Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.08.03

G. Romeyer-Dherbey, J.-B. Gourinat, Les Stoïciens.   Paris:  Vrin, 2005.  Pp. 622.  ISBN 2-7116-1778-5.  €48.00.  

Reviewed by Gretchen Reydams-Schils, University of Notre Dame (
Word count: 2028 words

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This collection of essays is foundational enough to merit a place next to the fundamental works in the field. The general quality of the essays is high; they give useful overviews or contribute to a deeper understanding of specific issues, as well as paying attention to the reception of Stoicism in later ancient thought. The four divisions of the collection are: I. Logic, Poetics, and Theory of Knowledge; II. Physics, Nature and the Gods; III. Humans and Ethics; and IV. Reception History. The volume represents a truly international cooperation across boundaries between different academic cultures, and includes scholars with a wide range of experience.

The value of the book is also enhanced by very good selected readings in the bibliography and detailed indices.1 One issue to be taken into account is the time lag between the seminars held in 1998-2000 at the so-called Centre Léon Robin (Centre de Recherches sur la Pensée Antique), and the year of publication, 2005. In the case of Michael Frede's contribution, on Stoic theology (213-32), this makes the information already outdated. While for some of the French scholars the lack of bibliography can be explained by a limited access to libraries and secondary literature, this can hardly have been the case for M. Frede. In contrast, David Sedley--whose paper on 'The origins of Stoic God' is the only piece of secondary literature M. Frede cites--did update the bibliography between the earlier versions and the published version of his paper (in 2002). Frede's claim that the subject of Stoic theology has been relatively neglected (213) is gently but effectively corrected in a section of the bibliography devoted to the topic of physics and theology. But even this bibliography, because of the structure of its headings, does not include W. Görler's very fine analysis--the best to my knowledge--of Cicero's representation, in his Academics, of Antiochus' position.2

Because of the time lag, some of the contributions already started to lead a life of their own. Hence Jacques Brunschwig's contribution, 'Sur deux notions de l'éthique stoïcienne. De la "réserve" au "renversement" ' (357-80), has been eagerly anticipated ever since Tad Brennan published his version of the argument as "Reservation in Stoic Ethics," in Archiv für Geschichte [small typo in the bibliography, p. 568] der Philosophie 82 (2000) 149-77. Tad Brennan is at his best in this article, and Brunschwig does not falter either. I also note his courtesy in not only acknowledging and complimenting Brennan, but even summarizing his argument, while in the end parting ways with him. Brennan and Brunschwig discuss how the Stoic notion of 'reservation' would entail adding a conditional clause to a hormetic proposition (one that through our assent activates impulse). The philosophical exchange is exciting and of the highest caliber, and involves central work by Brad Inwood as well. A gentlemen's disagreement. An issue not addressed by Brennan and Brunschwig, however, is why the notions of 'reservation' and of 'turn-around,' in Brunschwig's case, would be of such interest to Epictetus, Seneca, and especially Marcus Aurelius.

Another instance of a contribution that had already started to lead an illustrious life of its own is the one by A. A. Long, on the influence of Socrates and his dialectic on Epictetus (403-26), published as ch. 3 in Long's Epictetus, a Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002). The break-through of this work is its focus on the importance for Epictetus of Socrates' mode of interacting with his interlocutors (as rendered mostly, but not exclusively, by Plato).

The collection is too large to do full justice to its riches (see also the list at the end of this review). The book opens with two preliminary contributions that are very helpful: one, by Gourinat, does not focus only on our main sources for Stoic material, but explains also (and this is less often discussed) the history of Stoicism's transmission; the other, by Dorandi, brings together an overview of the papyrological material pertaining to Stoicism. Both of these contributions should become standard works of reference.

If we turn to Part I now, on Logic, Poetics, and Theory of Knowledge, A. Brancacci opens with an assessment of Antisthenes' influence on Stoic logic, particularly concerning the epistemological status of Ideas as mere concepts, and the theory of definition. In connection with the first theme, Brancacci also establishes a tradition linking the Stoics with Antisthenes and the school of Eretria (as well as a Theopompus of Chios), rather than the Megarians (Stilpon), as Rist had previously suggested.

D. Sedley performs a surgical operation on Zeno's tripartite account of the kataleptic impression, so crucial to Stoic epistemology, by drawing primarily on a distinction between a causal sense and a 'representative' sense of the preposition apo, a distinction that then could also leave room for non-sensory kataleptic impressions.

R. Goulet revisits the Stoics' so-called allegorical interpretation of Homer (challenged recently by Steinmetz and Long), in a contribution that is particularly helpful because of the many subtle distinctions it introduces in the discourse about allegory (even if one ultimately disagrees with Goulet's own stance on allegory, these crucial distinctions have been overlooked). A. M. Ioppolo makes a systematic case for identifying Philodemus' antagonist in the fifth book of his Peri poiêmatôn as the Stoic Ariston of Chios. S. Toulouse, in the final contribution of the first part, draws renewed attention to a passage from Plutarch's De animae procreatione in Timaeo on Posidonius' account of the composition of the World Soul (1023B-D; see now also the work by F. Ferrari, among others). In reinterpreting Seneca's Letter 88 (contra Merlan and Bréhier), Toulouse also affirms that the mathematical sciences for Posidonius had a subsidiary role in relation to philosophy, and to physics in particular.

Part II, on Physics, Nature and the Gods, opens with a contribution by M. Isnardi Parente on the Stoic notion of incorporeals, followed by L. Couloubaritsis' assessment of "henology" in Stoicism, which builds on his interpretation of Aristotle, and hence reaffirms the importance of Aristotelianism for Stoicism (with Hahm, but contra Sandbach and others), under the assumption that the importance of henology is not limited to later Platonism. M. Frede's contribution on theology, with an emphasis on the Stoic principles of god and matter, has already been mentioned above.

Based on an analysis of the internal structure of Books Two and Three of Cicero's De natura deorum, C. Auvray-Assayas reexamines the connections between what she considers to be two lines of argument on the Stoic notion of Providence: one focuses on the successive treatment of the gods' existence, their nature, their administration of the world, and their care for human beings; the other, announced but not developed in our extant version of Book Three, approaches the issue from the angle of four causes posited by Cleanthes for how humans arrive at their notion of the gods. In his second contribution to the volume, J.-B. Gourinat proposes a reconstruction of the two books of Chrysippus' On Fate, by drawing on Diogenianus' criticisms as preserved in Eusebius, in conjunction with Cicero and ps.-Plutarch on the same topic, and explores divination in particular in greater detail.

The opening papers of Part III, on Humans and Ethics (the largest in the collection), complement each other beautifully: G. Romeyer Dherbey approaches the Stoic notion of subjectivity from what he calls a phenomenological angle (see also, in comparison, Michel Foucault's L'Herméneutique du sujet); whereas M. Forschner focuses on personhood (in the wake of the work of scholars such as C. Gill), with due attention to the importance of physics and the social implications of personhood in Stoicism. M.-A. Zagdoun gives an overview of questions pertaining to oikeiôsis, including the issue of the relation between self- and other-directed behavior, and between oikeiôsis and the Stoic account of the goal, and taking into account also art, especially music.

C. Viano analyzes the principles and internal structure of the doxography on Stoic ethics in Stobaeus (II, 7, 57, 13-116, 18), which has been attributed to Arius Didymus. While making good use of Hahm's previous work, Viano succeeds in bringing the doxographer himself to life, in his 'theoretical independence,' rather than treating this material as a mere concatenation of fragments. J. Brunschwig's contribution has already been discussed above. M. Daraki attempts to develop parallels between the Stoic distinction of sage and fool, and Hesiod's myth of the successive human generations. I have already drawn attention above to A.A. Long's contribution on Epictetus. The final contribution under this heading, a paper co-authored by P. and I. Hadot provides an ideal bridge to the final part, by examining side by side Epictetus' use of the parable of life as a brief interlude of landing on a shore (Encheiridion 7) and Simplicius' reinterpretation of this image from a Neoplatonist point of view in his commentary on Epictetus.

The last part of the collection deals with the reception history of Stoicism. J.-J. Duhot examines the possible connections between the Stoic notions of logos and the New Testament use (especially in John 1.1) via a possible link through Philo of Alexandra. (On Philo's notion of logos see also the work of D. Winston, D. Runia, and J. Dillon, among others.) A. Pigler examines in detail Plotinus' creative appropriation, in a Platonist context, of the Stoic notion of sumpatheia for his own theory of knowledge (Treatise 29). Ph. Hoffmann's contribution ranks among the finest in the collection: through a careful examination of Plotinus' and Iamblichus' critique of the Stoic definition of time as the diastêma of movement, he succeeds in conveying very complex doctrine, transmitted through a complicated tradition, as well as in adding a fragment to the collection of Stoic material by von Arnim, and in correcting a serious misreading of another that had been included. M. Gourinat concludes the volume as a whole with an overview of Hegel's assessment of the Stoics over the course of his philosophical development.

In sum, this collection of essays provides impressive testimony of high-level and innovative scholarly inquiry. Because the presentations were given over an extended time period of several years, cross-references between the different contributions are lacking. But the reader can easily supply such cross-references with the help of the indices, which would add a meta-level of debate within the book itself, to enhance even further its many strengths.

The collection contains the following contributions:

Preliminary papers:

J.-B. Gourinat, La disparition et la reconstitution du stoïcisme: éléments pour une histoire;

T. Dorandi, La tradition papyrologique des stoïciens.

Part I. Logic, Poetics, and Theory of Knowledge:

A. Brancacci, Antisthène et le stoïcisme: la logique;

D. Sedley, La définition stoïcienne de la phantasia katalêptikê;

R. Goulet, La méthode allégorique des stoïciens;

A. M. Ioppolo, Poétique et théorie de la perception chez Ariston;

S. Toulouse, Les sciences et l'âme chez Posidonius. Remarques sur une définition de l'âme conservée dans Plutarque et sur le statut de l'astronomie et des mathématiques dans sa philosophie;

Part II. Physics, Nature and the Gods:

M. Isnardi-Parente, La notion d'incorporel chez les stoïciens;

L. Couloubaritsis, Les structures hénologiques dans le stoïcisme ancien;

M. Frede, Sur la théologie stoïcienne;

C. Auvray-Assayas, Deux types d'exposé stoïcien sur la providence dans le De natura deorum de Cicéron;

J.-B. Gourinat, Prédiction du futur et action humaine dans le traité de Chrysippe Sur le destin.

Part III. Humans and Ethics:

G. Romeyer Dherbey, La naissance de la subjectivité chez les stoïciens;

M. Forschner, La Portique et le concept de personne;

M.-A. Zagdoun, Problèmes concernant l'oikeiôsis stoïcienne;

C. Viano, L'Epitomê de l'éthique stoïcienne d'Arius Didyme (Stobée, Eclog. II, 7, 57, 13-116, 18);

J. Brunschwig, Sur deux notions de l'éthique stoïcienne. De la "réserve" au "renversement";

M. Daraki, Les deux races d'hommes dans le stoïcisme d'Athènes;

A.A. Long, L'empreinte socratique dans la philosophie d'Épictète;

I. Hadot and P. Hadot, La parabole de l'escale dans le Manuel d'Épictète et son commentaire par Simplicius.

Part IV. Reception History:

J.-J. Duhot, Métamorphoses du logos. Du stoïcisme au Nouveau Testament;

A. Pigler, Les éléments stoïciens de la doctrine plotinienne de la connaissance (Traité 29);

P. Hoffmann, La définition stoïcienne du temps dans le miroir du néoplatonisme (Plotin, Iamblique);

M. Gourinat, Hegel et le stoïcisme.


1.   On the other hand, something has gone wrong in the production process with the spacing of the words in the contribution by Stéphane Toulouse.
2.   Originally published as W. Görler, "Antiochus von Askalon über die 'Alten' und über die Stoa : Beobachtungen zu Cicero, Academici Posteriores 1, 24-43," in Beiträge zur hellenistischen Literatur und ihrer Rezeption in Rom (Palingenesia 28), edited by P. Steinmetz (Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 1990) 123-139; republished in his Kleine Schriften zur hellenistisch-römischen Philosophie (Philosophia Antiqua 95), edited by C. Catrein, (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2004), 87-104.

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