Chrysippus (c.280—207 BCE)

Chrysippus was a Stoic philosopher of Soli in Cilicia Campestris. He moved to Athens, and became a disciple of Cleanthes, the successor of Zeno. He was equally distinguished for his natural abilities and industry and rarely went a day without writing 500 lines. He wrote several hundred volumes, of which three hundred were on logical subjects, borrowing largely from others. With the Stoics in general, he maintained that the world was God, or a universal effusion of his spirit, and that the superior part of this spirit, which consisted in mind and reason, was the common nature of things, containing the whole and every part of it. Sometimes he speaks of God as the power of fate and the necessary chain of events. Sometimes he calls him fire. Other times he deifies the fluid parts of nature, such as water and air, or he deifies the earth, sun, moon, a d stars and the universe as a whole. To too he deifies those who have obtained immortality. He was fond of the syllogistic figure sorities in arguing, which is hence called by Persius “the heap of Chrysippus.” His discourses contain more curiosities and distinctions than solid arguments.

In disputation, in which he spent the greatest part of his life, he displayed a degree of confidence which bordered on audacity. He often said to his preceptor, “Give me doctrines, and I will find arguments to support them.” Once he was asked to advise an instructor for a someone’s son. His response was “Me; for if I thought any philosopher excelled me, I would myself become his pupil.” He showed contempt for distinctions of rank and, unlike other philosophers, would never honor princes or other important people by dedicating his works to them. Through his vehemence he made many adversaries, particularly among the Academic and Epicurean philosophers. Even his friends in the Stoic school complained that, in the heat of dispute, while the absurdity or obscurity of his opponent’s views, he would become so illogical as to give his opponents an advantage over him. It was also a common practice with Chrysippus to take the opposite sides of the same question, and thus furnish his opponent with weapons which might easily be turned against himself as occasion offered. Carneades, who was one of his most able and skillful opponents, frequently used this circumstance and refuted Chrysippus by convicting him of inconsistency. Of his writings (reported to have been 700 in all), nothing remains except a few fragments which are preserved in the works of Cicero, Plutarch, Seneca, and Aulus Gellius.

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