Public Defense of Magdolna Nyulászi on Logos, Motion, God and Pneuma: The Metaphysics of Natural Bodies in Early Stoic Philosophy

Doctoral Defenses
Open to the Public
Nador u. 13
Tuesday, June 25, 2019 - 3:00pm
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Tuesday, June 25, 2019 - 3:00pm to 6:00pm

The Department of Philosophy cordially invites you to the Public Defense of the PhD Dissertation
Magdolna Nyulászi
Logos, Motion, God and Pneuma: The Metaphysics of Natural Bodies in Early Stoic Philosophy

Members of the Defense Committee:
Supervisor: István Bodnár (CEU)
External member: Brad Inwood (Yale University)
External member: David Sedley (University of Cambridge)
Chair: Michael Griffin (CEU)


This dissertation discusses the early Stoic account of the ontology of natural bodies. In the early Stoic framework, natural bodies are a class of entities that comprise discrete natural materials, plants, animals and humans. These entities are special parts of the cosmos: they are unified and qualified by pneuma, the cosmic principle of life. While the constitution, behaviour and development of natural bodies are discussed in great detail in accounts of natural philosophy and ethics, the metaphysical accounts related to the existence and changes of these bodies are not elaborated in detail.

In this work I aim at reconstructing a unified theory of the qualification, unity and identity of natural bodies by examining various tenets of early Stoic philosophy. Looking at the problems of synchronic and diachronic identity, unity, ontogenesis and the corporeality of metaphysical principles, I argue that while there are a great number of texts that testify of an effort to provide a coherent, elaborate and innovative account of the ontology of natural bodies, this project never went beyond hinting at a possible theory. Combined with the tenets of the two principles and the four categories, the early Stoic accounts of identity and ontogenesis clearly point towards a top-down ontology that construes natural bodies as compounds of unqualified matter and a self-moving form-like principle (the logos) that accounts for the unity, qualification, identity and motions of bodies. This theory could provide a coherent, corporealist account of the metaphysics of natural bodies, and would be in concordance with the physical and ethical theory.

However, as it becomes clear during the discussions of distinct problems of metaphysics and natural philosophy in each chapter, there is just as much evidence for a diametrically opposed theory that accounts for qualification, identity and even unity in a bottom-up way and by taking three-dimensional, solid, material bodies as simple and metaphysically fundamental entities. I conclude that the coexistence of these two accounts makes it impossible to offer a coherent reconstruction of Stoic metaphysics and testifies to the Stoic disinterest in a unified and theoretically homogenous metaphysical theory.