Epictetus

Epictetus 55 – 135 AD

Was an illustrious philosopher of the school of the stoics, which was founded by Zeno and flourished in the first century of the Christian aera. He was born at Hieropolis in Phrygia, and was sold as a slave to Epaphroditus, one of Nero’s domestics.

His most famous pupil, Arrian of Nicomedia, studied under him when a young man (c. 108 A.D.) and claimed to have written the famous Discourses from his lecture notes, which he argued should be considered comparable to the Socratic literature.


WHAT PHILOSOPHY PROMISES.—When a man was consulting him how he should persuade his brother to cease being angry with him, Epictetus replied: Philosophy does not propose to secure for a man any external thing.




Trendelenburg writes:

Kant has redefined the concept of person in its relation to morals. A good part of his ethical doctrine is contained in the sentence, “Man is a person.” As an antithesis to the concept of thing. “Rational beings are called persons because their nature distinguishes them as an end unto themselves; that is, as something that may not be used simply as a means, and consequently in so far limits all caprice and is an object of esteem.”

Epictetus 55-135 AD (Enchiridion, Chapter 17]: “Consider that you are the interpreter of a role whose character is determined by the Master; if he wants a short role, short it is; if long, long; if he wants you to portray a poor man, seed to it that you play the poor man with spirit; in the same manner when your part is that of a lame man, of a magistrate, or of an ordinary man. for to play well the assigned role is your business, but to choose the role, the business of another.”

[Chapter 37] “If you take upon yourself a role beyond your power, you will play it poorly and awkwardly, and neglect another which you might have filled acceptably.”

[Epictetus; Dissertations I, 2, 12] “When Florus asked Agrippinus for advice as to whether he should go to Nero’s spectacle and accept a position there, Agrippinus answered, “God ahead”; and when Florus inquired further why he did not go himself, Agrippinus replied, “I would not consider it for a moment, for whoever once looks upon such things, who examines into and estimates the value of externals, is not greatly unlike those who have forgotten their own roles.””

A Contribution to the History of the Word Person by Adolf Trendelenburg 1802-1872 p. 344  The Monist Volume XX 1910


Discourses of Epictetus as recorded by Arrian 108AD

Concerning The Academics  p. 20-21

 It is said that there are those who will oppose very evident truths, and yet it is not easy to find a reason which may persuade such an one to alter his opinion. This may arise neither from his own strength nor from the weakness of his teacher; but when a man becomes obstinate in error, reason cannot always reach him.

Now there are two sorts of obstinacy: the one, of the intellect; the other, of the will. A man may obstinately set himself not to assent to evident truths, nor to quit the defense of contradictions. We all dread a bodily paralysis, and would make use of every contrivance to avoid it; but none of us is troubled about a paralysis of the soul. And yet, indeed, even with regard to the soul, when a person is so affected as not to apprehend or understand anything, we think him in a sad condition; but where the emotions of shame and modesty are under an absolute paralysis, we go so far as even to call this strength of mind!

 Are you certain that you are awake “I am not,” replies such a person, for neither am I certain when in dreaming I appear to myself to be awake.” Is there no difference, then, between these appearances? “None.” Shall I argue with this man any longer? For what steel or what caustic can I apply, to make him sensible of his paralysis? If he is sensible of it, and pretends not to be so, he is even worse than dead. He sees not his inconsistency, or, seeing it, holds to the wrong. He moves not, makes no progress; he rather falls back. His sense of shame is gone; his reasoning faculty is not gone, but tantalized. Shall I call this strength of mind? By no means,—unless we allow it to be such in the vilest debauchees publicly to speak and act out their worst impulses.

Chapter 11 How From The Doctrine Of Our Relationship To God We Are To Deduce Its Consequences. p. 33-34

If what philosophers say of the kinship between God and men be true, what has any one to do but, like Socrates, when he is asked what countryman he is, never to say that he is a citizen of Athens, or of Corinth, but of the universe? For why, if you limit yourself to Athens, do you not farther limit yourself to that mere comer of Athens where your body was brought forth? Is it not, evidently, from some larger local tie, which comprehends, not only that comer and your whole house, but the whole country of your fathers, that you call yourself an Athenian, or a Corinthian? He, then, who understands the administration of the universe, and has learned that the principal and greatest and most comprehensive of all things is this vast system, extending from men to God; and that from Him the seeds of being are descended not only to one’s father or grandfather, but to all things that are produced and born on earth; and especially to rational natures, since they alone are qualified to partake of a communication with the Deity, being connected with him by reason, — why may not such a one , call himself a citizen of the universe! Why not a son of God? And why shall he fear anything that happens among men?


Chapter XVI Of Providence  p. 56-58

 Be not surprised if other animals have all things necessary to the body ready provided for them, not only meat and drink, but lodging; if they want neither shoes nor bedding nor clothes, while we stand in need of all these. For they not being made for themselves, but for service, it was not fit that they should be so formed as to be waited on by others. For consider what it would be for us to take care, not only for ourselves, but for sheep and asses too, — how they should be clothed, how shod, and how they should eat and drink. But as soldiers are furnished ready for their commander, shod, clothed, and armed, — for it would be a grievous thing for a colonel to be obliged to go through his regiment to put on their clothes, — so nature has furnished these useful animals, ready provided, and standing in need of no further care; so that one little boy, with only a crook, drives a flock.

 But we, instead of being thankful for this, complain of God that there is not the same kind of care taken of us likewise; and yet, good Heaven! any one thing in the creation is sufficient to demonstrate a Providence, to a humble and grateful mind. Not to instance great things, the mere possibility of producing milk from grass, cheese from milk, and wool from skins, — who formed and planned this? No one, say you. O surprising irreverence and dullness! But come, let us omit the primary works of nature; let us contemplate her merely incidental traits. What is more useless than the hairs upon one’s chin? And yet has she not made use even of these, in the most becoming manner possible? Has she not by these distinguished the sexes? Does not nature in each of us call out, even at a distance, I am a man; approach and address me as such; inquire no further; see the characteristic? On the other hand, with regard to women, as she has mixed something softer in their voice, so she has deprived them of a beard. But no; [some think] this living being should have been left undistinguished, and each of us should be obliged to proclaim, “I am a man! ” But why is not this characteristic beautiful and becoming and venerable? How much more beautiful than the comb of cocks; how much more noble than the mane of lions! Therefore we ought to preserve the characteristics made by the Creator; we ought not to reject them, nor confound, as much as in us lies, the distinct sexes.

 Are these the only works of Providence with regard to us? And what speech can fitly celebrate their praise? For, if we had any understanding, ought we not, both in public and in private, incessantly to sing and praise the Deity, and rehearse his benefits? Ought we not, whether we dig or plough or eat, to sing this hymn to God, — Great is God, who has supplied us with these instruments to till the ground; great is God, who has given us hands and organs of digestion; who has given us to grow insensibly, to breathe in sleep? These things we ought forever to celebrate; and to make it the theme of the greatest and divinest hymn, that he has given us the power to appreciate these gifts, and to use them well. But because the most of you are blind and insensible, there must be someone to fill this station, and lead, in behalf of all men, the hymn to God; for what else can I do, a lame old man, but sing hymns to God? Were I a nightingale, I would act the part of a nightingale; were I a swan, the part of a swan; but since I am a reasonable creature, it is my duty to praise God. This is my business; I do it; nor will I ever desert this post, so long as it is permitted me; and I call on you to join in the same song.


Chapter XX  p. 70  In What Manner Reason Contemplate Itself

 Every art, and every faculty, contemplates certain things as its principal objects. Whenever, therefore, it is of the same nature with the objects of its contemplation, it necessarily contemplates itself too; but where it is of a different nature, it cannot contemplate itself. The art of shoemaking, for instance, is exercised upon leather, but is itself entirely distinct from the materials it works upon; therefore it does not contemplate itself. Again, grammar is exercised on articulate speech. Is the art of grammar itself, then, articulate speech? By no means. Therefore, it cannot contemplate itself. To what purpose, then, is reason appointed by nature? To a proper use of the phenomena of existence. And what is reason? The art of systematizing these phenomena. Thus, by its nature, it becomes contemplative of itself too.

The Works of Epictetus: Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, the Enchiridion Published 1899

Psychology for the single individual

File:Seekers after God (1868) (14778381082).jpg

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