PRONOIA is ‘foreknowledge’. This ancient Greek word is translatable also in ‘foresight’, ‘divine providence’, ‘divine will’.

Epiktetos (Epictetus) 1.6. 1–2 maintains that we should thank providence for having two qualities: seeing things clearly and gratitude. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (Marcus Aurelius) 12.1 talks about entrusting the future to ‘providence’.

Sokratiko Logo

The doctrine of <pronoia> is central in Stoic theology. And it places the Stoics at odds with the Epicureans, for whom the universe is just accidental collisions and cohesions between atoms of several shapes and sizes. Instead, Stoics believe that a divine reason (also <logos>) permeates and governs the whole world. Stoics suggest various arguments for the existence and providential nature of the gods. We have knowledge of these ideas thanks to the Stoic spokesman Quintus Lucilius Balbus in the second book of Cicero’s On the Nature of the Gods.

Firstly, in this work the reality of the gods is demonstrated by the splendour and beauty of the world. Such beauty must be the result of a benevolent divine plan. Secondly, an evident “sentient nature” is explained again with gods’ administration of the world. For Stoics ‘divine providence’ and ‘nature’ are the same thing, that is a controlling rational power. This force sets all things in motion and it is the reason of the order of the universe. In fact, there are several Stoic examples of this identity of God (divine providence), Nature and Fate. Frequently, they emerge in discussions regarding fate and determinism. Fate and providence are in connection, because if this power controls the whole universe, it follows that it also controls the outcome of our lives.

<Pronoia> is ‘foreknowledge’. Such a ‘prescience’ is only possible if a divine providence rules the cosmos, which by consequence becomes the ‘universe’.