Necessity, Possibility and Determinism in Stoic Thought

In Max Cresswel, Edwin Mares & Adriane Rini (eds.), Logical Modalities from Aristotle to Carnap: The Story of Necessity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 70-90 (2016)
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At the heart of the Stoic theory of modality is a strict commitment to bivalence, even for future contingents. A commitment to both future truth and contingency has often been thought paradoxical. This paper argues that the Stoic retreat from necessity is successful. it maintains that the Stoics recognized three distinct senses of necessity and possibility: logical, metaphysical and providential. Logical necessity consists of truths that are knowable a priori. Metaphysical necessity consists of truths that are knowable a posteriori, a world order according to certain metaphysical principles and natures that god crafts within the constraints of matter. Finally, what is providentially necessary is what occurs according to the chain of fate, but only once it is in process or past. The method of the paper is a close reading of Diogenes Laertius 7.75, adducing broad textual evidence along the way, to show that the Stoic theory of modality embraces Philonian possibility, both that which is capable of being true as a matter of logical consistency, and that which is possible according to the bare fitness of the entity. What differentiates the Stoics from Philo is their additional commitment to possibility as opportunity, resisting the collapse of determinism into necessity.

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Vanessa de Harven
University of Massachusetts, Amherst


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