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Philo of Alexandria and the Origins of the Stoic Πρoπαειαι

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The concept of πρoπαειαι or "pre-emotions" is known not only to the Roman Stoics and Christian exegetes but also to Philo of Alexandria. Philo also supplies the term πρoπαεια at QGen 1.79. As Philo cannot have derived what he knows from Seneca (despite his visit to Rome in 39), nor from Cicero, who also mentions the point, he must have found it in older Stoic writings. The πρoπαεια concept, rich in implications for the voluntariness and phenomenology of the passions proper, is thus confirmed for the Hellenistic period.

It is not to be expected that Philo's handling of this or any concept will necessarily conform to the usage of his Stoic sources. His evidence is nonetheless of great value where it coincides with that of other witnesses. In QGen 4.73 the emphasis falls upon involuntariness and the mechanisms of impression and assent as in Epictetus fr. 9. The πρoπαεια saves the virtuous person's insusceptibility to emotion exactly as it does for the Stoic spokesman in Gellius NA 19.1; this point is of some interest in view of the Christological use of this concept in Origen and Didymus. QGen 1.55 and 3.56 indicate that the occurrence of the πρoπαειαι is dependent upon uncertainty, and further, that for Philo, as for Seneca in Ira 2.3.4, a thought not acted upon can count as a πρoπαεια. In QGen 4.15-17 and 1.79, Philo indicates that hope and perhaps laughter may be related to joy as πρoπαεια to παoς; these assertions are not paralleled in extant Stoic texts. Further, in QGen 2.57, he names "biting and contraction" as the ευπαεια corresponding to grief, supplying a helpful parallel for Cic. Tusc. 3.83 and Plut. Virt. Mor. 449a.

The topic may well have been discussed by Posidonius, as suggested by Cooper and others, but Posidonius' attested innovations are rather different in character from the points which have caught the attention of Philo. Taking together the indirect evidence of Philo, Seneca, and Cicero, we may reasonably infer that the πρoπαεια concept belonged already to an earlier period of Stoicism.


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