Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER II.: IN WHAT A WELL-TRAINED MAN SHOULD EXERCISE HIMSELF; AND THAT WE NEGLECT THE PRINCIPAL THINGS. - The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments
Return to Title Page for The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER II.: IN WHAT A WELL-TRAINED MAN SHOULD EXERCISE HIMSELF; AND THAT WE NEGLECT THE PRINCIPAL THINGS. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
IN WHAT A WELL-TRAINED MAN SHOULD EXERCISE HIMSELF; AND THAT WE NEGLECT THE PRINCIPAL THINGS.
THERE are three topics in philosophy, in which he who would be wise and good must be exercised. That of the desires and aversions, that he may not be disappointed of the one, nor incur the other. That of the pursuits and avoidances, and, in general, the duties of life; that he may act with order and consideration, and not carelessly. The third includes integrity of mind and prudence, and, in general, whatever belongs to the judgment.
Of these points, the principal and most urgent is that which reaches the passions; for passion is produced no otherwise than by a disappointment of one’s desires and an incurring of one’s aversions. It is this which introduces perturbations, tumults, misfortunes, and calamities; this is the spring of sorrow, lamentation, and envy; this renders us envious and emulous, and incapable of hearing reason.
The next topic regards the duties of life. For I am not to be undisturbed by passions, in the same sense as a statue is; but as one who preserves the natural and acquired relations; as a pious person, as a son, as a brother, as a father, as a citizen.
The third topic belongs to those scholars who are now somewhat advanced; and is a security to the other two, that no bewildering semblance may surprise us, either in sleep, or wine, or in depression. This, say you, is beyond us. Yet our present philosophers, leaving the first and second topics, employ themselves wholly about the third; dealing in the logical subtilties. For they say that we must, by engaging in these subjects, take care to guard against deception. Who must? A wise and good man. Is this really, then, the thing you need? Have you mastered the other points? Are you not liable to be deceived by money? When you see a fine girl, do you oppose the seductive influence? If your neighbor inherits an estate, do you feel no vexation? Is it not steadfastness which you chiefly need? You learn even these very things, slave, with trembling, and a solicitous dread of contempt; and are inquisitive to know what is said of you. And if any one comes and tells you that, in a dispute as to which was the best of the philosophers, one of the company named a certain person as the only philosopher, that little soul of yours grows to the size of two cubits instead of an inch. But if another comes and says, “You are mistaken, he is not worth hearing; for what does he know? He has the first rudiments, but nothing more”; you are thunderstruck; you presently turn pale, and cry out, “I will show what I am; that I am a great philosopher.” You exhibit by these very things what you are aiming to show in other ways. Do not you know that Diogenes exhibited some sophist in this manner, by pointing with his middle finger;* and when the man was mad with rage, “This,” said Diogenes, “is the very man; I have exhibited him to you.” For a man is not shown by the finger in the same sense as a stone, or a piece of wood, but whoever points out his principles, shows him as a man.
Let us see your principles too. For is it not evident that you consider your own Will as nothing: but are always aiming at something beyond its reach? As, what such a one will say of you, and what you shall be thought; whether a man of letters; whether to have read Chrysippus, or Antipater; and if Archedemus too, you have everything you wish. Why are you still solicitous, lest you should not show us what you are? Shall I tell you, what you have shown yourself? A mean, discontented, passionate, cowardly person; complaining of everything; accusing everybody; perpetually restless; good for nothing. This you have shown us. Go now and read Archedemus; and then, if you hear but the noise of a mouse, you are a dead man; for you will die some such kind of death as — Who was it? Crinis;† who valued himself extremely too, that he understood Archedemus.
Wretch, why do you not let alone things that do not belong to you? These things belong to such as are able to learn them without perturbation; who can say, “I am not subject to anger, or grief, or envy. I am not restrained; I am not compelled. What remains for me to do? I am at leisure; I am at ease. Let us now see how logical inversions are to be treated; let us consider, when an hypothesis is laid down, how we may avoid a contradiction.” To such persons do these things belong. They who are safe may light a fire, go to dinner, if they please, and sing and dance; but you are for spreading sail just when your ship is going down.
[* ]Extending the middle finger, with the ancients, was a mark of the greatest contempt. — C.
[† ]Crinis was a Stoic philosopher. The circumstances of his death are not now known. — C.