Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER X.: HOW WE MAY INFER THE DUTIES OF LIFE FROM ITS NOMINAL FUNCTIONS. - The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments
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CHAPTER X.: HOW WE MAY INFER THE DUTIES OF LIFE FROM ITS NOMINAL FUNCTIONS. - 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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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.