Jon Miller (Uppsala) has a review of Steven K. Strange and Jack Zupko (eds.), Stoicism: Traditions and Transformations (Cambridge University Press, 2004), in NDPR, which concludes as follows:
This reviewer would take issue with many of the claims but since the (alleged) problems don't diminish the basic originality and importance of the volume, they will be bypassed in favor of one global criticism. It concerns the objectives of the volume. In their generally helpful introduction, the editors say that "[t]he essays in this volume are intended to . . . [explore] how Stoicism actually influenced philosophers from antiquity through the modern period in fields ranging from logic and ethics to politics and theology" (1). In keeping with this mandate, many of the individual authors -- Engberg-Pedersen, Normore, Lagrée, Rutherford, Nussbaum -- do speak of instances of "actual influence" by Stoicism on this person or that concept. It would be absurd to deny that Stoicism was influential; yet, it is another thing entirely to prove specific cases of influence. And it is unclear why philosophers should care all that much: what we're more interested in is how the ideas and arguments compare, not where they came from. The task of determining influence is distinct, both conceptually and scholarly, from that of determining philosophical kinship. The former involves studies of the transmission and reception of texts; the latter, the analysis of the proximity of arguments. Whether they think so or not, almost all the papers in the volume engaged in the latter; many of the most important errors would have been avoided if they had recognized as much.
If we look past thinking papers, and the unscholarly use of adjectives--mistakes to be attributed, surely, to NDPR's editors--Miller's criticism seems a serious one.
Let me restate that criticism, to underline the point:
“Here’s a volume intending to document examples of the influence of Stoicism. But only half the contributions in fact try to do this. Yet those that do, argue fallaciously from similarity to causation: e.g. ‘This idea in St. Paul (or Aquinas, Grotius, or Descartes) is similar to this Stoic idea; therefore St. Paul (or Aquinas, or Grotius, or Descartes) was influenced by this Stoic idea.’ But in any case questions of influence are irrelevant to philosophy. Moreover, the authors' concern with that project distracts them from giving due attention to the interesting conceptual differences between the Stoics and the other philosophers they examine.”
Fair enough. But suppose one were to accept Miller’s criticism and insist that the contributions be re-written, so that it was clear that no claims about influence were being advanced. The volume might then be re-released as Observed Similarities to Stoicism in Various Thinkers. But then (just curious): Why would anyone want to read such a book?
(And I don't think anyone will write the other book that could by written from the same material: Why Stoicism is True--with Supporting Passages from Various Thinkers.)