Chrysippus of Soli


Chrysippus of Soli (c.280–c.207 BC, Χρύσιππος ὁ Σολεύς) was Cleanthes' pupil and the eventual successor as the head of stoic philosophy. Honoured as the second founder of Stoicism, he initiated the success of Stoicism as the one of the most influential philosophical movements for centuries in the Greek and Roman world.

Little is known about Chrysippus' childhood except that he grew up in the neighborhood of Tarsus, where he may have been exposed to philosophical teachings. He moved to Athens to study philosophy after losing substantial inherited property through legal contrivance. Chrysippus then went on to become Cleanthes' pupil after being attracted to the Stoic master's loyalty to Zeno of Citium.

A prolific writer (he is said to rarely have gone without writing 500 lines a day) and debater, Chrysippus would often take both sides of an argument, drawing criticism from his followers. Of his over 700 written works, none survive, save a few fragments embedded in the works of later authors like Cicero, Seneca and others.

Chrysippus is said to have given wine to his donkey, and then died of laughter after seeing it attempt to eat figs, although the story is dubious [1].



Most of Chrysippus' ideology is shaped by his brief education with Zeno and later from Arcesilaus and Aristo of Chios. His later beliefs, however, were shaped by the teachings of Cleanthes, whose doctrines Chrysippus steadfastly believed in, but was displeased by the means chosen to teach the message. Chrysippus vowed to change that due to the effect it was having on the Stoa.


Chrysippus believed virtue to be a quality of the soul, and that virtue, along with soul and body, were all intertwined. He taught that harmony is necessary for all three to co-exist in a healthy state. He also asserted that nobility must be achieved, and not assumed at birth due to the status or heritage of the individual. Since we all come from the same divine origin, Chrysippus explained, nobility can be achieved only through the demonstration of virtue. Chrysippus held that an individual should fervently strive to attain a level of altruism and goodwill towards society, in order to maintain a good balance of the social order. For Chrysippus, hero-worship and praise was not an attractive feature in an individual; humanitas, (sympathizing, reasoning, and intelligence) were by far more important to him. It was preached by the Stoic that humans should strive to differ from animals by perfecting the characteristics that define us from them: temperance, knowledge, valor, and truthfulness.

Logos and Pneuma

A principal of Stoic philosophy is that the Universe is a cosmos. This led Chrysippus to a few conclusions:

Logos (universal reason) is shaped by nature and society.

Pneuma, is the sustaining element that guides individual growth and creates motion in the cosmos.

This "motion" is created by the in and out activity of Tonos, or tension.

It is believed that Chrysippus dedicated a large portion of his writings, on the subject of logic, specifically, propositional logic.


Though many Stoic philosophers might not agree with the modern definition of fatalism, Chrysippus held that somewhat, all things happen due to fate. He also held the slight variation of the concept: The past is unchangeable and things that have a possibility of occurring do not necessary have to occur, but can happen. Similarly, all things that are fated to happen, take place in a realistic order (for e.g., the sowing must occur prior to the reaping). He also taught the necessity of evil due to its interdependence to its counterpart: goodness; and that some evils are the outcome of some goods:

"There could be no justice, unless there were also injustice; no courage, unless there were cowardice; no truth, unless there were falsehood."

Bibliographical references

  1. ^ Peter Bowler and Jonathan Green. What a Way to Go, Deaths with a Difference. ISBN 0-7537-0581-8.
  • E. Brehier, Chrysippe et l'ancien stoicisme (Paris, 1951).
  • Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (New York, 1925).
  • J. B. Gould, The philosophy of Chrysippus (Albany, NY, 1970).
  • D. E. Hahm, Chrysippus' solution to the Democritean dilemma of the cone, Isis 63 (217) (1972), 205-220.
  • T. L. Heath, A History of Greek Mathematics, 2 Vols. (Oxford, 1921).
  • H. A. Ide, Chrysippus's response to Diodorus's master argument, Hist. Philos. Logic 13 (2) (1992), 133-148.
  • D. Sedley, Chrysippus. In: E. Craig (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 2 (London-New York, 1998), 346-347.
  • P. Edwards (ed), Stoicism, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 8 (MacMillan, Inc, 1967) 19-22.


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