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Journal of the History of Philosophy 38.3 (2000) 432-434
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These two books offer state-of-the-art scholarship on the ancient Stoa. The sophistication in these volumes helps to reveal the sophistication of the Stoics themselves, and should encourage still more careful attention to be paid to these eminently worthy philosophers.
Unsurprisingly, this is the quite self-conscious goal of Topics in Stoic Philosophy. Katerina Ierodiakonou's introduction helpfully surveys the background to the recent upswing in attention to Stoicism, and encourages more work "to introduce Stoic philosophy into the curriculum of institutions of higher learning, and to deepen our understanding of Stoic philosophy further" (22).
On the first score, Topics in Stoic Philosophy is a mixed blessing. I, for one, will be wary of assigning its essays to my Greekless, Latinless students. Given that the first six of the eight essays were originally composed for a Greek journal "to present to the Greek public current work on Stoic philosophy" (v), it is unfortunate that this volume does not work more aggressively to reach a broader Anglophone public that might include philosophers and advanced students in philosophy, most of whom are, wishes aside, Greekless and Latinless. This volume could have rendered all of its Greek and Latin into English, and its contributors or editor could have provided a bit more guidance to help non-specialists to contextualize the fragmentary evidence.
As a further step toward deeper understanding of Stoic philosophy for specialists, however, Ierodianou's volume is unquestionably successful, and the eight papers will undoubtedly be cited often. These essays are in fact at their best when they are arguing for a more precise understanding of the history and are refusing to elide the differences between various pieces of evidence or various Stoics. Two papers on logic set the tone. Jonathan Barnes looks carefully at the best evidence for the claim that Chrysippus' logic developed in response to Aristotle, and he provides devastating support for Sandbach's general thesis of Aristotle's virtual irrelevance to the earliest Stoics (see Aristotle and the Stoics [Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society s.v. 10 (1985)]). Mario Mignucci applies similarly precise care to separate frequently conflated pieces of evidence, and he consequently refuses to accept the common interpretation according to which Chrysippus rejects the liar paradox by refusing to consider "I am speaking falsely" a proposition. On Mignucci's view, Chrysippus is more likely to have decided [End Page 432] that "I am speaking falsely" is paradoxical just when and just because the world does not allow it a determinate truth-value and thus confounds our expectation of a truth-value for every proposition.
Stoic ethics is the focus of the next five essays, two of which provide fascinatingly contrasting examinations of Stoic rules and moral education. David Sedley argues that the founding Stoic Zeno insisted on rigidly articulating kayekonta ("duties") through interconnected general rules. Sedley's ground-breaking case depends upon his attentive and imaginative engagement with some commentaries in the Platonist tradition, where he manages to unearth evidence of a challenge to Zeno on this very issue from his former teacher, the Platonist Polemo. Brad Inwood takes a very different approach, sketching a more flexible Stoic approach to rules through a broad survey of a huge range of evidence and through support from contemporary work on rules (F. Schauer, Playing by the Rules [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991]). Yet Inwood's suggestive account is ultimately less than fully satisfying. In his haste to make the Stoics plausible to us, he leaves questions unanswered (about, e.g, the precise meaning of a cryptic passage [DL VII 121] that he makes heavy weather of without even fully quoting [nn. 17, 27, 42], and about the grounds for attributing the flexibility of Seneca and De Officiis to the earliest Stoics [esp...