Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXI.: CONCERNING THOSE WHO READILY SET UP FOR SOPHISTS. - The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments
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CHAPTER XXI.: CONCERNING THOSE WHO READILY SET UP FOR SOPHISTS. - 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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CONCERNING THOSE WHO READILY SET UP FOR SOPHISTS.
THEY who have merely received bare maxims are presently inclined to throw them up, as a sick stomach does its food. Digest it, and then you will not throw it up; otherwise it will be crude and impure, and unfit for nourishment. But show us, from what you have digested, some change in your ruling faculty; as wrestlers do in their shoulders, from their exercise and their diet; as artificers, in their skill, from what they have learnt. A carpenter does not come and say, “Hear me discourse on the art of building”; but he hires a building, and fits it up, and shows himself master of his trade. Let it be your business likewise to do something like this; be manly in your ways of eating, drinking, dressing; marry, have children, perform the duty of a citizen; bear reproach; bear with an unreasonable brother; bear with a father; bear with a son, a neighbor, a companion, as becomes a man. Show us these things, that we may see that you have really learned something from the philosophers. No; but “come and hear me repeat commentaries.” Get you gone, and seek somebody else upon whom to bestow them. “Nay, but I will explain the doctrines of Chrysippus to you as no other person can; I will elucidate his style in the clearest manner.” And is it for this, then, that young men leave their country, and their own parents, that they may come and hear you explain words? Ought they not to return patient, active, free from passion, free from perturbation; furnished with such a provision for life, that, setting out with it, they will be able to bear all events well, and derive ornament from them? But how should you impart what you have not? For have you yourself done anything else, from the beginning, but spend your time in solving syllogisms and convertible propositions and interrogatory arguments. “But such a one has a school, and why should not I have one?” Foolish man, these things are not brought about carelessly and at haphazard. But there must be a fit age, and a method of life, and a guiding God. Is it not so? No one quits the port, or sets sail, till he hath sacrified to the gods, and implored their assistance; nor do men sow without first invoking Ceres. And shall any one who has undertaken so great a work attempt it safely without the gods? And shall they who apply to such a one, apply to him with success? What are you doing else, man, but divulging the mysteries? As if you said, “There is a temple at Eleusis, and here is one too. There is a priest, and I will make a priest here; there is a herald, and I will appoint a herald too; there is a torch-bearer, and I will have a torch-bearer; there are torches, and so shall there be here. The words said, the things done, are the same. Where is the difference betwixt one and the other?” Most impious man! is there no difference? Are these things of use, out of place, and out of time? A man should come with sacrifices and prayers, previously purified, and his mind affected by the knowledge that he is approaching sacred and ancient rites. Thus the mysteries become useful; thus we come to have an idea that all these things were appointed by the ancients for the instruction and correction of life. But you divulge and publish them without regard to time and place, without sacrifices, without purity; you have not the garment that is necessary for a priest, nor the fitting hair nor girdle; nor the voice, nor the age, nor have you purified yourself like him. But, when you have got the words by heart, you say, “The mere words are sacred of themselves.” These things are to be approached in another manner. It is a great, it is a mystical affair; not given by chance, or to every one indifferently. Nay, mere wisdom, perhaps, is not a sufficient qualification for the care of youth. There ought to be likewise a certain readiness and aptitude for this, and indeed a particular physical temperament: and, above all, a counsel from God to undertake this office, as he counselled Socrates to undertake the office of confutation; Diogenes, that of authoritative reproof; Zeno, that of dogmatical instruction. But you set up for a physician, provided with nothing but medicines, and without knowing, or having studied, where or how they are to be applied. “Why, such a one had medicines for the eyes, and I have the same.” Have you also, then, a faculty of making use of them? Do you at all know when, and how, and to whom, they will be of service? Why then do you act at hazard? Why are you careless in things of the greatest importance? Why do you attempt a matter unsuitable to you? Leave it to those who can perform it and do it honor. Do not you too bring a scandal upon philosophy by your means; nor be one of those who cause the thing itself to be calumniated. But if mere theorems delight you, sit quietly and turn them over by yourself; but never call yourself a philosopher, nor suffer another to call you so; but say: he is mistaken; for my desires are not different from what they were; nor my pursuits directed to other objects; nor my assents otherwise given; nor have I at all made any change from my former condition in the use of things as they appear. Think and speak thus of yourself, if you would think as you ought; if not, act at random, and do as you do; for it is appropriate to you.