Some personal comments on »Epictetus and apprehensive moral impressions in stoicism by Pavle Stojanovic».
According to stoic orthodoxy , following Sextus
An apprehensive impression is «the one that is from something existent [apo huparchon] and is stamped and impressed in accordance with that existent thing itself, and is of such a kind as could not come about from something that was not existent.»
Thus, an apprehension to be true espesially phantasia kataleptiki must be in correlation with something yparhon, that exists. But impression is “of such a kind that it could not become false”.
«In other words, the apprehensive impression has to be true not only at the time it is entertained, but always, which is what makes it unmistakable. » Pavle Stojanovic
How then can we discern between existent and non -existent universal impressions ?
As Pavle Stojanovic emphasises
«The Stoics considered universal impressions to be useful paraphrases of conditionals that involve impressions about particulars. According to them, all universal moral impressions of the form “X is M” are generalized impressions (katholika) that stand for impressions expressing conditionals “if x is X, then x is M”. For example, the universal impression “prudence is good” would stand for the impression “if some particular thing is prudent, then that thing is good”. Furthermore, they thought that universal impressions can be true, and that their truth depends on the truth of the impressions about particulars over which they range; for example, “Prudence is good” is true if and only if all particular prudent things are good. Thus, although themselves nonapprehensive, universal moral impressions of the form “X is M” and their truth-values crucially depend on particular moral impressions of the form “x is M”, and the latter, as we have seen, are capable of being apprehensive. Consequently, knowledge of universal moral truths can be secured through the apprehension of particular moral truths, that is, through moral apprehensive impressions of the form “x is M”.»
According to Chrysippus,
«only those predicates that are attributes are said to belong, for instance, “to walk” belongs to me when I am walking, but it does not belong to me when I am lying down or sitting.»
«From a set of impressions that evaluate someone’s walking in a particular practical context, for example “Dion’s walking is befitting in the practical context C”, “Theon’s walking is befitting in C”, etc., the agent could form a universalized impression “walking is befitting in C” or “it befits to walk in C”, and then, when in circumstances sufficiently similar to C, the agent could deduce the impulsive impression “it befits me to walk now”. Examples of such universalized impressions about kathēkonta are abundant in our sources; in fact, various lists of befitting actions that we find in preserved accounts of Stoic ethics seem to consist precisely of such universalized propositions. For example, Diogenes Laertius says that (in most contexts) honoring parents, brother, and the fatherland is befitting, that spending time with friends is befitting, while neglecting parents is not befitting, and so on (DL 7.108–109 = LS 59E.). Thus, even if impulsive impressions cannot be apprehensive, they can be deduced from the agent’s knowledge of universal facts about which actions are befitting, which was in turn based on the apprehension of particular befitting actions of other agents. » P.S.
Hence, the agent in everyday life acts and thinks in an evaluative way choosing among good and bad but also evaluating indifferent things that help being virtuous. But, this starts from experience, history and culture. The content of virtue or good cannot be a vacuum but their content stem from material life. A third person perspective starts working through intersubjective co-living.
We must also have in mind that
«Requirement for the moral/evaluative apprehensive impression would be to ensure that the agent’s evaluation of the object is not only correct, but such that it could not turn out incorrect.» P. S.
How then a stoic can establish a universal type of behaviour that is always true if it has to start from particulars and universals cannot exist outside of human beingness?
We may say that exactly such an intersubjective context generates moral evaluations concerning relation projects among selves. This is a mirror of how Cosmos works according to Physis.
Ethics that probably become dominant are prone to change thanks to the responsible actions of agents. For example, cannibalism as an accepted social habit might become rejected from the same society after a big transformation of society’s general moral codes so as to be closer to physis’ commandments . The last doesn’t mean that are predetermined or always preexistent like a platonic idea, but that they are creations of the interactive functionalism as far as Physis is considered as hexis kinoumeni.