As incorporeals, the first determinations of lekta are that they lack what bodies have, namely the capacity for agency, or that of being passive receptors of an action For what we get said is an incorporeal thing.
To say and to utter are, crucially, distinct because what we utter is not what is said. We utter a series of sounds, but what is said is one incorporeal thing. It is not, therefore, the surface grammar of utterances, which determines what is said. Rather, it follows, it is what is said, which eventually determines the grammar.
But it also follows that, in order to get said what there is to say, there is a strict requirement for what a correct utterance is, one which satisfactorily gets a lekton said. There are clear difficulties with such a claim. How can saying be distinguished from uttering, if indeed, saying is not an action like uttering is?
How do corporeal beings, who are the speakers, manage to express an incorporeal, without in fact having any causal interaction with it? How can separate corporeal words end up expressing, when arranged in a certain way, one incorporeal lekton? The Peripatetics give one kind of answer to these questions, by rejecting from the start the possibility of an additional item in ontology. They therefore react to the Stoic account by collapsing it onto their own. A different approach is developed by a relentlessly contrarian critic, Sextus Empiricus S. In his tenacious analysis of the Stoic position, he confirms its originality and the ontological commitments it relies on.
Sextus Empiricus, who focuses on this example at M. Therefore, S. But it cannot be uttered, therefore nothing is said, or there is no such thing as a lekton. Pushed to the absurd, on this line of argument, speech could never be more than the piecemeal uttering of one single phoneme at a time. However, the refutation is not aimed at defending an absurd position, but rather at bringing out an absurdity in the Stoic position, which associates a single incorporeal entity, a lekton , which S.
By keeping to an ordinary interchangeability between uttering and saying, S. But in highlighting the absurdity of taking saying and uttering to be interchangeable, he thereby demonstrates that there is something wrong with this identity assumption — which the Stoics go to great lengths to deny. Thus, he blurs distinctions, by misusing terminology. Lekta are present, or obtain, whilst bodies exist.
It is not, moreover, because S. For it is clear that S. For it is a term, which is associated in particular with lekta in a discussion of the status of lekta. The critique is therefore made in full awareness of the Stoic position. It is an attack on the seeming incongruity of grasping at incorporeal lekta , through corporeal means. It is impossible, S. Different rules govern its existence from the way lekta obtain. But this is not how lekta obtain. We have already seen that they cannot themselves be involved as agents or patients of a causal process.
Therefore, the question of one word being uttered at a time cannot be the appropriate angle to take in questioning the possibility of there being such things as lekta. For the very notion of a lekton breaks with the one-to-one correlation between the existence of a word and the obtaining or subsisting of a lekton. On either view, a lekton is indistinguishable from a word. Once again, the critique comes down to rejecting an ontological framework which accommodates additional items, i.
Similarly to the Peripatetic approach, S. Perhaps the most pernicious attack comes from within the Stoic school itself, asking precisely this question: why be committed to the distinction, at an ontological level, between single words on the one hand, and what a sentence expresses on the other? The Stoic philosopher who gives one of the more precise accounts of the Stoic analysis of meaningful speech, displaying an accurate knowledge of its principles and the place and role of the lekton , but who at the same time, is, for that very same reason, one of the more damning critics, is Seneca.
As with the previous critiques, it will become apparent that the attack relies on the rejection of an in-grained commitment to a specific ontological structure. Despite the semantic affinities between wisdom and being wise, these are two distinct things, with distinct ontological status:. For the Stoics it is the corporeal soul in a certain state.
As such, it is not a thing which acts in any way, in contrast to wisdom. Hence unlike wisdom, [being wise] fails the test for corporeality. It is, by contrast to wisdom, an incorporeal. An incorporeal is a different kind of thing altogether in Stoic logic and ontology: it has its own distinct ontological status. It is a lekton , the incorporeal content of meaningful speech, which the Stoics distinguish from speech itself, precisely in that speech is corporeal 30 , but what it gets said, namely a lekton , is not.
The lekton is something incorporeal which is one thing that can be expressed in different languages, and can even not be expressed at all, but is there, ready to be expressed Seneca transforms the logical distinction into a form of imposed convention, in contrast to what is natural, which would amount to not making the distinction. He renews, through this twist, with the topical adage of nature versus convention. The move is surreptitious: it is not a recasting of the question of the origin and function of language — in the way that the decidedly conventionalist view is taken up by the Peripatetics.
For the Peripatetics, as we saw above, the direct relation of words to thoughts, puts all the onus of stipulating language usage to a convention regimented by different linguistic communities. Seneca revisits the debate through an internal critique of Stoicism for having forfeited its naturalist commitments.
For it is against nature, i.
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For people talk about having wisdom or being wise interchangeably, and do not thereby mean something different. Seneca thus suggests a dismissal of the special status of lekta ; they are not distinct ontological items. In so doing, he rejects two foundational Stoic claims: firstly, the reality of a distinction between a body, like wisdom, and a state-of-affairs, which characterises a body but is not identical with that body , like [being wise]; secondly, the distinction, in terms of ontological categories, between what we say and how we say it, namely through the utterance of precise sequences of words.
Firstly, as we see, he does so by casting doubts on its validity.
Secondly, as we shall see in the following, he also amplifies the critique by reporting the criticism brought forward against the theory by rival schools, in particular by the Peripatetics. His testimony to this debate shows on the one hand, its importance within the broader picture of the discussions in antiquity about logic and language. In the Aristotelian commentaries, there is an intentional marginalisation of the Stoic position by different means: a parenthetic mention, or a re-assimilation of Stoic views to Peripatetic schemata as we saw above.
From Seneca, as also from other more neutral sources 32 , we are able to appraise to its more far-reaching dimensions, the purport of the debate between the Stoics and the Peripatetics as consolidating the contrasting positions from both sides. The debate is framed, not so much by the pointed question about the production of meaningful speech, but rather in more comprehensive terms, by the radical differences between the ontological structures each school relies on. He demarcates himself from the official critics from rival or generally antagonistic schools of thought, who, within the strict context of logic, deny the reality of lekta.
This is at the base, the discussion between the Stoics and the Peripatetics: for the latter, saying something of something, e. The discussion thus, is grounded in views on logic and ontology: it turns on whether language is revelatory of ontological distinctions for the Stoics , or a tool at the service of expressing the subordinated relations between substances and properties via associations of thoughts for the Peripatetics.
Thus, in the face of rival schools, he defends the tenets of his school.
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He defends, that is, the coherence and consistency of the Stoic position against the Peripatetics. As far as logic is concerned, the Stoic theory is vindicated by Seneca, who gives us one of the more complete accounts of lekta left to us, at Ep. Thus, a few lines earlier, at Ep. Seneca suggests in this way, that the distinction is neither useful nor consonant with other commitments of the school, namely respect of ordinary language, or the imperative to bring solutions to how to live. But the Stoics are forced, according to Seneca, to integrate the distinction into their doctrine, because of this original chain, which they cannot rid themselves of.
Thus, when it comes to school loyalties, Seneca defends Stoic logic against the Peripatetics. At a second level, he traces the Stoic view back to ancestors of the Stoics, who, legitimately, can be said to have some influence on Greek Stoicism. We need not assume that Seneca is actually referring to the direct relations of the Dialectical school with the founder of the Stoic school, Zeno, who had been, amongst others, also a student of Diodorus Cronus, see n.
Seneca might be more generally correlating the Stoics with the Dialectical school s , in view of the importance of logic, i.
What Seneca is intimating however, is that, having inherited the distinction, there is no actual doctrinal need to commit to it, since other foundational doctrines of stoicism clash with it — amongst them, is the commitment to a linguistic naturalism, which Seneca seems to take to be something akin to common parlance. Seneca comes out of these considerations as more Stoic than the Stoics, explaining and defending the logic, whilst at the same time, motioning towards a need to purify the doctrine from external elements which weigh down on it, disburdening Stoic doctrine from an inheritance, which is alien to its purpose.
Part of the answer is to forfeit logical distinctions, and embrace ordinary, natural language, as the means to collapse the ideology into the goal. Seneca claims that, even in acknowledging the logical and ontological difference between wisdom and being wise, this does not lead to any real, useful distinction. It is universally acknowledged that wisdom is a good, indeed it might even be the good, but it then follows, according to the Senecan presentation of the Stoic account that:.
For when we say that wisdom is a good or that being wise is a good, we are saying one and the same thing. For it turns out that the distinction is only a surface distinction, because what counts is the way we speak:. Seneca is on the surface of things referring to the run-of-the-mill way in which people speak. We obviously mean the same thing.
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For Seneca re-enacts an imaginary dialogue with the Greek Stoics, who appear to retort to the common parlance view channelled by Seneca, that surface expression covers complex ontological relations of dependencies:. To say is to reveal the inner structure of reality. Seneca gives a deliberately heavy-handed articulation to this view. He thereby ridicules it.
Instead of getting close to nature, the Greek Stoics block the path by positing so many hurdles, which separate what we say from the real things we mean to say. These hurdles are represented by the accumulated series of prepositions and pronouns: ad quod to that , id ex quo on which , id est that which , ad ipsam to which. He shows the Stoics to be taking grammar to reveal the structure of reality, but this, for him, only leads to a further estrangement of language from nature.
The contrast therefore, which Seneca is making by insisting on the naturalism of common parlance, is a contrast about how to understand the relation of language to reality.
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For on the one hand, linguistic naturalism is conceived as both borne out of, and at the same time, providing access to, ontological complexity, and on the other hand, the Senecan view is that linguistic complexity, involving synonymy, paronymy, syntactical norms etc. Seneca silences the former view on linguistic naturalism, by making the Greek Stoics appear to have themselves attempted to rely on common parlance to give an account of linguistic naturalism, just as Seneca does, with the result that the Greek Stoics end up giving an overly complicated account of it.
Seneca thus posits an alternative Stoic view without seemingly breaking the confines of Stoic doctrine. The question then is who is a better Stoic, asking which account of linguistic naturalism, of Greek Stoicism or Senecan Stoicism, is the one best capable of articulating life, and language, according to nature. It is a critique with a double-edge. For, at base, the Stoics are accused of making pettifogging distinctions, which have no relevance to the real problems of life and philosophy.
But the critique very quickly extends to accusing the Stoics of making distinctions, on the basis of language, which have no correspondence in reality. Seneca himself goes to that extent: for he both acknowledges the distinction, explains its origin, all the better to subsequently reject it bluntly.
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