In the heart of Appalachia Standard Thursday 14 July, 2016 3 Comments Uncategorized I apologize for the delay, but my own period of exile had come to an end. I’m back home in the heart of Appalachia, truly a mountain Stoic once more. Share this:TwitterRedditFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related
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Hi there! I have a question and you’re the only person I can think of on the internet who might be able to help me. I’m trying to design something of importance that has Zeno’s famous addage which entreats us “to follow nature.” Truth be told, I’m not certain what the best way to write it in ancient Greek might be. I’ve found transliterations in texts such as the Cambridge companion to the Stoics. The best I’ve been able to come up with is this: το ξομολογουμηνον τη φυση ζην Do you have a direction you might point me in?
Actually, we were discussing this just yesterday, so I’ll paste some interactions and notes here for you.
I usually parse “live according to nature” as three-fold. Live according to “the nature of things” (as Franco would say) meaning cosmic or divine nature, one’s nature as a rational and social critter, and one’s personal nature.
It does seem possible to deviate from some of these, but the idea that someone can be not in accord with the nature of things might not be possible.
κατὰ φύσιν was the only phrase I was familiar with, so I asked a friend of mine, Jean, and he had this to say:
“Expressions such as “living in accordance with nature”, “in conformity with nature”, “in agreement with nature”, all attempt to translate one of two things : “κατὰ φύσιν ζῆν” and “ὁμολογουμένως τῇ φύσει ζῆν”.
Now there’s a limit to how accurate a translation can be, but it is important not to translate it in a incomplete way that would lead people to have to interpret it for themselves and get it wrong, as they often do.
The second Greek expression reveals the true meaning more clearly in my view: The plain meaning of ὁμολογέω is “I agree”, “I concur”, literally “I say the same (thing)” and therefore also “I admit”, and notice that whoever admits, accepts what is admitted. The verb ομολογώ, a modern direct descendant of ὁμολογέω exclusively means “I admit” today.
Now put it in the medio-passive voice: ὁμολογέομαι: Ι am in a state of agreement, of concurrence, I say the same (thing) for myself, I admit it for my own benefit and therefore I accept it for myself
Kevin, I am sure you learned the difference between “ἄγω τὸν ἵππον εἰς τὸν ἀγρόν” and “ἄγομαι τὸν ἵππον εἰς τὸν ἀγρόν”. Master and slave can say the former, but perhaps only the master can say the latter, for it means “I lead the horse to the field -for myself-“.
Now make ὁμολογέομαι into a participle: “ὁμολογούμενος”. Being in a state of agreement, of concurrence, saying the same (thing) for oneself, admitting something for oneself and therefore accepting that something for oneself. Finally, make it into an adverb modifying the verb ζῆν (to live). ὁμολογουμένως ζῆν.
That is to live while being in a state of agreement/concurrence and while saying the same (thing) for oneself and while admitting that something for oneself and therefore while accepting that something for oneself”
In a state of agreement/concurrence with who? While saying the same thing for oneself as who? While admitting for oneself and therefore accepting for oneself that something that says who? Nature.
And remember from the fragments that the Stoics use the word Nature in two ways: both as the power that makes plants and stuff grow (which makes absolutely no sense here) and as the cosmic power that brings about all things and accompanies them wherever they need to go.
It becomes apparent that Franco’s translation “to live in accordance with the nature of things” is simply brilliant. And, he aptly explains, as did Epictetus, that this means to be in a state of agreement/concurrence, and saying the same thing as Nature and admitting and accepting for oneself what Nature says, with Nature being the cosmic force that brings about all things and events.
κατὰ φύσιν is also used but it is more elliptical. Even there though you could arrive at the right conclusion by comparing how this preposition “κατά” works with other words in that way:
So “κατὰ λέξιν” means “word-for-word”, “κατὰ γράμμα” means “letter-for-letter” (i.e. literally), “κατὰ βούλησιν” means “at will” (“as one’s will indicates to oneself” hence “πὺρ κατὰ βούλησιν!” = “fire at will!”, or “κατὰ συνείδησιν” = “as you conscience tells you”, “κατα προτίμησιν” = “as per preference”, “κατὰ δαίμονα ἑαυτοῦ” = “as one’s own ‘inner god’ indicates to oneself”.
And so “κατὰ φύσιν” means “as per nature indicates”. So Nature indicates something, you figure it out and you align yourself with that. Nature indicates the division into prohairetic and apohairetic things and you gotta act not inconsistently with that.”
Chris jumped in with:
“Franco’s translation, “Live in accordance with the nature of things” combined with his translation of Discourses 3.10.18 as “one must not take the lead of the things but stick to them” aided my understanding of our relationship to cosmic Nature immensely. These translations shed light on the dog and cart metaphor used by the Stoics to describe how we should follow fate. When the dog is in accordance with the cart and sticks close to its movements, life is good (flows well) for the dog. However, if the dog diverges from the cart’s path or lags too far behind, the tug of the rope will be an unpleasant reminder of the dog’s lack of accord with the movements of the cart.”
I realize that’s a wall of text, but we were just discussing this thing, and rather than paraphrase it, I figured you gain as much from reading their words directly as I did.
Hope that helps.
This is very, very helpful. Thank you so much. It does however, lead me to more questions. I can’t tell if these expressions are all lifted from Epictetus or from a combination of sources. I’ve never seen the expression “κατὰ φύσιν ζῆν” before, but I know that DL VII uses the expression “ὁμολογουμένως τῇ φύσει ζῆν” directly. Is there any reason that you chose to omit the “τὸ” which pretty much always precedes the latter expression? My knowledge of Greek is but a rain compared to your collective fountain of knowledge!