Now this logos was used by the Stoic as the Divine power which is present in everything that is, and which has three sides to it, all of which have become extremely important in the later development. The first is the law of nature. The logos is the principle according to which all natural things move. It is the Divine seed, the Divine creative power in everything, which makes it what it is. And it is the creative power of the movement of everything.
Secondly, logos means the moral and legal law, what we could call today, with Immanuel Kant, “practical reason,” the law which is innate in every human being when he accepts himself as a personality, with the dignity and greatness of a person.
It is the moral or legal law. This is equally important and even precedes the other. When you see in classical books the word “natural law, ” we should not think usually of physical laws, but of moral and legal laws. For instance, when we speak of the “rights of man,” as embodied in the American Constitution, that would be called by the Stoics and all their followers in all of Western philosophy, natural law.
The rights of man are the natural law, which is identical with man’s rational nature. But it is also identical with man’s ability to recognize reality. It is not only practical reason; it is also theoretical reason, It is man’s ability of reasoning, because he has the logos in himself and can discover the logos in nature and history, From this follows, in Stoicism, the man who is determined by the natural law, by the logos; he is the logikos , corresponding to, determined by, the logos: the wise man, But the Stoics were not optimists. They did not believe everybody was a wise man. Perhaps only a dozen, and no more, reached this ideal. All the others were either fools, or between the wise and foolish .. the majority of human beings, those who are in the process of improvement, those who are – -as we would say in America – under the power of education. All this was a fundamental pessimism about most human beings. The Stoics were originally Greeks, but they also became Romans, and some of the Roman emperors were some of the most famous Stoics. When Stoicism came in the hands of the Roman emperors – e. g , Marcus Aurelius – they applied it to the political situation, for which they were responsible. The natural law, in the sense of practical reason, had the consequence that every man participates in reason by the very fact that he is man. And out of this they derived laws which were far superior to many things which we find in the Christian Middle Ages. They gave universal citizenship to every human being, because he potentially participates in reason. Of course, the Stoics – and certainly not the Stoic emperors, who knew people – were optimistic.about man and believed he was actually reasonable. But what they meant was that man potentially participates in reason and that through education they might become actually reasonable, at least some of them. That was their presupposition, from which presupposition they did the great and tremendous thing: they gave Roman citizenship to all citizens of the conquered nations.