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BOOK II. - 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 COURAGE IS NOT INCONSISTENT WITH CAUTION.
THERE is an assertion of the philosophers which may perhaps appear a paradox to many; yet let us fairly examine whether it be true: — that it is possible in all things, to act at once with caution and courage. For caution seems, in some measure, contrary to courage; and contraries are by no means consistent. The appearance of a paradox in the present case seems to me to arise as follows. If indeed we assert, that courage and caution are to be used in the same instances, we might justly be accused of uniting contradictions; but, in the way that we affirm it, where is the absurdity? For, if what has been so often said, and so often demonstrated, be certain, that the essence of good and evil consists in the use of things as they appear, and that things inevitable are not to be classed either as good or evil, what paradox do the philosophers assert, if they say, “Where events are inevitable, meet them with courage, but otherwise, with caution”? For in these last cases only, if evil lies in a perverted will, is caution to be used. And if things inevitable and uncontrollable are nothing to us, in these we are to make use of courage. Thus we shall be at once cautious and courageous; and, indeed, courageous on account of this very caution; for by using caution, with regard to things really evil, we shall gain courage, with regard to what are not so.
But we are in the same condition with deer; when these in a fright fly from the plumes [which hunters wave], whither do they turn, and to what do they retire for safety? To the nets. And thus they are undone, by inverting the objects of fear and confidence. Thus we, too. When do we yield to fear? About things inevitable. When, on the other hand, do we behave with courage, as if there were nothing to be dreaded? About things that might be controlled by will. To be deceived then, or to act rashly or imprudently, or to indulge a scandalous desire, we treat as of no importance, in our effort to bring about things which we cannot, after all, control. But where death, or exile, or pain, or ignominy, is concerned, then comes the retreat, the flutter, and the fright. Hence, as it must be with those who err in matters of the greatest importance, we turn what should be courage into rashness, desperation, recklessness, effrontery; and what should be caution becomes timid, base, and full of fears and perturbations. Let one apply his spirit of caution to things within the reach of his own will, then he will have the subject of avoidance within his own control; but if he transfers it to that which is inevitable, trying to shun that which he cannot control and others can, then he must needs fear, be harassed and be disturbed. For it is not death or pain that is to be dreaded, but the fear of pain or death. Hence we commend him who says:
“Death is no ill, but shamefully to die.”*
Courage, then, ought to be opposed to death, and caution to the fear of death; whereas we, on the contrary, oppose to death, flight; and to these our false convictions concerning it, recklessness, and desperation, and assumed indifference.
Socrates used, very properly, to call these things masks; for, as masks appear shocking and formidable to children, from their inexperience; so we are thus affected with regard to things, for no other reason. For what constitutes a child? Ignorance. What constitutes a child? Want of instruction; for they are our equals, so for as their degree of knowledge permits. What is death? A mask. Turn it on the other side and be convinced. See, it doth not bite. This little body and spirit must be again, as once, separated, either now or hereafter; why, then, are you displeased if it be now? For if not now it will be hereafter. Why? To fulfil the course of the universe; for that hath need of some things present, others to come, and others already completed.
What is pain? A mask. Turn it and be convinced.
This weak flesh is sometimes affected by harsh, sometimes by smooth impressions. If suffering be beyond endurance, the door is open; till then, bear it. It is fit that the final door should be open against all accidents, since thus we escape all trouble.
What, then, is the fruit of these principles? What it ought to be; the most noble, and the most suitable to the wise, — tranquillity, security, freedom. For in this case, we are not to give credit to the many, who say, that none ought to be educated but the free; but rather to the philosophers, who say, that the wise alone are free.
Thus: is freedom anything else than the power of living as we like?
Well; tell me then, do you like to live in error?
“We do not. No one, who lives in error, is free.”
Do you like to live in fear? Do you like to live in sorrow? Do you like to live in perturbation?
“By no means.”
No one, therefore, in a state of fear, or sorrow, or perturbation, is free; but whoever is delivered from sorrow, fear, and perturbation, by the same means is delivered likewise from slavery. How shall we believe you, then, good legislators, when you say, “We allow none to be educated but the free”? For the philosophers say, “We allow none to be free but the wise”; that is, God doth not allow it.
“What, then, when any person hath turned his slave about, before the consul,* has he done nothing?”
Yes, he has.
He has turned his slave about, before the consul.
Yes. He pays a fine for him.
“Well, then; is not the man, who has gone through this ceremony, rendered free?”
Only so far as he is emancipated from perturbation. Pray, have you, who are able to give this freedom to others, no master of your own? Are you not a slave to money? To a girl? To a boy? To a tyrant? To some friend of a tyrant? Else, why do you tremble when any one of these is in question? Therefore, I so often repeat to you, let this be your study and constant pursuit, to learn in what it is necessary to be courageous, and in what cautious; courageous against the inevitable, cautious so far as your will can control.
“But have I not read my essay to you? Do not you know what I am doing?”
“In my essays.”
Show me in what state you are, as to desires and aversions; whether you do not fail of what you wish, and incur what you would avoid; but, as to these commonplace essays, if you are wise, you will take them, and destroy them.
“Why, did not Socrates write?”
Yes; who so much? But how? As he had not always one at hand, to argue against his principles, or be argued against in his turn, he argued with and examined himself; and always made practical application of some one great principle at least. These are the things which a philosopher writes; but such commonplaces as those of which I speak, he leaves to the foolish, or to the happy creatures whom idleness furnishes with leisure; or to such as are too weak to regard consequences. And yet will you, when opportunity offers, come forward to exhibit and read aloud such things, and take a pride in them?
“Pray, see how I compose dialogues.”
Talk not of that, man, but rather be able to say, See how I accomplish my purposes; see how I avert what I wish to shun. Set death before me; set pain, a prison, disgrace, doom, and you will know me. This should be the pride of a young man come out from the schools. Leave the rest to others. Let no one ever hear you waste a word upon them, nor suffer it, if any one commends you for them; but admit that you are nobody, and that you know nothing. Appear to know only this, never to fail nor fall. Let others study cases, problems, and syllogisms. Do you rather contemplate death, change, torture, exile; and all these with courage, and reliance upon Him, who hath called you to them, and judged you worthy a post in which you may show what reason can do, when it encounters the inevitable. And thus, this paradox ceases to be a paradox, that we must be at once cautious and courageous; courageous against the inevitable; and cautious, when events are within our own control.
CONSIDER, you who are going to take your trial, what you wish to preserve, and in what to succeed. For if you wish to preserve a will in harmony with nature, you are entirely safe; everything goes well; you have no trouble on your hands. While you wish to preserve that freedom which belongs to you, and are contented with that, for what have you longer to be anxious? For who is the master of things like these? Who can take them away? If you wish to be a man of modesty and fidelity, who shall prevent you? If you wish not to be restrained or compelled, who shall compel you to desires contrary to your principles; to aversions, contrary to your opinion? The judge, perhaps, will pass a sentence against you, which he thinks formidable; but can he likewise make you receive it with shrinking? Since, then, desire and aversion are in your own power, for what have you to be anxious? Let this be your introduction; this your narration; this your proof; this your conclusion; this your victory; and this your applause. Thus said Socrates to one who put him in mind to prepare himself for his trial: “Do you not think that I have been preparing myself for this very thing, my whole life long?” — By what kind of preparation? — “I have attended to my own work.” — What mean you? — “I have done nothing unjust, either in public, or in private life.”
But if you wish to make use of externals too, your body, your estate, your dignity; I advise you immediately to prepare yourself by every possible preparation; and besides, to consider the disposition of your judge, and of your adversary. If it be necessary to embrace his knees, do so; if to weep, weep; if to groan, groan. For when you have once made yourself a slave to externals, be a slave wholly; do not struggle, and be alternately willing and unwilling, but be simply and thoroughly the one or the other; free, or a slave; instructed, or ignorant; a game-cock, or a craven; either bear to be beaten till you die, or give out at once; and do not be soundly beaten first, and then give out at last.
If both alternatives be shameful, learn immediately to distinguish where good and evil lie. They lie where truth likewise lies. Where truth and nature dictate, there exercise caution or courage. Why, do you think that, if Socrates had concerned himself about externals, he would have said, when he appeared at his trial, “Anytus and Melitus may indeed kill, but hurt me they cannot”? Was he so foolish as not to see that this way did not lead to safety, but the contrary? What, then, is the reason, that he not only disregarded, but defied, his judges? Thus my friend Heraclitus, in a trifling suit, about a little estate at Rhodes, after having proved to the judges that his cause was good, when he came to the conclusion of his speech, “I will not entreat you,” said he; “nor be anxious as to what judgment you give; for it is rather you who are to be judged, than I.” And thus he lost his suit. What need was there of this? Be content not to entreat; yet do not proclaim that you will not entreat; unless it be a proper time to provoke the judges designedly, as in the case of Socrates. But if you too are preparing such a speech as his, what do you wait for? Why do you consent to be tried? For if you wish to be hanged, have patience, and the gibbet will come. But if you choose rather to consent, and make your defence as well as you can, all the rest is to be ordered accordingly; with a due regard, however, to the preservation of your own proper character.
For this reason it is absurd to call upon me for specific advice. How should I know what to advise you? Ask me rather to teach you to accommodate yourself to whatever may be the event. The former is just as if an illiterate person should say, “Tell me how to write down some name that is proposed to me”; and I show him how to write the name of Dion; and then another comes, and asks him to write the name, not of Dion, but of Theon; — what will be the consequence? What will he write? Whereas, if you make writing your study, you are ready prepared for whatever word may occur; if not, how can I advise you? For, if the actual case should suggest something else, what will you say, or how will you say, or how will you act? Remember, then, the general rule, and you will need no special suggestions; but if you are absorbed in externals, you must necessarily be tossed up and down, according to the inclination of your master.
Who is your master? He who controls those things which you seek or shun.
CONCERNING SUCH AS RECOMMEND PERSONS TO THE PHILOSOPHERS
DIOGENES rightly answered one who desired letters of recommendation from him: “At first sight he will know you to be a man; and whether you are a good or a bad man, if he has any skill in distinguishing, he will know likewise; and, if he has not, he will never know it, though I should write a thousand times.” Just as if you were a piece of coin, and should desire to be recommended to any person as good, in order to be tried; — if it be to an assayer, he will know your value, for you will recommend yourself.
We ought, therefore, in life also, to have something analogous to this skill in gold; that one may be able to say, like the assayer, Bring me whatever piece you will, and I will find out its value; or, as I would say with regard to syllogisms, Bring me whomsoever you will, and I will distinguish for you, whether he knows how to solve syllogisms, or not. Why? Because I can do that myself, and have that faculty which is necessary for one, who can discern persons skilled in such solutions. But how do I act in life? I sometimes call a thing good; at other times, bad. What is the cause of this? Something contrary to what occurs to me in syllogisms, — ignorance, and inexperience.
CONCERNING A MAN WHO HAD BEEN GUILTY OF ADULTERY.
JUST as he was once saying, that man is made for fidelity, and that whoever subverts this, subverts the peculiar property of man; there entered one of the so-called literary men, who had been found guilty of adultery, in that city. — But, continued Epictetus, if, laying aside that fidelity for which we were born, we form designs against the wife of our neighbor, what do we? What else but destroy and ruin — what? Fidelity, honor, and sanctity of manners. Only these? And do not we ruin neighborhood? Friendship? Our country? In what rank do we then place ourselves? How am I to consider you, sir? As a neighbor? A friend? What sort of one? As a citizen? How shall I trust you? Indeed, if you were some potsherd, so noisome that no use could be made of you, you might be thrown on a dunghill, and no mortal would take the trouble to pick you up; but if, being a man, you cannot fill any one place in human society, what shall we do with you? For, suppose you cannot hold the place of a friend, can you hold even that of a slave? And who will trust you? Why, then, should not you also be contented to be thrown upon some dunghill, as a useless vessel, and indeed as worse than that? Will you say, after this, Has no one any regard for me, a man of letters? Why, you are wicked, and fit for no use. Just as if wasps should take it ill that no one has any regard for them; but all shun, and whoever can, beats them down. You have such a sting, that whoever you strike with it, is thrown into troubles and sorrows. What would you have us do with you? There is nowhere to place you.
“What, then, are not women made by nature common?”
I admit it; and so is food at table common to those who are invited. But, after it is distributed, will you go and snatch away the share of him who sits next you; or slyly steal it, or stretch out your hand, and taste; and, if you cannot tear away any of the meat, dip your fingers and lick them? A fine companion! A Socratic guest indeed! Again; is not the theatre common to all the citizens? Therefore come, when all are seated, if you dare, and turn any one of them out of his place. In this sense, only, are women common by nature; but when the laws, like a good host, have distributed them, cannot you, like the rest of the company, be contented with your own share, but must you pilfer, and taste what belongs to another?
“But I am a man of letters, and understand Archedemus.”
With all your understanding of Archedemus, then, you will be an adulterer, and a rogue; and instead of a man, a wolf or an ape. For where is the difference?
HOW NOBLENESS OF MIND MAY BE CONSISTENT WITH PRUDENCE.
THE materials of action are variable, but the use we make of them should be constant.
How, then, shall one combine composure and tranquillity with energy; doing nothing rashly, nothing carelessly?
By imitating those who play at games. The dice are variable; the pieces are variable. How do I know what will fall out? But it is my business, to manage carefully and dexterously whatever happens. Thus in life too, this is the chief business, to consider and discriminate things; and say, “Externals are not in my power; choice is. Where shall I seek good and evil? Within; in what is my own.” But in what is controlled by others, count nothing good or evil, profitable or hurtful, or any such thing.
What, then, are we to treat these in a careless way?
By no means; for this, on the other hand, would be a perversion of the will, and so contrary to nature. But we are to act with care, because the use of our materials is not indifferent; and at the same time with calmness and tranquillity, because the materials themselves are uncertain. For where a thing is not uncertain, there no one can restrain or compel me. Where I am capable of being restrained or compelled, the acquisition does not depend upon me; nor is it either good or evil. The use of it, indeed, is either good or evil; but that does depend upon me. It is difficult, I own, to blend and unite tranquillity in accepting, and energy in using, the facts of life; but it is not impossible; if it be, it is impossible to be happy. How do we act in a voyage? What is in my power? To choose the pilot, the sailors, the day, the hour. Afterwards comes a storm. What have I to care for? My part is performed. This matter belongs to another, to the pilot. But the ship is sinking; what then have I to do? That which alone I can do; I submit to being drowned, without fear, without clamor, or accusing God; but as one who knows, that what is born, must likewise die. For I am not eternity, but a man; a part of the whole, as an hour is of the day. I must come like an hour, and like an hour must pass away. What signifies it whether by drowning, or by a fever? For, in some way or other, pass I must.
This you may see to be the practice of those who play skilfully at ball. No one contends for the ball itself, as either a good or an evil; but how he may throw and catch it again. Here lies the address, here the art, the nimbleness, the skill; lest I fail to catch it, even when I open my breast for it, while another catches it, whenever I throw it. But if we catch or throw it, in fear and trembling, what kind of play will this be? How shall we keep ourselves steady; or how see the order of the game? One will say, throw: another, do not throw: a third, you have thrown once already. This is a mere quarrel; not a play. Therefore Socrates well understood playing at ball.
“What do you mean?”
When he joked at his trial. “Tell me,” said he, “Anytus, how can you say that I do not believe in a God? What do you think demons are? Are they not either the offspring of the gods, or compounded of gods and men?” — Yes. — “Do you think, then, that one can believe there are mules, and not believe that there are asses?” This was just as if he had been playing at ball. And what was the ball he had to play with? Life, chains, exile, a draught of poison, separation from a wife, and leaving his children orphans. These were what he had to play with; and yet he did play, and threw the ball with address. Thus we should be careful as to the play, but indifferent as to the ball. We are by all means to manage our materials with art; not taking them for the best; but showing our art about them, whatever they may happen to be. Thus a weaver does not make the wool, but employs his art upon what is given him. It is another who gives you food, and property; and may take them away, and your paltry body too. Do you, however, work upon the materials you have received; and then, if you come off unhurt, others, no doubt, who meet you, will congratulate you on your escape. But he who has a clearer insight into such things, will praise and congratulate you if he sees you to have done well; but if you owe your escape to any unbecoming action, he will do the contrary. For where there is a reasonable cause for rejoicing, there is cause likewise for congratulation.
How, then, are some external circumstances said to be according to nature; others contrary to it?
Only when we are viewed as isolated individuals. I will allow that it is natural for the foot, (for instance,) to be clean. But if you take it as a foot, and not as a mere isolated thing, it will be fit that it should walk in the dirt, and tread upon thorns; and sometimes that it should even be cut off, for the good of the whole; otherwise it is no longer a foot. We should reason in some such manner concerning ourselves. Who are you? A man. If then, indeed, you consider yourself isolatedly, it is natural that you should live to old age, should be prosperous and healthy; but if you consider yourself as a man, and as a part of the whole, it will be fit, in view of that whole, that you should at one time be sick; at another, take a voyage, and be exposed to danger; sometimes be in want; and possibly die before your time. Why, then, are you displeased? Do not you know, that otherwise, just as the other ceases to be a foot, so you are no longer a man? For what is a man? A part of a commonwealth; first and chiefly of that which includes both gods and men; and next, of that to which you immediately belong, which is a miniature of the universal city.
What, then, must I, at one time, go before a tribunal; must another, at another time, be scorched by a fever; another be exposed to the sea; another die; another be condemned?
Yes; for it is impossible, in such a body, in such a world, and among such companions, but that some one or other of us must meet with such circumstances. Your business, then, is simply to say what you ought, to order things as the case requires. After this comes some one and says, “I pronounce that you have acted unjustly.” Much good may it do you; I have done my part. You are to look to it, whether you have done yours; for you may as well understand that there is some danger in that quarter also.
A PROCESS of reasoning may be an indifferent thing; but our judgment concerning it is not indifferent; for it is either knowledge, or opinion, or mistake. So the events of life occur indifferently, but the use of it is not indifferent. When you are told, therefore, that these things are indifferent, do not, on that account, ever be careless; nor yet, when you are governed by prudence, be abject, and dazzled by externals. It is good to know your own qualifications and powers; that, where you are not qualified, you may be quiet, and not angry that others have there the advantage of you. For you too will think it reasonable, that you should have the advantage in the art of reasoning; and, if others should be angry at it, you will tell them, by way of consolation, “This I have learned, and you have not.” Thus too, wherever practice is necessary, do not pretend to what can only be attained by practice; but leave the matter to those who are practised, and do you be contented in your own serenity.
“Go, for instance, and pay your court to such a person.” — How? I will not do it abjectly. So I find myself shut out; for I have not learned to get in at the window, and finding the door shut, I must necessarily either go back, or get in at the window. — “But speak to him at least.” I am willing. “In what manner?” Not basely at any rate. “Well, you have failed.” This is not your business, but his. Why do you claim what belongs to another? Always remember what is your own, and what is another’s, and you will never be disturbed.
Hence Chrysippus rightly says: While consequences are uncertain, I will keep to those things which will bring me most in harmony with nature; for God himself hath formed me to choose this. If I knew, that it was inevitable for me to be sick, I would conform my inclinations that way; for even the foot, if it had understanding, would be inclined to get into the dirt. For why are ears of corn produced, if it be not to ripen? and why do they ripen, if not to be reaped? For they are not isolated, individual things. If they were capable of sense, do you think they would wish never to be reaped? It would be a curse upon ears of corn not to be reaped, and we ought to know that it would be a curse upon man not to die; like that of not ripening, and not being reaped. Since, then, it is necessary for us to be reaped, and we have, at the same time, understanding to know it, are we angry at it? This is only because we neither know what we are, nor have we studied what belongs to man, as jockies do what belongs to horses. Yet Chrysantas, when he was about to strike an enemy, on hearing the trumpet sound a retreat, drew back his hand; for he thought it more eligible to obey the command of his general, than his own inclination.* But not one of us, even when necessity calls, is ready and willing to obey it; but we weep and groan over painful events, calling them our “circumstances.” What circumstances, man? For if you call what surrounds you circumstances, everything is a circumstance; but, if by this you mean hardships, where is the hardship, that whatever is born must die? The instrument is either a sword, or a wheel, or the sea, or a tile, or a tyrant. And what does it signify to you by what way you descend to Hades? All are equal; but, if you would hear the truth, the shortest is that by which a tyrant sends you. No tyrant was ever six months in cuting any man’s throat; but a fever often takes a year. All these things are mere sound, and the rumor of empty names.
“My life is in danger from Cæsar.”
And am I not in danger, who dwell at Nicopolis, where there are so many earthquakes? And when you yourself recross the Adriatic, what is then in danger? Is it not your life?
“Ay, and my convictions also.”
What, your own? How so? Can any one compel you to have any convictions contrary to your own inclination?
“But the convictions of others too.”
And what danger is it of yours, if others have false convictions?
“But I am in danger of being banished.”
What is it to be banished? only to be somewhere else than at Rome.
“Yes? but what if I should be sent to Gyaros?”
If it be thought best for you, you will go; if not, there is another place than Gyaros whither you are sure to go, — where he who now sends you to Gyaros must go likewise, whether he will or not. Why, then, do you come to these, as to great trials? They are not equal to your powers. So that an ingenuous young man would say, it was not worth while for this, to have read and written so much, and to have sat to long listening to this old man. Only remember the distinction between what is your own, and what is not your own, and you will never claim what belongs to others. Judicial bench or dungeon, each is but a place, one high, the other low; but your will is equal to either condition, and if you have a mind to keep it so, it may be so kept. We shall then become imitators of Socrates, when, even in a prison, we are able to write hymns of praise;* but as we now are, consider whether we could even bear to have another say to us in prison, “Shall I read you a hymn of praise?” — “Why do you trouble me; do you not know my sad situation? In such circumstances, am I able to hear hymns?” — What circumstances? — “I am going to die.” — And are all other men to be immortal?
FROM an unseasonable regard to divination, we omit many duties: for what can the diviner contemplate besides death, danger, sickness, and such matters. When it is necessary, then, to expose one’s self to danger for a friend, or even a duty to die for him, what occasion have I for divination? Have not I a diviner within, who has told me the essence of good and evil; and who explains to me the indications of both? What further need, then, have I of signs or auguries. Can I tolerate the other diviner, when he says, “This is for your interest”? For does he know what is for my interest? Does he know what good is? Has he learned the indications of good and evil, as he has those of the victims? If so, he knows the indications likewise of fair and base, just and unjust. You may predict to me, sir, what is to befall me; life or death, riches or poverty. But whether these things are for my interest, or not, I shall not inquire of you. “Why?” Because you cannot even give an opinion about points of grammar; and do you give it here, in things about which all men differ and dispute? Therefore the lady, who was going to send a month’s provision to Gratilla,* in her banishment, made a right answer to one, who told her that Domitian would seize it. “I had rather,” said she, “that he should seize it, than I not send it.”
What, then, is it, that leads us so often to divination? Cowardice; the dread of events. Hence we flatter the diviners. “Pray, sir, shall I inherit my father’s estate?” — “Let us see: let us sacrifice upon the occasion.” — “Nay, sir, just as fortune pleases.” Then if he predicts that we shall inherit it, we give him thanks, as if we received the inheritance from him. The consequence of this is, that they impose upon us.
What, then, is to be done?
We should come without previous desire or aversion; as a traveller inquires the road of the person he meets, without any desire for that which turns to the right hand, more than for that to the left; for he wishes for neither of these, but only for that road which leads him properly. Thus we should come to God, as to a guide. Just as we make use of our eyes; not persuading them to show us one object rather than another, but receiving such as they present to us. But now we conduct the augury with fear and trembling; and in our invocations to God, entreat him: “Lord have mercy upon me, suffer me to come off safe.” Foolish man! would you have anything then but what is best? And what is best but what pleases God? Why would you then, so far as in you lies, corrupt your judge and seduce your adviser?
WHEREIN CONSISTS THE ESSENCE OF GOOD.
GOD is beneficial. Good is also beneficial. It should seem, then, that where the essence of God is, there too is the essence of good. What then is the essence of God? Flesh? By no means. An estate? Fame? By no means. Intelligence? Knowledge? Right reason? Certainly. Here, then, without more ado, seek the essence of good. For do you seek that quality in a plant? No. Or in a brute? No. If, then, you seek it only in a rational subject, why do you seek it anywhere but in what distinguishes that from things irrational? Plants make no voluntary use of things; and therefore you do not apply the term of good to them. — Good, then, implies such use. And nothing else? If so, you may say, that good, and happiness, and unhappiness, belong to mere animals. But this you do not say, and you are right; for, how much soever they have the use of things, they have not the intelligent use; and with good reason; for they are made to be subservient to others, and not of primary importance. Why was an ass made? Was it as being of primary importance? No; but because we had need of a back, able to carry burdens. We had need too that he should be capable of locomotion; therefore he had the voluntary use of things added; otherwise he could not have moved. But here his endowments end; for, if an understanding of that use had been likewise added, he would not, in reason, have been subject to us, nor have done us these services; but would have been like and equal to ourselves. Why will you not, therefore, seek the essence of good in that without which you cannot say that there is good in anything?
What then? Are not all these likewise the works of the gods? They are; but not primary existences, nor parts of the gods. But you are a primary existence. You are a distinct portion of the essence of God; and contain a certain part of him in yourself. Why then are you ignorant of your noble birth? Why do not you consider whence you came? why do not you remember, when you are eating, who you are who eat; and whom you feed? When you are in the company of women; when you are conversing; when you are exercising; when you are disputing; do not you know, that it is the Divine you feed; the Divine you exercise? You carry a God about with you, poor wretch, and know nothing of it. Do you suppose I mean some god without you of gold or silver? It is within yourself that you carry him; and you do not observe that you profane him by impure thoughts and unclean actions. If the mere external image of God were present, you would not dare to act as you do; and when God himself is within you, and hears and sees all, are not you ashamed to think and act thus; insensible of your own nature, and at enmity with God?
Why then are we afraid, when we send a young man from the school, into active life, that he should behave indecently, eat indecently, converse indecently with women; that he should either debase himself by slovenliness, or clothe himself too finely? Knows he not the God within him? Knows he not in what company he goes? It is provoking to hear him say [to his instructor], “I wish to have you with me.” Have you not God? Do you seek any other, while you have him? Or will He tell you any other things than these? If you were a statue of Phidias, as Zeus or Minerva, you would remember both yourself and the artist; and, if you had any sense, you would endeavor to be in no way unworthy of him who formed you, nor of yourself; nor to appear in an unbecoming manner to spectators. And are you now careless how you appear, when you are the workmanship of Zeus himself? And yet, what comparison is there, either between the artists, or the things they have formed? What work of any artist has conveyed into its structure those very faculties which are shown in shaping it? Is it anything but marble, or brass, or gold, or ivory? And the Minerva of Phidias, when its hand is once extended, and a Victory placed in it, remains in that attitude forever. But the works of God are endowed with motion, breath, the powers of use and judgment. Being, then, the work of such an artist, will you dishonor him, — especially, when he hath not only formed you, but given your guardianship to yourself? Will you not only be forgetful of this, but, moreover, dishonor the trust? If God had committed some orphan to your charge, would you have been thus careless of him? He has delivered yourself to your care; and says, “I had no one fitter to be trusted than you: preserve this person for me, such as he is by nature; modest, faithful, noble, unterrified, dispassionate, tranquil.” And will you not preserve him?
But it will be said: “What need of this lofty look, and dignity of face?”
I answer, that I have not yet so much dignity as the case demands. For I do not yet trust to what I have learned, and accepted. I still fear my own weakness. Let me but take courage a little, and then you shall see such a look, and such an appearance, as I ought to have. Then I will show you the statue, when it is finished, when it is polished. Do you think I will show you a supercilious countenance? Heaven forbid? For Olympian Zeus doth not haughtily lift his brow; but keeps a steady countenance, as becomes him who is about to say,
“My promise is irrevocable, sure.”*
Such will I show myself to you; faithful, modest, noble, tranquil.
“What, and immortal too, and exempt from age and sickness?”
No. But sickening and dying as becomes the divine within me. This is in my power; this I can do. The other is not in my power, nor can I do it. Shall I show you the muscular training of a philosopher?
“What muscles are those?”
A will undisappointed; evils avoided; powers duly exerted; careful resolutions; unerring decisions. These you shall see.
THAT SOME PERSONS, FAILING TO FULFIL WHAT THE CHARACTER OF A MAN IMPLIES, ASSUME THAT OF A PHILOSOPHER.
IT were no slight attainment, could we merely fulfil what the nature of man implies. For what is man? A rational and mortal being. Well; from what are we distinguished by reason? From wild beasts. From what else? From sheep, and the like.
Take care, then, to do nothing like a wild beast; otherwise you have destroyed the man; you have not fulfilled what your nature promises. Take care too, to do nothing like cattle; for thus likewise the man is destroyed.
In what do we act like cattle?
When we act gluttonously, lewdly, rashly, sordidly, inconsiderately, into what are we sunk? Into cattle. What have we destroyed? The rational being.
When we behave contentiously, injuriously, passionately, and violently, into what have we sunk? Into wild beasts.
And further; some of us are wild beasts of a larger size; others, little mischievous vermin; such as suggest the proverb, Let me rather be eaten by a lion.
By all these means, that is destroyed which the nature of man implies.
For, when is a conjunctive proposition sustained? When it fulfils what its nature implies. So then the sustaining of such a proposition consists in this: that its several parts remain a series of truths.
When is a disjunctive proposition sustained? When it fulfils what its nature implies.
When is a flute, a harp, a horse, or a dog, preserved in existence? While each fulfils what its nature implies.
Where is the wonder, then, that manhood should be preserved or destroyed in the same manner? All things are preserved and improved by exercising their proper functions; as a carpenter, by building; a grammarian, by grammar: but if he permit himself to write ungrammatically, his art will necessarily be spoiled and destroyed. Thus modest actions preserve the modest man, and immodest ones destroy him; faithful actions preserve the faithful man, and the contrary destroy him. On the other hand, the contrary actions heighten the contrary characters. Thus the practice of immodesty develops an immodest character; knavery, a knavish one; slander, a slanderous one; anger, an angry one; and fraud, a covetous one.
For this reason, philosophers advise us not to be contented with mere learning; but to add meditation likewise, and then practice. For we have been long accustomed to perverse actions, and have practised upon wrong opinions. If, therefore, we do not likewise habituate ourselves to practise upon right opinions, we shall be nothing more than expositors of the abstract doctrines of others. For who among us is not already able to discourse, according to the rules of art, upon good and evil? “That some things are good, some evil, and others indifferent: the good include the virtues and all things appertaining; the evil comprise the contrary; and the indifferent include riches, health, reputation”; — and then, if, while we are saying all this, there should happen some more than ordinary noise, or one of the by-standers should laugh at us, we are disconcerted. Philosopher, what is become of what you were saying? Whence did it proceed? Merely from your lips? Why then, do you confound the remedies which might be useful to others? Why do you trifle on the most important subjects? It is one thing to hoard up provision in a storehouse, and another to eat it. What is eaten is assimilated, digested, and becomes nerves, flesh, bones, blood, color, breath. Whatever is hoarded is ready indeed, whenever you desire to show it; but is of no further use to you than in the mere knowledge that you have it.
For what difference does it make whether you discourse on these doctrines, or those of the heterodox? Sit down and comment skilfully on Epicurus, for instance; perhaps you may comment more profitably than himself. Why then do you call yourself a Stoic? Why do you act like a Jew, when you are a Greek? Do not you see on what terms each is called a Jew, a Syrian, an Egyptian? And when we see any one wavering, we are wont to say, This is not a Jew, but only acts like one. But, when he assumes the sentiments of one who has been baptized and circumcised, then he both really is, and is called, a Jew. Thus we, falsifying our profession, may be Jews in name, but are in reality something else. We are inconsistent with our own discourse; we are far from practising what we teach, and what we pride ourselves on knowing. Thus, while we are unable to fulfil what the character of a man implies, we are ready to assume besides so vast a weight as that of a philosopher. As if a person, incapable of lifting ten pounds, should endeavor to heave the same stone with Ajax.
HOW WE MAY INFER THE DUTIES OF LIFE FROM ITS NOMINAL FUNCTIONS.
CONSIDER who you are. In the first place, a man; that is, one who recognizes nothing superior to the faculty of free will, but all things as subject to this; and this itself as not to be enslaved or subjected to anything. Consider then, from what you are distinguished by reason. You are distinguished from wild beasts: you are distinguished from cattle. Besides, you are a citizen of the universe, and a part of it; not a subordinate, but a principal part. You are capable of comprehending the Divine economy; and of considering the connections of things. What then does the character of a citizen imply? To hold no private interest; to deliberate of nothing as a separate individual, but rather like the hand or the foot, which, if they had reason, and comprehended the constitution of nature, would never pursue, or desire, but with a reference to the whole. Hence the philosophers rightly say, that, if it were possible for a wise and good man to foresee what was to happen, he might co-operate in bringing on himself sickness, and death, and mutilation, being sensible that these things are appointed in the order of the universe; and that the whole is superior to a part, and the city to the citizen. But, since we do not foreknow what is to happen, it becomes our duty to hold to what is more agreeable to our choice, for this too is a part of our birthright.
Remember next, that perhaps you are a son; and what does this character imply? To esteem everything that is his, as belonging to his father; in every instance to obey him; not to revile him to any one; not to say or do anything injurious to him; to give way and yield in everything; co-operating with him to the utmost of his power.
After this, know likewise that you are a brother too; and that to this character it belongs, to make concessions; to be easily persuaded; to use gentle language; never to claim, for yourself, any nonessential thing; but cheerfully to give up these, to be repaid by a larger share of things essential. For consider what it is, instead of a lettuce, for instance, or a chair, to procure for yourself a good temper. How great an advantage gained!
If, beside this, you are a senator of any city, demean yourself as a senator; if a youth, as a youth; if an old man, as an old man. For each of these names, if it comes to be considered, always points out the proper duties. But, if you go and revile your brother, I tell you that you have forgotten who you are, and what is your name. If you were a smith, and made an ill use of the hammer, you would have forgotten the smith; and if you have forgotten the brother, and are become, instead of a brother, an enemy, do you imagine you have made no change of one thing for another, in that case? If, instead of a man, a gentle, social creature, you have become a wild beast, mischievous, insidious, biting; have you lost nothing? Is it only the loss of money which is reckoned damage; and is there no other thing, the loss of which damages a man? If you were to part with your skill in grammar, or in music, would you think the loss of these a damage; and yet, if you part with honor, decency, and gentleness, do you think that no matter? Yet the first may be lost by some cause external and inevitable; but the last only by our own fault. There is no shame in not having, or in losing the one; but either not to have, or to lose the other, is equally shameful, and reproachful, and unhappy. What does the debauchee lose? Manhood. What does he lose, who made him such? Many things, but manhood also. What does an adulterer lose? The modest, the chaste character; the good neighbor. What does an angry person lose? A coward? Each loses his portion. No one is wicked without some loss, or damage. Now if, after all, you treat the loss of money as the only damage, all these are unhurt and uninjured. Nay, they may be even gainers; as, by such practices, their money may possibly be increased. But consider; if you refer everything to money, then a man who loses his nose is not hurt. Yes, say you; he is maimed in his body. Well, but does he who loses his sense of smell itself lose nothing? Is there, then, no faculty of the soul, which benefits the possessor, and which it is an injury to lose?
“Of what sort do you mean?”
Have we not a natural sense of honor?
Does he, who loses this, suffer no damage? Is he deprived of nothing? Does he part with nothing that belongs to him? Have we no natural fidelity? No natural affection? No natural disposition to mutual usefulness, to mutual forbearance? Is he, then, who carelessly suffers himself to be damaged in these respects, still safe and uninjured?
“What, then, shall not I injure him who has injured me?”
Consider first what injury is; and remember what you have heard from the philosophers. For, if both good and evil lie in the will, see whether what you say does not amount to this: “Since he has hurt himself, by injuring me, shall I not hurt myself by injuring him?” Why do we not make to ourselves some such representation as this? Are we hurt, when any detriment happens to our bodily possesions; and are we not at all hurt, when our will is depraved? He who has erred, or injured another, has indeed no pain in his head; nor loses an eye, nor a leg, nor an estate; and we wish for nothing beyond these. Whether our will be habitually humble and faithful, or shameless and unfaithful, we regard as a thing indifferent, except only in the discussions of the schools. In that case, all the improvement we make reaches only to words; and beyond them is absolutely nothing.
THE BEGINNING OF PHILOSOPHY.
THE beginning of philosophy, at least to such as enter upon it in a proper way, and by the door, is a consciousness of our own weakness and inability in necessary things. For we came into the world without any natural idea of a right-angled triangle; of a diesis, or a semitone, in music; but we learn each of these things by some artistic instruction. Hence, they who do not understand them, do not assume to understand them. But who ever came into the world without an innate idea of good and evil; fair and base; becoming and unbecoming; happiness and misery; proper and improper; what ought to be done, and what not to be done? Hence we all make use of the terms, and endeavor to apply our impressions to particular cases. “Such a one hath acted well, not well; right, not right; is unhappy, is happy; is just, is unjust.” Which of us refrains from these terms? Who defers the use of them, till he has learnt it; as those do, who are ignorant of lines and sounds? The reason of this is, that we come instructed, in some degree, by nature, upon these subjects; and from this beginning, we go on to add self-conceit. “For why,” say you, “should I not know what fair or base is? Have I not the idea of it?” You have. “Do I not apply this idea to the particular instance?” You do. “Do I not apply it rightly then?” Here lies the whole question; and here arises the self-conceit. Beginning from these acknowledged points, men proceed, by applying them improperly, to reach the very position most questionable. For, if they knew how to apply them also, they would be all but perfect.
If you think that you know how to apply your general principles to particular cases, tell me on what you base this application.
“Upon its seeming so to me.”
But it does not seem so to another; and does not he too think that he makes a right application?
Is it possible, then, that each of you should rightly apply your principles, on the very subjects about which your opinions conflict?
“It is not.”
Have you anything to show us, then, for this application, beyond the fact of its seeming so to you? And does a madman act any otherwise than seems to him right? Is this then a sufficient criterion for him too?
“It is not.”
Come, therefore, to some stronger ground than seeming.
“What is that?”
The beginning of philosophy is this; the being sensible of the disagreement of men with each other; an inquiry into the cause of this disagreement; and a disapprobation, and distrust of what merely seems; a careful examination into what seems, whether it seem rightly; and the discovery of some rule which shall serve like a balance, for the determination of weights; like a square, for distinguishing straight and crooked. This is the beginning of philosophy.
Is it possible that all things which seem right to all persons, are so? Can things contradictory be right? We say not all things; but all that seem so to us. And why more to you than to the Syrians, or Egyptians? Than to me, or to any other man? Not at all more.
Therefore what seems to each man, is not sufficient to determine the reality of a thing. For even in weights and measures we are not satisfied with the bare appearance; but for everything we find some rule. And is there then, in the present case, no rule preferable to what seems? Is it possible, that what is of the greatest necessity in human life, should be left incapable of determination and discovery?
There must be some rule. And why do we not seek and discover it, and, when we have discovered, ever after make use of it, without fail, so as not even to move a finger without it. For this, I conceive, is what, when found, will cure those of their madness, who make use of no other measure, but their own perverted way of thinking. Afterwards, beginning from certain known and determinate points, we may make use of general principles, properly applied to particulars.
Thus, what is the subject that falls under our inquiry? Pleasure. Bring it to the rule. Throw it into the scale. Must good be something in which it is fit to confide, and to which we may trust? Yes. Is it fit to trust to anything unstable? No. Is pleasure, then, a stable thing? No. Take it, then, and throw it out of the scale, and drive it far distant from the place of good things.
But, if you are not quick-sighted, and one balance is insufficient, bring another. Is it fit to be elated by good? Yes. Is it fit, then, to be elated by a present pleasure? See that you do not say it is; otherwise I shall not think you so much as worthy to use a scale. Thus are things judged, and weighed, when we have the rules ready. This is the part of philosophy, to examine, and fix the rules; and to make use of them, when they are known, is the business of a wise and good man.
WHAT things are to be learned, in order to the right use of reason, the philosophers of our sect have accurately taught; but we are altogether unpractised in the due application of them. Only give to any one of us whom you will, some illiterate person for an antagonist, and he will not find out how to treat him. But when he has a little moved the man, if he happens to answer at cross purposes, the questioner knows not how to deal with him any further, but either reviles or laughs at him, and says: “He is an illiterate fellow; there is no making anything of him.” Yet a guide, when he perceives his charge going out of the way, does not revile and ridicule, and then leave him; but leads him into the right path. Do you also show your antagonist the truth, and you will see that he will follow. But till you show it, do not ridicule him; but rather be sensible of your own incapacity.
How, then, did Socrates use to act? He obliged his antagonist himself to bear testimony to him; and wanted no other witness. Hence he might well say:* “I give up all the rest, and am always satisfied with the testimony of my opponent; and I call in no one to vote, but my antagonist alone.” For he rendered the arguments drawn from natural impressions so clear, that every one saw and avoided the contradiction. — “Does an envious man rejoice?” — “By no means; he rather grieves.” (This he moves him to say, by proposing the contrary.) — “Well; and do you think envy to be a grief caused by evils?” — “And who ever envied evils?” — (Therefore he makes the other say, that envy is a grief caused by things good.) — “Does any one envy those things which are nothing to him?” — “No, surely.” Having thus fully drawn out his idea, he then leaves that point; not saying, “Define to me what envy is”; and after he has defined it, “You have defined it wrong; for the definition does not correspond to the thing defined.”
There are phrases repulsive and obscure to the illiterate, which yet we cannot dispense with. But we have no capacity at all to move them, by such arguments as might lead them, in following the methods of their own minds, to admit or abandon any position. And, from a consciousness of this incapacity, those among us, who have any modesty, give the matter entirely up; but the greater part, rashly entering upon these debates, mutually confound and are confounded; and, at last, reviling and reviled, walk off. Whereas it was the principal and most peculiar characteristic of Socrates, never to be provoked in a dispute, nor to throw out any reviling or injurious expression; but to bear patiently with those who reviled him, and thus put an end to the controversy. If you would know how great abilities he had in this particular, read Xenophon’s Banquet, and you will see how many controversies he ended. Hence, even among the poets, this is justly mentioned with the highest commendation,
“Wisely at once the greatest strife to still.”*
But what then? This is no very safe affair now, and especially at Rome. For he who does it, must not do it in a corner; but go to some rich consular senator, for instance, and question him. Pray, sir, can you tell me to whom you intrust your horses? “Yes, certainly.” Is it then, to any one indifferently, though he be ignorant of horsemanship? “By no means.” To whom do you intrust your gold, or your silver, or your clothes? “Not to any one indifferently.” And did you ever consider to whom you committed the care of your body? “Yes, surely.” To one skilled in exercise, or medicine, I suppose. “Without doubt.” Are these things your chief good; or are you possessed of something better than all of them? “What do you mean?” Something which makes use of these; and deliberates and counsels about each of them? “What then, do you mean the soul?” You have guessed rightly; for indeed I do mean that. “I do really think it a much better possession than all the rest.” Can you show us, then, in what manner you have taken care of this soul? For it is not probable, that a person of your wisdom and approved character in the state, would carelessly suffer the most excellent thing that belongs to you to be neglected and lost. “No, certainly.” But do you take care of it yourself? And is it done by the instructions of another, or by your own ability? — Here, now, comes the danger, that he may first say, “Pray, good sir, what business is that of yours; what are you to me?” Then, if you persist in troubling him, he may lift up his hand, and give you a box on the ear. I myself was once a great admirer of this method of instruction, till I fell into such kind of adventures.
WHEN I see any one anxious, I say, what does this man mean? Unless he wanted something or other, not in his own power, how could he still be anxious? A musician, for instance, feels no anxiety, while he is singing by himself, but when he appears upon the stage he does; even if his voice be ever so good, or he plays ever so well. For what he wishes is not only to sing well, but likewise to gain applause. But this is not in his own power. In short, where his skill lies, there is his courage. Bring any ignorant person, and he does not mind him. But in the point which he neither understands, nor has studied, there he is anxious.
“What point is that?”
He does not understand what a multitude is, nor what the applause of a multitude. He has learnt, indeed, how to sound bass and treble; but what the applause of the many is, and what force it has in life, he neither understands, nor has studied. Hence he must necessarily tremble, and turn pale. I cannot indeed say, that a man is no musician, when I see him afraid; but I can say something else, and indeed many things. And, first of all, I call him a stranger, and say, this man does not know in what country he is; and though he has lived here so long, he is ignorant of the laws and customs of the state, and what is permitted, and what not; nor hath he ever consulted any legal adviser, who might tell and explain to him the laws. But no man writes a will, without knowing how it ought to be written, or consulting some one who knows; nor does he rashly sign a bond, or give security. Yet he indulges his desires and aversions, exerts his pursuits, intentions, and resolutions, without consulting any legal adviser about the matter.
“How do you mean, without a legal adviser?”
He knows not, when he chooses what is not allowed him, and does not choose what is necessary; and he knows not what is his own, and what belongs to others; for if he did know, he would never be hindered, would never be restrained, would never be anxious.
Why? does any one fear things that are not evils?
Does any one fear things, that seem evils indeed, but which it is in his own power to prevent?
If, then, the things independent of our will are neither good nor evil; and all things that do depend on will, are in our own power, and can neither be taken away from us, nor given to us, unless we please; what room is there left for anxiety? But we are anxious about this paltry body or estate of ours, or about what Cæsar thinks; and not at all about anything internal. Are we ever anxious not to take up a false opinion? No; for this is within our own power. Or not to follow any pursuit contrary to nature? No; nor this. When, therefore, you see any one pale with anxiety, just as the physician pronounces from the complexion, that such a patient is disordered in the spleen, and another in the liver; so do you likewise say, this man is disordered in his desires and aversions; he cannot walk steadily; he is in a fever. For nothing else changes the complexion, or causes trembling, or sets the teeth chattering.
“He crouching walks, or squats upon his heels.”*
Therefore Zeno,† when he was to meet Antigonus, felt no anxiety. For over that which he prized, Antigonus had no power: and those things over which he had power, Zeno did not regard. But Antigonus felt anxiety when he was to meet Zeno; and with reason, for he was desirous to please him; and this was external ambition. But Zeno was not solicitous to please Antigonus; for no one skilful in any art is solicitous to please a person unskilful.
“I am solicitous to please you.”
For what? Do you know the rules, by which one man judges of another? Have you studied to understand what a good, and what a bad man is; and how each becomes such? Why then are not you yourself a good man?
“In what respect am I not?”
Because no good man laments, or sighs, or groans; no good man turns pale, and trembles, and says, “How will such a one receive me; how will he hear me?” — As he thinks fit, foolish man. Why do you trouble yourself about what belongs to others? Is it not his fault, if he receives you ill?
And can one person be in fault, and another the suffer?
Why then are you anxious about what belongs to others?
“Well; but I am anxious how I shall speak to him.”
What then, cannot you speak to him as you will?
“But I am afraid I shall be disconcerted.”
If you were going to write down the name of Dion, should you be afraid of being disconcerted?
“By no means.”
What is the reason? Is it because you have learned how to write?
And if you were going to read, would it not be exactly the same?
What is the reason?
“Because every art gives a certain assurance and confidence, on its own ground.
Have you not learned, then, how to speak? And what else did you study at school?
“Syllogisms, and convertible propositions.”
For what purpose? Was it not in order to talk properly? And what is that, but to talk seasonably, and discreetly, and intelligently, and without flutter or hesitation; and by means of all this, with courage?
When, therefore, you go into the field on horseback, are you anxious on being matched against one who is on foot? you being practised and he unpractised?
“Ay, but the person has power to kill me.”
Then speak the truth, O! unfortunate! and be not arrogant, nor take the philosopher upon you, nor conceal from yourself who are your masters; but while you are thus to be held by the body, follow the strongest. Socrates, indeed, had studied how to speak, who talked in such a manner to tyrants and judges, and in prison. Diogenes* had studied how to speak, who talked in such a manner to Alexander, to Philip, to the pirates, to the person who bought him. This belonged to those who had studied the matter; who had courage. But do you go where you belong and remain there. Retire into some corner, and there sit and weave syllogisms, and propose them to others. For there is not in you a man who can rule the city.
WHEN a certain Roman came to him with his son, and had heard one lesson, — “This,” said Epictetus, “is the method of teaching”; and ceased. When the other desired him to go on, he answered, Every art seems tedious, when it is delivered to a person ignorant and unskilful in it. The things performed by the common arts, quickly manifest the use for which they were made; and most of them have something attractive and agreeable. Thus the trade of a shoemaker, as one seeks to learn it, is an unpleasant thing; but the shoe is useful, and not unpleasing to the eye. The trade of a smith is extremely unattractive to an ignorant observer, but the work shows the usefulness of the art. You will see this much more strongly in music; for if you stand by, while a person is learning, it will appear to you of all sciences the most unpleasant; but the effects are agreeable and delightful, even to those who do not understand it.
So here we take it to be the work of one who studies philosophy, to bring his will into harmony with events; so that none of the things which happen may happen against our inclination, nor those which do not happen be desired by us. Hence they, who have settled this point, have it in their power never to be disappointed in what they seek, nor to incur what they shun; but to lead their own lives without sorrow, fear, or perturbation; and in society to preserve all the natural or acquired relations of son, father, brother, citizen, husband, wife, neighbor, fellow-traveller, ruler, or subject. Something like this is what we take to be the work of a philosopher. It remains to inquire, how it is to be effected. Now we see that a carpenter becomes a carpenter by learning certain things; and a pilot, by learning certain things, becomes a pilot. Probably then it is not sufficient, in the present case, merely to be willing to be wise and good; but it is moreover necessary that certain things should be learned. What these things are, is the question. The philosophers say, that we are first to learn that there is a God; and that his providence directs the whole; and that it is not merely impossible to conceal from him our actions, but even our thoughts and emotions. We are next to learn, what the gods are; for such as they are found to be, such must he seek to be to the utmost of his power, who would please and obey them. If the Deity is faithful, he too must be faithful: if free, beneficent, and noble, he must be free, beneficent, and noble likewise; in all his words and actions, behaving as an imitator of God.
“Whence, then, are we to begin?”
If you will give me leave, I will tell you. It is necessary, in the first place, that you should understand words.
“So then! I do not understand them now?”
No. You do not.
“How is it, then, that I use them?”
Just as the illiterate use the words of the learned; and as brutes use the phenomena of nature. For use is one thing, and understanding another. But if you think you understand them, bring whatever words you please, and let us see whether we understand them or not.
“Well; but it is a grievous thing for a man to be confuted who has grown old; and has perhaps served through his three campaigns to a senatorship.”
I know it very well. For you now come to me, as if you wanted nothing. And how can it enter into your imagination, that there should be anything in which you are deficient? You are rich; and perhaps have a wife and children, and a great number of domestics. Cæsar takes notice of you: you have many friends at Rome: you render to all their dues: you know how to requite a favor, and revenge an injury. In what are you deficient? Suppose then, I should prove to you, that you are deficient in what is most necessary and important to happiness; and that hitherto you have taken care of everything, rather than your duty; and, to complete all, that you understand not what God or man, or good or evil, means? That you are ignorant of all the rest, perhaps, you may bear to be told; but if I prove to you that you are ignorant even of yourself, how will you bear with me, and how will you have patience to stay and be convinced? Not at all. You will immediately be offended, and go away. And yet what injury have I done you; unless a looking-glass injures a person not handsome, when it shows him to himself, such as he is? Or unless a physician can be thought to affront his patient, when he says to him: “Do you think, sir, that you are not ill? You have a fever. Eat no meat to-day, and drink water.” Nobody cries out here, “What an intolerable affront!” But, if you say to any one: You exhibit feverishness in your desires, and low habits in what you shun; your aims are contradictory, your pursuits not conformable to nature, your opinions rash, and mistaken; he presently goes away, and complains that he is affronted.
This is the position we assume. As, in a crowded fair, the horses and cattle are brought to be sold, and most men come either to buy or sell; but there are a few, who come only to look at the fair, and inquire how it is carried on, and why in that manner, and who appointed it, and for what purpose; — thus, in this fair [of the world] some, like cattle, trouble themselves about nothing but fodder. To all of you, who busy yourselves about possessions, and farms, and domestics, and public posts, these things are nothing else but mere fodder. But there are some few men, among the crowd, who are fond of looking on, and considering: “What then, after all, is the world? Who governs it? Has it no governor? How is it possible, when neither a city nor a house can remain, ever so short a time, without some one to govern and take care of it, that this vast and beautiful system should be administered in a fortuitous and disorderly manner? Is there then a governor? Of what sort is he? And how does he govern; and what are we, who are under him? And for what designed? Have we some connection and relation to him, or none?” In this manner are the few affected; and apply themselves only to view the fair, and then depart. Well; and they are laughed at by the multitude? Why, so are the lookers-on, by the buyers and sellers; and, if the cattle had any apprehension, they too would laugh at such as admired anything but fodder.
CONCERNING THOSE WHO OBSTINATELY PERSIST IN WHATEVER THEY HAVE DETERMINED.
SOME, when they hear such discourses as these, “That we ought to be steadfast; that the will is by nature free and unconstrained; and that all else is liable to restraint, compulsion, slavery, and tyranny,” imagine that they must remain immutably fixed to everything which they have determined. But it is first necessary that the determination should be a wise one. I agree, that there should be sinews in the body, but such as in a healthy, an athletic body; for if you show me that you exhibit the [convulsed] sinews of a lunatic, and value yourself upon that, I will say to you, Seek a physician, man; this is not muscular vigor, but is really enervation. Such is the distemper of mind in those who hear these discourses in a wrong manner; like an acquaintance of mine, who, for no reason, had determined to starve himself to death. I went the third day, and inquired what was the matter. He answered, “I am determined.” — Well; but what is your motive? For, if your determination be right, we will stay, and assist your departure; but, if unreasonable, change it. — “We ought to keep our determinations.” — What do you mean, sir? Not all of them; but such as are right. Else, if you should fancy that it is night, if this be your principle, do not change, but persist, and say, “We ought to keep to our determinations.” What do you mean, sir? Not to all of them. Why do you not begin by first laying the foundation, inquiring whether your determination be a sound one, or not; and then build your firmness and constancy upon it. For, if you lay a rotten and crazy foundation, you must not build; since the greater and more weighty the superstructure, the sooner will it fall. Without any reason, you are withdrawing from us, out of life, a friend, a companion, a fellow-citizen both of the greater and the lesser city; and while you are committing murder, and destroying an innocent person, you say, “We must keep to our determinations.” Suppose, by any means, it should ever come into your head to kill me; must you keep such a determination?
With difficulty this person was, however, at last convinced; but there are some at present, whom there is no convincing. So that now I think I understand, what before I did not, the meaning of that common saying, that a fool will neither bend nor break. May it never fall to my lot to have a wise, that is an untractable fool for my friend. “It is all to no purpose; I am determined.” So are madmen too; but the more strongly they are determined upon absurdities, the more need have they of hellebore. Why will you not act like a sick person, and apply yourself to a physician? “Sir, I am sick. Give me your assistance; consider what I am to do. It is my part to follow your directions.” So say in the present case: “I know not what I ought to do; and I am come to learn.” — “No; but talk to me about other things; for upon this I am determined.” What other things? What is of greater consequence, than to convince you that it is not sufficient to be determined, and to persist? This is the vigor of a madman; not of one in health. “I will die, if you compel me to this.” Why so, man; what is the matter? “I am determined.” I have a lucky escape, that it is not your determination to kill me. “I will not be bribed [from my purpose.”] Why so? “I am determined.” Be assured, that with that very vigor which you now employ to refuse the bribe, you may hereafter have as unreasonable a propensity to take it; and again to say, “I am determined.” As, in a distempered and rheumatic body, the humor tends sometimes to one part, sometimes to another; thus it is uncertain which way a sickly mind will incline. But if to its inclination and bent a spasmodic vigor be likewise added, the evil then becomes desperate and incurable.
THAT WE DO NOT STUDY TO MAKE USE OF THE ESTABLISHED PRINCIPLES CONCERNING GOOD AND EVIL.
WHERE lies good? In the will. Where evil? In the will. Where neither good nor evil? In things inevitable. What then? Does any one of us remember these lessons out of the schools? Does any one of us study how to answer for himself in the affairs of life, as in common questions? “Is it day?” — “Yes.” — “Is it night, then?” — “No.” — “Is the number of stars even?” — “I cannot tell.” — When a bribe is offered you, have you learned to make the proper answer, that it is not a good? Have you exercised yourself in such answers as these; or only in sophistries? Why do you wonder, then, that you improve in points which you have studied; while in those which you have not studied, there you remain the same? When an orator knows that he has written well; that he has committed to memory what he has written; and that he brings an agreeable voice with him; why is he still anxious? Because he is not contented with what he has studied. What does he want then? To be applauded by the audience. He has studied the power of speaking, then; but he has not studied censure and applause. For when did he hear from any one what applause, what censure is? What is the nature of each? What kind of applause is to be sought, and what kind of censure to be shunned? And when did he ever apply himself to study what follows from these lessons? Why do you wonder then, if, in what he has learned, he excels others; but, where he has not studied, he is the same with the rest of the world? Just as a musician knows how to play, sings well, and has the proper dress of his profession; yet trembles when he comes upon the stage. For the first he understands; but what the multitude is, or what mean the clamor and laughter of the multitude, he does not understand. Nor does he even know what anxiety itself is; whether it be our own affair, or that of others; or whether it be possible to suppress it, or not. Hence, if he is applauded, he is puffed up, when he makes his exit: but if he is laughed at, the inflation is punctured, and subsides.
Thus are we too affected. What do we admire? Externals. For what do we strive? Externals. And are we then in any doubt why we fear and are anxious? What is the consequence, then, when we esteem the things that are brought upon us to be evils? We cannot but fear; we cannot but be anxious. And then we say, “O Lord God, how shall I avoid anxiety!” Have you not hands, foolish man? Hath not God made them for you? You might as well kneel and pray to be cured of your catarrh. Take care of your disease, rather; and do not murmur. Well; and hath he given you nothing in the present case? Hath he not given you patience? Hath he not given you magnanimity? Hath he not given you fortitude? When you have such hands as these, do you still seek for aid from another? But we neither study nor regard these things. For give me but one, who cares how he does anything, who does not regard the success of anything, but his own manner of acting. Who, when he is walking, regards his own action? Who, when he is deliberating, prizes the deliberation itself, and not the success that is to follow it? If it happens to succeed, he is elated; and cries: “How prudently have we deliberated! Did not I tell you, my dear friend, that it was impossible, when we considered about anything, that it should not happen right?” But if it miscarries, the poor wretch is dejected; and knows not what to say about the matter. Who among us ever, for such a purpose, consulted a diviner? Who of us ever slept in a temple, to be instructed [in a dream] concerning his manner of acting? I say, who? Show me one who is truly noble and ingenuous, that I may see what I have long sought. Show me either a young or an old man.
Why then are we still surprised, if, when we waste all our attention on the mere materials of action, we are, in the manner of action itself, low, sordid, unworthy, timid, wretched, and altogether failures? For we do not care about these things, nor make them our study. If we had feared, not death or exile, but fear itself, we should have studied not to fall into what appears to us to be evil. But, as the case now stands, we are eager and loquacious in the schools; and, when any little question arises about any of these things, we are prepared to trace its consequences; but drag us into practice, and you will find us miserably shipwrecked. Let something of alarming aspect attack us, and you will perceive what we have been studying, and in what we are exercised. Besides, through this negligence, we always exaggerate, and represent things greater than the reality. In a voyage, for instance, casting my eyes down upon the ocean below, and looking round me, and seeing no land, I am beside myself, and imagine that, if I should be shipwrecked, I must swallow all that ocean; nor does it occur to me, that three pints are enough for me. What is it then, that alarms me? The ocean? No; but my own impressions. Again; in an earthquake, I imagine the city is going to fall upon me; but is not one little stone enough to knock my brains out? What is it then, that oppresses, and makes us beside ourselves? Why, what else but our own impressions? For what is it, but mere impressions, that distress him, who leaves his country, and is separated from his acquaintance, and friends, and place, and usual manner of life? When children cry, if their nurse happens to be absent for a little while, give them a cake, and they forget their grief. Shall we compare you to these children then?
“No, indeed. For I do not desire to be pacified by a cake; but by right impressions. And what are they?”
Such as a man ought to study all day long, so as not to be absorbed in what does not belong to him; neither friend, place, nor academy, nor even his own body; but to remember the law, and to have that constantly before his eyes. And what is the divine law? To preserve inviolate what is properly our own; not to claim what belongs to others; to use what is given us, and not desire what is not given us; and, when anything is taken away, to restore it readily, and to be thankful for the time you have been permitted the use of it; and not cry after it, like a child for its nurse and its mamma. For what does it signify, what gets the better of you, or on what you depend? Which is the worthier, one crying for a doll, or for an academy? You lament for the portico and the assembly of young people, and such entertainments. Another comes lamenting that he must no longer drink the water of Dircè.* Why, is not the Marcian water as good? “But I was used to that.” And in time you will be used to the other. And, when you are attached to this too, you may weep again, and set yourself, in imitation of Euripides, to celebrate, in verse,
The baths of Nero, and the Marcian water.
Hence see the origin of Tragedy, when trifling accidents befall foolish men. “Ah, when shall I see Athens and the citadel again?” Foolish man, are not you contented with what you see every day? Can you see anything better than the sun, the moon, the stars, the whole earth, the sea? But if, besides, you comprehend him who administers the whole, and carry him about within yourself, do you still long after certain stones, and a fine rock? What will you do then, when you are to leave even the sun and moon? Will you sit crying, like an infant? What, then, have you been doing in the school? What did you hear? What did you learn? Why have you written yourself down a philosopher, instead of writing the real fact? “I have prepared some abstracts, and read over Chrysippus; but I have not so much as approached the door of philosophy. For what pretensions have I in common with Socrates, who died and who lived in such a manner? Or with Diogenes? Do you observe either of these crying, or out of humor, that he is not to see such a man, or such a woman; nor to live any longer at Athens, nor at Corinth; but at Susa, for instance, or Ecbatana? For does he stay and repine, who may at any time, if he will, quit the entertainment, and play no longer? Why does he not stay, as children do, so long as he is amused? Such a one, no doubt, will bear perpetual banishment and a sentence of death wonderfully well! Why will not you be weaned, as children are; and take more solid food? Will you never cease to cry after your mammas and nurses, whom the old women about you have taught you to bewail? “But if I go away, I shall trouble them also.” You trouble them! No; it will not be you; but that which troubles you too, — a mere impression. What have you to do then? Rid yourself of that impression; and, if they are wise, they will do the same for theirs; or, if not, they must lament for themselves.
Boldly make a desperate push, man, as the saying is, for prosperity, for freedom, for magnanimity. Lift up your head at last, as being free from slavery. Dare to look up to God, and say, “Make use of me for the future as Thou wilt. I am of the same mind; I am one with Thee. I refuse nothing which seems good to Thee. Lead me whither Thou wilt. Clothe me in whatever dress Thou wilt. Is it Thy will that I should be in a public or a private condition; dwell here, or be banished; be poor, or rich? Under all these circumstances I will testify unto Thee before men. I will explain the nature of every dispensation.” No? Rather sit alone, then, in safety, and wait till your mamma comes to feed you. If Hercules had sat loitering at home, what would he have been? Eurystheus, and not Hercules. Besides, by travelling through the world, how many acquaintances and how many friends he made. But none more his friend than God; for which reason he was believed to be the son of God; and was so. In obedience to him, he went about extirpating injustice and lawless force. But you are not Hercules, nor able to extirpate the evils of others; nor even Theseus, to extirpate the evils of Attica. Extirpate your own then. Expel, instead of Procrustes and Sciron,* grief, fear, desire, envy, malevolence, avarice, effeminacy, intemperance. But these can be no otherwise expelled than by looking up to God alone, as your pattern; by attaching yourself to him alone, and being consecrated to his commands. If you wish for anything else, you will, with sighs and groans, follow what is stronger than you; always seeking prosperity without, and never able to find it. For you seek it where it is not, and neglect to seek it where it is.
HOW TO APPLY GENERAL PRINCIPLES TO PARTICULAR CASES.
WHAT is the first business of one who studies philosophy? To part with self-conceit. For it is impossible for any one to begin to learn what he thinks that he already knows. We all go to the philosophers, talking at random upon negative and positive duties; good and evil; fair and base. We praise, censure, accuse; we judge and dispute about fair and base enterprises. And yet for what do we go to the philosophers? To learn what we suppose ourselves not to know. And what is this? Propositions. We are desirous to hear what the philosophers say, for its elegance and acuteness; and some with a view only to gain. Now it is ridiculous to suppose, that a person will learn anything but what he desires to learn; or make an improvement, in what he does not learn. But most are deceived, in the same manner as Theopompus, the orator, when he blames Plato for defining everything. “For,” he says, “did none of us, before you, use the words good and just; or did we utter them as empty sounds, without understanding what each of them meant?” Why, who tells you, Theopompus, that we had not natural ideas and general principles as to each of these? But it is not possible to apply principles in detail, without having minutely distinguished them, and examined what details appertain to each. You may make the same objection to the physicians. For who of us did not use the words wholesome and unwholesome, before Hippocrates was born; or did we utter them as empty sounds? For we have some general conception of what is wholesome too; but we cannot apply it. Hence one says, let the patient abstain from meat; another, give it to him: one says, let him be bled; another, cup him. And what is the reason, but not being able to adapt the general conception of wholesomeness to particular cases? Thus, too, in life; who of us does not talk of good or evil, advantageous and disadvantageous; for who of us has not a general conception of each of these? But is it then a distinct and perfect one? Show me this.
“How shall I show it?”
Apply it properly in detail. Plato, to go no further, puts definitions under the general head of useful; but you, under that of useless. Can both of you be right? How is it possible? Again; does not one man adapt the general conception of good, to riches? Another, not to riches, but to pleasure, or health? In general, unless we who use words employ them vaguely, or without proper care in discrimination, why do we differ? Why do we wrangle? Why do we censure each other? But what occasion have I to mention this mutual contradiction? If you yourself apply your principles properly, how comes it to pass, that you do not prosper? Why do you meet with any hindrance? Let us for the present omit our second point, concerning the pursuits, and the duties relative to them: let us omit the third too, concerning assent. I waive all these for you. Let us insist only on the first;* which affords almost a sensible proof, that you do not properly apply your principles. You desire what is possible in itself, and possible for you. Why then are you hindered? Why are not you in a prosperous way? You do not shrink from the inevitable. Why then do you incur anything undesirable? Why are you unfortunate? When you desire anything, why does it not happen? When you do not desire it, why happens it? For this is the greatest proof of ill success and misery: “I desire something and it does not happen; and what is more wretched than I?” From such impatience Medea came to murder her own children; a lofty action in this point of view alone, that she had a proper impression of what it was to fail of one’s aim. “Thus I shall punish him who has injured and dishonored me; and what is so wicked a wretch good for? But how is this to be effected? I will murder the children; but that will be punishing myself. And what care I?” This is the error of a powerful soul. For she knew not where the fulfilment of our desires is to be found; that it is not to be had from without, nor by altering the appointment of things. Do not demand the man for your husband, and nothing which you do desire will fail to happen. Do not desire to keep him to yourself. Do not desire to stay at Corinth, and, in a word, have no will, but the will of God; and who shall restrain you; who shall compel you, any more than Zeus? When you have such a guide, and conform your will and inclinations to his, why need you fear being disappointed? Fix your desire and aversion on riches, or poverty; the one will be disappointed, the other incurred. Fix them on health, power, honors, your country, friends, children, in short, on anything beyond the control of your will, you will be unfortunate. But fix them on Zeus, on the gods. Give yourself up to these; let these govern; let your powers be ranged on the same side with these; and how can you be any longer unprosperous? But if, poor wretch, you envy, and pity, and are jealous, and tremble, and never cease a single day from complaining of yourself and the gods, why do you boast of your education? What education, man? That you have learned syllogisms? Why do not you, if possible, unlearn all these, and begin again; convinced that hitherto you have not even touched upon the essential point? And, for the future, beginning from this foundation, proceed in order to the superstructure; that nothing may happen which you do not wish, and that everything may happen which you desire. Give me but one young man, who brings this intention with him to the school; who is a champion for this point, and says, “I yield up all the rest; it suffices me, if once I become able to pass my life free from hindrance and grief; to stretch out my neck to all events as free; and to look up to Heaven, as the friend of God, fearing nothing that can happen.” Let any one of you show himself of such a disposition, that I may say, “Come into the place, young man, that is of right your own; for you are destined to be an ornament to philosophy. Yours are these possessions; yours these books; yours these discourses.” Then, when he has thoroughly mastered this first class, let him come to me again, and say: “I desire indeed to be free from passion, and perturbation; but I desire too, as a pious, a philosophic, and a diligent man, to know what is my duty to God, to my parents, to my relations, to my country, and to strangers.” Come into the second class too; for this likewise is yours. “But I have now sufficiently studied the second class too; and I would willingly be secure, and unshaken by error and delusion, not only when awake, but even when asleep; when warmed with wine; when diseased with the spleen.” You are becoming as a god, man; your aims are sublime!
“Nay; but I, for my part, desire to understand what Chrysippus says, in his logical treatise of the Pseudomenos.”* — Go hang yourself, pitiful man, with only such an aim as this! What good will it do you? You will read the whole, lamenting all the while; and say to others, trembling, “Do as I do. Shall I read to you, my friend, and you to me? You write amazingly well; and you very finely imitate the style of Plato; and you, of Xenophon; and you, of Antisthenes.” And thus, having related your dreams to each other, you return again to the same state. Your desires and aversions, your pursuits, your intentions, your resolutions, your wishes and endeavors, are just what they were. You do not so much as seek for one to advise you, but are offended when you hear such things as these; and cry, “An ill-natured old man! He never wept over me, when I was setting out, nor said, To what a danger are you going to be exposed? If you come off safe, child, I will illuminate my house. This would have been the part of a man of feeling.” Truly, it will be a mighty happiness, if you do come off safe: it will be worth while to make an illumination. For you ought to be immortal, and exempt from sickness, to be sure.
Throwing away then, I say, this self-conceit, by which we fancy we have gained some knowledge of what is useful, we should come to philosophic reasoning as we do to mathematics and music; otherwise we shall be far from making any improvement, even if we have read over all the compends and commentaries, not only of Chrysippus, but of Antipater, and Archedemus too.
HOW THE SEMBLANCES OF THINGS ARE TO BE COMBATED.
EVERY habit and faculty is preserved and increased by correspondent actions; as the habit of walking, by walking; of running, by running. If you would be a reader, read; if a writer, write. But if you do not read for a month together, but do something else; you will see what will be the consequence. So, after sitting still for ten days, get up and attempt to take a long walk; and you will find how your legs are weakened. Upon the whole then, whatever you would make habitual, practise it; and, if you would not make a thing habitual, do not practise it, but habituate yourself to something else.
It is the same with regard to the operations of the soul. Whenever you are angry, be assured, that it is not only a present evil, but that you have increased a habit, and added fuel to a fire. When you are overcome by the seductions of a woman, do not consider it as a single defeat alone, but that you have fed, that you have increased, your dissoluteness. For it is impossible, but that habits and faculties must either be first produced, or strengthened and increased, by corresponding actions. Hence the philosophers derive the growth of all maladies. When you once desire money, for example, if reason be applied to produce a sense of the evil, the desire ceases, and the governing faculty of the mind regains its authority; whereas, if you apply no remedy, it returns no more to its former state, but, being again similarly excited, it kindles at the desire more quickly than before; and by frequent repetitions, at last becomes callous, and by this malady is the love of money fixed. For he who has had a fever, even after it has left him, is not in the same state of health as before, unless he was perfectly cured; and the same thing happens in distempers of the soul likewise. There are certain traces and blisters left in it; which, unless they are well effaced, whenever a new hurt is received in the same part, instead of blisters will become sores.
If you would not be of an angry temper, then, do not feed the habit. Give it nothing to help its increase. Be quiet at first, and reckon the days in which you have not been angry. I used to be angry every day; now every other day; then every third and fourth day; and if you miss it so long as thirty days, offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God. For habit is first weakened, and then entirely destroyed. “I was not vexed to-day; nor the next day; nor for three or four months after; but restrained myself under provocation.” Be assured, that you are in an excellent way. “To-day, when I saw a handsome person, I did not say to myself, O that I could possess her! and how happy is her husband” (for he who says this, says too, how happy is her gallant); “nor did I go on to fancy her in my arms.” On this I stroke my head, and say, Well done, Epictetus; thou hast solved a hard problem, harder than the chief syllogism. But, if even the lady should happen to be willing and give me intimations of it, and send for me, and press my hand, and place herself next to me; and I should then forbear, and get the victory; that would be a triumph beyond all the forms of logic. This is the proper subject for exultation, and not one’s power in handling the syllogism.
How then is this to be effected? Be willing to approve yourself to yourself. Be willing to appear beautiful in the sight of God; be desirous to converse in purity with your own pure mind, and with God; and then, if any such semblance bewilders you, Plato directs you: “Have recourse to expiations; go a suppliant to the temples of the averting deities.” It is sufficient, however, if you propose to yourself the example of wise and good men, whether alive or dead; and compare your conduct with theirs. Go to Socrates, and see him placed beside his beloved, yet not seduced by youth and beauty. Consider what a victory he was conscious of obtaining! What an Olympic triumph! How near does he rank to Hercules!* So that, by Heaven, one might justly salute him; hail! wondrous victor!† instead of those sorry boxers and wrestlers, and the gladiators who resemble them.
By placing such an example before you, you will conquer any alluring semblance, and not be drawn away by it. But in the first place, be not hurried away by excitement; but say, Semblance, wait for me a little. Let me see what you are, and what you represent. Let me try you. Then, afterwards, do not suffer it to go on drawing gay pictures of what will follow; if you do, it will lead you wherever it pleases. But rather oppose to it some good and noble semblance, and banish this base one. If you are habituated to this kind of exercise, you will see what shoulders, what nerves, what sinews, you will have. But now it is mere trifling talk, and nothing more. He is the true athlete, who trains himself against such semblances as these. Stay, wretch, do not be hurried away. The combat is great, the achievement divine; for empire, for freedom, for prosperity, for tranquillity. Remember God. Invoke him for your aid and protector; as sailors do Castor and Pollux, in a storm. For what storm is greater than that which arises from these perilous semblances, contending to overset our reason? Indeed what is the storm itself, but a semblance? For, do but take away the fear of death, and let there be as many thunders and lightnings as you please, you will find, that to the reason all is serenity and calm; but if you are once defeated, and say, you will get the victory another time, and then the same thing over again; assure yourself that you will at last be reduced to so weak and wretched a condition, you will not so much as know when you do amiss; but you will even begin to make defences for your behavior, and thus verify the saying of Hesiod: —
With constant ills, the dilatory strive.*
CONCERNING THOSE WHO EMBRACE PHILOSOPHY ONLY IN WORDS.
THE science of “the ruling argument”* appears to have its rise from hence. Of the following propositions, any two imply a contradiction to the third. They are these. “That everything past is necessarily true”; “That an impossibility is not the consequence of a possibility”; and, “That something is a possibility, which neither is nor will be true.” Diodorus, perceiving this contradiction, combined the first two, to prove, that nothing is possible, which neither is nor will be true. Some again hold the second and third; “that something is possible, which neither is nor will be true”; and, “that an impossibility is not the consequence of a possibility”; and consequently assert, “That not everything past is necessarily true.” This way Cleanthes and his followers took; whom Antipater copiously defends. Others, lastly, maintain the first and third; “that something is possible, which neither is nor will be true”; and “that everything past is necessarily true”; but then, “that an impossibility may be the consequence of a possibility.” But all these three propositions cannot be at once maintained, because of their mutual contradiction.
If any one should ask me then, which of them I maintain; I answer him, that really I cannot tell. But I have heard it related, that Diodorus held one opinion about them; the followers of Panthædes, I think, and Cleanthes, another; and Chrysippus a third.
“What then is your opinion?”
I express none. I was born to examine things as they appear to my own mind; to compare what is said by others, and thence to form some conviction of my own on any topic. Of these things I have merely technical knowledge. Who was the father of Hector? Priam. Who were his brothers? Paris and Deiphobus. Who was his mother? Hecuba. This I have heard related. From whom? Homer. But I believe Hellanicus, and other authors, have written on the same subject. And what better account have I of “the ruling argument”? But, if I were vain enough, I might, especially at some entertainment, astonish all the company by an enumeration of authors relating to it. Chrysippus has written wonderfully, in his first Book of Possibilities. Cleanthes and Archedemus have each written separately on this subject. Antipater too has written, not only in his Treatise of Possibilities, but especially in a discourse on “the ruling argument.” Have you not read the work? “No.” Read it then. And what good will it do him? He will be more trifling and impertinent than he is already. For what else have you gained by reading it? What conviction have you formed upon this subject? But you tell us of Helen, and Priam, and the isle of Calypso, something which never was, nor ever will be. And in these matters, indeed, it is of no great consequence if you retain the story, without forming any principle of your own. But it is our misfortune to do so, much more, in morality, than upon such subjects as these.
“Talk to me concerning good and evil.”
“Winds blew from Ilium to Ciconian shores.”*
Of things, some are good, some evil, and some indifferent. Now the good are the virtues, and whatever partakes of them; and the evil, vices, and what partakes of vice; the indifferent lie between these, as riches, health, life, death, pleasure, pain.
“Whence do you know this?”
[Suppose I say,] Hellanicus says it, in his Egyptian History. For what does it signify, whether one quotes the history of Hellanicus, or the ethics of Diogenes, or Chrysippus, or Cleanthes? Have you then examined any of these things, and formed convictions of your own? But show me, how you are used to exercise yourself on shipboard. Remember these distinctions, when the mast rattles, and some idle fellow stands by you, while you are screaming, and says: “For heaven’s sake, talk as you did a little while ago. Is it vice to suffer shipwreck? Or does it partake of vice?” Would you not take up a log, and throw it at his head? “What have we to do with you, sir? We are perishing, and you come and jest.” Again; if Cæsar should summon you, to answer an accusation, remember these distinctions. If, when you are going in, pale and trembling, any one should meet you and say, “Why do you tremble, sir? What is this affair you are engaged in? Doth Cæsar, within there, give virtue and vice to those who approach him?”—“What, do you too insult me, and add to my evils?” — “Nay, but tell me, philosopher, why you tremble? Is there any other danger, but death, or a prison, or bodily pain, or exile, or slander?” — “Why, what else should there be?” — “Are any of these vice? Or do they partake of vice? What, then, did you yourself use to say of these things?” — “What have you to do with me, sir? My own evils are enough for me.” — “You say rightly. Your own evils are indeed enough for you; your baseness, your cowardice, and that arrogance by which you were elated, as you sat in the schools. Why did you assume plumage not your own? Why did you call yourself a Stoic?”
Observe yourselves thus in your actions, and you will find of what sect you are. You will find, that most of you are Epicureans; a few Peripatetics, and those but loose ones. For by what action will you prove that you think virtue equal, and even superior, to all other things? Show me a Stoic, if you have one. Where? Or how should you? You can show, indeed, a thousand who repeat the Stoic reasonings. But do they repeat the Epicurean less well? Are they not just as perfect in the Peripatetic? Who then is a Stoic? As we call that a Phidian statue, which is formed according to the art of Phidias; so show me some one person formed according to the principles which he professes. Show me one who is sick, and happy; in danger, and happy; dying, and happy; exiled, and happy; disgraced, and happy. Show him to me; for, by Heaven, I long to see a Stoic. But you have not one fully developed? Show me then one who is developing; one who is approaching towards this character. Do me this favor. Do not refuse an old man a sight which he has never yet seen. Do you suppose that you are to show the Jupiter or Minerva of Phidias, a work of ivory or gold? Let any of you show me a human soul, desiring to be in unity with God; not to accuse either God or man; not to be disappointed of its desire, nor incur its aversion; not to be angry; not to be envious; not to be jealous; in a word, desiring from a man to become a god; and, in this poor mortal body, aiming to have fellowship with Zeus. Show him to me. But you cannot. Why then do you impose upon yourselves, and play tricks with others? Why do you put on a dress not your own; and walk about in it, mere thieves and pilferers of names and things which do not belong to you? I am now your preceptor, and you come to be instructed by me. And indeed my aim is to secure you from being restrained, compelled, hindered; to make you free, prosperous, happy; looking to God upon every occasion, great or small. And you come to learn and study these things. Why then do you not finish your work, if you have the proper aims, and I, besides the aim, the proper qualifications? What is wanting? When I see an artificer, and the materials lying ready, I await the work. Now here is the artificer; here are the materials; what is it we want? Is not the thing capable of being taught? It is. Is it not in our own power then? The only thing of all others that is so. Neither riches, nor health, nor fame, nor, in short, anything else is in our power, except a right use of the semblances of things. This alone is, by nature, not subject to restraint, not subject to hindrance. Why then do not you finish it? Tell me the cause. It must be my fault, or yours, or from the nature of the thing. The thing itself is practicable, and the only thing in our power. The fault then must be either in me, or in you, or, more truly, in both. Well then, shall we at length begin to carry such an aim with us? Let us lay aside all that is past. Let us begin. Only believe me, and you shall see.
CONCERNING THE EPICUREANS AND ACADEMICS.
THINGS true and evident must, of necessity, be recognized even by those who would contradict them. And perhaps one of the strongest proofs that there is such a thing as evidence, is the necessity which compels even those who contradict it to make use of it. If a person, for instance, should deny that anything is universally true, he will be obliged to assert the contrary, that nothing is universally true. Foolish man, not so. For what is this, but an universal statement?* Again; suppose any one should come and say, “Know that there is nothing to be known; but all things are uncertain”; or another, “Believe me, for your good, that no man ought to be believed in anything”; or a third, “Learn from me that nothing is to be learned; I tell you this, and will teach the proof of it, if you please.” Now what difference is there between such as these, and those who call themselves Academics, — who say to us, “Be convinced, that no one ever is convinced; believe us, that nobody believes anybody”?
Thus also, when Epicurus would destroy the natural tie between mankind, he makes use of the very thing he is destroying. For what says he? “Be not deceived; be not seduced and mistaken. There is no natural tie between reasonable beings. Believe me. Those who say otherwise mislead and impose upon you.” — Why are you concerned for us then? Let us be deceived. You will fare never the worse, if all the rest of us are persuaded, that there is a natural tie between mankind; and that it is by all means to be preserved. Nay, it will be much safer and better. Why do you give yourself any trouble about us, sir? Why do you break your rest for us? Why do you light your lamp? Why do you rise early? Why do you compose so many volumes? Is it that none of us should be deceived concerning the gods, as if they took any care of men? Or that we may not suppose the essence of good consists in anything but in pleasure? For if these things be so, lie down and sleep, and lead the life of which you judge yourself worthy; that of a mere worm. Eat, drink, debauch, snore. What is it to you, whether others think rightly or wrongly about these things? For what have you to do with us? You take care of sheep, because they afford their milk, their wool, and at last their flesh. And would it not be a desirable thing that men might be so lulled and enchanted by the Stoics as to give themselves up to be milked and fleeced by you, and such as you? Should not these doctrines be taught to your brother Epicureans only, and concealed from the rest of the world; who should by all means, above all things, be persuaded, that we have a natural tie with each other, and that self-command is a good thing, in order that all may be kept safe for you? Or is this tie to be preserved towards some and not towards others? Towards whom, then, is it to be preserved? Towards such as mutually preserve, or such as violate it? And who violate it more than you, who teach such doctrines?
What was it, then, that waked Epicurus from his sleep, and compelled him to write what he did; what else, but that which is of all influences the most powerful among mankind, Nature; which draws every one, however unwilling and reluctant, to its own purposes. For since, she says, you think that there is no tie between mankind, write out this doctrine, and leave it for the use of others; and break your sleep upon that account; and by your own practice confute your own principles. Do we say, that Orestes was roused from sleep because driven by the furies; and was not Epicurus waked by sterner furies and avengers, which would not suffer him to rest, but compelled him to utter his own ills, as wine and madness do the priests of Cybele? So strong and unconquerable a thing is human nature! For how can a vine have the properties not of a vine, but of an olive-tree? Or an olive-tree, not those of an olive-tree, but of a vine? It is impossible. It is inconceivable. Neither, therefore, is it possible for a human creature entirely to lose human affections. But even those who have undergone a mutilation, cannot have their inclinations also mutilated; and so Epicurus, when he had mutilated all the offices of a man, of a master of a family, of a citizen, and of a friend, did not mutilate the inclinations of humanity; for this he could not do; any more than the idle Academics can throw away or blind their own senses, though this be the point they chiefly labor. What a misfortune is it, when any one, after having received from Nature standards and rules for the knowledge of truth, does not strive to add to these, and make up their deficiencies; but, on the contrary, endeavors to take away and destroy whatever truth may be known even by them.
What say you, philosopher? What do you think of piety and sanctity? — “If you please, I will prove that they are good.” — Pray do prove it; that our citizens may be converted, and honor the Deity, and may no longer neglect what is of the highest importance. “Do you accept these demonstrations, then?” I have, and I thank you. “Since you are so well pleased with this, then, learn these contrary propositions; that there are no gods, or, if there are, that they take no care of mankind, neither have we any concern with them; that this piety and sanctity, so much talked of by many, are only an imposition of boasting and sophistical men; or, perhaps, of legislators, for a terror and restraint to injustice.” — Well done, philosopher. Our citizens are much the better for you. You have already brought back all the youth to a contempt of the Deity. “What! does not this please you, then? Learn next, that justice is nothing; that shame is folly; that the paternal relation is nothing; the filial, nothing.” Well said, philosopher; persist, convince the youth; that we may have many more, to think and talk like you. By such doctrines as these, no doubt, have our well-governed states flourished! Upon these was Sparta founded! Lycurgus, by his laws, and method of education, introduced such persuasions as these; that it is not base to be slaves, rather than honorable; nor honorable to be free, rather than base! They who died at Thermopylæ, died from such principles as these! And from what other doctrines did the Athenians leave their city?*
And yet, they who talk thus marry, and produce children, and engage in public affairs, and get themselves made priests and prophets. Of whom? Of gods that have no existence. And they consult the Pythian priestess, only to hear falsehoods, and interpret the oracles to others. O! monstrous impudence and imposture!
What are you doing, man?* You contradict yourself every day; and you will not give up these paltry cavils. When you eat, where do you put your hand? To your mouth, or to your eye? When you bathe, where do you go? Do you ever call a kettle a dish, or a spoon a spit? If I were a servant to one of these gentlemen, were it at the hazard of being flayed every day, I would plague him. “Throw some oil into the bath, boy.” I would take pickle, and pour upon his head. “What is this?” Really, sir, I was impressed by a certain semblance so like oil as not to be distinguished from it. “Give me the soup.” I would carry him a dish full of vinegar. “Did I not ask for the soup?” Yes, sir, this is the soup. “Is not this vinegar?” Why so, more than soup? “Take it and smell it, take it and taste it.” How do you know, then, but our senses deceive us? If I had three or four fellow-servants to join with me, I would make him either choke with passion and burst, or change his opinions. But now they insult us, by making use of the gifts of nature, while in words they destroy them. Those must be grateful and modest men, at least, who, while eating their daily bread, dare to say, “We do not know whether there be any such beings as Demeter, or Core, or Pluto.” Not to mention, that while they possess the blessings of night and day, of the annual seasons, of the stars, the earth and the sea, they are not the least affected by any of these things; but only study to throw out some idle problem, and when they have thus relieved themselves, go and bathe; but take not the least care what they say, nor on what subjects, nor to whom, nor what may be the consequence of their talk; whether any well-disposed young man, on hearing such doctrines, may not be affected by them, and so affected as entirely to lose the seeds of his good disposition; whether they may not furnish an adulterer with occasions of growing shameless in his guilt; whether a public plunderer may not find excuses from these doctrines; whether he, who neglects his parents, may not gain an additional confidence from them.
“What things, then, in your opinion, are good and evil, fair and base; such things, or such things?” But why should one argue any more with such as these, or interchange opinions, or endeavor to convince them? By Zeus, one might sooner hope to convince the most unnatural debauchees, than those, who are thus deaf and blind to their own ills.
THERE are some things which men confess with ease; and others with difficulty. No one, for instance, will confess himself a fool, or a blockhead; but, on the contrary, you will hear every one say, “I wish my fortune were in proportion to my abilities.” But they easily confess themselves fearful, and say, “I am somewhat timorous, I confess; but in other respects you will not find me a fool.” No one will easily confess himself intemperate in his desires; upon no account dishonest, nor indeed very envious, or meddling; but many confess themselves to have the weakness of being compassionate. What is the reason of all this? The principal reason is, an inconsistency and confusion in what relates to good and evil. But different people have different motives, and in general, whatever they imagine to be base, they do not absolutely confess. Fear and compassion they imagine to belong to a well-meaning disposition; but stupidity, to a slave. Offences against society they do not own; but, in most faults, they are brought to a confession, chiefly from imagining that there is something involuntary in them; as in fear and compassion. And, though a person should in some measure confess himself intemperate in his desires, he accuses his passion, and expects forgiveness, as for an involuntary fault. But dishonesty is not imagined to be, by any means, involuntary. In jealousy too, there is something they suppose involuntary; and this, likewise, in some degree, they confess.
Conversing therefore with such men, thus confused, thus ignorant what they say, and what are or are not their ills, whence they have them, and how they may be delivered from them; it is worth while, I think, to ask one’s self continually, “Am I too one of these? What do I imagine myself to be? How do I conduct myself? As a prudent, as a temperate man? Do I, too, ever talk at this rate; that I am sufficiently instructed for what may happen? Have I that persuasion, that I know nothing, which becomes one who knows nothing? Do I go to a master, as to an oracle, prepared to obey; or do I also, like a mere driveller, enter the school, only to learn and understand books which I did not understand before; or, perhaps, to explain them to others?”
You have been fighting at home, with your man-servant; you have turned the house upside-down, and alarmed the neighborhood; and do you come to me with a pompous show of wisdom, and sit and criticise how I explain a sentence, how I prate whatever comes into my head? Do you come, envious and dejected, that nothing has come from home for you; and in the midst of the disputations, sit thinking on nothing, but how your father or your brother may treat you? “What are they saying about me at home? Now they think I am improving, and say, he will come back with universal knowledge. I wish I could learn everything before my return; but this requires much labor, and nobody sends me anything. The baths are very bad at Nicopolis; and things go very ill both at home, and here.”
After all this, it is said, nobody is the better for the philosophic school. Why, who comes to the school? I mean, who comes to be reformed? Who, to submit his principles to correction; who, with a sense of his wants? Why do you wonder, then, that you bring back from the school the very thing you carried there? For you do not come to lay aside, or correct, or change, your principles. How should you? Far from it. Rather consider this, therefore, whether you have not what you have come for. You have come to talk about theorems. Well; and are you not more impertinently talkative than you were? Do not these paltry theorems furnish you with matter for ostentation? Do you not solve convertible and hypothetical syllogisms? Why, then, are you still displeased, if you have the very thing for which you came?
“Very true; but, if my child, or my brother should die; or if I must die or be tortured myself, what good will these things do me?” Why, did you come for this? Did you attend upon me for this? Was it upon any such account, that you ever lighted your lamp, or sat up at night? Or did you, when you went into the walk, propose any delusive semblance to your own mind to be discussed, instead of a syllogism? Did any of you ever go through such a subject jointly? And, after all, you say, theorems are useless. To whom? To such as apply them ill. For medicines for the eyes are not useless to those who apply them when and as they ought. Fomentations are not useless, dumb-bells are not useless; but they are useless to some, and, on the contrary, useful to others. If you should ask me, now, are syllogisms useful? I should answer, that they are useful; and, if you please, I will show you how. “Will they be of service to me, then?” Why, did you ask, man, whether they would be useful to you, or in general? If any one in a dysentery should ask me, whether acids be useful; I should answer, they are. “Are they useful for me, then?” I say, no. First try to get the flux stopped, and the ulceration healed. Do you too first get your ulcers healed, your fluxes stopped. Quiet your mind, and bring it free from distraction to the school; and then you will know what force there is in reasoning.
TO whatever objects a person devotes his attention, these objects he probably loves. Do men ever devote their attention then, to [what they think] evils? By no means. Or even to things indifferent? No, nor this. It remains then, that good must be the sole object of their attention; and, if of their attention, of their love too. Whoever, therefore, understands good, is capable likewise of love; and he who cannot distinguish good from evil, and things indifferent from both, how is it possible that he can love? The wise person alone, then, is capable of loving.
“How so? I am not this wise person, yet I love my child.”
I protest it surprises me, that you should, in the first place, confess yourself unwise. For in what are you deficient? Have not you the use of your senses? Do you not distinguish the semblances of things? Do you not provide such food and clothing and habitation as are suitable to you? Why then do you confess that you want wisdom? In truth, because you are often struck and disconcerted by semblances, and their speciousness gets the better of you; and hence you sometimes suppose the very same things to be good, then evil, and lastly, neither; and, in a word, you grieve, you fear, you envy, you are disconcerted, you change. Is it from this that you confess yourself unwise? And are you not changeable too in love? Riches, pleasure, in short, the very same things, you sometimes esteem good, and at other times evil. And do you not esteem the same persons too, alternately as good and bad, at one time treating them with kindness, at another with enmity, at one time commending, and at another censuring them?
“Yes. This too is the case with me.”
Well then, can he who is deceived in another, be his friend, think you?
Or does he, who loves him with a changeable affection, bear him genuine good will?
“Nor he, neither.”
Or he, who now vilifies, then admires him?
Do you not often see little dogs caressing, and playing with each other, so that you would say, nothing could be more friendly; but, to learn what this friendship is, throw a bit of meat between them, and you will see. Do you too throw a bit of an estate betwixt you and your son, and you will see, that he will quickly wish you under ground, and you him; and then you, no doubt, on the other hand will exclaim, What a son have I brought up! He would bury me alive! — Throw in a pretty girl, and the old fellow and the young one will both fall in love with her; or let fame or danger intervene, the words of the father of Admetus will be yours:
Do you suppose that he did not love his own child when it was little? That he was not in agonies when it had a fever, and often wished to undergo that fever in its stead? But, after all, when the trial comes home, you see what expressions he uses. Were not Eteocles and Polynices born of the same mother, and of the same father? Were they not brought up, and did they not live, and eat, and sleep, together? Did not they kiss and fondle each other? So that any one, who saw them, would have laughed at all the paradoxes which philosophers utter about love. And yet, when a kingdom, like a bit of meat, was thrown betwixt them, see what they say.
Polynices. “Where wilt thou stand before the towers?”
Eteocles. “Why askest thou this of me?”
Pol. “I will oppose myself to thee, to slay thee.”
Et. “Me too the desire of this seizes.”†
Such are the prayers they offer. Be not therefore deceived. No living being is held by anything so strongly as by its own needs. Whatever therefore appears a hindrance to these, be it brother, or father, or child, or mistress, or friend, is hated, abhorred, execrated; for by nature it loves nothing like its own needs. This motive is father, and brother, and family, and country, and God. Whenever, therefore, the Gods seem to hinder this, we vilify even them, and throw down their statues, and burn their temples; as Alexander ordered the temple of Æsculapius to be burnt, because he had lost the man he loved.
When therefore any one identifies his interest with those of sanctity, virtue, country, parents, and friends, all these are secured; but whenever he places his interest in anything else than friends, country, family, and justice, then these all give way, borne down by the weight of self-interest. For wherever I and mine are placed, thither must every living being gravitate. If in body, that will sway us; if in our own will, that; if in externals, these. If, therefore, I rest my personality in the will, then only shall I be a friend, a son, or a father, such as I ought. For, in that case, it will be for my interest to preserve the faithful, the modest, the patient, the abstinent, the beneficent character; to keep the relations of life inviolate. But, if I place my personality in one thing, and virtue in another, the doctrine of Epicurus will stand its ground, that virtue is nothing, or mere opinion.
From this ignorance it was, that the Athenians and Lacedemonians quarrelled with each other, and the Thebans with both; the Persian king with Greece, and the Macedonians with both; and now the Romans with the Getes. And, in still remoter times the Trojan war arose from the same cause. Alexander [Paris] was the guest of Menelaus; and whoever had seen the mutual proofs of good will, that passed between them, would never have believed that they were not friends. But a tempting bait, a pretty woman, was thrown in between them; and thence came war. At present, therefore, when you see that dear brothers have, in appearance, but one soul, do not immediately pronounce upon their love; not though they should swear it, and affirm it was impossible to live asunder. For the governing faculty of a bad man is faithless, unsettled, undiscriminating, successively vanquished by different semblances. But inquire, not as others do, whether they were born of the same parents, and brought up together, and under the same preceptor; but this thing only, in what they place their interest; in externals, or in their own wills. If in externals, you can no more pronounce them friends, than you can call them faithful, or constant, or brave, or free; nay, nor even truly men, if you are wise. For it is no principle of humanity, that makes them bite and vilify each other, and take possession of public assemblies, as wild beasts do of solitudes and mountains; and convert courts of justice into dens of robbers; that prompts them to be intemperate, adulterers, seducers; or leads them into other offences, that men commit against each other, — all from that one single error, by which they risk themselves, and their own concerns, on things uncontrollable by will.
But if you hear, that these men in reality suppose good to be placed only in the will, and in a right use of things as they appear; no longer take the trouble of inquiring if they are father and son, or old companions and acquaintances; but boldly pronounce that they are friends, and also that they are faithful and just. For where else can friendship be met, but joined with fidelity and modesty, and the intercommunication of virtue alone?
“Well; but such a one paid me the utmost regard, for so long a time, and did he not love me?”
How can you tell, foolish man, if that regard be any other than he pays to his shoes, or his horse, when he cleans them? And, how do you know but that when you cease to be a necessary utensil, he may throw you away, like a broken stool?
“Well; but it is my wife, and we have lived together many years.”
And how many did Eriphyle live with Amphiaraus; and was the mother of children, not a few? But a bauble came between them. What was this bauble? A false conviction concerning certain things. This turned her into a savage anima; this cut asunder all love, and suffered neither the wife nor the mother to continue such.*
Whoever therefore, among you, studies either to be or to gain a friend, let him cut up all false convictions by the root, hate them, drive them utterly out of his soul. Thus, in the first place, he will be secure from inward reproaches and contests; from vacillation and self-torment. Then with respect to others; to every like-minded person, he will be without disguise; to such as are unlike, he will be patient, mild, gentle, and ready to forgive them, as failing in points of the greatest importance; but severe to none, being fully convinced of Plato’s doctrine, that the soul is never willingly deprived of truth. Without all this, you may, in many respects, live as friends do; and drink, and lodge, and travel together, and even be born of the same parents; and so may serpents too; but neither they nor you can ever be really friends, while your accustomed principles remain brutal and execrable.
A BOOK will always be read with more pleasure and ease, if it be written in fair characters; and so every one will the more easily attend to discourses likewise, if ornamented with proper and beautiful expressions. It ought not then to be said, that there is no such thing as the faculty of eloquence; for this would be at once the part of an impious and timid person. Impious, because he dishonors the gifts of God; just as if he should deny any use in the faculties of sight, hearing, and speech itself. Hath God then given you eyes in vain? Is it in vain, that he hath infused into them such a strong and active spirit, as to be able to represent the forms of distant objects? What messenger is so quick and diligent? Is it in vain, that he hath made the intermediate air so yielding and elastic, that sight penetrates through it? And is it in vain, that he hath made the light, without which all the rest would be useless? Man, be not ungrateful, nor, on the other hand, unmindful of your superior advantages; but for sight, and hearing, and indeed for life itself, and the supports of it, as fruits, and wine, and oil, be thankful to God; but remember that He hath given you another thing, superior to them all, which uses them, proves them, estimates the value of each. For what is it that pronounces upon the value of each of these faculties? Is it the faculty itself? Did you ever perceive the faculty of sight or hearing, to say anything concerning itself? Or wheat, or barley, or horses, or dogs? No. These things are appointed as instruments and servants, to obey that which is capable of using things as they appear. If you inquire the value of anything; of what do you inquire? What is the faculty that answers you? How then can any faculty be superior to this, which uses all the rest as instruments, and tries and pronounces concerning each of them? For which of them knows what itself is; and what is its own value? Which of them knows, when it is to be used, and when not? Which is it, that opens and shuts the eyes, and turns them away from improper objects? Is it the faculty of sight? No; but that of Will. Which is it, that opens and shuts the ears? Which is it, by which they are made curious and inquisitive; or on the contrary deaf, and unaffected by what is said? Is it the faculty of hearing? No; but that of Will. This, then, recognizing itself to exist amidst other faculties, all blind and deaf, and unable to discern anything but those offices, in which they are appointed to minister and serve; itself alone sees clearly, and distinguishes the value of each of the rest. Will this, I say, inform us, that anything is supreme, but itself? What can the eye, when it is opened, do more than see? But whether we ought to look upon the wife of any one, and in what manner, what is it that decides us? The faculty of Will. Whether we ought to believe, or disbelieve what is said; or whether, if we do believe, we ought to be moved by it, or not, what is it that decides us? Is it not the faculty of Will? Again; the very faculty of eloquence, and that which ornaments discourse, if any such peculiar faculty there be, what does it more than merely ornament and arrange expressions, as curlers do the hair? But whether it be better to speak, or to be silent; or better to speak in this, or in that manner; whether this be decent, or indecent; and the season and use of each; what is it that decides for us, but the faculty of Will? What then, would you have it appear, and bear testimony against itself? What means this? If the case be thus, then that which serves may be superior to that to which it is subservient; the horse to the rider; the dog to the hunter; the instrument to the musician; or servants to the king. What is it that makes use of all the rest? The Will. What takes care of all? The Will. What destroys the whole man, at one time, by hunger; at another, by a rope, or a precipice? The Will. Has man, then, anything stronger than this? And how is it possible, that what is liable to restraint should be stronger than what is not? What has a natural power to restrain the faculty of sight? The Will and its workings. And it is the same with the faculties of hearing and of speech. And what has a natural power of restraining the Will? Nothing beyond itself, only its own perversion. Therefore in the Will alone is vice: in the Will alone is virtue.
Since, then, the Will is such a faculty, and placed in authority over all the rest, suppose it to come forth and say to us, that the body is, of all things, the most excellent! If even the body itself pronounced itself to be the most excellent, it could not be borne. But now, what is it, Epicurus, that pronounces all this? What was it, that composed volumes concerning “the End,” “the Nature of things,” “the Rule”; that assumed a philosophic beard; that, as it was dying, wrote, that it was “then spending its last and happiest day”?* Was this the body, or was it the faculty of Will? And can you, then, without madness, admit anything to be superior to this? Are you in reality so deaf and blind? What, then, does any one dishonor the other faculties? Heaven forbid! Does any one assert that there is no use or excellence in the faculty of sight? Heaven forbid! It would be stupid, impious, and ungrateful to God. But we render to each its due. There is some use in an ass, though not so much as in an ox; and in a dog, though not so much as in a servant: and in a servant, though not so much as in the citizens; and in the citizens, though not so much as in the magistrates. And though some are more excellent than others, those uses, which the last afford, are not to be despised. The faculty of eloquence has thus its value, though not equal to that of the Will. When therefore I talk thus, let not any one suppose, that I would have you neglect eloquence, any more than your eyes, or ears, or hands, or feet, or clothes, or shoes. But if you ask me what is the most excellent of things, what shall I say? I cannot say, eloquence, but a right Will; for it is this which makes use of that, and of all the other faculties, whether great or small. If this be set right, a bad man becomes good; if it be wrong, a good man becomes wicked. By this we are unfortunate or fortunate; we disapprove or approve each other. In a word, it is this which, neglected, forms unhappiness; and, well cultivated, happiness.
But to take away the faculty of eloquence, and to say, that it is in reality nothing, is not only ungrateful to those who gave it, but cowardly too. For such a person seems to me to be afraid, that, if there be any such faculty, we may, on occasion, be compelled to respect it. Such are they too, who deny any difference between beauty and deformity. Was it possible, then, to be affected in the same manner by seeing Thersites, as by Achilles; by Helen, as by any other woman? These, also, are the foolish and clownish notions of those who are ignorant of the nature of things; and afraid that whoever perceives such a difference must presently be carried away, and overcome. But the great point is to leave to each thing its own proper faculty; and then to see what the value of that faculty is, to learn what is the principal thing, and, upon every occasion, to follow that, and to make it the chief object of our attention; to consider other things as trifling in comparison with this, and yet, so far as we are able, not to neglect even these. We ought, for instance, to take care of our eyes; yet not as of the principal thing, but only on account of that which is principal; because that can no otherwise preserve its own nature, than by making a due estimate of the rest, and preferring some to others. What is the usual practice then? That of a traveller, who, returning into his own country, and meeting on the way with a good inn, being pleased with the inn, should remain there. Have you forgotten your intention, man? You were not travelling to this place, but only through it. “But this is a fine place.” And how many other fine inns are there, and how many pleasant fields, yet they are simply as a means of passage. What is the real business? To return to your country; to relieve the anxieties of your family; to perform the duties of a citizen; to marry, have children, and go through the public offices. For you did not travel in order to choose the finest places; but to return, to live in that where you were born, and of which you are appointed a citizen.
Such is the present case. Because by speech and such instruction, we are to perfect our education, and purify our own will, and rectify that faculty which deals with things as they appear; and, because, for the statement of theorems, a certain diction, and some variety and subtility of discourse are needful; many, captivated by these very things, one by diction, another by syllogisms, a third by convertible propositions, just as our traveller was by the good inn, go no further; but sit down and waste their lives shamefully there, as if amongst the sirens. Your business, man, was to prepare yourself for such use of the semblances of things as nature demands; not to fail in what you seek, or incur what you shun; never to be disappointed or unfortunate, but free, unrestrained, uncompelled; conformed to the Divine Administration, obedient to that; finding fault with nothing; but able to say, from your whole soul, the verses which begin,
“Conduct me, Jove; and thou, O Destiny.”*
While you have such a business before you, will you be so pleased with a pretty form of expression, or a few theorems, as to choose to stay and live with them, forgetful of your home; and say, “They are fine things!” Why, who says they are not fine things? But only as a means; as an inn. For what hinders one speaking like Demosthenes from being miserable? What hinders a logician equal to Chrysippus from being wretched, sorrowful, envious, vexed, unhappy? Nothing. You see, then, that these are merely unimportant inns, and what concerns you is quite another thing. When I talk thus to some, they suppose that I am setting aside all care about eloquence, and about theorems; but I do not object to that; only the dwelling on these things incessantly, and placing our hopes there. If any one, by maintaining this, hurts his hearers, place me amongst those hurtful people; for I cannot, when I see one thing to be the principal and most excellent, call another so, to please you.
CONCERNING A PERSON WHOM HE TREATED WITH DISREGARD.
WHEN a certain person said to him, “I have often come to you, with a desire of hearing you, and you have never given me any answer; but now, if possible, I entreat you to say something to me”; — do you think, replied Epictetus, that, as in other things, so in speaking, there is an art, by which he, who understands it, speaks skilfully, and he, who does not, unskilfully?
“I do think so.”
He, then, who by speaking both benefits himself, and is able to benefit others, must speak skilfully; but he who injures and is injured, must be unskilful in this art. For you may find some speakers injured, and others benefited. And are all hearers benefited by what they hear? Or will you find some benefited, and some hurt?
Then those who hear skilfully are benefited, and those who hear unskilfully, hurt.
Is there any art of hearing, then, as well as of speaking?
“It seems so.”
If you please, consider it thus too. To whom think you that the practice of music belongs?
“To a musician.”
To whom the proper formation of a statue?
“To a sculptor.”
And do you not imagine some art necessary even to view a statue skilfully?
If, therefore, to speak properly belongs to one who is skilful, do you not see, that to hear profitably belongs likewise to one who is skilful? For the present, however, if you please, let us say no more of doing things perfectly and profitably, since we are both far enough from anything of that kind; but this seems to be universally confessed, that he, who would hear philosophers, needs some kind of exercise in hearing. Is it not so? Tell me, then, on what I shall speak to you? On what subject are you able to hear me?
“On good and evil.”
The good and evil of what? Of a horse?
Of an ox?
What then, of a man?
Do we know, then, what man is? What is his nature, what our idea of him, and how far our ears are open in this respect to him? Nay, do you understand what Nature is; or are you able, in any degree, to comprehend me, when I come to say, “But I must use demonstration to you?” How should you? Do you comprehend what demonstration is, or how a thing is demonstrated, or by what methods; or what resembles a demonstration, and yet is not a demonstration? Do you know what true or false is? What is consequent upon anything, and what contradictory; suitable, or dissonant? But I must excite you to study philosophy. How shall I show you that contradiction, among the generality of mankind, by which they differ concerning good and evil, profitable and unprofitable, when you know not what contradiction means? Show me, then, what I shall gain, by discoursing with you? Excite an inclination in me, as a proper pasture excites an inclination to eating, in a sheep: for if you offer him a stone, or a piece of bread, he will not be excited. Thus we too have certain natural inclinations to speaking, when the hearer appears to be somebody, when he gives us encouragement; but if he sits by, like a stone, or a tuft of grass, how can he excite any desire in a man? Does a vine say to an husbandman, “Take care of me?” No; but invites him to take care of it, by showing him, that, if he does, it will reward him for his care. Who is there, whom bright and agreeable children do not attract to play, and creep, and prattle with them? But who was ever taken with an inclination to divert himself, or bray with an ass; for, be the creature ever so little, it is still a little ass.
“Why then do you say nothing to me?”
I have only this to say to you; that whoever is utterly ignorant what he is, and wherefore he was born, and in what kind of a universe, and in what society; what things are good, and what evil, what fair, and what base; who understands neither discourse, nor demonstration, nor what is true, nor what is false, nor is able to distinguish between them; such a one will neither exert his desires, nor aversions, nor pursuits, conformably to Nature; he will neither aim, nor assent, nor deny, nor suspend his judgment, conformably to Nature; but will wander up and down, entirely deaf and blind, supposing himself to be somebody, while he is nobody. Is there anything new in all this? Is not this ignorance the cause of all the errors that have happened, from the very origin of mankind? Why did Agamemnon and Achilles differ? Was it not for want of knowing what is advantageous, what disadvantageous? Does not one of them say, it is advantageous to restore Chryseis to her father; the other, that it is not? Does not one say, that he ought to take away the prize of the other; the other, that he ought not? Did they not, by these means, forget who they were, and for what purpose they had come there? Why, what did you come for, man; to win mistresses, or to fight? — “To fight.” — With whom; Trojans or Greeks? — “With the Trojans.” — Leaving Hector, then, do you draw your sword upon your own king? And do you, good sir, forgetting the duties of a king,
“Intrusted with a nation and its cares,”*
go to squabbling, about a girl, with the bravest of your allies; whom you ought, by every method, to conciliate and preserve? And will you be inferior to a subtle priest, who pays his court anxiously to you fine gladiators? — You see the effects produced by ignorance of what is truly advantageous.
“But I am rich, as well as other people.” — What, richer than Agamemnon? — “But I am handsome too.” — What, handsomer than Achilles? — “But I have fine hair too.” — Had not Achilles finer and brighter? Yet he never combed it exquisitely, nor curled it. — “But I am strong too.” — Can you lift such a stone, then, as Hector or Ajax? — “But I am of a noble family too.” — Is your mother a goddess, or your father descended from Zeus? And what good did all this do Achilles, when he sat crying for a girl? — “But I am an orator.” — And was not he? Do you not see how he treated the most eloquent of the Greeks, Odysseus and Phœnix? How he struck them dumb? This is all I have to say to you; and even this against my inclination.
Because you have not excited me to it. For what can I see in you, to excite me, as spirited horses their riders? Your person? That you disfigure. Your dress? That is effeminate. Your behavior? Your look? Absolutely nothing. When you would hear a philosopher, do not say to him, “You tell me nothing”; but only show yourself fit and worthy to hear; and you will find how you will move him to speak.
THAT LOGIC IS NECESSARY.
WHEN one of the company said to him, “Convince me that logic is necessary,” — Would you have me, he said, demonstrate it to you? “Yes.” Then I must use a demonstrative form of argument. “Granted.” And how will you know, then, whether I argue sophistically? On this, the man being silent, You see, says he, that, even by your own confession, logic is necessary; since without it, you cannot even learn whether it be necessary or not.
WHAT IS THE TEST OF ERROR.
EVERY error implies a contradiction; for, since he who errs does not wish to err, but to be in the right, it is evident, that he acts contrary to his wish. What does a thief desire to attain? His own interest. If, then, thieving be really against his interest he acts contrary to his own desire. Now every rational soul is naturally averse to self-contradiction; but so long as any one is ignorant that it is a contradiction, nothing restrains him from acting contradictorily; but, whenever he discovers it, he must as necessarily renounce and avoid it, as any one must dissent from a falsehood whenever he perceives it to be a falsehood; only while this does not appear, he assents to it as to a truth.
He, then, is gifted in speech, and excels at once in exhortation and conviction, who can disclose to each man the contradiction by which he errs, and prove clearly to him, that what he would he doth not; and what he would not, that he doth. For, if that be shown, he will depart from it of his own accord; but, till you have shown it, be not surprised that he remains where he is; for he proceeds on the semblance of acting rightly. Hence Socrates, relying on this faculty, used to say, “It is not my custom to cite any other witness for my assertions; but I am always contented with my opponent. I call and summon him for my witness; and his single evidence serves instead of all others.” For he knew that, if a rational soul be moved by anything, the scale must turn, whether it will or no. Show the governing faculty of Reason a contradiction, and it will renounce it; but till you have shown it, rather blame yourself than him who remains unconvinced.
[* ]Euripides, Fragments. — H.
[* ]The prescribed form of manumission. — H.
[* ]This discourse is supposed to have been addressed to a pupil, who feared to remain at Rome, because of the persecutions aimed by Domitian at the philosophers. — H.
[* ]In a speech which Cyrus made to his soldiers, after the battle with the Assyrians, he mentioned Chrysantas, one of his captains, with particular honor, for this instance of obedience. Xenoph. Cyrop. IV. 1. — C.
[* ]Diogenes Laertius in his life of Socrates (c. 42) gives the first verse of a hymn thus composed by him. — H.
[* ]A lady of high rank at Rome, banished from Italy, among many noble persons, by Domitian. — C.
[* ]Iliad, I. 526. — H.
[* ]Plato, Gorgias, § 69, and elsewhere. — H.
[* ]Hesiod, Theogony, 87. — H.
[* ]Homer, Iliad, xiii. 281. — H.
[† ]Antigonus Gonatas, king of Macedon, had so great an esteem for Zeno, that he often took a journey to Athens to visit him; and endeavored, by magnificent promises, to allure him to his court, but without success. He gave it as a reason for the distinguished regard which he paid him, that, though he had made him many, and very considerable offers, Zeno never appeared either mean or insolent. — C.
[* ]When Diogenes was sailing to Ægina, he was taken by pirates, and carried to Crete, and there exposed to sale. Being asked what he could do, he answered, “Govern men”; and pointing to a well-dressed Corinthian, who was passing by, “Sell me,” said he, “to him; for he wants a master.” The Corinthian, whose name was Xeniades, bought him, and appointed him the tutor to his children; and Diogenes perfectly well discharged his trust. — C.
[* ]A beautiful clear river in Bœotia, flowing into the Ismenus The Marcian water was conveyed by Ancus Marcius to Rome. — C.
[* ]Two famous robbers who infested Attica, and were at last killed by Theseus. — C.
[* ]The topic of the Desires and Aversions. — C.
[* ]The “Pseudomenos” was a famous problem among the Stoics, and it is this. When a person says, I lie; does he lie, or does he not? If he lies, he speaks truth: if he speaks truth, he lies. Chrysippus wrote six books upon it. — C.
[* ]Hercules is said to have been the author of the gymnastic games; and the first victor. Those who afterwards conquered in wrestling, and the pancratium, were numbered from him. — C.
[† ]This pompous title was given to those who had been victors in all the Olympic games. — C.
[* ]Works and Days, v. 383. — H.
[* ]A logical subtlety. — H.
[* ]Homer, Odyssey, IX. 39. The expression became proverbial, signifying “from bad to worse.” — H.
[* ]Translation conjectural. — H.
[* ]When the Athenians found themselves unable to resist the forces of the Persians, they left their city; and, having removed their wives and children, and their movable effects, to Trœzen and Salamis, went on board their ships, and defended the liberty of Greece by their fleet. — C.
[* ]What follows is against the Academics, who denied the evidence of the senses. — C.
[* ]Euripides, Alcestis, v.  701. The second line, as quoted by Epictetus, is not found in the received editions. Pheres, the father of Admetus, is defending himself for not consenting to die in place of his son. — H.
[† ]Euripides, Phœnissæ, v. 630, 631.
[* ]Amphiaraus married Eriphyle, the sister of Adrastus, king of Argos, and was betrayed by her for a golden chain. — C.
[* ]These words are part of a letter written by Epicurus, when he was dying, to one of his friends. Diog. Laert. X. 22. — C. The titles previously given are those of treatises by Epicurus. — H.
A Fragment of Cleanthes, quoted in full in Enchiridion, c. 52. — H.
[* ]Homer, Iliad, II. 25.