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I was reading a Wikipedia article on fatalism and the idle argument. It says a Stoic philosopher "attempted to refute" it and then it states the argument. The very next line it uses the word "however".

Here's the link and the excerpt

The Idle Argument was anticipated by Aristotle in his De Interpretatione chapter 9. The Stoics considered it to be a sophism and the Stoic Chrysippus attempted to refute it by pointing out that consulting the doctor would be as much fated as recovering. He seems to have introduced the idea that in cases like that at issue two events can be co-fated, so that one cannot occur without the other.[7] It is, however, a false argument because it fails to consider that those fated to recover may be those fated to consult a doctor.

I have two questions regarding "It is, however, a false argument"

  1. Whose argument is being referred to as false, the argument of the idlist or that of the Stoic?

  2. Considering that it is idlist's argument that is being referred to as false, why does it use the word "however"? Because it also uses the words "attempted to refute", does it mean that the Stoic's refutation is incomplete and also the idlist's argument is wrong?

  • The "false argument" IMO is attributed to Chrysippus' attempted refutation. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jun 4 '19 at 12:56
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA is very confusing because the next sentences seem to contradict the idlist's argument. The author could have been little more clear – VARUN.N RAO Jun 4 '19 at 14:12
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Since the article is describing Chrysippus rejection of the idle argument against fatalism claiming that all of the actions, including consulting the doctor, as "co-fated" the final sentence, cited by the OP, seems to be agreeing with Chrysippus' position when it claims

because it fails to consider that those fated to recover may be those fated to consult a doctor.

If the patient is also fated to consult a doctor then this would be part of the fate of recovering or not, that is, a "co-fate" as Chrysippus argues.

Hugh Rice seems to take a similar view regarding Chrysippus' refutation of the idle argument leaving less ambiguity:

The thought, presumably, is that it is futile, because what you do will have no effect. If so, the reply given by Chrysippus (c280-c206 B.C.E.) to this argument seems exactly right. (Bobzien 1998, 5.2) The conclusion does not follow, because it may have been fated that you will recover as a result of seeing the doctor.

Here are the questions:

  1. Whose argument is being referred to as false, the argument of the idlist or that of the Stoic?

The final sentence appears to be agreeing with Chrysippus against the Idle Argument.

  1. Considering that it is idlist's argument that is being referred to as false, why does it use the word however. Because it also uses the word "attempted to refute", does it mean that the Stoic's refutation is incomplete and also the idlist's argument is wrong?

Hugh Rice's description of the argument by Chrysippus may be clearer. It is sometimes worthwhile to see how a different reference describes something.


Rice, Hugh, "Fatalism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/fatalism/.

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  • Thank you Frank, my upvote will not be shown because of my reputation. Your answer explains a lot. I think the wiki page must be edited inorder to make it clearer. – VARUN.N RAO Jun 4 '19 at 15:11
  • @VARUN.NRAO I agree with you that the Wiki page was not clear. Thank you. – Frank Hubeny Jun 4 '19 at 15:24

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