Chrysippus

Chrysippus

[krahy-sip-uhs, kri-]
Chrysippus, c.280-c.207 B.C., Greek Stoic philosopher, b. Soli, Cilicia. He was a disciple of Cleanthes and succeeded him as head of the Academy in Athens. After Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, Chrysippus is considered the most eminent of the school. He systematized Stoicism and reconciled the factions that threatened to split the school. Chrysippus wrote with exquisite logic but also gave great weight to prophecy and the irrational. Only fragments of his work survive.

See J. B. Gould, The Philosophy of Chrysippus (1970).

Chrysippus of Soli (c.280–c.207 BC) (Χρύσιππος ὁ Σολεύς) was Cleanthes' pupil and the eventual successor as the head of Stoic philosophy. Honoured as the second founder of Stoicism, he initiated the success of Stoicism as one of the most influential philosophical movements for centuries in the Greek and Roman world.

Life

Little is known about Chrysippus' childhood except that he grew up in the neighborhood of Tarsus, where he may have been exposed to philosophical teachings. He moved to Athens to study philosophy after losing substantial inherited property through legal contrivance. Chrysippus went on to become Cleanthes' pupil after being attracted to the Stoic master's loyalty to Zeno of Citium. It is said too that he studied under Arcesilaus, the head of the Middle Academy.

A prolific writer (he is said to rarely have gone without writing 500 lines a day) and debater, Chrysippus would often take both sides of an argument, drawing criticism from his followers.

Chrysippus is said to have died in a fit of laughter; having given wine to his donkey, he died of laughter after seeing it attempt to eat figs, although the story is dubious.

Of his over 700 written works, none survive, except a few fragments embedded in the works of later authors like Cicero, Seneca, Galen, Plutarch, and others. Fragments of two works by Chrysippus are preserved among the charred papyrus remains at the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum. These are Logical Questions and On Providence. An unnamed third work may also survive.

Philosophy

Most of Chrysippus' ideology is shaped by his brief education with Zeno and later from Arcesilaus and Aristo of Chios. His later beliefs, however, were shaped by the teachings of Cleanthes, whose doctrines Chrysippus steadfastly believed in, but was displeased by the means chosen to teach the message. Chrysippus vowed to change that due to the effect it was having on the Stoa.

Chrysippus addressed himself to the task of assimilating, developing, systematizing the doctrines bequeathed to him, and, above all, securing them in their final form, not simply from the assaults of the past, but as he fondly hoped, after a long and successful career of defending them against the attacks of the Academy, from all possible attack in the future. His dominant characteristic was comprehensiveness rather than originality. He took the doctrines of Zeno and Cleanthes and crystallized them into a definite system. He excelled in logic, the theory of knowledge, ethics and physics. In short, Chrysippus made the Stoic system what it was. It was said that "without Chrysippus, there would have been no Porch" (εἰ μὴ γὰρ ἦν Χρύσιππος, οὐκ ἂν ἦν στοά).

Logic

Chrysippus created the formal logic of the Stoics and contributed much that was of value to psychology and epistemology. He wrote much on the subject of logic, specifically, propositional logic. Much of his work was to label and arrange in every department, and to lavish attention on logical terminology and the refutation of fallacies. He laboured on all sides seeking thoroughness, erudition and scientific completeness. Diogenes Laërtius says, "If the gods use dialectic, they would use none other than that of Chrysippus.

Virtue

Chrysippus believed virtue to be a quality of the soul, and that virtue, soul and body were all intertwined. He taught that harmony is necessary for all three to co-exist in a healthy state. He also asserted that nobility must be achieved, and not assumed at birth due to the status or heritage of the individual. Since we all come from the same divine origin, Chrysippus explained, nobility can be achieved only through the demonstration of virtue. Chrysippus held that an individual should fervently strive to attain a level of altruism and goodwill towards society, in order to maintain a good balance of the social order. For Chrysippus, hero-worship and praise was not an attractive feature in an individual; humanitas (sympathizing, reasoning, and intelligence) were by far more important to him. It was preached by the Stoic that humans should strive to differ from animals by perfecting the characteristics that define us from them: temperance, knowledge, valour, and truthfulness.

Logos and Pneuma

A principle of Stoic philosophy is that the Universe is a cosmos. This led Chrysippus to a few conclusions:

  • Logos (universal reason) is shaped by nature and society.
  • Pneuma, is the sustaining element that guides individual growth and creates motion in the cosmos.
  • This "motion" is created by the in and out activity of Tonos, or tension.

Fate

Though many Stoic philosophers might not agree with the modern definition of fatalism, Chrysippus held that somewhat, all things happen due to fate. He also held the slight variation of the concept: The past is unchangeable and things that have a possibility of occurring do not necessarily have to occur, but can happen. Similarly, all things that are fated to happen, take place in a realistic order (e.g., the sowing must occur prior to the reaping). He also taught the necessity of evil due to its interdependence to its counterpart: goodness; and that some evils are the outcome of some goods:
"There could be no justice, unless there were also injustice; no courage, unless there were cowardice; no truth, unless there were falsehood."

Mathematics

Chrysippus was also famous for claiming that "one" is a number. One was not always considered a number by the ancient Greeks since they viewed one as that by which things are measured. Aristotle in Metaphysics wrote, "... a measure is not the things measured, but the measure or the One is the beginning of number. Chrysippus asserted that one had "magnitude one", although this was not immediately accepted by the Greeks since Iamblichus wrote that "magnitude one" was a contradiction in terms.

Notes

References

  • Émile Bréhier, Chrysippe et l'ancien stoicisme (Paris, 1951).
  • Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (New York, 1925).
  • J. B. Gould, The philosophy of Chrysippus (Albany, NY, 1970).
  • D. E. Hahm, Chrysippus' solution to the Democritean dilemma of the cone, Isis 63 (217) (1972), 205-220.
  • T. L. Heath, A History of Greek Mathematics, 2 Vols. (Oxford, 1921).
  • H. A. Ide, Chrysippus's response to Diodorus's master argument, Hist. Philos. Logic 13 (2) (1992), 133-148.
  • David Sedley, Chrysippus. In: E. Craig (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 2 (London-New York, 1998), 346-347.
  • P. Edwards (ed), Stoicism, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 8 (MacMillan, Inc, 1967) 19-22.
  • Dufour, Richard - oeuvre philosophique / Chrysippe ; textes traduits et commentés par Richard Dufour Paris : Les Belles Lettres, (2004), 2 volumes

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