Volume 2, Issue 3, 2018
Ancient Greek Philosophy: Hellenistic Philosophy
The Birth of Stoic Freedom from Plato’s Republic
This paper will show how the Stoic Chrysippus appropriated Plato’s Republic by picking up the Platonic definition of justice as ‘doing one’s own’ (ta hautou prattein) and by applying it to the Stoic concept of freedom as ‘the authority of self-action’ (exousia autopragias). I argue, based on the analysis of Plutarch’s De Stoicorum repugnantiis 1043A-B - and other related sources - that Chrysippus in his On ways of life, employed the concept of freedom and explicated it in terms of ‘autopragia’ or ‘ta hautou prattein’. He did so by showing that, given the correct understanding of freedom, not only life of leisure, but also the active life of politics can be said to lead to freedom. Chrysippus’ strategy of reading Plato’s texts will be seen as a kind of appropriation used to extract the best from them by making certain conceptual adjustments; an approach which he must have thought necessary to achieve a unified and consistent theory. Accordingly, he re-interpreted the Platonic phrase ‘ta hautou prattein’ along with terms, such as: ‘uninvolved’ (apragmōn), ‘to will’ (boulesthai), and the ‘authority’ (exousia). Chrysippus, in extracting the Stoic concept of freedom from Plato’s Republic, took particular care to overcome the introverted and escapist tendency, lurking therein by radically re-reading the Platonic texts.