3 Feb 2017

Luhtala (5.1) On the Origin of Syntactical Description in Stoic Logic, “The Unity of Stoic Philosophy”, summary


by Corry Shores


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[The following is summary. All boldface and bracketed commentary are my own. Paragraph enumerations are also my own, but they follow the paragraph breaks in the text. Please forgive my distracting typos, as proofreading is incomplete.]




Summary of


Anneli Luhtala


On the Origin of Syntactical Description in Stoic Logic


Ch.5 The Stoics


5.1 The Unity of Stoic Philosophy




Brief summary:

Stoic philosophy is composed of a unified system where its three main branches – ethics, logic, and physics – are of equal priority in the system itself. They are all concerned with logos or reason, and more specifically with consequence, understood physically, logically, or ethically. Nonetheless, the Stoics thought that logic should be learned first.







[The Stoics had a unified system where none of the main branches, namely, ethics, logic, and physics, had a greater priority. However, they thought that logic should be learned first.]


Luhtala notes that “The Stoics divided the study of philosophy into logic, ethics and physics maintaining a vital interconnection between these three parts of their study (Diog. Laert. VII,39-40, Adv. math. VII, 19)” (57, note, the second cited text is Sextus Empiricus). The Stoics had a unified philosophical system (57) in the sense that “the study of its various parts were inextricably linked to each other” (58). The ultimate goal of Stoic education was ethics. But the study of ethics “was firmly integrated with the study of physics and logic” (58). In fact, there is no real hierarchy among the subdivisions of philosophy for the Stoics, and so, they were mixed together when teaching them (58). Nonetheless, there was overall a general order still that the subdivisions were taught in. One order was: logic, physics, then ethics. Another: logic, ethics, then physics. There could have been that different teachers taught one or the other order, or perhaps there was just one order, and our sources are confused (58). But above all, linguistic study was the most important:

The importance of linguistic study in philosophical education is even separately stressed by Diogenes: “For all things are intuited by means of investigation in language, both the subject matter of natural science and that of ethics”.82

82. πάντα γὰρ τὰ πράγματα διὰ τῆς ἐν λόγοις θεωρίας ὁρᾶσθαι, ὅσα τε τοῦ φυσικοῦ τόπου τυγχάνει καὶ αὖ πάλιν ὅσα τοῦ ἠθικοῦ (εἰς μὲν γὰρ τὸ λογικὸν τί δεῖ λέγειν) (Diog. Laert . VII,83).





[Logic, physics, and ethics are all concerned with the same issue, reason (logos). Logic is concerned with consequence relations between propositions, physics with causal relations between events, and ethics with making actions harmonious, perhaps on the basis of their consequences.]


Logic, physics, and ethics all share the same subject-matter, namely, the rational universe (58).

The subject-matter of logic, physics and ethics is one thing, the rational universe, considered from three different but mutually consistent points of view; this is because nature as a whole is informed by reason, |  λόγος (Long 1974: 19).


[The next idea seems to be the following. Human action is guided by reason or logos. It is the same logos that guides the universe. To understand what is right conduct in the world, we need to understand the logos underlying the causal events in the world, so that we can work reasonably with the real way things are, and we need to understand our relation to the universe, because we are inserting our activity into it and affecting its causal chains. Let me quote, as I may have misunderstood the reasoning.]

Human actions are related to cosmic events in being manifestations of one and the same λόγος (‘reason’) and the question of right conduct could not be settled without understanding the relation of man to the universe and its causal processes (Sandbach 1975: 14).


Luhtala then quotes Bréhier, who notes that the logos is found in logical consequence, physical causality, and harmonious human activity. [I am not sure I understand the parallel in ethics, but perhaps the notion of consequences for certain actions is involved.]

They [the various parts of Stoic philosophy] are indissolubly linked together since it is one and the same reason which in dialectic binds consequential propositions to antecedents, which in nature establishes a causal nexus and which in conduct provides the basis for perfect harmony between actions ... it is impossible to realize rationality independently in these three spheres. (Brehier 1931 1: 299, tr. by Long 1974: 120)

(59, quoting Bréhier, bracketed insertion mine)

But it is the unity of Stoic philosophy and the primacy of its linguistic concerns that will concern us mostly here (59).







Luhtala, Anneli. 2000. On the Origin of Syntactical Description in Stoic Logic. Münster: Nodus.



Other texts, cited by Luhtala:


Brehier, Emile. 1931. Histoire de la philosophie. Vol. I. Paris: Presses Universitaires de Fance.


Diogenes Laertius: Lives of eminent philosophers. Translated by Robert D. Hicks. 2 vols. London: William Heinemann / Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 1950.


Long, Anthony A. 1974. Hellenistic Philosophy. London, New York: Charles Scribner’s sons.


Sandbach, Fancis H. 1975. The Stoics. Ancient Culture and Society. London: Chatto & Windus.


Sextus Empiricus: Adversus Mathematicos I-XI. Ed. with an English translation by Robert G. Bury. 4 vols. The Loeb Classical Library. London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press 1949.



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