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(stō`ĭsĭzəm), school of philosophy founded by Zeno of CitiumZeno of Citium
, c.334–c.262 B.C., Greek philosopher, founder of Stoicism. He left Cyprus and went to Athens, where he studied under the Cynics, whose teachings left an important impression on his own thought.
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 (in Cyprus) c.300 B.C. The first Stoics were so called because they met in the Stoa Poecile [Gr.,=painted porch], at Athens, a colonnade near the Agora, to hear their master Zeno lecture. He had studied with Crates the Cynic, and his own teaching included the Cynic adaptation of the Socratic ideals of virtue, endurance, and self-sufficiency. He added to them the explanation of the physical universe given by Heraclitus and something of the logic of Aristotle. The development and organization of Zeno's doctrines into a great system of metaphysics was the work of Chrysippus (c.280–207 B.C.), successor to Cleanthes. Among the acknowledged leaders of the Stoics in the following period was Panaetius of Rhodes, who in the 2d cent. B.C. introduced Stoicism into Rome. He and his pupil Posidonius sought to lessen the attacks of critics by mingling with the Stoic doctrines some of Plato's psychological views. Cicero, a pupil of Posidonius, was indebted to a work of Panaetius for the basis of his own treatise De officiis. The Romans, who had received Stoicism more cordially than they did any other Greek philosophy, can claim the third period as their own. To it belong the philosophers SenecaSeneca,
the younger (Lucius Annaeus Seneca) , c.3 B.C.–A.D. 65, Roman philosopher, dramatist, and statesman, b. Corduba (present-day Córdoba), Spain. He was the son of Seneca the elder.
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 and EpictetusEpictetus
, c.A.D. 50–c.A.D. 138, Phrygian Stoic philosopher. He wrote nothing, but his teachings were set down by his disciple Arrian in the Discourses and the Encheiridion.
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 of Phrygia and the emperor Marcus AureliusMarcus Aurelius
(Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus) , 121–180, Roman emperor, named originally Marcus Annius Verus. He was a nephew of Faustina, the wife of Antoninus Pius, who adopted him. Marcus married Antoninus' daughter, another Faustina.
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. Stoicism, with its roots in earlier doctrines and theories of the human person and the universe, built up an ideal of the virtuous, wise man. Regarding philosophy as divided into physics, logic, and ethics, the Stoics made logic and physics a foundation for ethics. The Stoics, especially Chrysippus, are renowned for their logic, which contains the first systematic analysis of how the truth value of a compound proposition depends upon the truth values of its components. The physical theory underlying Stoicism is materialistic. All that has reality is material. Force, which is the shaping principle, is joined with matter. The universal working force, God, pervades all and becomes the reason and soul in the animate creation. In their ethical creed, the Stoics accepted virtue as the highest good in life. They identified virtue with happiness, claiming that it was untouched by changes in fortune. "To live consistently with nature" was a familiar maxim among the Stoics. Only by putting aside passion, unjust thoughts, and indulgence and by performing duty with the right disposition can people attain true freedom and rule as lords over their own lives.


See J. M. Rist, Stoic Philosophy (1969); A. A. Long, ed., Problems in Stoicism (1971); A. A. Long and P. N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers, (2 vol., 1987); M. Reesor, The Nature of Man in Early Stoic Philosophy (1989).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



one of the principal schools of Hellenistic and Roman philosophy, along with the Epicurean school and Skepticism. The name derives from the Painted Stoa, a portico in Athens where the Stoics met.

The first period of Stoicism, third to second centuries B.C., is called the Early Stoa. Its founders were Zeno of Citium, Cleanthes of Assus, Chrisyppus of Soli, and their disciples. This first, classic form of Stoicism was notable for the extreme harshness and rigidity of its ethical doctrine, which was mitigated during the Middle Stoa, the second period of Stoicism, second to first centuries B.C. Because the Middle Stoa’s chief representatives, Panaetius and Posidonius, used the methods of Plato and Aristotle, the term “Stoic Platonism” has been applied to this period, which also includes Roman Stoicism. The third period of Stoicism, or Late Stoa, first to second centuries A.D., tended toward sacramentalism and was marked by the Stoic Platonism of such thinkers as Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. Subsequently, Stoicism evolved toward Neoplatonism and eventually merged with it.

The Stoics were the first to divide philosophy sharply into logic, physics, and ethics. In physics the Stoics revived the cosmogony of Heraclitus, who regarded fire as the primary element and, through its metamorphosis into the other elements, as the source of all that exists. The primary fire, in the Stoics’ terminology, is the pneuma—the spirit, or breath—which flows through the world and creates all things, including man and animals, while cooling down in inorganic nature. This creative fire, like the Logos inherent to it, exhausts itself in the infinitely varied tension of being; matter, which is identical with Logos, is also marked by an infinite variety of degrees of coarseness or fineness. Matter is different in inanimate and animate substances, in the human soul, in nature, in the cosmos, and in the gods themselves.

Since the primary fire, or Logos, is a creative fire that rationally constructs the world and governs it, the Stoics called it “providence.” Each human being is one of the countless reincarnations of the cosmic primary fire, or pneuma; this was the basis for the idea of inner human impassivity.

All that exists is corporeal, including men, the gods, and all the qualities of the soul. Some Stoics argued that void, space, time, and objects of assertions are incorporeal. As a whole, the materialism of the Stoics differed sharply from classical Greek materialism in its teleology, providentialism, and fatalism.

The creative primary fire is an outflowing of logoi spermatikoi, or fertilizing ideas, that permeate the cosmos in a total intermingling and that create a cosmic “sympathy”—a universal mutual permeability and mutual transmutability. The Stoics combined the Heraclitean doctrine of a periodic conflagration and purification of the cosmos with the doctrine of the unquestionable recurrence of things, of persons, of events, and of the entire cosmos after each world conflagration.

In the rigor of their ethics the Stoics were close to the Cynics but did not share the latter’s contempt for science and culture. The Stoics preached the ideal of the wise man who loves his fate; creative fire, providence, and fate are one and the same. He who does not understand this worries and suffers in vain, loving himself and not his fate, besides which nothing exists. Stupidity is madness, a state typical of the overwhelming majority of people. Man is the highest and most rational being in nature; he is virtuous because he has practical wisdom, or strength of character, which was seen by the Stoics in the form of four basic virtues, according to Plato’s model. But also inherent to man are affects that confuse the mind and that are to be eradicated from the soul. From this follow the basic categories of Stoic ethics: impassivity, or absence of affects; unflagging moral rectitude; and responsibility, in the sense of honest fulfillment of duty to one’s best ability. All needs deserve contempt, and this is the meaning of the Stoics’ call to follow nature—that absolutely passionless, ideal designer of life.

Early Stoicism was marked by absolute moral rigor. The wise man, in spite of himself, may get entangled in the chaos of human relations. If he cannot bring rational order into this chaos, he must take his own life, thus drawing closer to the ideal wisdom of the cosmic whole. According to legend, Zeno of Citium and Cleanthes committed suicide; the same has been said of many other early Stoics.

Finally, the cosmos, governed by fate, is seen by the Stoics as a world state, and all people as its citizens, or cosmopolites. An inexorable law governs nature, man, society, and the state. Stoic cosmopolitanism, with this universal law in whose eyes all are equal—freemen and slaves, Greeks and barbarians, men and women—marked a great advance in the evolution of the idea of human equality.

The Stoics were the first to introduce the term “logic,” which they understood as the science of verbal expression. The Stoics divided logic into rhetoric and dialectics, and dialectics into the science of the signifier (poetics, theory of music, and grammar) and the science of the signified, or the object of assertion. This recalls formal logic, insofar as the Stoics interpreted an incomplete assertion as a word and a complete assertion as a sentence. Likewise, they conceived of four logical categories pertaining to a word: something (being or nonbeing); essential quality (universal or particular); accidental quality; and relatively accidental quality, namely, one that is related to other accidental qualities. Sentences were divided into simple, or categorical sentences, and complex sentences, especially hypothetical ones. The logic of the Stoics, as a semantic analysis of words and sentences, was contrasted to the study of being, and so was reduced to an analysis of the relationships reigning in consciousness and thought.

The Stoic science of words and sentences greatly influenced some of the early grammarians—for instance, Dionysius Thrax (first century B.C.).


Stoicorum velerum fragmenta, vols. 1–4. Edited by H. von Arnim. Stuttgart, 1968.

Vogel, C. J. de. Greek Philosophy, vol. 3. Leiden, 1959. Pages 44–183. (Greek text and English translation.)

In Russian translation:

“Stoiki.” In Istoriia estetiki, vol. 1. Translated by A. F. Losev. Moscow, 1962. Pages 137–47.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Iz rannikh proizv. Moscow, 1956. (See name index.)
Gomperz, H. Zhizneponimanie grecheskikh filosofov i ideal vnutren-neisvobody. St. Petersburg, 1912. Pages 175–227.
Istoriia filosofii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1940. Pages 283–304.
Zeller, E. Die Philosophie der Griechen, 5th ed., vol. 3, part 1. Leipzig, 1923. Pages 27–372,572–609,699–791.
Barth, P. Die Stoa, 6th ed. Stuttgart, 1946.
Sambursky.S. Physics of the Stoics. London, 1959.
Mates, B. Stoic Logic. Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1961.
Goldschmidt. V. Le Systéme sloicien el l’idée de temps. Paris, 1969.
Rist, J. Stoic Philosophy. London, 1969. (Bibliography, pp. 290–95.)
Pohlenz. M. Die Stoa, vols. 1–2. Göttingen, 1970–72.
Frede, M. Die Stoische Logik. Göttingen, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


philosophical school in Greco-Roman antiquity advocating rationality and austerity. [Gk. Hist.: EB, VIII: 746]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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