Who is Cypriot (Kitionite) Zenon (Xenon)?June 26, 2021
Cyprian Zeno. B.C. The founder of the Stoic School, who lived between 335-263 years, is a Greek philosopher. This Zeno of Cyprus should not be confused with Zeno of Elea.
According to a rumor, Zenon was a rich merchant, and the ship he loaded with all his goods sank on the shores of Attica. He escaped and came to Athens. He learned philosophy in Athens, first from a Cynic philosopher and then from a philosopher affiliated with Plato’s Academy. Studying philosophy made him forget the pain of losing his fortune. After his accident, Zeno said, “The important thing for a person is not what happened to him, but to endure the accidents and misfortunes.” In other words, not external conditions, accident and fate, but on the contrary, the attitude that a person will take in the face of them makes him happy or unhappy. We will not discuss the veracity of this story here. As a matter of fact, we frequently come across such stories in the Antiquity. The significance of this story to us is that it reflects Zeno’s views.
If we pay attention, this way of thinking reminds us of the Kyniks. There are some connections between the Cynics and the Stoics. So much so that, in a way, the Stoic School is like a more deepened and scientificized version of the School of the Cynics. One of the main points that brings these two schools closer to each other; The virtue of both schools is the pursuit of the “freedom” of the human spirit. Like the Cynics, the Stoics also make a distinction between “true” and “false values”. Being independent and free is not real. Man, who is a slave to his passions and desires, is a creature with formal values. Virtue; it is the complete mastery of one’s passions, the ability to destroy them. No value outside of virtue, which is tied to our passions and pains, is real. Life or death are things that can be “indifferent”. Philosophy after Aristotle dealt with the issue of death, and focused on how people should behave in the face of death. The Stoics are sure that death is nothing to be afraid of.
Engaging in philosophy at the Academy under Crates’ supervision, Zeno identified the basic principles adopted by the Stoics.
According to him, everything that is real is material. But the universe did not consist of passive matter. Apart from the passive matter in the universe, which is an ordered whole with a changing structure, there is another power that represents the organizing and active element in nature. This active power is not different from matter, but a different aspect of matter. It is a subtle thing that is constantly moving, like a stream of air or a breath.
Zeno says that this power is fire; According to him, this fire pervades everything that exists. The most basic feature of this material fire is the mind. This fire is the highest type of being in the universe. According to Zeno, God is everything. That is, God is the fire or hot breath that unites individuals with one another. It is the mind or rational force in nature. To say that God is fire or a rational force is nothing but to say that reason and the principle of reason dominate nature. Matter behaves according to this principle of reason.
Zeno says that in the understanding of knowledge, words express thoughts, and thoughts arise as a result of the effect of an object on the mind. The mind is an innate blank slate and fills its repertoire as it receives influence from objects in the outside world. Zeno says that in his understanding of human and morality, man, who is a part of the world, is also a material being and receives a share of divine fire. This fire in man creates his soul. He argues that the human spirit finds its best expression in reason and wisdom. Zeno’s morality, on the one hand, is based on reason and knowledge, and on the other hand, submission to the natural order.
Zeno remained in the administration of the Stoic School he founded until the end of his life and died by committing suicide.
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; prof. Macit Gokberk; Remzi Bookstore, Lecture Notes of Ernst von Aster