exist'
is compatible both with 'normally existing' and with 'necessarily existing'.

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from (03) to (D3*), i.e. from the conclusion of his revision of Zeno's syllogism
to (a slightly revised form of) the conclusion of Zeno's syllogism.

Let us see, before recapitulating the whole story, whether Section (E) confirms
or disconfirms the present analysis. This section is obviously designed to point
out where exactly the difference is between the gods and the wise, this time in
order to disarm a possible TTapaftoXrj against Diogenes' second step. 28 At the
beginning of Section (D), it was said that if (03) the gods are of such a nature as
to exist, then - but not by any immediate inference - (D3) they do actually exist.
Section (E) precisely says that it is not so with the wise: 'as for the wise, it is not
the case that since they are of such a nature as to exist, they do actually exist (01
8e ye oo<f>ol OVK €7T€i rre^vKaoiv cfvcu, 7/877 /cat ciaiV)'. In other words, the
transition from (03) to (D3), successfully realized in the case of the gods in
Section (D), could not be paralleled in the case of the wise. Why is it not
possible? The text does not say why; and we can hesitate between two
solutions: either the wise are not of such a nature as to exist, so that any
inference, whether direct or indirect, from the false premiss that they are of
such a nature, is straightforwardly blocked or nullified (if one accepts that e
falso sequitur quodlibet); or the wise are of such a nature as to exist, but for
some reason the argument which successfully proceeded from the analogous
premiss about the gods to the assertion of the gods' existence is not applicable
to the wise.
In order to elucidate this point, we should pay attention to the form of the
sentence (OVK iirei KTX): what we have here is what the Stoics dubbed a
(negated) Trapaavvvrj/jievov, the distinctive feature of which, in respect to the
ovvrjiJLiJLevov, is the use of eVet ('since') instead of el ('if). According to the Stoic
Crinis's Art of Dialectic, quoted by DL vii.71, the force of the specific
conjunction 'since', in statements of the form 'since /?, q\ is (i) that q follows
from/7 (i.e. that if/?, then q\ in other words, that the associate crwT/jii/zeVov is
true) and(ii) that/? is the case. DL also says (vii.74) that the irapaovwiqixevov is
true if p is true and q follows from /?, false if p is false or (obviously non-
exclusive) if q does not follow from/?. To understand why the TrapaowvrjiJLevov
'Since the wise are of such a nature as to exist, they actually exist' is false, let us
then consider its components:
(EI), the associate awq^evov. 'If the wise are of such a nature as to exist,
then they actually exist'.
(E2), the antecedent: 'The wise are of such a nature as to exist'.
We have got several options: either (EI) is false, or (E2) is false, or both.
Embarras de richesse. Let us try to find our way through these three options.
First option: the -napaovv^^ixevov is false because (EI) is false, (E2) being
Schofield 1982, p. 17, tries to read this section as if it was designed to disarm a TrapafioXrj to
Diogenes'^*™/ syllogism (his revision of Zeno's syllogism). No wonder he finds the section 'not
very clear', and concludes that 'we must convict Diogenes or at least the commentator of
massive ignoratio elenchf.

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true. This means, first, that it is true that the wise ire^vKaoiv etvai. Now, the
Stoics certainly would not be ready to accept that the wise normally exist, and
that if they 'remained undiscoverable up till now', it is a mere matter of
accident. So, in order to get a way of making (E2) true, it would be necessary to
weaken the meaning of ire^vKaotv etvat down to 'possibly existing', which
actually is an acceptable predicate for the wise. Secondly, in order to make (EI)
false, we must give the same phrase a meaning weaker than 'necessarily
existing': 'possibly existing' and 'normally existing' would both fill the bill.
Thus, if we want to keep a consistent meaning for the phrase in both premisses,
'possibly existing' is the only choice. But we have found just now independent
reasons for not giving such a meaning to this phrase. The first option,
therefore, has nothing attractive in it.
Second option: the TrapaovvrjiJLiJLevov is false because (E2) is false, (EI) being
true. Now, in order to get a way of making (E2) false, we can give to TTZ$VK<IGIV
ehai either the sense 'necessarily existing', or the sense 'normally existing'; for
the wise do not enjoy either of these modes of relation to existence. On the
other hand, to make (EI) true, we have no other choice than to give to the
phrase ire^vKaoiv elvai the sense of'they exist necessarily'. So, if we want to
keep a consistent meaning to the phrase in both premisses, 'necessarily
existing' is the only choice. And we have also found just now independent
reasons for not giving such a meaning to this phrase. The second option,
therefore, is not any more attractive than the first one.
Let us now try the third option: the Trapaawr^/zeVov is false because both
(EI) and (E2) are false. As we have just seen, the falsity of (EI) is compatible
with construing Tre^vKaaiv cfvcu either as 'normally existing' or as 'possibly
existing' (see the first option); and the falsity of (E2) is compatible with
construing Tre^vKaotv ehai either as 'necessarily existing' or as 'normally
existing' (see the second option). Therefore, it is possible to keep a consistent
meaning for the phrase in both premisses, namely 'normally existing'; and we
have found independent reasons for thinking that such is the appropriate
meaning for this phrase.
I conclude that the better way of making sense of the falsity of the wise-men
TTapacvvrjiJLiJLevov is to think that both its components are held to be false. One
of the consequences of this conclusion is that we are now in possession of an
extra reason for construing the phrase ire^vKaoiv elvai as we did in the gods'
case; another one is that in this sense, the wise are definitely considered as not
'being of such a nature as to exist'. This feature is thus the basic discriminating
feature between the gods and the wise. Any Trapa^oXr/ on Diogenes' modus
ponens syllogism (D) would be already blocked by the fact that any parallel to
(D2) involving the wise would be unobtainable, the grounds for it being
removed by the falsity of (E2).
Another discriminating feature between the gods and the wise is, of course,
that the wise are not imperishable. For this reason too, any irapafioXiq on (D)
would be doomed to failure: any acceptable parallel to (DI) involving the wise

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is out of reach. Both premisses of the attempted irapafioAr} could thus be

legitimately rejected by Diogenes.

To conclude, after this examination of each step of Diogenes' argument, it will

probably be helpful to recapitulate it, in the terms of the analysis which has
been offered.
(AI) A man may reasonably honour the gods (from Zeno).
( d ) Those who are not of such a nature as to exist a man may not
reasonably honour (by implication from the right meaning of 'honour').
Therefore (C3): The gods are of such a nature as to exist.

(DI***) Everything which is of such a nature as to exist existed once upon a

time (in virtue of the meaning of'nature').
Therefore (D2): The gods existed once upon a time (from (C3) and ( D I * * * ) ) .

(DI) If the gods existed once upon a time, they also exist now (from the
evvoLd of god).
Therefore (D3*) The gods exist now (from (DI) and (D2)).
Not too bad. But nothing 'ontological' in it. Rather, the long way from (03) to
(D3*) seems to mean: beware of the snares of- ontologicality.

Sextus Empiricus, Mix. 133-6:
(A) ZTJVOJV 8e /cat TOLOVTOV rjpwra Aoyov • TOVS deovs evAoyws dv TLS ri/jiayq • TOVS 8e
jjiT] b'vTas OVK dv TLS evAoycos TLfjuarrj • elolv dpa deoL
(Bl) ' Q L Aoyco TLves TrapafidAAovTes (j>aai' TOVS oo<f>ovs dv TLS evAoyojs TL/jLorr) • TOVS
8e firj b'vTas OVK dv TLS €vA6ya)s TLfjianj - €LOLV a p a oo<f)OL. "Oirep OVK rjpeoKe TOLS OLTTO
(c) ' AiravTcov 8e TTpos TTJV TTapajSoArjv ALoyevrjs 6 BaftvAwvLOS TO SevTepov <f>r)OL
ArjfjLfjLa TOV Zrjvtovos Aoyov TOLOVTOV etvai TTJ 8VV&(JL€L • TOVS Se fjLrj TrecfrvKOTas €LVOLL
OVK dv TLS evAoyws TLfJiarr). TOLOVTOV ydp Aafi^avofjuevov SrjAov (hs 7T€<f)VKaoLV €LVOLL
( D ) El 8e TOUTO, /cat elaiv rj8rj. El ydp drra^ TTOT€ TJOCLV, /cat vvv €LOL'V, woTrep el
aTOfjLOL rjaav, /cat vvv elalv • d<f>9apTa ydp /cat dyevrjTa Ta TOtaura IGTL /card TTJV
evvoLav T(x)v ooufJidTajv. ALO /cat /card aKoAovOov €iTL<f>opdv ovvd^eL 6 Aoyos-
(E) 01 84 ye oocf)OL OVK iirel 7T€(f>VKaaLV etvat, i]8rj /cat elolv.
(F) 'ylAAot 8e <f>aoL TO rrpojTOv ArjfjLfjia TOV Zrjvajvos, TO TOVS Oeovs evAoycos dv TLS
TLfjLCxn], dfjL(f>L^oAov €LVOLL - ev fji€v ydp orjfjLaLveLV TOVS deovs evAoycus dv TLS TLfxc[yrj9
erepov 8e TLfjurjTLKWs ^X ot - AafjiftdvecdaL 8e TO npcoTOV, oirep i/jev8os eoTOLL eirl TWV

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I should perhaps apologize for devoting a longish paper to a very well-known

document, which has been glossed again and again by every historian of
Pyrrho and ancient Scepticism.l My excuse for doing so is double: first, there is
a general agreement, I think, on the crucial importance of this document for
any attempt to reconstruct Pyrrho's thought; secondly, I would like to offer a
new, and I hope reasonable, reading, of some of the most disputed points in it.
The text comes from Eusebius, Praeparatio evangelica, Bk.xiv, ch. 18,
paragraphs 1-5 ( = Aristocles fr. 6 Heiland = Pyrrho test. 53 Decleva Caizzi.
See the Greek text in the Appendix to this chapter). Eusebius, as is well known,
writes at the beginning of the fourth century AD, with the aim of exposing the
absurdities and inconsistencies of most pagan philosophy. He makes abun-
dant use of some good sources, in particular the Peripatetic philosopher
Aristocles of Messina, whose date has been recently pushed back from the
second half of the second century AD to the end of the first century BC. 2 The
work of Aristocles used by Eusebius was an important treatise in ten books,
with the title /7ept ^iXooo^ias. Most of Eusebius' chapters 17 to 21 comes
from Book vm of Aristocles' On Philosophy, dealing successively with
* Afirstversion of this paper was delivered in May 1992, before the Cambridge B-Club. Many
searching objections were presented to me, in particular by Myles Burnyeat, Michael Frede
and David Sedley; others, no less impressive, were communicated to me in carefully written
letters I received from Jonathan Barnes, Marcel Conche, Fernanda Decleva Caizzi and Nick
Denyer. I thank them all warmly. If I did not draw from this salvo of criticisms the conclusion
that I had better not publish the paper, it is because I still have a hunch that it is basically on the
right track. I have attempted, in this new version, to answer the most powerful objections
directed at the original one. Thanks are also due to Michel Poirier for his Greek expertise.
Finally, I must acknowledge that I received the first insight into the views I am here expressing
from two sentences in Groarke 1990, p. 81 n. 1. A propos of the possible influence of Indian
thought on Pyrrho, Groarke writes en passant. 'Buddhism eliminates all individuality and
duality, establishing that things are indeterminate and unmeasurable and that beliefs are
neither true nor false. All distinctions are eradicated and no category is more applicable than its
opposite' (my emphasis).
The bibliography of the subject is more or less identical with the general bibliography on
Pyrrho and ancient Scepticism. Up to 1980, such a general bibliography has been compiled by
L. Ferraria and G. Santese in the second volume of Giannantoni 1981. Cf. also Decleva Caizzi
1981, pp. 17-26, and now Barnes 1992, pp. 4295-301. The most important publications will be
quoted or mentioned, I think, in the paper.
Cf. Follet's notice in Goulet 1989, s.v. Aristocles de Messine. Aristocles apud Eusebius, PE
xiv. 18.29 contemptuously speaks of 'a certain Aenesidemus, who quite recently (ixOes /ecu
7Tpu)rjv), in Alexandria in Egypt, tried to revive this [Pyrrhonian] rubbish'. If Aenesidemus
wrote around 40 BC, as is generally agreed, Aristocles cannot have written this way much later.


Xenophanes and Parmenides, the Sceptics, the Cyrenaics, Metrodorus and

Protagoras, and finally Epicurus. The extracts usually include a short doxo-
graphical section and a long critical section. Eusebius quotes directly from
Aristocles' book, which he seems to have to hand; at any rate, in the extract in
which we are interested, he claims to quote Aristocles' ipsissima verba or nearly
so (cSSe TTTJ irpos Xe^iv k'xovTOs, XIV, 17.10).
Here is the translation I propose of this controversial text:3
[Title of the chapter]: Against the people called Pyrrhonian Sceptics, or
Ephectics, who declare that nothing is graspable.
(1) It is necessary, first of all, to inquire about our knowledge; for if by nature
we are unable to know anything, it will not be necessary to look at the
(2) There were some people in older times who told such a story; Aristotle
contradicted them. Pyrrho of Elis gained some fame by saying such
things (LOXVO€ fxev rotavra Xeycov /cat TIvppcov 6 'HAetos), but he himself
did not leave any written work.
In any case, his disciple Timon (6 8e ye fjLaOrjrrjs avrov TL/JLCOV) says
that it is necessary, for whoever is to enjoy happiness, to look at the three
following points (cfrrjol 8eiv rov fjueXXovra evSai/jLOvrjoetv eh rpia ravra

[1*] First, how things are by their nature {irpcorov ^ev, OTTOLOL 7re</>u/ce TOL
[2*] Secondly, in what way we must be disposed towards them (Sevrepov Se,
rt'va XPV rpoirov rjfjb&s rrpos avra Sta/cetcx0at);
[3*] Finally, what the benefit will be for people who are so (reXevralov §e, ri
Trepieorai rots OVTOJS e'xovoi).
(3) [1]
(la) As for things, he [i.e. Timon] says that he [i.e. Pyrrho] declares
them equally indifferent and unstable and undecidable4 (ra yiev ovv
irpdyfjuard (f>7]otv avrov a7TO<f)aLveLV eir larjg ahid<f)Opa /cat dorddynqra
/cat dv€77t/cptra),
[lb] that for this reason neither our sensations nor our beliefs are either
true or false (Std TOVTO \vf\re r d ? alodiqoeis TJJJLOOV jji-qre ras 86£as
aXr)deveiv rj ifjevSeodcu).
[2a] For this reason then, that it is necessary not to trust them (Std
TOVTO ovv fjirjSe TnoTeveiv aurats" 8etv),
The numbers in plain type are those of the traditional paragraphs; those in bold type are mine,
and will be useful for my discussion. When discussing the views of scholars who introduced
other symbols, I shall adapt the latter accordingly.
The meaning of the three adjectives, and the question whether eirioiqs goes with the three of
them or only with the first, have been hotly discussed. But not much depends on it for the points
I am here discussing. I adopt the translation given in a paper to which I am much indebted
(Stopper 1983, p. 274).

[2b] but to be unopinionated, impartial and unwavering5 (dAA' d8o£do-

rovs Kal OLKALV€LS Kal OLKpaSdvrovs etvat),
[2c] saying about each one that it no more is than is not, or that it both is
and is not, or that it neither is nor is not 6 (irepl evos eKaarov Aeyovras on
(4) [3] Now, for the people disposed that way Timon says that the benefit will
be first abstention from assertion (d^aciav), then absence of trouble
(drapagiav), and Aenesidemus says pleasure.
(5) Those are the main points of their sayings (rd /JL€V OVV Kecf>dAaia rcov
Xeyofievcov); let us see if they speak rightly (el opdcog Xeyovoiv).
I shall here mainly concentrate on the controversial meaning of the inference
marked by Sid rovro at the beginning of the sentence I have numbered as [lb]
(not the following inference, also marked by Std TOVTO at the beginning of [2a]).
This inference has been labelled as 'a zany inference' by Stopper (1983, p. 293
n. 53); and I shall hereafter designate it as 'the zany inference'. I have two
claims about it: first, that we should not attribute the zany inference to Pyrrho,
but to Timon; and secondly, that it is not a zany inference at all. I shall first
argue in some detail in favour of these two claims, about which I feel myself
reasonably certain. Then, in the second part of this paper, I shall try to draw,
from the results of the first part, some more general and more speculative

To begin with, I shall briefly recall the complex, many-layered structure of

Eusebius' text. As indicated above, Eusebius is quoting Aristocles, presum-
ably verbatim. Aristocles himself relies on Timon (C.320-C.230); but his
relation to Timon is certainly not of the same nature as the relation of Eusebius
to him. Aristocles devotes the whole section to the critical account of the
opinions of a group of people, 'called Pyrrhonian Sceptics or Ephectics' (this
phrase comes from the title of chapter 18, a title which also seems to stem from
Aristocles himself)- He essentially considers them as ancient representatives of
an epistemological version of scepticism, i.e. of the claim that we are by nature
unable to know anything (cf. §1). After noting that versions of epistemological
scepticism were already known to Aristotle, and impugned by him, Aristocles
introduces Pyrrho as a man who uoxvoe roiavra Xeycov. The meaning of this
sentence is unclear between (a) 'Pyrrho was very good at saying such things'
and (b) 'Pyrrho gained some fame by saying such things'. I have adopted (b),

These three adjectives too have been carefully dissected by the scholars, but their exact
meaning does not matter much either for my discussion. I adopt here the translation offered in
another recent paper to which I owe a great deal (Ausland 1989, p. 406).
The above translation of this all-important sentence corresponds to one of its possible
syntactical analyses, probably the most usual. Stopper 1983, pp. 272-4 contrasts it with - and
rejects it in favour of- the following one: saying that it is no more than it is not, or it both is and
is not, or it neither is nor is not. I am inclined to prefer the usual construction, but here again the
choice does not have any bearing on my claims.

because it makes a fairly neat contrast to the sentence which follows, namely:
'but whereas he himself did not leave any written work, his disciple Timon
says, etc' Aristocles thus seems to say: Pyrrho is credited with having been a
notorious proponent of epistemological scepticism; but unfortunately I
cannot substantiate this reputation by producing direct evidence, because we
have no direct evidence from Pyrrho at all. Then Timon, Pyrrho's disciple, is
introduced in the story, but visibly as a second-best solution (see the contrast
between avros \xev and 6 he ye jjLadrjrrjs avrov). Aristocles does not even
suggest that Timon is an especially authorized disciple; he does not introduce
him as Pyrrho's 'spokesman' (TTpo^rrjs), like Sextus, M 1.53.7 He claims
to give what Timon said (jfirjoi, three occurrences in the text, in (2), [la] and
(3)), but he does not refer to any definite work; only later on in the chapter
will he mention Timon's Pytho and Silloi. Many people have suggested that
Aristocles' source here is the Pytho, since this work apparently was a prose
work, unlike the Silloi, and Aristocles is going to quote precisely from the
Pytho in §14. But, according to Diogenes Laertius ix. 111, Timon's prose works
amounted to 20,000 lines, so that there is no certainty at all about the Pytho
being the source here as well. And of course it is important to notice that the
whole extract is labelled, at the end of it, as a summary (/c€</>aAcua).
A summary of what, and a summary made by whom? Certainly not a
summary of what Pyrrho said, made by Timon himself, since Aenesidemus
(first century BC) is mentioned in the text (as he will be later on in the chapter,
§§11,16 and 29). Not even a summary of what Timon said, made by Aristocles,
since it is presented as a summary of what was said (rd)v Xeyofjuevajv) not by one
man only, but by a number of people, whose views will then be scrutinized,
after having been summed up (note the plural in transition at the end of the
extract: oKei/jtofjieda 3' el opdtbs Xeyovoiv). Hence, I suppose we are dealing at
best with a summary of what was supposedly said by the Pyrrhonian Sceptics
in general, made by Aristocles himself (or an intermediate source), on the basis
of something that he had good reasons to think that Timon, Pyrrho's disciple,
had said. We can only hope, at the very best (to quote Stopper 1983, p. 271),
that 'Aristocles, hostile though he was to Pyrrhonism, [was] an honest
reporter.' But we cannot expect him to report about anything other than what
he says he is reporting about.
If he is an honest reporter about what he claims to report, we have to look
very carefully at his report. And here will be my first question: what exactly
does Aristocles say about what Timon was saying about Pyrrho! Surprisingly
This point has been criticized by Fernanda Decleva Caizzi, who claims (in correspondence)
that ye has very often (and very often particularly in Aristocles) an emphatic force, so that we
should think, on the contrary, that Timon is presented by Aristocles as a very good source, as
Aristocles needs him indeed to be, in order to polemize with him in the following pages. I do not
deny that at all, (after all, a second-best solution is a second-best solution); but I maintain the
trivial truth that Aristocles would have been happier, in order to polemize with the 'Pyrrhonian
Sceptics', to have something to quote from Pyrrho himself. And it is equally true that he does
not say anything explicit about the privileged status of Timon, of all Pyrrho's disciples, as a
witness to Pyrrho's thought.

enough, as far as our passage is concerned, the Timon-Pyrrho question has

been largely ignored by modern interpreters, whereas the perhaps less
important Aristocles-Timon question has been much discussed. Modern
scholars are almost unanimous in considering our text as a crucially important
document about Pyrrho's thought, tacitly relying on an assumption of
transparent faithfulness on behalf of Timon, supposed to be Pyrrho's 'spokes-
man' and just that. 8 They usually have no qualms in quoting a part or the
whole of our text as indiscriminately reporting Pyrrho's views, or Timon's
views (assuming that they are identical), or, at their most prudent, Timon's
views about Pyrrho's views.
But that is still not to be prudent enough, it seems to me. We must actually
resist the temptation to assume that Timon attributes or refers to Pyrrho,
either explicitly or even implicitly, everything that he says or is supposed to say
in the Aristocles document, and this for a very simple reason: whereas we find
in our passage two occurrences of the phrase TL^uyv <f>rjoi, we find one sentence,
and only one, beginning with the more complex phrase (f>rjoLv OLVTOV arro^ai-
veiv: (frrjGiv, i.e. Timon says; avrov arro(j>aiv€iv, i.e. that Pyrrho declares. It is
the [la] sentence, which deals with TOL Trpay^ara: 'Timon says that Pyrrho
declares rd Trpdyfiara equally indifferent', etc. If this sentence, or the sentence
beginning with these words, is the only one which Timon explicitly attributes
to Pyrrho, we must conclude, a contrario, that the rest of the text, either in part
or wholly, contains things which were at least not explicitly attributed to
Pyrrho by Timon. 9 Thus we have an urgent task to perform, or to try to
perform: namely, to determine where we have to put the end-quote sign, in
order to demarcate what is explicitly attributed by Timon to Pyrrho from what
is not so.
When trying to answer this question, we come across a very disputed point,
namely the syntax, meaning and value of the clause [lb], beginning with Std
TOVTO (the first occurrence, which is in [lb], not the second one, which is in
[2a]). At least two syntactic problems are raised by this clause, I think. One of
them has been raised by Stopper: there is, he says (1983, p. 293 n. 53), 'a strange
asyndeton in the text': the Sid TOVTO clause has indeed no linking particle with
what comes before. I shall come back to this question later on. But another
syntactic problem has, as far as I can see, been largely ignored. Most people
seem to construe, more or less explicitly, the infinitive proposition jjur/Te TOLS
The only frank exception I know of is Michael Frede, who sounds a note of warning in Frede
Fernanda Decleva Caizzi objects that it would need very clumsy Greek sentences, with three
infinitives, to express each time explicitly that Timon says that Pyrrho said that, etc., and that it
was unnecessary, since the master-pupil relation between Pyrrho and Timon had been laid
down from the outset. But the fact is, precisely, that such a clumsy phrase (perhaps not so
clumsy after all) is used once and only once (<j>r)Giv avrov dno^aiveLv), and then not at the
beginning of the report. Precisely at the beginning of the report, we do have a sentence with
three infinitives (8eiv, euSou/u-ovqcreiv, pXeneiv), but it is simply prefixed by TIJACOV <j>rjoi. Let us
add, above all, that there was a very simple and economical way of expanding the scope of
(f>r)oiv avrov airofyaivziv to both [la] and[lb], by writing ra fxev ovv irpdy^xard (f>rjGiv avrov
a7TO<f>aLV€LV in LGTJS aoia<j>opa /ecu a.Grdd[ir\ra teal aveniKpira ^cfvai), Sia rovro /xrjrc ras
alodrjoeis TJ/JLCOV firjre ras oo£as aArjOeveiv 7/ i/jSd

. . . ipevSeoOac [lb] as dependent on avrov ano$alv€iv\ so that

Pyrrho is made directly responsible for the Sid rovro clause, i.e. for the zany
inference, for its contents as well as for its logical link with what comes before.
According to this analysis, the text would mean: Timon says that Pyrrho (a)
declares the things indifferent etc., <and (b) declares > that for this reason
our sensations, etc. This analysis I do not hesitate to call wrong. Why? Because
in the previous clause, namely [la], we find the verb <j>r]oiv (subject Timon),
followed by an infinitive proposition (avrov drr offtake iv, subject Pyrrho),
which is itself followed, not by a second subordinate infinitive proposition
dependent on a-no^alveiv, but by an attributive construction (airo^alveiv ra
TTpdy^iara dSid</>opa, without any eivai). On the face of it, therefore, it is much
more natural to consider that we have indeed two infinitive propositions, but
coordinated, and both dependent on faoiv (subject Timon): the first one
having avrov (i.e. Pyrrho) as its subject, and airocfraiveiv as its verb; the second
one having pnqre ras alodrjceis etc. as its subject, and aX-qdeveiv rj ifjevSeadai as
its verbs. The meaning then is: Timon says (a) that Pyrrho declares the things
indifferent, etc., < and > (b) that for this reason our sensations, etc. This is the
analysis which I venture to call right, not because the alternative one is
grammatically impossible (some colleagues who are good at Greek have told
me that it was quite acceptable), but because it is the simpler and more natural
of the two possible analyses: nothing tells against it, I think, and absolutely
nothing compels us to prefer the other one. If this argument is not totally
mistaken, we can thus conclude that the zany inference was not attributed by
Timon to Pyrrho. The scope of the quotation of Pyrrho's views by Timon,
opened by avrov airocftaiveiv, ends with aveiriKpira', it includes [la], it does not
include [lb]. And if Timon did not attribute the inference to Pyrrho, the most
economical and likely hypothesis is that he made the inference himself. He said
himself what followed from what he said Pyrrho had said.
Let us turn at present to the meaning of this inference. If it is a zany
inference, well, we have just succeeded in exonerating Pyrrho from a zany
inference. But we have charged Timon with a zany inference. Now, is it a zany
A long time ago, Zeller suggested, without explanation, that we should read
Sid TO instead of Sid rovro. The meaning of the logical sequence then became
the following: 'things are indifferent, etc., for the reason that our sensations,
etc' The motivation of this proposal is clear enough; it is very well explained
by Stopper, the most confident modern supporter of Zeller's emendation. I
quote him (1983, p. 293 n. 53):

How does Timon's remark about the senses connect with his remark about the
dSia(j)opta of ra Trpay/xara? The transmitted text is clear: since things are
indifferent,/<9r that reason (Sid rovro) our senses are unreliable. But that is a zany
inference, as a little reflexion will show. Moreover, it leaves a strange asyndeton
in the text. The inference should go the other way about, as it does in later
scepticism. We should accept Zeller's Sid TO for Sid rovro, which restores sense
and syntax at one blow.

And Stopper goes on: 'I am not assuming that Timon thought in the same way
as later Pyrrhonists and then emending the text to suit this assumption: the
received text is wholly puzzling as it stands, and the emendation is compelling
without any such assumption.'
Let us develop the Zeller-Stopper position a little, before trying to challenge
it. What makes the inference 'zany', and the emendation of the text 'compell-
ing', is a natural enough, but quite determinate interpretation of the three
Pyrrhonian adjectives kir Lorjs dhidcjyopa KCLL doraO/ji^Ta KCLL dverriKpira. The
first thing which comes to mind is indeed to give to these adjectives a
'subjective' meaning, i.e. a meaning which includes a reference to our own
cognitive and discriminating capacities: 'things' are dhid<j>opa in the sense that
we cannot differentiate them; they are dordd^ra in the sense that we cannot
assess them; they are dverriKpna in the sense that we cannot make any decision
about them. 10 If we give to the three adjectives such a 'subjective' meaning, the
SLOL TOVTO inference is zany indeed: for it does not make sense to say first that we
are unable to differentiate 'things', and then that/or this very reason our senses
and beliefs are unreliable. Our epistemic powerlessness, if anything, is the
ground for the indifference of 'things' understood that way; it cannot be a
consequence of it. Once turned upside down by the emendation, the sequence is
faultless: our sensations and beliefs are neither true nor false; then how are
things? They are equally indifferent and unstable and undecidable.
There are two big drawbacks to this reading of the text. First, how can we
know, or simply assert, that our sensations and beliefs are neither true nor
false? This assertion seems only to be made possible on the basis of a long and
sophisticated scrutiny of the credentials of such sensations and beliefs11 - a
scrutiny which should be at least mentioned as an all-important step on the
Pyrrhonian road to happiness, if it is to be conceived in this way. Secondly, and
still more seriously, it seems totally forbidden to ask the question 'then how are
things?', since Aristocles' text is absolute clear on the injunction (however
puzzling it might seem on behalf of Pyrrho) to look first at the nature of things
{-npojTov JJL€V, 67701a TT€(f)VK€ Ta TT pay paT a). How could we obey this injunction
if we had to look elsewhere (i.e. at what Aristocles calls 'our own knowledge')
That is, I suppose, why a number of modern scholars reject Zeller's
emendation, albeit for various reasons. 12 But they have to try to escape the
Quite consistently, Stopper 1983, pp. 274 and 292 n. 50 argues that if the question is obscure as
far as the two first adjectives are concerned, the 'subjective' sense is indisputable in the case of
the third adjective aveiriKpLTa, so that the same type of sense should be transposed to the two
Still quite consistently, Stopper writes (1983, pp. 274-5): 'Pyrrho urged, no doubt on the basis of
some of the arguments later collected by Aenesidemus, that "our perceptions and our beliefs are
neither truthful nor liars"' (my emphasis).
Let us notice that in order to keep the manuscript reading, it is not possible to rely on the
recurrences of Sid TOVTO in Aristocles' following critical considerations (§5.3; §7.1), for these
recurrences go back to the 8LOL TOVTO in [2a], not to the one in [lb]. The criticism launched at
§10.1-2, moreover, seems to imply that the Pyrrhonians did not say wherefrom they had learnt
to say that all things are dS^Aa.

quite real difficulty this emendation was meant to dissolve. Roughly speaking,
in order to give a plausible meaning to the zany inference without emending
the text, it was necessary to find for the three Pyrrhonian adjectives of [la]
another meaning than the 'subjective' one which had prompted the Zeller-
Stopper position. These attempts, I think, are mainly of two kinds: either you
take the adjectives to refer to 'objective' properties of 'things', properties
which 'things' have quite independently from our capacities or incapacities to
assess them, and you deduce the epistemological impotence of our sensations
and beliefs from this so to speak intrinsic inapprehensibility of things; or you
take the same adjectives to refer to the 'moral' indifference of'things', and you
try to show that a destruction of the epistemological claims of sensations and
beliefs is a kind of middle term between the awareness of this indifference and
the attainment of happiness. The most detailed attempts to argue these two
solutions to the puzzle have been put forward, I think, by Decleva Caizzi
(1981) for the first one, and by Ausland (1989) for the second one. I do not find
those attempts to be satisfactory; but since I want to come as soon as possible
to the constructive part of this paper, I shall say only a few words about each of
them, hoping, however, not to be unfair to them.
According to Decleva Caizzi (1981, 225-7), the logical succession does
indeed go, as the received text clearly implies, from the 'nature of things' to the
impossibility of sensations and beliefs to be true or false. In order to make this
move legitimate, the three adjectives which describe the status of'things' must
have an 'objective' meaning, i.e. to designate properties which 'things' do
possess in themselves, independently of any relation to our cognitive capaci-
ties. Decleva Caizzi suggests the following meanings: 'without differences
between them' for aScdfopa, 'unstable' for darafyx^Ta, 'confused' for aveiri-
Kpira. The inference from the 'things' having such a 'nature' to the unreliabi-
lity of our senses and judgements is then glossed in the following way: 'Timon's
words [i.e. his words in la] do not refer to a dichotomy between a reality which
remains unknown and a world of phenomena, i.e. ofappearances of something,
but imply the negation of the concepts of <j)vcns and r68e n\ it follows that,
once the notion of being as determination is dissolved, everything is reduced to
appearance, for which it makes no sense to speak of truth or error'. Here
Decleva Caizzi seems to be clearly indebted to Marcel Conche's nihilistic view
of Pyrrho (in Conche 1973), which relies on the same distinction between the
notion of an 'appearance of something' (which is the very basis of the later,
'phenomenistic' neo-Pyrrhonism) and the notion of 'sheer appearance' or
'appearance of nothing' (which would be, according to Conche, the genuine
Pyrrhonian notion). Whatever we may think of this interpretation, it is hard to
attribute such a view to Timon, since he is credited (by DL ix.105) with the
typically 'phenomenistic' formula: 'That honey is sweet I do not posit, that it
appears to be so (^cuWrcu) I admit' - a formula which Conche can only
accommodate by saying (1973, p. 57) that 'the Pyrrhonian thesis is immedi-
ately betrayed when it is expressed'. In addition to these general difficulties,
Decleva Caizzi's suggestion does not properly fit our text: Timon does not say

that, since 'things' are indifferent, 'it makes no sense to speak of truth or error';
he says that since 'things' are indifferent, it makes perfectly good sense to say
that our sensations and beliefs are neither true nor false. If this means, as
Stopper (1983, p. 292 n. 53) quite reasonably suggests, that they are 'neither
constant truth-tellers nor constant liars', then it is perfectly meaningful to say
that they sometimes tell the truth and sometimes lie; the only trouble is that we
cannot say when they tell the truth, and when they lie.13
On the other hand, Ausland (1989) powerfully argues in favour of giving to
the three Pyrrhonian properties of'things' a 'moral' meaning, mainly relying
on the well-known use of ahia<j>opa in the ethicalfield,with the specific sense of
'neither good nor bad'. In this long and important paper, Ausland does not
dissimulate the trouble he faces when trying to account, in this perspective, for
the zany inference: 'it is still unclear', he says on p. 407, 'what the reference to
our senses and opinions is doing in the argument and, in particular, why they
are untrustworthy (.. .) on the basis of the nature of things'. It seems difficult
indeed, as a matter of principle, to infer a conclusion bearing on the
unreliability of sensations and beliefs from a statement about the ethical
'indifference' of'things'.
I shall not try to sum up the very complicated and even tortuous moves,
occupying no less than twenty pages (407-28), by which Ausland tries to solve
this problem. Rather unexpectedly, Ausland first invokes a definitely episte-
mological argument set out by Diogenes Laertius (ix.92-3), which he finds
'parallel' to the Timonian argument from [la] to [lb], and having 'a definite
affinity' with it. This argument in Diogenes Laertius explains that neither
aiod-qcis nor vorjois can distinguish truth from falsity, that no other faculty
can help us to make a decision between opposite Sd£cu concerning objects of
sense or of thought, and that this undecidable conflict eventually suppresses
any fxerpov by which we could think it possible to determine anything. This
argument, as can be seen, is thoroughly epistemological, and it deals explicitly
with matters of truth and falsity. How can Ausland hope to extract from it any
help for his moral interpretation of our Timonian passage? I must confess that
I do not understand very well what he says on p. 413: 'The argument in

Variants of Decleva Caizzi's position (or so I think) have been orally presented to me by
Michael Frede and Myles Burnyeat. According to Frede, the zany inference is not zany at all as
it stands, because there are many reasons, independent of the unreliability of our senses and
beliefs, which could support [la], and from [la] it is easy to infer [lb], since according to [la]
there is nothing left for the senses and beliefs to be reliable about. In the same vein, Burnyeat
claims that [2c] explains why the inference is not zany; which I take to mean that the intrinsic
indetermination of 'things' similarly removes the ground for senses and beliefs to be reliable
about anything. I remain unpersuaded, because (i) it seems difficult to see how any general
pronouncement about the 'nature of things', such as [la] in the standard view, could be made
without any examination of our cognitive ability to grasp it (that is what prompted Zeller's
emendation, which however meets all the problems mentioned above), and (ii) [2c] is not an
'objective' statement, but expresses what we should say (Xeyovras), i.e. in what way we should
be disposed towards the 'things', given their nature [2*] and the unreliability of our senses and
beliefs [lb]; so that [2c] is a consequence of [lb], not a ground for it.

Diogenes shows how the Pyrrhonians could argue from claim [la] in Timon's
argument, through applications on the successive levels of appearance and
opinion, to claim [lb] in such a way as to make claim [2a] a reasonable
inference from the latter.' Ausland's general conclusion is a little clearer, if not
completely clear:
Ancient skepticism (. . .) comes first into view as a philosophy which takes its
beginning, not from a challenge to account for our cognitive access to an external
world, but rather from the problem of human happiness. The Pyrrhonian way to
the good life relates a human disposition productive of undisturbed calm [3]
directly to an undecidability inherent in practical affairs [1]. But the critique of
our senses, opinions, and reason [lb + 2a] that it includes for the sake of
demonstrating this relation is not pursued in a fashion suitable to the intention of
exposing any comparative or general unreliability of our several faculties in
relation to external things, but is instead practised with a view to showing it
wrong for us to exercise a preference between competing claims on our choice
that are similar in dignity. Viewed from this new (really old) perspective,
Pyrrho's skepticism stands revealed as integral, and not incidental, to his moral
(pp. 427-8;figuresadded are mine)
This conclusion shows that, in Ausland's view, Pyrrho was indeed an
epistemological sceptic, but en passant: his epistemological scepticism, instead
of being an end in itself, was only a moment in the demonstration of his main
concern, i.e. his ethical indifferentism.14
I cannot help finding that, throughout the long and tortuous moves effected
along these pages, the tiny and precise problem of making sense of the zany
inference has somehow fallen out of the picture. In any case, I cannot see, from
his paper, what exactly Ausland's answer would be to the simple question: how
and why does [la] provide the reason (Sta TOVTO) for [lb]? I find his paper
convincing in many respects; but on this particular point I find it rather

Now, it is time to come to the solution which I venture to offer as the obviously
correct one. The complicated and ingenious moves of Decleva Caizzi, Ausland
and others are, I think, superfluous and in some sense misguided, because, in
fact, there is a much simpler way to get things right, and to draw from [la] to
[lb] an inference which has absolutely nothing 'zany' in it. We have just to
suppose (i) that 'our sensations and beliefs' are Trpay^xara,15 and (ii) that the
proper way for sensations and beliefs to be ahia<f>opa /ecu aorddix^ra KOLL

Cf. also the programmatic statement: 'it remains unclear why and in what way [lb] acts to
mediate the clearly symmetrical formulations of [la] and [2]' (p. 407, my emphasis). The
'epistemological' statement [lb] is nothing more than an intermediate link between two (in
Ausland's view) 'moral' statements, [la] and [2].
In the ordinary, predicative sense of'are', not of course in the sense of identity. This is to avoid
possible misunderstandings (Fernanda Decleva Caizzi told me that she found it hard to
swallow that Pyrrho's Trpay/zara might be conceived of as alodrjoeLs KOLI Sof at; but this is
miles away from what I mean).

av€7TLKpira is to be neither true nor false. Then everything falls into perfect
Point (i) is the crucial one. Formally speaking, it obviously provides a trivial
Barbara: All Trpay/xara are indifferent (according to Pyrrho) [la]; all our
sensations and beliefs are (special kinds of) rrpdyixara [implicit premiss];
therefore, all our sensations and beliefs are indifferent. From the structural
point of view, the legitimacy of bringing sensations and beliefs under rd
TTpdyfjuara is wholly confirmed, I think, by the following remark. The first
question [1*] bears on the nature of rd irpdy^ara, and only on that; the second
question [2*] bears on the right attitude we should adopt irpos avrd, i.e.
towards rd -npdy^ara. The answer to the second question begins with the
second hid rovro [2a], which introduces the advice or invitation to adopt a
certain attitude (SeiV). So it is not artificial at all, but on the contrary
mandatory, to consider [lb] as a part of [1], i.e. as a part of the answer to the
question concerning the nature of rd TTpdyfiara; therefore, sensations and
beliefs are introduced into the story as (a kind of) TT pay par a. This point is also
put beyond any doubt, if needed, by the fact that question [2*] asks for the
right attitude to adopt towards rd rrpdyfjuara (note the neuter npos aura),
whereas the first element of the answer to this question, namely [2a], describes
the right attitude to adopt towards sensations and beliefs (note the feminine
avrais). This would simply not be possible if sensations and beliefs did not
count as rrpdy^ara. As such, they have certain intrinsic properties, described
in [lb], which dictate (through the second Sid rovro) the right attitude to adopt
towards them.
This account of the argument is therefore supported by good and strong
reasons, I believe. However, I realize that it is a somewhat difficult and
paradoxical task to defend my claim. The bringing of sensations and beliefs
under rd -npdy\xara must be both perfectly obvious and somewhat unex-
pected: perfectly obvious, on one hand, since it gives a straightforward
justification to the zany inference; and somewhat unexpected, on the other
hand, since the text has been read by dozens of learned and careful people,
none of whom has ever read it this way, so far as I know. In other words, if I
claim to correct a misreading, I must also explain why this misreading has been
so widely shared. Such a peculiar mixture of acceptability and unexpectedness
must be accounted for. But it can be accounted for, I think, both conceptually
and historically.
From the conceptual point of view, I assume that the word rrpdy^ara
usually refers, in Greek, to external 'things' or 'states of affairs', particularly,
but not exclusively, when they have some relation with our activities
(irpdrreiv), i.e. when we can by ourselves obtain them or bring them about; so
that bringing our own sensations and beliefs under rd 77payyzara must sound
prima facie slightly paradoxical. However, this usual connotation is perhaps
unduly strengthened by our usual translations in modern languages, whether
we adopt 'things' or 'states of affairs'. It is almost a commonplace to point out
that, for ancient philosophers, mental items are not of a radically different type

from physical items: they are just the same type of natural items, differentiated
only by their 'inner' or 'outer' location. 16 So there is nothing to prevent our
sensations and beliefs counting as Txpdy\xara after all. 17
From the historical point of view, it is still easier to account for the
impression that bringing our sensations and beliefs under rd TT pay para is both
an obvious move and a slightly unexpected one. On the basis of the
grammatical structure of the sentence, I have already claimed that [la] was
explicitly attributed to Pyrrho by Timon, but that the zany inference was not,
and that this inference was drawn by Timon himself. The mixed impression we
have in front of this inference can thus be accounted for by the distribution of
roles between our two characters: the song sounds strange, because it is a two-
part song, written on a single line. I suggest that Pyrrho, when he talked about
ra Trpdy/jLara, had in mind external 'things' or 'states of affairs' - presumably
in so far as they are related to our practical activity - and nothing else; so that
he would have been himself somewhat surprised by the unexpected appli-
cation of his statement to sensations and beliefs. But after a moment of
bewilderment, he would probably have conceded to Timon that there was no
compelling reason to reject this application.x 8 Our sensations and beliefs, after
all, are TTpdyfjuara of a sort.
If I may indulge in following up this sketch of a historical novel, I shall
venture to say that it could perhaps also account for the 'strange asyndeton'
(Sta TOVTO without a particle) which was pointed out by Stopper, if it is an
asyndeton at all. 19 I do not claim to be able to explain how Timon's
intervention managed to leave this trace in the text; but I would be fairly ready
to admit that if there is any asyndeton here, it is, in some way or other, a textual
trace of Timon's intervention.
So much, for the moment, for bringing our sensations and beliefs under TOL
TTpdyjjLara. What I have still to do is to account for the fact that the supposed
Timonian syllogism, instead of mechanically applying Pyrrho's statement
Cf. e.g. the interesting remarks of Everson 1991, pp. 131-2.
Perhaps it is not completely irrelevant to point out that in the Charmides 169A, Plato brings
together, under the label ra ovra ('things that are'), various items like science, sight, audition,
sensation, desire, will, love, fear, belief, movement, heat. Within such a list, it seems to be the
case that the items which would have a special claim to be called TT pay \xaTa are mental items
involving some sort of internal object, like all kinds of presentative or representative acts or
states of mind - or, by extension, their internal objects themselves. For instance, according to a
famous passage in Sextus, M vm.12, the Stoic 'signified', orjfxaLvofxevov, was defined as 'auro
TO TTpdyfjua which is revealed by the vocal sound, and which we apprehend as subsisting in our
thought'. However we understand the word TTpdyyia here, this definition shows that a npayfia
may perfectly well be an item which has no existence at all outside the thought.
I do not claim that Timon brought our sensations and beliefs under the concept of TT pay para
exactly in the same sense as Pyrrho himself had understood this concept (I shall come back to
this later on). Pyrrho would have to accept an extension of his notion of it.
It has been pointed out to me from various sides, either that the asyndeton is not in the least
strange in the style of K€<f>d\aLa, or even that 8LOL TOVTO does not need any particle at all,
especially when followed by fxr/Te . . . /X^TC (Fernanda Decleva Caizzi learnedly refers me to
Plutarch, Anim.procr. IOI8B6, Philoponus, Aetern. mundi 278.28 and 439.14; Simplicius In De
Cael. 563.7; Plotinus, Enn. and In consideration of these objections, I
would not rely too heavily on this argument.

about irpdyfiara to sensations and beliefs (and thus getting to the conclusion
that sensations and beliefs are dhid<f>opa /cat dardOfjirjTa /cat dveTrt/cptra),
draws the conclusion that they are neither true nor false. This is quite plain
sailing, in comparison with the previous question. It would be fairly uninfor-
mative to say that sensations and beliefs have the three general Pyrrhonian
properties of'things': what is interesting is to know what specific aspect these
properties take on, when applied to sensations and beliefs. What are the
relevant 'differences' they do not exhibit? What sort of 'stability' are they
deprived of? What kind of 'decision' are they unable to allow? Since their
ordinary claim is to discriminate between what is the case and what is not the
case, it is clear that the relevant form of loss which they suffer from being
brought under ret Trpdy^ara, as characterized by [la], has to do with their
power of giving access to truth and avoiding error; e.g. the relevant difference
in reference to which they are dhid<f>opa is the difference between dXiqdevtiv
and ifjevSeodaL. In this way, let us notice that we can completely clear away the
difficulty some people have felt in understanding why the text says that
sensations and beliefs are neither true nor false, instead of saying simply that
they are false. If all of them were false, they would not be any longer
'indifferent' with respect to the relevant difference, namely the difference
between truth and falsity: they would be uniformly 'differentiated', through
being always on the same side of that difference.
In addition to that, it might be suggested that there is, between the
Pyrrhonian properties of 'things' and the Timonian properties of sensations
and beliefs, a relationship exactly similar to that between the Pyrrhonian
'things' themselves and the Timonian sensations and beliefs. In other words:
just as Pyrrho's -npay^ara quite probably did not originally include sensations
and beliefs, so Pyrrho's properties of 'things', expressed by the adjectives
d8id<f)opa /cat darddiJLrjTa /cat a^eTit/cptTa, quite probably had originally
nothing to do with truth and falsity. But just as it was both defensible and
unexpected to bring sensations and beliefs under Trpay^ara, so it was both
defensible and unexpected to consider being neither true nor false as a case of
So far, I hope to have shown that the zany inference from [la] to [lb] does
not come from Pyrrho, that it comes from Timon, and that it is not a zany
inference at all. I am fairly confident that these results are correct. I would now
like to raise the question of what consequences we can draw from them; and
here I must confess that what I shall say is much more speculative.

Within the small section [1], if I am not mistaken, [la] is explicitly attributed by
Timon to Pyrrho; [lb] is not, and we have found good reasons to think that [lb]
is the result of a personal intervention by Timon. Can we extract from that a
general rule, and extend its bearing over the whole passage? In other words,
should we consider that everything in the text which is not explicitly attributed
to Pyrrho is implicitly not attributed to Pyrrho, and should be similarly
attributed to Timon? Since only [la] is explicitly attributed to Pyrrho, the

application of such a rule would be extremely damaging for the master, and
extremely generous for the disciple. We would have to take away from Pyrrho,
and to give to Timon, an enormous part of the text, namely: the whole
description of a philosophical programme for happiness, the division of this
programme into three main points, the second half of the fulfilment of part [1]
of this programme, and the whole fulfilment of parts [2] and [3]. This would be
a bit frightening, and also a bit silly: Pyrrho certainly did not describe 'things'
as indifferent, etc., just for the sake of describing them that way. That is why I
am not inclined at all to such a maximalist proposal. On the other hand, we
must admit that the whole piece is very tightly articulated: the threefold
programme is first described, and then carried out, in closely related terms: the
repetitions of ra Trpay/zara, SiaKeia&u, Trepiefvcu, are especially striking.
Moreover, within each section, ternary sets are conspicuously present: the
three Pyrrhonian adjectives in [la], the three other adjectives in [2b], the
probably ternary structure of the Sceptical formulas in [2c] again, the three
results of the Sceptical attitude according to [3] - even if they are somewhat
perturbed by the insertion of Aenesidemus' 'pleasure'. The texture of the piece
is thus so closely knit that it seems very hard to dismantle it, and to try to
render to each of the two Caesars the things that are his own. The job can only
be done in a very tentative way.
Nevertheless, I think that some plausible arguments should be given a
chance. Timon was probably rather more of an independent thinker than is
usually believed; his intellectual and human personality seems to have been
quite different from Pyrrho's. In any case, there is one big difference between
them, namely the fact that Pyrrho wrote nothing, or hardly anything (cf.
Sextus, M 1.282), whereas Timon was a prolific writer, in vastly different
literary genres (cf. DL ix. 110-11). So it could be legitimate to leave him at least
a fairly important role in the literary shaping of Pyrrho's teaching. Neverthe-
less, whatever we may think about the extent of his intellectual independence,
he is obviously a devoted, almost fanatical disciple of Pyrrho. Whatever he
says and writes, he probably takes it to be quite faithfully true to his master's
thought. Therefore, it is certainly very unlikely that Timon would have taken it
upon himself to change the overall meaning and intention of Pyrrho's
philosophy. When he presents it as a quest for happiness (quite unexpectedly
after Aristocles' own epistemological introduction in §§ 1-2), he is certainly
neither innovating nor wanting to do so. His own dialogue with his master,
reflected in fragment 48 of the Silloi and in fragments 67 and 68 of the
Indalmoi, shows that he felt himself fully entitled to attribute to Pyrrho such a
basically eudaimonistic intention.
As far as the threefold programme for happiness is concerned, its school-
masterly style and its rigidity might be ascribable, to a certain extent, to some
sort of Timonian reshaping; but it is hard to believe that the contents and
succession of its three steps are completely foreign to Pyrrho's original
thought. In particular, first asking a question about the 'nature' of T<X
, a feature which looks fairly strange to the reader of the neo-

Pyrrhonian classical texts, can hardly be the product of a personal initiative by

Timon: as we shall see later on in more detail, putting this question first would
already have been unexpected from his point of view.
Things become a little more problematic when we look at the fulfilment of
the threefold programme. Within point [1], as we have seen, [la] is certainly
Pyrrhonian; and [lb], I think, is certainly Timonian. Of the two remaining
points, let us first look at point [3]. Aristocles explicitly gives it to Timon
(TLJJLOJV (f>rjaC). Indeed, the sequence 'first a</>aaia, then drapagta is possibly a
piece of genuine Timonian pedigree; for we read in DL ix. 107 that, according
to Timon and Aenesidemus, the Sceptic reAo? is the en-o^, which brings with
it drapa^ua like its shadow; the substitution of eiroxf] for dcfxxoia in the first
position (as in Sextus, PHi.S) might be the role of Aenesidemus in the story. Of
course, the third item in answer [3], Alv7)oi§r)ixos 8' rjSovrjv, cannot come from
Timon. If I had to guess what the third item was in Timon's original answer - 1
assume, with many people, that there was a third item - my own bet would be
for evhaiyLoviav, rather than for diradeiav or eTro^^, which have been
suggested by various scholars: it would be strange indeed to promise us
happiness at the beginning, and not to say at the end that if we follow the recipe
we shall eventually get it. But even if Timon might be responsible for an
ordered sequence d</>aoia - drapa^ia - evhai^ovla, this obviously does not
mean that the three corresponding notions were unknown to Pyrrho himself.
The most interesting and problematic case is answer [2]. It seems perfectly
clear that [2a] is so closely linked together with [lb] that there is no question of
dissociating them: they are, from the grammatical point of view, on the same
level (the infinitive helv in [2a] has the same syntactical status as the infinitives
aXiqdzvtiv 77 ifjevSeodaL in [lb]); and the necessity of our mistrusting our
sensations and beliefs is a direct consequence (cf. the second Sta TOVTO) of their
intrinsic indeterminateness in respect to truth and falsity. If [lb] comes from
Timon, then [2a] must come from Timon as well.20 But what about [2b] and
[2c]? Concerning [2b], we must remember that [la] is the only absolutely

David Sedley noticed that the vocabulary in the sequence [lb] -I- [2a] is typically Hellenistic, by
contrast with the context. In addition to that element of confirmation, I am happy to register
here the agreement of Fernanda Decleva Caizzi on the substantial part of this claim, namely
the close interdependence between [lb] and [2a] (the question of Timon's authorship and
intentions apart). She writes (in correspondence - parenthetical remarks are hers): 'There is no
reason why [lb] and [2a] should not have been added by some witness more faithful (but in
what sense can we speak of a faithful witness?) to Pyrrho.' She adds, however, in the form of an
objection to my claim (parenthetical remarks still hers): 'If the author was Timon (and not
Aristocles summarizing the Sceptical source - Timon or a Sceptic later than Aenesidemus?), I
still do not see any difficulty in interpreting [lb] as the consequence which Timon believed (that
Pyrrho believed?) to derive from [la], and [2a] as the linking sentence which makes it easier to
explain [2b]: [2a] is not the direct answer to [2*], but that which makes it possible to understand
it in relation to [la]'. But I subscribe to everything in this. Most valuable for my claim is the last
sentence in particular: if [2a] is not the direct answer to [2*], but that which makes it possible to
understand it (i.e. to understand the direct answer to [2*], namely [2b]) in relation to [la], that
implies that the logical dependence of [2b] (quite probably Pyrrhonian) on [la] (certainly
Pyrrhonian) was somewhat unclear; this very lack of clarity might have prompted Timon to
insert the sequence [lb] 4- [2a].

certain Pyrrhonian bit in the whole text; and we must also be sensitive to the
fact that the three adjectives in [2b] are obviously meant to answer to the three
adjectives in [la]. Even if we do not totally accept the valuable attempt by
Ausland (1989, pp. 389-97), to establish a close term-to-term correspondence
between the two triplets, we cannot deny that at least some sort of correspon-
dence obtains between them. The outcome of this argument is that Timon's
personal intervention, beginning with [lb], must come to an end with the end
of [2a], and that with [2b] we find Pyrrho again, or at any rate what Timon was
ready to attribute explicitly to Pyrrho. Let us bear in mind that we have found
good reasons to think that the first item in Pyrrho's own eudaimonistic
programme was (rather unexpectedly from the point of view of the standard
Sceptical moves) to inquire about 'the nature of things'; if so, it is only natural
to think that the answer to this first question was followed, in Pyrrho's own
plan, by a carefully articulated answer to the question of which attitude we
should adopt towards 'things' of such a nature.
For reasons which are not exactly the same, I am inclined to think that the
famous formulas of [2c] also belong to Pyrrho, or at least to Timon's official
Pyrrho. This is not the right time and place to discuss whether we should
construe the complex [2c] sentence as threefold, as I believe with most
commentators, or as fourfold, as do some people who incline to see here an
echo of the Indian tetralemma, which Pyrrho supposedly came to know in his
far away travels. 21 In any case, the use of the ov /JL&XAOV formula, which
governs [2c], is of course very well attested by other pieces of evidence
concerning Pyrrho himself (in particular DL ix.61); and there are no grounds
for doubting that he might have recommended saying at least the kind of things
which we find in [2c], whatever might be the exact meaning he wanted to give

If what I have said thus far is not complete nonsense, I come to the conclusion
that our document is a piece of philosophical cutting, in which we can hold
Timon personally responsible for the insertion of sections [lb] and [2a]. Now,
these two sections are the only ones, in the whole text, which bear a distinctly
and unequivocally epistemological character; I mean, the only ones which
introduce the notions of truth and error, and the names of cognitive events,
faculties and states like sensations, beliefs and trust. On the face of it,
therefore, what Timon is responsible for might be called the epistemological
twist to the whole story. 22 1 shall now briefly show that such a conclusion is in
Cf. n. 6 above. The tetralemma is a form of argument favoured by Indian thought, and having
the following structure: p , not-p, p and not-p, neither p nor not-p.
This epistemological twist does not seem to be perceived as such by Aristocles; but it is
obviously what motivates his q u o t a t i o n of this s u m m a r y of Sceptical views, in spite of the
contrast betweeen the epistemological perspective opened u p by him in his own introduction
and the eudaimonistic perspective opened u p by the beginning of the s u m m a r y he is quoting.
M o s t of his objections, in what follows (§§ 5-26), are directed to a version of epistemological
scepticism; he does not directly attack Pyrrhonism as a way to happiness (cf. however some
observations on the supposed utility of the Sceptic view in §§ 16-17).

agreement with some other things we know about Timon; and I shall end by
trying to say what we should infer from that concerning Pyrrho's own
philosophical stance.
First of all, Timon's epistemological concerns are fairly well attested by
other pieces of evidence. We know, for instance, that he had written a book
Tlepl aladrjoecov (DL ix. 105), in which he produced the typical expression of
sceptical phenomenalism that I have already mentioned: That honey is sweet I
do not posit, that it appears to be so (^alverai) I admit.' Such a phenomenalist
position seems also to be attested, whatever its exact meaning, by the famous
line in the Indalmoi, quoted by various authors (DL ix.105, Sextus, M vii.30,
Galen, Dignosc.puls. 1.2): aAAa TO (^atvofjievov iravrrj oOevei, ovnep av eXOrj (it
is in view of this line that I said earlier that it was very unlikely that Timon
himself might have put a question about 'the nature of things' first in his
personal philosophical agenda). We also know that he had found an oppor-
tunity to use his satirical bent even in epistemological discussions: according to
DL ix. 114, 'he was constantly in the habit of quoting, to those who would
admit the evidence of the senses when confirmed by the mind (npos rovs ras
alodrjozis fier^ €TnfjLapTvpovvTos rov vov iyKptvovras), the line "Attagas and
Numenius came together"'; whatever the exact meaning of this joke, its
upshot is obviously to disparage both senses and the mind; and it is interesting
to notice that it was a polemical weapon, apparently directed at a quite definite
epistemological position (namely a non-Epicurean version of the theory of
iTTijjLapTvprioLs), within the framework of the epistemological discussions in
which Timon was constantly engaged (ovvexes re eiriXeyeiv elajdei). Besides
jokingly taking up his stand in epistemological discussions, Timon seems to
have also dealt quite technically and seriously, in his treatise Against the
Physicists, with some of the most fundamental problems in the theory of
science, since we know that, in this work, he was calling into question the use of
first principles adopted eg vTrodeoeous (Sextus, M 111.2).
Still more importantly, we know that Timon was much interested in
Arcesilaus, even if this interest was of a rather ambivalent nature. According
to Diogenes Laertius IX.I 15, he attacked Arcesilaus in his Silloi (this point is
largely confirmed by several fragments of the Silloi, namely fragments 31-4);
on the other hand, the same Diogenes Laertius informs us that (quite probably
after Arcesilaus' death) Timon praised him in a work entitled The Funeral
Banquet of Arcesilaus. According to Numenius, quoted by Eusebius, PE
xiv.6.5, he even went so far as to call him a GK€7TTLK6S, which is probably not
literally true, but might reflect some shadow of the truth. From all this
evidence, it seems to emerge that Timon first presented Arcesilaus as a
dishonest rival and plagiarist of Pyrrho, mixing up Scepticism with the worse
'sophistical' tradition; let us say, by the way, that Timon's representation soon
made its mark, since his contemporary Aristo of Chios, in a famous line - quite
in tune with Timon's parodistic vein - depicted Arcesilaus as 'Plato in front,
Pyrrho behind, Diodorus in the middle'. The best if not the fairest way of
disparaging the originality of Arcesilaus' cognitive scepticism was of course to

inject retroactively, into Pyrrho himself, the appropriate dose of cognitive

concerns and doubts; and this, I submit, is exactly what Timon had tried to do.
With this operation successfully achieved - and his rival dead - it was easy for
him to display his superior intellectual generosity, and to admit that, after all,
Arcesilaus himself was a OK€TTTLK6S of sorts. The attention devoted by Timon
to Arcesilaus makes it quite reasonable to assume, in the terms of Michael
Frede (1973, p. 806), 'that the Pyrrho of Timon's writings represents the
doctrine Timon himself developed under Pyrrho's influence, at a time when
the debate between Academic sceptics and the dogmatists was well under way
and had reached considerable sophistication'. If I am not mistaken, the above
remarks should justify my further suggesting that even when he summed up his
own basic positions, Timon could not keep from making a difference between
what he thought he had directly borrowed from Pyrrho and what he wanted to
add on the basis of his own epistemological concerns.
If he felt like making such an addition, the obvious conclusion we have to
draw seems to be that he did notfindanything properly epistemological in his
memories of Pyrrho's own sayings and concerns. This conclusion, I think,
powerfully reinforces the strictly ethical interpretation of Pyrrho's philos-
ophy, an interpretation which has constantly been, from Cicero (perhaps
already from Epicurus23) to Ausland through Brochard (to some extent) and
others, an unobtrusive companion and rival to the standard epistemological
interpretation. If I am right in my suggestions, Timon, a competent authority
in the matter, is (albeit quite indirectly) the first to testify to this ethical
interpretation being the correct one.

Let us therefore return to the Aristocles passage one last time, in order to see
what sense we can make of what is left of the text, if we mentally suppress the
product of Timon's purposeful intervention, namely the epistemological twist
[lb] + [2a]. If Timon inserted this epistemological twist because he found it
missing in Pyrrho's own teaching, we have to think that the original meaning
of everything else in Aristocles' summary was not epistemological, and that
Timon somehow knew that it was not. Accordingly, we should try to construe
a number of elements in the text in a non-epistemological way. The ethical way
is the obvious alternative. I think it is quite possible, and in some cases almost
mandatory, to do so. Let us examine the main elements in this perspective.
Question [1*] of the Pyrrhonian programme, the question about 'the nature
of things' (TTpdyfjuara), should be construed not as a properly ontological
question, let alone a physical one, but rather as a question about 'things' as
related to our activity (TrpdrreLv), i.e. as goals or ends for our acts of choice and
When writing this paper, I had not yet noticed the judicious remarks of Vander Waerdt 1989,
p. 235 ('Epicurus plainly admired his [Pyrrho's] way of life and his tranquillity . . . but may not
have attributed these to skepticism. It was Timon, after all, who established the tradition that
Pyrrho was a skeptic, and this tradition did not win out entirely in antiquity, for Cicero knows
of Pyrrho only as a moralist') and p. 236 ('Colotes' silence about Pyrrho implies, as David
Sedley first suggested to me, that he was not even considered as a skeptic in the Epicurean

avoidance. This interpretation is in complete agreement, I think, with the

initial and overall characterization of Pyrrho's thought given in DL IX.6I,
perhaps on the authority of the otherwise unknown Ascanius of Abdera: 'he
said that nothing is noble or ignoble, just or unjust; and similarly in all cases he
said that nothing truly is (/cat OJJLOLOOS ZTTI Trdvrcjv fjurjSev etvau rfj dXrjdeLa), but
men do everything they do by convention and custom (VO/JLCO Se KCU €0€i irdvra
TOVS dvOpcjTTovs rrpdrreiv)', for each thing (eKaorov) is no more this than that.'
The scope of the generalization O/JLOLOOS i-rrl navrcov is, admittedly, not
immediately clear; but the contrast with the following clause (vofxco Se), which
deals with what people do (Trpdrreiv), is enough to show that it does not extend
beyond the ethical and practical sphere. For the same reason, I think that
/jLTjSev etvai rfj dXiqdeia has nothing to do with 'real existence', but is a crypto-
copulative phrase ('nothing is really F'), in which the range of the variable F is
restricted to ethical and practical predicates, of the type which has just been
illustrated by examples like KOLXOV, aloxpov, SIKOLLOV and CLSLKOV. The same is
true with roSe 17 ToSe in the last sentence, introduced by ov /xdAAov. The
conspicuous absence of dyad 6v and KCLKOV in the list might be easily accounted
for by pointing out that Pyrrho was certainly not ready to say that indifference
itself was no more good than bad. Now that we have dispelled the ghost of
Pyrrho's epistemological scepticism, we may welcome without qualms the so-
called 'ethical dogmatism' exhibited by two famous fragments of the Indalmoi
(67-8 Diels), which used to worry so many people so much, and which I think
is quite compatible with his 'ethical scepticism', since the second bears on
conventional values, which people actually follow in their actions, whereas the
first bears on the second-order value of being indifferent to the conventional
values, which Pyrrho's perfect happiness is supposed to illustrate.
As for the answer to question [1*], namely the three adjectives of [la], these
adjectives can be given a specifically ethical meaning, particularly (in the case
of the first one) in reference to the well-known use of dStcu^opia, ovSev
8ta<f>€p€L, etc., in ethical contexts. Pyrrho, as we know, is repeatedly associated
by Cicero with two typically ethical indifferentists, Aristo and Herillus. If we
take €TT' 1(777? dhtd(f)opa in the sense of ethically indifferent, there are good
reasons to adopt the same type of meaning for the two remaining adjectives,
doTdd/jLrjTa and dveiriKpiTa. On this point I agree with the main claims of
Ausland (1989, pp. 378-406). He convincingly shows, I think, that the
progression of the three adjectives means something like the following: 'things'
(as possible objects for our choices and avoidances) are no more choiceworthy
than not choiceworthy (in' lorjs dhid<j>opa)\ they cannot be discriminated by
any critical instrument, similar to scales (darddixrjra); their equivalent claims
cannot be decided even by appeal to some higher faculty of adjudication
A similar account can be given of the three adjectives of [2b] purporting to
describe the attitude we should adopt towards such TTpdy^ara. If we admit
that these adjectives have a genuinely Pyrrhonian origin, it is not particularly
difficult to construe them as describing an ethical attitude, rather than a

cognitive one. It is true that the first adjective, dSogdorovs, seems to refer back
quite literally to the epistemological mistrust towards beliefs, recommended in
[2a] (ju/rySe 7TLOT€V€LV aurafs, i.e. Sd£cu inter alia). But, needless to say,
suspension of Sd£a may bear on practical beliefs concerning the value and
choiceworthiness of 'things', as well as on theoretical beliefs concerning the
existence and nature of external objects. The use of the adjective dSotjaoros is
by no means restricted to abstention from theoretical beliefs, on the contrary:
if Aristo was so firmly attached to the Stoic dogma that the sage will be
aSogaoros (DL vn. 162), it is quite certainly in reference to his ethical
indifferentism; even in the classical neo-Pyrrhonian tradition, the motto
aSogdoTcos JULOVV precisely applies to ]8ios, i.e. to practical life. If there was any
doubt on this ethical interpretation of dho^dorovs, it would be removed, I
think, by the two adjectives which follow, drivels and aKpaSdvrovs, which
pretty clearly refer to ethical attitudes, namely absence of inclination or
leaning towards one side of the scales rather than the other, and absence of any
wavering between the two sides. The metaphor of 'inclining' seems to be
immediately appropriate when the things towards which one is inclining or not
inclining are things to be taken or left, and less immediately when they are
opinions to be adopted or rejected.
And now, what to do with the famous so-called 'Sceptical' expressions of
[2c]? If we leave aside the discussion about the right syntactical construction of
[2c], which has no direct bearing on my theme, the main question is what
meaning to give to eanv. It seems obvious that on any satisfactory interpre-
tation this meaning is not existential, but crypto-copulative ('things no more
are F than they are non-F', etc.); but one can still hesitate about the range of
subjects and predicates we should admit for the subject-variable irepl ivds
eKaoTov and for the predicate crypto-variable. We can quite probably dismiss
the hesitation by observing that the range of the subject-variable must cover rd
TTpdyfxara and only rd 77pay fxara, i.e. 'things' and states of affairs in so far as
they are of concern for our irpdrreiv, since the recommended judgements are
supposed to express the attitude we should have towards those very Trpdyfjuara.
If so, I believe that the range of possible predicates does not extend either
beyond the sphere of ethico-practical predicates, such as 'noble' and 'base',
'just' and 'unjust' (as in DL IX.6I), which could precisely be predicated, by
ordinary people, of the TT pay para understood that way. The limitation of this
range might seem to be excessively narrow: but we should remember that we
have to give exactly the same limited scope, in view of their context, to the
seemingly very wide generalizations of DL IX.6I ('similarly in all cases he said
that nothing truly is'; 'each thing is no more this than that'). If we are still, and
quite naturally, tempted to enlarge the range of possible predicates in [2c], so
as to include predicates like 'white', 'sweet' and the rest, it is just because
Timon changed the context by inserting [lb] and [2a]; leaving aside this
modification, we are entitled to interpret the text exactly as we do the Diogenes
passage, namely in purely ethical and practical terms.
Before concluding, I wish to make it clear that in my view, Timon's

epistemological shift does not leave what I take to be Pyrrho's main concepts
and advice as they were, i.e. of a strictly ethico-practical significance.
Otherwise, I would have to face a difficulty which has been keenly and lucidly
expressed by Nicholas Denyer (in correspondence). Denyer supposes that the
inference I would like to attribute to Timon is the following one:
(a) [la] Trpay/xara (i.e. things that we can by our actions obtain or avoid) are
uniformly indifferent (i.e. none of them has those properties which motivate
and/or justify their being obtained/avoided).
(b) But opinions are Trpdy^xara (e.g. you might look at your watch in order
to obtain belief about what the time is).
(c) Hence, no belief has those properties which motivate and/or justify
accepting or rejecting it.
(d) But those properties are truth and falsehood.
(e) Hence [lb], no belief is ever either true or false.
(f) Hence [2a], we should not put our trust in any belief.
If that is Timon's argument, its crucial move would be to bring opinions under
Trpdy/jLara in exactly Pyrrho's sense, as appears from the example under (b).
But then, one could address him the following question, still in Denyer's terms:
'why should it be supposed that the beliefs we are urged to live without ([2b]]
are limited to those which affirm that TT pay para (in the narrow, action-related
sense) have ethico-practical properties?' Quite clearly, any 'theoretical' belief,
bearing on no narrowly practical irpdy^a, is not to be endorsed (f) if it is
neither true nor false (e). And similarly, there is no reason to restrict the range
of the subject variables in [2c] to narrowly practical TTpdyjxara, nor to restrict
the crypto-variable for predicates there to ethico-practical predicates: rather,
these variables should 'range over everything which we might have thoughts
about', and 'over every way that we might take anything to be'.
All these consequences do follow, and are indeed damaging, if we suppose
that Timon meant to bring opinions under irpdyixara in exactly Pyrrho's
sense. But I surmise that this was not what he meant to do. The claim that
opinions are rrpdyixara in Pyrrho's sense would be plausible only for a
restricted class of opinions, namely those which we can and do obtain by our
actions; there are of course a lot of opinions which we cannot and do not
obtain in that way. When implicitly stating that opinions are Trpdy^ara of a
kind, I suppose that Timon was exploiting the vagueness of the word
TTpdyfiara, and was simply meaning that they are 'things' of a kind. But this is
true, of course, of'theoretical' opinions as well as of'practical' ones. Then, all
the consequences drawn by Denyer, instead of being unwanted consequences
of Timon's step (b) as read by Denyer, become not only entirely welcome, but
also fully intended consequences of Timon's step (b) as I read it. Bringing
opinions under Trpdyfjuara turns out to be the crucial Timonian swerve in
respect to Pyrrho: it has the double effect of enlarging the meaning of
TTpdyfiara, and of paving the way for also enlarging the range of opinions
which we will be urged by [2b] to live without. After Timon's intervention ([lb]

+ [2a]), it is plausible to hold that [2b] has received a broader meaning than its
initial Pyrrhonian meaning, and similarly, that the range of the variables in [2c]
has been enlarged in comparison with its initial Pyrrhonian acceptation. And
it is with this broad meaning and this range that, thanks to Timon, we now
associate the label of Tyrrhonian Scepticism'.

It is time to sum up, and to conclude. The trouble with Pyrrho is of course that
he wrote nothing. In order to know anything about him, we are so totally
dependent on indirect tradition, in particular on Timon, that we might well be
tempted to adopt a Tyrrhonian' attitude towards Pyrrho, and to share the
agnosticism of Theodosius, who refused to be called a Pyrrhonist, arguing that
the movement of the thought in somebody else is inaccessible, and that we
shall never know what Pyrrho's inner attitude was (DL ix.70). But we must
resist this temptation: thanks to Timon, we know what Timon took it upon
himself to add to his master's teaching; and we know, by elimination, what this
teaching was like. Modern reinterpretations of Pyrrho have been labelled (by
Stopper 1983, p. 275) as 'heresies to be anathematised'; I confess my own
heresy in similarly religious terms. Jesus was not the first Christian. Marx was
not thefirstMarxist. Pyrrho was not thefirstPyrrhonist. This title should go to


Eusebius, Praeparatio evangelica xiv.18.1-5:

( i ) ' AvayKattos S' ex€L ^P® TTCLVTOS StaGKeifjaodat irepl rrjs r)fx(hv avTwv yvajoeais '
el yap av (irjoev rre^vKayiev yva)pi£,eiv, ovSev en oel 7repl rtov dXXwv GKoneiv. (2)
^Eyevovro fxev ovv Kal TWV irdAai Tives ol d<f>evTes Trjvoe rrjv <f>a)vrjv, ois dvr€LprjK€v
'ApioroTeArjS' 'Ioxvoe /JL€V roiavra Xiycov KCLL TIvppcov 6 ' i f Aeto? * aAA' auT09 fiev
ovSev €.v ypa(f>rj /caraAeAoiTrcv, d 8e ye fjLadr^rrjs avrov TLJJLWV (fyrjol Sefv rov fjueXXovra
€v8aL[jLOvrjG€LV els rpia ravra jSAeTietv
[ 1 * ] TTptOTOV fJL€V, OTTold 7T€<f>VK€ TOL 77pdyfACLT<!'
[2*] 8evT€pov c)€, Tiva xpy Tpoirov rjfJL&s npos avrd
[3*] reAeuTcuov 8e, r t TrepieaTat TOLS OVTOJS e^oucrt.
[la] 7a JJL€V ovv TTpdyfJLara <f>rjoiv avrov aVcH^aiWiv €TT' ior)s d8id(f)opa Kal
dfjLTjra Kal dvcTriVpira,
[lb] Sid TOVTO jj,r)T€ rds alodrjoeLS rjfJicbv jjLrjre rds" 86£as dX-qOeveiv rj i

[2a] Aid TOVTO ovv fjLrjSe rnoTeveiv avrals Seiv,

[2b] dAA' d8o£doTovs Kal aKXtvets Kal aKpaSdvTovs etvat,
[2c] Trepl evos eKaoTOV Aeyovra? on ov fidXXov €OTIV rj OVK eanv rj Kal eon Kal
(4)[3] Tot? /xevrot ye Sta/cet/xevots" ovrco Trepieoeodai Tificov (frrjol rrpcoTOv fjiev
d^>aatav, eVeira 8' drapa^iav, AlvrjOLorjfjios S' r)oovf]v.
(5)7d fjuev ovv K€<f>dXaia TCOV Xeyofjuevcuv COTI r a u r a • GKei/jcofxeda S' el opdtbs

Timon of Phlius (about 325 to about 235), known as the Sillograph, was
'spokesman' (77/00^77x779, Sextus Empiricus calls him, M 1.53) for his master
Pyrrho of Elis. As his nickname indicates, he is known chiefly for his Silloi, a
kind of Homer in disguise into which he had poured all his satirical verve, in the
service of Pyrrho. In the fragments by him that have come down to us, 1 the
Silloi predominate, thanks to their dashing style and the many explicitly
personal attacks directed against a large number of well-known and respected
philosophers that they contain. Quite a few fragments of this work are thus
preserved, and their spiciness still comes through, despite the sophistication of
the vocabulary and the obscurity of the allusions. We also possess an equally
valuable and quite detailed general description of the structure of the work
and its author's intentions. 2
However, the Silloi by no means constitute the entire output of the
Sillograph. The fragments that remain from Timon's writings testify fully to
his many-sided ability. He was an enormously prolific author, who had written
in the most varied of genres. Diogenes Laertius ( i x . i i o - u ) provides the
following information on him:
He was known to King Antigonus and to Ptolemy Philadelphia, as his own
Iambi (iv TOIS id^oLs) testify. He was, according to Antigonus [of Carystus],
fond of wine, and in the leisure time that he could spare from philosophy, he used
to write poems. These included epics, tragedies, satyrical dramas (thirty com-
edies and sixty tragedies) besides silloi (lampoons) and obscene poems (KIVCU-
Sovs). There are also works of his in prose extending to 20,000 lines, which are
mentioned by Antigonus, who also wrote his life.
(transl. R.D. Hicks, slightly modified, Loeb Classical Library, London and
Cambridge, Mass., 1965)
This list shows, if nothing else, that Timon had managed to 'spare from
philosophy' a fairly copious dose of'leisure' time. But, strangely enough, there

Principal collections of the fragments of Timon: Wachsmuth 1859 and 1885; Diels 1901;
Lloyd-Jones and Parsons 1983; and now Di Marco 1989. A significant proportion of these
fragments are, naturally, also assembled in Decleva Caizzi 1981. In the interests of convenience
and economy, for the first occurrence of any reference to a fragment of Timon, I shall cite the
number given to that fragment in all these editions (using the abbreviations W, D, DC, LJP);
for later occurrences I shall simply cite the number in Diels, which is always cited in the later
Cf. DL ix. 111-12. Long's fine study (1978) is currently the best commentary on the Silloi. See
now Di Marco 1989.


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is one work, the Indalmoi, that it does not mention although its title has come
down to us, as have a number of extracts from it which are of the greatest
importance.3 The meaning of several passages from this work is crucial to the
understanding of Pyrrhonism in its original form and their interpretation has,
on that account, been the subject of intense discussion. I do not intend to go
into that discussion, but in order to convey a notion of the ideas that these
fragments contain (leaving aside all the problems of text, punctuation, syntax
and semantics which ought really to be tackled and resolved before any
attempt at suggesting a reasoned interpretation is made), let me offer the
following approximate translation:
(a) Fragment 67D:
This, o Pyrrho, is what my heart longs to hear:
How do you, who are only a man, manage to live your life4 in such serenity,
Always free from care, free from agitation, always of the same disposition,
Without paying any attention to the wretchedness5 of knowledge expressed in
beguiling language?
Alone, you act as men's guide, like the god
Who, pursuing his course right around the earth, buckles his buckle,
Displaying the incandescent circle of his well rounded sphere.
Some (but relatively few) scholars have expressed surprise at the absence of the Indalmoi from
the list of Timon's works given by Diogenes Laertius. It is indeed a surprising absence, for
Diogenes twice refers to the Indalmoi in his note on Pyrrho, at 65 (p. 21. iW = 67D = 6iB
proposed emending lajxfiois, in n o , to ZvSaAjjLois', but even that suggestion was not enough to
ensure the inclusion of the Indalmoi in the official catalogue of Timon's works. Wachsmuth
(1885, p.20), followed by Decleva Caizzi (1981, p. 251), thinks that the work ought to be
included amongst the e-n-rj, for reasons of metric classification. However, in my own view, there
is something to be said for emending Kivaihovs to ivSaX/xovs: (i) the unusual term ivSaXfioi was
mishandled by the copyists, cf. Sextus, M xi.20, where the introduction of the quotation of
fragment 68D ( = p. 22. iiW = 62DC = 842LJP) was restored by Menage and Fabricius as iv
TOLS TvSaAfxoLs, on the basis of the following manuscript readings: TOLS OLVSTUJLOLS N,
TOLOIVSTJIJLOLS L, TOLOLV STOOLS E, TOLOL ST^OIS1 S; (ii) faulty uncial lettering and word-breaks, in
conjunction with plain perversity, might explain how ivSaXfjuovs came to be KIVOLISOVS; (iii) the
wounding and sarcastic wit of Timon, who had once been a dancer (DL ix. 109) was sufficiently
well known for him frequently to be criticized for obscenities (cf. Brochard 1923, p. 84: 'the
former tumbler also displays something of the uncouth and insulting manner of the cynics');
(iv) Wachsmuth 1859, p. 8, followed by Brochard 1923, p. 80 n. 2, proposed reading
(f>iXoTTOLy}Trjs, 'connaisseur of poetry', in place of ^LXOTTOTTJS 'connaisseur of wines', in DL's
text; he may be right, however prudish the emendation may be and despite one or two writers
who testify to Timon's Rabelaisian inclinations (Athenaeus x.438, Aelian VH11.41): DL's text,
which already contains one malicious distortion, may well have contained another, and the
two prudish emendations would be mutually supportive; (v) lastly, and above all, if we accept
the proposed emendation, the list of Timon's writings does become more systematically
organized: literary works (epics and dramatic poems), philosophical poems (the Silloi and the
Indalmoi), prose works.
I am here translating Sidyeis, a conjecture on the part of Decleva Caizzi 1981, p. 59, and
adopted by Long and Sedley 1987, vol. 11, p. 10; the MSS give a number of different readings,
none of which make sense.
I am here retaining the SeiXots of the MSS, which seems to me to make acceptable sense. Among
the many suggestions for replacing this word, let me cite the following: SLVOLS ('to whirlwinds',
Nauck, Diels, Decleva Caizzi, Long and Sedley), Xrjpois ('to nonsense', Bekker), SeXrois ('to
writings', Bergk, who had, however, initially suggested ivSaXfAols, 'to deceptive images', see
below n. 12), CLLVOLS ('to stories', Bury), SOVXOLS ('to servitudes', Decleva Caizzi, p. 254,
dubitanter), heXiaoa ('to charms', Lloyd Jones and Parsons dubitanter).

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(b) Fragment 68D (unanimously considered to be the reply, or the beginning of the
reply, vouchsafed by Pyrrho, in Timon's poem, in answer to the question that his
disciple has asked him in fragment 67D):
I will tell you how it appears to me (Kara^aiverai)
To be, having the word of truth (JJLVOOV aXrjdeirjs) as my correct rule (opdov Kavova);6
I will tell you the nature of the divine and the good (17 rov Qeiov re cf>vois KOLL rayaOov),
Whence there stems the most balanced life for man.7
Fragment 69D:
But appearance (TO <£cuvo/xevov) predominates everywhere, wherever one goes.
It is not hard to see why these texts have been so ardently scrutinized. Through
the comparison between Pyrrho and the sun-god and through the expressions
'word of truth', 'correct rule' and 'nature of the divine and the good', the first
two fragments seem to manifest a sort of 'dogmatism' and one wonders
whether (and if so, how) this should be reconciled with the 'scepticism' that is
traditionally associated with the name of Pyrrho and seems to be present in the
third fragment.8
Whatever the exact interpretation of these fragments should be, they at any
rate seem to show that at least to a certain extent the Indalmoi constituted as it
were a positive counterpart to the Silloi. In the Silloi, Timon, with varying
degrees of ferocity, attacked all philosophers other than his own revered
master: that was the destructive part of his Pyrrhonist strategy. The Indalmoi,
in contrast, is not devoted to denouncing the vices and absurdities of other
philosophers, but to showing directly the incomparable excellence of Pyrrho
and his recipe for happiness. Most interpreters would accept, at least
provisionally (and reserving the right to correct it later) the opinion expressed
by Brochard (1923, pp. 84-5):
It seems evident to me (insofar as, with such inadequate documentation, one can
speak of evidence) that the Indalmoi constituted a truly moral treatise with
somewhat dogmatic tendencies. If the idea that I have formed of Pyrrho's work is
correct, it contained the essential part of the original Sceptic teaching. The
Indalmoi9 constituted a constructive work: it taught the means to be happy, that
is to say how to discover happiness in ataraxia and indifference.
It is not my intention to return to an examination of these difficult texts in the
present paper. My much more modest aim is to see what can be gleaned from

Another possible construction: 'I will tell you a word of truth, as it appears to be to me, who
follow a correct rule'. Cf. Long 1978, pp. 84-5 n. 16, Long and Sedley 1987, vol. 1 p. 19.
Another possible construction: '[I will tell you this word, namely that] the nature of the divine
and the good always consists in that which renders human life more balanced.' This meaning is
obtained by simply suppressing the comma at the end of line 3, as Burnyeat ingeniously
suggests (1980). His suggestion, criticized by Reale (1981, pp. 307-9) and by Ferrari (1981, p.
358 n. 32), is defended by Long and Sedley (1987, vol. 1, p. 21 and vol. 11, p. 11).
Sextus (M 1.305-6), already, produced a laboriously Sceptic exegesis of lines 5-7 of the first
fragment. See now, in particular, the discussions by Brochard (1923, pp. 62-5), Burnyeat
(1980), Reale (1981, pp. 306-15), Ferrari (1981, pp. 358-61), Decleva Caizzi (1981, pp. 251-
62), Stopper (1983, pp. 270-1), Long and Sedley (1987, vol. 1, pp. 20-1, vol. 11, pp. 10-11).
An extremely unfortunate misprint in Brochard's text gives 'the Silloi here. However it should
clearly read 'the Indalmoi'.

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the title alone, to help us comprehend the character and intentions of the
Indalmoi. The title itself is not easy to interpret, and has already been the
subject of many a discussion. However, it seems to me that full use has still not
been made of the documentation available. Moreover, as we shall discover, in
a way the difficulties in the interpretation of the title reflect and condense the
difficulties in the interpretation of the extant fragments of the work and its
overall meaning.
The word ivSaXfiot is a rare one: according to Decleva Caizzi (1981, p. 251),
its only other attested use is in the pseudo-Hippocratic Letters (first century
AD?) relating to the story about the meeting between Hippocrates and
Democritus (Ep. Pseudhippocr. I 8 . I = D K 68C5). There, the term iVSaA/xoi'
unambiguously means Democritean simulacra, which are elsewhere called
ei'ScoAa, 'little images'. The neuter JVSaAjua is used in later texts, with the sense
of'form', 'appearance', 'mental image' (cf. Liddell-Scott-Jones s.v.). On the
other hand, the verb iVSaAAo/zcu is frequently used, even as early as Homer,
with meanings such as 'to appear', 'to seem', 'to manifest itself, 'to present
itself before one's eyes', 'in one's memory' or 'in one's mind'. Of its occur-
rences in the Homeric poems, that of Odyssey xix.224, which has been
regularly cited by commentators at least ever since Hirzel (1883, p. 52 n. 1), is
particularly important from the point of view of the present study, for Timon
has obviously drawn upon this line not only for the title of his poem but also in
the first line of the question that he addresses to Pyrrho and the first line of the
reply that he ascribes to him:
(a) Od. XIX 224: avrap iycbv10 ipeaj, a>s JJLOL ivSdXXeraL rjrop . . .
(b) Timon, Indalmoi fr. 67D, l.i: rovro /xot, o5 Ilvppajv, i/xetperat rjrop
(c) Timon, Indalmoi fr. 68D, l.i: rj yap iycbv ipeco, a>s [JLOL Kara^alverai
etvai . . .
Before returning to this comparison, a study of which will constitute the
essential subject of this paper, let me briefly summarize the state reached in the
discussion concerning the meaning of the title Indalmoi. Nobody doubts or
challenges the idea that the kernel of the meaning of the term Indalmoi has to
do with the notion of an image (with the proviso that this notion may then
develop in various directions: towards representation, appearance, manifes-
tation, deceptive likeness, etc.). Most commentators are equally in agreement
Modern publishers of Homer print TOL here, rather than the variant iywv. I prefer, here, to
keep the latter reading, which seems to have served as a model to Timon in line 1 of fragment
68D (in which case there is no need to ascribe to Timon the deliberate introduction of eyco in his
parody of the Homeric text, nor to consider it as evidence of a reinforcement of the affirmative
tonQ,pace Decleva Caizzi 1981, p. 259). This is perhaps the place to recall Timon's own interest
in the problems of Homer's text and his astonishingly modern conservatism in this connection:
'Aratus is said to have asked him how he could obtain a trustworthy text of Homer, to which he
replied, "You can if you can get hold of the ancient copies, and not the corrected copies of our
day" (TOLS dp^atot? avTiypdcfxus .. . /cat fxrj rots fj&r] Situpflco/xevoi?)' (DLIX. 113). The same
line of Homer, with the same reading, may have served as a model to Parmenides (fr. 2.1), in a
strongly dogmatic context: el S* ay iycjv ipeco, /co/xiaai 8e GV (JLVOOV OLKOVOOLS.

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in thinking that xix.224 of the Odyssey contains the key to the riddle.11 But,
precisely, and above all in the context of Pyrrho's 'Pyrrhonism' and that of his
earliest disciples, the whole point is to decide what is added to that initial
kernel of meaning by the Homeric use of the term and Timon's re-use of it. In
this respect, the interpretations that have been proposed can by and large be
divided into three types: negative, positive and mixed.
To many scholars, it has seemed self-evident that, in a context in which
Pyrrho was considered as the first of the (neo-)'Pyrrhonist' Sceptics, the term
Indalmoi was bound to have a negative sense: many interpreters consider
it to refer to the deceptive appearances that lead the common run of men
astray. These are appearances that may be produced either by the natural
world or by the conventional world of culture and the arbitrary values that
men confer upon things that are in themselves neither good nor bad, or
even, more narrowly, by the vain speculations of philosophers. Wachsmuth
already (1859, p. 11) believed that the term Indalmoi must refer to false
and deceptive images. Brochard (1887, 1923, pp. 85-6), having criticized
Hirzel's positive interpretation (1883), to which I shall be returning, adopts
Wachsmuth's view: 'It is more likely that, as Wachsmuth supposed, the
word Indalmoi is here given a derogative meaning; it refers to deceptive
images or appearances that the false wisdom of philosophers, according to
Timon, presents to the human mind, images that are the principal obstacle to a
happy life.' Even though Brochard's negative interpretation is flawed by a
singularly weak argument,12 many other commentators (and translators of
Diogenes Laertius) have also adopted it: in particular, we may cite Robin,13
Cf. Hirzel 1883, pp. 51-2 n. 1; Diels 1901, p. 203 {wide tituli significatio { — (fxnvoyieva, Sofcu)
elucet); Conrad 1913, pp. 12-13; Lloyd-Jones and Parsons 1983, p. 392 ("ivSaX/jiol id est 8o|cu
vel ^cuvo^eva, cf. fr. 68D, and Od. xix.224').
Brochard writes as follows (p. 86): 'It is in this sense [deceptive images or appearances] that the
word is used in a line of Timon's, from the Indalmoi." The line in question, which he cites in a
note, is the fourth line of fr. 67D. But Brochard cites it adopting the suggestion made by Bergk,
who substitutes /JLTJ npooex iVSaA/xofr for the reading in Sextus' MSS (fjur) -rrpooexajv SetXois), a
reading which, as we have seen, gave rise to many other conjectures, yet still seems possible to
retain (cf. above, n. 5). In his note, Brochard merely says 'with Bergk's emendation', without
indicating that this 'emendation', which introduces the word ivSaXpois into a text where it does
not appear in any of the MSS, is the only justification for his claiming, in the main text, that the
word TvSaAfjLoi 'is used in one of Timon's lines'.
Robin 1944 translates the title Indalmoi as 'Appearances' or 'Likenesses' in the sense of 'false
likenesses' (*Apparences\ 'Semblants\ *Faux-semblants\ p. 28). He comments as follows (p.
31): 'Perhaps these "appearances" are analogous, in particular, to Francis Bacon's "idola
theatrf: the deceptive images by means of which philosophers mislead the public before whom
they act out their systems, feeling obliged to stick firmly to their role. But it is also possible that
Timon's view may have been more general: this is the poem in which there appears the line (fr.
69D) on the universal predominance of appearance (TO (f>aiv6fji€vov), as it presents itself to the
conscious mind. In another line (fr. 70D = p. 24. ivW = 64DC = 844LJP), he writes of the
distinction between good and evil, which is made arbitrarily by men's minds.' In this last
sentence, Robin seems to wish to have it both ways, drawing upon both the text of the MSS (VOCO
K€KpLTai) and upon Hirzel's suggested emendation (vofMco KeKpirat), adopted by Natorp 1884,
p. 289, Wachsmuth 1885, p. 24 and Brochard 1923, p. 62 n. 1. It is worth noting that
recognition of the two possible interpretations indicated by Robin (philosophical illusions,
phenomenal illusions) is not the equivalent of what I shall be calling a mixed interpretation,
despite what Decleva Caizzi 1981, p. 252 says.

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Conche, 14 and above all Decleva Caizzi, who came to this same conclusion
following a long discussion to which I owe a great deal.* 5 1 shall return later to
one particular element in her argument.
However, a positive interpretation had long since been suggested by Hirzel
(1883, PP- 2 I ~ 2 a n d 46-60 (in particular pp. 51-2 n. 1)). Criticizing Wachs-
muth's negative interpretation (1859), Hirzel says that it is impossible to
understand why Timon should have entitled a critique of deceptive represen-
tations 'Representations', adding that it would be as if Kant had entitled his
Critique of Pure Reason 'Dogmatic Philosophy'. 16 But in a 'Sceptic' context,
the notion of iVSaA/zot, which Hirzel does not distinguish from the notion of
cfxuvofieva, may be put to a positive use: according to Hirzel, Timon is
referring to the 'representations' which the sage needs in order to live and to
act, the 'phenomena' which serve as guides for his behaviour and which
thereby provide him with the practical criterion without which a Sceptic would
be exposed to the constantly recurring objection of dvrpa^ta, the impossibility
of living and acting. According to this theory, the Indalmoi constitute a work
of an ethical nature which presupposes the principles of Pyrrhonist drapa^ta
and the 'discourse of truth' of fr. 68D, accepting the consequences of those
principles and indicating the stages by which they can be put into practice, in
the manner of Democritus' Flepl €vdvyiirjs or a Stoic Ilepl KadrjKovros.
Hirzel's thesis has been criticized by Brochard, using arguments some of
which, it must be said, cut both ways. He writes as follows (1923/81, p. 85): 'It
is difficult to believe that, if he had wanted to speak only of true and useful
images, Timon would have entitled his book Indalmoi, without further
qualification.' The argument is easily reversed: the title is no easier to
understand if we assume that Timon wished to speak only of fake and
deceptive images. It is accordingly natural enough that many scholars have
been tempted by a mixed interpretation, according to which the word Indalmoi
designates both categories of images or appearances, those that are deceptive
and also those that are of practical use. This mixed interpretation has
furthermore been presented in two versions, depending upon whether the title
of the Indalmoi is understood as combining the two categories of images in a
conjunctive fashion or as referring to them in a deliberately ambiguous
manner. Revising his own negative interpretation of 1859, Wachsmuth (1885,
pp. 22-3) merged it with Hirzel's positive interpretation, suggesting that we
should understand the 'IvSaA/jioi to cover both the representations that
mislead us and those which lead us to drapa^ia.11 The idea of a deliberate
ambiguity is argued explicitly by C. Stough. 18
Conche 1973, p. 89:'... the generally accepted hypothesis according to which the poem Images
is directed against the false likenesses of dogmatic wisdom.'
Cf. Decleva Caizzi 1981, pp. 251-2 and 258-9.
Or, to remain within a Greek context: as if Parmenides had entitled his poem Doxa, or Doxai.
According to Decleva Caizzi 1981, p. 252, a similar interpretation is to be found in Voghera
1904, p. 27, a work that I have not been able to consult.
Cf. Stough 1969, p. 24, n. 15: 'There is probably a deliberate play on the title {Indalmoi) itself. It
means both "appearances" and "illusions".' Decleva Caizzi 1981, p. 252 incorrectly presents
Stough's position as purely negative.

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Those three possible interpretations, negative, positive and mixed, reap-

pear, logically enough, in connection with the famous enigmatic line, also
from the Indalmoi, which on its own constitutes fr. 69D: 'But appearance (TO
<j>aiv6iA€vov) predominates everywhere, wherever one goes.' Most interpreters
have thought that the cfxuvofjievov of this line must designate the same thing as
the ivSaXfjiOiof the work's title. That is how it is that, in strict correlation and
mutual interaction with their own respective and divergent interpretations of
the title, for some interpreters this line refers to the universal domination of
deceptive appearances from which only the sage can extricate himself; for
others it refers to the practical usefulness of the phenomenon, which consti-
tutes a sure and major guide for a Pyrrhonist's practical conduct; while for yet
others it refers to the inevitable predominance of the phenomenon which both
prevents man from knowing the world as it is, yet, despite this, at the same time
provides him with a criterion that indicates how to behave in this unknowable
Tempting though it may be, the assimilation of the IVSCLA/JLOI of the title to
the <f)cuv6}jL€vov of fragment 69 is by no means necessarily correct; it may even
be considered that our understanding of the title Indalmoi has been hampered
by the pointless projection of the ^atvofjuevov (a notion that may be a
philosophical terminus technicus and is certainly a term belonging to the
language of prose) upon the tVSaAfxot (a poetic and imagistic notion enriched
by its Homeric connotations). After all, there was nothing to prevent Timon
from using (jxuvoixeva as the title of his poem, had he wished to, just as his
contemporary Aratus used it, albeit giving it a quite different meaning. 19
Furthermore, and above all, a work's title does not always indicate the subject
matter of that work (unless it takes the form Tlepl...); it may equally well refer
to the nature or type of observations that it contains. The Silloi do not
constitute a poem about silloi, about 'lines which look askance at things';
rather, it is a poem made up of satirical jibing lines that do just that. Similarly,
it is quite legitimate to suppose that the Indalmoi were not given this title
because the poem speaks of images (or appearances) and of their universal
predominance (even if it does in fact do so), but because it is a poem composed
of images.
As a working hypothesis, let us suppose it to be a poem that contains images.
But images of what? Images of Pyrrho, 'memories of Pyrrho', F. Conrad
suggested (1913, pp. 12-13), in his isolated and atypical interpretation of the
title of the Indalmoi.20 According to Conrad, the meaning of the title should be
deduced from the Homeric use of the verb iVSaAAojucu: ivSaXfioL are 'represen-
tations, in the imagination, of something real', representations which the
memory makes it possible to preserve and recreate. On this basis, Conrad
argues in favour of a kind of biographical novel: he suggests that, far from Elis
Cf. D L ix. 113, cited above n. 10, a n d Lloyd-Jones and Parsons 1983, p p . 4 1 - 2 .
I have not been able to consult C o n r a d ' s work, cited by Decleva Caizzi 1981, p. 252. But
F e r n a n d a Decleva Caizzi has been kind enough to transmit to me the information that I
needed: I a m most grateful to her.

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and separated from his master, Timon set about remembering Pyrrho and
recalling his wisdom; he wrote the Indalmoi in order to record his memories
and make them known to his contemporaries. This interpretation may seem
naive and somewhat anachronistic; but I believe it deserves to be taken more
seriously than might at first appear. After all, Xenophon wrote his Memorabi-
lia of Socrates, and Pyrrho's charisma was, in the eyes of his friends,
comparable to Socrates' in the eyes of his friends. Without in any way seeking
to identify myself with Conrad's interpretation as such, I should now like to re-
examine the Homeric reference upon which it rests, making a more thorough
use of it than I believe has been made hitherto, and attempting to show to what
extent it points us along a path which may not be exactly that indicated by
Conrad, but which is certainly not unconnected.
First, let us recall the context of the line in the Odyssey (xix.224) which
Timon subtly played upon. Odysseus is in Ithaca but has not yet revealed his
identity. Penelope questions the stranger, whom she has not recognized, as to
his name, his people, his home-town and his family. Odysseus invents a Cretan
identity for himself, that of a prince by the name of Aithon. He tells her that,
twenty years ago, when Odysseus was on his way to Troy, he, Aithon, received
him as a guest in his home. Penelope then requests further details from him, to
make sure that he is speaking the truth: what clothes was Odysseus wearing,
how did he look, who were his companions? This puts Odysseus in a tricky
situation: he must win Penelope's trust by vouchsafing a few precise details, yet
at the same time be mindful of his persona's psychological verisimilitude,
within the framework of the scenario that he has invented. He acquits himself
with all the panache that is to be expected of him: 'Really woman, after so
many years it is hard to answer! It is twenty years since he arrived on our shores
and then left our island . . .' Then comes line 224: avrap iyd>v ipeoj, OJS JJLOL
ivhdXXerai rjrop. What is the exact meaning of this line? It is itself ambiguous,
as is most interestingly noted by the Liddell-Scott-Jones dictionary (s.v.
iVSaAAojtzcu). It may be understood in a tentative sense: 'I will tell you as my
memory seems to me' (LSJ), but also in a positive one: 'I will tell you as my
heart pictures him' (LSJ). Those two possible meanings are, as I see it, dictated
by the situation in which the character Odysseus finds himself in relation to his
wife and also by the situation of the poet in relation to his reader. The tentative
meaning corresponds to the psychological caution that Odysseus is obliged to
observe where Penelope is concerned: she must be made to recognize that the
traveller's memory cannot be expected to be infallible after so many years; and
this will cause her to be all the more impressed by the extremely precise details
that Odysseus is about to give her regarding the coat that he was wearing at
that time and the shape and ornamentation of its clasp - details which
Penelope will recognize with delight, for she knows them well, since all these
items were gifts from herself to her husband. The positive sense allows the poet
to aim a wink in the direction of his reader: the false stranger is, of course, well
placed to know exactly what Odysseus was wearing, since he is none other than
Odysseus himself- a fact that Penelope does not know but the reader does.

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The line in question, in all its own ambiguity (itself condensed in the
ambiguity of the verb tVSdAAercu), thus sums up the complex significance of
the whole scene. It is the scene that leads up to the recognition and
identification, by means of precise proofs, of the prestigious character who is
both present for those to whom the poem is addressed and, at the same time,
absent for the one to whom his discourse in the poem is addressed. Describing
and described, narrating and narrated, Odysseus-Aithon is at once the subject
and the object of his own words. Through the interplay between the same and
the other, Homer has him recount what he remembers of himself in the
language of the memories of another.
With impressive skill,21 Timon dismantles the Homeric line (avrap iywv
ipeto, <Ls /xot ivSdXXerai rjrop) so as to redistribute its various elements in three
separate places: first, in the title of his poem, which contains the substantive
form derived from the verb iVSdAAercu; next, in the first line of the question
which he puts to Pyrrho (rovro JJLOI, a> FIvppojv, ifjietperaL rjrop aKovoai),
which keeps the word rjrop, but gets around the word ivSaWercu,, by replacing
it with ifi€ip€Tai; and finally, in the first line of Pyrrho's reply (rj yap iywv
epeo), (Lg fjuoL KaTa<f)aLV€TaL €LVOLL), which retains the words eytov ipeoj, a>s /JLOL
..., but again avoids the word iVSdAAercu, replacing it with Kara<j>aiv€rai etvai.
While we may be reasonably certain that this manipulation of the Homeric
material would have been perceived as such by Timon's reader, it is clearly
much harder to understand exactly what meanings he was supposed to pick up
from it. It is nevertheless possible to hazard a few guesses, speculative though
they are bound to be.
With regard to the first line of fr. 67D, the task is relatively easy. If we bear in
mind the contents of this fragment as a whole, that is to say the request to
Pyrrho to be so good as to reveal to his questioner the means whereby he
achieves his superhuman tranquillity, we can perhaps imagine the distancing
effect that Timon's text must have had upon a reader nurtured on Homer. In
Timon's line, the verb tVSdAAercu of the Homeric line has been spectacularly
replaced by the verb expressing desire, Ifieiperai. That is tantamount to
saying, or at least strongly suggesting, that the ivSaXfioi are supposed to satisfy
the desire that is expressed in this first line, namely the desire to obtain from
Pyrrho, the great man whose name is here spelt out, the revelation of the secret
of his contentment. Timon voices that desire in his own name (/xot); but
needless to say, he considers it to be a desire felt universally by all men and
presupposes that his reader is no exception.22 However, Timon can provide
Perhaps I shall be accused of exaggerating the subtlety shown by the a u t h o r of the Indalmoi in
his use of the Odyssey, a subtlety with which he also credited the reader of his poem. There is no
need to go so far as to invoke Rabelais to justify the co-existence of the most liberated kind of
wit with the most sophisticated erudition. Let me simply refer the reader to Cortassa 1976, p.
314, who calls fragment 4 6 D of the Silloi ( = 4 W = 778LJP) 'a closely woven web of subtle
satirical innuendos, m o r e or less open allusions and equivocal implications to which the
interpreter must be constantly alert lest he gravely misunderstand the meaning of T i m o n ' s
T h e first line of Parmenides' Poem also refers (in terms of dv^xos) to a desire that the reader is
implicitly invited to identify as his own.

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only images, iVSaAfxoi, of what it is that can satisfy that desire. Perhaps I may
at this point be permitted a somewhat irreverent comparison: Timon presents
his reader with an image of the product that he wants to recommend to him,
not the product itself, just as a mail-order company sends its clients an
illustrated catalogue, to make them want to procure the originals of the images
that it contains. What, then, do the images that Timon provides represent?
Surely not only Pyrrho the man, as in the context of an anecdotal biography
made up of'personal memories', rather Pyrrho the inventor and model of an
exceptional 'disposition' (Siddeois), the essential components of which are
'apathy' and 'drapa^ta', a disposition which - as we know - had made an
intensely forceful impression upon his disciples and contemporaries.23
Naturally, the 'images' of Pyrrho that Timon dispensed to his reader were to
be particularly recommended not only because they were so attractive but also
on account of their authority, for they were relayed by a witness in a good
position to be exact and truthful, Timon having spent a number of years in
Pyrrho's company (cf. DL ix. 109). He could say quite literally of Pyrrho what
Odysseus said of the shades that he had encountered in Hades: T saw him.'24
Let us press on a little further: Timon is not only the analogue of Odysseus-
Aithon, who is capable of providing first-hand information about Odysseus-
Pyrrho,25 together with proofs to back that information up. Objectively, and
for those who know what is not known to Penelope, who is the person to whom
his discourse is directly addressed, Aithon is none other than Odysseus. So the
re-use of the Homeric episode, with all its contextual connotations, might well
imply that Timon, the one who is speaking, is, in a way, identified with Pyrrho,
the one about whom he is speaking. The fact that the very line which, in
Homer, is pronounced by Odysseus, provides certain of the elements for the
question that Timon asks, and certain others for the reply that Pyrrho himself
gives, perhaps conveys the same message: Timon is implicitly presenting
himself as Pyrrho's alter ego. The 'images' of his master and of Pyrrhonist
happiness that he is about to produce are as trustworthy as those that
Odysseus, under an assumed name, can present of his own coat and its clasp:
The documentation on P y r r h o (who, as hardly needs pointing out, himself wrote nothing) is
m o r e inclined to expatiate u p o n his way of life and his character than u p o n his teaching and
arguments, as is clear from the valuable collection of testimony that has at last - most
proficiently - been put together by Decleva Caizzi 1981. Some of the contemporaries w h o m
Pyrrho h a d impressed explicitly separated his Siddecns from his Aoyoi, cf. N a u s i p h a n e s in D L
ix.64, 69.
'I also saw so-and-so' is the standardized expression used of Odysseus' encounters in the
U n d e r w o r l d in the course of the Nekuia (Od. xi). The expression had already been used by the
Cynic Crates of Thebes (cf. fr. i D = 347LJP a n d fr. 3 D = 349LJP), w h o had also parodied
H o m e r , possibly providing a model for T i m o n ' s techniques of p a r o d y (cf. W a c h s m u t h 1885,
p p . 72-3 and L o n g 1978, pp. 75-6). However, one m a y wonder whether it was really simply by
chance in the transmission of texts that, of all the fragments of the Silloi preserved, the only two
to use t'Sov, 'I saw', h a p p e n to be the one concerning P y r r h o (cf. £yd> i8ov,
9 D = 32W = 5 8 D C = 783LJP) and the one concerning a n o t h e r of T i m o n ' s contemporaries,
Zeno of Citium (38D = 8W = 812LJP).
T h e identification of Pyrrho with Odysseus is attested by fragment 8 D of the Silloi
( = 35W = 5 7 D C = 782LJP), which declares P y r r h o to be 'unrivalled', in a p a r o d y of a line from
H o m e r (//. 111.223) which makes the same claim for Odysseus.

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for Timon is as close to Pyrrho as Odysseus, twenty years on, is to himself.26

It is much more difficult to give a plausible interpretation of the distancing
effect that Timon aims for and achieves when he again uses that same line of
Homer's in the first line of the reply that he ascribes to Pyrrho (fr. 68D, line i):
iydjv ipeco, c5? /xot /cara^cuVercu etvai. The reason for this is simple: the verb
that is substituted for the Homeric iVSaAAercu is, this time, not the transparent
verb [jjL€Lp€Tcu, but the extremely equivocal and controversial /cara^cuWrcu
{etvcu). Should this verb be understood as a straightforward equivalent to
</>au>eTcu? Many interpreters believe that it should and that, in conformity,
already, with the spirit of neo-Pyrrhonian Scepticism, its use qualifies the
entire contents of the discourse attributed to Pyrrho, suggesting that it
constitutes no more than a subjective and personal appearance. 27 Uncon-
vinced by that theory, others, on the contrary, think that the compound
Kara^aiverat has a different meaning from that of the simple </>cuWrcu, and
that this intrinsically positive meaning ('to emerge from darkness to come into
the light', 'to show itself, 'to manifest itself) gives Pyrrho's discourse a
strongly dogmatic and assertive character. 28
T i m o n ' s strategy has proved remarkably effective since, twenty-three centuries after the
Indalmoi, in an article entitled (as if by chance) 'The image of balance' (L'immagine
delFequilibrio), a particularly sensitive and learned scholar describes the four lines of fragment
6 8 D as 'the only fully comprehensible a n d non-manipulated text in which Pyrrho speaks,
setting o u t his o w n doctrine in the first person' (Ferrari 1981, p . 357, Ferrari's italics). Ferrari
would perhaps not have overlooked the fact that the a u t h o r of those four lines was in fact
T i m o n if, not content to write a n u m b e r of remarkable pages on the meeting between Pyrrho
a n d T i m o n , which is the fundamental schema for all the works in which T i m o n speaks of his
master (pp. 345-61), he h a d probed further into the other-self relationship which became
established following and in consequence of that m e m o r a b l e meeting between the master and
his disciple.
T h a t was h o w Sextus interpreted this fragment of T i m o n (doing so, however, with a prudence
rightly noted by b o t h N a t o r p 1884, p . 292 a n d Decleva Caizzi 1981, p . 256): 'We are in the habit
of calling each of these things good, or bad, or indifferent, in conformity with the appearance
(Kara TO (fxuvofxevov), as T i m o n seems to wish to show (eoiare SrjXovv) in the Indalmoi when he
says', etc. ( M xi.20). Similarly, in m o d e r n times, see Stough 1969, p . 25 ('Everything said is
qualified by " a s it appears to me to b e " , an indication that he is merely reporting his own
experience'); D u m o n t 1972, p . 132 ('Is it not clear that the phenomenon is said, at least
according to T i m o n , to be the criterion of t r u t h for Pyrrho?'); Conche 1973, p. 61 ('the cos /LIOI
Kara^aiveraL etvcu turns being into seeming'; see also p . 89); L o n g 1978, p . 84-5 n. 16 ( T h e
key phrase is cos JJLOL Kara^aiveraL etvat, as Sextus, the source of the lines, understood them ( M
xi. 19-20). H e distinguishes between " t h e existence of goods a n d evils a n d neither of t h e s e " and
their appearance (TO <f>aiv6ixevov), which the Pyrrhonist is in the habit of calling good, bad, and
indifferent. This permits us to regard the "correct r u l e " as the stating of truth " a s it seems to
(me) to b e " , a n d n o unqualified existential claim a b o u t <j>vois is made.')
See Ferrari's argument (1981, p . 359: 'In t r u t h the Greek term never has the negative meaning
of " t o seem", " t o a p p e a r " , in the sense of uncertainty, but on the contrary always has the
positive meaning of something which emerges from the darkness into the light and which
accordingly " s h o w s itself", "manifests i t s e l f " ) which is taken u p by Decleva Caizzi 1981, p.
256 ('the c o m p o u n d term used underlines the assertion rather t h a n obscuring it by giving it a
subjective sense, as is proved by the passages in which it recurs (cf. for example H d t . 1.58, in.53,
130; in.69) and the meaning of Kara^>avr)s, /caTcu^aveia'), a n d 258-9 ('it would be h a r d to deny
that T i m o n ' s lines have the authoritative tone of the revelation of the truth . . . the second
hemistich is replaced by the m u c h stronger cos /xoi Karacfyaiverai elvat . . . which certainly
paves the way for the emphasis of the pentameter which follows.')

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It may be impossible to disambiguate Timon's Kara<j>aiv€Tai.29 Indeed, it

may be important not to attempt to do so: that ambiguity might quite
deliberately be there to echo the ambiguity that Timon had probably perceived
in Homer's iVSaAAercu. Different categories of addressees could understand
Kara<f)aiv€Tai in the senses that suited the particular degree to which they were
informed, just as tVSaAAereu was understood differently by Penelope on the
one hand and the reader of the Odyssey on the other. The 'candid reader' is
presented with 'what seems' (to Pyrrho) to be a 'discourse of truth'; the poem
will make him understand that what seems to be a discourse of truth to a man
such as Pyrrho is also what manifestly is a discourse of truth. Just as Aithon is
well placed to know what he is talking about when he speaks of Odysseus' coat,
so Pyrrho is in a position to know what he is talking about when he speaks of
divine happiness and a balanced human life.
The fact remains that, according to this hypothesis, it is, after all, the better-
informed reader who is supposed to read cog JJLOL Kara^aiveraL in the sense that
bestows upon Pyrrho's discourse a strongly assertive tone. What is the indirect
effect of that reading upon the meaning of the Homeric original (ok JJLOI
iVSaAAercu) which has been substituted by this group of words, and conse-
quently also upon the title Indalmoi, which preserves the imprint of that
model? According to Decleva Caizzi (1981, p. 259), the substitution of the
strongly assertive term Kara^aiverai for the original Homeric verb ivSaXXerai
implies that Timon had understood the latter in a sense that was so weakly
affirmative that he could not retain it in his parodic transposition. Accord-
ingly, the title Indalmoi itself should be understood in that same weak sense:
'That very substitution suggests that the ivSaXfiot are the deceptive images
which seduce men'. I am not convinced that that is so. Quite apart from the
general difficulties inherent in a purely negative interpretation of the title of the
Indalmoi, difficulties which we have considered above, the inference suggested
by Decleva Caizzi is not necessarily correct: Timon may have removed the
Homeric iVSaAAercu from his own line not because he wished to replace a weak
term by a stronger one, but simply because to retain it would have been to
repeat the transposition already effected in his title, Indalmoi. It was more
effective and more elegant to distribute the various elements of Homer's line
amongst the title of his work and two of its programmatically important lines,
without resorting to a pleonasm to produce all its semantic effects.

The problematic syntax of the fragment might be explained by the hypothesis that Sextus cited
Timon incompletely (Ferrari 1981, p. 359), or else that there is a lacuna in the MSS of Sextus
(Stopper 1983, p. 291 n. 35). In that case, we could not be certain that the meaning of the
fragment was unaffected (pace Ferrari 1981, pp. 359-60), and we should have to accept
Stopper's agnostic conclusion (p. 271: 'the blank might have been filled dogmatically, it might
have been filled sceptically') - although Stopper himself does not conceal his preference for a
Sceptic solution to the problem (p. 291 n. 36).

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Timon of Phlius (about 325 to about 235), known as the Sillograph, was
'spokesman' (77/00^77x779, Sextus Empiricus calls him, M 1.53) for his master
Pyrrho of Elis. As his nickname indicates, he is known chiefly for his Silloi, a
kind of Homer in disguise into which he had poured all his satirical verve, in the
service of Pyrrho. In the fragments by him that have come down to us, 1 the
Silloi predominate, thanks to their dashing style and the many explicitly
personal attacks directed against a large number of well-known and respected
philosophers that they contain. Quite a few fragments of this work are thus
preserved, and their spiciness still comes through, despite the sophistication of
the vocabulary and the obscurity of the allusions. We also possess an equally
valuable and quite detailed general description of the structure of the work
and its author's intentions. 2
However, the Silloi by no means constitute the entire output of the
Sillograph. The fragments that remain from Timon's writings testify fully to
his many-sided ability. He was an enormously prolific author, who had written
in the most varied of genres. Diogenes Laertius ( i x . i i o - u ) provides the
following information on him:
He was known to King Antigonus and to Ptolemy Philadelphia, as his own
Iambi (iv TOIS id^oLs) testify. He was, according to Antigonus [of Carystus],
fond of wine, and in the leisure time that he could spare from philosophy, he used
to write poems. These included epics, tragedies, satyrical dramas (thirty com-
edies and sixty tragedies) besides silloi (lampoons) and obscene poems (KIVCU-
Sovs). There are also works of his in prose extending to 20,000 lines, which are
mentioned by Antigonus, who also wrote his life.
(transl. R.D. Hicks, slightly modified, Loeb Classical Library, London and
Cambridge, Mass., 1965)
This list shows, if nothing else, that Timon had managed to 'spare from
philosophy' a fairly copious dose of'leisure' time. But, strangely enough, there

Principal collections of the fragments of Timon: Wachsmuth 1859 and 1885; Diels 1901;
Lloyd-Jones and Parsons 1983; and now Di Marco 1989. A significant proportion of these
fragments are, naturally, also assembled in Decleva Caizzi 1981. In the interests of convenience
and economy, for the first occurrence of any reference to a fragment of Timon, I shall cite the
number given to that fragment in all these editions (using the abbreviations W, D, DC, LJP);
for later occurrences I shall simply cite the number in Diels, which is always cited in the later
Cf. DL ix. 111-12. Long's fine study (1978) is currently the best commentary on the Silloi. See
now Di Marco 1989.


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is one work, the Indalmoi, that it does not mentio