Chrysippus in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

A Stoic philosopher of Soli in Cilicia Campestris. He fixed his residence at Athens, and became a disciple of Cleanthes, the successor of Zeno. He was equally distinguished for natural abilities and industry, seldom suffering a day to elapse without writing 500 lines. He wrote several hundred volumes, of which three hundred were on logical subjects, but in all he borrowed largely from others. He maintained, with the Stoics in general, that the world was God, or a universal effusion of his spirit, and that the superior part of this spirit, which consisted in mind and reason, was the common nature of things, containing the whole and every part. Sometimes he speaks of God as the power of fate and the necessary chain of events; sometimes he calls him fire; and sometimes he deifies the fluid parts of nature, as water and air; and again, the earth, sun, moon, and stars, and the universe in which these are comprehended, and even those men who have obtained immortality. He was very fond of the figure sorites in arguing, which is hence called by Persius "the heap of Chrysippus." His discourses abounded more in curious subtleties and nice distinctions than in solid arguments. In disputation, in which he spent the greatest part of his life, he discovered a degree of promptitude and confidence which approached towards audacity. He often said to his preceptor, "Give me doctrines, and I will find arguments to support them." It was a singular proof of his haughty spirit that when a certain person asked him what preceptor he would advise him to choose for his son, he said, "Me; for if I thought any philosopher excelled me, I would myself become his pupil." With so much contempt did he look down upon the distinctions of rank that he would never, as other philosophers did, pay his court to princes or great men, by dedicating to them any of his writings. The vehemence and arrogance with which he supported his tenets created him many adversaries, particularly in the Academic and Epicurean sects. Even his friends of the Stoic School complained that, in the warmth of dispute, while he was attempting to load his adversary with the reproach of obscurity and absurdity, his own ingenuity often failed him, and he adopted such unusual and illogical modes of reasoning as gave his opponents great advantages over him. It was also a common practice with Chrysippus, at different times, to take the opposite sides of the same question, and thus furnish his antagonists with weapons which might easily be turned, as occasion offered, against himself. Carneades, who was one of his most able and skilful adversaries, frequently availed himself of this circumstance, and refuted Chrysippus by convicting him of inconsistency. Of his writings (he is said to have published 700 works in all) nothing remains, except a few extracts which are preserved in the works of Cicero, Plutarch, Seneca, and Aulus Gellius. These fragments were collected and edited by Petersen in 1827. He died in the 143d Olympiad, B.C. 208, at the age of eighty-three. A statue was erected to his memory by Ptolemy. See the account in Zeller's Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics (Eng. trans. London, 1870).

Read More about Chrysippus in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities