4 Aug 2017

Luhtala (5.6.2) On the Origin of Syntactical Description in Stoic Logic, “Action and Undergoing Action in Stoic Physics”, summary


by Corry Shores


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Summary of


Anneli Luhtala


On the Origin of Syntactical Description in Stoic Logic


Ch.5 The Stoics


5.5 Stoic Logic



Stoic Physics



Action and Undergoing Action in Stoic Physics





Brief summary:

For the Stoics, there is a twofold principle underlying all material events, namely: the active (τό ποιοῦν) and the passive (τό πάσχον). The notions of acting and being acted upon take on both a physical and a linguistic sense for the Stoics. This can be seen in the role of transitive forms in propositions describing causal situations. The transitive form requires both an agent and patient of the action, and this parallels the metaphysical requirement that every acting body have another body that it acts upon, when the first body is committing a causal action. We see this linguistic way of understanding causal situations in the Stoic textual sources. {1} Stobaeus, attributing to Zeno: Cause is a body, while what it causes is an attribute (συμβεβηκόσ) and a predicate (κατηγόρημα). {2} Stobaeus, attributing to Chrysippus: the cause is an existent (ὄν) and a body (σῶμα), while that of which it is the cause is neither an existent nor a body. The cause is understood as having the linguistic sense of ‘because’, while that of which it is a cause is understood as having the linguistic sense of ‘why?’. {3} Sextus Empiricus: a cause is a body, and it causes to another body something incorporeal. For example, the fire, a body, causes to the wood, a body, the incorporeal predicate ‘being burnt’. Here we see that the causal interaction of bodies involves the linguistic sense of a predicate. Sextus Empiricus also says that causes are expressible as nouns. {4} Clement: a cause is corporeal, and it causes an incorporeal predicate or sayable. In Clement we also see causes as being understood linguistically as nouns. Rare cases of other scholars associating Stoic causation with linguistic concepts can be seen for example in Mignucci and Frede, but Luhtala goes much further to show the relations between causes and nouns and between effects and predicates, and as well between the physically active and passive sides of causation and the grammatically active and passive parts in a transitive sentence formation.






[For the Stoics, there is a twofold principle underlying all material events, namely: the active (τό ποιοῦν) and the passive (τό πάσχον). These two aspects were described variously. Diogenes Laertius says that the active principle is God and the passive, unqualified substance: matter. For Sextus Empiricus, the active principle is God, which is a cause that “shapes and moves the shapeless and motionless substance.” And “Aetius associates the active principle with such qualities as designing fire, fate, providence and rational principle”.]


In Stoic physics, all material events are thought to have as their source a twofold principle that is “described by means of the notions of τό ποιοῦν,” the active, and “τό πάσχον,” the passive (126). The different Stoic sources characterize the active and passive aspects in various ways. Note first that for Diogenes Laertius, “the two aspects of this principle are bodies” [so maybe somehow the active and the passive are not features of bodies but are bodies themselves, somehow.] Also, Diogenes Laertius “equates the active principle with God and the passive principle with unqualified substance, matter (Diog. Laert. VII,134 = SVF 2.300; Adv. math. IX,11).213” (126). “213. According to Suda, they are incorporeal (SVF 2.299); this view is defended by Todd (1978: 139-140).” [The Diogenes passage: “They hold that there are two principles in the universe, the active principle and the passive. The passive principle, then, is a substance without quality, i.e. matter, whereas the active is the reason inherent in this substance, that is God. For he is everlasting and is the artificer of each several thing throughout the whole extent of matter” (copied from Perseus). The Sextus passage: “Besides, the Stoics say that there are two principles, god and quality-less matter, and suppose that god acts and that matter is affected and undergoes change.” (Sextus Against the Physicians, 5).] For Sextus Empiricus also, the active principle is understood as God. And he “depicts it as a cause shaping and moving the shapeless and motionless substance. He further assimilates it with ‘breath’ (πνεῦμα) which pervades the universe in the same way that the soul pervades us (Adv. math. IX, 75-76 = SVF 2.311)” (126). [The Sextus passages reads

The being of the things that there are, they say, is without motion from itself and shapeless, and so has to be moved and shaped by some cause; and for this reason, just as when we gaze at a very beautiful work of bronze we wish to find out the artist – seeing that the matter is in itself in a motionless state – so when we perceive the matter of the universe in motion and turning out to have shape and design, we might reasonably inquire into the cause that moves it and shapes it in many forms. [76] And it is not plausible that this is anything other than some power that runs through it, just as soul runs through us.

(Sextus Against the Physicians, 19).

(note that “pneuma” is not used here, but there seems to be reason to equate this idea of an all pervading soul with pneuma. See footnote 93 on p.29 of this Sextus text.)] And:

Aetius associates the active principle with such qualities as designing fire, fate, providence and rational principle:

The Stoics made god out to be intelligent, a designing fire which methodically proceeds towards creation of the world, and encompasses | all the seminal principles according to which everything comes about according to fate. (Aet. Plac. 1 ,7,33 = SVF 2.1027, tr. Long/Sedley 1987: 274-275)


[The principle of acting and being acted upon can be understood in terms of the contiguity of interacting bodies, possibly involving pneuma (πνεῦμα), and locomotion. Since these other concepts do not involve linguistic matters, we instead will focus simply on acting and being acted upon, which does.]


In the Stoic theory of causation, “events in the cosmos were viewed in terms of bodies involved in action and undergoing of action;” so although there is some variance in how this twofold principle is described, it was still “crucially involved in the Stoic theory of causation” (127). As we know, for the Stoics, only bodies can act and be acted upon, and they can only do or be done so by other bodies (127). Luhtala then notes the related Aristotelian notions of contiguity and motion. Only contiguous contacting bodies, or contact through the pneuma (πνεῦμα), can transmit physical events. And action can be understood either as the tensional motion of pneuma or as bodies’ locomotion. [I am not certain, but perhaps this tensional motion is related to the tonos that Sambursky discusses in Physics of the Stoics, section 1.1.]

Contiguity is an essential characteristic of the Stoic view of causality: physical events are transmitted either through direct contact of bodies or by the πνεῦμα (‘breath’). Further, action could be described as movement; in the Stoic system it is either the tensional motion of the πνεῦμα (‘breath’) or locomotion of other bodies (Simpl. In Ar. cat. 306,14; 302,1).


Luhtala says that since these notions of contiguity and motion do not involve linguistic matters, we will not deal with them here. However, the principle of action and undergoing action “surely invites comparison with linguistic analysis” (127).

[The metaphysical/physical notion of acting and being acted upon is bound up in Stoic theory with their linguistic notion of transitivity in propositions, where the actor and patient of the action are designated.]


[The next ideas I may not summarize accurately, so please consult the quotation below. They might be the following. We could perhaps think of acting and being acted upon as logically indistinguishable, if perhaps they somehow were one and the same event that could be named (or conceived) one way or the other, arbitrarily. However, for the Stoics, acting and being acted upon are logically distinguishable. Now, since only bodies can be involved in causation, “it seems natural to think that the Stoic notion of action standardly involves two bodies, one of which is the cause of action while the other undergoes the action” (127). (So there may be one event of causation, but the body doing the acting is distinguishable from the body undergoing the action.) Luhtala next finds a parallel between the metaphysics and the linguistics of this issue. Metaphysically, the active force involved in action can only exist if there is something for it to act upon, and thus acting and being acted upon are inseparable. In parallel to this is the Stoic linguistic idea that active grammatical constructions are ones with transitive action, which means that they indicate an action being directed upon a patient (127). (Note, in section, Luhtala said that transitivity “has to do with the expression of action which involves two persons, the agent and the patient, and it is transitive verbs that partake of the active-passive opposition” (89). See also section Luhtala then seems to be saying that since action is understood as being transitive, that means their account involves linguistic elements, but no one has related the Stoic notion of an active proposition to their theory of causation. (Note, Luhtala wrote on p.89: “I will relate the notion of transitivity to the Stoic theory of causation. Many scholars have actually realized the importance of the notion of action to the Stoic proposition, but they have not subjected the issue to a detailed analysis,” and she cites Brehier 1951: 70; Mates 1961: 61; Nuchelmans 1973: 47-50; and Long & Sedley 1987: 201. See p.89 footnote 148 for the quotations from these texts.)]

According to Lapidge,

acting and acted-upon can be regarded as logically distinguishable aspects of this single body, whatever qualitative forms it may assume, and this accords with a general Stoic definition of that which acts and undergoes action is a body. (Lapidge 1978: 163-164)

Given that the process of causation involved bodies only, it seems natural to think that the Stoic notion of action standardly involves two bodies, one of which is the cause of action while the other undergoes the action. I want to draw a parallel with linguistic description here. The inseparability of the active and passive aspects implies that active force in action cannot exist without something to act upon.214 In parallel fashion, the truly active construction in ancient grammar is one which exhibits transitive action, i.e. such action as is directed towards a patient. In seeking | the origin of transitive action in Stoicism, their theory of causation is relevant because it involved linguistic elements, as has been recognized by a number of scholars. But I do not know of any explicit attempt to relate the ‘active’ proposition in Stoic logic to the theory of causation.


214. “Although these principles were two in number, in theory at least they were inseparable: an active force in action cannot exist without something to act upon. It need not be surprising, therefore, that many Stoic testimonies stress the inseparability of the two principles.” (SVF 2.308, 313 etc; Lapidge 1978: 163-164). “Now since Stoicism is a monistic system, the two first principles must be physically inseparable” ( SVF 1.88) (Todd 1978 : 139).

[In some Stobaeus fragments about Stoic causality, attributed to Zeno and Chrysippus, cause is understood as a corporeal and as ‘that because of which’. That of which it is a cause is an incorporeal predicate (κατηγόρημα) or attribute (συμβεβηκόσ).]


Luhtala will now examine fragments from early sources, which deal “with the doctrine of cause” (128). The first one is by Stobaeus, and the ideas are attributed to Zeno and Chrysippus.

1. Zeno says that a cause is ‘that because of which’, while that of which it is the cause is an attribute (συμβεβηκόσ); and that the cause is a body, while that of which it is a cause is a predicate (κατηγόρημα). He says that it is impossible that the cause be present yet that of which it is the cause not be the case (ὑπάρχειν). This thesis has the following force. A cause is that because of which something occurs, as, for example, it is because of prudence that being prudent occurs, because of soul that being alive occurs, and because of temperance that being temperate occurs. For it is impossible, when someone possesses temperance, for him not to be temperate, or, when he possesses soul, for him not to be alive, or, when he possesses prudence, for him not to be prudent.


Chrysippus says that a cause is ‘that because of which’; and that the cause is an existent (ὄν) and a body (σῶμα), (while that of which it is the cause is neither an existent nor a body); and that the cause is ‘because’, while that of which it is the cause is ‘why?’. He says that an explanation is the statement of a cause, or statement concerning the cause qua cause.

(Stob. Ecl. 1.138,14-139,4 = SVF 1.89 and 2.336, tr. Long/Sedley 1987: 333)215


215. [Footnote provides Greek text. Below is taken from SVF 1 and 2. After that is Luhtala’s comment, coming at the end of the footnote.]




I have preferred to translate ὑπάρχειν as ‘be the case’ rather than belong.


Luhtala notes that the view of causation attributed to Zeno and Chrysippus is similar: In both cases, cause is “‘that because of which’,” and “it is a body” (128). [[Recall specifically this line: “Zeno says that a cause is ‘that because of which’, while that of which it is the cause is an attribute (συμβεβηκόσ); and that the cause is a body, while that of which it is a cause is a predicate (κατηγόρημα).” This is a bit hard to grasp, because bodies can only have causal efficacy on other bodies, but they cause (they have as their effects) incorporeal things like predicates and accidents. I find this hard to conceptualize. Suppose a simple physical collision of bodies, where one strikes another, causing the second to move. Here there is the basic physical causal interaction of the bodies, with the effect being another event. But there is also the cause of an incorporeal predicate or accident. I am not sure what, but perhaps the collision causes the second object to obtain the predicate or attribute “is moving”. Is it that bodies have two causes, one corporeal and one incorporeal? In other words, when body a is a cause with regard to body b, does body a both causally modify the physical constitution of b while also modifying the predicates corresponding to those physical modifications? Or if they only have incorporeal effects, then how are we to understand obvious cases like collision where the second object has a physical effect or modification? How is it that we can say body a’s action has changed the composition of body b without having a physical effect on body b? I will offer an explanation if you will bear with me. This account is based in part on my interpretation of a Clement text Luhtala will discuss below. (My analysis of it is here.) According to this view, cause is understood as causing the production of something else, whether corporeal or incorporeal (and for the Stoics, only something incorporeal). So causality is not simply physical affection. A corporeal a causing a corporeal b would mean that a came into existence only after corporeal b’s causal action. Same for an incorporeal causing an incorporeal. So for this Stoic situation, corporeal a does not cause corporeal b to exist, but rather, corporeal b already exists, and corporeal a causes the creation of a new predicate or property among those of corporeal b. This conception however implies that no body creates any other body, and so as long as there is not some extra-bodily creator, everything that ever will be already was. To make this work, I will argue that the Stoic conception does hold that all corporeality was already there and always will be there, but by using certain cosmological and physical principles, I will also argue that what we call ‘bodies’ can be said to be generated and destroyed even though no corporeality was generated and destroyed. This conclusion will be derived primarily by distinguishing an incorporeal arrangement of corporeal elementary parts from the corporeal elementary parts themselves. We begin with the cosmology: The cosmos is a continuous whole composed of a mixture of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth, which are bound together by the cohering force of pneuma. (See Sambursky, Physics of the Stoics, section 1.1). Let us now  turn our attention to individual things, and then later work back to the cosmic scale. Pneuma has another function other than cohering the parts of a thing. It also is a field that carries that thing’s properties. It does so on account of the particular arrangements that parts take in the cohesive relations through the pneuma. Certain sorts of arrangements correspond to certain properties. Those arrangements can vary in terms of the exact contents and the ratios of the types of elementary parts. For inorganic things, the arranging structure is called hexis, for plants it is physis and for animals, psyche. The hexis is composed of a mixture of properties.

We must realize that the elements of hexis are not mere localized units but physical properties which interpenetrate and create a totality where each of them shares in the existence of the rest. In our modern terminology: all the qualities which define the physical state of a certain body – its mechanical, thermic, electric, optical properties – have their origin in common roots and are therefore interdependent and not additive. Every one of them is affected if all or some of the others change. The physical state is an organization of dynamic character, each of its elements subsisting only in co-existence with the rest, and not able to exist if the organization as a whole disintegrates. The Stoic term for this form of co-existence of the elements of the highest structure was “sympathy” (sympatheia), and it is again significant that analogies from the living organism were given to exemplify this condition: when a finger is cut, the whole body shares in its condition.


(See Sambursky, Physics of the Stoics, section 1.2). So, {a} the cohering action of pneuma causes there to be certain mixtures of elementary parts, {b} this mixture has a certain arrangement or hexis, and {c} corresponding to the hexis (composition and rations of parts) are a mixture of qualities and thus of predicates. (While it is strange to think that discrete predicates can mix, we should understand the mixture of predicates as being a combination whose parts have a mutual reliance, like ‘is hot’ and ‘is bright’ in combination with other predicates which would make one bright thing hot rather than cool. So the predicates are mixed in the sense that they are all implicated with one another.) Now, when one body acts upon another, we can see the situation in two ways. We can see there being two distinct things, one acting upon the other. Or we can see there being a larger mixture in which there are two interacting parts. Given Clement’s notion of mutual and reciprocal causality, I offer the following conception. There is fundamentally indestructible corporeal element particles of Air etc. They are always mixing around, which alters compositional ratios in certain regions of the cosmos and also changing arrangements. To each change in arrangement corresponds a change in predicates for that region of the cosmos. (By ‘region of the cosmos’ I mean a set of elementary parts under a certain unifying arrangement giving it certain properties, and I mean it to be equivalent to what under a different mode of analysis would be called a ‘body’. We can think of the items in the room as distinct bodies. Or we can think of the whole room as a body. And also, the distinct things we can think of as being made of smaller bodies down to the elementary parts. It all depends on what region of the continuous whole we are sectioning off for the sake of our analysis.) Now, when one region has a relational property that is causally relative to a property in another region, like ‘can burn wood’ (of fire) and ‘can be burned by fire’ (of wood), then that means the elementary particles of each are of such arrangements that when they mix, they strongly alter each other’s arrangements and thus alter their mixture of predicates as well. So there is a mixture of the co-implicated predicates corresponding to the mixture of the elementary parts in their mutually modifying arrangements. Now again, we might here object that this seems like corporeals having causal effect on other corporeals. Here we should recall again that causation is defined as causing the generation of something else. Since everything corporeally is composed fundamentally of the elementary particles, and since these are neither created nor destroyed, that means no corporeality ever causes any other corporeality (to come into being). But an arrangement, a hexis, is not a corporeality. It is a ratio of composition, an organization, a pattern, etc. So the fact that one region (body) of the cosmos when mixed with another causes a change in one another’s arrangements, that means each region caused an incorporeal change in the other and not a corporeal change.]]

In the account attributed to Zeno the notion of cause as a body is contrasted with ‘that of which it is a cause’, which is an incorporeal (ἀσώματον), a predicate (κατηγόρημα), or accident (συμβεβηκόσ); these | are all features of the component of meaning (σημαινόμενον). The characteristics of cause are purely physical, namely being existent (ὄν) and a body (σῶμα). The opposition in terms of which the argument is set out – causes which are bodies as opposed to predicates which are incorporeal – recalls the Stoic ontological distinction between existing bodies (ὄντα) and the subsistent incorporeal λεκτά (‘sayables’).

(128-129. Note: I did not find ἀσώματον in the quoted text, but perhaps it is to be understood somehow, as for example by negation. See the second passage in parentheses reading “(while that of which it is the cause is neither an existent nor a body)”.)

[In the above quoted ideas attributed to Zeno, we cannot relate Stoic causation to the structure of the proposition.]


[I will not summarize this part well, so consult the text below. I will guess the point is the following. The distinction between corporeal and incorporeal was articulated using cognate words where one is a noun and the other is a verb, as in ‘moderation’ and to ‘to be moderate’. And, if in Greek there is no cognate, they use a non-cognate word that best carries that bond in meaning, like ‘soul’ and ‘to live’. But here the verb takes the infinitive form. And since it is infinitive, it is not finite. But transitive forms are finite, and transitive forms convey the linguistic sense of a causal relation. Thus this account cannot inform us of the linguistic sense the Stoics gave to causation.]

In its earliest stage, as represented by Zeno, the distinction between these two kinds of items was drawn in terms of pairs of cognate words which are nouns and verbs, such as σωφροσύνη (‘moderation’) and σωφρονεῖν (‘to be moderate’). The distinction lends support to an ethical argument according to which the possession of prudence in a person automatically causes him to be prudent. When a cognate word is missing, the comparison is drawn in terms of non-cognate words, such as ψυχή (‘soul’) and ζῆν (‘to live’). The argument appears to be based on a linguistic feature, namely the distinction between common nouns and verbs, so that the active nature of entities represented by common nouns is contrasted with predicates which cannot have active force. The inactive elements are illustrated by infinitives but the predicate, the finite verb, must be at issue. It is the predicate which is incorporeal in the Stoic theory. Though concerned with items of linguistic theory, Zeno’s idea of causation cannot be clearly related to the structure of the proposition.


[Bodies act  and are acted upon only by other bodies. But in that action, they cause an incorporeal predicate or sayable. For examples, one body, a scalpel, acts upon another body, flesh, to cause the predicate/activity/sayable ‘being cut’. ]


[Luhtala looks more at the second Stobaeus quotation above, attributed to Chrysippus. She notes that] “Chrysippus actually associates causal explanation with proposition by saying that an explanation is the statement (λόγος) of a cause” (129). [The Stobaeus text read: “He [Chrysippus] says that an explanation is the statement of a cause, or statement concerning the cause qua cause.”] But, in that quotation, Stobaeus does not provide an example of this. [Luhtala then turns to passages by Sextus Empiricus, which discuss bodies involved in causal action and then relate this to predicates. A body causes an incorporeal in another body. A scalpel causes to the flesh the incorporeal predicate ‘being cut’.]

The following passage, too, evokes a construction in which two bodies are involved in action.

The Stoics say that every cause is a body which becomes the cause to a body of something incorporeal. For instance the scalpel, a body, becomes the cause to the flesh, a body, of the incorporeal predicate ‘being cut’. And again, the fire, a body, becomes the cause to the wood, a body, of the incorporeal predicate ‘being burnt’. (Adv. math. IX,211 = SVF 2.341, tr. Long/Sedley 1987: 333)217


217. εἴγε Στωικοὶ μὲν πᾶν αἴτιον σῶμά φασι σώματι ἀσωμάτου τινὸς αἴτιον γίνεσθαι, | οἷον σῶμα μὲν τὸ σμιλίον, σώματι δὲ τῇ σαρκί, ἀσωμάτου δὲ τοῦ τέμνεσθαι κατηγορήματος, καὶ πάλιν σῶμα μὲν τὸ πῦρ, σώματι δὲ τῷ ξύλῳ, ἀσωμάτου δὲ τοῦ καίεσθαι κατηγορήματος.

(129-130, copied from http://socratics.daphnet.org)

Luhtala notes here the causal process involves one body being the cause of something incorporeal in another body. [I do not understand Luhtala’s next point, probably on account of my ignorance of Greek grammar and of grammar in general. Perhaps the Greek form of the above predicates ‘being cut’ is infinitive, but really only finite verb forms should express incorporeals. Let me quote, as I cannot summarize:]

According to this account of causation, a causal process involves two distinct bodies, one of them (scalpel) being the cause to the other (flesh) of something incorporeal, a predicate, taking place (being cut). It is conceivable in terms of one body being the agent and the other the patient although it is not immediately clear what kind of a causative construction should represent this event. The predicate is exemplified by the (passive) infinitive form; it seems to have been customary to refer to the predicate with the infinitive. I have stressed that it is only the predicate, a finite verb form, that stands for the incorporeal in Stoic ontology.


[So depending on what is meant by that, she says it is made explicit by a passage by Clemens. Here her comment is that what is being caused is an activity, which is incorporeal. So becoming cut and being cut are activities, and they are caused. Causes cause predicates or sayables. Thus becoming cut and being cut are predicates and sayables as well as activities (see the next paragraph where we say that for the Stoics, they are not activities). This adds a linguistic sense to them. I again do not understand the parts about finite and infinite forms, so please read the quotation. Note, Luhtala uses both spellings “Clemens” and “Clement.”]

This fact is made explicit by Clemens in the following passage.

3. Hence becoming, and being cut – that of which the cause is a cause – since they are activities (ἐνέργειαι), are incorporeal. It can be said, to make the same point, that causes are causes of predicates (κατηγορήματα), or as some say, of sayables (λεκτά) – for Cleanthes and Archedemus call predicates ‘sayables’. Or else, and preferably, that some are causes of predicates, for example of ‘is cut’ (τέμνεται), whose case is ‘being cut’ (τέμνεσθαι), but others of propositions, for example of ‘a ship is built’ (τοῦ ναῦς γίνεται), whose case this time is ‘a ship’s being built’ (τό ναῦς γίνεσθαι). (Clem. Misc. VIII,9,26,3-4, tr. Long/Sedley 1987: 333)218

‘That of which a cause is a cause’ is first identified as an activity (ἐνέργειαι), then as incorporeal (ἀσώματον), and finally in linguistic terms: causes are causes of predicates (κατηγορήματα), or sayables (λεκτά). This author first allows predicates to be exemplified, as is standardly done, by infinitives; but he then gets more precise about his use of terms and claims that, preferably, the causes are causes of predicates such asτέμνεται (‘is being cut’, finite form!) of which the case (πτῶσις) is τέμνεσθαι (‘to be cut’, pass. inf.).


218. τὸ γίνεσθαι οὖν καὶ τὸ τέμνεσθαι , τὰ οὗ ἐστιν αἴτιον , ἐνέργειαι οὖσαι ἀσώματοί εἰσιν . Εἰς ὃν λόγον κατηγορημάτων ἤ , ὥς τινες , λεκτῶν ( λεκτὰ γὰρ τὰ κατηγορήματα καλοῦσιν Κλεάνθης καὶ Ἀρχέδημος ) < αἴτια > τὰ αἴτια· ἤ , ὅπερ καὶ μᾶλλον , τὰ μὲν κατηγορημάτω ν αἴτια λεχθήσεται , οἷον τοῦ "7 τέμνεται "7, οὗ πτῶσις τὸ τέμνεσθαι , τὰ δ ' ἀξιωμάτων , ὡς τοῦ "7 ναῦς | γίνεται "7, οὗ πάλιν ἡ πτῶσίς ἐστι τὸ ναῦν γίνεσθαι· Ἀριστοτέλης δὲ προσηγοριῶν , οἷον τῶν τοιούτων , οἰκίας , νεώς , καύσεως , τομῆς .

(130. Text copied unaltered from khazarzar.skeptik.net.)

[Not all the terminology used by Clement is genuinely Stoic. For example, the Stoics did not say that predicates signify actions.]


Luhtala then notes the ways that Clement’s terminology “is not genuinely Stoic” (130). For example, “In their propositional analysis the Stoics did not say that predicates signify actions (ἐνέργειαι)” (130). [Please see the quotation below for the other points, as I do not understand these grammatical matters very well. Her next point refers to section A relevant passage there might be:

According to my view, the Stoics did not describe the semantic content of the verb by means of such nouns as action (ἐνέργεια) because various activities (such as walking and dancing) were regarded as corporeal things in the Stoic theory. It is crucial for the Stoic theory that the verb signifies something incorporeal.


I quote:]

The terminology used by Clement is not genuinely Stoic. In their propositional analysis the Stoics did not say that predicates signify actions (ἐνέργειαι). I have maintained that the Stoics avoided representing | the semantic content of the predicate by means of ‘abstract’ nouns (see p. 89 ff.). As to the notion of case (πτῶσις), I believe that the author has confused it with ὄνομα (‘noun’) here. The infinitive was known as ὄνομα ῥήματος (‘the noun of the verb’) in grammar whereas the case of the verb was a completely unknown notion.


[From another passage by Clement we see a restatement that for the Stoics causes (as corporeal things nameable by nouns) cause incorporeal predicates rather other causes. It is not, then, things causing other things that are both nameable as nouns.]


[Luhtala examines another quotation by Clement. (This by the way is an incredible passage. It, along with some of its context, are examined in detail here. These passages portray Stoic causality as having two important features, namely, {1} that corporeals never cause other corporeals to come into being; rather, corporeals only cause predicates in other corporeals to come into being, and {2} all causation is mutual and reciprocal. I very highly recommend reading these fascinating Clement passages.) Luhtala notes that these passages make the point that for the Stoics, causes cause predicates. This Stoic view is contrasted with what Clement considers an Aristotelian view, where causes cause other causes, which in linguistic terms would mean that causation “would thus take place between entities represented by nouns” (131). This Aristotelian view is understood from Clement’s claim that for Aristotle, causes cause other appellations, each of which being a noun forms, even when actions are being named, like ‘a burning’.]

This passage does not evoke the structure of an active proposition but the following one does seem to.

4. Causes are not of each other, but there are causes to each other. For the pre-existing condition of the spleen is the cause, not of fever, but of the fever’s coming about; and the pre-existing fever is the cause, not of the spleen, but of its condition’s being intensified. In the same way, the virtues are causes to each other of not being separated, owing to their inter-entailment, and the stones in the vault are causes to each other of the predicate ‘remaining’ but they are not causes of each other. And the teacher and the pupil are causes to each other of the predicate ‘making progress’. Things are said to be causes to each other sometimes of the same effects, as the merchant and the retailer are causes to each other of making a profit; but sometimes of different effects, as in the case of the knife and the flesh; for the knife is the cause to the flesh of being cut, while the flesh is the cause to knife of cutting. (Clem. Misc. VIII,9,30.1-3 = SVF 2.349, tr. Long/Sedley 1987: 334)219

This difficult passage restates the fact that the Stoics regarded causes as causes of predicates. Now this argument clearly takes the form of refuting an opposite view, according to which causation takes place between ‘each other’, that is between causes themselves. (In linguistic terms, it would thus take place between entities represented by nouns.) Clement attributes the latter view to Aristotle (Strom. VIII,9,26,4): “Aristotle thinks that causes are causes of appellations (προσηγορία), i.e. of items of the following sort: ‘a house’, ‘a ship’, ‘a burning’, ‘ a cut’.” In each | example above, two (common) nouns are contrasted with one predicate; προσηγορία is the current grammatical term for the common noun. Moreover, the issue is no longer the difference between cognate pairs of words. The discussion now concerns any kinds of nouns and verbs.

(131-132) Ἀλλήλων οὐκ ἔστι τὰ αἴτια , ἀλλήλοις δὲ αἴτια . ἡ γὰρ σπληνικὴ διάθεσις προϋποκειμένη οὐ πυρετοῦ αἴτιος , ἀλλὰ τοῦ γίνεσθαι τὸν πυρετόν· καὶ ὁ πυρετὸς προϋποκείμενος οὐ σπληνός , ἀλλὰ τοῦ αὔξε σθαι τὴν διάθεσιν . οὕτως καὶ αἱ ἀρεταὶ ἀλλήλαις αἴτιαι τοῦ μὴ χωρίζεσθαι διὰ τὴν ἀντακολουθίαν , καὶ οἱ ἐπὶ τῆς ψαλίδος λίθοι ἀλλήλοις εἰσὶν αἴτιοι τοῦ μένειν κατηγορήματος , ἀλλήλων δὲ οὐκ εἰσὶν αἴτιοι , καὶ ὁ διδάσκαλος δὲ καὶ ὁ μανθάνων ἀλλήλοις εἰσὶν αἴτιοι τοῦ προκόπτειν κατηγορήματος . λέγεται δὲ ἀλλήλοις αἴτια ποτὲ μὲν τῶν αὐτῶν , ὡς ὁ ἔμπορος καὶ ὁ κάπηλος ἀλλήλοις εἰσὶν αἴτιοι τοῦ κερδαίνειν , ποτὲ δὲ ἄλλου καὶ ἄλλου , καθάπερ ἡ μάχαιρα καὶ ἡ σάρξ· ἣ μὲν γὰρ τῇ σαρκὶ τοῦ τέμνεσθαι , ἡ σὰρξ δὲ τῇ μαχαίρᾳ τοῦ τέμνειν .

(131, text copied unaltered from khazarzar.skeptik.net.)

[Sextus Empiricus also clearly states the Stoic notion of causation as involving one corporeal acting upon another and causing an incorporeal predicate to arise in that other corporeal.]


Luhtala then examines some passages by Sextus Empiricus. In them he discusses the Stoic view of causation, and he clearly states that causation involves one incorporeal body acting upon another, with the first causing there to be an incorporeal predicate in the second. Luhtala notes that in their analysis of causation, they often use “common rather than proper nouns or pronouns, which predominate in propositional analysis” (132).

Finally, Sextus Empiricus reconfirms that the debate of the nature of cause took place in highly linguistic terms. He distinguishes between what we know to be the Stoic view – namely that causes are causes of predicates – and another view according to which causes are causes of entities which are represented by nouns.

For some affirm Cause to be corporeal, others incorporeal. In the broad sense, a Cause would seem to be, according to them, ‘that by whose action the effect comes about’ (δι' ὃ ἐνεργοῦν γίνεται τὸ ἀποτέλεσμα) ; as, for example, the sun or the sun’s heat is the cause of the wax being melted or of the melting of the wax. For even on this point they are at variance, some declaring that Cause is causal of nouns, such as the melting, others of predicates, such as being melted. (Sext. Emp. Pyrr. Hyp. III,14)220

Sextus’ definition of cause shows that causation involved two bodies and something incorporeal happening to these bodies: “The Stoics say that every cause is a body which becomes the cause to a body of something incorporeal” (Adv. math. IX,211, tr. Long/Sedley 1987: 333).221 Now the structure of a ‘causative’ proposition is clearly at issue. Interestingly, such causal analysis tends to involve common rather than proper nouns or pronouns, which predominate in propositional analysis.


220. [3.14] οἱ μὲν γὰρ σῶμα, οἱ δὲ ἀσώματον τὸ αἴτιον εἶναί φασιν (Cfr. adv. dogm. III 364). δόξαι δ' ἂν αἴτιον εἶναι κοινότερον κατ' αὐτοὺς δι' ὃ ἐνεργοῦν γίνεται τὸ ἀποτέλεσμα (Cfr. adv. dogm. III 228)., οἷον ὡς ὁ ἥλιος ἢ ἡ τοῦ ἡλίου θερμότης τοῦ χεῖσθαι τὸν κηρὸν ἢ τῆς χύσεως τοῦ κηροῦ. καὶ γὰρ ἐν τούτῳ διαπεφωνήκασιν, οἱ μὲν προσηγοριῶν αἴτιον εἶναι τὸ αἴτιον φάσκοντες, οἷον τῆς χύσεως, οἱ δὲ κατηγορημάτων, οἷον τοῦ χεῖσθαι. διό, καθάπερ εἶπον, κοινότερον ἂν εἴη τὸ αἴτιον τοῦτο δι' ὃ ἐνεργοῦν γίνεται τὸ ἀποτέλεσμα.

(132, copied unaltered from socratics.daphnet.org)

221. Στωικοὶ (SVF fr. II 341 (ed).) μὲν πᾶν αἴτιον σῶμά φασι σώματι ἀσωμάτου τινὸς αἴτιον γίνεσθαι, οἷον σῶμα μὲν τὸ σμιλίον, σώματι δὲ τῇ σαρκί, ἀσωμάτου δὲ τοῦ τέμνεσθαι κατηγορήματος.

(132, copied unaltered from socratics.daphnet.org)

[Mignucci is one of few scholars to construe Stoic causation in linguistic terms. (He considers the causal action itself to be something approaching a linguistic sort of action).]


Luhtala next looks at the issue regarding Stoic causation in linguistic terms. This is not often done, but one notable case is Mignucci. [I will not summarize these ideas perfectly, so please consult the text below. The ideas here might be the following. Mignucci notes that the predicate is defined as a state of affairs construed around a subject or subjects. He also notes that predicate is the modification of the cause on the effect. I have to guess, but maybe Mignucci’s assumption is that metaphysically a corporeal cannot act upon incorporeals, so it cannot have direct causal action upon them. Instead, action must be understood not as something purely corporeal but rather as something that goes beyond the limits of corporeality, residing, perhaps, on the “surface” as Deleuze calls it. Please read the quotation, because that is likely not the intended meaning.]

Mignucci is one of the few scholars to have associated causal analysis with linguistic description.222 He points to the use of the term κατηγόρημα | (‘predicate’) to refer to the modification of the cause on the effect by Sextus Empiricus (Adv. math. IX,211). Associating this usage with the definition of the predicate given by Diogenes Laertius according to which “the predicate is state of affairs construed around one or more subjects” (Diog. Laert. VII,64), he formulates a hypothesis of the typically Stoic view of action which somehow pertains to two bodies without being a property of either of them. It is rather something which broaches the limits of corporeality, a predicate, a sayable (λεκτόν) (Mignucci 1962: 101). Mignucci is probably justified in linking causation with this kind of Stoic proposition. Many of the passages discussed above seem to evoke the structure of the ‘causative’ proposition. But we do not have a single example of such a proposition in contexts dealing with the Stoic theory of causation.


222 The use of the linguistic notion of predicate ha been noted by Sambursky who comments upon Sextus’s definition a follows: “The examples which follow this quotation throw into relief the functional character of the cause-effect relation: the effect can be expressed a a verb” (1959: 53). Cf. Brehier: “Pour Chrysippe, la cause est une réalité substantielle, tandis que l’effet est un événement: la cause est un corps, l’effet un incorporel, un lekton, dont toute l’essence n’est que de pouvoir être exprimé par un verbe” (1951: 132-133).


[Frede argues that the Stoics identified an instance of causation with a proposition, and an effect of causation with a predicate. But he does not go further to argue that there is some relation between cause and nounness.]


Luhtala next turns to the linguistic component of Stoic causation as understood by Michael Frede in his “The Original Notion of Cause”. [I am not sure, but the ideas might be the following. Instead of thinking of cause in terms of explanation, which would include other sorts of causal elements like material, formal, and final cause, the Stoics simply saw there being just one cause, the active kind.] Frede notes how in the Stoic analysis of causality, they identified an instance of causation with a proposition and an effect of causation with a predicate. But Frede does not “posit a link between cause and nounness” (133).

Many interesting observations of a linguistic nature emerge from Fede's study of the development of the notion of cause in late Antiquity (Fede 1980: 220 ff.). The meaning of cause, according to him, was narrowed down to fit the notion of an active cause. This is revealed by Seneca: “The Stoics have taken the view that there is just one cause, that which does something (facit)” (Ep. 65,4).223 Given the restriction of causes to active items, it followed, as Fede thinks, that the Stoics had to loosen the tie between cause and explanation in general; the Stoic analysis must single out particular instances exploring their immediate causes while a more general view of causation would aim at exploring a complete set of factors involved in causation. He makes the linguistic connection with causal analysis explicit by stating that the Stoics identified the effects caused by causes with predicates and the instances of causation with propositions. He does not, however, posit a link between cause and nounness.


223. “Stoicis placet unam causam esse, id quod facit”; see Fede (1980: 220-221).


[Frede and Luhtala associate the active-passive grammatical distinction to the Stoic notion of causation.]


Frede thinks that the Stoics were less interested in studying causes (in etiology) and more interested in moral responsibility and that it is for this reason that the Stoics consider causes to be active. Yet “Frede associates loosely the grammatical active-passive distinction with the Stoic theory of causation,” a connection Luhtala has argued for more directly: “I have tried to show that this grammatical distinction was indeed crucial for the Stoic notion of action for which the active or causative sentence seems to have provided a model” (134).

[ Stoic causation is a three-place relation, where body a does something that causes body b to obtain some predicate c that is true of b.]


Frede thinks that Stoic causation is a three-place relation, where body a does something that causes body b to obtain some predicate c that is true of b. Luhtala agrees with this, but she disagrees that the Stoic notion of cause originates in ethics. She thinks instead it originates in logic.






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





Other texts, cited by Luhtala:


[Note, for “Aet. Plac.” I did not see something for it in the Bibliography, but perhaps it is Aetius’s Placita Philosophorum.]


Brehier, Emile. 1951. Chrysippe et l’ancien stoicisme. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

PDF available online at:



Clemens Alexandrinus: Stromata. Ed. by Otto Stählin. Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte II-III. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag 1960-70.


[Note, for “Clem. Misc.” I did not see something for it in the Bibliography, but perhaps it is Clement of Alexandria’s Miscellanies., which, as I understand, is identical to Stromata, cited also with that name. Here is the entry directory for that text.]


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

The Perseus Greek page for the Diogenes’ passages:





The Perseus English page for the Diogenes’ passages:






Frede, Michael. 1980. “The Original Notion of Cause”. Doubt and Dogmatism. Studies in Hellenistic Epistemology. Ed. by M. Schofield, J. Burnyeat, J. Barnes. Oxford: Clarendon Press (1980: 217-249).


Lapidge, Michael. 1978. “On Stoic Cosmology”. Rist (1978: 161-186).


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


Mates, Benson. 1961. Stoic Logic. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press. [Second edition. Originally published in 1953 as Volume 26 of the University of California Publications in Philosophy.].


Mignucci, Mario. 1965. Il significato della logica stoica. Bologna: Pàtron


Nuchelmans, Gabriel. 1973. Theories of the Proposition. Amsterdam-London: North-Holland Publishing Company. (North-Holland Linguistic Series. 8.).


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


Sambursky, Samuel. 1959. Physics of the Stoics. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.


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.

Another version available online:


Online text transcription at:


[specifically here]


[Note, for Pyrrh. hyp. I did not see something for it in the Bibliography, but perhaps it is:

Sextus Empiricus. Pyrrhōneioi hypotypōseis.

Online text at:


(Specifically here)




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.]


Suda ( = Suida). Suidae Lexicon. Ed. by Ada Adler. Leipzig: Teubner 1931.


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


Todd, Robert Β. 1978. “Monism and Immanence: The Foundations of Stoic Physics”. Rist (1978: 137-160).





Texts I cite:


Clement of Alexandria. (1909). Stromata, in Clemens Alexandrinus, dritter band. Leipzig : J.C. Hinrichs.

Pdf available at:


Greek text copied from:



Sextus Empiricus. (2012). Against the Physicians. Translated and edited by Richard Bett. Cambridge: Cambridge University.


(1964). Stoicorum veterum fragmenta, vol.1: Zeno et Zenonis Discipuli. Ed. Iohannes ab Arnim. Stuttgart: Teubner.

PDF available at:



(1964). Stoicorum veterum fragmenta, vol.2: Chrysippi Fragmenta Logica et Physica. Ed. Iohannes ab Arnim. Stuttgart: Teubner.

PDF available at:




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






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