Volume 11, Issue 2, Spring 2007
P. Christopher Smith
Virgil’s Destruktion of the Stoic Rational Agent
Rehearing Aeneid IV after Nietzsche and Heidegger
This paper uses the exchanges between the lovers Dido and Aeneas in Aeneid IV to undercut the pretensions of Stoic philosophers to lead a dispassionate, imperturbable life under the sole guidance of “reason.” It takes Aeneas as an example of Stoicism’s lawyer-like, falsified rationality—“I will say just a few words in regard to this matter [pro re]” (IV 336)—and Dido as an example of someone who, though under the sway of furor, nevertheless makes honest, reasoned arguments that are continuous with the feelings she is experiencing. The point is not that one is more at fault than the other but the rather more radical thesis that with his Aeneas character Virgil is showing that Stoicism’s ataraxia and apatheia are inevitably dissimulation, inevitably fake.