The Stoic doctrine of everlasting recurrence claims that the present cosmic order is periodically interrupted and restored. The interruption is due to a conflagration, which occurs when celestial fire descends from the heavens, spreads out over the sublunary cosmos and burns it up completely. Once the conflagration is over, the cosmic order is restored through a new cosmogony and zoogony. This process is meant to be both endless and beginningless: the new cosmos is also destroyed by a conflagration, followed by a new cosmogony and so on ad vitam aeternam; and likewise the present cosmos is nothing but the repetition of an identical cosmos that has been periodically destroyed and restored infinitely many times in the past. There are, however, three different Stoic theories of everlasting recurrence that disagree with each other on the question of the extent to which the cosmos of the present cycle is really identical to the cosmos of other cycles. Is it an identity in type between events and, if it is, does this identity imply the numerical identity of the objects involved in the events? Moreover these three Stoic theories seem to be closely connected to a fourth theory of everlasting recurrence put forward by the Pythagoreans. In this paper, I offer a new reconstruction of the positions defended by these four conflicting theories and of the possible philosophical motivations behind each one of them.
Workshop in Ancient Philosophy Convenors: Prof Ursula Coope, Dr Karen Margrethe Nielsen, and Dr Luca Castagnoli