4 Feb 2017

Luhtala (5.5.0) On the Origin of Syntactical Description in Stoic Logic, “Stoic Logic [introductory material]”, summary


by Corry Shores


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[The following is summary. It redoes this entry. 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


5.5 Stoic Logic


5.5.0 [introductory material]



Brief summary:

The Stoics regarded logic as being comprised of rhetoric and dialectic. Rhetoric deals with continuous speech, while dialectic deals with argument by means of question and answer. Logic and all its many subtopics are matters of logos / λόγος (reason, speech), which is the rational principle of causality in the cosmos and of right human action. Logos is also speech, and since humans have “internal speech”, they can think rationally about the logical sequence of things. Truth is a matter of correspondence between a statement, made on the basis of our “rational impressions,” and some specific event happening in the world. The Stoics in fact did not consider universals to be real things, and thus their logic was concerned primarily with particulars and almost never with universals, as in Aristotle’s logic.






[The Stoics regarded logic as being comprised of rhetoric and dialectic. Rhetoric deals with continuous speech, dialectic with argument by question and answer.]


For the Stoics, logic was a matter of rhetoric and dialectic.

The term ‘logic’ was used by the Stoics to refer to the branch of their philosophy which covered the subdisciplines of rhetoric and dialectic.93

93. According to Bocheński, “the Stoics elaborated a refined semiotic theory ...” (1951: 80). According to Graeser, “it is a theory of meaning that has invited comparison with modern theories and obviously stood it well. In fact, it is generally agreed that the Stoic account of semantics is superior to and more sophisticated than the more influential one offered by Aristotle in the De Interpretatione (16a3-18)” (1978: 77).


But this combination of rhetoric and dialectic was not seen for example in Aristotle, who had no special term to include both (65). This dual signfiicance probably comes the Stoics’ adoption of the usage from Xenokrates. What characterizes rhetoric for the Stoics is that it “deals with continuous speech (Plut. De Stoic. rep. 1047A-B, SVF 2.297-298);’ however, what characterizes dialectic is that it is “argument by question and answer (Diog. Laert. VII,42)” (65). She continues:

Moreover, in a simile attributed to Zeno, dialectic is compared to a clenched fist, while rhetoric is compared to the hand spread out and extended, illustrating the compactness and brevity of dialectical discourse as opposed to rhetorical. This simile enjoyed some popularity in characterizing the two kinds of speech (λόγος, oratio) studied by the two arts of discourse in Antiquity, dialectic and rhetoric, respectively (Varro apud Cass. Inst. II,3,2; Isid. Etym. II,xxiii; Cic. De fin. II,6,17; Or. 32,113; Quint. Inst. or. II,20,7; Sen. Ep. 89, 17; Sext. Emp. Adv. math. II,7 = SVF 1.75).


[In his De finibus bonorum et malorum, which Luhtala cites, Cicero writes:

“That is the view of Zeno the Stoic,” I rejoined; “he used to say that the faculty of speech in general falls into two departments, as Aristotle had already laid down; and that Rhetoric was like the palm of the hand, Dialectic like the closed fist; because rhetoricians employ an expansive style, and dialecticians one that is more compressed.

(Cicero 1914: 99. II,6,17)

I also note an image form of this metaphor. John Bulwer’s Chirologia has a similar sort of picture on its title page. Samuel Howell writes regarding it:

Still another interesting thing about it is its illustrations, one of which precedes the title page and pictures “Eloquentia” as an open hand, “Logica” as a fist.

(Howell 341)

Below are images of this picture from Bulwer’s book [the detail is taken from the bottom right].

Bulwer eloquentia just

Bulwer Chirologia eloqentia logica title page

The title page of Howell’s book has its own adaptation of this image:

jpg touchup 2 Samuel Howell logica


[Logic and all its many subtopics are matters of logos / λόγος (reason, speech), which is the rational principle of causality in the cosmos and of right human action. Logos is also speech, and since humans have ‘internal speech’, they can think rationally about the logical sequence of things.]


There is a wide range of subjects that fall under logic for the Stoics, including “formal logic, theory of knowledge, semantic and phonetic aspects of language, as well as stylistics, all of which had λόγος (‘reason’, ‘speech’) as their subject matter” (65). For the Stoics, reason and speech are united in the notion of λόγος. Reason is something found in “rational order of the universe” and in the “parallelism between cosmic events and human action in that both are manifestations of a causal relation of cause and effect” (65, see section 5.1.2). Furthermore, “One of the characteristics of the human being as a rational creature is the ability to use language, which is based on ‘internal speech’, and an understanding of the logical sequence of things.” (65).

[The Stoics did not see universals as being real, and thus Stoic logic is concerned with particulars rather than universals.]


A wise person has ‘right reason’ (ὀρθὸς λόγος), which means that the person can make true statements about actual states of affairs happening in the world. [The next idea seems to be that in Aristotelian logic, truth (or maybe proper inference) is a matter of the relations between terms, especially between universal terms, where for the Stoics it is a matter of correspondence between statements and events in the world. Let me quote, as I am guessing:]

A mature person, if he is a wise man, has ‘right reason’ (ὀρθὸς λόγος). This means that he is able to make statements which are demonstrably true about some actual events that are taking place. The fact that Stoic logic is primarily concerned with states of affairs involving particulars marks an important distinction from Aristotelian logic which deals with relations between terms and mainly with universal terms.

(66a, emphasis mine)

The Stoics, then, were interested in particulars and diminished the importance of universals,

claiming that they are merely figments of our imagination.98

98. Diogenes Laertius attributes to Zeno the doctrine that concepts (ἐννόημμ) are neither somethings nor qualifeid but figments of the soul which are quasi-somethings and quasi-qualified (Diog. Laert. VII,60-61). Stobaeus adds that these concepts are what the old philosophers called Idea (Ecl. 1,136,21-137,6 = SVF 1.65). Like the Megarian Stilpo, Zeno wanted to remove the incorporeal Idea from the centre of philosophy (Rist 1978: 395).


In fact, universals do not even fit within the Stoics’ ontological scheme and instead are considered “not-somethings.99” [Footnote 99: According to Simplicius, Chrysippus too raised the question of whether the Idea can be called a this something’ (In Ar. cat. 105,8-16 = SVF 2.278). Syrianus attributes to the Stoic school in general the view that only particulars exist (In Ar. met. 104,17-21 = SVF 2.361). For the ontological scheme of the Stoics, see Long & Sedley (1987: 163) as well as table 1 on page 85.] (66) Thus “In Chrysippean logic propositions are usually made concerning individuals and the prototypical subject is represented by a definite pronoun” (66).

[For Stoics, logic deals with rational discourse, and rhetoric more specifically is about speaking well and dialectic about discovering truth by means of correct statements regarding real world events that are based on our rational impressions.]


Stoic logic for the most part deals with rational discourse in general. Both rhetoric and dialectic are matters of speaking well (66), but dialectic was “associated with the discovery of truth” (67). Truth for the Stoics is both a logical and an epistemological issue. It is logical in that “truth is discovered by means of correct statements about real world events”, and it is epistemological, because these correct statements “are based on what are known as ‘rational impressions’ (λογιὴ φαντασία)” (67). But Chrysippus also defined dialectic in accordance with a two-fold theory of meaning “as the doctrine of σημαίνοντα (“that which signifies”) and σημαινόμενα (“that which is signified”) (Diog. Laert. VII,62)” (67).






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



Other texts, cited by Luhtala:


[Note, for “Cic. De fin.” I did not see something for it in the Bibliography, but perhaps it is Cicero’s De finibus.]


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


Graeser, Andrea. 1978. “The Stoic Theory of Meaning”. Rist (1978: 77-100).


Bocheński, Innocentius M. 1951. Ancient Formal Logic. Studies in Logic and the Foundation of Mathematics. Amsterdam: North- Holland Publishing Co.


[Note, for “Isid. Etym.” I did not see something for it in the Bibliography, but perhaps it is Isidorus’ Etymologiae.]


Long, Anthony A. / Sedley, David N. 1987. The Hellenistic philosophers. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Plutach: De Stoicis repugnantiis and De communibus notitiis contra Stoicos in Plutarchi Moralia V.1 .2. Ed. by Ma Pohlenz. Leipzig: Teubner 1972.


Quintilian: M. Fabi Quintiliani Institutionis Ortorae libri duodecim. Ed. by Michael Winterbottom. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1970.


Rist, John M. 1978. (ed.) The Stoics. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Rist, John M. “Zeno and the Origins of Stoic Logic”. Brunschwig (1978: 387-400).


Seneca: Ad Lucilium epistulae morales. Ed. by Leighton D. Reynolds. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1965.


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.


Simplicius: In Arstotelis Categoras Commentarium. CAG VIII. Ed. by Carl Kalbfleisch. Berlin: Reimer 1907.


[Note, for “Stobaeus ... Ecl.” I did not see something for it in the Bibliography, but perhaps it is Stobaeus’ Ἐκλογαί / Eclogae physicae et ethicae.]


SVF: Stoicorum veterum fragmenta I-III. Ed. Iohannes von Arnim. Leipzig: Teubner 1905-24.


Syrianus: In Metaphysica commentaria. CAG VI.1. Ed. Wilhelm Kroll. Berlin: Reimer 1902 .


[Note, I do not know what “Varro apud Cass. Inst.” refers to. Perhaps it is simply Cassiodorus’ Institutiones. I could not find what it might be in the Bibliography.]



Texts I refer to:


Bulwer, John. 1644. Chirologia / Chironomia. London: Harper. PDF available at: https://archive.org/details/gu_chirologianat00gent

Bulwer image from: Folger Shakespeare Library.



Cicero. 1914. De finibus bonorum et malorum. With English translation by H. Rackham. London: Heinemann. / New York: Macmillan. PDF available at: https://archive.org/details/definibusbonoru02cicegoog


Howell, Samuel. 1961. Logic and Rhetoric in England, 1500-1700. New York: Russell & Russell. Available at: https://archive.org/details/logicandrhetoric0 11815mbp.




This entry redoes the one here, made a while ago:


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