Thanks Jan - I recall the pamegranate story now that
you mention it. I must have heard it years ago,
although I didn't know its Stoic context at the time.
It seems to me this perspective is entirely compatible
with modern scientific philosophy (in fact, I may have
read the story in relation to an explanation of
It is my understanding that we do not say, "evolution
is true" or "relativity is true" but rather, "the
evidence available at present suggests that these are
the most likely cases."
However, I should acknowledge that many scientists
will speak of what is true and fact (meaning the
above) and this may be mistaken by lay persons because
they don't realize that there is an implied
understanding between scientists that all "facts" are
tentative. So, the word "fact" as it is commonly
understood outside of science does not actually exist
in the scientific vocabulary. Instead the scientific
function of the word is this more utilitarian version
("practical" fact) - otherwise, several sentences in
any scientific conversation would likely get very
--- Jan E Garrett <jangarrett@...
> Here is a report of an exchange involving Sphaerus,
> a student of Zeno,
> who went off to Alexandria to the court of Ptolemy
> Philopator. "Once,
> when a discussion arouse about whether the wise man
> will form opinions,
> Sphaerus said that he did not; the king wanted to
> refute him and ordered
> wax pomegranates to be set out; Sphaerus was fooled
> and the king shouted
> that he had assented to a false presentation. To
> which Sphaerus nimbly
> replied by saying that what he had assented to was
> not that they were
> pomegranates but that it was reasonable that they
> were pomengranates, and
> that there was a difference between a graspable
> presentation [aka
> cognitive impression, an impression that carries
> with it the incorrigible
> marks of truth] and a reasonable one." (Diogenes
> Laertius 7.178)
> A couple comments about this. The king is acting as
> if Sphaerus is
> claiming to be a sage, but maybe because the example
> is such a
> commonplace one, the king not unreasonably supposed
> that an advanced
> student of Zeno should be able to operate like a
> sage in such matters.
> What is interesting here is that at this stage
> Stoics must have agreed at
> least verbally with Academic Skeptics that the wise
> man would not form
> opinions. But unlike the Skeptics, they maintained
> that it was possible
> sometimes to form correct judgments that would not
> be opinions and could
> be ingredients of a system of knowledge. Moreover,
> "it is reasonable that
> those are pomegranates" is saved from being an
> opinion (as the Stoics
> then defined opinion) by the qualification "it is
> reasonable that..."
> I'm not enough of an expert on Stoic epistemology to
> know whether such
> "reasonable that" judgments could ever correspond to
> presentations, the foundational elements of science.
> On Wed, 29 Jun 2005 14:06:16 -0700 (PDT) DT Strain
> > --- "James W. Meritt" <JWMeritt@...> wrote:
> > > Would not maintaining a belief arrived at after
> > > examing the available
> > > evidence UNLESS additional relevant information
> > > available be
> > > reasonable?
> > If I may, I think what Jan was referring to was
> > the belief that something we cannot control is
> > to us, is erroneous according to Stoic philosophy.
> > What you are saying, that it is reasonable to hold
> > belief after examining the evidence, may be true
> > not really relevant to Jan's point I think.
> > I don't think Jan was saying that it's not
> > to hold beliefs in general.
> > If, on the other hand, you are saying that you
> > the evidence shows that someone *IS* harmed by
> > outside their control, then I think your issue
> > be with the Stoic philosophy itself.
> > If this is the case, then I would suspect that
> > definition of "harm" and the Stoic definition of
> > "harm" are likely mismatched.
> > DT Strain
> > www.dtstrainphilosophy.blogspot.com
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