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Stoic Glossary

Compiled July 24, 2009 by DT Strain from terms used in "32 Principal Doctrines of the Stoa" by Erik Wiegardt, and "Values in Classical Stoicism" by Dr. Jan Garrett (links below). Version 3: updated July 30, 2009.

Active Principle
See poioun.

Distress or contraction. One of the four general passions. Unlike the other passions, Distress has no opposite. See pathos.

The Good. The only Good is our own virtuous choices, both beneficial and wise. The opposite of the Good is the Bad (kakon). Things which are not Bad or Good are Indifferent.

Virtue. Virtues are character traits of those who are more prone to make virtuous choices. Virtuous choices are those appropriate choices in accordance with Nature. In other words, virtue consists of making appropriate selections among Indifferents, selecting the preferred and avoiding the dispreferred.

A modification of the pneuma-soul which the hegemonikon identifies on the basis of common notions, or the criterion of truth - the collections of like experiences accumulated by memory.

See kakon.

Wish. This is one of the three hai eupatheiai, or 'good feelings'. Wish is the opposite of Appetite (epithumia, libido). See also hai eupatheiai.

Cardinal Virtues
There are four cardinal virtues: Wisdom, Justice, Courage, and Decorum. All virtues are attributes of the first cardinal virtue of Wisdom. These virtues are the only good and their achievement is the good or excellence of the wise man, the philosopher.Moral excellence is the perfection of virtue (
arete), which the wise man cultivates as an art, the art of living. Because the perfection of virtue is the work of the wise, only the wise truly know virtue. And, because virtue is the only good, it alone is sufficient for happiness (eudaimonia). All virtues are manifestations of knowledge, and the lack of knowledge, or ignorance is the cause of the lack of virtue, which is vice, or evil. See also the individual entries for each.

Joy. This is one of the three
hai eupatheiai, or 'good feelings'. Joy is the opposite of Pleasure (hedone, laetitia). See also hai eupatheiai.

Common notions
Collections of like presentations, grouped in our minds by similarities.

The third Cardinal Virtue. The knowledge of what things are to be confronted. Two attributes are bravery (the management of fear) and boldness (vision and ambition). Its perfection is in facing and mastering what we fear.

The total blending that occurs between wine and water, and between the active and passive principles in matter.

Criterion of truth
The means by which the command center (hegemonikon) discerns which presentations (phantasia) are real or imaginary, and which are true or false. It does this by comparing immediate presentations with common notions.

The fourth Cardinal Virtue. The original word was Sophrosyne, which has no perfect translation. The knowledge of self-control and how to be steadfast. The regulation of appetites, emotions, and desires. A dignified propriety or noble bearing in appearance, speech, and manners.

The actual thing to which a word refers.

The quality of an Indifferent such that it is inconsistent with Nature. See also, Indifferent.

Divine Fire
See Logos.

Doctrine of Preconception
See "prolepsis"

The purifying fire of the Logos which periodically destroys the cosmos in a conflagration before it is reborn.

Appetite or lust/swelling. One of the four general passions. See pathos.

The creative force. Represented by the God of Love, Eros is that force which unifies opposites in order to create and recreate. We rationally perceive this force as love.

Happiness. This refers to a true and deep happiness independent of circumstance.

Caution. This is one of the three hai eupatheiai, or 'good feelings'. Caution is the opposite of Fear (phobos). See also hai eupatheiai.

See Vice.

See Indifferent.

See agathon.

Good Feelings
See hai eupatheiai.

Good Passions
See hai eupatheiai.

hai eupatheiai
The 'good passions' or 'good feelings'. The opposite of Passion (pathos), these are the serene and reasonable actions of the soul in the good states. These are feelings that arise from true judgments about the Good (agathon) and the Bad (kakon). They include: Joy (chara), Wish (boulesis), and Caution (eulabeia).

Pleasure or elation/delight. One of the four general passions. See pathos.

The command center of a human soul. That part which is capable of making choices. It has four essential abilities: presentation, impulse, assent, and reason (Logos).

Cohesive state. Bodies are held together by a two-way motion. Pneuma motion begins at the center of the object, simultaneously moving to the surface and back again producing an internal tension, tonos, that creates the cohesive state.

The instinctive movement of the soul toward that which appears to be beneficial, and away from that which appears to be harmful. All living animals are spurred to action by impulse.

Those things which are not bodies. While corporeal bodies exist, incorporeal bodies subsist. Only a body, that which exists, can act and be acted upon. The incorporeal includes:
lekta (the meaning of words), void (that infinite realm outside the cosmos and within which the cosmos exists), place (location), and time (only the present exists and is rationally divided into past and future to understand movement of the corporeal).

Things which are not within our control - externals, in the sense of being external to our will. Since the only Good (agathon) is our virtuous choice, and the only Bad (kakon) is our vicious choice, all other things are therefore in the category of things which are Indifferent. This refers, not to our attitude of indifference, but rather an objective quality of a thing as being indifferent to the Good or the Bad. Stoics do not attach themselves, their feelings, sense of value, or contentment to Indifferents. Among Indifferents, there are Preferred Indifferents (consistent with Nature), Dispreferred Indifferents (inconsistent with Nature), and True Indifferents.

The second Cardinal Virtue. Justice is the knowledge of how things are to be distributed, taking into account the fairness of each individual’s interest when measured against every other interest in the prevention of harm and in the distribution of benefit.

The Bad. The only Bad is our own vicious (unvirtuous) choices, both harmful and unwise. The opposite of the Bad is the Good (agathon). Things which are not Bad or Good are Indifferent.

The process whereby the hegemonikon (command center) grasps or apprehends the presentation (phantasia), becoming cognizant of it. This is less than knowledge but comes after assent.

True understanding, possessed by none but the wise.

Pleasure or elation/delight. One of the four general passions. See pathos.

The incorporeal quality described as the meaning of words.

Appetite or lust/swelling. One of the four general passions. See pathos.

an artistic Fire, the active principle, creates as it expands pervading inert matter, the passive principle, and defining existence as an evolving, dynamic process. Logos is the Seminal Reason of creation, the past, present, and future of the cosmos existing in potential at the beginning. Just as the apple seed contains the intelligence to grow into a tree, so does the universe evolve from the seed of its intelligence at birth. This same quality in humans is what gives them the power of reason that animals lack.

Distress or contraction. One of the four general passions. Unlike the other passions, Distress has no opposite. See pathos.

All that exists; the entirety of the cosmos. The cosmos exists in the Void and there is no void within the cosmos. Nature is a closed system of opposites united into One. It is a continuum, fluid, and in a state of becoming. Infused throughout the cosmos is God, Logos, or reason - the active principle (poioun), which acts on the passive principle (paschon). This creates a dynamic interaction of forces where time is inseparably bound to events as an interval of cosmic motion, beginning and ending with the life of the universe. Also included in Nature is our own nature as human beings, and all that is appropriate to the rational person.

Thought. Rational presentation capable of human beings. Thoughts are corporeal physical states of the pneuma-soul which have the structure of language. Thought is related to three parts: (1) the Sign, (2) the Significate, and (3) the Denotation.

The Doctrine of Appropriation. This is the migration of our natural affinity for self to an affinity for others, extending outward to larger and larger circles: self, family, community, nation, world, etc.

The Passive Principle. Inert matter. When the Logos, or Active Principle (poioun), is blended (through crasis) into paschon, this creates motion in the cosmos.

Passive Principle
See paschon.

Passion. The inappropriate feelings or enrapturing emotions. A form of mental illness or psychic disturbance, these emotions are a case of false judgments about the Good (
agathon) and the Bad (kakon). The four general passions are distress (or contraction, lupe, aegritudo), fear (or shrinking, phobos), appetite (or lust/swelling, epithumia, libido), and pleasure (or elation/delight, hedone, laetitia). Their opposite are the Good Feelings or hai eupatheiai.

Presentations. The initial sensory impressions we experience.


An imaginary presentation; dreams, fantasies, hallucinations. These are produced from the internal manipulation of the mental content of previously stored presentations (phantasia).

Fear or shrinking. One of the four general passions. See pathos.

That quality that, when mixed with a body that is cohesive (hexis), makes the body organic. Bodies with only hexis and phusis grow and reproduce, but have no cognitive ability.

Air, the Divine Breath that enters, defines, and rules inert matter produces an internal tension (
tonos) by moving from the center of an object to its surface, then returning to its center again. Pneuma is the World Soul that pervades and directs the cosmos just as it pervades and directs a material body with a human soul (pneuma psychikon) extending a spark of divine reason, the Logos, to human kind.

pneuma psychikon
The human soul.

The Active Principle, or 'World Soul'. This blends (through crasis) with the passive (paschon). See also, Logos.

The quality of an Indifferent such that it is consistent with Nature. See also, Indifferent.

Stoic student. This includes everyone, save for the wise (see Sage).

The Doctrine of Preconception. The human infant, althought a 'blank slate' at birth, has a number of preconceptions or innate dispositions toward forming certain kinds of concepts. The greatest of these are impulses encouraging the formation of a concept of God and the Good.

Soul. Animals with impulse and perception have psuche, while things that merely reproduce and grow without cognitive ability do not.

The Pneuma totally blended with the substratum creating a body.

The 'wise person'. According to Stoics, the Sage is the perfect practitioner of Stoicism. The Sage's judgments will always be in accordance with Nature. Such a person is generally considered to be an ideal hypothetical model for illustration purposes. In reality, we are all considered merely students of Stoicism (prokopton).

The spoken word, whether to one's self or out loud.

The meaning (lekton) of a word.

See Decorum.

Each body made cohesive and defined by its unique mixture of the Pneuma: Cohesive state –
hexis, Organic nature – hexis & phusis, Non-rational animals – hexis, phusis, & psuche (soul), and Rational animals (human) – hexis, phusis, psuche, & Logos (reason).

Shapeless matter before it is permeated by the Pneuma.

Valid forms of reasoning. Chrysippus developed five forms of syllogism. Syllogisms reemerged in the mid 20th Century once more formally understood and became the leading school in the development of formal logic.

An internal tension in a body, simultaneously moving to the surface and back again, that creates the cohesive state - hexis.

to paschon
The Passive Principle which is entered into and blended with the active principle as wine is blended into water.

to poioun
The Active Principle which enters and blends with the passive principle as wine is blended into water.

Vice (evil) is choice which is in discord with Nature. Choices pertaining to vice are called "vicious".

See arete.

The first Cardinal Virtue. Wisdom is the knowledge of what is good or bad or neither. Knowing what is prudent, what is in accord with Nature, what is true and what is false.

Wise Man (Person)
See Sage.


"32 Principal Doctrines of the Stoa" by Erik Wiegardt

"Values in Classical Stoicism" by Dr. Jan Garrett