Chrysippus

, a celebrated stoic philosopher, was born at Soli, a city of Cilicia, afterwards called Pompeiopolis, and was not the disciple of Zeno, as some have said, but of Cleanthes, Zeno’s successor. He had a very acute genius, and wrote a great many books, above 700, as we are told, several of which belonged to logic; for he applied himself with great care to cultivate that part of philosophy. Val. Maximus relates, that he began his 39th book of logic when he was eighty years old: and Lucian, who sought out absurdities in order to laugh at them, could not forbear ridiculing the logical subtilties of this philosopher. The great number of books he composed will not appear so surprising if it be considered that his manner was to write several times upon the same subject; to set | down whatever came into his head; to take little pains in correcting his works; to crowd them with an infinite number of quotations: add to all these circumstances, that he was very laborious, and lived to a great age. Of his works nothing remains except a few extracts in the works of Cicero, Plutarch, Seneca, and Aulus Gellius. He had an unusual portion of vanity, and often said to Cleanthes, “Shew me hut the doctrines; that is sufficient for me, and all I want I shall find the proofs of them myself.” A person asked him one day whom he should choose for a tutor to his son? “Me,” answered Chrysippus; “for, if I knew any body more learned than myself, 1 would go and study under him.” There is another apophthegm of his preserved, which does him much more honour than either of these; and therefore we hope it is not spurious. Being told that some persons spoke ill of him, “It is no matter,” said he, “I will live so, that they shall not be believed.

The stoics complained, as Cicero relates, that Chrysippus had collected so many arguments in favour of the sceptical hypothesis, that he could not afterwards answer them himself; and had thus furnished Carneades their antagonist with weapons against them. This has been imputed to his vanity, which transported him to such a degree, that he made no scruple of sacrificing the doctrines of his sect for the sake of displaying the subtlety of his own conceits. The glory which he expected, if he could but make men say that he had improved upon Arcesilaus himself, and had expressed the objections of the academics in a much stronger manner than he, was his only aim. Thus most of the contradictions and absurd paradoxes which Plutarch imputes to the stoics, and for which he is very severe upon them, are taken from the works of Chrysippus. Plutarch charges him with making God the author of sin, and this probably arises from his definition of God, as it is preserved by Cicero, which shews that he did not distinguish the deity from the universe. He thought the gods mortal, and even asserted that they would really perish in the conflagration of the world: and, though he excepted Jupiter, yet he thought him liable to change. He wrote a book concerning the amours of Jupiter and Juno, which abounded with so many obscene passages that it was loudly exclaimed against, but Brucker seems to be of opinion that what he advanced of this kind was merely in the way of paradoxical assertion, thrown out in the course of disputation, and | for the sake of displaying his ingenuity. He is inclined likewise to think that he is not justly chargeable with any other kind of impiety than may be charged upon the sect which he supported. It is, however, easy to guess that the stoics had not much reason to be pleased with his writings for, as he was a considerable man among them, so considerable as to establish it into a proverb, that “if it had not been for Chrysippus, the porch had never been,” it gave people a pretence to charge the whole body with the errors of so illustrious a member. Accordingly we find that the celebrated authors among the stoics, Seneca, Epictetus, Arrian, though they speak very highly of Chrysippus, yet do it in such a manner as to let us see that they did not at the bottom cordially esteem him. There does not appear to have been any objection brought against his morals, and he was sober and temperate.

Chrysippus aimed at being an universal scholar; and wrote upon almost every subject, and even condescended to give rules for the education of children. Quintilian has preserved some of his maxims upon this point. He ordered the nurses to sing a certain kind of songs, and advised them to choose the most modest. He wished, that, if it were possible, children might be nursed by none but learned women. He would have children be three years under the care of their nurses; and that the nurses should begin to instruct them without waiting till they were older; for he was not of the opinion of those who thought the age of seven years soon enough to begin. He died in the 143d olympiad, eighty-three years of age, B. C. 208, and had a monument erected to him among those of the illustrious Athenians. His statue was to be seen in the Ceramicus, a place near Athens, where they who had been killed in the war were buried at the expence of the public. He accepted the freedom of the city of Athens, which neither Zeno nor Cleanthes had done and is censured for it, but without much reason, by Plutarch. 1

1 Gen. Dict. Brucker’s Hist, of Philosophy. - Diog. Laertius, &c. —Saxii Onomast.