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Headword: *kaqh=kon
Adler number: kappa,77
Translated headword: due action; what is appropriate
Vetting Status: high
They say that a due action is that which when done has a reasonable justification, such as consistency in life. Such a consistency extends both to plants and animals for due actions can be seen even in them.[1] The chosen appellation (i.e "due action") is, according to certain people, allowable.[2] A due action is an activity that is appropriate to the conditions according to nature. For of activities which are done according to impulse, some are due actions, others contrary to due action, and others neither due actions nor contrary to due action. Now due actions are those that it befits reason to perform,[3] such as honoring one's parents, friends, and country, and sharing life with friends. Actions contrary to what is due are those that reason does not choose, such as the following: neglecting one's parents, mistreating one's friends, disregarding one's country, and things similar to these. Actions neither due nor contrary to what is due are those which reason neither chooses nor forbids to perform. For example, picking up a small piece of wood, holding a brush or a scraper, and things similar to these. Some due actions, as the following, do not depend upon circumstances: taking care of one's purity[4] and one's organs of sense and similar things. Due actions depending upon circumstances are mutilating oneself and dispersing one's possessions. Something similar occurs in the case of the things which are contrary to due action.
Polybius [writes]: "they dare beyond what is necessary and behave contrary to what is appropriate".[5]
Furthermore, of due actions, some are always due and others not always. Asking a question, inquiring, walking, and the like are always due actions.[6] The same argument can also be applied to the things which are contrary to due action. And there is also a certain due action among the intermediate actions, such as children obeying their attendants.
Greek Original:
*kaqh=kon: o(/ti kaqh=ko/n fasin ei)=nai, o(\ proaxqe\n eu)/logo/n te i)/sxei a)pologismo/n, oi(=on to\ a)ko/louqon e)n zwh=|: o(/per kai\ e)pi\ ta\ futa\ kai\ zw=|a diatei/nei: o(ra=sqai ga\r ka)pi\ tou/twn kaqh/konta. kata/ tinas ei)/kein th=s prosonomasi/as ei)lhmme/nhs. e)ne/rghma d' au)to\ ei)=nai tai=s kata\ fu/sin kataskeuai=s oi)kei=on: tw=n ga\r kaq' o(rmh\n e)nergoume/nwn ta\ me\n kaqh/konta ei)=nai, ta\ de\ para\ to\ kaqh=kon. kaqh/konta me\n ou)=n ei)=nai o(/sa lo/gw| pre/pei poiei=n: w(s e)/xei gonei=s tima=n, a)delfou/s, patri/da, sumperife/resqai fi/lois: para\ to\ kaqh=kon, o(/sa mh\ ai(rei= lo/gos, w(s e)/xei ta\ toiau=ta: gone/wn a)melei=n, a)delfw=n a)frontistei=n, fi/lois mh\ sundiati/qesqai, patri/dos u(perora=n kai\ ta\ paraplh/sia. ou)/te kaqh/konta ou)/te para\ to\ kaqh=kon, o(/sa ou)/te ai(rei= lo/gos pra/ttein ou)/te a)pagoreu/ei: oi(=on ka/rfos a)nele/sqai, grafei=on kratei=n, stleggi/da kai\ ta\ o(/moia tou/tois. kai\ ta\ me\n ei)=nai kaqh/konta a)/neu perista/sews, w(s ta/de: a(gnei/as e)pimelei=sqai kai\ ai)sqhthri/wn kai\ ta\ o(/moia: kata\ peri/stasin de\ to\ phrou=n e(auto\n kai\ th\n kth=sin diarriptei=n. a)na\ lo/gon de\ kai\ tw=n para\ to\ kaqh=kon. *polu/bios: tolmw=si pe/ra tou= de/ontos kai\ poiou=si para\ to\ kaqh=kon. e)/ti tw=n kaqhko/ntwn ta\ me\n a)ei\ kaqh/kei, ta\ de\ ou)k a)ei/. kai\ a)ei\ me\n kaqh/kei to\ e)rwta=n kai\ punqa/nesqai kai\ peripatei=n kai\ ta\ o(/moia. o( d' au)to\s lo/gos kai\ e)pi\ tw=n para\ to\ kaqh=kon. e)/sti de\ kai\ e)n toi=s me/sois ti kaqh=kon, w(s to\ pei/qesqai tou\s pai=das toi=s paidagwgoi=s.
See also kappa 75. Apart from the brief, intervening extract from from Polybius (note 5 below), this entry draws on Diogenes Laertius 7.107-110.
[1] These first lines are taken literally from Diog.Laert. 7.107, who reports the Stoic theory of "due action". Engberg-Pedersen ([1990] 127) maintains that, when including the due actions within the activities in accordance with impulse and maintaining that such actions are also present in plants, Diogenes Laertius makes a mistake; due actions (kathekonta) in plants are not understood in terms of "activities in accordance with impulse". E.-P.'s view has been widely accepted but will be challenged in a forthcoming monograph, by Dr Manuel Lorenz, on the Stoic theory of kaqh=kon and its reception in late antiquity. [For the other testimonies reporting the issue of "due action" in Stoic philosophy, see Stobaeus, Extracts 2.85, 13ff. (ed. Wachsmuth) and Cicero, De finibus 3.33-34.]
[2] The version of Diog.Laert. 7.108 is quite different here and the interpretation of the passage is controversial. For two different and valuable English translations of Diogenes' text, see Long and Sedley (1987) vol. 1, 360 and Inwood and Gerson (1997) 196.
[3] The Suda's wording of this clause, o(/sa lo/gw| pre/pei poiei=n, differs from that found in Diog.Laert. 7.108 (o(/sa lo/gos ai(rei= poiei=n) and elsewhere. Though the concept of to\ pre/pon plays an important role (as decorum) in Cicero's De officiis and is surely related to to\ kaqh=kon, this change of wording is probably of no significance.
[4] The Greek word is hagneia, "purity/chastity/observance of religious duties". In the Diog.Laert. version (7.109) the text says hygieia, "health", which seems to be much closer to the general sense of the passage.
[5] Polybius fr. 53 Büttner-Wobst. Walbank cites (747) Polybius 21.18.5 (web address 1) as a variant of this fragment. Büttner-Wobst notes (521) that Schweighäuser referenced the same passage in connection with the fragment.
[6] The suitable example for "actions which are always due" is "living according to virtue" (Diog.Laert. 7.109). An action which is always due is the same thing as a "perfect due action" (Stobaeus, Extracts 2.85, 19-20, ed. Wachsmuth) or a "correct action" (katorthoma), the action peculiarly belonging to the wise person -- the only one who, according to the Stoics, is capable of living virtuously.
B. Inwood and L.P. Gerson, Hellenistic Philosophy. Introductory Readings, Indianapolis/Cambridge 1997
A.A. Long, D.N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers, Cambridge 1987
T. Engberg-Pedersen, The Stoic Theory of Oikeiosis. Moral Development and Social Interaction in Early Stoic Philosophy, Aarhus 1990
F.W. Walbank, A Historical Commentary on Polybius, vol. III, (Oxford 1979)
T. Büttner-Wobst, ed., Polybii Historiae, vol. IV, (Leipzig 1904)
Associated internet address:
Web address 1
Keywords: children; definition; ethics; historiography; philosophy
Translated by: Marcelo Boeri on 1 November 1999@17:46:42.
Vetted by:
William Hutton on 9 November 1999@23:34:40.
Scott Carson on 2 January 2000@23:27:07.
Scott Carson on 11 February 2000@16:01:48.
David Whitehead (added note and keyword; cosmetics) on 15 January 2003@08:05:35.
David Whitehead (more keywords) on 16 November 2005@08:17:39.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 21 January 2013@07:41:33.
David Whitehead (augmented notes, with material from Dr Manuel Lorenz) on 11 June 2016@09:16:57.
Catharine Roth (tweaked translation) on 13 March 2019@01:47:30.
Ronald Allen (expanded n.5, added bibliography items, added link) on 29 March 2019@13:12:01.


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