Free Will in Ancient Thought
Frede. Chapter Four: "Later Platonist and Peripatetic Contributions," 37-45
*** These lecture notes are works in progress ***
LECTURE NOTES 4
This chapter, like the previous one, is dense. Here are the main points.
The Main Points of the Chapter
• Platonists and Aristotelians develop their own notion of the will. To do so, they combine the view that the soul is tripartite with the view that every action requires the assent of reason.
• On this version of the tripartite theory, unlike Plato and Aristotle's versions, some impulsive impressions have the source of their impulsiveness in the nonrational parts of the soul.
• The Platonists and Aristotelians need an explanation for why reason assents to these impulsive impressions. The explanation they develop is that reason rationalizes these impressions.
Frede's Lecture (37-45)
1. By the second century A.D. Aristotelianism and Platonism had begun to eclipse
Stoicism, and by the end of the third century Stoicism no longer had any
followers. All philosophers now opted for some form of Platonism, as a rule a
Platonism which tried to integrate large amounts of Aristotelian doctrine,
including Aristotle's ethical principles. Hence the notion of the will
Aristotle's followers were called Περιπατητικοί (Peripatētikoi) because he
discussed philosophy while he was walking and his students were following him
or "covered walk" of the Lyceum.
The Lyceum (Λύκειον) was the site of Aristotle's school.
"[T]he associates of Aristotle were called the Peripatetics because they used to debate while walking in the Lyceum (Cicero, Academica I.4.17).
Peripateticus (Latin translation of Περιπατητικός), "a disciple of the Peripatetic (or Aristotelian) school." might have easily disappeared from the history of philosophy if Platonists and Peripatetics [Aristotelians] had not developed their own such notion. This involved retaining the idea that the soul is bi- or tripartite but also taking the crucial step, not envisioned by Plato or Aristotle, that everything we do of our own accord (hekontes) presupposes the assent of reason. Now the word hekōn has indeed come to mean voluntary or willing.
Plato died in 347 BCE. Aristotle died in 322 BCE. In about 300 BCE, Stoicism begins with Zeno of Citium. By end the 3rd century CE, Stoicism had no defenders. "All philosophers now opted for some form of Platonism."
Since the notion of will is Stoic in origin, it "might have easily disappeared from the history of philosophy [and from civilization itself] if Platonists and Peripatetics had not developed their own such notion."
The Platonists and Aristotelians developed their notion by combining a "bi- or
tripartite" theory of soul with the idea that
ἑκόντες, hekontes, adjective, plural form of ἑκών
ἑκών, hekōn, adjective, "of own's own accord" "everything we do of our own accord (hekontes) presupposes the assent of reason."
This version of the tripartite theory of the soul is not the tripartite theory in Plato and Aristotle. They did not believe that "everything we do ἑκόντες presupposes the assent of reason." They thought that sometimes we act on nonrational desires in the nonrational parts of the soul in a way that does not involve reason.
2. This change was greatly facilitated by certain remarks in Aristotle and
particularly in Plato. We have a tendency, or at least for a very long time
have had a tendency, to understand Plato and Aristotle as if they claimed that
it were the task of reason to provide us with the right beliefs or, better
still, knowledge and understanding, while the task of the nonrational part of
the soul is to provide us with the desires to motivate us to act virtuously in
light of the knowledge and understanding provided by reason. But we have
already seen that this is not the view of Plato and Aristotle. According to
them, it is not the task of reason to provide us only with the appropriate
knowledge and understanding; it is also its task to provide us with the
appropriate desires. To act virtuously is to act from choice, and to act from
choice is to act on a desire of reason. The cognitive and the desiderative or conative aspects of reason are so intimately linked that we may wonder whether
in fact we should distinguish,
From the Latin verb conor ("to undertake, endeavor, attempt, try") as I did earlier, between the belief of reason that it is a good thing to act in a certain way and the desire of reason which this belief gives rise to, or whether, instead, we should not just say that we are motivated by the belief that it is a good thing to act in this way, recognizing this as a special kind of belief which can motivate us, just as the Stoics think that desires are nothing but a special kind of belief.
This is confusing.
Frede's point seems to be that the Platonists and Aristotelians misunderstood Plato and Aristotle. They wrongly took them to think that action requires the assent of reason. Further, Frede says that this misunderstanding "was greatly facilitated by certain remarks in Aristotle and particularly in Plato."
Frede does not cite the "remarks," and I do not know what he has in mind.
Frede next talks about how we have a tendency to misunderstand Plato and Aristotle.
"I shall endeavour to prove first, that reason alone can never be a
motive to any action of the will; and secondly, that it can never
oppose passion in the direction of the will"
A Treatise of Human Nature, T 18.104.22.168, SBN 413).
What does Hume mean by "the will"?
"Of all the immediate effects of pain and pleasure, there is none more remarkable than the will; and tho', properly speaking, it be not comprehended among the passions, yet as the full understanding of its nature and properties, is necessary to the explanation of them, we shall here make it the subject of our enquiry. I desire it may be observ'd, that by the will, I mean nothing but the internal impression we feel and are conscious of, when we knowingly give rise to any new motion of our body, or new perception of our mind. This impression, like the preceding ones of pride and humility, love and hatred, 'tis impossible to define, and needless to describe any farther; for which reason we shall cut off all those definitions and distinctions, with which philosophers are wont to perplex rather than clear up this question; and entering at first upon the subject, shall examine that long disputed question concerning liberty and necessity; which occurs so naturally in treating of the will" (A Treatise of Human Nature, T 22.214.171.124, SBN 399).
What is the misunderstanding?
It seems to be that reason provides beliefs and that the other parts of the soul provide desires.
How does this make it easy to think that every action requires the assent of reason?
I am not sure.
3. Further, the modern scholarly view, that according to Plato and Aristotle, reason provides the beliefs and the nonrational part of the soul provides the motivating desires, is grossly inadequate in that it overlooks their view that, just as reason has a desiderative aspect, so the nonrational part of the soul and its desires have a cognitive aspect. This should not be surprising, given that the nonrational part of the soul is supposed to be a close analogue of the kind of soul animals have. Animals have cognition. Indeed, Aristotle is willing to attribute to animals such enormous powers of cognition that some of them, according to him, can display good sense and foresight. Hence we naturally wonder why Aristotle denies reason to animals. The answer is that he, like Plato, has a highly restrictive notion of reason and knowledge, a notion which involves understanding why what one believes one knows is, and cannot but be, the way it is. Reason is the ability in virtue of which we have such knowledge and understanding. It is this kind of understanding which animals are lacking. Obviously, this leaves a lot of conceptual space for less elevated cognitive states which a nonrational soul, and hence an animal, is capable of.
"[T]he nonrational part of the soul and its desires have a cognitive aspect."
What does this mean? Frede's explanation follows.
4. We shall understand this better if we take into account that Plato and Aristotle distinguish three forms of desire, corresponding to the three different parts of the soul, and also, at least sometimes, seem to assume that each of these forms of desire has a natural range of objects which it naturally latches on to. Appetite aims at pleasant things, which give bodily satisfaction; spirit (thymos) aims at honorable things; and reason aims at good things. θυμός, thymos, noun, "strong feeling or passion" Since both Plato and Aristotle, unlike the Stoics, assume that pleasure and honor are genuine goods, reason can also aim at them, insofar as they are goods. The assumption seems to be that the appetitive part of the soul, though nonrational, can discriminate between the pleasant and the unpleasant. This, presumably, is supposed to serve a purpose. By and large an organism which is not spoiled or corrupted will perceive wholesome food or drink as pleasant, and unhealthy food and drink as unpleasant. So the ability to discriminate between the pleasant and the unpleasant will help the organism to sustain itself, if it is not corrupted in its tastes. When we see a delicious piece of cake, it will be appetite which has the impression that it would be very pleasant to have this piece of cake. Since appetite lacks reason, it has no critical distance from its impression. For it to have this impression amounts to the same as its having this belief. Similarly, the spirited part (thymos), being sensitive to what is honorable, will have the impression that it would be shameful to have yet another piece of cake.
There is a lot going on here.
In the tripartite theory in Plato and Aristotle, "[a]ppetite aims at pleasant things, which give bodily satisfaction; spirit (thymos) aims at honorable things; and reason aims at good things."
What does this mean?
Reason, for Aristotle, gives us the power to make choices for the sake of bringing about things we take to be good and thus desire. These choices are themselves desires that we generate in deliberation.
How appetite and spirit "aim" is a little less clear.
Appetite does not calculate. It "lacks reason," and because it lacks reason, it "has no critical distance from its impression." Frede says that for appetite "to have this impression amounts to the same as its having this belief."
We can begin to understand what Frede means if we think about an example.
The Müller-Lyer Illusion.
The second horizontal line appears longer than than the first, but in fact the two lines are the same in length.
"[T]hings about which we have at the same time a true belief may have a false appearance; for instance the sun appears to measure a foot across, but we are convinced that it is greater than the inhabited globe..." (Aristotle, On the Soul III.428b). Socrates says that sometimes although reason "has measured and declares that certain things are larger or that some are smaller than the others or equal, the opposite appears (φαίνεται) to it at the same time" (Republic X.602e).
Suppose two lines are arranged as in the Müller-Lyer illusion so that although it appears to our eyes that one is longer, measurement reveals they are equal in length. Because we have measured the lines, we know that they are equal in length. This, though, does not eliminate the appearance that the lines are unequal in length.
This example begins to show what it is for appetite to have "no critical distance from its impression." We would believe that the lines are unequal in length if we did not measure them. Further, the argument we construct by measuring the lines does not prevent us from having the appearance that they are not equal in length.
Just as the appetite can have impressions about the lengths of lines, it can have impressions about the pleasantness of things. These impressions can guide our behavior. "When we see a delicious piece of cake, it will be appetite which has the impression that it would be very pleasant to have this piece of cake."
So appetite and reason both can move us but they do this moving in different way.
We can characterize the difference negatively.
Unlike reason in the Tripartite Theory, appetite does not have beliefs about what is good and what is bad and that appetite does not aim by engaging in deliberation against the background of these beliefs.
Appetite has impressions of pleasantness in the place of beliefs about what is good. It does not calculate. Calculation is a kind of reasoning, and the appetite is incapable of reasoning. The appetite, however, can do something like calculate and, as a result, make us desire to do something to get the thing (say the piece of cake we see on the table) that has given us the impression that doing something (eating the cake) would be pleasant.
"If a living thing has the capacity for perception, it has the capacity for
desire. For desire (ὄρεξις) comprises appetite (ἐπιθυμία), spirit (θυμὸς), and
wish (βούλησις). All animals have at least one of the senses, touch. Where
there is perception, there is pleasure and pain ..., and where there are
these, there is appetite: for this is desire for what is pleasant"
On the Soul II.3.414b1).
ἀκρασία, akrasia, noun, alternate spelling of ἀκράτεια, akrateia, "want of power, incontinence,"
φαντασία, phantasia, noun, "appearing, appearance" We should also remember that Aristotle explains nonrational desire as originating in the fact that animals not only can perceive things but also perceive them as pleasant or unpleasant. So if you perceive the kind of thing you have experienced as pleasant, without the intervention of reason you have the agreeable impression that there is something pleasant within reach, something which you expect to give you pleasure if you get hold of it. This is an impression and an expectation produced by the nonrational part of the soul. In his remarks on impetuous akrasia—cases in which the spirited part of the soul, for instance, in its anger, rashly preempts the deliberation of reason—Aristotle says that those who are prone to this kind of condition do not wait for reason to come to a conclusion but tend to follow their phantasia, that is, their impression or disposition to form impressions, rather than their reason (EN 7, 1150b19–28).
EN = Ethica Nicomachea = Nicomachean Ethics
"[T]he impetuous are led by passion because they do not stop to deliberate.... It is the quick and the excitable who are most liable to the impetuous form of incontinence, because the former are too hasty and the latter too vehement to wait for reason, being prone to follow their appearance (φαντασίᾳ)" (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics VII.1050b). So the akratic sort of person follows an impression formed by or in the spirited part of the soul rather than reason.
"Aristotle explains nonrational desire as originating in the fact that animals not only can perceive things but also perceive them as pleasant or unpleasant."
What does it mean to perceive something "as pleasant"?
I am not sure.
Maybe this is to "perceive the kind of thing you have experienced as pleasant."
In this case, there are two states. There is the perception of a particular piece of cake, and there is the "expectation" [the Greek word would be δόξα] that eating cake results in pleasure.
Somehow these together can give you an "agreeable impression that there is something pleasant within reach, something which you expect to give you pleasure if you get hold of it."
Does Aristotle talk about "agreeable impressions"?
Frede does not cite any passages.
6. Later Peripatetics and Platonists, then, were following Plato and Aristotle
in thinking that a nonrational desire consisted of a certain kind of agreeable
or disagreeable impression, with its origin in a nonrational part of the soul.
They could preserve the division of the soul by supposing that different kinds
of impulsive impressions have their origin in different parts of the soul,
rather than in reason or the mind, as the Stoics had assumed. But they could
now agree with the Stoics (though this in fact meant a significant departure
from Plato and Aristotle) that any impression, however tempting it may be,
needs an assent of reason to turn it into an impulse that can move us to
action. So now reason does appear in two roles. It has or forms its own view
as to what would be a good thing to do, and it judges whether to assent or
refuse to assent to the impulsive impressions which present themselves. Thus
we get the division of reason or the intellect into two parts, as we find in
Thomas Aquinas, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Now the intellect assents to something in two ways. One way, because it is moved to assent by the object itself, which is known either through itself (as in the case of first principles, of which there is understanding), or through something else already known (as in the case of conclusions, of which there is knowledge). In another way, the intellect assents to something, not because it is sufficiently moved to this assent by its proper object, but through a certain voluntary choice (electionem voluntarie) turning toward one side rather than the other. And if this is done with doubt or fear of the opposite side, there will be opinion; if, on the other hand, this is done with certainty and without such fear, there will be faith" (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II, question 1, article 4). for instance, in Thomas Aquinas: a cognitive part and the will.
Think again about the cake example. The impression in the appetite is that this piece of cake will give you pleasure if you eat it. This impression is agreeable, and you will act on it if appetite is in control.
How does this work in the version of the tripartite theory in the "[l]ater Peripatetics and Platonists?"
The "[l]ater Peripatetics and Platonists" think that such impressions are impulsive impressions, and they understand impulsive impressions to require the assent of reason to result in impulses. So if someone acts on this impression (and thus tries to get the cake and eat it), reason in his soul has assented to this impulsive impression.
"[N]ow reason does appear in two roles."
What are the two roles?
"[Reason] has or forms its own view as to what would be a good thing to do, and it judges whether to assent or refuse to assent to the impulsive impressions which present themselves."
The first ("...[i]t has or forms...") is the "cognitive part." Reason forms beliefs "as to what would be a good thing to do." The second ("...it judges ... impulsive impressions...") is the "will."
So reason = the cognitive part + the will.
7. Another factor which could facilitate this move, as I indicated earlier, is that assent could be construed rather generously as involving simple acceptance of, or acquiescence to, an impression, ceding to it, giving in to it, rather than an active, explicit act of assent. This is why many philosophers were now prepared to say that even nonhuman animals assent to their impressions in that they cede to them and rely on them in their action.
Since assent can be "acquiescence," the Platonists and Aristotelians found it easy to think (contrary to Plato and Aristotle in their versions of the Tripartite Theory) that every action stems from the assent of reason.
8. There is an important development in the first century B.C. which further
facilitated this change. It is usually claimed that the Stoic Posidonius early
in the first century B.C. criticized Chrysippus's doctrine that the passions
of the soul have their origin in reason and that he reverted to a tripartite
division of the soul. The evidence for this comes from
Galen of Pergamum (130-210 CE), Greek physician and philosopher.
De Placitis Hippocratis et Platonis
On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato.
Galen wrote the first six (of the nine) books of On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato in the period from 162 to 166 CE. His aim is to show that Hippocrates and Plato agreed and were correct about the faculties of animals. The work is largely polemical. In books III-V, he attacks Chrysippus' understanding of the soul and the passions. Galen, in particular, Galen's De Placitis Hippocratis et Platonis, but it has to be treated with great caution. Galen is an extremely polemical author who shows few scruples in defending or advancing a good cause. He is firmly set against Stoicism and eager to show that on a matter dear to him, such as the division of the soul, the great authority of the school, Chrysippus, who denies this doctrine, has been contradicted by another major Stoic, Posidonius. Hence I have great sympathy with John Cooper's attempt to show that Galen was simply wrong to interpret Posidonius as having thought that there is an irrational part of the soul. On the other hand, it is obvious that Posidonius did criticize Chrysippus and must have said things which allowed Galen to interpret him in this way. What was at issue between Chrysippus and Posidonius?
This "important development" is not straightforward to understand.
What are the "passions"?
A "passion" (πάθος) is an "excessive impulse" (ὁρμὴ πλεονάζουσα). The early Stoic view (the view in Chrysippus) is that excessive impulses stem from false beliefs about what is good and what is bad.
Posidonius of Apameia 2nd to 1st century BCE), a Stoic polymath whose writings have survived only in fragments.
Galen says that the Posidonius argued against Chrysippus and the traditional Stoic view of the soul:
"[I]t is not surprising that he [Chrysippus, an early Stoic] was perplexed about the origin of
vice [false beliefs about what is good and what is bad]. He could not state its cause
or the ways in which it comes to exist; and he could not discover how
it is that children err. On all these points it was reasonable, I [Galen] think, for
Posidonius [a middle Stoic] to censure and refute him [Chrysippus]. For if from the start children felt a
kinship with virtue, their misconduct could not arise
internally or from themselves, but necessarily come to them only from the
outside. But even though they are brought up in good habits and are given the
education they ought to have, yet they are invariably observed doing
something wrong; and Chrysippus acknowledges this fact. ... [H]e granted that
even if children were raised under the exclusive care of a philosopher and
never saw or heard any example of vice, nevertheless they would not
necessarily become philosophers. There are two causes of their
corruption; one arises in them from the conversation of the majority of men,
the other from the very nature of things (αὐτῆς τῶν πραγμάτων τῆς φύσεως).
"When a rational being is perverted, this is due to the
persuasiveness of external pursuits (τὰς τῶν ἔξωθεν πραγματειῶν πιθανότητας) or sometimes
to the influence of associates"
Lives of the Philosophers VII.
"If it is the persuasion of things (πραγμάτων πιθανότητες), by which some things appear to be good, when they are not good, let us seek a remedy for this" (Epictetus, Discourses I.27).
πρᾶγμα I have objections to both of these causes, beginning with that which arises from associations. It occurs to me to wonder why it is that when they have seen and heard an example of vice, they do not hate it and flee from it, since they feel no kinship with it; and I wonder all the more that they should be corrupted when they neither seen nor hear such examples and are deceived by the very things (πραγμάτων) themselves. What necessity is there that children be enticed by pleasure as a good, when they feel no kinship with it, or that they avoid and flee from pain if they are not by nature also alienated from it? ... [W]hen he says that corruption arises in inferior men in regard to good and bad because of the persuasiveness of impressions (πιθανότητα τῶν φαντασιῶν) and the talk of men, we must ask him why it is that pleasure projects the persuasive impression that it is good, and pain that it is bad" (On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato V.5.9).
This passage is confusing.
The issue is about the "origin of vice": why human beings come to have false beliefs about what is good and what is bad. According to the Stoics, these beliefs constitute vice. Further, we all get these beliefs.
Galen attributes a view to Chrysippus about the origin of these false beliefs that he takes Posidonius to argue against. According to the view Galen attributes to Chrysippus, there are two "causes" of vice.
1. One of these causes is easier to understand than the other.
The easier to understand cause is "the conversation of the majority of men." The suggestion, it seems, is that we get false beliefs about what is good and what is bad from the society in which we live.
About this cause of vice, Galen seems to say that Chrysippus admits that "even if children were raised under the exclusive care of a philosopher and never saw or heard any example of vice (and so did not get false beliefs about what is good and what is bad from society), nevertheless they would not necessarily become philosophers."
If these "philosophers" do not have false beliefs about what is good and what is bad and thus do not pass them to the children they raise, the admission Galen attributes to Chrysippus is that even children raised this way (such that they "never saw or heard any example of vice") would not necessarily become wise.
"[A]lthough ... we indeed are now foolish, vicious, and enslaved, we never
were actually wise, virtuous, and free"
(A Free Will, 97).
The view, it seems, is that although everyone becomes a fool when he acquires reason, this happens because of something we ourselves do. Nature does not make fools. Instead, we become fools because we are rash in our assent and thereby enslave ourselves.
Why are we rash in our assent?
Here is Frede's answer:
“[T]he grownup, the animal soul having disappeared, does not have any instinctive impulses…. The only way for him to be moved is by assent to impulsive impressions. But impulsive impressions presuppose an evaluation of the objects of our impulses. And at this point ordinary human beings in ordinary human societies can hardly fail to make the mistake which even philosophers like the Platonists and the Peripatetics make. They think that since nature from birth has endowed us with certain natural inclinations and disinclinations the objects of these natural impulses must be goods and evils. Hence their behavior comes to be motivated, not by instinctive impulses, but by affections of the soul, namely their assent to impulsive impressions in which the objects of the natural inclinations with which we are born are represented as good or bad” (Michael Frede, "The Stoic Doctrine of the Affections of the Soul," 109. The Norms of Nature (edited by Malcolm Schofield and Gisela Striker), 93-110. Cambridge University Press, 1986).
The Stoic think, as Frede understands them, that because we believe that "nature from birth has endowed us with certain natural inclinations and disinclinations," we rashly assent to the impression that "the objects of these natural impulses must be goods and evils."
Why do we do this?
The premise is that nature has endowed us with these impulses. The conclusion is that the objects of the impulses are "goods and evils." This conclusion is not a logical consequence of the premise. What does "not necessarily become wise" mean?
The admission, stated more formally, seems to be this: It is possible that there is an x such that x is a child who "never saw or heard an example of vice and x will not become wise (or: x will become a fool).
2. The harder to understand of the two causes is "the very nature of things."
Galen later restates this second cause as "the persuasiveness of impressions." He also seems to go on to try to explain what happens, but the explanation is not very helpful. It is "that pleasure projects (προσβάλλουσι) [or strikes us with] the persuasive impression that it is good, and pain that it is bad."
What does this mean?
Another puzzle about this second cause is how it stands to "the conversation of the majority of men."
Are we supposed to think that once we have some false beliefs from society, "the persuasiveness of impressions" can give us others? Or are we supposed to think that even if we did not get false beliefs from those who raise us (say, because we are raised by philosophers), we would get them from "the persuasiveness of impressions"?
I do not know the answer.
9. From the information we have about Chrysippus and the earlier Stoics, we get the impression that human beings in the course of their natural development would turn into virtuous and wise human beings, if only this development were not interfered with from the outside through corruption from those who raise us and by the society we grow up in. As it is, though, we are made to believe that all sorts of things are good and evil which in fact are neither, and so we develop corresponding irrational desires for or against these things which are entirely inappropriate but which come to guide our life.
What is the "course of ... natural development" for human beings?
Part of this "natural development" consists in the development of reason. The Stoic view is that reason is not inborn, but develops in human beings as they mature from children into adults.
"[W]e get the impression that [Chrysippus and the earlier Stoics thought that] human beings in the course of their natural development would turn into virtuous and wise human beings, if only this development were not interfered with from the outside through corruption from those who raise us and by the society we grow up in."
This is puzzling.
Galen, as we just saw, seems to think that Chrysippus cites two causes for the "origin of vice."
This explanation itself too is puzzling. If the false beliefs come from society, then the false beliefs come from individuals in the society. So the question arises again as to where these individuals get their false beliefs.
Maybe, though, the Stoic idea is that there have always been human beings living in societies. So the individuals who have false beliefs got them from the society in which they were raised. This society contained individuals who got their false beliefs from the society in which they were raised, and so on back forever.
10. I take it that Posidonius questioned this picture. "The first men and those who sprang from them, still unspoiled, followed nature, having one man as both their leader and their law, entrusting themselves to the control of one better than themselves. ... Accordingly,in that age which is maintained to be the golden age, Posidonius holds that the government was under the jurisdiction of the wise" (Seneca (a late Stoic), Epistles XC). He had an interest in the history of mankind, and he seems to have assumed that there was an idyllic original state of innocence in which people lived peacefully together without coercion, freely following those who were wise. But this original paradisiacal state was lost through corruption, greed, envy, and ambition. Now, this corruption cannot have come from the outside, from society, as society was not yet corrupt. It must have come from the inside, then. If we look for the weak spot on the inside, it must lie in the misguided but tempting impulsive impressions which we find hard to resist. Take, for instance, the case in which one wants to run away because one fears for one's life. For a Stoic this is an unreasonable, inappropriate, and misguided desire, because only evils are to be feared, and death is not an evil. According to the classic Stoic account, the source of this inappropriate desire is the belief that death is an evil. This is not a belief we develop naturally. We acquire it from the outside, because we grow up in a society which believes that death is an evil. Given this belief, the impulsive impression that one might die from an infection takes on a very disturbing coloring and is difficult not to assent to.
What is this "picture" that Posidonius questioned?
It seems that Posidonius accepted that human beings have always lived in society and that at first
Why does Posidonius question this?
Frede does not say, but my guess is that he thinks that we are seeing the influence of something Plato says. there were no false beliefs about what is good and what is bad. What he questions is whether this state is sustainable.
So Posidonius, as Frede understands him, thinks vice comes from the "inside."
Is the view that a cause of vice is "the persuasiveness of impressions"?
I am not sure.
Galen's explanation of what Posidonius thinks does not help. It is pretty obscure.
"[Posidonius tries to show that sometimes] false suppositions ... arise through the pull of affections (παθητικῆς), but that false opinions precede this pull, because the reasoning part has become weak in judgement. For impulse is sometimes generated in an animal as a result of judgement of the reasoning part, but often as a result of the movement of the affective part" (On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato V.5.21).
11. Posidonius seems to have asked whether the coloring of the impression must be due to a belief of reason or whether, instead, it could have its origin in a nonrational part of the soul or even in the body and its constitution and state. It could be a natural, nonrational reaction of an organism which sees its life threatened. Similarly, it might be more plausible to refer the coloring of the impulsive impression, not to the mistaken belief that this piece of cake is something good but rather to the body of an organism which is depleted and craving some carbohydrates. It does not matter for our purposes whether Posidonius believed in a nonrational part of the soul. What matters is his suggestion that the impulsive character of at least some of our impressions does not originate in reason's beliefs and thus, ultimately, in some sense, outside us but seems to have its origin in us, for instance, in the particular constitution or state of our body which makes us crave certain things. Peripatetics and Platonists would have gladly taken such considerations as a confirmation of the view that nonrational desires are constituted by impressions which have their origin not in reason but in a nonrational part of the soul.
Posidonius suggests "that the impulsive character of at least some of our impressions does not originate in reason's beliefs [contrary to the traditional Stoic view] and thus, ultimately, in some sense, outside us but seems to have its origin in us, for instance, in the particular constitution or state of our body which makes us crave certain things."
If "the impulsive character of at least some of our impressions" is not a matter of reason and beliefs about what is good and what is bad, what accounts for the fact that these impressions are impulsive?
Frede suggests that Posidonius thinks that the character has something to do with the body. "[I]t might be more plausible to refer the coloring of the impulsive impression, not to the mistaken belief that this piece of cake is something good but rather to the body of an organism which is depleted and craving some carbohydrates."
This is confusing, but we don't have to worry about whether this is what Posidonius really thought. Frede is trying to explain how the Platonists and Aristotelians could think that some impulsive impressions are the desires in the nonrational parts of the soul. His explanation is that they could say to themselves that even a Stoic as influential within the school as Posidonius thought that the impulsiveness of some impressions is not a matter of reason.
12. The second, probably closely connected, development has to do with
Stoic analysis of the emotions. If we look, for instance, at Seneca's
treatise on anger,
Seneca (4 BCE - 65 CE), major Roman Stoic
Seneca, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy we easily get confused, and commentators used to get confused. This is because anger (ira)
ira, noun, "ire, anger"
ἀπάθεια, apatheia, noun, (ἀ "not" + πάθος, noun, páthos, "passion"), "without passion,"
The Platonic and Aristotelian ideal is μετριοπάθεια.
"[The ruler in the just city] makes the least lament and bears it most mildly when any such misfortune overtakes him" (Republic III.387e).
πάθος, noun, páthos, "passion" (Latin: perturbatio)
προπάθεια, propatheia, noun, "prepassion" and other terms for emotions, desires, or passions of the soul, are systematically used ambiguously. In classical Stoic doctrine anger refers to the desire or impulse one has which makes one act in anger because one has assented to, accepted, and yielded to the relevant impulsive impression. But Seneca also uses ira to refer to the mere impression. Later Stoics clarified this ambiguous use of terms like anger or fear by distinguishing between a propatheia, an incipient passion, which is the mere impulsive impression not yet assented to, and a pathos, the passion in full force, when the impulsive impression has received assent. This distinction may very well go back to Posidonius. In any case, it would allow Peripatetics and Platonists more easily to identify their nonrational desires with the impulsive impressions they took to be generated by the nonrational part of the soul. They could do this all the more readily since for them, unlike the Stoics, having a desire in itself did not mean that one acted on it. Otherwise they could not have assumed that there could be an acute conflict of desires and that one could act in such a case by following either reason or appetite.
This, like the discussion of Posidonius, is explanation for how the Platonists and Aristotelians could "identify their nonrational desires with the impulsive impressions they took to be generated by the nonrational part of the soul."
How does the explanation work?
Seneca sometimes uses "anger" (and other terms for the emotions) for an impulsive impression to which assent has not been given. These impulsive impressions correspond to nonrational desires for the Peripatetics and Platonists. (To understand this, it helps to reread Frede's discussion in 20 in lecture 3.)
For the Stoics, an "incipient passion" (προπάθεια) is an impulsive impression based on a false belief about what is good or what is bad. A "passion" (πάθος) is the assent to such an impression.
13. I have so far talked only about what Platonists and Peripatetics would have had to do to get a notion of the will which preserved their assumption of a bi- or tripartite soul and how they could easily have done this, once they accepted the assumption that any action, any doing which we are not made to do by force, presupposes an act of assent. I have not yet done anything to show that this is what Platonists and Peripatetics actually did. Let us begin with assent.
In the prior paragraphs, Frede has considered "what Platonists and Peripatetics would have had to do to get a notion of the will which preserved their assumption of a bi- or tripartite soul."
Now he tries to show that they in fact did do this.
First he tries to show that the Platonists and Aristotelians take over the Stoic notion of assent.
14. We find this Stoic notion taken over by Platonists in many texts. We know
from a fragment of
Numenius (2nd century CE)
Plotinus (204/5 – 270 CE)
Porphyry (3rd to 4th century CE),
φιλόλογος, philologos, adjective, "lover of words, talkative"
φιλόσοφος, philosophos, adjective, "lover of wisdom"
"Numenius, when he says that the capacity for assent admits of activities, says that the imaginative faculty is an accident of it – not its function or purpose, but something that accompanies it. The Stoics not only root perception in impression, but make its substance dependent on assent: perceptual impression is assent, or the perception of one’s impulse to assent. Longinus does not think that there is a capacity for assent at all" (Porphyry, On the Powers of the Soul. Stobaeus, Anthology 1.49.25; 349.19–28. Fragment 45 in E. des Places, Numénius, Fragments).
"In the cases where we assent to our persuasive impression on account of its persuasiveness, still not assenting was also in our power, provided that the impression does not drag us and manipulate us like puppets to itself" (Porphyry, On What is in Our Power. Stobaeus, Anthology 2.8.40; 167.9-17. 269F in Smith, Porphyrii philosophi fragmenta).
Porphyry's On What is in Our Power survives in the fragments Stobaeus preserved in his Anthology (2.8.39-42). The work itself seems to be a commentary on Plato's myth of Er (Republic X.614b). Porphyry's work On the Powers of the Soul (ap. Stob., Ecl. I.349.19ff) that Longinus doubted whether there was such a thing as the soul's power to give assent. But it seems that Longinus here, as in other respects, was rather singular in his conservatism. I take it that he knew his Plato extremely well and criticized what his fellow Platonists, like Numenius, presented as Plato's philosophy. It was this, I assume, which earned Longinus Plotinus's rebuke that he was a philologos, rather than a philosopher (Porphyry, VP 14). At a time when Plato was about to become “the divine Plato,” Longinus still had no difficulty constantly criticizing Plato's style (see Proclus, in Tim. 1.14.7). Longinus was the only significant Platonist of his time who held on to a unitarian rather than a binitarian or trinitarian conception of God. And so we should not be surprised that Longinus, quite rightly, doubted that Plato's philosophy had envisaged a doctrine of assent. But Numenius, the most important Platonist before Plotinus, adopted such a doctrine (see Stobaeus), as did, at least at times, Plotinus and also Porphyry, the student of Longinus and Plotinus (see Porphyry ap. Stob., Ecl. II.167.9ff)
We are supposed to know that some Platonists had this notion of assent because Porphyry reports that "Longinus doubted whether there was such a thing as the soul's power to give assent."
Frede takes Longinus, in this doubt, to criticize his fellow Platonists, such as Numenius who seems to have thought that Plato himself thought all action requires the assent of reason.
There is a passage in Plato that talks about assent. Socrates is the speaker.
"Now, wouldn’t you consider assent and dissent, wanting to
have something and rejecting it, taking something and pushing it way, as all
being pairs of mutual opposites—whether of opposite doings or of opposite
undergoings does not matter?
Yes, they are opposites.
What about thirst, hunger, and the appetites as a whole, and also willing and wishing? Would you include all of them somewhere among the kinds of things we just mentioned? For example, wouldn’t you say that the soul of someone who has an appetite wants the thing for which it has an appetite, and draws toward itself what it wishes to have; and, in addition, that insofar as his soul wills something to be given to it, it nods assent to itself as if in answer to a question, and strives toward its attainment?
What about not-willing, not-wishing, and not-having an appetite? Wouldn’t we include them among the very opposites, cases in which the soul pushes and drives things away from itself?
Of course (Republic IV.437b).
Notice, though, that Socrates does not say assent is necessary for every action. So, in this passage, "reason is not made to appear in two roles, [as it does in the later Platonists,] first as presenting its own case and then as adjudicating the conflict by making a decision or choice" (lecture 2, 10).
This is the crucial point. If Plato "envisaged a doctrine of assent," he would think more than that reason in the soul sometimes assents. He would think that every action requires the assent of reason and thus that in the case of conflict between the parts of the soul, reason "appear[s] in two roles."
Frede says that "Longinus was the only significant Platonist of his time who held on to a unitarian rather than a binitarian or trinitarian conception of God. And so we should not be surprised that Longinus, quite rightly, doubted that Plato's philosophy had envisaged a doctrine of assent."
I suspect there is an interesting story here, but I do not know what it is.
15. We also find this doctrine of assent in the Peripatetics. Thus, for
instance, Alexander of Aphrodisias
Alexander of Aphrodisias (2nd to 3rd century CE), Aristotelian philosopher and commentator.
Alexander of Aphrodisias, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
De fato = On fate, written in about 198-209 CE.
From the On fate, we know the Roman emperors Septimius Severus and Antoninus Caracalla appointed Alexander to an endowed chair of Aristotelian philosophy.
ἑκούσιος, hekousios, adjective, "of one's own accord."
ἑκούσιος is derived from ἑκών and has the same basic meaning. The only difference is that it is said of actions.
"It is agreed by everyone that man has this advantage from nature over the other living creatures, that he does not follow appearances in the same way as them, but has reason from her as a judge of the appearances that impinge on him concerning certain things as deserving to be choosen. Using this, if, when they are examined, the things that appeared are indeed as they initially appear, he assents to the appearance and so goes in pursuit of them (συγκατατίθεταί τε τῇ φαντασίᾳ καὶ οὕτως μέτεισιν αὐτά); but if they appear different or something else appears more deserving to be choosen. he chooses that, leaving behind what initially appeared to him as deserving choice" (Alexander of Aphrodisias, De fato XI). in the De fato (XI, p. 178, 17ff Bruns) explains that human beings, unlike animals, do not just follow their impressions but have reason which allows them to scrutinize their impressions in such a way that they will proceed to act only if reason has given assent to an impression. A bit later in the same text (XIV, p. 183, 27ff), Alexander distinguishes between what we do of our own accord (hekousion) and what we do because it is up to us (eph' hēmin). Obviously, he has in mind Aristotle's distinction between what we do of our own accord (hekontes) and what we do by choice. We remember that the latter class is restricted to actions we will and choose to do, whereas the former also includes those actions which we do when motivated by a nonrational desire. But Alexander now, unlike Aristotle, characterizes this former class as involving a merely unforced assent of reason to an impression, whereas the latter class is supposed to involve an assent of reason based on a critical evaluation of the impression. So it is clear that Alexander takes even an action done on impulse, for instance, an akratic action, to involve the assent of reason to the appropriate impression.
Frede cites Alexander of Aphrodisias to show the Aristotelians have the "doctrine of assent."
Alexander, according to Frede, "explains that human beings, unlike animals, do not just follow their impressions but have reason which allows them to scrutinize their impressions in such a way that they will proceed to act only if reason has given assent to an impression."
Frede discusses Alexander again in chapter 6.
16. Let us return to the Platonists. There are any number of passages which show that Platonists construe following a nonrational desire rather than reason in a similar way. Thus Plotinus (Enn. VI.8.2) raises the question of how we can be said to be free, if it would seem that the impression and desire pull us wherever they lead us. It is clear from the context that Plotinus is speaking about nonrational desires. And it is clear from the curious expression (hē te phantasia [ἥ τε φαντασία]...hē te orexis [ἥ τε ὄρεξις], with the subsequent verb forms in the singular) that he is identifying the nonrational desire with an impression.
"When impression (φαντασία) compels and desire (ὄρεξις) pulls us in whatever direction it leads, how are we given the mastery in these circumstances?" (Plotinus, Enneads VI.8.2).
17. Porphyry (ap. Stob., Ecl. II.167.9ff) tells us that somebody
whose natural inclinations lead him to act in a certain way could also act
otherwise since the impression does not force him to give assent to it.
Calcidius, in his commentary on the Timaeus,
Plato's Timaeus, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
adsensus is an alternative form of assensus
assensus, noun, "assent"
voluntas, noun, "will"
φαντασία, phantasia, noun, "appearing, appearance" which is taken to reflect a pre-Plotinian source, claims (in section 156) that the soul is self-moved and that its motion consists in assent (adsensus) or desire but that this presupposes an impression (or the ability to form impressions) which the Greeks call phantasia. Sometimes, though, he continues, this impression is deceptive, corrupts assent, and brings it about that we choose the bad instead of the good. In this case, Calcidius says, we act by being lured by the impression to act in this way, rather than by voluntas. So Calcidius, just like Alexander of Aphrodisias (De fato XIV, p. 183) and other Platonist and Peripatetic authors, is preserving the distinction between willing (boulêsis) to do something, in Plato's and Aristotle's narrow sense, and giving assent in such away that one can be said to do something willingly in a wider sense, simply because one has assented to it.
In about 321 CE, Calcidius (4th century CE) translated part (to Stephanus number 53c) of Plato's Timaeus from Greek to Latin and provided an extensive commentary on the dialogue.
"Reason or deliberation is an inner movement of the ruling principle within the soul; and the latter is self-moving, its movement being assent or impulse. Assent and impulse, then, are self-moving, although not in the absence of imagination, which the Greeks call φαντασία. So it happens that the movement of the soul's ruling power, its consent, is very often depraved because of a deceptive image and chooses the bad over the good. There are many reasons for this: an uncultivated coarseness in deliberating, ignorance, a mind excessively devoted to importune adulation, the prejudice of false opinion, habituation to depravity--at all events, a certain tyrannical domination on the part of one or another vice, that being the reason for our being said to sin owing to compulsion or compulsive allurements rather than our will" (Calcidius, Commentary on Plato's Timaeus 156).
What is going on in this passage?
Calcidius seems to attribute to Plato the view that every action requires the assent of reason. Sometimes, though, reason does not give its assent willingly. Instead, it is somehow compelled by one of the causes Calcidius lists.
18. It is this wider notion of willing, that is, assenting to an impulsive
impression, whether following reason or going against reason, which gives
rise to the notion of the will as the ability and disposition to do things
by assenting to impressions, whether they have their origin in reason or in
the nonrational part of the soul and whether they are reasonable or
Aspasius (2nd century CE).
I do not know which passages in Aspasius Frede has in mind. unreasonable. In this way we come to have a notion of a will in Platonist and Peripatetic authors as, for instance, in Aspasius (Commentary on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics).
The Platonists and Peripatetics have a notion of the will.
What is this notion?
It is the ability and disposition to do things by assenting to impressions, whether they have their origin in reason or in the nonrational part of the soul and whether they are reasonable or unreasonable."
How does this notion differ from the one in Stoicism?
In Stoicism, the soul in the adult is reason. So, in Stoicism, reason does not play two roles.
19. Obviously, this change in the way of looking at nonrational desire has considerable consequences. It is one thing to think of human beings as sometimes being overwhelmed by a powerful desire for something or even to think that reason sometimes is overwhelmed by a powerful desire for something; we readily understand, or believe we understand, how this might happen. It is quite another thing to relocate this conflict as a conflict within reason or the mind. That refocuses our attention on thoughts or impressions. But what is so powerful about these impressions that reason may not be able to resist them?
The Platonist and Peripatetic notion of the will raises a question about reason.
Why would reason find it hard to resist assenting to nonrational impulsive impressions?
Frede first gives the Stoic explanation. On the Stoic view, according to Frede, reason's own beliefs about what is good and what is bad make it difficult for reason to resist assenting to impulsive impressions.
20. Classical Stoicism has a relatively easy answer. If impressions have such a power over you, it is because they are formed by reason in a way which reflects your beliefs, and, given these beliefs, it is not surprising if you assent to these impressions. If you think that death is a terrible evil, it is not surprising that you cannot resist the thought to run as fast as you can, if you see death coming your way. It is your reason, your beliefs, which give your impressions their power. But if you do not think that these impressions have their origin in reason and that their power is due to your beliefs, it becomes rather difficult to understand how they would have such a power over reason that, even if they have little or nothing to recommend them rationally, reason can be brought to assent to them. At this point we have to beware of the danger of just covering up the problem by appealing to the free will, by claiming that this is precisely what it is to have a free will—to be able to give assent not only to impressions which with good reason we find acceptable but also to impressions which have no merit rationally. Instead I want to look briefly at some ancient attempts to explain the appealing or tempting character of impressions we wrongly give assent to. Needless to say, we are talking about temptations and about the origins of the very notion of a temptation.
What is the "relatively easy answer"?
It is the Stoic answer that "[i]t is your reason, your beliefs, which give your impressions their power."
What does this mean?
Consider Frede's "death" example. One way to understand it as follows.
You have (what the Stoics think is) the false belief that your death is bad. You have the impression that "death [is] coming your way." Because of your belief that your death is bad, this impression is impulsive. If you assent to it, you have the excessive impulse "to run [away from death] as fast as you can."
Why does reason find it difficult to resist assenting to this impression?
Frede says that "[i]t is your reason, your beliefs, which give your impressions their power."
How do "your beliefs" do this?
Frede does not say. He only says that it is "not surprising" that it happens.
Here is a guess about what is supposed to happen.
We believe our death is bad and have the impression that we might die because we have cut ourself with a rusty knife. (This is Frede's example in 13 in lecture 3). Because of our belief, this impression is impulsive for us.
Sextus Empiricus is explaining Carneades's view of assent to persuasive impressions, but the examples
he presents seem to be ordinary ones.
"A man, for example, is being pursued by enemies, and coming to a ditch he receives an impression which suggests that there, too, enemies are lying in wait for him; then being carried away by this impression, as a persuasive impression, he turns aside and avoids the ditch, being led by the persuasiveness of the impression, before he has exactly ascertained whether or not there really is an ambush of the enemy at the spot" (Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians I.185).
"For example,a on seeing a coil of rope in an unlighted room a man jumps over it, conceiving it for the moment to be a snake, but turning back afterwards he inquires into the truth, and on finding it motionless he is already inclined to think that it is not a snake, but as he reckons, all the same, that snakes too are motionless at times when numbed by winter’s frost, he prods at the coiled mass with a stick, and then, after thus testing the impression received, he assents to the fact that it is false to suppose that the body presented to him is a snake" (Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians I.187). How much evidence do we need to assent to this impression?
If we spend a lot of time trying to determine whether the impulsive impression is true, we risk losing the opportunity to prevent our death. If the impression is false and we assent without bothering to think too hard about whether the impression is true, we risk wasting our time trying to prevent our death.
This suggests that we should not spend time much time gathering evidence.
Maybe this explains why the Stoics think that false beliefs about what is good and what is bad give impulsive impressions their power to command assent. These beliefs dispose us to assent to our impulsive impressions.
The Platonists and Aristotelians cannot use this explanation for their problem case.
What is the their problem case?
We have an impulsive impression from one of nonrational parts of the soul. This impression is not impulsive because of the beliefs of reason about what is good and what is bad. So the puzzle is how this impulsive impression can exert power of reason in such a way that reason comes to assent to it.
Frede gives two historical attempts in the Christian tradition to explain why reason assents to these impressions. Both attempts are instances of what he describes (in 25) as "rationalization" on the part of reason.
Origen and Evagrius are the authors Frede cites.
Frede's idea seems to be that they knew Platonist and Aristotelian tripartite theory and that they are using this theory in explanation of Christian examples in which someone succumbs to temptation.
Origen and Evagrius, in this way, provide evidence for how the Platonists and Aristotelians solved their problem case in which reason assents to an impulsive impression from one of the nonrational parts of the soul.
21. We get a relatively simple and straightforward view in Origen
[of how impressions that have the source of their impulsiveness in the
nonrational part of the soul have power over reason].
Origen (2nd to 3rd century CE), Christian theologian.
De Principiis (On First Principles). Not a great translation for our purposes, but it is freely available online.
"But if anyone should say that the impression from without is of such a sort that it is impossible to resist it whatever it may be, let him turn his attention to his own feeling and movements and see whether there is not an approval, assent and inclination of the controlling faculty towards a particular action on account of some specious attractions. For instance, when a woman displays herself before a man who has determined to remain chaste and to abstain from sexual intercourse and invites him to act contrary to his purpose, she does not become the absolute cause of the abandonment of that purpose. The truth is that he is first entirely delighted with the sensation and lure of the pleasure (πάντως γὰρ εὐδοκήσας τῷ γαργαλισμῷ καὶ τῷ λείῳ τῆς ἡδονῆς) and has no wish to resist it nor to strengthen his previous determination; and then he commits the licentious act. On the other hand the same experiences may happen to one who has undergone more instruction and discipline; that is, the sensations and incitements (οἱ μὲν γαργαλισμοὶ καὶ οἱ ἐρεθισμοὶ) are there, but his reason, having been strengthened to a higher degree and trained by practice (ἠσκηκότι) and confirmed towards the good by right doctrines, or at any rate being near to such confirmation, repels the incitements and gradually weakens the desire" (Origen, De Principiis, III.1.4; G. W. Butterworth, 1936).
Origen, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
ἄσκησις, askēsis, noun, "exercise, practice, training"
προπάθεια, propatheia, noun, "prepassion"
ἐρεθισμός, erethismos, noun, "irritation"
γαργαλισμός, gargalismos, noun, "tickling"
Didymus the Blind
4th century CE Christian theologian. Student of Origen.
"First, the devil cast it into his heart to betray the Lord, then, Scripture says, 'after the morsel Satan entered him' [John 13:27]--not that Satan entered first, but that he 'cast into his heart' [John 13:2] an incipient passion. After he found that the it persisted, so that it was no longer an incipient passion (προπάθειαν), but rather the worst kind of disposition, he took a position, a place to enter into him" (Didymus the Blind, Commentary on Ecclesiastes, 294.15). It is based on the idea that impulsive impressions in themselves have an agreeable or disagreeable character which, in the case of unreasonable impressions, turns them into incipient passions (propatheiai). There maybe something titillating about the very impression itself. Origen (De princ. III.1.4) speaks of the tickles (gargalismoi) and provocations (erithismoi) and also the smooth pleasure produced by the impression. Now, you might enjoy the impression and dwell on it. And so it will retain its force or even grow in force. It is perhaps not too far-fetched (though Origen does not say so explicitly) to assume that your ability to form impressions, your imagination, gets encouraged by the way you dwell on the impression, to embellish it and make it seem even more attractive. What Origen does say is that, if you have the appropriate knowledge and practice (askêsis), then, instead of dwelling on the agreeable impression, you will be able to make the impression go away and dissolve the incipient lust. So nonrational and indeed unreasonable impulsive impressions gain some force by our dwelling on and enjoying the agreeable character of the mere fantasy.
What is this "simple and straightforward view in Origen"?
I am unsure.
The view is supposed to answer the following question. The impulsiveness of a nonrational impulsive impression does not come from the beliefs of reason. So why does reason have trouble not assenting?
Frede says that thinking about the impulsive impression can be enjoyable, that "you might enjoy the impression and dwell on it," and that because of this, the impression "will retain its force or even grow in force" over reason.
How is this supposed to work?
Maybe to "enjoy the [impulsive] impression and dwell on it" is to think about what would happen if you assented to it. When you do this, you see that assent will bring pleasure. "So nonrational and indeed unreasonable impulsive impressions gain some force by our dwelling on and enjoying the agreeable character of the mere fantasy."
Frede's suggestion seems to be that the "dwelling" leads reason to have a belief about the amount of pleasure and thus to form the belief that the object of the impulsive impression is good.
Why does this happen to reason?
Reason lacks "the appropriate knowledge and practice (askêsis)." If it had this, "then, instead of dwelling on the agreeable impression, you will be able to make the impression go away and dissolve the incipient lust." You know better than to dwell on the impression and thus to put yourself in a situation in which you are tempted.
What is "incipient lust"?
The impulsive impression is the "incipient passion" (προπάθεια). The "lust" is the "passion" (πάθος) what arises if assent is given to this impulsive impression. (See Frede's discussion in 12.)
22. When we turn to one of the most influential ascetic writers among the
The Desert Fathers are early Christian hermits and ascetics. They
lived mainly in the Scetes desert of the Roman province of Egypt,
beginning around the 3rd century CE.
Evagrius of Pontus (4th century CE)
Evagrius wrote on the ascetic life as a progression of stages the monk must pass through to attain the ultimate goal of the knowledge of God.
Evagrius fell into disrepute in the 6th century, when his writings (and Origen's and Didymus's the Blind) were associated with a strain of Origenism condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553 CE).
"There are three chief groups of demons opposing us in the practice of the ascetic life, and after them follows the whole army of the enemy. These three groups fight in the front line, and with impure thoughts seduce our souls into wrongdoing (τὰς ψυχὰς διὰ τῶν ἀκαθάρτων λογισμῶν ἐκκαλοῦνται πρὸς τὴν κακίαν). They are the demons set over the appetites of gluttony, those who suggest to us avaricious thoughts, and those who incite us to seek esteem in the eyes of men" (Appendix I, Περὶ διαφορῶν πονηρῶν λογισμῶν).
λογισμός, logismos, noun, "counting, calculation" Evagrius Ponticus (whose allegiance to Origen stood in the way of his having a greater influence in theology but could not prevent his influence as a spiritual guide), these tempting impressions are referred to as logismoi (literally, “reasonings,” but here better translated as “thinkings” or “considerations”). This is extremely puzzling at first sight, as these impressions have their origin in the nonrational part of the soul or even the body, neither of which can reason. But I have already pointed out that we have to be careful not to overlook the fact that Aristotle, though he denies reason to animals, does not deny animals considerable cognitive abilities and even something which we would call thinking, namely, inferences based on experience. It is just that Aristotle, given his elevated notion of reason as involving understanding, does not call this “thinking.” Something similar, mutatis mutandis, can be argued for the Stoics and even for Plato. Correspondingly, while the nonrational part of the soul has no understanding or insight, it is sensitive to experience and can form a view as to how pleasant it would be to obtain something and how, to judge from experience, one might attain it. What it lacks is understanding, especially understanding of the good, which would allow it to understand why it would not be a good thing to indulge in this pleasure.
There is a lot going on here.
"Animals are by nature born with the power of sensation, and from this some acquire the faculty of memory, whereas others do not. ... The other animals live by impressions and memories, and have but a small share of experience (ἐμπειρίας); but the human race lives also by art and reasoning (τέχνῃ καὶ λογισμοῖς). It is from memory that men acquire experience, because the numerous memories of the same thing eventually produce the effect of a single experience. Experience seems very similar to science and art, but actually it is through experience that men acquire knowledge and art. ... Art is produced when from many notions (ἐννοημάτων) of experience a single universal (καθόλου) judgment is formed with regard to like objects. To have a judgement that when Callias was suffering from this or that disease this or that benefited him, and similarly with Socrates and various other individuals, is a matter of experience; but to judge that it benefits all persons of a certain form (εἶδος), considered as a class, who suffer from this or that disease (e.g. the phlegmatic or bilious when suffering from burning fever) is a matter of art" (Metaphysics I.1.980a). Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, as Frede interprets them, understand the cognition that constitutes reason in such a way that it excludes cognition that we would think belongs to reason.
What is the cognition their understanding excludes?
"[I]nferences based on experience."
Frede's interpretation is perhaps easiest to understand for Aristotle.
Aristotle distinguishes "reason" and "experience." When he does this in the Metaphysics, he explains the difference in terms of the medical practitioner and theorist. The practitioner judges, as matter of experience, that patients who look a certain way will benefit from a certain medicine. The practitioner has the ability to make this judgement because he is part of a tradition of observing patients and the outcomes of their treatments. Aristotle does not think that the cognition involved in the judgement the practitioner makes is an exercise of "reason."
Frede's view, as I understand it, is that what Aristotle understands in the appetite as a judgement from experience "as to how pleasant it would be to obtain something," Evagrius Ponticus thinks of as a "consideration" the nonrational soul supplies to reason about the pleasantness of something.
Why does Evagrius Ponticus use λογισμός for this "consideration"?
Frede thinks, it seems, that Evagrius Ponticus does not know Aristotle's distinction.
23. How can there be logismoi which have their origin in the nonrational soul, or even the body, and are able to persuade reason? One way in which this might happen is if reason believes that some pleasures are a good but is not entirely clear about whether this pleasure is a good after all. Whereas the nonrational part of the soul is not sensitive to reasons or to reasoning in this sense, reason itself is sensitive to experience and to considerations based on experience. Still, the nonrational part of the soul may learn to become quite persuasive. It might point out how pleasant it would be to obtain a certain object and how easy it would be to obtain it in this circumstance. Reason, as we know, does not require proof, let alone the kind of proof which involves understanding and insight, to be persuaded. So here is the beginning of a view as to how reason might be persuaded to give assent to a nonrational and even unreasonable impression. The nonrational part of the soul offers it considerations, things to be considered in making a choice, which might persuade reason.
Frede here is answering a question he poses in 21 and 22.
The question occurs in the context of trying to understand what the Platonists and Aristotelians would have to think to place the Stoic idea that all action requires the assent of reason within the context of the tripartite theory of the soul. They would have to think that reason can assent both to "rational" and "nonrational" impulsive impressions. The "rational" impulsive impressions are impressions whose impulsiveness derives from the beliefs of reason about what is good and what is bad. The "nonrational" impulsive impressions are impressions that have their impulsiveness a different way. These impulsive impressions are the problem case.
This problem is really two problems.
It is not clear what makes these impressions impulsive and why these impressions have "power" over reason.
Frede is considering an answer to the second question.
(He gives an answer to the first question in 4 and 5, where I understand him to think that the likings and dislikings in the nonrational part of the soul are the source of the impulsiveness of these impressions.)
Frede thinks that because reason "is sensitive to experience and to considerations based on experience," there "is the beginning of a view as to how reason might be persuaded to give assent to a nonrational and even unreasonable impression." What happens is that "[t]he nonrational part of the soul offers it considerations [about how pleasant and easy it would be to do something], things to be considered in making a choice, which might persuade reason."
How is this Evagrius Ponticus view related to the Origen view Frede talks about in 21?
I am unsure, but here is the beginning of an answer.
In Origen view, the impulsive impression from one of the nonrational parts is initially not attractive to reason because reason does not believe that the object of the impression is good. As reason "dwells" on the impression, the impression becomes attractive to reason. Reason comes to think that assenting and thus pursuing the object of the impression would result in pleasure. So reason comes to believe that the object of the impression is good.
In the Evagrius Ponticus view, this "dwelling" is not part of the explanation for why reason assents to the impression. Instead, "[t]he nonrational part of the soul offers [reason] considerations."
24. There is still some puzzle as to how this is supposed to work. We have to explain how reason can be persuaded because it takes these considerations, offered by the nonrational part of the soul, to have some bearing on its own view that it would not be good to indulge in this pleasure. To take the most simple and straightforward case, we need to see why reason, when it thinks that it would not be a good thing to indulge in this pleasure, should in any way be moved by the consideration that it would be very pleasant to indulge in this pleasure. For it to be moved, the nonrational considerations would have to have, or would have to be thought by reason to have, some bearing on its own view.
What is the remaining "puzzle"?
"To take the most simple and straightforward case, we need to see why reason, when it thinks that it would not be a good thing to indulge in this pleasure, should in any way be moved by the consideration that it would be very pleasant to indulge in this pleasure."
I am not sure I understand this.
Is the question why does reason not just reject the "considerations?"
If this is the question, then it would seem that the lack of "appropriate knowledge and practice" (that Frede discusses in 21 in his discussion of Origen) is the answer.
It is a commonplace that we sometimes revise our belief that something is good when we
get the thought that it causes pain. Socrates makes the point in the Republic.
This, however, does not show that he thinks that all action requires the assent of reason
and that the phenomenon of acting on an unreasonable desire is really a matter of
reason changing its beliefs about what is good and what is bad.
"Don't you agree with me in thinking that men are unwillingly deprived of good things but willingly of evil? Or is it not an evil to be deceived in respect of the truth and a good to possess truth? And don't you think that to opine the things that are is to possess the truth?
Why, yes, you are right, and I agree that men are unwillingly deprived of true opinions.
And doesn't this happen to them by theft, by the spells of sorcery or by force?
I don't understand.
I must be talking in high tragic style. By those who have their opinions stolen from them I mean those who are over-persuaded and those who forget, because in the one case time, in the other argument strips them unawares of their beliefs. Now I presume you understand, do you not?
Well, then, by those who are constrained or forced I mean those whom some pain or suffering compels to change their minds.
That too I understand and you are right.
And the victims of sorcery I am sure you too would say are they who alter their opinions under the spell of pleasure or terrified by some fear.
Yes, everything that deceives appears to cast a spell upon the mind.
Well then, as I was just saying, we must look for those who are the best guardians of the indwelling conviction that what they have to do is what they at any time believe to be best for the state. Then we must observe them from childhood up and propose them tasks in which one would be most likely to forget this principle or be deceived, and he whose memory is sure and who cannot be beguiled we must accept and the other kind we must cross off from our list. Is not that so?
Yes, Socrates (Republic III.413a). 25. But now it looks as if reason, to give assent to the nonrational impression, would have to change its own view, in the sense that it rationalizes into a rational impression the nonrational impression that it would be pleasant to indulge in this pleasure—an impression of reason that it would be good to indulge and so give assent to this rational impression and thus, indirectly, to the nonrational impression.
This is confusing.
What is it for reason to "rationalize" a nonrational impression into a "rational impression"?
The answer, it seems, is that reason "rationalizes" the impression when it "changes its own view" about what is good and what is bad based on interaction with the nonrational part of the soul.
How does this solve the problem? I am not sure, but here is a possibility.
Because reason now has new beliefs about what is good and what is bad, the impulsiveness of the impression no longer comes only from to the nonrational parts of the soul. Now reason's own beliefs make it difficult for it not to assent to the impression, and this, as we have seen, is not supposed to be hard to understand.
This is still a little confusing, so it helps to see what is supposed to happen in steps.
We have an impression that there is a piece of cake on the table that would be sweet to eat. This impression is impulsive, but the source of its impulsiveness is not in the beliefs in reason. Reason does not have the belief that eating sweets is good. Instead, the source of the impulsiveness of this impression is in the appetitive part of the soul. From experience, this part of the soul has developed the expectation that eating sweets is pleasant.
Next reason "rationalizes" this expectation in the appetite. That is to say, reason "change[s] its own view."
Reason come to believe that eating sweets is good. (The process is either the one Frede takes Origen to describe or the one he takes Evagrius to describe.) Now reason's own beliefs about what is good make it difficult for reason not to assent to the impulsive impression that there is a piece of cake on the table that would be sweet to eat.
To understand what goes on in this "rationalization," it also helps to think about what happens in the classical view of Plato and Aristotle. For them, the appetite has a desire to eat the cake because it has the expectation that eating sweets is pleasant. Reason has the desire not to eat the cake because it believes that eating sweets is not good. Which desire prevails depends on what part of the soul is control, and what part is in control is a matter of past training. As Frede puts the point in 10 in lecture 2, "reason is not made to appear in two roles, first as presenting its own case and then as adjudicating the conflict by making a decision or choice." Instead, according to Plato and Aristotle, "[h]ow the conflict gets resolved is a matter of what happened in the past, perhaps the distant past."
In the later Platonists and Aristotelians, reason does appear in two roles." So "[h]ow the conflict gets resolved," is a matter of a choice reason makes. Rationalization is what happens when the appetite gets its way.
26. We do find a view like this in Plotinus (Enn. VI.8.2). The question here is in what sense we are free to do what we want to do and are not just driven and made to do what we do by the things around us. If these things produce impressions and nonrational desires in us, and these desires make us act the way we do, these actions are not our actions in any substantial sense but things we are made to do, things which just happen to us. If we say that our actions are not simply the product of desire but also of the considerations of reason (logismoi), we have to ask whether the considerations of reason produce the desire or whether the desire produces the considerations of reason. If the latter, our action again will not be ours in the substantial sense we are looking for, because, though it involves rational considerations on our part, these are just rationalizations of our nonrational desire, which in turn is produced by the object of desire.
Frede sees the rationalization view in Plotinus. As Frede understands him, he questions whether we are "free to do what we want to do," as opposed to "driven and made to do what we do by the things around us," if our impulse depends on a rationalization of an impulsive impression from the nonrational part of the soul.
27. This way of looking at things produces yet another notion of the will: the impressions the will assents to, or refuses to endorse, as in Stoicism, are all impressions of reason. But there is a crucial distinction between these impressions. Some are just the reflection of our grasp on, or our understanding of, our insight into reality, whereas others are the result of our rationalization of our nonrational desires. Plotinus calls the state of the soul in which we have such pure rational impressions “intellectualization” (VI.8[.5.35]). We shall return to Plotinus later in detail. What is of interest here is that Plotinus's view would make it intelligible how reason would not simply fall silent and cave in to a nonrational desire but would, as the notion of a will requires, actively endorse it by assenting to an impression which is due to rationalization of the desire or the corresponding impulsive impression.
This is confusing, and I am not sure I understand it.
"This way of looking at things produces yet another notion of the will."
What is the prior notion?
In 18, the will is "the ability and disposition to do things by assenting to impressions, whether they have their origin in reason or in the nonrational part of the soul and whether they are reasonable or unreasonable."
How is the "yet another notion of the will" different?
The difference Frede sees, it seems, is what he goes on to describe: "But there is a crucial distinction between these impressions [to which reason assents]. Some are just the reflection of our grasp on, or our understanding of, our insight into reality, whereas others are the result of our rationalization of our nonrational desires."
So maybe in the prior notion there is no "rationalization."
Instead, for impulsive impressions that do not have their impulsiveness in the beliefs of reason, reason "simply fall[s] silent and cave[s] in to a nonrational desire" and thus assents in this acquiescing way.
28. The world of later antiquity is populated not only by all the things we can see and touch but also by myriads of transparent and intangible beings or even incorporeal beings—in short, daemons of various kinds. They are not necessarily rational beings, but especially if they are, they might take an interest in us, as we might take an interest in them. For, given their mobility or their form of presence or just their sheer power of mind, they do, or easily can, know lots of things hidden from us. They can also be extremely powerful; given their knowledge of how the physical world works, they can manipulate nature. Some of them are good and benevolent; these are angels. Others are downright evil and malevolent. These daemonic beings may or may not have any direct power over our intellect, as our intellect (nous) is not part of nature or at least not subject to natural necessity. But, thanks to their knowledge of how nature works, they do have power over our bodies. And since in late antiquity one more and more comes to think that the state of the nonrational part of our souls not only to some extent depends on one's bodily state but is even more or less a function of it, these daemons also have considerable power over the nonrational part of the soul. They can induce in you nonrational impressions and desires. These are the temptations of the devil. If your reason works in such a way that it follows these desires, for instance, by rationalizing them, they can also in this way manipulate your reason. And they are extremely good at this, because your mind or your soul is an open book to them.
How did this belief in daemons come about?
Frede seems to think the belief is part of Gnostic ideas about the world.
"[T]hese daemons also have considerable power over the nonrational part of the soul. They can induce in you nonrational impressions and desires. These are the temptations of the devil. If your reason works in such a way that it follows these desires, for instance, by rationalizing them, they can also in this way manipulate your reason."
How do the "daemons" make the nonrational part of the soul see something as pleasant?
The nonrational part of the soul (unlike the rational part) is bodily, and the view is that the "daemons" are understand how to manipulate bodily states to produce the outcomes they desire.
"[T]hanks to their knowledge of how nature works, they do have power over our bodies."
Saint Augustine, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Contra Academicos = Against the Academics
Contra Academicos purports to be a record of conversations between Augustine, his two students Licentius and Trygetius, together with Augustine's younger brother Navigius and Augustine's friend Alypius. The conversations are supposed to have taken place during the fall of 386 CE, when the group was vacationing at the villa of Cassiciacum (now Cassago Brianza, in the north of Italy).
In connection with what wisdom is, Licentius cites Albicerius as a counterexample (Augustine, Contra Academicos I.6.17). In the ensuing discussion, Trygetius provides what he takes to be the explanation of Albicerius' ability to identify a verse in someone else's mind. "When such things enter our memory, it is no wonder that they can be perceived by certain contemptible spirits in the air whom we call demons. They are superior to us in the sharpness and precision of their senses, though not in reason, and this happens in some very hidden way and very far removed from our senses" (Augustine, Contra Academicos I.7.20).
"[Y]our doctrine of μαντικὴ, or divination (divinatio) in Latin, which would so steep us in superstition, if we consented to listen to you, that we should be the devotees of soothsayers, augurs, oracle-mongers, seers and interpreters of dreams (haruspices, augures, harioli, vates)" (Cicero, On the nature of the gods I.20).
Licentius calls Albicerius a "hariolus" (Contra Academicos I.8.23). 29. Augustine (Contra Academicos I.17) tells us the following story. There was in his student days in Carthage a man called Albicerius, who possessed an uncanny knowledge which one should not confuse with wisdom. One could go and consult this man about where one had misplaced one's silver spoon or what happened to money which had disappeared. Albicerius always knew the answer, though he had little education. One day Flaccianus, who did not believe in such superstition, went to test Albicerius. He asked Albicerius what he, Flaccianus, had been doing in the morning. Stunned by getting the correct answer in full detail, he went onto ask Albicerius what he, Flaccianus, was thinking right now. Albicerius could tell him not only “a verse of Vergil” but also which verse, uneducated though he was.
How did Albicerius always know the answer?
30. Now one might think that Augustine, and his young friends too, especially after their conversion, would not believe any of this. But, to the contrary, they, like most of their contemporaries, had no difficulty in believing that Albicerius was availing himself of daemons who had access to one's thoughts. It is no wonder that in a world like this, in which even a little insignificant daemon might have such powers, people might wonder whether our choices and decisions were free. And this all the more so, as there was also the widespread belief that we, in turn, if only we knew how, might make daemons or even gods do what we want them to do, rather than what they would want to do, if they had not been coerced. So we will next turn to the question of how the notions of freedom and a free will emerged.
He "was availing himself of daemons."
So the existence of these "daemons" was taken seriously even among intellectuals.
"So we will next turn to the question of how the notions of freedom and a free will emerged."
There are two "notions" here. The notion of "freedom" and the notion of a "free will."
We need to see what these notions are and how they are related.