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  • The Stoics on Lekta: All There Is To Sayby Ada Bronowski
  • Simon Shogry
Ada Bronowski. The Stoics on Lekta: All There Is To Say. Oxford Classical Monographs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. Pp. xiii + 478. Cloth, $130.00.

In this wide-ranging study, Ada Bronowski reconstructs the Stoic account of lekta. Usually translated into English as "sayables," lekta—Bronowski transliterates all key Greek terms—number among the Stoics' most contentious proposals in antiquity and remain the subject of interpretative disagreement today. One clear Stoic commitment is that lektaare what is signified by human speech: my utterance "Dion walks" in normal circumstances signifies the lekton'Dion walks.' Are lektato be understood, then, simply as meanings? And is the existence of lektadependent on token utterances? No, claims Bronowski. 'Dion walks' is part of reality whether or not one utters "Dion walks." Lektaare "there to be said, but need not ever get said to be there" (79).

Bronowski makes a compelling case against reducing lektato meanings produced by utterances, but the book offers much more than this. To explain what lektaare, Bronowski revisits the fundamental principles of Stoic philosophy, presenting their ontology from the ground up. The result is a work of impressive scope and detail meriting serious attention from scholars working on any facet of Hellenistic metaphysics, logic, or philosophy of language.

One of Bronowski's main goals is to establish lektaas "pillars of core Stoic doctrine" (7)—not an ad hoc patch for problems exposed by rival schools. According to Bronowski, ad hoc interpreters wrongly assume that the role of lektain Stoic semantics takes precedence over the other contexts in which lektaare introduced. Besides what is signified by speech, lektaare posited as (i) one of four incorporeal entities (along with time, place, and void); (ii) the effects of causes; and (iii) the contents of beliefs. Reading (i)–(iii) as later grafts onto the semantic role of lektaportrays the Stoics as appealing to language to explain causation and thought. Bronowski rejects this influential interpretation, developing instead a view that aims to unify these various functions.

After a brief introduction, chapter 1 begins with the celebrated systematicity of Stoic philosophy, arguing persuasively for the inseparability of its three parts: physics, logic, and ethics. Chapter 2 investigates the relationship between human thoughts ("rational impressions") and lekta, concluding that lektaare mind-independent. Chapter 3 then identifies mind-independence as a feature common to all incorporeals. Though time, place, void, and lektalack the causal powers of bodies, they nonetheless subsist as constituents of reality, unlike conceptions and universals that are entirely mind-dependent. Here Bronowski offers a fresh take on the Stoic appropriation of the gigantomachiaof Plato's Sophist. Chapter 4 confronts the important and often neglected problem of how corporeal minds access incorporeal lekta, but the solution remains somewhat elusive to this reader. Chapter 5 presents the semantic role of lektaand explains how it further develops Platonic suggestions—again the Sophistcomes to the fore, this time its account of the smallest and primary logos. Chapter 6 denies that we find in the Stoics a forerunner of speech-act theory, although they maintain that the context of utterance affects the lektonsignified. Chapter 7 examines causation, that is, that the effect of every cause is a lekton, specifically a predicate ( katêgorêma). Chapters 8 and 9 refine the semantic account and analyze the varieties of lekta, revealing the proposition ( axiôma) as fundamental. Similarities between Stoic and [End Page 609]Fregean treatments of predicates are argued to be superficial. Finally, an allusive appendix explores lektain dance. Each chapter is clearly sign-posted and can be read on its own, as the author has noted when material elsewhere is relevant.

This short review cannot enumerate or assess all the substantive proposals to emerge from Bronowski's careful scholarship. Readers will appreciate—and specialists, envy—her skill in recovering the original Stoic kernel from later distortions and simplifications. Throughout, the author's broad knowledge and rigorous textual analysis yield philosophical dividends. Particularly commendable are Bronowski's incisive observations on how Stoic doctrine takes shape in response to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 609-610
Launched on MUSE
2020-07-09
Open Access
No
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