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  1. April 8-12
  2. ISBN 13: 9780521034999
  3. Bryn Mawr Classical Review
  4. Papers in Hellenistic Philosophy
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Now, one line of sceptical response to such demonstrations is to argue that no body is everlasting, which precludes any body's being divine on the assumption that the gods are immortal. But the Stoics do not claim that immortality is essential to the gods; why then should the sceptics attack them on precisely this point? Long suggests that our sources reflect a compression of several stages of a long-running debate. Early Stoics believed that the world was of finite duration, and therefore did not hold the gods or at least, the gods who are parts of the world to be immortal.

These sceptical arguments may then be targeting certain later Stoics, starting with Diogenes of Babylon, who admitted at least the possibility that the world is everlasting. The suggestion is plausible, although it seems possible to me that sceptics could have advanced such arguments against early Stoics precisely with the intention of highlighting or making more explicit their opponents' view that the gods are not immortal, which most philosophical and non-philosophical Greeks alike would have found quite unpalatable.

Horoscopic astrology became a subject of philosophical discussion starting in the second century BC, when the practice received some support from the Stoics although, as Long convincingly argues, that support was more limited than has often been supposed , and thereafter it became a topic of great controversy.

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The technique of casting horoscopes underwent considerable development over time, in parallel with advances in astronomy; the philosophical discussion, however, was not centered on technical objections to astrology, but rather on a group of more general dialectical objections, the core set of which was influentially promulgated by Cicero in his De divinatione. Long traces the stages in the controversy after Cicero, paying attention especially to Ptolemy's sophisticated defense of horoscopes in the opening chapters of his Tetrabiblos , and ending with developments in later antiquity, when figures such as Plotinus and Augustine weigh in against astrology.

Two valuable studies of individual sceptics round out this section. Most of what we know about Arcesilaus' sceptical methodology comes from late and indirect accounts. Long shows that, if Diogenes draws on witnesses contemporary to Arcesilaus perhaps Antigonus of Carystus , then it is possible to use his text to corroborate certain aspects of those later accounts and so to increase our confidence in them.

The book's third section consists of three studies on Epicureanism. Long draws an important distinction between events that are due to "chance" in the sense that they are aimless and events that are due to "chance" in the sense of being contingent or indeterminate.

April 8-12

For the Epicureans, all events are "chance" events in the first sense: nature is utterly aimless, all the way down. But only a tiny proportion of events are due to "chance" in the second sense: by and large, every event is completely determined by the state of affairs antecedent to it. The notorious exception is that, according to Epicurus, occasionally an atom will "swerve" from its course, breaking the chain of deterministic causes that otherwise prevails throughout the universe.

What Long draws attention to is the fact that the Epicureans invoke the swerve only in the contexts of cosmogony and psychology. Our sources never suggest that the swerve can disrupt ongoing causal processes outside of these contexts, and even the Epicureans' ancient opponents never criticize them for introducing a wayward cause of non-psychological events in the natural world.

Long plausibly speculates that that the swerve was thought of as having sufficient impact to disrupt deterministic motions only among the finest, smallest atoms--the atoms from which souls are constituted. As for why natural regularities occur, the Epicureans appeal to "seeds," which are conceived of as aggregates of atoms of such a sort as will conduce to the formation of bodies that behave in a regular, world-constituting way.

ISBN 13: 9780521034999

On this basis they could speak of the natural world as governed by reliable "laws. If we ask the Epicureans why they think such "seeds" exist, they can only point to the fact of regularity e. What we want to know is precisely why we should think that intricately ordered and self-regulating systems can arise from nothing other than bits of matter bumping into one another.

Long defends the staunchly quietist Epicureans from the charge of being complacent or irresponsible citizens by emphasizing that they view peaceful social cooperation fostered by states with functioning legal systems as a necessary condition for the attainment of the tranquility that constitutes the human good. He also opts for the controversial view that Epicureans regard friendship as possessing intrinsic value and not just instrumental value. Long argues by contrast for a view of Epicurean science that leaves room for the understanding of causes in nature to be both a major source of pleasure in itself and an indispensable aid to ordering one's priorities in life.

In the fourth section there are three studies of early Stoicism. Scholars have long been deeply puzzled by the early Stoics' insistence that our world will end in an all-consuming blaze of fire and that after this "conflagration" the same world containing the very same persons and events will come about again, and so on over and over. If our world is providentially arranged so as to be the best possible world, as the Stoics believe, why does their god destroy it?

PHILOSOPHY - Epicurus

And can it even be coherent to claim that the same world recurs over and over again? Long's argument has two parts. First, he points out that the "fact" of conflagration is a more or less straightforward consequence of other Stoic views.


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Cosmologically speaking, the Stoics view the world as undergoing rarefaction--in effect, heating up--over time, as a result of the way in which the cosmos was formed in the first place. But Long avoids the mistake often made by past scholars of attributing the demise of the cosmos to unfortunate but inevitable physical processes: the Stoic god has complete control over the world, and made a choice that it would be the sort of world that ended in conflagration.

The right way to look at the conflagration is as a manifestation of divine rationality: divine reason periodically sloughs off its material body which is our world and grows into its fullest state. And it is in precisely this condition that god is most completely realized as a providential agent, planning out the good order of the world that will unfold in its re creation.

Long then makes an elegant proposal about how to make sense of the claim that the world is identical in every successive instantiation. After considering several rival interpretations of this claim intended to soften it and their drawbacks , and after rejecting the proposal that the Stoic world runs in a circular time-loop such that every moment is both before and after every other moment , he suggests that the world runs along a single finite timeline, which is reiterated.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

He offers the analogy of a VCR tape being played over and over: whenever it is played, each event on the tape occurs in exactly the same time relative to the order or history of events on the tape; but successive iterations of the entire history can be easily distinguished from the viewpoint of the person playing the tape which, in the case of the world, would be god. In "Zeno's Epistemology and Plato's Theaetetus " Long maintains that the founder of the Stoics drew heavily on Plato in formulating his doctrine of the "kataleptic" or "cognitive" impression.

This doctrine, according to which humans experience mental impressions of items or facts in the world that are of such a sort that they could not represent their contents falsely, is crucial to Stoic epistemology. Long's idea is not that a direct precursor to the cognitive impression is to be found in Plato's Theaetetus , but rather that Zeno found a great deal of material in the dialogue that was fruitfully suggestive for his own thinking about knowledge.


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  • There is, for example, the very notion of a perceptual criterion of truth, which is made explicit for the first time in Socrates' discussion of Protagorean relativism b ; the metaphor of impressions being "stamped on" the soul by external objects d-e ; the metaphor of knowing something as being a matter of "holding" it lambanein , b ; and the idea that knowledge as opposed to mere belief requires an account that distinguishes its object from anything else c-d. Although the connections Long discovers are mostly as he recognizes at the level of verbal echoes, the cumulative case he builds for Zeno as a close reader of the Theaetetus is persuasive.

    The Stoics required an account of language that made it a fit instrument for human rationality, but they also needed an account compatible with their metaphysical corporealism, which entails that words and sentences are, taken by themselves, simply bodies shaped air.

    Working within these constraints, the Stoics made clear distinctions among the phonetic, grammatical, and semantic levels of the structure of language, and articulated a sophisticated theory about the relationships that obtain among these levels. In doing so, they developed what we from the modern perspective can recognize as the first proper philosophy of language. The book's final section contains five essays on Roman philosophy.

    Papers in Hellenistic Philosophy

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    Language: English. Brand new Book. The author's strategy is to focus on some specific problem and then to enlarge the conclusion of his discussion so as to reformulate or reassess some more important issue. The main subjects tackled are: problems in Epicurean cosmology and linguistic theory; aspects of Stoic logic, ontology and theology; the history of Scepticism; and analysis of some of the conceptual tools used by the Sceptics in their anti-dogmatic arguments.

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