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The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics (review)

From: Journal of the History of Philosophy
Volume 42, Number 3, July 2004
pp. 337-338 | 10.1353/hph.2004.0056

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Journal of the History of Philosophy 42.3 (2004) 337-338

Brad Inwood, editor. The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. ix + 438. Cloth, $70.00. Paper, $26.00.

No doubt everyone will be familiar with the format and rationale of the Cambridge Companion series, each volume being designed to function as a "reference work for students and nonspecialists." Brad Inwood's Cambridge Companion to The Stoics follows the usual plan, offering fifteen essays by an impressive line up of well-known Stoic scholars. The essays fall into four distinct groups. The first group (Sedley, Gill) offers a sketch of the history of the Stoa, and both essays are excellent. Of particular interest is Sedley's challenge to the traditional distinction between the orthodox "early" and eclectic "middle" Stoa (esp. 23-24). The second group (Hankinson, Bobzien, White, Algra, Frede, Brunschwig, Schofield, Brennan) forms the heart of the volume, each essay examining a central topic in Stoic philosophy. While all of these contributions are very good, those by Bobzien, Brunschwig, and Schofield stand out in particular. Hankinson offers a helpful discussion of Stoic epistemology but lapses into anachronistic descriptions at times; the Stoic position is "Lockean," the Stoics are good empiricists in the Humean fashion, they have "Leibnizian metaphysics" (63, 69). Brennan gives a very interesting discussion of Stoic moral psychology, but perhaps pitches it a little too high for a nonspecialist audience. The third group (Hankinson again, Blank and Atherton, Jones) explores the ancient Stoic tradition's relationship with medicine, grammar, and the astronomical sciences. Jones' discussion of the neglected Cleomedes is especially welcome (333-37). The final group (Irwin, Long) considers the reception of Stoic ideas in the Western intellectual tradition. Of these I found Long the more accessible and useful of the two (compare, for instance, their respective discussions of Butler, 357-62 and 382-89), although Irwin will no doubt prove stimulating to those already familiar with the issues he addresses.

What is lacking from the collection as a whole, however, is any sense of the systematic unity of Stoic philosophy. While it has inevitably been divided up under various headings for the sake of exposition, there has not been much attempt to put it back together again (like Humpty Dumpty, Stoic philosophy is like an egg; Diogenes Laertius 7.40). Although many individual contributors signal the systematicity of Stoicism, there is no extended discussion of the way in which the various parts of Stoic philosophy fit together, nor how that system relates to the way in which the Stoics conceived philosophy, or their ideal of the Sage.

My principal concerns with the volume as a whole relate to the lack of any supporting material that might prove useful to the student or nonspecialist approaching the subject for the first time. There is no list or chronology of the principal Stoics, nor a guide to the ancient sources for Stoicism. There is a list of primary sources, but this contains all of the primary material cited by the contributors, including works by Aquinas, Butler, Duns Scotus, Hume, Leibniz, and Spinoza. There is no readily accessible table of abbreviations, and what nonspecialist will know that in order to find a text cited as 'S. E. M' they may end up opening a book entitled Against the Logicians (as 'M' 7 and 8 are called in the Loeb Classical Library series)? Some abbreviations are explained within the list of primary sources, but this is not immediately obvious. The bibliography is indeed substantial but it also simply lists the various items cited by the contributors. What might have been more useful in this companion is a structured guide to further reading, such as the one in A. S. McGrade's excellent Cambridge Companion to Medieval Philosophy, for instance. Even better would have been a bibliography along the lines of the one in Jonathan Barnes' Cambridge Companion to Aristotle. One other omission that is striking is the absence of a discussion of methodological problems that arise from relying on often hostile doxographical sources. Although a number of the contributors do touch on such issues en route, a more sustained treatment might have been in...



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