Metaphysical Views of the Stoics

Metaphysical Views of the Stoics

July 1, 2021 Off By Felso

Like the Stoics’ theories of knowledge, their physics or metaphysics is far from being an original doctrine.

In this regard, the Stoics, who applied to pre-Socratic natural philosophy, borrowed the doctrine of fire and logos from Heraclitus as the main substance of the world. Within this framework, they argued, just as Aristotle did, that the universe or reality consists of two principles, one active and the other passive. The passive one of these principles is matter devoid of any quality, and the active one is the mind or God, which is immanent to the universe order. According to the Stoics, the natural beauty observable in the universe points to a principle of reason or thought, namely the existence of a God who has arranged everything for the good of man. The Stoics also pointed out that the fact that man, the highest being of nature, has a consciousness or mind compels us to think that the world also has a consciousness or a universal mind, because the whole can never be less perfect than the part. So God is the mind of the world.

However, it should not be thought that the Stoics’ understanding of being in question is a dualist understanding, that God is a spiritual being transcending the material realm of existence, because in them God is not a spiritual principle or entity that is separate from matter. God, too, is a material structure, just as the base or passive principle on which he shapes, influences, acts. God is the active fire, immanent to the universe order; however, it is also the first source from which the elements that make up the world of bodies emanate. These elements arise from God and then return to God, so that everything in the universe is either the original fire—that is, God in and of itself—or God in its different forms. When the world exists, the relationship between God and the world is the same as the relationship between soul and body. God is not separate from the world; is the body or matter of the world, but it is a finer matter; It is the moving and shaping principle of the first elements, which are immobile and formless, although they are suitable for all kinds of movement and to take various forms.

Despite their materialism, the Stoics tried to avoid a mechanistic view of nature, especially under the influence of their pantheism. The Stoic philosophers, who likened God to a highly skilled and intelligent craftsman in shaping matter, said that the God immanent to the universe arranged the various parts of the world, seen as a great organism, in a purposeful way, in the best way. Therefore, the universe is a living whole, each part of which is organically connected to the other. In this context, the Stoics, probably for the first time in the history of philosophy, dealt with the problem of evil.

In other words, the idea of ​​a teleological proof of God or the idea that an immanent God arranges everything in the best possible way forced the Stoics to account for the physical and moral evil in the world. Their solution attempts on this subject consist of views, one of which is known as a negative solution and the other as a positive solution. According to the first of these, which denies the existence of evil and evil, our world is essentially good and perfect, and the evils that exist in it are only relatively bad and generally contribute to the good and perfection of the world. The second solution, which accepts the existence of evil and evil, argues that everything in the world exists in pairs of opposites, that if there were no evil and evil, there would be no good and good, because when you take one of the opposites, the other will disappear, and therefore, it argues that evil is a means for the realization of good and good.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook, “History of Philosophy” Ahmet Cevizci