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Epictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are beyond our control; we should accept calmly and dispassionately whatever happens. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline.
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THE EPICTETUS COLLECTION
Published 2018 by Blackmore Dennett
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE DISCOURSES OF EPICTETUS.
ARRIAN TO LUCIUS GELLIUS WISHETH ALL HAPPINESS.
CHAPTER I.: OF THE THINGS WHICH ARE, AND THE THINGS WHICH ARE NOT IN OUR OWN POWER.
CHAPTER II.: IN WHAT MANNER, UPON EVERY OCCASION, TO PRESERVE OUR CHARACTER.
CHAPTER III.: HOW, FROM THE DOCTRINE THAT GOD IS THE FATHER OF MANKIND, WE MAY PROCEED TO ITS CONSEQUENCES.
CHAPTER IV: OF PROGRESS.
CHAPTER V.: CONCERNING THE ACADEMICS.
CHAPTER VI.: OF PROVIDENCE.
CHAPTER VII.: OF THE USE OF THE FORMS OF RIGHT REASONING.
CHAPTER VIII.: THAT LOGICAL SUBTLETIES ARE NOT SAFE TO THE UNINSTRUCTED.
CHAPTER IX.: HOW FROM THE DOCTRINE OF OUR RELATIONSHIP TO GOD, WE ARE TO DEDUCE ITS CONSEQUENCES.
CHAPTER X.: CONCERNING THOSE WHO SEEK PREFERMENT AT ROME.
CHAPTER XI.: OF NATURAL AFFECTION.
CHAPTER XII.: OF CONTENTMENT.
CHAPTER XIII.: HOW EVERYTHING MAY BE PERFORMED TO THE DIVINE ACCEPTANCE.
CHAPTER XIV.: THAT ALL THINGS ARE UNDER THE DIVINE SUPERVISION.
CHAPTER XV.: WHAT PHILOSOPHY PROMISES.
CHAPTER XVI.: OF PROVIDENCE.
CHAPTER XVII.: THAT THE ART OF REASONING IS NECESSARY.
CHAPTER XVIII.: THAT WE OUGHT NOT TO BE ANGRY WITH THE ERRING.
CHAPTER XIX.: OF THE RIGHT TREATMENT OF TYRANTS.
CHAPTER XX.: IN WHAT MANNER REASON CONTEMPLATES ITSELF.
CHAPTER XXI.: OF THE DESIRE OF ADMIRATION.
CHAPTER XXII.: OF GENERAL PRINCIPLES.
CHAPTER XXIII.: AGAINST EPICURUS.
CHAPTER XXIV.: HOW WE OUGHT TO STRUGGLE WITH DIFFICULTIES.
CHAPTER XXV.: ON THE SAME SUBJECT.
CHAPTER XXVI.: WHAT THE RULE OF LIFE IS.
CHAPTER XXVII.: OF THE VARIED APPEARANCES OF THINGS TO THE MIND, AND WHAT MEANS ARE AT HAND BY WHICH TO REGULATE THEM.
CHAPTER XXVIII.: THAT WE OUGHT NOT TO BE ANGRY WITH MANKIND. WHAT THINGS ARE LITTLE, WHAT GREAT, AMONG MEN.
CHAPTER XXIX.: OF COURAGE.
CHAPTER XXX.: WEAPONS READY FOR DIFFICULT OCCASIONS.
CHAPTER I.: THAT COURAGE IS NOT INCONSISTENT WITH CAUTION.
CHAPTER II.: OF TRANQUILLITY.
CHAPTER III.: CONCERNING SUCH AS RECOMMEND PERSONS TO THE PHILOSOPHERS
CHAPTER IV.: CONCERNING A MAN WHO HAD BEEN GUILTY OF ADULTERY.
CHAPTER V.: HOW NOBLENESS OF MIND MAY BE CONSISTENT WITH PRUDENCE.
CHAPTER VI.: OF CIRCUMSTANCES.
CHAPTER VII.: OF DIVINATION.
CHAPTER VIII.: WHEREIN CONSISTS THE ESSENCE OF GOOD.
CHAPTER IX.: THAT SOME PERSONS, FAILING TO FULFIL WHAT THE CHARACTER OF A MAN IMPLIES, ASSUME THAT OF A PHILOSOPHER.
CHAPTER X.: HOW WE MAY INFER THE DUTIES OF LIFE FROM ITS NOMINAL FUNCTIONS.
CHAPTER XI.: THE BEGINNING OF PHILOSOPHY.
CHAPTER XII.: OF DISPUTATION.
CHAPTER XIII.: OF ANXIETY.
CHAPTER XIV.: CONCERNING NASO.
CHAPTER XV.: CONCERNING THOSE WHO OBSTINATELY PERSIST IN WHATEVER THEY HAVE DETERMINED.
CHAPTER XVI.: THAT WE DO NOT STUDY TO MAKE USE OF THE ESTABLISHED PRINCIPLES CONCERNING GOOD AND EVIL.
CHAPTER XVII.: HOW TO APPLY GENERAL PRINCIPLES TO PARTICULAR CASES.
CHAPTER XVIII.: HOW THE SEMBLANCES OF THINGS ARE TO BE COMBATED.
CHAPTER XIX.: CONCERNING THOSE WHO EMBRACE PHILOSOPHY ONLY IN WORDS.
CHAPTER XX.: CONCERNING THE EPICUREANS AND ACADEMICS.
CHAPTER XXI.: OF INCONSISTENCY.
CHAPTER XXII.: OF FRIENDSHIP.
CHAPTER XXIII.: OF ELOQUENCE.
CHAPTER XXIV.: CONCERNING A PERSON WHOM HE TREATED WITH DISREGARD.
CHAPTER XXV.: THAT LOGIC IS NECESSARY.
CHAPTER XXVI.: WHAT IS THE TEST OF ERROR.
CHAPTER I.: OF PERSONAL ADORNMENT.
CHAPTER II.: IN WHAT A WELL-TRAINED MAN SHOULD EXERCISE HIMSELF; AND THAT WE NEGLECT THE PRINCIPAL THINGS.
CHAPTER III.: WHAT IS THE CHIEF CONCERN OF A GOOD MAN; AND IN WHAT WE CHIEFLY OUGHT TO TRAIN OURSELVES.
CHAPTER IV.: CONCERNING ONE WHO MADE HIMSELF IMPROPERLY CONSPICUOUS IN THE THEATRE.
CHAPTER V.: CONCERNING THOSE WHO PLEAD SICKNESS.
CHAPTER VI.: MISCELLANEOUS.
CHAPTER VII.: CONCERNING A CERTAIN GOVERNOR WHO WAS AN EPICUREAN.
CHAPTER VIII.: HOW WE ARE TO EXERCISE OURSELVES AGAINST THE SEMBLANCES OF THINGS.
CHAPTER IX.: CONCERNING A CERTAIN ORATOR, WHO WAS GOING TO ROME ON A LAWSUIT.
CHAPTER X.: IN WHAT MANNER WE OUGHT TO BEAR SICKNESS.
CHAPTER XI.: MISCELLANEOUS.
CHAPTER XII.: OF TRAINING.
CHAPTER XIII.: WHAT SOLITUDE IS; AND WHAT A SOLITARY PERSON.
CHAPTER XIV.: MISCELLANEOUS.
CHAPTER XV.: THAT EVERYTHING IS TO BE UNDERTAKEN WITH CIRCUMSPECTION.
CHAPTER XVI.: THAT CAUTION SHOULD BE USED, AS TO PERSONAL FAMILIARITY.
CHAPTER XVII.: OF PROVIDENCE.
CHAPTER XVIII.: THAT WE OUGHT NOT TO BE ALARMED, BY ANY NEWS THAT IS BROUGHT US.
CHAPTER XIX.: WHAT IS THE COMPARATIVE CONDITION OF THE PHILOSOPHER, AND OF THE CROWD.
CHAPTER XX.: THAT SOME ADVANTAGE MAY BE GAINED FROM EVERY OUTWARD CIRCUMSTANCE.
CHAPTER XXI.: CONCERNING THOSE WHO READILY SET UP FOR SOPHISTS.
CHAPTER XXII.: OF THE CYNIC PHILOSOPHY.
CHAPTER XXIII.: CONCERNING SUCH AS READ AND DISPUTE OSTENTATIOUSLY.
CHAPTER XXIV.: THAT WE OUGHT NOT TO BE AFFECTED BY THINGS NOT IN OUR OWN POWER.
CHAPTER XXV.: CONCERNING THOSE WHO WAVER IN THEIR PURPOSE.
CHAPTER XXVI.: CONCERNING THOSE WHO ARE IN DREAD OF WANT.
CHAPTER I.: OF FREEDOM.
CHAPTER II.: OF COMPLAISANCE.
CHAPTER III.: WHAT THINGS ARE TO BE EXCHANGED FOR OTHERS.
CHAPTER IV.: CONCERNING THOSE WHO EARNESTLY DESIRE A LIFE OF REPOSE.
CHAPTER V.: CONCERNING THE QUARRELSOME AND FEROCIOUS.
CHAPTER VI.: CONCERNING THOSE WHO ARE ANNOYED AT BEING PITIED.
CHAPTER VII.: OF FEARLESSNESS.
CHAPTER VIII.: CONCERNING SUCH AS HASTILY ASSUME THE PHILOSOPHIC DRESS.
CHAPTER IX.: CONCERNING A PERSON WHO HAD GROWN IMMODEST.
CHAPTER X.: WHAT THINGS WE ARE TO DESPISE, AND WHAT CHIEFLY TO VALUE.
CHAPTER XI.: OF PURITY.
CHAPTER XII.: OF TAKING PAINS.
CHAPTER XIII.: CONCERNING SUCH AS ARE TOO COMMUNICATIVE.
THE ENCHIRIDION, OR MANUAL.
FRAGMENTS OF EPICTETUS
FROM STOBÆUS, ANTONIUS, AND MAXIMUS.
Fragments are ascribed jointly to Epictetus and other authors.
I NEITHER composed the Discourses of Epictetus in such a manner as things of this nature are commonly composed, nor did I myself produce them to public view, any more than I composed them. But whatever sentiments I heard from his own mouth, the very same I endeavored to set down in the very same words, so far as possible, and to preserve as memorials for my own use, of his manner of thinking, and freedom of speech.
These Discourses are such as one person would naturally deliver from his own thoughts, extempore, to another; not such as he would prepare to be read by numbers afterwards. Yet, notwithstanding this, I cannot tell how, without either my consent or knowledge, they have fallen into the hands of the public. But it is of little consequence to me, if I do not appear an able writer, and of none to Epictetus, if any one treats his Discourses with contempt; since it was very evident, even when he uttered them, that he aimed at nothing more than to excite his hearers to virtue. If they produce that one effect, they have in them what, I think, philosophical discourses ought to have. And should they fail of it, let the readers however be assured, that when Epictetus himself pronounced them, his audience could not help being affected in the very manner he intended they should. If by themselves they have less efficacy, perhaps it is my fault, or perhaps it is unavoidable.
OF other faculties, you will find no one that contemplates, and consequently approves or disapproves itself. How far does the proper sphere of grammar extend? As far as the judging of language. Of music? As far as the judging of melody. Does either of them contemplate itself, then? By no means.
Thus, for instance, when you are to write to your friend, grammar will tell you what to write; but whether you are to write to your friend at all, or no, grammar will not tell you. Thus music, with regard to tunes; but whether it be proper or improper, at any particular time, to sing or play, music will not tell you.
What will tell, then?
That which contemplates both itself and all other things.
And what is that?
The Reasoning Faculty; for that alone is found to consider both itself, its powers, its value, and likewise all the rest. For what is it else that says, gold is beautiful; for the gold itself does not speak? Evidently that faculty, which judges of the appearances of things. What else distinguishes music, grammar, the other faculties, proves their uses, and shows their proper occasions?
Nothing but this.
As it was fit then, this most excellent and superior faculty alone, a right use of the appearances of things, the gods have placed in our own power; but all other matters, they have not placed in our power. What, was it because they would not? I rather think, that if they could, they had granted us these too; but they certainly could not. For, placed upon earth, and confined to such a body, and to such companions, how was it possible that, in these respects, we should not be hindered by things without us?
But what says Zeus? “O Epictetus, if it were possible, I had made this little body and property of thine free, and not liable to hindrance. But now do not mistake: it is not thy own, but only a finer mixture of clay. Since, then, I could not give thee this, I have given thee a certain portion of myself; this faculty of exerting the powers of pursuit and avoidance, of desire and aversion, and, in a word, the use of the appearances of things. Taking care of this point, and making what is thy own to consist in this, thou wilt never be restrained, never be hindered; thou wilt not groan, wilt not complain, wilt not flatter any one. How, then! Do all these advantages seem small to thee? Heaven forbid! Let them suffice thee then, and thank the gods.”
But now, when it is in our power to take care of one thing, and to apply to one, we choose rather to take care of many, and to encumber ourselves with many; body, property, brother, friend, child, and slave; and, by this multiplicity of encumbrances, we are burdened and weighed down. Thus, when the weather doth not happen to be fair for sailing, we sit in distress and gaze out perpetually. Which way is the wind? — North. — What do we want of that? When will the west blow? — When it pleases, friend, or when Æolus pleases; for Zeus has not made you dispenser of the winds, but Æolus.
What then is to be done?
To make the best of what is in our power, and take the rest as it occurs.
And how does it occur?
As it pleases God.
What, then, must I be the only one to lose my head?
Why, would you have all the world, then, lose their heads for your consolation? Why are not you willing to stretch out your neck, like Lateranus, when he was commanded by Nero to be beheaded? For, shrinking a little after receiving a weak blow, he stretched it out again. And before this, when Epaphroditus, the freedman of Nero, interrogated him about the conspiracy: “If I have a mind to say anything,” replied he, “I will tell it to your master.”
What resource have we then upon such occasions? Why, what else but to distinguish between what is ours, and what not ours; what is right, and what is wrong. I must die, and must I die groaning too? — Be fettered. Must I be lamenting too? — Exiled. And what hinders me, then, but that I may go smiling, and cheerful, and serene? — “Betray a secret.” — I will not betray it; for this is in my own power. — “Then I will fetter you.”— What do you say, man? Fetter me? You will fetter my leg; but not Zeus himself can get the better of my free will. “I will throw you into prison: I will behead that paltry body of yours.” Did I ever tell you, that I alone had a head not liable to be cut off? — These things ought philosophers to study; these ought they daily to write; and in these to exercise themselves.
Thraseas used to say, “I had rather be killed today, than banished to-morrow.” But how did Rufusanswer him? “If you prefer it as a heavier misfortune, how foolish a preference! If as a lighter, who has put it in your power? Why do not you study to be contented with what is allotted you?”
Well, and what said Agrippinus, upon this account? “I will not be a hindrance to myself.” Word was brought him, “Your cause is trying in the senate.” — “Good luck attend it; but it is eleven o’clock” (the hour when he used to exercise before bathing): “Let us go to our exercise.” This being over, a messenger tells him, “You are condemned.” To banishment, says he, or to death? “To banishment.” — What of my estate? — “It is not taken away.” Well then, let us go as far as Aricia, and dine there.
This it is to have studied what ought to be studied; to have placed our desires and aversions above tyranny and above chance. I must die: if instantly, I will die instantly; if in a short time, I will dine first; and when the hour comes, then I will die. How? As becomes one who restores what is not his own.
TO a reasonable creature, that alone is insupportable which is unreasonable; but everything reasonable may be supported. Stripes are not naturally insupportable. — “How so?” — See how the Spartans bear whipping, after they have learned that it is a reasonable thing. Hanging is not insupportable; for, as soon as a man has taken it into his head that it is reasonable, he goes and hangs himself. In short we shall find by observation, that no creature is oppressed so much by anything, as by what is unreasonable; nor, on the other hand, attracted to anything so strongly, as to what is reasonable.
But it happens that different things are reasonable and unreasonable, as well as good and bad, advantageous and disadvantageous, to different persons. On this account, chiefly, we stand in need of a liberal education, to teach us to adapt the preconceptions of reasonable and unreasonable to particular cases, conformably to nature. But to judge of reasonable and unreasonable, we make use not only of a due estimation of things without us, but of what relates to each person’s particular character. Thus, it is reasonable for one man to submit to a menial office, who considers this only, that if he does not submit to it, he shall be whipt, and lose his dinner, but that if he does, he has nothing hard or disagreeable to suffer; whereas to another it appears insupportable, not only to submit to such an office himself, but to respect any one else who does. If you ask me, then, whether you shall do this menial office or not, I will tell you, it is a more valuable thing to get a dinner, than not; and a greater disgrace to be whipt, than not to be whipt; — so that, if you measure yourself by these things, go and do your office.
“Ay, but this is not suitable to my character.”
It is you who are to consider that, not I; for it is you who know yourself, what value you set upon yourself, and at what rate you sell yourself; for different people sell themselves at different prices.
Hence Agrippinus when Florus was considering whether he should go to Nero’s shows, and perform some part in them himself, bid him go. — “But why do not you go then?” says Florus. “Because,” replied Agrippinus, “I do not deliberate about it.” For he who once sets himself about such considerations, and goes to calculating the worth of external things, approaches very near to those who forget their own character. For, why do you ask me whether death or life be the more eligible? I answer, life. Pain or pleasure? I answer, pleasure. — “But if I do not act a part, I shall lose my head.” — Go and act it then, but I will not.— “Why?” — Because you esteem yourself only as one thread of many that make up the piece. — “What then?” — You have nothing to care for, but how to be like the rest of mankind, as one thread desires not to be distinguished from the others. But I would be the purple, that small and brilliant part, which gives a lustre and beauty to the rest. Why do you bid me resemble the multitude then? At that rate, how shall I be the purple?
This Priscus Helvidius too saw, and acted accordingly; for when Vespasian had sent to forbid his going to the Senate, he answered, “It is in your power to prevent my continuing a senator; but while I am one, I must go.” — “Well then, at least be silent there.” — “Do not ask my opinion and I will be silent.” — “But I must ask it.” — “And I must speak what appears to me to be right.” — “But if you do, I will put you to death.” — “When did I ever tell you that I was immortal? You will do your part, and I mine: it is yours to kill and mine to die intrepid; yours to banish, mine to depart untroubled.”
What good, then, did Priscus do, who was but a single person? Why, what good does the purple do to the garment? What, but to be beautiful in itself, and to set a good example to the rest? Another, perhaps, if in such circumstances Cæsar had forbidden his going to the Senate, would have answered, “I am obliged to you for excusing me.” But such a one he would not have forbidden to go; well knowing, that he would either sit like a statue, or, if he spoke, would say what he knew to be agreeable to Cæsar, and would overdo it, by adding still more.
Thus acted even a wrestler, who was in danger of death, unless he consented to an ignominious amputation. His brother, who was a philosopher, coming to him, and saying “Well, brother, what do you design to do? Let us cut away this part, and return again to the field.” He refused, and courageously died.
When it was asked, whether he acted thus as a wrestler, or a philosopher? I answer, as a man, said Epictetus; but as a man who had been proclaimed a champion at the Olympic games; who had been used to such places, and not exercised merely in the school of Bato. Another would have had his very head cut off, if he could have lived without it. This is that regard to character, so powerful with those who are accustomed to introduce it, from their own breasts, into their deliberations.
“Come now, Epictetus, take off your beard.” — If I am a philosopher, I answer, I will not take it off. — “Then I will take off your head.” — If that will do you any good, take it off.
It was asked, How shall each of us perceive what belongs to his character? Whence, replied Epictetus, does a bull, when the lion approaches, alone recognize his own qualifications, and expose himself alone for the whole herd? It is evident, that with the qualifications, occurs, at the same time, the consciousness of being indued with them. And in the same manner, whoever of us hath such qualifications, will not be ignorant of them. But neither is a bull, nor a gallant-spirited man, formed all at once. We are to exercise, and qualify ourselves, and not to run rashly upon what doth not concern us.
Only consider at what price you sell your own free will, O man! if only that you may not sell it for a trifle. The highest greatness and excellence perhaps seem to belong to others, to such as Socrates. Why then, as we are born with a like nature, do not all, or the greater number, become such as he? Why, are all horses swift? Are all dogs sagacious? What then, because my gifts are humble, shall I neglect all care of myself? Heaven forbid! Epictetus may not surpass Socrates; granted: but could I overtake him, it might be enough for me. I shall never be Milo, and yet I do not neglect my body; nor Crœsus, and yet I do not neglect my property; nor should we omit any effort, from a despair of arriving at the highest.
IF a person could be persuaded of this principle as he ought, that we are all originally descended from God, and that he is the father of men and gods; I conceive he never would think of himself meanly or ignobly. Suppose Cæsar were to adopt you, there would be no bearing your haughty looks; and will you not feel ennobled on knowing yourself to be the son of God? Yet, in fact, we are not ennobled. But having two things united in our composition, a body in common with the brutes, and reason in common with the gods, many incline to this unhappy and mortal kindred, and only some few to that which is happy and divine. And, as of necessity every one must treat each particular thing, according to the notions he forms about it; so those few, who suppose that they are made for faith and honor, and a wise use of things, will never think meanly or ignobly concerning themselves. But with the multitude the case is contrary; “For what am I? A poor contemptible man, with this miserable flesh of mine?” Miserable indeed. But you have likewise something better than this poor flesh. Why then, overlooking that, do you pine away in attention to this?
By means of this [animal] kindred, some of us, deviating towards it, become like wolves, faithless, and crafty, and mischievous; others, like lions, wild, and savage, and untamed; but most of us foxes, and disgraceful even among brutes. For what else is a slanderous and ill-natured man, but a fox, or something yet more wretched and mean? Watch and take heed then, that you do not sink thus low.
HE who is entering on a state of progress, having learnt from the philosophers, that good should be sought and evil shunned; and having learnt too, that prosperity and peace are no otherwise attainable by man, than in not missing what he seeks, nor incurring what he shuns; such a one removes totally from himself and banishes all wayward desire, and shuns only those things over which he can have control. For if he should attempt to shun those things over which he has no control, he knows that he must sometimes incur that which he shuns, and be unhappy. Now if virtue promises happiness, prosperity, and peace; then progress in virtue is certainly progress in each of these. For to whatever point the perfection of anything absolutely brings us, progress is always an approach towards it.
How happens it then, that when we confess virtue to be such, yet we seek, and make an ostentatious show of progress in other things? What is the business of virtue?
A life truly prosperous.
Who is in a state of progress then? He who has best studied Chrysippus? Why, does virtue consist in having read Chrysippus through? If so, progress is confessedly nothing else than understanding a great deal of Chrysippus; otherwise we confess virtue to consist in one thing, and declare progress, which is an approach to it, to be quite another thing.
This person, they say, is already able to understand Chrysippus, by himself. — “Certainly, sir, you have made a vast improvement!” What improvement? Why do you delude him? Why do you withdraw him from a sense of his real needs? Why do not you show him the real function of virtue, that he may know where to seek progress? — Seek it there, O! unfortunate, where your work lies. And where doth your work lie? In learning what to seek and what to shun, that you may neither be disappointed of the one, nor incur the other; in practising how to pursue and how to avoid, that you may not be liable to fail; in practising intellectual assent and doubt, that you may not be liable to be deceived. These are the first and most necessary things. But if you merely seek, in trembling and lamentation, to keep away all possible ills, what real progress have you made?
Show me then your progress in this point. As if I should say to a wrestler, Show me your muscle; and he should answer me, “See my dumb-bells.” Your dumb-bells are your own affair: I desire to see the effect of them.
“Take the treatise on the active powers, and see how thoroughly I have perused it.”
I do not inquire into this, O! slavish man; but how you exert those powers; how you manage your desires and aversions, how your intentions and purposes; how you meet events, whether in accordance with nature’s laws, or contrary to them. If in accordance, give me evidence of that, and I will say you improve: if the contrary, go your way, and not only comment on these treatises, but write such yourself, and yet what service will it do you? Do not you know that the whole volume is sold for five denarii? Doth he who comments upon it, then, value himself at more than that sum? Never make your life to consist in one thing and yet seek progress in another.
Where is progress, then?
If any of you, withdrawing himself from externals, turns to his own will, to train, and perfect, and render it conformable to nature; noble, free, unrestrained, unhindered, faithful, humble; if he hath learnt, too, that whoever desires or shuns things beyond his own power, can neither be faithful nor free, but must necessarily take his chance with them, must necessarily too be subject to others, to such as can procure or prevent what he desires or shuns; if, rising in the morning, he observes and keeps to these rules; bathes regularly, eats frugally; and to every subject of action, applies the same fixed principles, — if a racer to racing, if an orator to oratory; this is he, who truly makes progress; this is he, who hath not labored in vain. But if he is wholly intent on reading books, and hath labored that point only, and travelled for that; I bid him go home immediately, and do his daily duties; since that which he sought is nothing.
The only real thing is, to study how to rid life of lamentation, and complaint, and Alas! and I am undone, and misfortune, and failure; and to learn what death, what exile, what a prison, what poison is; that he may be able to say in a prison, like Socrates, “My dear Crito, if it thus pleases the gods, thus let it be”; and not, “Wretched old man, have I kept my gray hairs for this!” [Do you ask] who speaks thus? Do you think I quote some mean and despicable person? Is it not Priam who says it? Is it not Œdipus? Nay, how many kings say it? For what else is tragedy, but the dramatized sufferings of men, bewildered by an admiration of externals? If one were to be taught by fictions, that things beyond our will are nothing to us, I should rejoice in such a fiction, by which I might live prosperous and serene. But what you wish for, it is your business to consider.
Of what service, then, is Chrysippus to us?
To teach you, that those things are not false, on which true prosperity and peace depend. “Take my books, and you will see, how true and conformable to nature those things are, which give me peace.” How great a happiness! And how great the benefactor, who shows the way! To Triptolemus all men have raised temples and altars, because he gave us a milder kind of food: but to him who hath discovered, and brought to light, and communicated the truth to all; the means, not of living merely, but of living well; who among you ever raised an altar or a temple, or dedicated a statue, or who worships God in his name? We offer sacrifices in memory of those who have given us corn and the vine; and shall we not give thanks to God, for those who have nurtured such fruit in the human breast; even the truth which makes us blessed?
IT is said that there are those who will oppose very evident truths, and yet it is not easy to find a reason which may persuade such an one to alter his opinion. This may arise neither from his own strength, nor from the weakness of his teacher; but when a man becomes obstinate in error, reason cannot always reach him.
Now there are two sorts of obstinacy: the one, of the intellect; the other, of the will. A man may obstinately set himself not to assent to evident truths, nor to quit the defence of contradictions. We all dread a bodily paralysis; and would make use of every contrivance to avoid it: but none of us is troubled about a paralysis of the soul. And yet, indeed, even with regard to the soul, when a person is so affected as not to apprehend or understand anything, we think him in a sad condition; but where the emotions of shame and modesty are under an absolute paralysis, we go so far as even to call this strength of mind!
Are you certain that you are awake? — “I am not,” replies such a person, “for neither am I certain when in dreaming I appear to myself to be awake.” Is there no difference, then, between these appearances? — “None.” Shall I argue with this man any longer? For what steel or what caustic can I apply, to make him sensible of his paralysis? If he is sensible of it, and pretends not to be so, he is even worse than dead. He sees not his inconsistency, or, seeing it, holds to the wrong. He moves not, makes no progress; he rather falls back. His sense of shame is gone; his reasoning faculty is not gone, but brutalized. Shall I call this strength of mind? By no means: unless we allow it to be such in the vilest debauchees, publicly to speak and act out their worst impulses.
FROM every event that happens in the world it is easy to celebrate Providence, if a person hath but these two qualities in himself; a faculty of considering what happens to each individual, and a grateful temper. Without the first, he will not perceive the usefulness of things which happen; and without the other, he will not be thankful for them. If God had made colors, and had not made the faculty of seeing them, what would have been their use? None. On the other hand, if he had made the faculty of observation, without objects to observe, what would have been the use of that? None. Again; if he had formed both the faculty and the objects, but had not made light? Neither in that case would they have been of any use.
Who is it then that hath fitted each of these to the other? Who is it that hath fitted the sword to the scabbard, and the scabbard to the sword? Is there no such Being? From the very construction of a complete work, we are used to declare positively, that it must be the operation of some artificer, and not the effect of mere chance. Doth every such work, then, demonstrate an artificer; and do not visible objects, and the sense of seeing, and light, demonstrate one? Do not the difference of the sexes, and their inclination to each other, and the use of their several powers; do not these things demonstrate an artificer? Most certainly they do.
But further; this constitution of understanding, by which we are not simply impressed by sensible objects, but take and subtract and add and combine, and pass from point to point by inference; is not all this sufficient to prevail on some men, and make them ashamed of leaving an artificer out of their scheme? If not, let them explain to us what the power is that effects each of these; and how it is possible that chance should produce things so wonderful, and which carry such marks of design?
What, then, do these things belong to us alone?
Many indeed; such as are peculiarly necessary for a reasonable creature; but you will find many, which are common to us with mere animals.
Then, do they too understand what happens?
Not at all; for use is one affair, and understanding another. But God had need of animals, to make use of things; and of us to understand that use. It is sufficient, therefore, for them to eat, and drink, and sleep, and continue their species, and perform other such offices as belong to each of them; but to us, to whom he hath given likewise a faculty of understanding, these offices are not sufficient. For if we do not proceed in a wise and systematic manner, and suitably to the nature and constitution of each thing, we shall never attain our end. For where the constitution of beings is different, their offices and ends are different likewise. Thus where the constitution is adapted only to use, there use is alone sufficient; but where understanding is added to use, unless that too be duly exercised, the end of such a being will never be attained.
Well then; each of the animals is constituted either for food, or husbandry, to produce milk, or for some other like use; and for these purposes what need is there of understanding things, and being able to discriminate concerning them? But God hath introduced man, as a spectator of himself and of his works; and not only as a spectator, but an interpreter of them. It is therefore shameful that man should begin and end, where irrational creatures do. He is indeed to begin there, but to end where nature itself hath fixed our end; and that is, in contemplation and understanding, and in a scheme of life conformable to nature.
Take care, then, not to die without the contemplation of these things. You take a journey to Olympia to behold the work of Phidias, and each of you thinks it a misfortune to die without a knowledge of such things; and will you have no inclination to see and understand those works, for which there is no need to take a journey; but which are ready and at hand, even to those who bestow no pains! Will you never perceive what you are, or for what you were born, or for what purpose you are admitted to behold this spectacle?
But there are in life some things unpleasant and difficult.
And are there none at Olympia? Are not you heated? Are not you crowded? Are not you without good conveniences for bathing? Are not you wet through, when it happens to rain? Do you not have uproar, and noise, and other disagreeable circumstances? But I suppose, by comparing all these with the merit of the spectacle, you support and endure them. Well; and have you not received faculties by which you may support every event? Have you not received greatness of soul? Have you not received a manly spirit? Have you not received patience? What signifies to me anything that happens, while my soul is above it? What shall disconcert or trouble or appear grievous to me? Shall I not use my powers to that purpose for which I received them; but lament and groan at every casualty?
“True, no doubt; but I have such a disagreeable catarrh!” Attend to your diseases, then, as best you can. Do you say, it is unreasonable that there should be such a discomfort in the world?
And how much better is it that you should have a catarrh than complain? Pray, what figure do you think Hercules would have made, if there had not been a lion, and a hydra, and a stag, and unjust and brutal men, whom he expelled and cleared away? And what would he have done, if none of these had existed? Is it not plain, that he must have wrapt himself up and slept? In the first place, then, he would never have become a Hercules, by slumbering away his whole life in such delicacy and ease; or if he had, what good would it have done? What would have been the use of his arm and his strength, — of his patience and greatness of mind, — if such circumstances and subjects of action had not roused and exercised him?
What then, must we provide these things for ourselves; and introduce a boar, and a lion, and a hydra, into our country?
This would be madness and folly. But as they were in being, and to be met with, they were proper subjects to call out and exercise Hercules. Do you therefore likewise, being sensible of this, consider the faculties you have; and after taking a view of them, say, “Bring on me now, O Zeus, what difficulty thou wilt, for I have faculties granted me by thee, and powers by which I may win honor from every event.” — No; but you sit trembling, for fear this or that should happen, and lamenting, and mourning, and groaning at what doth happen; and then you accuse the gods. For what is the consequence of such a baseness, but impiety? And yet God hath not only granted these faculties, by which we may bear every event, without being depressed or broken by it; but, like a good prince, and a true father, hath placed their exercise above restraint, compulsion, or hindrance, and wholly within our own control; nor hath he reserved a power, even to himself, of hindering or restraining them. Having these things free, and your own, will you not use them, nor consider what you have received, nor from whom? But you sit groaning and lamenting, some of you, blind to him who gave them, and not acknowledging your benefactor; and others basely turn themselves to complaints and accusations against God! Yet I undertake to show you, that you have means and powers to exhibit greatness of soul, and a manly spirit; but what occasion you have to find fault, and complain, do you show me if you can.
IT is not understood by most persons that the proper use of inferences and hypotheses and interrogations, and logical forms generally, has any relation to the duties of life. In every subject of action, the question is, how a wise and good man may come honestly and consistently out of it. We must admit, therefore, either that the wise man will not engage in difficult problems; or that, if he does, he will not think it worth his care to deal with them thoroughly; or if we allow neither of these alternatives, it is necessary to confess, that some examination ought to be made of those points on which the solution of these problems chiefly depends. For what is reasoning? To lay down true positions; to reject false ones; and to suspend the judgment in doubtful ones. Is it enough, then, to have learned merely this? It is enough, say you. — Is it enough, then, for him who would not commit any mistake in the use of money, merely to have heard, that we are to receive the good pieces, and to reject the bad? — This is not enough. — What must be added besides? That skill which tries and distinguishes what pieces are good, what bad. — Therefore, in reasoning too, the definition just given is not enough; but it is necessary that we should be able to prove and distinguish between the true, and the false, and the doubtful. This is clear.
And what further is professed in reasoning? — To admit the consequence of what you have properly granted. Well? and is it enough merely to know this necessity? — It is not; but we must learn how such a thing is the consequence of such another; and when one thing follows from one premise, and when from many premises. Is it not moreover necessary, that he, who would behave skilfully in reasoning, should both himself demonstrate whatever he asserts, and be able to comprehend the demonstrations of others; and not be deceived by such as sophisticate, as if they were demonstrating? Hence arises the use and practice of logical forms; and it appears to be indispensable.
But it may possibly happen, that from the premises which we have honestly granted, there arises some consequence, which, though false, is nevertheless a fair inference. What then ought I to do? To admit a falsehood? — Impossible. — To deny my concessions? — But this will not be allowed. — Or assert that the consequence does not fairly follow from the premises? — Nor is even this practicable. — What then is to be done in the case? — Is it not this? As the having once borrowed money is not enough to make a person a debtor, unless he still continues to owe money, and has not paid it; so the having granted the premises is not enough to make it necessary to grant the inference, unless we continue our concessions. If the premises continue to the end, such as they were when the concessions were made, it is absolutely necessary to continue the concessions, and to admit what follows from them. But if the premises do not continue such as they were when the concession was made, it is absolutely necessary to revoke the concession, and refuse to accept the inference. For this inference is no consequence of ours, nor belongs to us, when we have revoked the concession of the premises. We ought then thoroughly to consider our premises, and their different aspects, on which any one, by laying hold, — either on the question itself, or on the answer, or on the inference or elsewhere, — may embarrass the unthinking who did not foresee the result. So that in this way we may not be led into any unbecoming or confused position.
The same thing is to be observed in hypotheses and hypothetical arguments. For it is sometimes necessary to require some hypothesis to be granted, as a kind of step to the rest of the argument. Is every given hypothesis then to be granted, or not every one; and if not every one, which? And is he who has granted an hypothesis, forever to abide by it? Or is he sometimes to revoke it, and admit only consequences, but not to admit contradictions? — Ay, but a person may say, on your admitting a possible hypothesis I will drive you upon an impossibility. With such a one as this, shall the wise man never engage, but avoid all argument and conversation with him? — And yet who beside the wise man is capable of treating an argument, or who beside is sagacious in reasoning, and incapable of being deceived and imposed on by sophistry? — Or will he indeed engage, but without regarding whether he behaves rashly and heedlessly in the argument? — Yet how then can he be wise as we are supposing him? and without some such exercise and preparation, how can he hold his own? If this could be shown, then indeed all these forms of reasoning would be superfluous and absurd, and unconnected with our idea of the virtuous man.
Why then are we still indolent, and slothful, and sluggish, seeking pretences of avoiding labor? Shall we not be watchful to render reason itself accurate? — “But suppose after all, I should make a mistake in these points? it is not as if I had killed a father.” — O, slavish man! in this case you had no father to kill; but the only fault that you could commit in this instance, you have committed. This very thing I myself said to Rufus, when he reproved me for not finding the weak point in some syllogism. Why, said I, have I burnt the capitol then? Slave! answered he, was the thing here involved the capitol? Or are there no other faults, but burning the capitol, or killing a father? and is it no fault to treat rashly, and vainly, and heedlessly the things which pass before our eyes; not to comprehend a reason, nor a demonstration, nor a sophism; nor, in short, to see what is strong in reasoning and what is weak? Is there nothing wrong in this?
IN as many ways as equivalent syllogisms may be varied, in so many may the logical forms be varied likewise. As for instance: “If you had borrowed, and not paid, you owe me money. But you have not borrowed, and not paid; therefore you do not owe me money.” To perform these processes skilfully, is the peculiar mark of a philosopher. For if an enthymema be an imperfect syllogism; he who is versed in the perfect syllogism, must be equally ready to detect an imperfect one.
“Why then do not we exercise ourselves and others, after this manner?”
Because, even now, though we are not absorbed in these things, nor diverted, by me at least, from the study of morality; yet we make no eminent advances in virtue. What is to be expected then if we should add this avocation too? Especially as it would not only withdraw us from more necessary studies, but likewise afford a capital occasion of conceit and insolence. For the faculty of arguing, and of persuasive reasoning is great; and particularly, if it be constantly practised, and receive an additional ornament from rhetoric. For, in general, every such faculty is dangerous to weak and uninstructed persons, as being apt to render them arrogant and elated. For by what method can one persuade a young man, who excels in these kinds of study, that he ought not to be an appendage to these accomplishments, but they to him? Will he not trample upon all such advice; and walk about elated and puffed up, not bearing that any one should touch him, to put him in mind where he is wanting, and in what he goes wrong?
What then, was not Plato a philosopher?
Well, and was not Hippocrates a physician? Yet you see how he expresses himself. But what has his style to do with his professional qualities? Why do you confound things, accidentally united in the same men? If Plato was handsome and well made, must I too set myself to becoming handsome and well made; as if this was necessary to philosophy, because a certain person happened to be at once handsome and a philosopher? Why will you not perceive and distinguish what are the things that make men philosophers, and what belong to them on other accounts? Pray, if I were a philosopher, would it be necessary that you should be lame too?
What then? Do I reject these special faculties? By no means; — neither do I reject the faculty of seeing. But if you ask me, what is the good of man; I know not where it lies, save in dealing wisely with the phenomena of existence.
IF what philosophers say of the kinship between God and men be true, what has any one to do, but, like Socrates, when he is asked what countryman he is, never to say that he is a citizen of Athens, or of Corinth, but of the universe? For why, if you limit yourself to Athens, do you not farther limit yourself to that mere corner of Athens where your body was brought forth? Is it not, evidently, from some larger local tie, which comprehends not only that corner, and your whole house, but the whole country of your fathers, that you call yourself an Athenian, or a Corinthian? He then, who understands the administration of the universe, and has learned that the principal and greatest and most comprehensive of all things is this vast system, extending from men to God; and that from Him the seeds of being are descended, not only to one’s father or grandfather, but to all things that are produced and born on earth; and especially to rational natures, as they alone are qualified to partake of a communication with the Deity, being connected with him by reason; why may not such a one call himself a citizen of the universe? Why not a son of God? And why shall he fear anything that happens among men? Shall kinship to Cæsar, or any other of the great at Rome, enable a man to live secure, above contempt, and void of all fear whatever; and shall not the having God for our maker, and father, and guardian, free us from griefs and alarms?
“But wherewithal shall I be fed? For I have nothing.”
To what do fugitive slaves trust, when they run away from their masters? Is it to their estates? Their servants? Their plate? To nothing but themselves. Yet they do not fail to obtain the necessaries of life. And must a philosopher, think you, leave his own abode, to rest and rely upon others; and not take care of himself? Must he be more helpless and anxious than the brute beasts; each of which is self-sufficient, and wants neither proper food, nor any suitable and natural provision? One would think that you would need an instructor, not to guard you from thinking too meanly or ignobly of yourselves; but that his business would be to take care lest there be young men of such a spirit, that, knowing their affinity to the gods, and that we are as it were fettered by the body and its possessions, and by so many other things as are thus made needful for the daily pursuits of life, they should resolve to throw them all off, as both troublesome and useless, and depart to their divine kindred.
This is the work, if any, that ought to employ your master and preceptor, if you had one, that you should come to him, and say: “Epictetus, we can no longer bear being tied down to this poor body; feeding, and resting, and cleaning it, and vexed with so many low cares on its account. Are not these things indifferent, and nothing to us; and death no evil? Are we not of kindred to God; and did we not come from him? Suffer us to go back thither from whence we came: suffer us at length to be delivered from these fetters that bind and weigh us down. Here thieves and robbers, courts and tyrants, claim power over us, through the body and its possessions. Suffer us to show them that they have no power.”
And in this case it would be my part to answer: “My friends, wait for God till he shall give the signal, and dismiss you from this service; then return to him. For the present, be content to remain at this post, where he has placed you. The time of your abode here is short and easy, to such as are disposed like you; for what tyrant, what robber, what thief or what court can be formidable to those who thus count for nothing the body and its possessions. Stay, nor foolishly depart.”
Thus ought the case to stand between a preceptor and ingenuous young men. But how stands it now? The preceptor has no life in him; and you have none. When you have had enough to-day, you sit weeping about to-morrow, how you shall get food. Why, if you have it, slave, you will have it; if not, you will go out of life. The door is open; why do you lament; what room remains for tears; what occasion for flattery? Why should any one person envy another? Why should he be impressed with awe by those who have great possessions, or are placed in high rank? especially, if they are powerful and passionate? For what will they do to us? The things which they can do, we do not regard: the things about which we are concerned, they cannot reach. Who then, after all, shall hold sway over a person thus disposed? How behaved Socrates in regard to these things? As it became one conscious of kinship with the gods. He said to his judges: —
“If you should tell me, ‘We will acquit you, upon condition that you shall no longer discourse in the manner you have hitherto done, nor make any disturbance either among our young or our old people’; I would answer: ‘You are ridiculous in thinking, that if your general had placed me in any post, I ought to maintain and defend it, and choose to die a thousand times, rather than desert it; but that if God hath assigned me any station or method of life, I ought to desert that for you.’ ”
This it is, for a man to truly recognize his relationship with God. But we habitually think of ourselves as mere stomach and intestines and bodily parts. Because we fear, because we desire, we flatter those who can help us in these matters; we dread them too.
A person desired me once to write for him to Rome. He was one vulgarly esteemed unfortunate, as he had been formerly illustrious and rich, and was afterwards stripped of all his possessions, and reduced to live here. I wrote for him in a submissive style; but, after reading my letter, he returned it to me, and said: “I wanted your assistance, not your pity; for no evil hath befallen me.”
Thus Rufus, to try me, used to say, this or that you will have from your master. When I answered him, these are mere human affairs; Why then, says he, should I intercede with him, when you can receive from yourself things more important? For what one hath of his own, it is superfluous and vain to receive from another. Shall I then, who can receive nobleness and a manly spirit from myself, receive an estate, or a sum of money, or a place, from you? Heaven forbid! I will not be so insensible of my own possessions. But, if a person is fearful and abject, what else is necessary, but to apply for permission to bury him as if he were dead. “Please forward to us the corpse of such a one.” For, in fact, such a one is that, and nothing more. For, if he were anything more, he would be sensible that man is not to be made miserable at the will of his fellow-man.
IF we all applied ourselves as heartily to our proper business, as the old politicians at Rome to their schemes, perhaps we too might make some proficiency. I know a man older than I am, who is now a commissary at Rome. When he passed through this place, on his return from exile, what an account did he give me of his former life! and how did he promise, that for the future, when he had returned, he would apply himself to nothing but how to spend the remainder of his days in repose and tranquillity. “For how few have I now remaining!” he said. — You will not do it, said I. When you are once within reach of Rome, you will forget all this; and, if you can but once gain admittance to court, you will be rejoiced and thank God. “If you ever find me, Epictetus,” said he, “putting one foot into the court, think of me whatever you please.” Now, after all, how did he act? Before he entered the city, he was met by a billet from Cæsar. On receiving it, he forgot all his former resolutions; and has ever since been accumulating business upon himself. I should be glad now to have an opportunity of putting him in mind of his discourse upon the road; and of pointing out by how much I was the truer prophet.
What then do I say? that man is made for an inactive life? No, surely. But why is not ours a life of action? For my own part, I wake at dawn to recollect what things I am to read over again [with my pupils], and then say to myself quickly, What is it to me how such a one reads? My present business is to sleep.
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