Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVII.: THAT THE ART OF REASONING IS NECESSARY. - The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments
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CHAPTER XVII.: THAT THE ART OF REASONING IS NECESSARY. - Epictetus, The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments [100 AD]
The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments. A Translation from the Greek based on that of Elizabeth Carter, by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1865).
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THAT THE ART OF REASONING IS NECESSARY.
SINCE it is Reason which shapes and regulates all other things, it ought not itself to be left in disorder. But by what shall it be regulated? Evidently, either by itself, or by something else. Well; either that too is Reason, or something else superior to Reason, which is impossible; and, if it be Reason, what again shall regulate that? For, if this Reason can regulate itself, so can the former; and, if we still require any further agent, the series will be infinite, and without end.
“But,” say you, “the essential thing is to prescribe for qualities of character.”
Would you hear about these, therefore? Well; hear. But then, if you say to me, that you cannot tell whether my arguments are true or false; and if I happen to express myself ambiguously, and you bid me make it clearer; I will then at once show you that this is the first essential. Therefore, I suppose, they first establish the art of reasoning; just as, before the measuring of corn, we settle the measure. For, unless we first determine the measure and the weight, how shall we be able to measure or weigh? Thus, in the present case; unless we have first learned, and fixed, that which is the criterion of other things, and by which other things are learned, how shall we be able accurately to learn anything else? How is it possible? Well; a bushel-measure is only wood, a thing of no value, but it measures corn. And logic is of no value in itself; — that we will consider hereafter, but grant it now; — it is enough that it distinguishes and examines, and, as one may say, measures and weighs all other things. Who says this? Is it only Chrysippus, and Zeno, and Cleanthes? Does not Antisthenes say it? And who is it then, who has written, that the beginning of a right education is the examination of words? Does not Socrates say it? Of whom, then, does Xenophon write, that he began by the examination of words, what each signified?
Is this, then, the great and admirable thing, to understand or interpret Chrysippus?
Who says that it is? But what, then, is the admirable thing?
To understand the will of nature.
Well then; do you conform to it yourself? In that case, what need have you for any one else? For, if it be true, that men err but unwillingly, and if you have learnt the truth, you must needs act rightly.
But, indeed, I do not conform to the will of nature.
Who, then, shall interpret that?
They say, Chrysippus. I go and inquire what this interpreter of nature says. Soon I cannot understand his meaning. I seek one to interpret that. I call on him to explain everything as clearly as if it were in Latin. Yet what right has this last interpreter to boast? Nor has Chrysippus himself, so long as he only interprets the will of nature, and does not follow it; and much less has his interpreter. For we have no need of Chrysippus, on his own account; but that, by his means, we may apprehend the will of nature; just as no one values a diviner on his own account, but that, by his assistance, men hope to understand future events and heavenly indications; nor the auguries, on their own account, but on account of what is signified by them; neither is it the raven, or the crow, that is admired, but the divine purposes displayed through their means. Thus I come to the diviner and interpreter of these higher things; and say, “Inspect the auguries for me: what is signified to me?” Having taken, and inspected them, he thus interprets them. You have a free will, O man! incapable of being restrained or compelled. This is written here in the auguries. I will show you this, first, in the faculty of assent. Can any one restrain you from assenting to truth? No one. Can any one compel you to admit a falsehood? No one. You see, then, that you have here a free will, incapable of being restrained, or compelled, or hindered. Well; is it otherwise with regard to pursuit and desire? What can displace one pursuit? Another pursuit. What, desire and aversion? Another desire and another aversion. “If you offer death as an alternative,” say you, you compel me. No; not the alternative does it, but your conviction that it is better to do such a thing than to die. Here, again, you see that it is your own conviction which compels you; that is, choice compels choice. For, if God had constituted that portion which he has separated from his own essence, and given to us, capable of being restrained or compelled, either by himself, or by any other, he would not have been God, nor have fitly cared for us.
These things, says the diviner, I find in the auguries. These things are announced to you. If you please, you are free. If you please, you will have no one to complain of, no one to accuse. All will be equally according to your own mind, and to the mind of God.
For the sake of this oracle, I go to this diviner and philosopher; admiring not alone him for his interpretation, but also the things which he interprets.