Stilpo (or Stilpon; Greek: Στίλπων, gen.: Στίλπωνος;
c. 360 – c. 280 BC) was a Greek philosopher of the Megarian
school. He was a contemporary of Theophrastus, Diodorus Cronus, and
Crates of Thebes. None of his writings survive, he was interested in
logic and dialectic, and he argued that the universal is fundamentally
separated from the individual and concrete. His ethical teachings
approached that of the Cynics and Stoics. His most important followers
were Pyrrho, the founder of Pyrrhonism, and Zeno of Citium, the
founder of Stoicism.
5 External links
He was a native of Megara. He probably lived after the time of Euclid
of Megara, which makes it unlikely that he was a pupil of Euclid, as
stated by some; and others state that he was the pupil of
Thrasymachus of Corinth, or of Pasicles, the brother of Crates of
Thebes. According to one account, he engaged in dialectic
Diodorus Cronus at the court of Ptolemy Soter;
according to another, he did not comply with the invitation of the
king, to go to Alexandria. We are further told that Demetrius, the son
of Antigonus, honoured him no less, spared his house at the capture of
Megara, and offered him indemnity for the injury which it had
received, which, however,
Stilpo declined. Uniting elevated
sentiment with gentleness and patience, he, as
Plutarch says, was
an ornament to his country and friends, and had his acquaintance
sought by kings. His original propensity to wine and voluptuousness he
is said to have entirely overcome; in inventive power and dialectic
art to have surpassed his contemporaries, and to have inspired almost
all Greece with a devotion to Megarian philosophy. A number of
distinguished men too are named, whom he is said to have drawn away
from Theophrastus, Aristotle of Cyrene, and others, and attached to
himself; among others Crates the Cynic, and Zeno, the founder of
the Stoic school. Among his followers were
Asclepiades, the leaders of the
Eretrian school of philosophy. One of
his pupils, Nicarete, was also said to have been his mistress.
Stilpo was praised for his political wisdom, his simple,
straightforward disposition, and the equanimity with which he
tolerated his rebellious daughter.
Cicero relates that Stilpo's
friends had described him as "vehemently addicted to wine and
women", but that his philosophy eliminated his inclinations.
Of the dialogues ascribed to him, we know only the titles. He belonged
Megarian school of philosophy, but we learn only a little about
his doctrines in the few fragments and sayings of his which are
Stilpo argued that the genus, the universal, is not contained in the
individual and concrete. "Whoever speaks of any person, speaks of
no-one, for he neither speaks of this one nor that. For why should it
rather be of this one than that? Hence it is not of this one". One
of his examples was that "the vegetable is not what is here shown. For
a vegetable existed ten thousand years ago, therefore this here is not
a vegetable". According to Simplicius, "the so-called Megarians
took it as ascertained that what has different determinations is
different, and that the diverse are separated one from the other, they
seemed to prove that each thing is separated from itself. Hence since
Socrates is another determination from the wise Socrates,
Socrates was separated from himself."
Thus one thing cannot be predicated of another, that is, the essence
of things cannot be reached by means of predicates.
Stilpo as arguing:
To be a horse differs from to be running. For being asked the
definition of the one and of the other, we do not give the same for
them both; and therefore those err who predicate the one of the other.
For if good is the same with people, and to run the same with a horse,
how is good affirmed also of food and medicine, and again (by Jupiter)
to run of a lion and a dog? But if the predicate is different, then we
do not rightly say that a person is good, and a horse runs.
Plutarch remarks here that
Stilpo in a bombastic
manner as though he ignored common life: "for how shall we live, if we
cannot style a man good, nor a man a captain, but must separately name
a man a man, good good, and a captain a captain." But Plutarch, in
turn, replied, "but what man lived any the worse for this? Is there
any man who hears this said, and who does not understand it to be the
speech of a man who rallies gallantly, and proposes to others this
logical question to exercise their mind?"
Stilpo seems to have been interested in Virtue, and its
self-sufficiency. He maintained that the wise man ought not only to
overcome every evil, but not even to be affected by any, not even to
feel it, showing, perhaps, how closely allied
Stilpo was to the
For Stilpo, after his country was captured and his children and his
wife lost, as he emerged from the general desolation alone and yet
happy, spoke as follows to Demetrius, called Sacker of Cities because
of the destruction he brought upon them, in answer to the question
whether he had lost anything: "I have all my goods with me!"
— Seneca, Epistles, 9.18.
This story was an inspiration for Friedrich Klinger's Sturm und Drang
Stilpo und seine Kinder (
Stilpo and his Children) written in 1777
and published in 1780.
A one-page fragment or paraphrase from a work concerning exile is
preserved in the writings of Teles of Megara, a 3rd-century BC Cynic.
In this fragment,
Stilpo divides the good into three parts: goods of
the soul, goods of the body, and external goods. He then demonstrates
that exile does not deprive a person of any of these three goods.
^ Die Schedelsche Weltchronik, 083
^ Dorandi 1999, p. 52.
^ Laërtius 1925, § 113; Suda, Stilpo
^ a b Laërtius 1925, § 113.
^ Suda, Stilpo; cf. Diogenes Laërtius, vi. 89
^ Laërtius 1925, § 115; Plutarch, Demetr. c. 9, etc.
^ Plutarch, Colot. c. 22
^ Cicero, de Fato, c. 5
^ Laërtius 1925, § 113, comp. 119, 120.
^ Athenaeus, xiii. 596e; Laërtius 1925, § 114.
^ Laërtius 1925, § 114; comp. Plutarch, de tranqu. animi, c. 6
Cicero 1878, p. 268.
^ Cicero, De Fato, 5
^ a b Laërtius 1925, § 119.
^ Simplicius, in Phys. Ausc. f. 26, quoted by
p. [page needed]
^ Plutarch, adv. Colot. 22, 23
^ Laërtius 1925, § 118.
^ Seneca, Epistles, ix. 1, 18; comp.
Plutarch de Tranqu. animi, 6,
Laërtius 1925, § 114.
^ Garland 1997, p. 470.
^ Teles of
Megara 1977, p. 21.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius
Cicero, Marcus Tullius (1878), The treatises of M.T. Cicero: On the
nature of the gods; On divination; On fate; On the republic; On the
laws; and On standing for the consulship, translated by Yonge, Charles
Duke, London: G. Bell, p. 268
Dorandi, Tiziano (1999), "Chapter 2: Chronology", in Algra, Keimpe; et
al., The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, p. 52, ISBN 9780521250283
Hegel (1805), "The Philosophy of the Socratics", Lectures on the
History of Philosophy
Laërtius, Diogenes (1925), "Socrates, with predecessors and
followers: Stilpo", Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, 1:2, translated
by Hicks, Robert Drew (Two volume ed.), Loeb Classical Library
Garland, Mary (1997), The Oxford companion to German literature,
Oxford University Press, p. 470
Megara (1977), "Discourse 3, "On Exile"", in O'Neil, Edward,
Teles the Cynic Teacher, Scholars Press, p. 21
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870), "article name
needed", Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
Stilpo References - Primary Sources
Euclid of Megara