3 May 2017

Luhtala ( On the Origin of Syntactical Description in Stoic Logic, “Stoic Predicate Types”, 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


5.5 Stoic Logic



The Component of Meaning (Σημαινόμενα)

Stoic Predicate Types





Brief summary:

The Stoics recognized a variety of predicate types, including {1} congruities and {2} direct, {3} reversed, {4} neuter, and {5} reflexive clauses. The Stoics may not have had a fully unified way to categorize predicates, as they took various overlapping views: {a} on congruity and incongruity, {b} on activity and passivity, and {c} on completeness and incompleteness. Of the commentators on the Stoic theory of predicates, Apollonius Dyscolus gives the most authentic account, while Porphyry, Priscian, and other commentators on Aristotle’s Peri hermeneias commit errors in their interpretations.







[The Stoic recognized propositional clause structures of the following types: transitive, intransitive, and two sorts with impersonal verbs.]


The classic example for Stoic propositions is ‘Dion walks’ (Δίων περιπατεῖ). This is an intransitive clause. But Luhtala argues that transitive sorts of clauses, as for example ‘Plato loves Dion’ (Πλάτων φιλεῖ Δίωνα) are equally important in Stoic logic (94). However, Stoic propositional analysis goes beyond these two sorts of clause structures. Note that the Stoics did not discuss propositions with copula (94). The other two types of propositions the Stoics studied were ones with “impersonal verbs” (94).

[The Stoics recognized a variety of predicate types, including congruities, direct, reversed, neuter, and reflexive.]


While “Diogenes Laertius’ account of the Stoic predicate types is unfortunately damaged,” we can still see that these types “form a unity” (94). Here are the classifications for the predicates: {1} congruities (συμβάματα), “after which there is a lacuna”; {2} direct (ὀρθά), {3} reversed (ὕπτια) and {4} neuter (οὐδέτερα). Luhtala then explains that direct predicates have an oblique case [that is, one that allows for a patient to the action to be designated, as by direct object for example, and that is transitive], such as ones with the Greek words for ‘hears’, ‘sees’, and ‘converses’. Reversed predicates take a passive formation, as in the Greek formulations meaning ‘I am being heard’, ‘I am being seen’. Neuter predicates have neither the features of directness [they are active] nor of reversal [they are not passive], as for example the Greek words for ‘to think’ and ‘to walk’. She also says there are {5} reflexive predicates that are passives and that “resemble actions” as for example the Greek formulation meaning ‘he shaves’ (94-95. See these pages for details, as I did not comprehend and present it very well.)

[The Stoics did not categorize all the predicates in a unified way. Rather, they had two distinct classifications, base on {1} congruity and incongruity or {2} activity and passivity. ]


The Stoics had two distinct ways to classify predicates: on the basis of {1} congruity and incongruity, and on the basis of {2} activity and passivity. The texts describing congruity are corrupt. [The idea seems to be that there is congruity established somehow by conjoining a nominative case with a simple predicate as in ‘I walk’. See p.95, because there is more to it, but I did not follow.] In the second classification, which is about activity and passivity, the transitive formation is considered the prototype, while the intransitive structure is considered ‘neuter’ (95).

[The Stoics disunified classification stems from the different viewpoints they took on predicates.]


Rather than having a “unified set of predicate types”, “the Stoics discussed predicates from different points of view” (95). Luhtala then mentions the different ways predicates were understood. One point of view has to do with congruity, and another with activity and passivity (95). Another view was concerned with “completeness of thought, which gave rise to yet another classification, that into complete and deficient predicates (κατηγόρηματα αὐτοτελές versus ἐλλιπές)” (95). One same predicate can be found in various different categories, “a fact which vividly suggests that one uniform classification was not at issue | here” (96). [See 96a for examples.]

[One context that Apollonius Dyscolus discusses Stoic predicate types is with regard to cases with transitive verbs.]


Luhtala will now examine the textual evidence of grammarians on the topic of Stoic predicate types. Apollonius Dyscolus discusses the types in two contexts. One context is about oblique cases with transitive verbs. [These matters involve grammatical technicalities. For details, see p.96.]

[In another context, Apollonius Dyscolus notes that transitive verbs without an oblique case (to indicate the patient of the action) make incomplete predicates and express incomplete thoughts.]


[The other context seems to regard incomplete predicates that happen when transitive verbs lack oblique cases. So to say “Tryphon harms” is an incomplete predicate, because it needs a noun with an oblique case to indicate who is receiving the harm. Intransitive verbs when simply joined to a nominative are already complete predicates.] “It is the incompleteness of thought expressed by a transitive verb without the oblique case that has, according to Apollonius, given rise to the term ‘less than a predicate’” (96).

[While Apollonius’ accounts of Stoic predicate types is not as full as those given by Priscian and the commentators of the Peri hermeneias, it nonetheless is more authentic.]


Apollonius’ discussion of Stoic predicate types is not as full as accounts given by Priscian and the commentators of the Peri hermeneias, but Apollonius’ is more authentic to the Stoic’s system. Luhtala will now examine Priscian’s account, “which is fuller but clearly distorted” (93).

[Priscian’s account of Stoic predicate types makes a number of mistakes and misattributions of concepts to the Stoics.]


Priscian’s account of Stoic predicate types probably depends “on a later synthesis made of the Stoic predicate types, probably by Porphyry” (97). Luhtala then shows certain mistakes and misattributions Priscian makes in his accounts [see 97-98 for details.]

[We see a corruption of the Stoic predicate types in elaborations of Porphyry’s commentaries on the Aristotle’s Peri hermeneias]


Porphyry’s commentaries on the Aristotle’s Peri hermeneias have been lost. But others have elaborated on Porphyry’s commentary, and here we also see a corruption of the Stoic predicate types. [For details see p.98-99.]

[Porphyry confused certain aspects of the Stoic theory of predicates and neglected others.]


Porphyry combined two distinct aspects of the Stoic theory of predicates, namely, congruity and completeness (or deficiency) of predicates (99). Porphyry also neglected the central aspect of activity. Priscian “is likely to depend on a tradition which ultimately goes back to Porphyry” (99).

[Porphyry’s discussion of congruity is the only philosophical source that relates congruity to the grammatical notion of congruence.]


Incongruity in a predicate means that there is a lack of congruence [or “agreement”, as it might also be called] of person and number [perhaps between the verb and nominative, but I am not sure.] Porphyry’s discussion of this is the only philosophical source that relates congruity to the grammatical notion of congruence [but I am not sure what the difference is between congruity and congruence. I would guess that congruity could be a logical notion regarding the fittingness of the predicate with its subject while congruence is the grammatical agreement in person and number, but I am not at all sure.] Later grammarians gave the name ‘accidents’ for the “grammatical features that congruence is based on”, but many scholars were puzzled as to why this term was used (100).

[Congruity in predicates was understood as ‘accidents’ by philosophical commentators.]


[A substance has its accidents. The accidents could perhaps be understood as properties or other determinations of the substance. We might also think of the substance-accident metaphysical structure grammatically as the nominative-predicate syntactical structure. In this case, accidents would be the predication.] “Other philosophical commentators associate ‘congruity’ (σύμβάμα) with ‘accidents’ (συμβεβηκότα) in a purely philosophical sense, in terms of the predicate belonging to the subject. [See p.100 for textual examples.]

[While the Stoics, as far as we know, did not conceive of congruity in terms of grammatical congruence, were they to have done so, it would have been natural for them to employ the notion of accidents (συμβεβηκότα).]


We do not have any textual evidence to support the claim “that the Stoics should have distinguished between σύμβάμα (‘congruity’) and παρσύμβαμα (‘incongruity’) in terms of grammatical congruence” (100). Yet, were they to have done so, “it would have been quite natural for them to apply the philosophical notion of συμβεβηκότα (‘accidents’) to the grammatical accidents on which such congruence is based” (100).






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







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