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Philosopher- T herapist
This book considers aIl known aspects of Epictetus' work (educa-
tional, cosmological, logical, epistemological, psychological, etc.), but
ethics seems to have been his dominant interest. Yet, the thera-
peutic aspect of his work, such as his diagnoses of and techniques
for coping with problems in living, has either been overlooked or
else insufficiently appreciated.
Epictetus was apt to Iocate the source of difficulties in the indi-
vidual rather than outside: in impulses and conceptualizations.
Hence his emphasis on training and thought-analysis, and on un-
fazedness as an ethical ideal. Hence, too, his apparent neglect of
rebellion theory. Rightly or wrongly, the remains do not explicitly
say, for example, that force, or the threat offorce, is justified when
there is no other way of changing socio-political structures that
invite or contribute to self-defeating aspirations or oppression. They
do not even seem to condone punishment or at least retribution.
Was it because Epictetus also believed that violence might in the
process "corrupt" its user?
But anyway his is not a pure ethics of adjustment, any more
than it is a pure ethics of inwardness or withdrawal. Thus, he con-
demns slavery and tyranny, just as he recommends outgoingness
("for one can't be happy otherwise"). Stoicism, perhaps, need not
imply conformism. (As a matter of fact, some Stoics and Cynics
initiated uprisings.) Stoicism, or Epictetus' brand, is a complex
- or an ambivalent - affair, and in more ways than one, at that.
About the author: Went to the Athens School ofEconomics, OberliD College (M.A.,),
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ISBN 978-94-on-8374-1 ISBN 978-94-011-9060-2. (eBook)
DOI 10.10071978-94-011-9060-2.
I969 by Martinus Nijhotl, The Hague, Netherlands
All rights reserved, including the right to translate or to
reproduce this book or parts thereof in any form
We neither know who we are nor have we studied
what pertains to man as horsemen study what
pertains to horses.
What disturbs human beings is not the things
themselves, but their conceptions 0/ things.
What is terrible is not death, but the fear 01
Doing philosoPhy is preparing to face things.
Before you say samething, find out what it
Love someone but as though he were amigrant.
Man can't live with man lorever.
Nothing in life is dilficult, lor one can always
quit. Life is a dance.
Epictetus presents difficulties for the historiall of ideas. He
published nothing, while his so-called writings are mostly notes
of so me of his discussions taken down haphazardly by a friend.
Moreover, about half of the notes are lost, and little is known of his
life. All this may go toward explaining the paucity of Epictetus
studies; for indeed this is the first book-length commentary
published in English devoted only to hirn.
All known aspects of his work are here considered and recon-
structed and freshly approached. Eut the emphasis is on his re-
marks in ethics, for the simple reason that ethics was his dominant
interest and that his diagnoses of problems in living and tech-
niques for coping with those problems have been insufficiently
appreciated. His ethics is primarily pain-oriented: it consists of
existential reminders, such as that things are ephemer al and
people vulnerable, plus ways of avoiding and easing distress,
induding training and thought-analysis, because he believed that
people's troubles stern largely from silly habits and precon-
Outside a biographical and a semi-introductory chapter, the
sequel is roughly patterned after an Epictetian or ancient par-
tition of Philosophy into Logic, Cosmology, and Ethics, even
though the remains reflect no such structure. Rather, the structure
is a convenience of exposition. Since Epictetus combines interest
in such questions as "What is the world about?" with
logico-linguistic concerns and procedures, he might serve to show
that the rift in current philosophy between (say) the ex-
istentialists and the analysts is largely unwarranted. This is
argued in the last chapter. Like everyone else he is indebted
to others and whenever possible I indicate this, though to
avoid inflation, not in a special chapter but as I go along.
For the Greek text of Epictetus I use Oldfather's edition which
is arevision of Schenkl's (see Bibliography). What follows, though,
presupposes no knowledge of any foreign language. When re-
ferring to Epictetus' Manual the letter M plus numerals are used,
and only numerals for his Discourses. Thus, M53.3 means Manual
53, part 3, while III.4.10 means Discourses, book III, chapter 4,
part (or line) 10. The second numeral for the Manual and the
third for the Discourses may be disregarded by the Greekless or
whoever does not use Oldfather's edition ortranslation (whichface
each other). References to Roman and other Greek authors, as
edited and translated in the Loeb Library series for example,
follow a similar system, except that now no Roman or italicized
numerals are used. Also, Cleanthes' Hymn to Zeus is referred in
J. von Arnim's Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta (thestandard four-
volume collection of early Stoic fragments; volume IV is the
Index to the other volumes and may be consulted when I refer to
early Stoicism but give no reference). The letter f prefacing a
numeral indicates fragment, and "s" at the end of a fragment
signifies that the fragment is doubtful or spurious.
I want to thank J. F. Anderson and in particular D. C. Dorrough
and my "students" for extremely helpful advice, J. S. White
for translating Cleanthes' poem specially for this volume, and
Helen Drury for patient secretarial work.
Preface IX
I. Life and Stoicism I
2. Teaching
Writings 8
Influence 10
Living for Happiness 12
6. Suicide, Euthanasia, Death 16
Knowledge for Living
8. Rational Self 22
Nature of Logical Studies 26
10. Irrefutability and Epistemological Issues
II. Logical Puzzles
12. Operators and Kin Matters
World Structure
16. Proofs of Design
18. Hymns to God
Zeus Inoperative?
20. Theic Notions
2I. Good a Protoconcept
22. Value Relativity
Value Criteria and Pleasure 66
Divisions of Ethics
Learning Theory
26. Rationalization and Erring
Negative Ethics: A Look 80
28. Forestall, Resist, Ease
Control Test 86
Anxiety and Fear
Other Safeguards
Resistance Methods
"It's fate" and Other Tonics I02
Objections ro6
Independence and Outgoingness III
Man as Social
Troubleshooting and Cosmopolitanism
40 .
Legal Questions
I. Life and Stoicism
Not much is known of Epictetus' life. A contemporary of Plutarch
and Tacitus, he was born a slave in a commercially important city
in Phrygia called Hierapolis around A.D. 50, and probably died
between 125 and 130, though scholars are not agreed on all the
dates of events of his life. He was the son of a slave mother, and
his emancipation may have occurred at the death of his master
Epaphroditus, a freedman hirnself and Nero's secretary.
"Epictetus" is the Latinization of the Greek Epiktetos which
means "acquired." Whether this was a nickname, as some scholars
tend to think, is a controversial issue. He was lame (LI6.20),
feeble (IV.I.151f), apparently somewhat bashful (114), and, when
he became a philosopher, wore a "beard and a rough cloak"
(III.I.24). His lameness, according to Celsus, probably a younger
contemporary, was caused by his owner. When Epaphroditus was
once twisting his leg, Celsus says in Origen's Contra Celsum (7.53),
Epictetus remarked smiling, you're going to break it. When the
leg was finally broken, he calmly said, I told you so.
Doubt about this account goes back to Suidas, who attributes
the lameness to rheumatism. But Oldfather, for one, rejects
Suidas' testimony and conjectures that
the denial of the incident may have emanated from some over-zealous
Christian, in aperiod of less scrupulous apologetics, who thought to take
down the Pagans a notch or two (Epictetus, I, ixn).
Compare Celsus' next remark: "What comparable statement did
your god [Christ] make while under punishment?" Oldfather does
not seem to be biased, for perhaps he sees too many paralleIs
between Epictetus and the Bible even though he agrees with
Bonhffer's conclusion that Epictetus was not influenced by, nor
could he have read, the New Testament. Indeed, the Christians
Epictetus ignores, save for one passing reference to the "Gaille-
ans" (IV.7.6). And twoofhisgreat admirers, Lucian (inPeregrinus
I2f) and Marcus Aurelius (in Meditations II.3), regarded them as
misguided and obstinate respectively. After all, Stoicism, not
Christianity, was then the fashionable ideology.
From Epictetus himself we have no clue to the cause of his
disability, except possibly the following: He would say "This is
man's lot" by way of countering the statement, "Y ou'll suffer this
or that in the hands of your master," made by his teacher to
"test" presumably his moral progress (I.9.29f). The following too
is worth mentioning even though it does not relate to his lameness
but to his attitude in Celsus' story ("I told you so"):
Come now, Epictetus, shave. If 1 am a philosopher, 1 say, 1 won't shave.
Then I'll cut your throat. If that suits you, cut it (3.29).
But that Epictetus did not think much of Epaphroditus is
certain. Thus, as he himself tells us, Epaphroditus owned a
"shoemaker [named Felicio] whom he sold because he was
useless." Then, when this "insolent and arrogant slave" became
Caesar's cobbler, "you should have seen how Epaphroditus
honored him. 'How is my good Felicio ... ?'" he would say. And
if someone would inquire of Epictetus how Epaphroditus was, he
would answer, "He is consulting Felicio about something." On
another occasion Epictetus presents Epaphroditus as lacking in
realism and sense of humor (I.I9.I9-23; IV.I.ISO; I.26.IIf).
Yet it was while he was still a slave (9.29) and perhaps around
the time when Nero made the Stoic Seneca kill himself (A.D. 65),
that Epictetus began taking lessons from Musonius Rufus, themost
prominent Stoic teacher of his day. It is believed that Epictetus
witnessed the burning of the Capitol in 69 while a student of
Rufus. Epictetus held Rufus (as he used to call him) in high
Rufus used to say "If you have nothing better to do than to praise me, 1
am speaking in vain." Therefore he talked in such a way that each one of
us as he sat there thought he was himself being criticized - such was his
grasp of men's doings, so vividly did he put before ODe's eyes one's
particular faults (111.33.29).
"Stoicism," as the movement to which Epictetus belonged was
called, derives from poikile stoa, meaning dappled porch, a
structure in Athens where Zeno, the founder of the movement,
started teaching toward the end of the fourth century B.C. How-
ever, it was not Zeno but Chrysippus (the third head of the school)
who was the most influential early Stoic. In Diogenes Laertius'
Lives there is the saying, "But for Chrysippus, there would be no
Stoa" (7.I83). Laertius adds that Chrysippus was also considered
by "most people" to be the greatest logician: the gods would
choose no other logic than Chrysippus' (r80). Cleanthes, famed
for his poem Hymn to Zeus (appended in section I8), was the
second head of the school. One of his remarks, according to
Epictetus, was:
philosophers say what might be contrary to opinion, but not what is
contrary to reason (IV.I.I73f).
With him, as with Zeno, Chrysippus "mostly disagreed," says
Laertius (7.I79).
Zeno was influenced by the Cynics and presocratics. Crates, a
pupil of Diogenes, converted hirn to philosophy, though it appears
that Stilpo the Megaric also had a hand in this conversion.
Crates used to say [Laertius recounts] that we should do philosophy until
we see generals as donkey drivers (6.92).
Stoicism abounds in admiring references to Diogenes and
Antisthenes (both pupils of Socrates), as weil as to Socrates
hirns elf and Hercules. N ext to (idealized ?) Socra tes, Diogenes ma y
wen have been the greatest single influence on Epictetus - though
his taste for metaphysics must have been acquired from (say)
Zeno or Cleanthes.
Antisthenes, Epictetus says, "freed" Diogenes. He freed hirn,
and here Epictetus looks as though he is quoting Diogenes, in the
sense that he taught him what is truly "his," namely not
property ... kinsmen, relatives, friends, reputation, familiar locations,
socializing but [only the] use of perceptions (IV. I. 114; III. 24. 67-9;
cp. 1.24.6-9; Socrates, PI. Meno 88).
This is characteristic Stoic doctrine and one Epictetus on
a different occasion ascribes to Zeno, when he also uses Zeno's
Man's purpose is to follow the gods, while the essence of good is the co:rrect
use of perceptions,
as a paradigm of philosophical brevity (1.20.16). Epictetus also
praises Zeno's character (ILI3.14f; M33.1Z) and his, as well as
Cleanthes' and Socrates', teaching (11I.23.3Z, quoted next seetion) .
All this contrasts with the opinion of such men as Cicero and Zeno's
contemporary and head of the Academy Polemo, who thought
Zeno prolix, unimaginative, and even a plagiarist.
Although classified as a Stoic, Epictetus was not servile toward
Stoicism (partly an amalgam of heterogeneous elements anyway)
and often refers mockingly to the movement and members of it.
He speaks of "the trivial arguments of the Stoics" (II.I9.ZZ); says
that "the books of the Stoics are full of quibbles" (1.29.56), that
"we too say one thingand do another" (III.7.17f; cp. II.I2.1-4);
and needles not only lesser Stoics, like Crinus whose fear of mice
or learning he ridicules (111.2.15), but even the great Chrysippus
(M49; 1.4.6ff). Moreon ancientfigures and views as portrayed,
in terpreted, or criticized by Epictetus will be found throughout
the remainder of this monograph.
Epictetus was childless. Once, Lucian tells us, he reprimanded
Demonax, a Cynic and former pupil of his, for not havingchildren.
He told hirn to get married and procreate, so that philosophy
won't deprive the world of a substitute when he is gone. To which
Demonax replied: "Then give me one of your daughters,
Epictetus." However, from Simplicius we learn that in old age
Epictetus took a woman to help him raise a child whose destitute
parents, friends of his, were about to abandon. His many refer-
ences to children when making some philosophical point show
great fondness for them, as well as insight into their psychology.
"Who," he says,
can resist thecallof attractive and wide-awake children toplaywith them
and crawl with them and talk nonsense with them? (11. 24. 18; cp. I. IO.I 3).
Moreover it is from children and their games that he draws
chiefly when he illustrates his metaphor that life is agame (with
not enough winners).
Epictetus lived very simply, with unlocked doors and no
furniture, except for a straw mattress and a mat. Later, when he
left Rome for Nicopolis in Northem Greece, he was content with
a lamp of coarse clay after the theft of his iron lamp possibly
in order to disappoint the thief in case he retumed (I8.I5f;
cp. 29.21). The cheap lamp was bought at his death for an exorbi-
tant price by someone who hoped to become as "enlightened" by
it as he thought Epictetus had been!
Epictetus left Rome, already weH-known as a teacher, around
94 (according to Souilhe), when Domitian deported the philoso-
phers. He settled in Nicopolis where he established a rather large
and eventually famous school, in which he and his assistants
directed classes in all the major fields of the day. He visited
Athens and probably Olympia, but apparently no other place.
Although Epictetus' cosmic laughter may not have been as
pronounced as that of many of the Cynics, he was neither ponder-
ous nor self-righteous and remained calm even after he became
famous and friendly with emperors, such as Hadrian. He would
often refer to hirnself as "a lame old man" (e.g. I.I6.20); or would
joke about hirns elf and relate unflattering remarks of others
about hirn (III.8.7, 9.14, 20.19), though once he brags a little
(I.IO.2-6). But the last, like his self-disparagement, may weH
contain a touch of irony, for he also had a sense of humor. He
never set hirnself up as an example of the philosopher or of the
Stoic, the really Free Man for hirn. This role was usually reserved
for individuals like Diogenes and Socrates (IV.I.I5I-69).
2. Teaching
Why did Epictetus choose Nicopolis instead of Athens as the
new seat of his teaching? Colardeau explains (in Etude sur Epictete,
p. 91) that he was thinking of his prospective pupils. Drab
Nicopolis (I.26.IOf; II.2I.I4) would offer less distraction to
leaming. Most of his pupils came from other places. To Epictetus
this, like the apparent austerity of his school (ib.; III.5.I3), was
likewise part of the educational enterprise, of what he wanted
students to leam, namely to stand on their own feet. "My
function [as your teacher, he would sayJ is to make you inde-
pendent .... " (II.I9.29).
To explain his work he used medical analogies:
Men, the philosopher's school is a clinic; you must not leave it in pleasure,
but in pain. For you come unwell, one with a dislocated shoulder, another
with an abscess, another with a small u1cer, another with a headache. And
then am 1 to sit there and tell you little ideas and witty little remarks, that
you may leave praising me, one carrying away his shoulder exactly as it
was when he came, another his head in the same state, another his small
ulcer, another his abscess? Is it for this then that young people are to leave
home and their parents and friends and relatives and their bit of property,
that they may exclaim "Great!" to you when you recite your witty little
remarks? Was this what Socrates did, or Zeno, or Cleanthes? (111.23.
30-2; cp. aI.Bf).
Edueation for Epietetus is painful. Going to sehool means being
siek. If one is not in pain while there, he is wasting his time.
Learning philosophy at any rate is generally undergoing surgery,
for the world one is brought up in is generally "upside-down" (ep.
IV.6.8f). Epictetus' students were not ehildren: they didn't
eome to him devoid of habits and attitudes.
People, Epictetus goes on, lament that
nobody benefits from attending school. Well, who goes to school expecting
to be cured, expecting to have his beliefs fumigated, expecting to become
aware of his needs? Why then are you surprised if you leave school with
the very things you bring to it? For you didn't come ready to put them
aside or correct them or replace them by others ... You want to speak
expertlyon principles ... Did you ever light your lamp or stay up late
for this? ... Far from it ... " ... but if my child or brother dies or 1 my-
self have to die or be tortured what good will such things do me?"
But is this really what you come for? Is this why you sit by me? ... you
say principles are useless. To whom? To those who use them improperly.
For eyewash is not useless to those who use it when and as they should,
piasters are not useless, jumping-weights are not useless, but only useless
to some, and again useful to others. If you ask me now, AIe forms of
inference (syllogismoi) useful? 1 shall say yes and if you wish 1'11 prove it.
"But what good have they done me ?"
Man, you didn't ask whether they are useful to you, but in general.
Suppose someone suffering from dysentery asked me whether vinegar is
useful; 1 would say it iso "But is it useful to me?" 1 would say - no: try
first to stop your discharge, and heal your little ulcers.
So you too, men, first take care of your ulcers, stop your discharges, calm
your mind, bring it to school undistracted; then you'll see what power
reason has (II.2I.I5-22).
Epictetus taught by the Soeratic method of elicitation; he did
not leeture. He would shoek his students somewhat in order to
motivate and instill interest in leaming new things. He would
oppose one exaggeration by another (Colardeau, 187), thinking
perhaps f Aristtle's pint made in reference t ethical edu-
catin that the way t straighten a crked stick is t bend it in
the ppsite directin (Nie. Eth. II9 b 5; cp. Diegenes, D.L. 6.35) ;
fr, as we shall see in seetion 25, Epictetus did recmmend such
techniques fr character training. The device f meeting ne
exaggeratin with another may account for at least sme f his
extreme statements (see sectin 36). Also., he wuld assign a top-
ic, perhaps n sme technical Stoic subject. The pupil in turn
wuld write a paper n it, which wuld then be read and criti-
cized in dass.
"First," he says n one ccasin, "find ut wh at you're saying,
then say it" (III.23.18). Logic and darification f terms played
an important role in the curriculum f his schl. In this of curse
he fIlwed a lng tradition, as he himself was weIl aware
(I.I7.6, II f): the early Stoics tended t place lgic ahead f every
ther study; Prdicus the Sphist and Antisthenes, with
Epictetus fIlowing suit (II.I4.14), remarked that the beginning
f educatin is the analysis f terms. And Scrates was famus
fr his cncern ver definitions; a concern which Epictetus
cnstrued as an interest in "meanings" and the "articulation
cncepts" (I.I7.I2; II.I2.6, 9). In his wn philsophical practice
Epictetus nt uncharacteristicaUy speaks f analyzing cncepts
and f hw this r that "ntin is used," as when he is discussing
freedm (e.g. IV.I.24f), lneliness (III.I3.2), etc. This style f
ding philsphy ges at least as far back as Aristotle, wh, while
criticizing thers fr example, wuld smetimes say f this r
that expressin that it is "used in many senses."
A god teacher in Epictetus' pinin des nt try t impress
his pupils with his knwledge and jargn, but leads them by the
hand and cnsequently dispenses with intimidatin and, at first,
with technicallanguage. He tries t eliminate, not preserve, the
difference f knwledge r cmpetence between himself and
pupil. His purpse is nt dminatin but teaching. If he fails t
reach his pupil r the layman, he fee1s that he is t blame; he
certainly des nt belittle his audience (cp. II.I2.1ff, 10.).
Scrates is used as a mdel, Socrates wh
never lost his temper during an argument, never said anything abusive,
or insolent, but stood the abuse of others and put an end to eonfliet (I4f;
ep.IV5 2-4)
Nevertheless a teacher cannot function weil without audience
interest. The more eager his student is to learn, the better he
hirnself performs. If the listener
stands there like a stone or grass, how can he stimulate a man's desire ?
(II.Z4 16f).
There is an "art" about hearing and listening, just as there is one
about teaching or talking (2, Sf). Skill in listening is a presup-
position of both discussion and learning. So,
When you want to hear a philosopher, don't tell him "Have you nothing
to say to me?" but just show yourself capable of hearing and you'll see how
you'll move the speaker (29).
3. Writings
Like Socrates and the virtuoso Skeptic Carneades, Epictetus
published nothing. But he wrote some in preparation for his
classes or in the way of exercise, as he believed Socrates also
did. (When Socrates had no one to talk philosophy with, Epictetus
says, he would examine and test his thoughts by writing them
down, II.I.32.) Epictetus' so-called writings are stenographic
notes recorded by his student and historian Flavius Arrian, plus
several fragments, some suspect.
In the Preface, which is addressed to Gellius, Arrian says that
he "wrote down word for word" everything he heard Epictetus
say in order to preserve the "manner of his thinking and the
directness of his speech." However, only four of the original eight
parts or "books" of the Discourses (Diatribai) survive, plus some
bits in the form of fragments or contained in fragments, for not ail
the fragments come from Arrian. Excerpts from the original set of
notes (a little less than one-tenth of the extant set) compiled by
Arrian hirnself and known as theMa11lJ.l.al (Encheiridion) , survive
Of the two publications, the latter has been by far bett er
known. But the Manual is gloomy compared to (or is gloomier
than) its archetype. It was in fact used by monks (see next
section). It also tends to be oracular and aphoristic, while in the
Discourses, though sometimes apparently impatient (I.I6.8;
11.20.37; III.24.38), Epictetus is usually uncondescending and
an arguer, going out of his way, as Colardeau points out, to find
someone to discuss with and, when unsuccessful, taking up both
sides of the imaginary dialogue himself. (Certainly Arrian does
not usually indicate when Epictetus is talking to someone else -
which unfortunately means that often it is difficult or impossible
to tell whether objections to views Epictetus is apparently anxious
to defend are his own or someone else's.) The Discourses is closer
than the Manual to the Socratic-dialectic tradition. Epictetus
came to idolize Socrates not only for wha't the latter said, but also
for how he said it (see e.g. II.I2.5-14; 1VS.I-4).
Perhaps the lost' 'books" were devoted more extensively to
nonethical questions, but ethics is the main topic in the remains.
The notes, written in common Greek, thus contrasting with
Arrian's own writings, which were not in the Koine but in Attic,
are records of informal and frank talks between Epictetus and
students or visitors, of private conferences, and of asides. This
explains their somewhat repetitive and disjointed character.
N evertheless, those interested in ancient Stoicism are lucky to
have what is left of Arrian's efforts. For not much survives from
that tradition even though Chrysippus, for one, who survives only
in fragments, was the most prolific author of antiquity, having
published, according to Laertius, "more than 705 writings"
(mostly on logico-linguistic questions).
The "Discussions," as the notes might more appropriately have
been entitled, betray as well a strong personality, a quite informal
teacher, an enthusiastic if sometimes delirious thinker (e.g.
II.20.6-37; II1.22), a man skilled in repartee, and one not afraid
of words, any more than of people, as Arrian was seen to intimate,
and as does Gellius in the following fragment, which partly comes
from one of the lost books of the Discourses.
According to Favorinus, Gellius says, to Epictetus "most of
those who gave the impression of doing philosophy were philoso-
phers [in words, not deeds]." And, Gellius go es on, "there
is an even stronger expression he was in the habit of using,
which Arrian has recorded [in one of the lost books]." When
Epictetus would see a shameless man" concerned with everything
else but his soul" studying also philosophy
he would denounce the man in these words: "Man, where are you putting
all this [i.e. philosophical studies] ? See whether the container is cleaned.
For if you put them in the container of fancy, they are lost; if they spoH,
they become urine or vinegar or perhaps something worse" (I1O.I-4).
Arrian' s notes further show an unusual command of language, of
turn of phrase, contrast, analogy, and imagery - extemporaneous
though their contents were. That is why I let Epictetus tell his
own story in his own words so frequently.
4. I nfluence
When Epictetus died he was practically deified. An anonymous
epigram describes hirn as "Epictetus a slave and maimed in body
and as poor as Irus and friend of the immortals. "
Lucian referred to hirn as that "marvellous old man."
Gellius in Attic Nights calls hirn the "greatest of philosophers."
Marcus Aurelius, his most famous disciple, admired hirn more
than anyone else. Other ancient admirers, besides, of course, Celsus,
Arrian, and Hadrian, were Galen and even Christians, such as
Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, Chrysostom, and Augustine. The
Manual was adapted by Christian ascetics and, in I632, by
Mathias Mittner for the Carthusians (Oldfather, I, xxviif). The
adaptation, by some fifth-century ascetics, was a systematic
replacement of the plural theoi (gods) with the singular theos,
Socrates with St .Paul, and the suppression of certain details
relating to sex (Colardeau, I24n4).
In modern times Epictetus played a prominent role in the
movement of Neo-Stoicism: Justus Lipsius had none but the
highest regard for him. Descartes, Pascal, Spinoza, Kant, and
other eminent modern figures were also inspired by him.
Today, however, the picture is considerably different. To be
sure, in a vague and general way Epictetus' ghost still wanders
about. Thus "Be a stoic" is still with uso Its synonym, "Take it
philosophically," may likewise be due in part to his influence. So
may Kazantzakis' Zorba. The attitude of the protagonist in
Camus' Stranger is also recognizably Epictetian, at any rate if it
is taken to express not resignation but nonchalantness (tlIf I get
what I want, fine; if not, who cares?"). Some contemporary
psychiatrists, as is explained in the last chapter, use notions and
techniques of his, though not always consciously. Oldfather's
finding, that between I905 and I925 his remains or portions of
them have seen more printings than in all the preceding years and
centuries put together, mayaIso be mentioned.
Nevertheless, especially compared with the elaborate interest
still shown in such ancient names as Plato and Aristotle,
Epictetus is hardly being noticed nowadays. The trouble is partly
that the post-Aristotelian era, to which Epictetus belongs, is
commonly regarded as one of intellectual or philosophical decline
and unoriginality. But though this may be true of metaphysics,
it is no more true of nonmetaphysical philosophy than it is of
science. (Thus, in logic, sign-theory, and epistemology the Stoics,
Megarics, and Skeptics developed new fields or distinctions. The
ideas of humanism, individualism, nonnationalism, anarchism,
and equality, including equality of the sexes, derive from the
Cynics and Stoics (as weH as Sophists). The not ion that there are
two sides to every question, and hence tolerance and antidogma-
tism, come from the Skeptics (and Sophists). The Cynics, Epicu-
reans, Stoics, and some Cyrenaics emphasized coping with pain
and distress rather than the pursuit of good or happiness, thus
originating, or participating in the birth of, psychiatry. Cynics,
Epicureans, and Skeptics, especially Euhemerus, Carneades, and
Sextus Empiricus, as well as the Sophists Protagoras, Critias, and
Prodicus, show initiative on theological topics, anticipating mo-
dern and recent views. For all this see Arnim, Laertius, Sextus,
Cicero's philosophical works, and below. For post-Aristotelian
science see, e.g. T.L. Heath and Greek Math., Loeb series.)
5. Living tor Happiness
What is life about? Is life agame or a burden ? Is suicide wrong?
Are virtue and truth more valuable than happiness? How can
distress be coped with? What, if any, is the use of reason?
These are the kinds of questions Epictetus was really interested
in. However, since this is somewhat less than an introductory
chapter, not all of his answers to these and related questions will
be considered thoroughly at this point, nor even all aspects of his
answers to some of the questions. This means that the metaphysi-
cal ingredient of his thought and his remarks in logical, social,
political, and value theory will be hardly discussed now. By
contrast, his refrain that life is agame, and consequently his
relatively optimistic mood, will here be treated exhaustively; so
will, among other things, his positions on suicide and knowledge.
The conception of life as a game runs through characteristic
comments of Epictetus on life, knowledge, education, freedom,
therapy, happiness, and death. His eudaimonism and his
endorsement of suicide alike may weIl stern from a playful
outlook on life. For, as I hope to show, when he compares life to
agame he does so in the last analysis both to suggest that the
point of living is fun and that nevertheless there is an escape if
living is not fun. And by escape he means death, self-inflicted
death. In other words, he exploits the double meaning of "game,"
namely (1) entertainment (eudaimonism) and (2) freedom even
to quit agame (suicide).
This is a consistent stand. That is, it would be inconsistent to
compare life to agame and reject either eudaimonism or the right
to suicide (unless of course "game" is used in some restricted
sense, to suggest, for example, mIes only). To accept eudaimonism
and condemn suicide, or vice versa, is likewise inconsistent. For to
be a eudaimonist is to be committed to the idea that happiness (or
the hope of happiness) is what makes life worth living; from which
it follows that if there is no happiness (or hope of happiness),
there is no point to living either; and vice versa.
The game metaphor Epictetus often illustrates by using child
behavior as a model for adults. The salient features of the model
are: (I) the child plays constantly (treats life as agame), and
(z) he stops playing (or switches to another game) the moment he
gets bored. Human life in general, Epictetus suggests, should be
like that. Adults should hold on to this attitude. Throughout, life
should be childlike. (Not that Epictetus was naive or over-
romantic about children or childhood: see, e.g. II1.9.zz, I9-4-6,
2453; IV7 22-4, 3Z .)
Thus, on one occasion he suggests that the wise play and live
like children: they play and live so long as the game and life and
"banquet" are entertaining (II.I6.37). To live in anxiety, he says
in another connection, is like playing a ball game in fear: "what
fun is there left?" (5. 17). Again,
... just as [children] say "I won't play any more" when the thing doesn't
please them, so you too, when things seem to you to have reached that
point, say "I won't play any more," and leave, while if you stay don't
moan (1.24.20).
If life is agame, it would be absurd to go on living if living turns
out to be intolerable; as absurd as going on playing aboring game
or staying at a silly party or (one might add) finishing a dull novel.
It would be absurd to do so even if life is not agame, Epictetus
implies; for, as we shall see more fully in the next section, suicide
to hirn is not necessarily a tragedy, or immoral, but may be
Being in a crowd, being bothered, being on trial, going to
prison, risking death, and even predetermination, are all, at one
time or another, said to be in the "game," or incidents in a
"festival," "holiday," "fair," "pageant," "dance" (11.5.18-21,
I4.23; IV.I. 104-9, 4.24-7, 71gf, 30f; 1.I2.21, 25.7f).
To be sure, the "festival," etc. are frequently Zeus'. But this
perhaps doesn't matter, since Zeus may weIl be inoperative in
Epictetus' thought. Thus, Zeus does not punish the suicide. In
fact, as we shall see, he does not punish, period.
Life is the greatest game, Epictetus continues, greater even than
the pancratium and wrestling and all other Olympic games; for
its trophy (happiness) is the greatest (III.25.3). Though here as
elsewhere he compares life to competitive games and speaks of
trophies and victories, the competitive element is inoperative. By
winning in life he means realizing noncompetitive goals and in the
last analysis achieving happiness and unperturbedness. He does
not mean defeating others. "Life is agame" may imply in his
thought realism - "Take things as they come," the attitude of the
professional dice player (II.5.2f) - but it does not me an "Com-
pete." In fact, he would tend to prefer cooperation to competition.
Though power is an ideal for hirn, it is power over one's fears
rather than over one's fellow-man. The powerful individual is
a brave individual, not the man who defeats or dominates
others. To pursue power in the latter sense would signify to
Epictetus lack of power in the former, and certainly lack of self-
confidence and self-reliance.
On happiness and cognate subjects hespeaksfurtherasfollows:
"For what is it that every man seeks? To be ... happy .... "
(IV.I.46; cp. 4.22), while nobody wants to be "abject," "sad,"
"disenchanted," "afraid" (I.2-S). "We shouldn't however let any
one make us unhappy, but let everybody make us happy .... "
(III.24.63). "For God made all men to be happy, to be free from
care" (2f; cp. 19, 63f). "The good" is "happiness, peace of mind,
freedom from interference" (22.39). The "promise" and "function"
of "virtue" are also utilitarian (1.4.3-6). So is the point of
"learning" and "reading" (III.IO.10; IV.4-4-18). And the
functionof"reason"isnot to make us unhappy (III.24.7f, I3.19).
Reason or thinking can go by the board if safety or calm is
thereby attained (cp. fraa; II.I6.41).
As for truth, Epictetus remarks similarly that "deception" is
all right if it brings freedom from care. He says that if to be free
from care entails being deceived into accepting the Cynic-Stoic
idea that things external and beyond our control are nothing to
us, he for his part wouldn't mind "consenting" to being fooled
(1.4.27). And he may be saying the same thing about the role of
tragedyas a form of literature, for at the same time he charac-
terizes tragedies as "the display in verse of the sufferings of men
who have admired [or pursued] external things" (with Priam and
Oedipus receiving passing mention). He may be saying, in other
words, that it is all right for tragedies to deceive us (presumably
without our knowledge) if in the process they teach us that to
be attached to things external and beyond our control doesn't
pay. Incantations too are in one place pragmatically conceived
(111. 2 4. 89) .
No doubt, what is allowed to be illusory is not the Cynic-Stoic
idea; rather, the way it is presented, in life or art. Still, the fact
remains that as far as Epictetus is concerned, truth may be
sacrificed to happiness. And, in view of the incantations passage,
so may perhaps religion or ideology. (On tragedy see also 1.24.15-8,
28.32; II.I6.3I. On music, I4.6.)
Epictetus' high praise of freedom - "freedom is the highest
good" (IV.I.52; cp. 54, etc.) - is likewise the result of his generally
conceiving of freedom as freedom from fear, hang-ups, disturbance.
Freedom is typically compared with peace of mind and sponta-
neity, and typically contrasted with anguish and the feelings of
stress and constraint. If a man is free, he does not feel hindered
or driven, he is serene and happy. If a man is not free, he feels
bothered, he is not serene or happy. Here are some excerpts:
Am I not without pain, am I not without fear, am I not free? (III.22.48).
Nobody then who is afraid or sad or distressed is free, but whoever is rid
of sorrows and fears and turmoils is by the same path rid also of bondage
(ILI.24f; cp. 21, 27f; IIL22.48, 26.39, I3.II; IV.I.I28f, 3.7f, 6.8f).
For what is it that every man seeks? To be serene, to be happy, to do
everything as he wants, not to be hindered, or compelled (IV.I.46). Hold,
unhappy man; don't be carried away by your impressions. Great is the
contest, divine the job, the stakes are a kingdom, freedom, peace,
unfazedness (ILI8.27-9). Man, do something even foolhardy, as the saying
goes, to get peace, freedom .... Straighten your neck as a man finally
released from slavery ... (I6.4If).
[My aim as your teacher is] to make you a finished product, safe from
hindrance, pressure, constraint, free, serene, happy ... (I9.29; cp. I7.29ff
and, generally, IV.I.IIO; 14).
In the last quotation "free" easily shades into unhindered,
unconstrained, unfrustrated, unobsessed, unneurotic, spontaneous
(which, by the way, makes freedom compatible with "causality").
The term freedom, Oldfather says, occurs
some 130 times in Epictetus rand] with a relative frequency of about six
times that of [its] occurrence in the New Testament and twice that of [its]
occurrence in Marcus Aurelius .... (I, xvii).
This fact is attributed by Oldfather and others to the aIleged
gratitude of an ex-slave for his final emancipation. However,
Epictetus seldom uses the word in the required, political sense;
he seldom means emancipation from slavery; on the contrary
(see, e.g. IV.I.8-60), while his usual meaning fits in very weIl with
his eudaimonism and therapeutic ethics. So that to construe his
typical use of freedom as an accident or obsession is to mis-
construe his main concern in life, as weIl as his use of a term.
6. Suicide, Euthanasia, Death
If life is agame, it is not sacred. Death may be welcomed and
suicide permitted :
This then is the harbor of all, death, this theirrefuge (IV.IO.27). Foritis
better to die of hunger so as to be free from pain and fear, than to live in
plenty but perturbed (MI2.I; ep. 132s; Nicias in PI. Lackes I9Sd).
Readiness to die is similarly construed as a sign of freedom:
Henee we will eall free only those animals which don't submit to cap-
tivity, but eseape by dying as soon as they are eaught. So too Diogenes
somewhere says that the one sure way to attain freedom is to die readily
.... (IV.I.29f; ep. 24ff, 30ff).
And, "Diogenes was free" (152). For life, remarked Seneca, is
slavery if courage to die is lacking (Epistles 77.15; cp. ours,
"Whoever is afraid to die is too afraid to live").
In a context combining reflections on death and suicide
Epictetus says:
... with tears and groans we stand what we suffer and eall it eircumstanees.
What do you mean "eireumstanees," man? If you eall cireumstanees
what surrounds you, everything is eireumstanee; but you use the word
of harassments, how is harassment involved when what has come into
being is destroyed? The ageney of destruetion is a sword or a wheel or the
sea or a tile or a tyrant. What do you eare by what road you go down to
Hades [the grave)? They are all alike [as Anaxagoras or Diogenes or
Aristippus or someone else said). If you want to know the truth,
though, the road the tyrant sends you on is the shorter. No tyrant
ever took six months to slay someone, while a fever frequently takes over
a year. All these things are mere noise and clamor of empty words.
"My life is in danger in Caesar's presence." And I am not in danger,
living in Nicopolis, where earthquakes are so many? And you too when
you cross the Adriatic, what risk do you take? Don't you risk your li fe ?
"But I am also in danger from thought." Y ours? How? For who can
make you think what you don't want to? Or do you mean in someone
else's thought? And what kind of danger to you is that others believe in
falsehoods? "But I risk being exiled." What is being exiled? Being
somewhere other than Rome? "Yes." vVhat then? "Suppose I am sent to
[that island east of Attica for exiles] Gyara?" If it is for your good, you'll
go; if not, you have a place [the grave] where you may go instead of Gyara,
where he too, who's sending you to Gyara, will go, whether he likes it or
not (II.6.16-23).
On suicide Epictetus says further the following: Since, we
already saw hirn say, death is a "harbor" and "refuge,"
nothing in li fe is difficult. 'Whenever you wish you leave, and are no longer
bothered by the smoke [pain]. Why then are you anxiety-ridden, why do
you stay up late? (IV.ro.27f) .
. .. do nothing as one burdened, or afflicted or who thinks himself in
trouble; for nobody forces you to do this. Someone has made smoke in the
place? If the smoke is moderate, I stay; if excessive, I leave. For one
should remember and hold to this, that the door is open. But "Don't live
in Nicopolis [Epictetus is supposedly ordered]." I don't. "Nor in Athens."
I don't live in Athens either. "Nor in Rome." Rome too is out. "Live in
Gyara." I do. But Gyara strikes me as too smoky a place to inhabit. I move
to where nobody will prevent me from staying; for that place [the grave]
is available to everybody. And beyond this last tunic, namely my poor
body, no one has any authority whatever over me (1.25.17-22; cP.24.20;
"But is it not intolerable to hang oneself?" WeIl, anyway, when a man
feels that it is reasonable, he goes and hangs himself (1.2.3f).
Further down in this last context (z5f) Epictetus praises an
athlete for having chosen to die rat her than go on living muti-
lated. And he may be condoning euthanasia as wen; for he does
not condemn anybody for not having interfered with the athlete's
decision not to submit to a saving operation. Oi course he does
not praise this noninterference either.
In any case, elsewhere he comes out rather clearly in favor of
mercy-killing. A friend of his, he says,
decided to starve himself to death. I learnt of this when he was already in
his third day of fasting and went and asked him what happened. "I have
decided," he said. All right, but what made you decide? For if your de-
cision was the right one, we are at your side and ready to help you make
your exit from life (II.I5.4-7).
True, Epictetus berates his friend in the wider context, but not
because he decided to kill hirnself, but because Epictetus thought
that his friend stuck to a hasty decision. The issue in this chapter
is whether one should hold fast to one's beliefs, or rather change
them if they turn out to be unsound, with Epictetus siding with
thelatter alternative (see esp. rf). "Whythen," he says onanother
occasion to a man ridden with fears and inferiority complexes, .
"do you go on living if this is the kind of person you are?"
One can't tell, however, whether Epictetus approved of
euthanasia which is not based on the subject's consent, as in
merciful infanticide (condoned by Seneca), though he argued
against simple infanticide (1.23).
Epictetus endorsed the right to suicide because he was im-
pressed by the phenomenon of suffering and wished to point out
that life is not a prison, that there is a way out. This holds good
even of those passages in which he looks as though he approves
of suicide or death as a device for saving one's identity; for after
all , the reason one would rather die than lose his integrity or
self-image is that such loss strikes hirn as unbearable.
To reject suicide is to turn life for the unfortunate into a trap.
And this adds to the pain. Isn't a miserable life enough? Must one
compound the misery? This, as Epictetus would say, is a good
example of how a preconception ("Suicide is bad") can cause or
increase suffering. As he actually puts it in connection with the
fear of dying, death in itself is not dreadful; rather, the idea that
it is dreadful is dreadful (M 5). Death is a "bogey": unmask it
and you'll see "it doesn't bite" (ILI.13-7).
Suicide (to playa while longer with Epictetus' position) is a
safety-valve, a fire escape. It is not a duty but a permit, which
may never be used but which it is good to have. Nor should it
prey on one's mind. It should lie in the background. One does not
live to think of death or suicide. Rather, one thinks of death and
suicide when life is not worth living. For, as Epicurus, or rather
Sophron, was thefirst to put it, "death is nothing to us" (Sextus
Against Gram. 284). Death is not part of life, so it doesn't concern
us; it doesn't concern the living (or the dead). If one is going to
worry about death, one might as weIl worry about not being born
sooner! Death is of no consequence. (That is, my death is of no
consequence to me. It may be of consequence to others. But this
is beside the point.)
Just as death is irrelevant to life (and value, for living is a
precondition of value), so suicide is a liberating rather than a
depressing idea, anyway for those who, like Epictetus, don't
believe in postmortem punishment.
Occasionally, however, Epictetus appears to be qualifying the
right to suicide by making it require Zeus' permission. We should
not quit, he says, before God gives the "signal" (1.9.16f) and
should wait until he has "no further need" of us (III.24.10Z).
But Zeus' permission must be a mere formality here, for in the
next breath it is abandoned, at least in the former passage, where
one is also told that there is no reason to "whine" because we
either get what we want out of life or else we can always "leave:
the door is open" (1.9.zo). Similarly, elsewhere Zeus is said to let
us go when he doesn't provide or indeed whenever we wish
(II1.I3.14, 26.Z9, 8.6, 22.34).
The right to suicide was a characteristic tenet of Stoicism and
Cynicism (and of Hegesias the Cyrenaic, who, according to Cicero,
was so successful in advocating suicide as a way out of misery
that Ptolemy forbade hirn to teach). Moreover, Zeno, Cleanthes,
Diogenes, and Demonax died by their own hand - as did De-
mocritus and many other ancient philosophers, while Socrates
deliberately, it seems, brought about his sentence and consequent
death. (See Laertius and, for Socrates, below section 30.)
7. Knowledge tor Living
If life is agame, value resides in what one does with life, rather
than in life itself. "Life" is "indifferent": it is "the use made of
of life," not life as such, that matters (I1.6.1f). Life per se is a
"material," not an end in itself (cp. 5.1ff; I.I5.2f). Life is not the
important thing: how one plays it is the important thing. Life
should be treated the way a ball player treats the ball: "indiffer-
ently"; for his interest lies elsewhere, namely in how he handles
the ball (II.s.20f). Here Epictetus follows Socrates' famous saying
that the point is not to live but to live well (Pl. Crito 48b). He is
closer, however, to Epicurus' meaning (Laertius 10.124-6).
Man therefore (though this analogy is not Epictetus' but per-
haps Socrates') is like a sculptor: he is to his life what the
sculptor is to his material, except of course that while a sculptor
is distinct from his material, a (living) man is not distinct from
his life. But the point is that just as astatue is not a discovery
but a creation, so man's life is not given to him; he must make it.
(This may weIl conflict with fatalism.) Moreover, just as a sculptor
cannot hope to succeed if he is ignorant of the properties of his
material and of how to sculpt, so man cannot succeed in his
primary concern (to be happy) if he is an ignoramus about the
nature of life and especiaIly in how to live.
To lack knowledge is to risk frustration and disappointment, as
weIl as to be a "stranger in the world." Conversely, a knowledge-
able man is a realist. He realizes that actuality is not necessarily
ideal, that things are not always, if ever, as he wishes them to be,
that they are transitory and strictly unreliable, that life is inse-
eure, that "everything is subject to death and to capture"
(III.24 20f, 5; IVS27)
But, it might be said, there are after all such things as promises,
pledges, warranties. True enough but, Epictetus would go on,
there are also many things which can interfere with these things
being honored or fulfilled, from cheating to war to cosmic up-
heavals. And nobody can do anything about it. Not even Zeus,
for he is not omnipotent.
The price for ignoring facts, for ignoring "the will of nature,"
is disillusionment, bitterness, despair. In Epictetus, ethics is
squarely based on ontology, how to live on how things work,
especially if in his ontology is included his eudaimonism (that
people pursue happiness). Thus, his ethical prescription that one
should be prepared for misfortune results from his premises about
precariousness and happiness, roughly as follows:
Whatever makes for unhappiness is not wanted. Pre-
cariousness makes for unhappiness because it makes for
insecurity. Precariousness can be mitigated by preparedness.
Therefore to pursue (or want) happiness is to pursue
Epictetus' ethics is largely analysis and clarification, rather than
"exhortation to virtue." He assumes that men wish to be happy,
that they don't want to be in pain or fear, and devises methods
for attaining or minimizing these. His methods may not always
be palatable, but this is another matter. Ethics is needed because,
though people
want the things that make for happiness, they look for them in the wrong
plaee (III.23.34f; ep. 22.26; II.I6.47).
Self-knowledge, however, is more important to Epictetus than
knowledge of other things, "know yourself" than know science,
especially speculation, which to hirn is a waste of time. What, he
says in the first fragment, is the use in wondering' 'whether things
consist of atoms or of indivisibles or of fire and earth?" Knowledge
is for ethical use, or else it is pointless. (The Skeptics went further
and regarded all pure theory, at least all philosophy, logic, and in
particular metaphysics as maladies and even proposed treatment-
techniques. To the objection that Skepticism is another philoso-
phy, Sextus replied, in Outlines 1.206, that Pyrrhonian Skepticism
is like a "laxative ... which expels itself at the same time it
cleanses the body" or, one might add, like a pencil eraser.) Yet, as
we shall see toward the end of the next section, Epictetus com-
plains that people are apt to neglect their speculative powers
concerning the divine organization of the world. Either, then,
he makes a distinction between scientific and theological-
metaphysical speculation, or else the point of the latter is for hirn
likewise ethical. The second alternative will be taken up again in
more general terms in seetion I9.
Now, by self-knowledge, in turn, Epictetus does not mean
primarily indiscriminate consciousness of self so much as
consciousness of one's capacities and limitations. \Visdom or
The beginning of philosophy [he says] '" is a eonsciousness of one's
weakness and impotenee ... (II.II.I).
This of course is consistent with a pain-oriented ethics. Nor,
presumably, is self-knowledge introspection for Epictetus.
Self-examination is especially useful because our headaches
derive from preconceptions or, in Epictetus' own words,
What disturbs human beings is not the things themselves, but their
opinions about things (M5).
Even speech, as we shail see especiaily in chapter vi, may have
such an adverse effect in his opinion. Examine your beliefs and
talk, he advises, referring approvingly to Socrates' saying that
"the unexamined life is not worth living for man" (PI. Apol. 38a).
But again he may be giving a twist to famous words. The primary
function of the inteilect is not to speculate, but to solve problems
in living.
He also praises "the philosophers who say that only the edu-
cated are free," where by free he means unfazed (ataraxia, etc.,
II.I.22ff). Knowledge, then, has a liberating, as weil as a healing
force. But knowledge ("education") means here primarily know-
how, rather than knowledge of facts, knowledge of how to live,
instead of knowledge about life or oneself. To be "educated"
means to be a Stoic, and while the Stoic may be a polymath, he is
first and foremost an individual who is not easily fazed. And this
brings us to the most central kind of knowledge in Epictetus,
namely skill in living:
What then is that which makes someone unhindered and unfettered in
writing? Knowledgeofhowtowrite. And whatinharpplaying? Knowledge
of how to play the harp. So too in living, it is knowledge of how to live
(IV.I.63 f).
8. Rational Sel!
It is primarily in this sense that reason is (or should be)
"sovereign" in Epictetus. To be rational is to live rationaily; it is
not primarily to know things or even ethical recipes. And to be
rational, to have reason, is in this sense preeminently to be
emotionaily strong. A weak man, Epictetus goes on, is not
rational; or, has a fruitless reason (I.26.15).
Small wonder that prohairesis figures so prominently in his
ethics. For the word connotes will and choice, as weil as inteilect
in the form of deliberation; which means that it implies also
realism; for, to paraphrase Aristotle (N.E. 3.2f), it is logically
impossible to choose or deliberate about the unattainable. And,
by connoting will and realism, prohairesis underscores Epic-
tetus' pain-orientation. For the point of being strong and
realistic is to be prepared for trouble and to be capable of handling
it when it strikes.
Moreover, if there is room in Epictetus' thought for a self,
prohairesis is it:
Illness ehe says] is an obstacle to the body, but not to prohairesis, unless it
consents. Lameness is an obstacle to the leg, but not to prohairesis. And
say this to yourself whenever anything befalls you; for you will find that
it is an obstacle to something else, but to yourself not (M 9). For you are
not flesh, nor hair, but prohairesis (III.I.4o). Man, if you do nothing else,
don't seIl [your prohairesis] cheap (1.Z.33).
Similarly, after being superlatively graded ("the essence of good"),
prohairesis is elsewhere tacitly identified with "me," whose role
or nature is in turn characterized as above, only perhaps in still
more extreme terms. Thus, a tyrant can "threaten" my hands,
feet, even neck, but not "me" (29.1-8; cp. I.23-5, I8.17, I9.8;
IV5 1 2, 7.32).
It follows that if prohairesis goes, you go. Or, identify mostly
with what is least vulnerable, and this is prohairesis (whatever
that may bel).
The substance of all this Epictetus reads back into remarks of
Socrates, such as, to quote Epictetus' own free rendering of a line
from Plato's Apology (30c),
Anytus and Meletus [Socrates' accusers] can kill me, but hurt me they
can't (II1.z3.2I; cp. II.Z.I5; M53.4),
where "me" is evidently not intended to indicate the same thing
both times. In its first occurrence presumably it denotes Socrates'
body, while in the second his fearlessness; so that the quotation
gives way to some such statement as, "Anytus and Meletus can
kill me, but scare me they can't." And this suggests that perhaps
prohairesis is not a mysterious entity which Epictetus somehow
discovered in his psychological investigations, but an artifice of
his remedial ethics, or maybe a nos trum (see also section 33).
Certainly he was predominantly pain-oriented, a perspective
which may weIl underlei his very game conception of life. For this
conception can easily stern from the conviction, which Epictetus
shared, that life contains some danger. The point of comparing
life to agame may be to convey the idea that to make too much
fuss about life is to invite disappointment. The reason for saying,
"Take life lightly, as agame" might be to suggest that life is a
risky business.
The unserious life knows no disaster, calamity, tragedy, de-
spair. These concepts are foreign to it and empty. If you are not
serious about anything, nothing fazes you (you enjoy ataraxia).
The unserious attitude is Stoic as weH as Socratic, and is suggested
by the expression "Be a stoic," since this implies "Don't take it
too seriously."
Perhaps the playful and unserious outlook need not be a
function of the pain-orientation, but it is likely that it is so in
Epictetus and taking it to be so certainly unifies hirn. His ethics is
usuaHy described as one of "resignation." But how does this fit in
with the carefree posture, even when this posture is an out co me
of the pain-orientation? Surely, if people are brought up with the
playful attitude they needn't experience resignation. Only adults
who have been reared un-StoicaHy may come to feel resigned. For
indeed resignation suggests disillusionment, but a Stoic by defi-
nition anticipates disillusionment, and consequently forestaHs the
feeling of resignation.
A Stoic system of child education would be based on the pain-
orientation, but those brought up in it would not necessarily ex-
perience resignation or pessimism, though eventuaHy they might
grasp intellectually what lies behind the way they were reared.
The unserious outlook, then, need not involve resignation even
when based on Stoic presuppositions. Zorba illustrates weH what
I have in mind: he is not solemn, but neither is he "resigned." Of
course aH these words ("serious," etc.) are vague. But that's life.
Knowledge of fact, then, is instrumental to know-how. And to
live adroitly, Epictetus go es on, training is required. Training
involves acquiring new habits or exchanging old ones for new ones
by doing something repeatedly. Nobody can hope to stay the
same individual without doing the same things he used to do,
Epictetus says (IV.2.2f). Some such technique of repetition he
adapts to the solution of problems in living. If a man is weak or
quarreisome, for example, he might be able to change if he
practices doing brave and conciliatory things. For, "Every habit
and power is supported and reinforced by corresponding works
.... " (II.I8.r). One is, and becomes, what one does.
This activist and prospectivist theory of learning and treatment
does not conflict with but rather supplements his earlier method
of thought-analysis. For when clarification of problems is not
enough, one can always fall back on the technique of changing
and learning by training and act-reiteration. It is true, however,
that at times Epictetus talks as though thought-analysis was all
that is necessary by way of doing away or minimizing difficulties
in living (III.J.I8, 9.z, 26.34f; seetion 36).
Rational conduct was the exception rather than the rule in his
eyes. Ethical upbringing must be upgraded. Practicing with-
standing adversity must especially be emphasized. Moreover,
man tends to aggrandize rat her than belittle his predicaments.
And so, because of insufficient training we constantly go out of our way
to heap up terrors and to imagine things worse than they actually are.
"\Vhen I go out to sea" and notice the expanse of water all
around me, I get scared and imagine that I will be swallowed by
it, forgetting that "three quarts" of the liquid would suffice.
Again, when there is an earthquake, I imagine that the city is going to
collapse on me; yet isn't a little stone enough to knock my brains out?
Some people, Epictetus says in the course of expounding his
theory of cosmic design, let even their esthetic sensibility and
powers of contemplation and speculation atrophy. They are blind
to the beauty of the world. They are like those who go to a "fair"
and instead of enjoying the spectacle and purpose and organi-
zation behind it, immerse themselves into buying and selling. In
this fair of life too: some people, like cattle, trouble themselves about
nothing but their hay - ... property and lands and [servants] and public
offices ... (I4.23-5; for life-a-fair see Pythagoras, in Laertius 8.8).
Logical training is likewise neglected:
Most of us [Epictetus says] fear the deadening of the body and would do
everything to avoid falling into such a condition, but when it comes to the
deadening of the mind we don't care at all (I.5.4f).
Yet, Epictetus goes on, the man who notices contradictions but
is unmoved by them is deadened. Indeed, he is worse than a
corpse (8f; cp. IV.5.ZI). Epictetus' discussion of logical topics
is scant, but there is enough material for a short chapter.
9. Nature 01 Logical Studies
Whatever in this chapter (or for that matter in the entire book)
the reader finds unintelligible or uninteresting he can skip or
reread. For Epictetus logical theory indudes a study of proof,
implication, contradiction, forms of argument, conditionalreason-
ing, meanings, definition, truth, paradoxes, falsehood, fallacies,
criteria, and "measurement andjudgment" (cp. I.I7.7-12, 7.12, I;
III.2.2-7; M52; below passim).
However, his characterization of logic as a study of criteria is
not dear. To discover a criterion (descriptive criteriology) is one
thing, to set one up (normative) is another; and he does not
indicate which kind of criterion he has in mind when he says that
logic deals with criteria - though he does speak in this connection
of "grasping" criteria. But this does not seem to help (I.I7.7).
The same kind of indeterminacy attaches all the more to his
conception of philosophy itself as criteriology. For the crucial
word he uses on this occasion is ambiguous more or less in the
above twofold way: it means both discovery and invention.
Notice the beginning of philosophy: ... the heuresis of a standard, as we
heuromen the balance for weights, or the ruler for things straight and
crooked (II.n.I3f).
It might be said that in view of his analogy between the phi-
losopher's standards and technological standards, he probably
means by the former a normative enterprise, seeing that the latter
are obviously inventions, not discoveries. Yet he condudes by
saying that "to do philosophy is this, to consider and determine
the standards .... " (24). Similarly, Socrates' definitions and
dialectic he construes as having to do with criteria and meanings
(I2.5-g; I.I7.6-12); and this may weIl amount to his construing
here inquiries into criteria or meaning-criteria descriptively, if,
that is, it is assumed that he construes meanings as criteria (for
using corresponding words) and meaning investigations as dis-
coveries, rather than stipulations. (His views on definition and
meaning will be completed presently.)
Perhaps Epictetus did not distinguish between normative and
descriptive criteriology. (Following hirn I use standard and
criterion interchangeably.) Preoccupation with criteriological
questions is a recurrent thing in hirn. See furt her below, seetions
10, 21-3, and meanwhile his tacit requirement that a criterion
must be stable, which is why he rejects momentary sense-
impression and fleeting pleasure as criteria of truth and value
respectively (1.28.28-31; 11.II.15-25; II1.23.3f).
By logical studies, then, Epictetus means some conceptual
analysis as weIl as formallogic, though the extant writings con-
tain no symbolism. N or do they contain any discussion of in-
duction, but he does say in effect that man has the power to go
from the observed to the unobserved ("from some things to others
which are somehow related to them," 1.6.10). This is the basis for
scientific generalization and prediction. Since in a broad sense
logic for the Stoics included epistemology and since Epictetus'
remarks in the latter field are few and rather offhand, they are
discussed in this chapter (especially seetion 10), save for his
practical conception of knowledge which has already been dis-
cussed (in seetion 7), as it forms an integral part of his philosophy
of life.
Logic or reason, Epictetus continues, is the only reflexive ac-
tivity or discipline. While, for example, grammar, he says, is
about language but not about itself, logic or reason or philosophy
(logos) includes itself in its own subject (1.20.1-5; cp. I.rff).
When somebody present told hirn "Convince me that logical studies are
useful," he said, Do you want me to prove this to you ? "Yes." Mustn't I in
that case use proof? And when the man agreed, But how will you know that
I am not playing tricks on you? As the man remained silent - Do you see,
he said, how you yourself admit that these studies are necessary, if without
them you can't even tell this much, whether or not they are necessary?
(IL2S; cp. 23.13-5; LI7.1-3).
In other words, logic is so fundamental (or useful?) that even to
discredit it, logical skill is required, in the form of adeptness at
proof. "That is why I suppose," Epictetus adds, "they [the
Stoics?] put logical studies first ... " (6). The substance of this
corresponds to the so-called logocentric predicament, which says
that to talk about logic requires logical principles (but why
"predicament" ?). Yet equally one must use some gramm ar to talk
about grammar (or for that matter about anything), just as one
must use some grammar to talk about this or that grammar,
though not necessarily the same grammar as the one talked about.
Grammacentric fix.
Epictetus also puts definition first, adding, though, that defi-
nition ("understanding the use" of expressions) is not required for
employing language correct1y (II.I4.14-6; cp. III.23.18). And he
may be subscribing to a circumstantial analysis of meaning,
namely that words have their full import when used not apart
from but in conjunction with relevant circumstances. For he
denies that a man uses liturgicallanguage when the context is not
liturgicalor typically so, just as, he adds by way of comparison,
the same acts are not advantageous when performed at the wrong
time and place. "Are words," he exclaims, "sacred themselves?"
Logic is useful as weIl as basic according to hirn. The logical
layrnan is like the man who wants to weigh something without a
standard of weight, seeing that knowledge of standards logically
precedes the particular acts of belief, assent, measuring. Nor, he
goes on, is it enough to know that a statement is true: it is also
necessary to know what follows from a statement or from a
combination of statements. Awareness of implications is as useful
as truth-awareness (cp. I.I76-8, 7.9f).
However, as with reference to knowledge in general, logical
knowledge to hirn suggests primarily know-how, the ability to use
and apply logical ruIes, rather than the mere capacity to quote
them. Knowing inference-permits and what this or that term
means but thinking sloppiIy, is Iike knowing the difference
between "genuine and counterfeit money" but failing to appIy it
where it counts, namely in practice, with actual money, genuine
or phony. Indeed, it might be doubted that in that case one could
be said to know anything. Clarity about Iogical theory is not
enough. It must be supplemented by competence in reasoning, by
the skill to discriminate between valid and invalid thought in the
concrete (S-8; cp. II.2.24; 9.13f).
Logical skill (presumably acquirable by doing logic exercises) is
a safeguard against spurious thinking, our own and that of
others. It is useful consequently for discussion as weIl. Discussion,
like inquiry, Epictetus continues, commits us to the acceptance of
truth, the rejection of falsehood, and the suspension of judgment
in cases of uncertainty; and without some logical training it might
not be possible to tell the difference behveen what is worth be-
lieving and what not, and therefore to be good conversationalists
and investigators. Logical training is a must for all intellectual
work (I.27.6, 7f, 28.1-S).
But though important, logic is not as important for Epictetus as
ethics. \Vhen we have leisure, he says, doing logic and epistemo-
logy is all right, but ethical matters, like eliminating the con-
ditions of worry and anxiety, are more urgent and pressing
(III.9.19; I.27.21). A law governing hypothetical thinking, he
says in another connection, is that what follows from the hy-
pothesis must be conformed to. "But," he hastens to add, "much
more important is the law of life, which is to act in conformity
with nature" (realistic principles, 26.1 f). Similarcomments can be
found elsewhere (III.2.2f, 6-16, 26.19f; MS2). Presumably he is
deliberately exaggerating when on one occasion he says that logic
j udges "everything" (I.I7. 8-II).
He would not deny, I take it, that ethical principles must be
consistent and as a result must rest on logic (or deontic logic).
Otherwise they would be useless as guides for conduct or even
harmful, since they would be proposing incompatible courses of
action, and thus would make for indecision instead of decision,
and for perplexity and anxiety rat her than peace of mind. (Incon-
sistency in precepts is not the same as inconsistency in (nonguiding)
description; for though both may be forms of self-defeat, what
they defeat or paralyze is different, namely action and stating,
respectively, or, in the former case, talking as weIl.)
In other words, Epictetus would not deny that ethical theory
presupposes logical theory, and consequently that it is less basic
than logical theory; rather, that it is more important than logical
theory. This follows necessarily, if happiness (the distinctive
cern of ethics) is more important than consistency (the distinctive
concern of logic). "More important" means here something like
"more wanted." If happiness is more wanted than consistency,
then necessarily it is more important than consistency.
Happiness is more important than consistency even if con-
sistency is indispensable to happiness, though I don't think that
consistency is indispensable to happiness. I mean I don't think
that happiness necessitates thought of any kind. Epictetus how-
ever might disagree. He says that animals cannot be happy on the
ground that they lack understanding of things (though not per-
ceptions, H.8.Sf). But is it nonsense tospeak of "happy animals?"
Compare" contentedlike a cow." Perhaps Epictetus is here unduly
influenced by AristoUe (who indeed denied, on similar grounds,
the possibility of happiness to children and slaves, as weIl). Or
Epictetus may be jesting. At any rate, we remember from section
5 that he says that the point of learning and reading is utili-
tarian; that the function of reason is not to make us unhappy;
that reason or thinking may be jettisoned when safety or calm
can be attained without it; and that truth (which presupposes
consistency) may likewise be ignored when freedom from worry
is at stake.
IO. Irrelutability and Epistemological Issues
Some propositions, Epictetus remarks, are so basic ("sound and
evident") that they "must be used even by those who deny them."
And conversely, if a proposition must be used in order to be
denied, this shows that it is basic or, as I would further put it,
irrefutable and undeniable (H.2o.rf).
He then proceeds to give examples of self-refuting expressions,
directed mainly against the Skeptics. Here are sampIes : It is false
that there is a true universal statement; I would have you know
that nothing is knowable; Believe that nothing is worth believing;
Learn that it is impossible to learn anything; and, Give your
assent to the idea that no man assents to anything (2-5).
All this is self-refuting because, to start with the second
example, if nothing is knowable, this is unknowable too. Again,
to say that nothing is worth believing implies that this is not
worth believing either. To say that there is no true universal
statement is to make a universal statement. To say that nothing
can be learned is to imply that this can't be learned either. And
to assent to the idea that nobody assents to anything is likewise
On the other hand, a statement like "Something is worth be-
lieving" Epictetus would presumably regard as logically unas-
sailable ("sound and evident"), since it is presupposed by the
self-refuting expression that nothing is worth believing.
So far so good. But in the next breath Epictetus misses the
target. He says that to teach that there is no such thing as concern
for one's fellow-man is, by this very act of teaching and of writing
"big books" (referring to Epicurus), to refute yourself; for if what
you say is true, "Why do you care?" The fact that you bother to
publicize your position militates against its truth. - But does it?
Couldn't the speaker be motivated by self-satisfaction or even
spite, rather than by fellow concern?
Suppose, Epictetus considers on a different occasion, that
"someone resists what is all too evident." His answer is that little
can be done about such an individual. How, he exclaims, can a
person reason with a man who is unimpressed by contradictions
or who having been worsted in an argument "hardens to stone?"
(I.5.If; cp. 8).
In this context Epictetus is referring to Skeptic Academics. He
goes on attacking them for maintaining that there is no difference
between being awake and dreaming, saying that the Academics
don't notice the "contradiction" in their position, or that if they
do, this shows that they are "deadened" (6-8).
But it is not clear that the Academic position is self-contra-
dictory. EIsewhere Epictetus mentions the theory, vaguely
attributed to "the philosophers," that "feeling" is at the root of
all thought and impulse toward things, including assent, dissent,
and uncertainty; that, in other words, one assents, dissents, stops
deliberating, inquiring, etc., when one feels he has the right answer
(I8.If; cp. 28.Sf). By being "deadened," then, Epictetus might
me an here that the Academic lacks yes- and no-feelings, reality-
and unreality-feelings. But this may not apply to the Academic.
The Academic's point is simply the point already made in
Plato's TheaetetJus by Socrates (whom the Academic Skeptics
regarded as their father and to whom they would point when
criticized for transforming such a seat of Belief as Plato's
Academy into a Skeptic stronghold). This point can roughly be
reconstructed as follows:
There is no infallible criterion for distinguishing waking from
dreaming states. One can't go by the "I am awake" feeling be-
cause this feeling can go wrong, since one can have it while
dreaming. Pinching oneself to make sure that one is awake won't
do either, since again one can be doing this while dreaming.
Epictetus seems to think that systematic skepticism of the
senses (and here he has in mind especially the Pyrrhonian
Skeptics) is likewise self-refuting or at least insincere. Although
(he starts by saying on one occasion) he can't tell "how perception
arises, whether from the entire body or from part of it" and that
"both views puzzle" hirn, he is quite sure nevertheless that he and
you are not the same person. And how does he know this? WeIl,
because when he wants to eat, he doesn't take the food "there"
(presumably where you are) but "here" (presumably where he is).
And (somewhat irrelevantly) when he wants bread he doesn't
reach for refuse but goes directly to the bread "as to a target."
And you Skeptics, Epictetus exclaims, "do you do anything
else?" Who among you, when he wants to take a bath "goes to a
mill instead?" Or when you eat, where do you bring your hand,
to your eye? Did you ever "call a pot a plate?" Can you blame
your servant for pouring fish-sauce instead of oil into your bath?
Suppose the servant says that fish-sauce "appeared" to hirn to be
oil? "SmeIl it," you say; "taste it." "Yes but how do you know, if
the senses deceive us?" (1.27.15-20; 11.20.28-31, 20).
But perhaps Epictetus miss es the core of the Skeptic' sargument.
In fact, a clear-headed Skeptic can concede the whole of Epictetus'
partly ad haminem criticism. For the Skeptic need not hold that
it is always profitable or psychalagically possible to deny the
disclosures of the senses. Rather, that sense-experience (ar reason)
is not an infallible guide to truth or knowledge. (Hence the
Skeptic's sweeping rejection of "the criterion.") Skepticism as a
movement originated, among other things, as areaction to extreme
(infallibilistic) forms of empiricism, as weIl as to extreme forms of
rationalism. And that includes respectively the Stoic idea of in-
controvertible apprehension (phantasia kataliptike) and Plato's
indubitable noetic intuition or intellectual beholding of essences.
Epictetus uses but does not explain the Greek phrase (e.g.
111.8-4; M4S). He also says that sensation is the kriterion for
"colors and smells, and ... flavors," and that whether things are
black or white and alleged heavy things light are decidable by
"perceptual darity" (1.II.9-II; IV.I.136). But how does this idea
of perceptual incontrovertibility and darity fit in with his earlier
point that momentary sense-impression is not a criterion of truth?
Can't one have a momentary yet dear perception?
Connected perhaps with the notion of incontrovertible appre-
hension is his distinction (likewise early Stoic or Cynic) between
ha ving and using phenomena or perceptions (phantasiai). Thunder,
for example, somehow forces itself on our notice. Our freedom
comes in only at the level of "using" experiences, whichmeansof
"assenting" to them or not, of letting them bother us or being
"indifferent" to thern (e.g. 19). But can't one train not to notice
certain occurrences (not to ha ve certain types of experiences), as
one can train not to be impressed by them? Epictetus hirns elf
occasionally speaks of "training perceptions" (e.g. IV4.26). Of
course, if by phantasiai he means data of consciousness, he is right
but uninformative, for this reduces to the tautology that what we
already notice we can't fail to notice. Similarly, one can, it seems,
train to fore stall unpleasant "imaginings," though Epictetus'
statement to the contrary is made in passing (III.24.108).
But his rejection of systematic doubt about the senses is in
itself well-taken. For how do I decide that my senses deceive me
in a particular case if not by means of the sens es themselves?
How do I come to realize that I am seeing amirage? By (say)
touch. Perceptual illusion is a case of surprised or disappointed
expectation. The denial of sense-experience as a whole is absurd.
11. Logical Puzzles
Epictetus mentions several times but does not discuss the Liar
(II.I7.34, I8.18, 2I.17; 111.2.7,9.21). "I am lying," one version
of the Liar, is self-refuting presumably because if it is true, it is
false. Also merely referred to are the Denier and the Silencer (ib.;
II.I8.18). What the former was about is unknown, though we
learn from Diogenes Laertius that Chrysippus wrote two "books"
on the Denier (and eight on the Liar, 7.1g6f). The Silencer was
Chrysippus' wayout of the Heap, authored, together with the
Liar and a host of other logical antinomies and tricks, by the
Megaric Eubulides (D.L. 2.108).
The Heap was used by Skeptics to undermine the faith in the
intellect by drawing attention to the vagueness inherent in certain
concepts or distinctions, such as long-short, many-few, etc. A
typical question a Carneades would put to the Rationalist or non-
Skeptic would be : When do you stop ha ving a heap - when one ele-
ment ofthe heap is withdrawn, two, three, ... , when? Chrysippus
wouldin theend turn mute (hence "Silencer"). This, however, was
held against him on theground that in so behaving he, the non-
Skeptic, was in effect "suspending judgment," thus giving in to
Skepticism. According to Laertius and in particular Gellius, pro-
posing and solving logico-linguistic puzzles was asport and an
after-dinner pastime among Skeptics and Stoics.
Also mentioned and briefly discussed is the Master, so called
because thought to be insoluble. This conundrum survives only
in Epictetus, who says the following about it:
The master argument seems to have been propounded because of such
considerations as these: since there is a mutual contradiction among these
three [Le. any pair contradicts the third element, namely I] everything
true in the past is necessary and [2] the impossible does not follow the
possible [cp. I.7.2Sf] and [3] what neither is true nor will be is possible
[cp. Sextus Outt. 2.230], noticing this contradiction Diodorus [the Megaric
logician and apparently inventor of the Master] used the likelihood of the
first two to prove that nothing is possible which neither is true nor will be.
But somebody will maintain another two from these, [namely 3] that
something is possible, which neither is true nor will be, and [2] the im-
possible does not follow the possible; but not [I] everything true in the
past is necessary, apparently held by Cleanthes and his circle, largely
supported by Antipater.
Others however will maintain the other two, [3] something is possible,
which neither is true nor will be, and [I] everything true in the past is
necessary, while asserting [the denial of 2 that] the impossible follows the
possible. But it is infeasible to [jointly] hold all three because of their
mutual contradiction [or because any pair contradicts the third element]
(II.I9.1-4; mentioned at: 8, 10, I8.17f).
But if all three translate into truths, the Master is soluble,
since no set is self-contradictory which consists exclusively of
truths. However, the following translations do not pretend to
be faithful to what the ancients had in mind by such key-terms
occurring in the Master as possibility, necessity, and truth, while
going into this would be too much of a transgression.
Proposition I ("Everything in the past is necessary") might
mean: (I') "Once true always true," which is obviously sound.
Thus, if it is true that yesterday it rained at a given place, it
cannot be false that it did not rain then and there.
Proposition z (' 'The impossible does not follow the possible")
may give way to: (z') "If a sentence is meaningful, it cannot be
meaningless (the meaningful does not imply the meaningless),"
which is likewise obviously the case. Epictetus might accept the
following equally valid principle as a possible interpretation of z,
namely (z") "The false does not follow the true" (see next section
on conditional). Both land Z, or their renderings, may well
involve some formal principle, such as double negation, identity,
or obversion.
Proposition 3 ("What neither is true nor will be is possible")
might mean: (3') "A never-occurring something is not ipso facto
a contradiction." This allows for the possibility of F even though
thereis no time at which F occurs; which Diodorus would reject.
As he was seen to put it, "nothing is possible which neither is true
nor will be [nor has been]." He restricts possibility to occurring at
some time. But ifthis restrietion is arbitrary (not necessary), one
need not accept it. Those who do so, may well be afraid that the
notion of an unactualized possible involves reification. But the
fear is unwarranted. For to accept F as a never-realized possi-
bility is not to say that F exists. Quite the contrary.
According to 3' it would be fallacious to deduce a contradiction
(or meaninglessness) from "failure to occur at any time." The
relation in any case is from contradiction (or meaninglessness) to
failure to occur at any time, rather than the other way around.
I2. Operators and Kin Matters
Epictetus speaks of "arguments involving equivocal premises"
and of deriving "arguments by questioning," without however
elaborating (1.7.1; I1.I3.ZI, 2I.17, 23-41; II1.2.6, 17, 2I.IO;
IV.6.16, I2.IZf).
He also mentions a eonditional method:
For sometimes ehe says] it is necessary to assume a hypothesis as a kind of
stepping-stone for the next argument (1.7.221).
This may be the geometrical-Soeratic method of hypothesis (see
PI. Meno 86e, Phaedo ggeff) or its likely offshoot, the Megarie
or Stoic principle known as modus tollens, which likewise functions
as a device for testing statements and theories. (One version of
thisprincipleis: "If p then q; but not-q; therefore not-p.") Yet
in the same ehapter Epietetus says: Suppose I have granted a
premise, whieh however, when worked on, develops a falsehood.
Should I reject the premise? No. The inferenee? No. - He then
seems to pass on to another, though related topie (1.7.13-5).
Onee, interrupting someone who was eoneerned with hypo-
thetical arguments, Epictetus said:
This too is a law goveming hypothetical reasoning, that what follows from
the hypothesis we must accept (26.1; cp. 25 II-3, 7.9).
It is a pity that we are not told what other "law" he thought
hypothetical reasoning is governed by. But perhaps this may be
added by way of a seholium to his extant remarks on hypothetieal
reasoning, diseussion, and inquiry, namely that these remarks
eommit him to the idea that there are not only assertions but
also implieations, that statements don't form logical islands
but eonneet with other statements (and therefore that to know the
meaning of p is also to know q, r, etc.), that, for example, "I am
breathing" is not an isolated linguistic or logical item, but collects
perhaps, "I inhale," "I am alive," "I am not dead," and so on.
This idea is essential to argument, conversation, cross-exami-
nation, science, logie, and the like.
Epictetus uses the principle that if two statements eontradict
eaeh other, one is false, the other true. If the Egyptians are right
on dietary maUers, he says, then the Jews are wrong, and viee
versa (presumably beeause their views dash, 1.II.12f). In the
same eontext he uses the principle that if two statements are
mutually ineompatible and one implies a third, then the other
implies the negation of that third:
when two things contradict each other and one of them conforms to nature
the other must of necessity be contrary to nature (r8).
He also speaks of "complete" and "incomplete arguments" and
of "types of arguments" and, interchangeably with the second,
of "enthymemes" (e.g. 8.I-3). Though he uses the word syllo-
gismos, he does not seem to mean the syllogism or only the syllo-
gism. At any rate his example,
if you have borrowed and haven't repaid, you owe me the money; but you
haven't borrowed and haven't repaid; therefore you don't owe me the
belongs to propositional rat her than syllogistic logic. Besides,
Aristotle hirns elf used syllogismos to mean also inference in
general. It is not clear why this is an example of an enthymeme
rather than of an invalid form of argument (which it is, by truth-
table). It might be the former if some extra statement is added,
but none is actually stated.
The exclusive use of "or" (" p or q or ... , but not all") is
mentioned (II.9.8) and incidentally characterized with the stock
examples "It is day" and "It is night," as follows (M36): The
"exclusive disjunction" of these two statements is all right,
though their "conjunction" is worthless (presumably because,
being contraries, they can't both be true of the same state of
affairs). In other words, an exclusive disjunction is true when at
least one disjunct is true and one false, while a conjunction is
true when all conjuncts are true.
That this is how Epictetus conceives of logical conjunction
(" p and q and ... ") is evident from another passage where he says
that a "conjunction" is true ("preserved") when it "fulfills its
purport," that is, when it is "composed of parts which are [all]
true" (II.9.8). Logical conjunction is referred to but not discussed
in at least two other places (M42; I.26.I4).
The conditional is also mentioned and illustrated with the
same kind of example, "If it is day, there is light" (29.5I; II.6.I).
And though the conditional is not explicitly defined, Epictetus
alludes to the idea that "it is not possible" for the if-clause or
"antecedent" to be false ("not good") and the then-clause or
"consequent" to be true ("good"), and to the idea that for a
conditional to be true, its consequent must be true if its antecedent
is true. ("For for the consequent to be rational, the antecedent
must be good," III.7.6-8; cp. I.7.2Sf.)
The second idea, which goes back at least to the Megaric Philo
(c. 300 B.C.), characterizes also implication and inference; for to
say that pimplies q, or that the latter follows from the former,
is to deny that p is true and q false. But the first idea does
not square with the Philonian conditional, since for Philo a
conditional is true ("possible," in Epictetus' words) in every case
except when the antecedent is true and the consequent false, and
this covers the case when the antecedent is false.
Although the extant writings examine no concept from
quantification theory, the following perhaps is worth noting.
In the course of discussing some self-refuting expressions (above
section IO), Epictetus renders the universal and categorical-
looking sentence, "No universal statement is true" into the hypo-
thetical sentence, "If a statement is universal, it is false." "For,"
he adds, "what else" does the former mean if not the latter
(II.20.3f). This may not prove that he was fully conscious of the
import of his translation for logical theory. Yet others of that
era, such as Chrysippus and possibly Sextus, so construed uni-
versals, or some universals, in a rather deliberate fashion. (See
Sextus Against Ethicists 8-II, where some categoricals are trans-
formed into hypotheticals and moreover, into generalized con-
ditionals. Even definitions are construed like that - and ex-
tensionally. )
Megaric-Stoic logic was typically a logic of compound
statements, with truth-table definitions of some of the propo-
sitional operators, though modalities too were investigated, and
not only extensionally either. Also, an apparently complete axiom
system for the (propositional) tautologies was developed. Our
main source is Sextus. For reconstructions of these and related
maUers see B. Mates, Stoic Logic, and W. and M. Kneale,
Development 01 Logic.
Epictetus, we saw, regards logical inquiries and training indis-
pensable for scientific work. But logic and cosmology were also
connected in general antiquity through the word logos. Heraclitus
used the word to express the belief in cosmic law and order,
the belief that the world is intelligible. Logos came to mean
as well language, argument, ratio, and ground. All this helped
blur the distinction between the ideational and the real. This
blurring is manifest in the Stoics' notion of reason-universal.
And this brings us to Epictetus' cosmology.
I3. World Structure
Epictetus sees the world as a unified totality. Each thing, he says,
is part of a whole, "as the hour is part of the day" (11.5.13;
IV.7.6). He quotes approvingly "the philosophers" who hold that
this world is one city and the substance, out of which it has been made, is
one .... (lI!. 24. 10),
and goes SO far as to endorse the pan-feeling doctrine, likewise
early Stoic in character, though deriving from Pythagoras and
Empedocles (Sext. Ag. Phys. 1.127). His version is that
all things are united together . .. and earthly things feel the influence of
heavenly ones (I.I4.If; cp. 5).
Society is conceived in the same terms. The individual, as we shall
see in section 38, is compared to a foot, the organism being the
community and in the end the whole world.
One wonders whether this kind of cosmology does away with
the void, seeing that it is a continuum as weIl as a dynamical
conception of the universe.
Like other Stoics, Epictetus subscribes also to the theory of
"cyclical regeneration," on the ground that
[the worldJ needs the things that actually exist and those that will do so
and the things that have ceased to be (II.I.18f; cp. I!I.24lOf, 94).
He also speaks of the "revolution" of the world (IV.I.100.) This
cyclical process is universal. It encompasses man, the animals,
and even "things divine and the four elements," that is, air,
ether, water, and earth. Everything changes upwards and
downwards. The heavier transffiutes itself into the lighter, and
vice versa,
as earth turns into water, water into air, and air into ether; and the process
in the downward direction takes place similarly (/8).
Perhaps this theory of cyclical regeneration rests on the twofold
assumption that there are basic elements and that they are finite
in number.
But underlying all this flux there is a constant factor, namely
"fire." Moreover, paralleling the above cycle there is a more
radical type of circular metamarphasis: things are periodically
consumed by fire (II1.I3.4). This too is early Stoic doctrine
(cp. Aurel. IO.7), which, like fire and fate, derives from Heraclitus
(Laertius9.7f). Same critics replied that fire demands something
else, cannot exist by itself, and consequently dismissed the world-
conflagratian theory as false or absurd. But what if fire is a
precursar of energy? Perhaps the answer is the same.
Only the "cosmos" is self-sufficient (lI3; cp. IV.7.6f). The
warld also exhibits order, skill, beauty, and purpose. Epictetus'
discussion of Providence divides into five aspects (not parts): a
statement, a proof, and a praise of design, a justification of
hardship, and the following prefa tory notice:
One can' t realize tha t there is providence in the world unless one
fulfills two conditions. One must have the power to understand
clearly the nature of things and must have the sense of gratitude
(1.6.I-3; cp. Sallustius). Yet, can't one understand the workings
of nature with only sympathy? Why should admiration and
gratitude be required? Besides, gratitude to whom and for what?
To Zeus? For Providence? Evidently Epictetus begs the question.
I4. Providence
Epictetus' statement of design is as follows: Purpose permeates
nature. Thus, "heads of grain grow ... so that they may become
dry" and ultimately "harvested" (II.6.n). Even such an ap-
parently trivial detail as the "hair on men's faces" has a point: it
serves ta distinguish the male from the female. (How about furry
species?) Similarly, it is no accident that the voice of a woman has
a "softness" in it, just as it is no accident that, in contrast with
a man, she has no hair on her "chin." In this way both men and
women can be identified from afar with respect to their sexes.
Neither are misleading. Beards on the male and softness in the
voice of the female are "signs" (I.I6.g-I4; cp. III.lr.27f).
Zeus who manages "the world [and is] the lord ofthat mansion ...
assigns each thing its place." The sun, a calf, a bull, Agamemnon,
Achilles, all have their preordained roles. The sun, for example,
has been given the power, as it makes
the circuit of the heavens, to bring about the year and the seasons and
to make fruits grow and to nourish them and to stir the winds and calm
them and to warm men's bodies
and so forth (III.22.4-8). Everything
obeys and serves the cosmos - earth and sea and sun and the other stars,
and the terrestrial plants and animals, and our body too, in sickness and
health alike ... U3).
This use of "cosmos," which recurs in fragments 4 and r3 and
which was popular with Stoicism in general, is probably a
pantheistic use, though, as we shall see, pantheism is tacitly
rejected elsewhere.
"The Divine Oversees Everything" is part of the title of a
chapter (I.I4; cp. III.I.t.6). God conducts and supervises the
workings of plant life, "the waxing and waning of the moon," the
behavior of the sun, and human affairs. For men too have
preassigned places. Each is "an actor in a play," which has been
selected by "someone else." Accordingly, if "the Playwright"
wants the play to be short, it is short, if long, it is long; if he wants you to
play the part of a poor man you must do so as best you can; and likewise
if your part is that of a cripple [self-reference ?], an official, or an ordinary
person. For this is your business in life, to act, and act wen, the character
given you; but the choice of the character is another's (MI7; cp. I.Iz.
I5ff; IIl.z4.34-6; IV.3.Io-Z, I.IOO).
Children, Epictetus goes on (r07, ror), belong to God and "the
giver takes away" (which makes him an Indian giver). Even dying
involves returning something borrowed (cp. I:I.32).
For this reason the wise man, remembering who he is and where he came
from and who made him, directs his attention only to this, how he will fin
his place in anorderlymannerandwithproperobedience toGod (III.Z4. 95).
But how is one to tell whether one is playing the "right" role, or
whether one is obeying God instead of the Devil? Not that
Epictetus speaks of the Devil.
Nothing is left to chance: "Providence" takes care of the "bad"
as weIl, even when this is not apparent (f 13); or, even badness has
a point (cp. 1.I2.I6). And, nothing could have happened otherwise
than it actually does happen (f 8). Yet in the same fragment and
elsewhere Epictetus admonishes not to tamper with the works of
destiny (1.I6.I4, I2.I7; M7; 13; IV.I.IOI; cp. I1.Io.5). He even
speaks on one occasion of missing one's preordained role (1.6.22),
and talks at length on error, phoniness, self-deception, and
rationalization (see esp. section 26).
I5. A nthropocentrism
The whole creation is purposive, but Epictetus' general tele-
ology is supplemented by a special type of design, roughly de-
scribable as anthropocentrism. The "irrational animals" are not
"primary," but have been made to serve "the rational." Man is
primary and not "destined for service." The reason is that, while
man has "the capacity to understand the use of perceptions, "
the animals lack this capacity even though they lack neither
perceptions nor, unlike plant life, "the capacity to use per-
ceptions" (II.8.3-rr, IO.3). Presumably therefore the plants too
and the inorganic kingdom are equally "servants of man."
Unlike the animals, man is capable of forming concepts as
weIl, and can reason on these as on percepts (1.6.10-5). He is
also able to "take cognizance of the divine governance of the
world" (I1.Io.3 f). And since he is a rational animal, it is unnatural
for hirn to live only for the satisfaction of his physiological needs
(1.6.I4f, 20; cp. M4I; I1.20.IOf).
Perhaps self-awareness is included in these extra capacities of
man, in which case nature in man could be said for Epictetus to
become self-conscious. At any rate, the world in his cosmology
seems to form a pyramid with cognition as the principle of
stratification and with Zeus as its apex: Zeus or God (these, as we
shall see in section 20, Epictetus uses interchangeably) is charac-
terized as "mind, knowledge, reason," possessor of "the most
perfect judgment" (11.8.1-3; M3I.I).
However, the picture is not clear. For example, it is not clear
what the difference is between having perceptions and having the
capacity to use them. One would think that the two are equiva-
lento Again, while, on the one hand, the sun is not said to have
intelligence, on the other, following Cleanthes and Chrysippus
(Cic. Nat. D. 2.39f), Epictetus makes the sun "part" of God
(1.I4.IO). Indeed, "everything," he says, "is filled with gods and
divinities" (II1.I3.I5f). Yet, compounding the confusion,
elsewhere (1I.8.IOf) divinity is withheld from the animals. (About
the sun Epictetus says further that it draws "its sustenance to
itself" (111.23.27). This as weIl is early Stoic doctrine, according
to which "rays" of the sun are vapors attracted to it to sustain its
fires, which is the summit of self-dependence. No wonder the sun
was deified!)
Each species, Epictetus continues, has its peculiar constitution
and (a nonsequitur) "therefore purpose" (1.6.15-7). Thus, some
animals are destined to produce cheese, others to be eaten, others
to be used in agriculture, others, like the ass in particular, for
transportation (18; 11.8.7). And happily we needn't worry about
our natural servants. Nature provides for their needs, thereby
increasing their value to uso Their relative self-sufficiency is part
of the cosmic plan. They need no shoes, bedding, or clothing,
while their food and drink are supplied by unvarnished nature.
Imagine what a headache it would be if we had to worry about
them; if we had to take care not only of ourselves but of our dogs
and sheep and cows as weIl, to have to clothe them and perchance
put them to bed too. As it is, animals have a built-in self-
dependence (1.I6.I-5; cp. 9.9).
Epictetus should have been reminded of cattle breeding and
animal care in general, while to ascribe purposes to nonman-made
things, like donkeys and beards, may weIl be an imputation, an
objectification, rather than a genuine explanation. For there is no
evidence that such purposes exist. N or does the fact that man is
more intelligent than the animals necessitate anthropocentrism.
One might as weIl argue that morons and children should be
slaves. (Anthropocentrism therefore seems to clash with Epictetus'
antislavery stand, to be examined in section 39.) The trouble is
that here, as even in his critique of slavery, Epictetus misun-
derstands the concept of ownership: he mistakes it for a cos-
mological concept, while actually it is a legal concept, or one
incorporating decision or will.
I6. Prools 01 Design
Epictetus is not content to state or accept design. He also argues
for it. He realizes that some people are willing to recognize human
but not cosmic goals; that they are ready tu attribute purposes to
some aspects of the universe, but (I) not to all , nor (z) to the
universe as a whole. He argues for both types of design, particular
and general, as they might be termed.
(I) Everyone, he says, would infer the existence of a craftsman
from noticing such facts as that a sword fits its sheath, and vice
versa. Why then, he goes on, should one think that such things
as vision and light, and milk coming out of grass, and cheese from
milk, and wool growing from skin, and the phenomenon of love-
making and all that it involves, are not likewise results of
craftsmanship but have come intobeingfortuitously?We infer a
plan from seeing manufactured objects. Why shouldn't we do the
same when faced with much more complicated and marvelous
items? Indeed, what about the human craftsman hirnself, whose
reason is not inferior but equal to that of the gods? Doesn't
he point to the existence of a cosmic maker? Must we not con-
clude that his powers of observation, abstraction, generalization,
explanation, imagination, and inference cannot possibly be
due to chance? (I.6.7-II, 15, I6.8, I2.z6f; cp. ZI).
(z) Again, are we to say that "this great and beautiful
structure," the universe , can manage in such "orderly" fashion
by sheer accident while at the same time admitting that no
household would endure for long without someone taking charge
and managing it? (II.I4.z5-7).
There are several replies to these kinds of arguments, many of
which, we see from Cicero and Sextus, go at least as far back
as Carneades who headed the Academy in the second century
B.C. I shall confinemyselftoasmall number of criticalcomments.
First, if man points to a maker because of his "admirable com-
plexity," his alleged maker should do so all the more. So why
stop at Zeus? (Indeed, why not go on forever ?)
N ext, we infer the existence of a craftsman from seeing a
sheath because we are accustomed to associating this kind of
object with a craftsman. The inference, in other words, is based
on experience; and this means that craftsmen, as well as sheaths,
are in principle available to our inspection. On the other hand,
Zeus is systematically elusive. (Epictetus does not seem to believe
in 6th senses. )
The case against Epictetus is of course worse if he maintains
not that the world probably but necessarily points to Zeus' ex-
istence; for the ordinary, sheath-like arguments are not necessary
arguments but inductions. (No doubt, the concept "sheath"
implies artificer. So in my reply to Epictetus read "sheath" as
"objects having sheath physical properties.")
Similar comments apply to Epictetus' argument from order -
which, we remember, infers (inductively or otherwise) the ex-
istence of an orderer from the fact of order. Indeed, why should it
be assumed that things are always orderly, let alone that when
they are, they should point (necessarily or otherwise) to an
intelligence? For all we know, all science may be a kind of ge-
ography or history. This would go toward explaining why science
is so often being modified: changes in scientific theory might be
the result of changes in the things themselves, as well as of other
factors. (It might be self-stultifying to deny the existence of
order now, but there is no absurdity to denying the existence of
order for a time which is not contemporaneous with the speaker.)
I have been assuming that by order Epictetus means a scientific
concept (regularity, synchronization, predictability). If he means
(or sometimes means) an esthetic concept, the following discussion
might be relevant.
I7. Cacodicy
If providence is postulated because some aspects of nature are
good (beautiful, etc.), there are other aspects which are "bad,"
and which therefore should prove the existence of malevolence.
To this it might be replied that evilis (I) appearance, or (2) nonex-
istent, or (3) necessary for the existence of good. The first is not
found in Epictetus, but the other two are; which is an inconsisten-
cy: to justify evil (position 3) is to admit that it exists (the denial
of 2). However, the second reply is implicit rather than explicit
in Epictetus.
It is found in such remarks as that evil is absent from the
"cosmos" (M27), that "whatever is done according to nature is
right" (LII.5f), that "everything's evil is what goes against its
nature" (IV.I.125) ; in his interchangeable use of nature with god
and Zeus (since the last two imply good in his language), and in
his refrain to follow nature or the will of nature (111.20.14,
24.IOOf, 7.28; 14-18, ISA, I7. 14, 18; M26; etc.). Not that he
uses nature always to imply good. Thus he says that a bad father
is still part of nature (M30), that it is natural for one's foot to be
clean (11.5.24), that a man has a natural sense of affection,
friendship, and the like (IO.23), that he tends by nature to avoid
harm to himself (M3I.3) , that certain notions are innate (ILIIA,
6f). This double use of nature is not a case of accidental ambiguity.
The Cynics, and before them the Sophists, sided with the in-
stinctive, spontaneous, unconventional, natural- with the Stoics
following suit. (See also eh. x.)
If the no-evil view means that there is no pain, it can easily be
refuted: one need only pinch the denier (assuming he has a
nervous system). If it me ans that everything has a point, it is
incomplete or misleading, since something may have a point for X
but not for Y. If it means that there is no evil in the long run, the
fact remains that there is evil (in the short ron).
It seems, then, that the no-evil view (and its contrary is in the
same boat) is not very plausible. Accordingly, those who see
providence in the world should perhaps try to justify, rather than
deny, evil and suffering. And in fact this is what we find Epictetus
doing on the whole. Still, though a justification of evil (a cacodicy)
or of suffering and pain (an algodicy) seems preferable to a no-evil
(or no-pain) view, it must be more specific than it is in Epictetus
(or elsewhere). For example, does Epictetus hold to a human or
to a nonhuman cacodicy or algodicy? We are not told - unless his
anthropomorphism serves as an ans wer.
1 coined the expressions cacodicy and algodicy because
"theodicy," the usual word employed in connection with the
Problem of Evil, is absurd if "god" is at the same time defined
as perfect or even as good. For to justify is (among other things)
to make good or excuse, and what sense is there to excusing good?
Notice, on the other hand, that it is quite all right to speak of
excusing evil and pain; which shows that neither is wanted if it
can be helped, that evil as well as pain implies undesirable, which
in turn coheres with the above rough analysis of evil and ills.
Epictetus' cacodicy is as follows: Bandits and predatory and
ferocious animals, he says, are not pointless, but make nobility
and heroism possible. Neither Hercules nor Diogenes would have
had the opportunity to exercise physical and emotional prowess
had the world been cozy, but would have spent the time sleeping.
This implies that danger is achallenge, and that to eliminate it
altogether would be foolish (I.6.3Z-4; III. 22.57-60).
But why should Zeus have so made people or the universe that
in order to experience pleasure or good, pain or hardship must
occur. Couldn't he have endowed man with another nature or
made things differently? Why should suffering exist at all? Why
couldn't only happiness exist?
Epictetus might reply that Zeus is not omnipotent; for though
he is our maker and father and guardian (I.9.7; cp. 3.1; II.B.1g,
Z1), and we his sons (I.9.6, 14), and though he cares for us
(III.24.16, 19) and made us to be happy and serene (zf, 19, 63)
and supplied us with reason so we can protect ourselves against
misfortune and unhappiness (7f) -still, he is not responsible for
our body, which is what prevents us from being better]than
we are (I.r.7---g). He can't even overcome our rational self (Z3f),
and has failed to convince us of what is good or bad (IV.6.5).
This means that Zeus is not an absolute creator who creates out
of nothing, but more like a human craftsman; and further, that
the material Zeus has to work with is recalcitrant. Otherwise
Epictetus' idea that Zeus is our maker and yet not responsible for
us, lands hirn into paradox.
Still, if Zeus assigns miserable roles can he be consistently
described as kind?
Moreover, the arguments in which Epictetus' cacodicy is
embedded are marred by irrelevancies. For example, when he
considers the crucial questions, whether Hit is reasonable that
there should be running noses in the world" and whether Hercules
ought to have created an those obstacles for himself and per-
chance imported lions and boars and monsters of an kinds into
his country only to exercise his strength and courage, Epictetus
becomes irrelevant both times. "How much better it is to wipe
your nose than complain," he says, and, "This would be madness,"
adding that since an these obstacles pre-existed, they served the
purpose of inducing Hercules to reveal himself and exercise his
prowess (I.6.3If, 36). Evidently he does not seem to realize that he
makes these obstacles unnecessary and accidental; for to call
their deliberate creation "madness" is to concede that there is
something wrong with the way cosmic things are run. His reply
to the question about running noses is obviously irrelevant. The
issue is not whether one should complain about colds, but whether
it is necessary that there should be colds.
When the Roman Emperor Galba was slain (in A.D. 69), Rufus
was told in effect: Wh at do you say now about Providence? To
which, according to Epictetus (or Arrian), he answered: And when
have I based my case for Providence on such an incident as Galba's
death? (III.I5.14). Eut to say this is to say that only those facts
which support design are relevant.
A little before the discussion about colds Epictetus remarks
that, by going an the way to Olympia to see the work of Pheidias
(the famous ivory and gold statue of Zeus), instead of staying
wherever one might happen to be, shows how stupid one can be.
\Vhy? Eecause Zeus' artifact, the most sublime of artifacts, is
everywhere - especially in oneself (1.6.23-5). "Yes but unpleasant
and hard things happen in life," comes the reply (26). "And don't
they happen in Olympia?" Epictetus counters. Of course they do
(he says): you swelter, you're cramped for space, you bathe with
difficulty, you get wet whenever it rains, and even shouted at; but
I fancy you put up with all these nuisances because of the mag-
nificence of the spectacle (26-8; cp. III.I7). Eut does this meet
the objection? Not at all. On the contrary, the fact that Epictetus
admits the existence of inconveniences - in Nicopolis or Olympia
(cp. IO.5) - subverts the very thing he is anxious to prove, namely
that everything is divine, all right (1.6.24).
Epictetus goes on: You have received all the necessary ca-
pacities to bear hardship: you have received magnanimity; you
have received courage; you have received endurance. Why then
complain? (28f; cp. IV.I.I09f). But this too is strictly irrelevant.
The question is not, "Do we have capacities to cope with
hardship?" but, "Why should there be any opportunity for using
these capacities?", "Why should there be hardship at all?" 0/
course the capacities are justified so long as there is hardship, but
why should there be hardship to begin with?
Epictetus should have stuck to the idea that Zeus is not
omnipotent, or better still, to his earlier point, paraphrased eight
paragraphs back, that without hardship life would be boring. For
this implies that hardship is necessary for happiness, or perhaps
that "pleasure" means "release from pain"; so that a life devoid
of hardship (Paradise) is a meaningless expression or impossible.
(Metaphysical Hell too is impossible if suffering presupposes
its contrary.)
IB. Hymns to God
Epictetus' discourse on design may be concluded with the follow-
ing "god" -intoxicated statement, plus its relative, Cleanthes'
praise of Zeus, portions of which, especially one verse, Epictetus
quotes admiringlyon several occasions. Not that this is the only
passage evincing Epictetus' pro-feelings toward Providence (or
the world), but it is certainly the lengthiest and perhaps the most
moving one.
Indeed what words are enough to praise [the works of Providence] or to
bring them home to us? If we had any sense, should we be doing anything
else in public or in private than praising and hymning the divine and
paying him due thanks? Should we not as we dig and plough and eat sing
the hymn to God? - "Great is God, that the has given us these tools with
which we will till the earth; great is God, that he has given us hands, the
ability to swaUow, a stomach, the capacity to grow unknowingly, to
breathe while sleeping."
This is what we should sing at every opportunity and especially the
greatest and divinest hymn, that he has given us the power to understand
these things and follow the way of reason. What then? Since most of you
have become blind, shouldn't there be somebody to play this role and in
behalf of all sing the hymn to God? Why, what eise can I a lame old man
do but praise God in a hymn? Certainly if I were a nightingale, I would
be singing as a nightingale, if a swan, as a swan. But as it is lama rational
being; I must then be praising God in hymns. This is my job, I do it and
won't abandon this station, so long as it is given me, and I invite you to
join me in this same song (I.I6.15-ZI; cp. IV.I.g8-IOZ).
And now Cleanthes' turn:
Most noble God of many names
Eternal master King of all,
Creating guide of nature, Zeus
Who rules the world with law: Rejoice
In me, for thus it is decreed
That mortals speak your name.
What lives and moves upon the earth
Alone exists and takes its kind,
An imitation, from your word,
So I will praise and always tell
Of you in song. This world above
That spins entire about the earth
Obeys whatever you direct,
Concedes to you the ruler's strength,
The thunderbolt's event. You hold
Immortal darting fire within
Unconquered hands, for nature's work
Fulfills through Zeus' flaming touch.
With this direct you reason's place
Inflowing through the universe
And mixed with lights both great and smalI,
With this, great King, you are through all.
No acts on earth without your will ensue
N or in the sky nor in the sea
Save what evil men unknowing do.
But you know how to balance odds,
Things confuse to organize and
Love you show to hateful things.
Thus good with evil you accord
That endless reason stays for all,
Which evil men, ill-fated, scorn
Desiring always goods possessed,
Knowing not God's universallaw
Whereby convinced they would attain
With thought a noble life, but runs
Each witless to another wrong
With quarrelsome thrust for fine repute,
For wealth another works unchecked,
Yet others for the play of flesh.
Evil met, end ure they one and then
Another kind, desiring change.
Yet, Zeus, cloud shrouded, giving all,
Bright fire, improve man's artless game
Torn from his soul, and let him gain
The thought wherein with justice
Guide you all; that honored thus
We honor you in turn, with praise
Forever sing your works, we men.
For gift no greater falls to gods
Or men than fittingly to sing
The endless universallaw.
(Arnim 1537. Cp. 11.23.42; 111.2295;
IV.I.I3I , 4.34; M53 I )
I9. Zeus Inoperative?
Though a metaphysical or mythological theologian of a sort,
Epictetus can scarcely be said to compare with the usual run of
mythological or metaphysical theologians. He allows for no such
things as postmortem punishment, escape-proof prisons, reincar-
nation, or even survival, without which the preceding (or the
point of the preceding) vanish. He has no eschatology (evensecular)
- no stories of aboriginalguilt, Salvation, Last Judgment, or even
Creation. (In this last connection presumably he departs some-
what from early Stoicism: see Laertius 7.13Sf.)
There is no supernatural Hell or punishment, or even Beyond:
When you die you go
To nothing you need fear, but to that which you came from, to your
friends and relatives, to the elements .... There is no Hades nor Acheron
nor Cocytus nor PyripWegethon, but [as Thales said] everything is filled
with gods and deities
or divine guardians; that is, with peace and security (III.I3.14-6;
cp. IV.7.ISf). Death is a "harbor" and "refuge" (IO.27). When
you obey Zeus you do it of your "own free will" (3.9f). When you
disobey him, you do indeed
suffer penalty and injury. "What kind of injury?" None other than not
doing what you should; you will destroy the trustworthy, self-respecting,
good man in you. Look for no greater injuries than these (111.7.36; cp. 24.
42f; I.I2.21-3)
Nor for transcendental rewards (III.24.5If). And hatred is not
part of Zeus even when he assigns bad callings (II3). Epictetus'
ideology is not one of threats.
Death is physical transformation and the obliteration of the
individual (cp. also 93f). Antidualism of body and soul, as will
be seen in seetion 25, underlies also his theories of edueation and
eharaeter formation. Oeeasionally however he speaks of the
"separation" of the "soul" or "spirit" from the "body" (IO.I4,
22.33f; II.I.I7; ep. III.I3.I5). But this perhaps should be taken
with a pineh of salt as it is atypical. Similarly, his referenee to
Zeus" 'solitariness" at the world-conflagration (4), should perhaps
be eonstrued to mean that only fire exists for aspeIl; for we
remember that aecording to his cosmology alt things are perish-
able and periodically eonsumed by fire. Boethus and Antipater,
Laertius says (7.148), assimilated God to "the fixed stars" and
made hirn "akin to air" respectively, v"hile aeeording to Sextus,
"Stoics" identified hirn with "breath running through even foul
things" (Outlines 3.218).
Eeclesiasticism is likewise virtually absent: Burial (following
Socrates and Diogenes) andineantations are not treated seriously
(IV.7.3I; 111.24.89). The little divination allowed has to do with
foreeasting the empiricalfuture (11. 7; M 32). Saerifices are indeed
allowed but are not made fuss over: we should sacrifiee but not
"beyond our means" (M3I.S). Noristhereanytalk of miracles,
revelation, or religious sixth senses.
Other definite immanent ist tendeneies may be found in the
following passages: "you are a pareel of the gods" : in everything
you do - eating, copulating, socializing, exercising, eonversing -
you are feeding God, fulfilling God. God is with you, .... within you ....
(II.8.II-7; cp. I.I.I2, 9, I46).
Outside the world [nobody] can be [ousted]. Eut wherever I go, there
is the sun, there the moon, there the stars, dreams, tokens, discussion
with gods (III.22.22).
The world "eontains its purpose within i tself" (IV. 7.6). Fragment
3 or 4 uses "god" and "eosmos" interchangeably, and fragment
13 so uses "providenee" and "eosmos." Stoics in general, ae-
eording to Laertius, identified the eosmos with God, and God with
Zeus, fate, and reason (7.137, 135, 147). No doubt, "eosmos"
derives from a value word, but it also grew a eosmologieal
Epictetus' talk of divine guardians (daimonn) , above
(1II.I3.I6) and elsewhere (I. I 4 I2-4), is perhaps a holdover from
Soerates' "demon" (ep. 11l.2I.I9) or a metaphor for the idea that
men participate in Zeus (the context is indeed the same concerning
the second reference); which in turn may well be a metaphor for
the intelligence each individual (hopefully) possesses. This point
about the double metaphor occurs almost verbatim in Marcus
Aurelius (5.27). The primary function of reason in Epictetus is to
guard uso His talk of divine guardians (like of divination and sacri-
fices) may well be a concession to popular ways of thinking or else
Zeus hirnself, to generalize, is preeminentlyreason, andman's
reason is not only his "regent part" but "equal to that of the
gods" (I.I2.26f). ObeyingZeus boils down to obeying logos. Zeus
is reason because reason is deified (cp. Aristotle). Reason is turned
into a cosmic principle, ethics into metaphysics, with Zeus as the
Sage, or Ideal, or personified Ideal.
Stoicism in general is literally the deification of logos; so that
had the Stoics been clearer on divinity (namely that it is not
really a cosmological object but the result of deifying and ideal-
izing), they may well have been clear naturalists. As it is they are
confused naturalists, though something like this may well be true
for all metaphysical cosmologies (for metaphysics is largely the
result of value-theoretic confusion: cp. next section).
Logos in Stoicism is also susceptible of a scientific interpretation
or reduction. Logos and fire, reinterpreted, are metaphors for ma-
terial principles or scientific presuppositions; for change, energy,
lawfulness, predictiveness, intelligibility. Likewise fatalism may
be regarded as an ancestor of determinism. I t can even be trans-
planted from cosmology to ethics, without its attendant pessimism
either. Such sentences as "This was destined to happen," "It is
fate," can (and often do) function as aids for cushioning blows.
Indeed Epictetus, for one, was seriously concerned with
remedial ethics. Of course this does not me an that fatalism
functioned lenitively in his thought. At the same time it is inter-
esting to notice that occasionally he does so use fatalistic-Iooking
expressions (see, e.g. M26, 1.9.30, both discussed in section 34).
To toy a moment longer with this proj ect of "demythologizing"
Epictetus and still retain recognizably Epictetian tenets, the role-
analogy can similarly be redefined to refer to capacities rather
than to metaphysical repertoires, and thus reduced to a plain
ethics of realism, which says that goals should be proportioned to
capacities instead of to wishes and fantasies (Cp. perhaps
III.23.4-8). As a matter of fact, according to Laertius (7.160) and
Dudley's History 01 Cynicism (66f, 100), Ariston, a Stoic turned
independent, and the Cynic Bion apparently so construed the role-
analogy. Again, Epictetus' precept to live agreeably with nature
is reducible to the advice to live realistically (cp. I.2I.Z; III.Io. II),
or of course reasonably, insofar as the Stoic appeal to nature is
regarded as a misguided appeal to human reason.
But the text itself is often relatively clear that Zeus may be
inoperative in Epictetus' thought. The passages on suicide and
others already quoted or alluded to in the course of this book may
be adduced as evidence. And there are many more passages where,
for example, obeying Zeus amounts to being wise and realistic in
the above senses - where, generally, though the ethics seems
to be based on Zeus, the latter can be removed without af-
fecting the former. (See I.I3.1f, I4.16f, 20.15ff, 25.3-7, 29.4-8,
30; II.I6.z8ff, I7.zzff; III.5.7ff, II, 22.zf, 24.100-18; IV.I.97ff,
3 IO- Z, 433 ff ; 14; MII.)
20. Theic Notions
Before considering in detail Epictetus' ethics (or straight ethics),
it is convenient to examine first his value theory, which after all is
intertwined with his ethics and to him value implies his ethics.
And, for obvious reasons, it is fitting to start with (and simultane-
ously complete our review of) his remarks on god and kindred
value concepts.
Divinity Epictetus associates with value. On one occasion he
slides to a discussion of the notion of sacredness while discussing
good (1.22). On another he says that the "substance of god lies
where that of good does" (H.8.lf). He also thinks of god and the
holy in terms of advantage, as in the above contexts and the
following ones: Men, he says,
eoneeive of whatever has the power over the greatest advantage as divine
(IV.I.6I). Forwhereverinterestliesthereis also religion [orpiety, M3I. 4].
That is why [when things go wrong] the farmer, and sailor and merehant,
and those who lose their wives and ehildren, revile the gods (ib.; ep. H.
22.I7f). In sum we should remember this, that unless religion eoincides
with interest, it eannot endure in a man (I.27.14).
The idea that god and sacredness go with good and greatest
advantage and "highest object of preference" (22-4), coupled
with the idea that good as well collects interest (see next section),
suggest that divinity might be a value superlative or an ideal,
rather than an actuality or a cosmological object. (Mutatis
mutandisthesameapplies to "angel," "paradise," "hell," "satan,"
etc.) But Epictetus does not come up and say so.
Another insight of his into the nature of theic concepts occurs
in hisdiscussionof typical positions on divinity. The existence of
"the divine," he says in a combination of places (11.20.22-4;
1.I2.l-7), is either denied altogether or, when affirmed, gods are
made inactive and wholly indifferent to man; and "piety and
holiness" are explained (by Epicurus or Epicureans) as a taU tale
told by "double-talkers" and "by legislators to frighten and
restrain wrongdoers." Others assert that the divine both exists
and takes interest in human affairs but only in general, and is
unconcerned about the individual as such. Still others say that
the divine is also concerned about the individual. A wise man,
Epictetus concludes, must weigh all these views before (and here
comes a petitio) committing hirns elf to the existence of divinity,
but will in the end rej ect all but the last view as "unsound." F or it
doesn't make sense to lollow the dictates 01 a deity which cares nothing
lor us personally.
This is the insight to which I was referring. But Epictetus stops
too soon. \Vhy not go on to raise the question about the very
status of (metaphysical) gods? If these gods can be ignored when
they ignore the individual, couldn't it be that they are not dis-
coveries but ideals or projections, the outcome of reifying at-
tributes or wishes, or magnified attributes?
It is curious that Epictetus does not discuss the projectional
and magnification views as they were not unknown in his time
(Sext. Ag. Ph. 1.45) and as he does discuss, above, only to dismiss,
the deception view (which go es back to Critias) that gods are lies,
and also the view that, since men who control things which
people "love and hate and fear" are "revered as gods," godscanbe
men (IV:I.60f).
This last argument, paraphrased, runs as follows: Whatever has
the power to confer the greatest benefit is divine; X has such
power; therefore X is divine. Insofar as X is a human being,
Epictetus rejects the conclusion, though he tacitly admits that
the argument is formally valid. He rejects the conclusion because,
he says, no man, not even Caesar hirnself, has the power to confer
the greatest benefit.
Yet does this give hirn the right to go on affirming the existence
of divinity so defined? If no known object has the required power,
is it legitimate to go on maintaining its existence? Isn't this like
saying that, though Z is nowhere to be found, nevertheless it must
exist? (Augustine argues similarly that since happiness does not
exist (adding: "in this life"), there must be another life in which
it exists, City 01 God 19+)
Notice that I have not been criticizing Epictetus' assumption
that no man has the power to confer the greatest benefit. 1ndeed
he may be right in this connection. Yet again does that prove that
he has really refuted the above argument, that he has refuted it in
its best (or in a weaker) form? Suppose its major premise were
rewritten to read: "Whatever has the power to confer (not the
greatest but) great benefit is divine."
However, Epictetus might not accept this rephrased argument
either, though on the different ground that it contains an inade-
quate conception of divinity, that though its major premise does
define divinity in terms of a superlative ("great"), it does not use
a highest superlative. For we rernernber hirn so characterizing god
and sacredness.
On the other hand, we also remember that he does not allow
Zeus to be omnipotent and that he tends to avoid the supernatu-
ral. Yet to conceive of divinity in terms of highest superlatives is
the road to the supernatural, as follows: experience is limited to
the finite, while the superlative stretched to infinity yields the
transcendent. (The supernatural of course tends to imply the
not ion of value, as weIl as that of the nonempirical.) If all we
experience is, for example, limited or comparative power ("X is
more powerful than Y," in some respect of course), then al-
mightiness cannot but be supernatural (or ideal?). This inci-
dentally solves the riddle why gods tend to assurne metaphysical
status, indicating at the same time how to stop short of a super-
natural use of "god" and therefore of the supernatural simply,
namely by refraining from overstretching god or god-ascriptions.
Moreover, is Epictetus' "power to confer benetit" adequate as
an analysis (not use) of divinity? How about malevolent gods?
1s a malevolent god a contradiction in terms? Or is "god" ambigu-
ous? Neither. For god is intrinsically connected not with benevo-
lence or malevolence, but with power, that is, just power.
(Epictetus was only half blind.) A survey of the various religions
tends, I think, to confirm this. Surely the Zeus of Greek "my-
thology" typifies power more than benevolence. So does the god
of the New and especially of the Old Testament. Also, is it an
accident that people speak of "God Almighty" as though they
were one word? "Gods," we say, "are awe-inspiring beings." And,
we worship God(s). Neither awe nor worship entails benevolence
(or loved) but power (or being overpowered). "Worshipping
power" sounds pleonastie. Cp. also "God-fearing." God may be
benevolent but not neeessarily so, just as he may be intelligent
but only perhaps beeause knowledge suggests power; and so on.
If God is the value superlative (ep. "God is the supreme being"),
then the drive for power must be a prime drive.
It is worth mentioning that Epictetus makes no distinction
among "Zeus," "god," "the divine," and "gods," exeept ap-
parently in one plaee where he says that "god is the father of men
and of gods" (1.3.1) and in another where he says the same thing
with "Zeus" in the plaee of "god" (I9.12). But perhaps by "gods"
in these deviant passages he means "the so-ealled gods." In the
first passage "god" gives way in the next breath to "Zeus," which
takes care of the apparent difference between it and the second
passage. All the other relevant contexts make no distinction
among the four terms. See, for example, the transition from" gods"
to "Zeus" to "we" (i.e. "gods") to '''I' ("Zeus") and finally to
"gods" again, at I.7-13; and from "gods" to "the divine" to
"gods" and back aga in to "the divine" at I2.I-g. Compare
II.I4.II-3 ("gods," "the divine," and, tacitly, "the gods"), and
IV.4-47f ("gods," "the giver," "god"). Also, while at, e.g.
1.9.23 one reads "related to the gods," the heading of the chapter
(supplied, no doubt, by Arrian) has "related to god." Again, in
III.24 (esp. IIO to end of chapter) "god" gives way to "Zeus" and
so on back and forth; likewise at II.IJ.22-9. See further 1.6, I4.
2I. Good a Protoconcept
Sacredness Epictetus also characterizes as a prolepsis, which
literally means "prior conception," and whieh translators tend to
render as "basic concept" and "preconception." I chose "proto-
concept" because it is shorter than the first two and less mis-
leading than the third, since "prejudice" is not quite what
Epictetus means in this connection. Other protoconcepts are:
good, fairness, and their contraries, and ought, appropriate, and
suitable (1.22.1-8; II.II3-12, I7.6-14; III.22.39; IV.I.44).
And so are: happiness (II.II.3f), health (I7.9), advantage (10),
utility (II), rationality (1.2.6), and their antonyms. Protoconcepts
are shared by everybody (VI.I.4Z; 1.22.1), mutually compatible
(ib.; IV.I-4S), form a system (II.I7.ro, 13), are beyondreproach(rr,
II.ro) , standards (1.28.28; cp. II.II.8-2S), and innate (3f, 6f;
cp. I7.7). Early Stoics counted survival after death as a proto-
concept (which contradicts their denial of such survival). And,
following Epicurus, who started the whole thing, they also so
counted the existence of the gods (cp. the ontological argument).
When Epictetus says that the protoconcepts form a system,
presumably he means that they are consistent with each other
and also that they are interdefinable. For he construes good in
terms of advantage, happiness, choiceworthiness; fairness in
terms of good and fittingness; bad in terms of dis advantage and
unhappiness; and so on (1.22.1-3; IV.I-44; III.22.39f; 11.8.1;
and below).
Strict1y, of course, consistency and interdefinability apply only
to positive protoconcepts in relation to other positive, not negative,
protoconcepts, and vice versa. Epictetus would not, I take it,
want to say that, for example, good is consistent with (say) bad.
So he needs the distinction between positive and negative proto-
We all possess this consistent conceptual scheme, and from
birth at that. By the latter maybe he means not that the proto-
concepts are literally "innate ideas," ready-made notions, but
conceptual predispositions. For he speaks more than once of
working on and perfecting protoconcepts (IV4.z6; 1.2.6;
II.I7.13; cp. IV.IO.IS).
The protoconceptual scheme is internally consistent and uni-
versal, and we all agree on the meanings or definitions of the
protoconcepts. Nevertheless, Epictetus adds, this does not pre-
vent disputes involving the scheme from arising. They arise when
the scheme is being applied to "particular cases," one man saying
"He did weIl, he is brave," another disagreeing, even though both
agree that if something is "good" it is "advantageous" and
"worthy of pursuit" (1.22.3); or one man saying pork is sacred,
another denying it, even though both agree that "the sacred
should be preferred above all else and should be pursued in all
cases" (4; cp. II.II.8).
For who doesn't have a protoconcept of evil, that it is harmful, that it is
to be avoided, that it is something to be got rid of by every means? No
protoconcept contradicts another, but conflict arises when application
comes in. What then is this ill which is harmful and to be avoided?
Somebody says it is not being Caesar's friend: this man is way out, missed
the application, is in bad shape, is looking for nothing to the point; for by
getting to be Caesar's friend he has still failed to get what he was after
[namely a life minus worry, trouble, anxiety, IV.I.44ff].
Strife among men, of the same or of different nationalities
(1.22.4), and unhappiness and bad luck for the individual, are the
price for misapplying protoconcepts.
For this is the cause of men's ills, their inability to apply thcir common
protoconcepts to particular cases (IV.I-42f).
At the pure protoconceptuallevel cverything is as it should be.
Our fall is due to a misuse of language or concepts. Conversely,
our salvation lies in learning how to use correctly the proto-
concepts (1.22.9). This, I assurne, is what Epictetus means when
he also sa ys tha t the protoconcepts are beyond reproach or perfect,
namely that they involve no contradictions, that the trouble lies
in our use of the protoconceptual scherne, rather than in the
scheme itself. Of course if he means that the scheme is unim-
provable (cp. the recent motto, "Ordinary language is correct
language"), the question is, how can he, or for that matter anyone
else, know this in advance? Surely scientific progress tends to be
accompanied by conceptual (and linguistic) revisions. Surely, at
least such a protoconcept as health can be, and in fact has already
been, made more precise.
Now a correct application of the protoconeeptual scheme is a
Stoie application. This is obvious from the preeeding long
quotation and especially from its wider context, and from
elsewhere (e.g. III.22.3gf). In short, Epictetus derives his ethics
from thc concept of value; for hirn the latter implies the former,
and eonsequently eudaimonism and a pain-oriented ethics as weH.
This means, more specifically, that value judgments apply
primarily or essentially to things within, and only secondarily to
other things. Epictetus' actual words, though, are that "external
things and eircumstances" are "indifferent" and that the terms
"good and bad, benefit and harm" should not be used at all of
externals but only of rational will and choiee and the real me, and
so forth (11.5; ep. I, r6.rf, 22.29; 1.22.gff; III.3.r-ro, Io.r8).
But this amounts to the same thing. For he does not wish to
recommend that we should stop saying things like "This is a good
chair or horse," if only because, as we shall see in later sections,
this would contradict other things he says. Indeed, to teach that
value concepts should be used only of the internal region is self-
defeating, if "should" has a value use here and if teaching is
getting involved with others, though one might, consistently
with the philosophy of unseriousness, reject the latter.
In any case, Epictetus' basic ethical point is that what ulti-
mately counts is how one feels (whether depressed or happy, and
so on), rather than how others and things are. And this can be
taken care of by the distinction between primary and secondary
use of value language. Thus, the terms "fine," "all right," and
"good" itself can be used to express indifference as weH as inter-
est. To say "That's fine (all right, good)" of incompatible events
("Sheloves you," "She doesn't") is to show preference forneither,
or, at the very least, refusal to commit oneself.
The trichotomy goodjbadjindifferent, a holdover (Epictetus
traces it to Diogenes, Chrysippus, and others, II.I9.13f), has been
used to parallel the states of desire, avoidance, and indifference.
One may desire something (may find it good), or avoid it (bad), or
be indifferent to it. Here "indifferent" may weIl reduce to the
not ion of instrumental or indeed secondary good, which shows
once again that Epictetus might not need the trichotomy
goodjbadjindifferent. (He does not speak of truejfalsejneither.)
In any case, though this neutral sense of "indifferent" does occur
in the remains, it may not be the only sense he had in mind.
Certainly the advice "Be indifferent to X" may function as a
warning, meant to prepare someone for possible failure, signaling
that he should not behave toward X as though its existence or
status depended on him or was his to keep. "This is indifferent"
may mean, "Don't get involved with it, watch out, avoid it," as
weIl as "Take it orleave it." Compare: "Say 'This is nothing to
you,'" an expression, incidentally, which occurs frequently in
Epictetus (Mr.5; I.I8.12, 25.1, 29.25,3.3). In this use, then, the
indifferent is not strictly indifferent, but dangerous and bad.
Moreover, it is a concept belonging to a pain-oriented ethics, and
therefore as congruent with Epictetus' work as the other, neutral
use of "indifferent."
Now, the idea that the cause of strife among people is the result
of misapplying the protoconcepts and in the end of an un-Stoic
way of life or of ignorance of Stoic principles, implies that in every
ethical value dispute between Epictetian and non-Epictetian the
former always wins, and on logical grounds alone (the latter
misuses concepts). Those who are not Stoics (or full-fledged Stoics)
are so because of lack of appropriate conceptual upbringing.
Accordingly a prime function of education is to insure that eve-
rybody reaches protoconceptual maturity. This will resuIt as
weIl in uniform application of the protoconcepts.
The contention that one's protoconcepts are not necessarily
finished things but might require development, guards Epictetus
against criticism. For he may give the impression that he tries
to explain value disputes by saying that the disputants have, not
different value concepts but different uses of the common
concepts. And this can easily be upset by pointing out that if the
disputants all possessed the same value scheme they would speak
the same value language, rather than essentially disagreeing.
Still, his diagnosis of value disputes can stand some comple-
mentation. For though it may be that in the last analysis such
disputes are between Stoics and non-Stoics, one would like to
know what happens in the penuItimate analysis; or indeed
whether value disputes can be explained without, anyhow ex-
plicitly, appealing to Stoicism or eudaimonism.
The endlessness of value disputes, I would briefly say, sterns
from either or both of the following things: First, that the dispu-
tants neither share the same value standards (or immediate
value standards) nor know this (which makes the disputes
verbal); and second, that they don't fully realize that value
concepts typically are standard-dependent, that "X is good" is
logically incomplete unless some standard or purpose (what X is
good tor) lies somewhere in the context. "This is good" is strictly
unintelligible unless so specified. When value disputes are heated,
the cause is roughly the same, plus the fact that value criteria, and
consequently value words, reflect wants and aspirations, the
region of the "passionate," to use not too irrelevantly an ex-
pression of Epictetus (III.2 .3).
This analysis is not aItogether foreign to the remains. First, as
we saw in section 2, Epictetus notices in effect that "This is
useful" is incomplete. (Useful, we remember, is a protoconcept.)
And, as we shall see in the next seetion, he ernploys the notion
of value relativity, for the preceding analysis is based on sorne
such notion. Finally, he construes protoconcepts as standards (see
above). Not that he can rnean that value protoconcepts are
standards, for value demands, rather than is, a standard. We
speak of X being the standard 01 value, not the other way about.
So, perhaps, only such protoconcepts as health and happiness
Epictetus would want to describe as standards. And to say that
these are standards is of course to say that they are standards of
22. Value Relativity
Value to Epictetus is also related to praise. On one occasion he
apparently agrees with "the philosophers" who put praise in "the
category of good" (III.23.24). On another he says that to get
rnan's good qualities, such as his beauty and fairness, notice
"whorn you praise, when you praise people dispassionately"
(I.8). Praising involves evaluating.
In the second context he is lecturing an apparently too well-
groorned youth (thechapterheading is "On Adornrnent"). In the
process he says in effect that value criteria, though he operates
rnainly on beauty or excellence (kalon), are dass-dependent. This
means that we don't pronounce sornething of dass C beautiful or
good by criteria appropriate to sornething of dass D. Or, in his
words, we don't judge a "dog" beautiful by standards appropri-
ate to a "horse," or vice versa; and
what makes a pancratiast [a judo-like fighter] beautiful [or excellent] does
not make a wrestler good, while it makes the sprinter quite ridiculous (5).
It would be "absurd" to say that sornething of one kind is beauti-
ful in the same way that sornething of another kind is (cp. 3).
Dogs, horses, nightingales, pancratiasts, wrestlers, runners, pen-
tathlon athletes, hurnans, wornen, rnen, all have their own special
beauty, virtue, or excel1ence (passim).
According to this, all inferences of the following sort are invalid:
"Property P rnakes whatever belongs to category C beautiful
(good, etc.). Therefore, since X, which belongs to category D, has
P, X is beautiful." EIsewhere Epictetus argues for a kind of
relativity of the useful as well, denying in effeet that "the same
acts" are neeessarily useful if performed at different times and
plaees (2I.I4; ep. II.2I.20-2, quoted seetion 2).
Also perhaps intended is value realism: the idea that value
eriteria must not ineorporate fantastie expectations or desiderata,
that "X ought to be done" must presuppose that it can be done;
so that to eondemn a dog for not outjumping a horse, or a wrestler
for not outrunning a sprinter, would be unreasonable, for neither
is equipped to do this (cp. also t I8).
But Epictetus may be thinking (or may also be thinking) of
something else, especially in view of such remarks as: The exeel-
lence of a species depends on its nature (III.I.3f); a "vine" and a
"cock" fare "badly" \Vhen they act eontrary to their nature
(IV.I.I2If); and "every anima I [man includedJ is better or worse
because of its own special virtue or defect" (f I8; cp. III.I4.II-4).
If this means that plants and animals make value judgments,
Epietetus eannot aceept this, sinee presumably he allows only
men to have sueh a capacity. If it implies that the plants
themselves suffer ("fare badly"), this is objectionable because
plants have no feelings (or if they do, they keep it a seeret). To
speak of "plant disease" is not of course wrong, if it is like speaking
of "punishing" a machine or of a dog "worrying" an old shoe. A
plant is not i11 or well except in relation to some human use - or
model. But models are not realities. They may even be misleading.
How ean the protoeoneept of advantage be used of vines, not to
mention mountains (Epictetus does not mention mountains). It
can only be used figuratively or by transference, but not literally.
And if one protoeoneept does not apply in a given case, the rest
don't either, sinee presumably they all form a logical system. (This
of course needs to be rephrased to take aeeount of the distinetion
between positive and negative protoeoneepts.)
Even with reference to animals (assuming they do have feelings)
value language is not always used literally or non-anthropo-
morphieally, as when we say of an animal that he is "disfigured."
Can he really be this as far as he is eoneerned?
If "nature" means here a value coneept (see seebon I7), the
thesis tha t the virtue and defeet of organisms are a function of their
nature, is a misleading erypto-tautology and anyway has nothing
to do with biological facts. This manner of speaking goes back to
Aristotle and Plato's Dialogues.
23. Value Criteria and Pleasure
For Epictetus "the good" or ultimate criterion of value is of
course "peace of mind, happiness, freedom from interference"
(III.22.39). Yet, curiously enough, he does not regard pleasure
as the, or a, good or (using another stock phrase) "the aim of
life," or even as a protoconcept (II.II.19-22; /14). Indeed he
places it alongside "indifferent" things like wealth, health,
life, fame, and toil (ponos, II.I9.13; cp. III.24.71). (His classi-
fying health both as an indifferent and, as we saw in section
21, as a protoconcept is likewise strange; so is his saying that toil
is an indifferent, if this implies that it need not be, or isn't, avoided
if one can help it.)
I say "curiously" because one would think that happiness
involves pleasure. Can one be happy without experiencing some
pleasure? And, what does feeling good mean? Compare Epictetus
For it is impossible that good should be one thing, and that it is rational
for,us to find pleasure in (epairometha) something else .... (III.7.7).
We remember too, from section 10, that he puts feeling at the
basis of all thought and action, and what else can "feeling" mean
here if not "absence of uneasiness," "feeling released, satis/ied?"
The following is also worth quoting before proceeding to an
examination of his reasons for rejecting value hedonism:
For this is the nature of every living being to avoid and turn away from
the things which seem harmful and whatever causes these, and to pursue
and admire the things which are advantageous and whatever causes these.
It is impossible then for someone who thinks he is harmed to enjoy [or take
pleasure in, chairein] that which he thinks is harming him, just as it is
impossible for him to enjoy the harm itself (M3I.3f; cp. IV.I.4, 46).
If this is value hedonism, then Epictetus contradicts here what he
maintains elsewhere. If instead it is psychological hedonism (cp.
/14 where pleasure is allowed to be underivative and "natural"),
he may not be inconsistent but only if value and advantage are
not in fact linked with pleasure. If they are, to reject value hedon-
ism and accept psyehological hedonism as true (as Plato clearly
did) is inconsistent. (The inconsistency is not removed if it turns
out that psychologie al hedonism is a conceptual rather than an
empirical thesis.) It is worth adding that to underwrite psycho-
logical hedonism as true is to go against early Stoies in their
dispute with the Hedonists over the question whether thirst for
pleasure (or pain-avoidance), rat her than self-preservation, is the
primary impulse in the zoologieal world. In the above portion of
fragment 14, Oldfather conjectures, "Stoies" are meant and criti-
cized. Epictetus' actual referenee is to "the hard-to-please
philosophers.' ,
Note as wen that to classify toil as an indifferent does not seem
to square with the above exeerpt, or with saying that pleasure is
"preferable" to toil (1.2.16). If pleasure lies outside the region
of value, how can it be used to diseriminate and ehoose? Not that
Epictetus' statement explieitly ascribes such a role to pleasure,
but surely it implies such an ascription, if the reason forpreferring
pleasure to toil is beeause we like the former but not the laUer,
and if "like" is like "interest," a hedonic coneept (if to like
something is to find it interesting and pleasant).
In any case, the view that pleasure falls outside the domain of
goods occurs in the only passage in which Epictetus discusses,
rather than simply opposes, value hedonism, and whieh it is time
to examine. Pleasure is rejected as a good on the twofold ground
that it fails to meet the "standard" or "balance" of (I) "stability"
and (2) "proper exaltation" (II.II.19-22).
But the argument is fallacious. Concerning the laUer re-
quirement, it is either circular (for "proper" is itself a value term)
or, when the circularity is removed ("proper" deleted), it is inco-
herent, for to be exalted is to experience pleasure in a high degree.
Nor need pleasure be fleeting, "unstable." "Prolonged pleasure"
is not a contradiction in terms. Epictetus fails to see this because,
inexplicably, he construes pleasure here as "momentary." This
may not be immediately evident, for indeed he begins by speaking
of pleasure simply. The notion of momentary pleasure is intro-
duced suddenly and at the end of the argument.
Then too, the requirement of stability may be unexceptionable
(imagine your ruler shrinking or expanding during measurement).
Still, it is not a special criterion of value, but a requirement of
criterion in general (a sort of condition of criterion or higher order
criterion). Indeed Epictetus hirnself, as was pointed out in section
9, uses, though again without discussing, stability as a criterion of
truth as weIl.
One would like to know also how (or whether) the stability re-
quirement fits in with the view, also embraced by Epictetus, that
things are unstable. If everything is unstable, then nothing can
serve as a criterion of value or, for that matter, of anything (which
means too that even if pleasure were fleeting, this would not be a
special argument against its functioning as a value criterion). If
everything is insecure and if a standard must be secure, then there
is simply no standard. But the remains do not consider the
problem. N evertheless, they might contain a solution: briefly, that
(I) though everything is unstable, some things are more so than
others and standards belong to the latter category; or that (2)
though every particular thing is unstable, types are not quite in
the same fix and standards are types, not particulars. Then, of
course, the problem is how to construe types. (Plato metaphysi-
calized them, just as he metaphysicalized standards, for the im-
mutable Forms are meant to solve both the problem of types and
that of standards in a world of alleged flux. And so Plato blurred
his insights; for let us face it, Formism is like meeting the ob-
jection that there is no eternal man by saying that there is, only
he is invisible.)
In his tendency to disparage pleasure Epictetus follows (and is
perhaps unduly influenced by) early Stoics (II.I9.13f) and proba-
bly Antisthenes who, according to Laertius (6.3), said that he
"would rather be mad than experience pleasure." He mayaiso
have been misled by the puritan's use of "pleasure" (hedone) when
it, like "desire," is a cacophemism or pejorative (a paradox, if this
implies that pleasure is an unpleasant word). The puritanic use is
probably the result of (I) arbitrarily confining "pleasure" to
bodily functions, plus (2) a timid attitude toward the body (com-
pare Epictetus' construal of pleasure as fleeting, since bodily
pleasures are apt to be short-lived). The former is responsible for
the confusion of hedonism with sensualism. A weaker form of
puritanism is the disparagement of the pleasures of the body
rather than of pleasure simply.
Puritanism in some form or other is found in the extant writings.
Thus somewhere the pleasures of "the soul" are praised, while
those of "the flesh" are belittled (III.7.3-7). And in fragment 14
"pleasure" as "the good and aim of life" is rejected on the ground
nature has given me a sense of shame and I often blush, when I think I am
saying something shameful (cp. III.7.27f).
But Epictetus was not a consistent puritan, for in the very same
fragment he says not only (as we already noticed) that pleasure is
something natural and primary, but that calm is derivable from
physical rather than mental pleasures, agreeing in passing with
Epicurus. Nor does he condemn sex (the prime target of puritan-
ism), any more than the early Stoics or the Cynics or even
Antisthenes did so. (For Antisthenes see Laertius 6.3, II; for the
rest, below seetion 37.)
The suspect fragments 33 and34, both attributed to Democritus,
The rarest pleasures are the most enjoyable. If somebody goes beyond the
mean, the most enjoyable things would become the least enjoyable.
The former fragment makes intensity of positive feeling a function
of scarcity. But I would replace "pleasures" by the more accurate
"conditions (or sourees) of pleasures." Examples of both
fragments are: making love sporadically and overdoing it.
Democritus was a hedonist (and a negative hedonist), though his
remains do not present a very dear picture in this respect. But
see C. Bailey, Creek Atomists.
24. Divisions 01 Ethics
Epictetus distinguishes three basic types of studies or training.
One has to do with exercising in such things as desiring the
attainable and avoiding the unattainable. Another pertains to
social responsibility or responsiveness, for a man should try to es-
tablish amicable relations with others, should try to be a good
"son, brother, father, citizen," and "religious." The third division
concerns logical and intellectual training (111.2; cp. 7.2S-7;
II.I7 1Sf, 31ff, I4.7f; IV.IO.13; 1.4 lIf).
The word rendered as social responsiveness and which trans-
lators tend to translate as duty (which however is misleading,
since "duty" suggests alien will) is the Stoic technical term
kathekon, first introduced into ethics by Zeno (Laertius 7.2S, 108).
To Epictetus this term signifies further "orderly," "rational,"
and "careful" action (111.2.2; cp. I. 7 .3). And in a chapter entitled,
"How can one discover his kathekonta [plural] from the words
which apply to hirn?" he propounds the theory that to behave
sociably, one should study the meanings of the words which are
true of hirn. "For each of these designations ... suggests the acts
which are appropriate to it" (II.IO.lIf). "Man," brother," "son,"
"councillor," etc., all imply certain kathekonta (cp. M30). The
first term, Epictetus adds, entails being rational, so that by classi-
fying oneself as a human being, one is committed to being a Stoic,
that is, to regarding reason as sovereign (cp. also III.I.2S, 27).
To this it might be replied, first, that neither "an irrational
man" nor "an antisocial man" appear to be contradictions in
terms. To say that Epictetus applies rationality and sociability
tothehumanspecies, not to individuals,is tofail torealizethatheis
speaking here of "man" as a designationreferringtoyou and me.
Similarly, to say that "rational" and "sociable" are used here in
their dispositional sense, is still to allow for a man to be both ir-
rational and antisocial in the episodic sense. (Someone is something
dispositionally when he can be, though actually he is not, that
thing.) Also, can't a man be both rational and antisocial?
Next, such terms as son, brother, and the like can be used in
their thin or constant sense which implies no social responsiveness
or commitment. Thus, "son" in this sense means simply "male
offspring" (or "human male offspring"). And though such a term
as councillor may be in a different category, still its meaning
seems to be primarily legal, not Stoic. However, Epictetus does
not appear to be taking this quasi-linguistic theory of morality
very seriously, for he uses it sparingly and rather casually even in
the chapter in question (II.Io).
Of the three basic types of training Epictetus regards the first
as "the most important and pressing." Indeed, the bulk of his
writings is taken up with questions roughly falling under this
division; which is further characterized as the sector of "strong
emotions" and "passions," interfering with the voice of "reason"
(III.2.3 f; cp. 16-8); so that ability to control one's impulses
becomes the most important task in one's life.
Accordingly, more space will be devoted to Epictetus' individu-
al ethics than to his social and political tenets. The distinction
between individual and soeio-political ethics may not be trans-
parent, especially if man is regarded as a socio-political being, but
it is convenient to follow Epictetus here.
Another useful distinction is between a happiness-oriented
ethics (howare happiness, fulfillment, etc., attainable) and a
pain-oriented ethics (how can unhappiness, distress, etc., be coped
with). Though perhaps a little misleading, it will be convenient to
dub the former "positive" and the latter "negative" ethics.
Negative ethics in turn divides into preventive (techniques for
anticipating ills) and remedial (techniques for alleviating and
rectifying ills). In a broad sense negative ethics comprises medi-
eine and psychiatry (dis-ease). For Epictetus mental ethics ap-
pears to be more important than (physical) medicine (III.Io.g, 15).
Preventive methods are more basic than remedial in that if ef-
fective they abolish suffering and hence the need for remedialism.
0l H lOU A'BlU n S!
l{l!M A'BM'B op 0l l'Bl{l lON
eliminate suffering or hardship is at the same time to eliminate
challenge and satisfaction (see also section I7).
Less generic distinctions will be introduced as the discussion
proceeds. Although some of those distinctions, like the divisions
in the preceding two paragraphs, are not Epictetus' own, theyare
useful for organizing his complex ethical discussions. His ethics
will be reconsidered with a minimum of repetition. But first his
general theory of training.
25. Learning Theory
By way of introduction, for Epictetus, acts determine habits,
and habits character; which means that acts determine character
as weIl, which makes acts, rather than habits, character, or what
not, the basic psychological reality. (This, as we shall see, is
generalized.) Moreover, change of character is effected by changing
corresponding acts (rather than by reminiscing), and determining
wh ether the attempt at habit formation or transformation has
been successful is by looking at relevant acts. (ep. Diogenes in
Laertius 6.70; Aristotle in Nich. Eth. II03b, IIoSbS-IS.)
Similarly, though this occurs rat her inexplicitly, discovering
what kind of being one really is, is done by looking at relevant acts
(rather than by introspecting). Epictetus also invented or taught
programed learning, among several other connected devices and
Habit, he says in a chapter entitled "On Training," is a powerful
force, adding, here and elsewhere, that to change, "oppose habit
by contrary habit" (II1.I2.6; 1.27-4f; cp. 11.9.I4).
Every habit and power ehe says in another connection] is supported and
reinforced by corresponding acts, that of walking by walking, that of
running by running. If you want to be able to read, read; if to be able to
write, write. And when you haven't read for thirty days in a row, but have
done something else, you'll know what happens. Likewise if you lie in bed
for ten days and then get up and try to take a long walk you'll see how
shaky your legs are. Generally then if you want to do something, make a
habit of it; if you don't want to do it, don't do it, but get into the habit of
doing som,ething else instead.
So too about things "mental," Epictetus adds:
\Vhen you get angry realize not only that something bad has happened to
you [for anger is a disturbance], but that you have reinforced the habit
and as it were added fuel to the fire. \Vhen you have given in to someone
sexually, don't count this as only one defeat, but realize also that you have
fed your incontinence and increased it. For as a result of corresponding
acts habits and powers are bound to be implanted if they wcre not there
before, or intensified and strengthened if they were there already (lI.I8.
Accordingly if you want to stop being hot-tempered, don't nourish the
habit, don't let it grow. To start with keep quiet and count the days when
you didn't get mad. "I used to be mad evcry day, then every other day,
then every third, then every fourth." if you miss as much as thirty
days in a row sacrifice to God. For thc habit is first wcakened and then
totally destroyed. "Today I was not distressed (and likewisc for the dav
following and for two or thrce months after); but when occasion for
distress arose I was on my guard." Know that you're doing fine (12-4).
If you wish to rid yourself of "arrogance," submit to insults
and disparagements.
Then you will make such progress that even if someone hits you, you'll say
to yourself, "1magine you have thrown your arms around astatue" (lII.
In other words, sometimes it is useful to use extreme methods:
I inclinc toward pleasure [or sensuality? hedone]; I will go to the other
extreme even beyond the mean so as to train myself (7).
And likewise about my inclination "to avoid hard work" (7f).
Apply Apollonius' remark (Epietetus goes on), who used to say
that if you wish to really train, rather than show off, "when
thirsty in hot weather take a mouthful of cold water and spit it
out and tell nobody" (17; cp. M47; III.I3.2I).
Epietetus extends the idea about the inextricable connection
between charaeter and skill, on the one hand, and aets and works,
on the other, to such other traits as moelesty, loyalty,
shamefulness, logicality, grammaticalness, and their opposites,
and to abusiveness anel miserliness, and also to "arts," such as
carpentry. In the process he conceives of things and organisms in
the same manner, namely as sets of habits or dispositions which
are a funetion of corresponding actions or actualities.
How, he asks, "is a flute, a lyre, a horse, a dog preserved?" The
answer, which he leaves somewhat unstated, is by the execution
of corresponding deeds or actions. Thus, one preserves a flute or a
lyre presumably by playing with it, rather than by using it as a
weapon. A horse or a dog is preserved or is not "miserable" if he
behaves like one of his species, if, for example, he goes on
"running" or "smelling," not if he can "sing cuckoo" or "fly."
So too, Epictetus analogizes, a skill and a character trait are
preserved by corresponding performances, and "destroyed" by
contrary ones. Carpentry is sustained by making tables and
chairs ; grammaticalness by writing and talking grammaticaIly.
A man's grammaticalness eventually dies out if he gets into the
habit of uttering solecisms.
By the same token modest acts preserve the modest man, while immodest
ones destroy him (11.9.8-14; 1.7f; IV.5.13f).
Nor, in general, is it "possible to remain the same person ...
without doing the same things." About "belief," Epictetus says
similarly that it cannot easily be acquired unless a man constantly
states and hears the same ideas and at the same time applies them to his
life (z.2f; 116; cp. IV.6.ISf).
This notion of idea-repetition is of course essential not only to
education but also to indoctrination, propaganda, and advertising.
However, a complete cure of the "passions" must be effected.
Once acquired, passions
leave traces and marks behind them, and unless a man erases these
entirely, when flogged again on the old scars the marks give way to sores
Epictetus treats habits and dispositions of mind, body, and
matter in the same way. He even refers to the passions and de-
fects of character as "sicknesses" (8). In two passages (quoted in
section 2) and in other contexts he describes the philosopher's
school as a hospital, compares his students to patients with various
indispositions, physicalinjuries, and diseases (IU.23.30-2; II.2I.
22; cp. I3.12f, I4.22), and refers to education in general with the
word "therapy" (2I.IS). EIsewhere this same word is used with
reference to ethical matters and the philosopher is compared
to a doctor who treats (e.g. I.I7.4; III.23.27f).
All this indicates that Epictetus does not make a radical dis-
tinction between the physical and mental (or between ethics and
psychotherapy). Also worth noting are his tacit convinctions that
amental infirmity is not something to feel helpless about and that
such infirmities can usually be fixed without outside help - though,
as we shall see in section 39, the mental physician, in theformof
the Stoic troubleshooter, is not superfluous.
Another feature of Epictetus' learning theory is realism. He
notices, for example, that habits are ingrained and cannot be
changed overnight. (He adds, though, that to have a given power
is to be conscious of having it, which may be false.) He also sees
that not everything is a suitable object of learning, but only those
things which do not involve too great a danger and for which
there is a reasonable chance of success. Things which are "un-
natural or fantastic" are not wise objects of training (1.2.30-2,
I5.7f; III.I2.1-4, I3.20).
Learning should furt her form a progression from less difficult
to more difficult phases (cp. also 1.26.3 f). A man should not try
to surmount all obstacles at once for fe ar of surmounting none.
He should analyze objectives into steps of increasing complexity,
and take the steps one by one, starting with the relatively
simplest. Thus, if he wants to stop drinking he should reduce little
by little the intake of wine - though he shouldn't use programed
learning to become an alcoholic! (II1.I2.n). Above all , a man
should make sure that he is not in too great a disadvantage. For
example, he should keep away from objectives which are too hard
for hirn, and should avoid things which hinder his efforts in an-
other direction. Thus, "a young beginner in philosophy" should
avoid "pretty girls," for this is not "a fair match ... : pot and
stone, as the saying goes, don't mix" (12).
Eut nor should one easily despair of oneself and
behave like spiritless people, who when they have given in once surrender
themselves entirely and are swept off by the current ....
Coaches can serve here as a lesson, Epictetus goes on. A trainee is
thrown: "get up [his coach] says, and wrestle again, until you
become strong" (IV.9.14-6).
I cannot be perfect but this does not mean that I should give up
all training:
Epictetus ehe says of hirnself] will not be better than Socrates; but if I am
not worse, I am satisfied. For I won't be a Milo [a great athlete], and yet
I don't neglect my body; nor a Croesus, and yet I don't neglect my proper-
ty; nor, in short, is there any other area in which we give up training be-
cause we despair of attaining perfection (1.2.36f).
Now, you prove you have learned a principle when you exhibit
it in corresponding acts and works, not when you know how to
recite it. "If you didn't learn these things to display them in
works, what did you learn them for?" (29.3Sf).
Those who have leamed rules and nothing more are eager to give them out
at once, just as men with weak stomachs throw up their food. First digest
your rules and then you won't throw them up; otherwise they are really
vomit, unclean stuff and inedible. If on the other hand you have digested
them, show us some change in your rational self (hegemonikon), like the
athletes show their shoulders, as a result of their training and eating, and
like those who have mastered their arts can show the outcome of their
The builder does not come and say "Hear me lecture on building," but
takes a building contract and builds a house, proving in this way that he
has the art.
Do something like this yourself; eat like a human being, drink like a
human being, be neat, marry, procreate, live a citizen's life; endure insults,
be patient with an unreasonable brother, father, son, neighbor, travelling
companion. Show us you can do these things, and then we'll know that you
really have leamed something ....
No; but "Come hear me make comments" you say. Get lost, go find
people to vomit on (III.2I.1-7; cp. 1.4.6-27, 29.56f; I1.I.34-6, 19.5-28;
We, Epictetus says on another occasion, "lie ... but are ready
with proofs that one shouldn't lie" (Msz.z).
Epictetus' usual conception of the phony philosopher is that he
says one thing and does another (e.g. IV.I.I38-43). He professes
to be master of circumstances but gets upset by the first trivial
disturbance, like someone laughing while he is lecturing on How
To Be AStoie (cp. 11.9.13ff). This is Epictetus' practical use of
the term philosophy. By philosopher he means primarily one who
"puts to use his valid opinions," who embodies a way of life, rather
than who can theorize about life (cp. also III.2.IOff, 2I.2-6,
IO.I6, 7.17f, I3.z3, I4.IO, I6.rrff, I5.4; II.I47f).
For "what is philosophy? Isn't it preparing to face things?"
(III.IO.6; cp. 11.8.Z9). A philosopher in this use is essentially a
person, and, as Antisthenes put it, "virtue is a matter of deeds
... not ... of words ... " (Laertius 6.rr). Nor do appearances
("a rough c1oak, long hair, long beard") make you a philosopher,
but how you think and live (IV.8-4ff). In fact, don't eall yourself
a philosopher or say you're "doing philosophy - indeed an arrogant
expression"; rather, show by your acts that you are the genuine
article (17, I.II3; M46; II.I.36; III.24II8).
Imitate Socrates, who even professed to "know and teach
nothing," and who when asked whether he knew of any philoso-
pher would not point to himself but would take the inquirer to
the Sophists "Protagoras or Hippias" (5.17; ep. 2J.22f; M46).
26. Rationalization and Erring
Although it is not possible to be faultless, it is possible to strive
to avoid making mistakes (IV.I2.1g). And there should be no
procrastination where self-improvement is eoneerned. If "to-
morrow" is a good time to start improving, to start extinguishing
shamelessness, tactlessness, abjectness ... , how much better it is today.
If it is in your interest tomorrow, it is much more so today, to be able
to do the same tomorrow and not put it off again to the next day (20f;
Of course a man ean always postpone or even avoid changing
himself by saying, for example, that he is stuck with his eharacter.
But this to Epictetus would be rationalization of inertia. People,
he remarks, look for alibis for their proerastination and laziness,
and "like finding exeuses for their faults" (1.7.30; f 15; ep. 11.2I;
But how are rationalization and self-deeeption possible? For
aeeording to Epictetus it is impossible to assent knowingly to a
falsehood, while this very thing seems to be demanded by self-
deeeption. Let someone feel, he says,
that it is now night [being presumably day]. This isn't possible. Don't feel
that it is day. This isn't possible. Feel or don't feel that the stars are even
in number. This isn't possible [though not presumably because it is false
but because it is undecidable]. Consequently when a person assents to a
falsehood, you can be sure that he did not want to do so; for every soul is
unwittingly deprived of truth, as Plato says; he only thought that the
false was true (1.28.2-5; cp. II1.3.2, 7.15; PI. Sophist 228c).
(This idea is then extended to eonduct: a man eannot wittingly
ehoose the unprofitable to himself either (ep. also II1.7.15). One
would like to know whether these impossibilities, like the impossi-
bility of rational creatures wittingly being irrational (II.26.3), are
logical rather than empirical impossibilities. The same applies to
some remarks of Epictetus on freedom, habit, disposition, and
character, and also to Socrates' famous sayings that virtue is
knowledge and that no one does evil voluntarily, which influenced
Perhaps another comment or two of Epictetus will help save the
concept of self-deception, since, to repeat, the above does not
seem to do so. Unless care is exercised in changing undesirable
habits, he says,
you will eventually fail to notice that you're doing wrong, but even give
yourself alibis ... (lI.IB.3If; cp. IV.I2.If, 6; MSI).
Self-deception, perhaps, is a slow process. A man procrastinates
and after a while forgets he wanted to change. He somehow talks
himself little by little and with half-closed eyes into doing or
accepting wrong.
We may speak here of committal talk (typified as weIl by the
lover's insistence that his or her partner say "I love you").
Committal talk, though this too is inexplicit in Epictetus, is not
quite true-or-false talk but a form of influence (self-influence),
which of course may contain some true-or-false talk. Nor is it tied
to any particular form of words, though some form of words may
be more suitable than others.
Self-deception is possible, then, insofar as giving oneself alibis
is possible, and the latter is possible insofar as it is a form of
committal talk. Committal talk (or self-committal talk) is a
bridge linking rationality (accepting only what one thinks is true
or right) and rationalization or self-deception, and fits in with
Epictetus' tenet that thought and talk can affect conduct.
Needless to say, so to analyze self-deception is to make it a
conscious (or semi-conscious) affair, rather than an unconscious
Does Epictetus regard the erring man as wicked? Not typically;
for wickedness implies motives, while Epictetus tends to speak of
beliefs and actions apart from motives, and at any rate without
ascribing maliciousness to them (cp. 1V4-44). He follows So-
crates' thesis that nobody errs voluntarily (I.I7.14). Medea,
Epictetus says, was ttdeceived": she didn't really choose to
sacrifice her children. She was blinded by her pain and attendant
passion; from which it follows that she should be pitied rather
than hated (28.7-9). Similarly, neither the "bandit" nor the
"adulterer" should be put to death, for again neither knows what
he is doing. To punish them would aga in be like punishing a blind
man for being blind - which, Epictetus adds, would be "inhuman"
Epictetus, then, would have dismissed the idea of original sin
too, and on the additional ground that a person is responsible
only for his own behavior, that
you can't be in evil through someone else, any more than you can be in
shame [or] misfortune (M24.I; 1.9.34; cp. IV.I3.8).
An un-Stoic, for Epictetus, makes mistakes; he does not sin.
He may be foolish, but he is not wicked. (And he is "foolish" in
the last analysis because he is subject to "pain, fear, envy,
disturbance," 1I.22.6.) "A foul and unclean soul," Epictetus says,
is the result of "mistaken decisions [andJ therefore ... of bad
judgments," just as a "pure soul" is one with "correct judgments"
(IV.II7f ; cp. 4-44).
On occasion indeed Epictetus speaks of "mean people" (1I.9.6).
But this is not typical; nor does it occur in a context in which
error is specifically discussed (such as 1I.26, to be examined
presently). For hirn, as for Socrates, the concept of wickedness
tends to be empty.
In a chapter devoted to error (hamartema), he says that every
mistake involves self-defeat, failure. This implies that error is a
purposive notion, that to say that an act is amistake is to say
that it misses its objective, that it mis-takes something for
something else. An erring man is mi staken about his interest.
Therefore, Epictetus continues, all one has to do to set hirn
straight, assuming he listens to reason, is simply to draw his
attention to this fact, to point out clearly that he is not doing
what he wants, that his conduct undermines his aims and real
interest. Otherwise one should blame oneself, if he does not listen;
for no man goes deliberately against his own interest, any more
than he is irrational or errs voluntarily (cp. I1.26.rf, 7; I.I7.r4).
But surely, as Aristotle said to Socrates, there is such a thing
as a weak will. A man might concede that R is right, and yet
because he is weak he ends up doing the opposite.
The word Epictetus uses to characterize error in the special
chapter on the subj ect meant also logical contradiction; so
perhaps it would be natural to infer that he defined error as
contradiction. But notice what he says:
Every error involves a mache. For since he who errs does not want to err,
but to succeed, it is obvious that he is not doing what he wants. For what
does the thief want to accomplish? What is to his own interest. If then
stealing goes against his interest, he fails to do what he wants (II.26. 1-3).
How can the contradiction interpretation apply here? (Or, for
that matter, to e.g. II1.23.34 and II.I2.15, which also contain
occurrences of mache.)
\Vhen Epictetus says that the thief as an erring man fails to
do what he wants (if stealing goes against his interest), obviously
he does not mean that the thiefmakescontradictorystatements.
Mache translates here into "discrepancy," which means that,
according to Epictetus, error involves a discrepancy between
purpose (or interest) and execution. And, no doubt, if logical
contradiction is a form of self-defeat (as it is in science, not
necessarily in debating or joking), then it too would count as an
error for Epictetus, though again it would not be the same as
error. This is obvious from another passage where he explicitly
distinguishes logical from other kinds of mistakes. There are, he
says, other "errors" besides "setting fire to the Capitol and
murdering one's father," namely logical contradictions and
fallacies in reasoning (1.7.31-5).
To think that Epictetus identifies error with logical contra-
diction is as unsatisfactory as interpreting or translating his use
of hamartema as "sin" (as some scholars also do).
27. Negative Ethics: A Look
The erring and unhappy man Epictetus conceives as the man
with the wrong kinds of habits. Hence his emphasis on training.
Hence too his locating the source of unhappiness primarily within
rather than outside the individual: in his impulses and conceptual
make-up. Impulse must be "controlled" because it can be un-
realistic, projectional, and as a result can lead to avoidable fear
and misery.
Suppose, to paraphrase fragment 9, that you hear a loud noise
coming from the sky or from the collapse of a building, or that
you hear bad news. If you are ethically untrained, you will
probably panic. But if you are aStoie you will recover soon
enough and take hold of yourself. The morallayman is overcome
by his impressions and impulses (these two Epictetus does not
clearly distinguish), while the Stoic is not, though he as well might
be disturbed at first and perhaps "shrink and grow pale" because
of certain rapid and unwitting movements in his brain which
momentarily prevent the intervention of sense. The ethicallayman
projects his fears into the phenomena or news, while the Stoic
realizes that the fear is all on his side, that events are not in
themselves terrible or peaceful, but neutral. The layman does not
stop to think. While he is immersed in the phantasmagoria of his
impressions and swayed by them, the Stoic eventually becomes
detached from and master of impressions and impulses. It takes
two to be bothered, and essentially only oneself. (On bad news
see further III.24.2Sf, I8.If.)
Ideal conduct to E pictetus means being master of circumstances
(cp. IV.s.6f). It does not typically mean lack of feeling or interest.
Ataraxia, a word he frequently uses in this connection, typically
means in his language unfazedness, the capacity to withstand ills,
not goods. It is typically used to mean being intrepid and
dauntless, rather than apathetic (e.g. 1.4.27; II.I, 5.2, I8.29;
IV.6.9; below).
Apatheia itself, which he often uses interchangeably or jointly
with ataraxia (3.7f, 4.36, IO.22; MI2; etc.), me ans in hirn typi-
cally this, rather than apathy:
The oil will be spilt, my poor furniture will be lost, but I will be apathes
Here obviously the word signifies unperturbed, not apathetic
(see further 13; 1.4.3; III.I3.II).In fact, somewhere apatheia in
the sense of unfeelingness is rejected, just as "inactivity" is said
to be not a characteristic of man (2.4; LIO.7).
Epictetus' typical use of the two Greek words compares with
the famous classical statues and, in general, with the classical
attitude, which obviously is one of unperturbedness rather than
apathy (though, strangely enough, this attitude as weil has
frequently been construed in the laUer manner).
The Stoic to Epictetus is not overcome even by witnessed
sorrow. As he does not think it rational to be overcome by thunder
or bad news, so he does not see that it helps to be swayed by the
pain of others. He will no doubt offer assistance and even "groan"
with the sufferer, but hewiildesist doing so from "insidehimself,"
he will presumably refrain from empathizing (Mr6).
It is not unusual to criticize Epictetus here. But perhaps one
man in agony is enough (cp. III.24.rf). Perhaps the recipe is,"Do
whatever has to be done with a minimum, not a maximum, of
effort or pain." Perhaps it is a maUer of economy. Parsimony is
an ideal in science, mathematics, logic, technology, business.
Shouldn't it, perhaps, be a goal in life generally? Medicine I sup-
pose tries to confine disease and suffering. Should ethics, perhaps,
be predicated on the principle of spreading suffering? (This of
course would be inconsistent, if medicine flows from ethics.)
Maybe the only relevant question is whether it is feasible to help
someone without sharing his pain. And the answer is yes. Doctors
generaily do this; so do social workers and officers of charitable
organizations and of foreign aid programs. To require that helping
should entail making the helper share pain would lead to spreading
rather than arresting suffering and might generate a kind of re-
verberation: to help X, Y would have to suffer, and to help Y, Z,
and so on. That the helping habit to be discharged often requires
a dose of sympathy need not go against Epictetus' thesis, which
seems to be opposing rather empathy. (That even sympathy is not
always necessaryis evident from the fact that ail that a surgeon, for
example, needs by way ofmotivation is personal satisfaction for
exercising his skill, or money, or farne, or a combination of these.)
However, I do not wish to suggest that there is nothing wrong
with Epictetus' ethics (or straight ethics). But one thing at a time.
Many of his apparently objectionable statements, like his social
organicism, which may weil conflict with his no-empathy point,
will, for the sake of convenience, be considered in later sections
(36 and 38).
Man's true work, Epictetus says on one occasion, is
to study how to rid his life of mournings and lamentations and of "Ah me"
and "How miserable I am" and of misfortune and mishap and to figure out
what death is, and exile and imprisonment, and [referring to SocratesJ
hemlock, that he may say in jail ras Socrates didJ "My dear Crito, if it
pleases the gods, so be it," instead of "Poor me, an old man, is it for this
I kept my gray hairs" (1.4.23-5; cp. IV.4.21; M53.3f; PI. Crito 43d).
On his role as a teacher Epictetus says similarly that it is to make
his pupils not only "free, serene, happy," but also "untouched by
hindrance, pressure, constraint" (II.I9.29). Philosophy itself, as
we saw in sections 8 and 25, he typically conceives in a negative
as weIl as practical sense.
His ataraxist or negative ethics includes, to begin with, the
following items: Analysis, Dela y, Realism, Strength, Detachment,
Separation, Mediation, and Suicide. Some of these may overlap.
Their names are in part my own. Their textual support is not
always given in this somewhat impressionistic section, but
especially in the chapters to follow.
The first item, Analysis, denotes the use of reason for the
analysis of negative states (loneliness, anxiety, etc.) in order to
determine causation and prevention or alleviation. Analysis
further designates the study of impulse, desire, hope, and wish,
so as not to be misled by them. It also denotes the analysis of
habit and learning.
The remaining items, save Suicide, signify the most basic and
useful kinds of traits or insights one should strive to acquire. Thus
Delay is the habit of counting to ten when misfortune strikes, to
allow sense to come into play. A man could be so overcome by
emotion when something untoward happens to hirn that he might
succumb to his emotion or do something he will later regret.
Delaying is also supposed to restore a damaged sense of confi-
dence and safety.
For as Socrates used to advise not to live an unexamined life, so we shouldn't
accept an unexamined impression, but should say "Wait, let me see who
you are and where you come from," just as the nightwatch say "Show me
your identity" (II1.I2.15; cp. 3.17; II.I8.24; 1.20.7-12).
Accordingly make it yourfirst task not to be carried away by your im-
pressions ; for if you gain time and delay, you'll find it easier to control
yourself (M20; cp. M34).
Realism designates the habit of not reaching for unattainable
goals, of checking wishful thinking from issuing into pursuit.
Strength (karteria) is the ability to withstand or cushion ad-
versity, disappointment, calamity. Mental inoculation belongs
Detachment is the ability to disengage oneself from a loved
object when it is gone, in order to relieve pain or prevent collapse.
Epictetus does not mean that one should not love, but that one
should do so "in a free spirit," like "Socrates" (IIL24.6o).
Also of great help is the capacity to distinguish attitudes from
objects, affections from perceptions; not to read emotion into
things, but to keep the two separate.
The son is dead. What happened? The son is dead. Nothing else? Nothing.
The ship is lost. What happened? The ship is lost. He was taken to jail.
What happened? He was taken to jail. But "Something bad happened to
him" is an addition .... (8.5; cp. I77; M45; M3).
"But the time has come to die." Why say die? Don't dramatize the
situation, but speak as it is "Now is the time for the material, you're made
up of, to return to those things it came from." And what's so dreadful
about that? (1V.7.15f; cp. Aurel. 8.49; 11.6.22).
For what is terrible is not death or toil, but the fear of death or toil (II.
I.I3; cp. II1.z6.38).
Connected (and sometimes conflated) with the principle of
Separation is the principle of Mediation, which says that between
events and affectivity there are beliefs, assumptions, etc. That is,
while Separation says that perception doesn't entail affectivity.
Mediation says that perception and affectivity are mediated by
an intellectual component. Hence the importance of thought-
contral. Man is an intellectual being.
It is not what has happened that pains ... man ... but his belief about it
(MI6; cp. M5; 1.I7.25; 11.I6.22ff).
Remember that it is not the man who calls you names or hits you that
insults you, but your thought that they're insulting you. So when somebody
angers you, know that it is your own belief which has angered you (M20;
Lacydes the Academic recommended amnesia).
Suicide, finally, is the most drastic method of escaping pain and
is used when all else has failed.
Analysis, however, is the "ruling" factor, since without reason
it wouldn't be possible to decide that the other items are useful
(cp. LI.I-7; IL23.6ff, I2.20). "Useful" of course means here
conducive to happiness and freedom from worry, as was es-
tablished in chapter ii.
28. Forestall, Resist, Ease
This chapter and the next examine Epictetus' negative ethics in
more detail and from a somewhat different angle, reverting to the
scheme of classification outlined in the first section of the pre-
ceding chapter. The reason for two angles and schemes is,
hopefully, variety of perspective and comprehensiveness. In any
case, there won't be any tiresome repetition. Delay and Suicide,
which belong to Epictetus' remedial devices, will not be taken up
again; nor will Analysis (which, it may be noted, transcends his
negative ethics, as it relates to his general theory of learning
as well).
Epictetus' preventive ethics includes two "tests," both of
which, though not identical, he describes as primary (MI.5;
111.24.84). One of them, which will be termed the Control test,
advises the pursuit only of things which are within one's power to
control. The other says that when things go well, one should be
prepared for the possibility that they might turn bad. There are,
as we shall see, other preventive recipes in the remains.
While the Control test is designed to forestall misfortune, the
other test or rule is meant to prepare one for misfortune. The
latter, being building-resistance methods, may be termed re-
sistance methods. The forestalling devices indicate ways for
avoiding misfortune, while the resistance ones indicate ways for
withstanding misfortune in ca se it occurs.
Resistance techniques differ from remedial in point of time or
perspective: while the former relate to adversity before and in
ca se it occurs, the latter come into play after, and are therefore
cushioning devices. Remedialism consists of pain relievers, while
resistance (or perhaps preventive) devices are pain anticipators.
This scheme of classification (not Epictetus') is not meant to
classify ideas so much as functions of ideas, or techniques. It is not
meant to say that the same maxim cannot work both preventively
and lenitively, for example. For it is obvious that it can. It is
obvious that, just as aspirin, for instance, can be taken to forestail
as weil as ease pain, so the same formula can be used both as a
preventive and as an antidote. An example is the idea that things
are ephemeral.
Nor is there any incompatibility in devising techniques for both
preventing and easing the same negative state. Epictetus' special
treatment of fear and anxiety best belongs to this chapter, and his
special treatment of loneliness to the next, but this does not mean
that he was blind to the fact that the first two can be treated
remediaily and the third preventively as weIl.
To devise negative-ethics techniques, and in particular re-
sistance and remediaiones, is to be committed to the notion that
life is not (or is not necessarily) cozy. This in turn need not be
pessimism; it could be realism - though (or because) the difference
is hard to pin down.
29. Controt Test
this is the source of sorrow to wish for something which
does not come to pass" (1.27. ro f). And there is plenty of sorrow in
life. The best "proof" is that when "I want something ... it does
not happen," while when "I don't want something ... it happens"
(II.I7.r7f). "People," Epictetus says, "are strange, wishing
neither to live nor to die." For when they die young they feel an
unfairness has been committed against them, and similarly if they
don't die old - though again, when old and feel death approaching,
they send "for the doctor," imploring hirn to waste no effort to
save them! (124).
To forestail disappointment, then, care must be taken not to
wish for something "which does not come to pass." Accordingly,
"the first test" of anything is, Is it concerned with what is in our
control or with what is not in our control? (Mr.S). Hence, "know
yourself," your "endowrnent and capacity" (Ir; III.I.r8; I.I8.r8;
II.6.3, I4.20; III.22.I07-9, 23.If; IV.8.4rf).
The possible should be the measure of both our stride and our hopes (f 3 I s).
For once you exceed the measure there is no limit (M39).
When you undertake something, "first consider its nature; and
then your own powers, to see if you can do it" (M 29.S; cp. M 4).
Then train for it like an athlete and wrestler (III.IS.1ff).
To "reach out for the impossible" is not merely "foolish" and
being "a stranger in the world"; it is also "slavish" (24.21). To be
free and invincible, "despise whatever is not under your control"
and "never enter a contest in which you can't win" (M19; cp.
I.I8.21-3; III.6.Sf).
Envy and jealousy spring from desiring things beyond your
control; so to forestall jealousy and envy (both perturbances),
check your desires (M19). Being angry for having the parents one
has is absurd, since offspring don't choose their parents (LI2 .27 f).
Blame is pointless (MS; MII), partly becauseit relatesto thepast,
which cannot be changed. Death being ','unavoidable," people
should reconcile themselves to the idea instead of fighting it;
similarly for some fatal disease or other and for a dose of hardship
(L27.7ff; II.s.12f; HIS.Sf, IO.S; cp. M2).
(Besides, the wish for deathlessness is selfish: it is wanting to
"crowd the world"; or is a sign of immaturity: it is refusing to
"grow ripe," to "be harvested," IV.I.106; IL6.13f.)
In Manual 14 Epictetus says:
If you wish your children and wife and your friends to live forever, you're
silly; for you wish what is not in your control to be in your control ....
(cp. IV.5.7). Likewise if you wish your [servant] to make no mistakes, you
are a fool ... So exercise yourself in what lies in your power. Each man's
master is whoever has authority over what he wants or does not want, to
provide it or take it away (cp. II.2.26). Whoever then wants to be free let
him neither want nor avoid anything which depends on others; otherwise
he is bound to be a slave.
Compare, "Nobody is free who is not his own master" (/3Ss,
ascribed in Stobaeus to Pythagoras).
The Control test is designed to forestall disappointment and
frustration by checking des ire and aspiration. Disappointment is
a function of expectation; so that the less one expects from life
the less disappointed one iso
Another function of the Control test is to forestall fear and
anxiety. This is clear from the above freedom passages. Why
should a man not attach hirnself to things beyond his power to
control? Because he thus becomes vulnerable, anxious, for fear
that he might lose them. To be dependent is to pawn oneself, to be
insecure. Conversely, to be independent is to be anxiety-free. Why
should a man not place hirnself in the power of others? Because
he thus puts himself at their mercy, which attracts insecurity.
The power he thus invests in others over hirns elf is through
himself, his desires.
For what is a master? No man is a master of another ... (1.29.60; ep.
II1. 2 47of).
Rather, someone is the psychological slave of someone else when
he is afraid of hirn, and he is afraid of hirn because he desires
something the other has.
Have we then so many masters [as people and things we depend on]? Yes
so many (IV.I.59). But onee I free myself from my masters, that is, from
those things which make masters fearful, what further trouble do I have,
what master any more? (1.29.63; ep. 9.20-6).
This (though the following analysis is not quite explicit in
Epictetus) does not rnean that every time a person wants
something he turns into a psychological slave. To want something
could be only a necessary, not a sufficient, condition of psycho-
logical slavery. A man, for example, might want someone else's
admiration, but this in itself is not enough to make hirn his slave.
He must also seek his admiration. Note too that to want objects
(animate or inanimate) which exist in abundance may involve
becoming dependent on types, rather than on individuals : on food,
sex, or companionship, instead of on this or that apple or person.
And though type-dependence may itself be a form of dependence
(Epictetus, we remember from section and fragment I3, tacitly
rejects the idea of absolute human independence), it is much less
slavery-conducive than dependence on individuals, whether a
given person, pet, or house (cp. 130s).
Unless a man is not afraid, he is not free to do what he pleases
even when politically this is relatively feasible. This shows that
negative or psychological freedom is more basic than positive or
political. Hence it is that when political freedom exists, but small
psychological freedom, it is dubbed "nominal." Hence too the
reason Epictetus stresses psychological freedom (cp. esp. IV.I,
passim), while, as we shall see, his concern with political freedom
does not go beyond a very brief condemna tion of sla very and some
scattered remarks on the limits of state power. Marx, of course,
emphasized financial independence, but at least in his early or
"economic and philosophie manuscripts" he did so largely, it
seems, because he thought that freedom from want conduces to
psychologie al freedom, to exchanging the feeling of constraint for
the feeling of spontaneity - a typically Epictetian idea. Indeed, a
little before the middle of the third manuscript, for instance, such
Epictetian-sounding passages as the following are found:
A being does not regard himself as independent unless he is his own
master ... A man who lives by the favor of another considers himself a
dependent being (tr. T. B. Bottomore).
Nevertheless, the Control test might be criticized on the ground
that it is impossible to determine what one can do without trying,
and this involves risk of failure and therefore of disappointment,
which is what the Control test is designed to obviate. But even
according to this objection disappointment is not an inevitable
concomitant of trying but merely a "risk," while if trying means
among other things testing and if testing does not demand com-
mitment to a specific outcome of the test but is comparable to
investigating, then failure and disappointment are not even risks
of trying and consequently of the use of the Control test. ("Y ou
don't lose anything by trying," we say.)
To which it might be replied that it is absurd to expect that the
man who is trying to find things out about himselj does not in the
process commit hirnself to one possible outcome of the test to the
exclusion of the rest. But perhaps this confuses testing oneself
with wishing to be something. If I want to discover, for example,
whether I am good at singing, do I have to prove myself in the
process? Indeed, if it turns out that I am not good at singing, I
might even experience not disappointment but relief, for not trying
to sing sooner. Still it is true that man is apt to get involved with
what he tries to do. Yet again, this is not necessary, as Epictetus
would say, and, he would go on, if one is careful not to commit
hirns elf when testing hirnself and attempting to find things out
about hirnself, he has a good chance of skirting both failure and
Similarly, to reject the Control test on the ground that what is
impossible for one generation is possible for another, is to fail to
realize that the test addresses itself primarily to individuals, not
to mankind as a coIlection.
The Control test underscores the idea that human nature has
illusion-producing and self-defeating proclivities, that unguarded
man tends, for example, to expect more from hirns elf than
he is capable of. This, of course, is intensified in competitive
30. Anxiety and Fear
The thesis that to reach for things beyond one's power to
control is to risk anxiety and fear is amply illustrated in two
chapters entitled "On Anxiety" and "On Unafraidness" (and
elsewhere) .
"When I see someone in astate of anxiety," Epictetus says, I
wonder "what can it be that he wants?" Evidently he wants
something "outside his control"; else why should he be afraid?
When, for example, the citharoede (a singer harp player) is singing
by himself, he feels no anguish. It is only when he sings before
others that anxiety overtakes hirn even though "he has a good
voice and plays weIl."
What then is the difference between the two contexts? When
he is alone the singer cares only about how he plays, but when he
is in the theater he is worried about what others think of his
performance, and this is the cause of his anxiety: " ... he does
not want only to sing weIl, but also to win applause, and this is no
longer in his control." Concerning skill, he shows confidence, for
he does not panic when he does not perform before an audience.
It is not skill that worries hirn, but pleasing others (II.I3.r-S). The
orator, Epictetus says in another chapter, is in the same boat
The singer then, Epictetus goes on, is afraid because he wants
something which someone else has. He knows how to sing but not
what a "crowd or applause" iso He knows next to nothing about
the "role of praise in life .... So he is bound to tremble and turn
pale." He may know how to play his instrument and exercise his
vocal cords, nevertheless "I call hirn astranger and say: This man
doesn't know where in the world he is .... " He has been living so
long, yet he is ignorant of the nature of life. Worse, he has not
even consulted a lawyer (a philosopher) to inform hirn about the
laws and customs of his hometown (life). While he does not draw
up a will without legal study or advice, when it comes to ethical
matters, and particularly to the kinds of things he should pursue
and avoid, he is quite casual, ill-informed, and ill-prepared
(II.IJ.S-8; cp. I2.17-2S).
Zeno, by contrast,
was not in agony when he was about to meet Antigonus [the King, because]
Antigonus had no power over the things Zeno cared about, and what
Antigonus did have power over, left Zeno cold.
On the other hand, Antigonus was anxious when he was about to
meet Zeno, for he wanted to please hirn, and this was beyond his
control (II.IJ.I4f).
The same applies to fear. "What makes a tyrant an object of
fear?" Epictetus asks. It cannot be his "chamberlain," "guards"
or "their swords," for a "child is not afraid" when brought in the
presence of the tyrant and his guards. Does the child fail to notice
them? Not at all. If a man wishes to die and comes to the palace
for that purpose, he as weIl would not be frightened by the guards.
What makes the guards and the tyrant terrifying is neither their
presence nor what they are, but oneself: If someone wants to live,
the guards are a threatening sight. But if he doesn't care whether
he lives or dies, they are neutral. And if he wants to die, they are
a welcome sight (IV.7.1-S).
Socrates at the trial (to interpolate) is worth remembering. Why
was he not afraid? Because he wanted to die - and he succeeded in
receiving the death penalty by deliberately irritating and pro-
voking the judges (cp. II.2.18; Xenophon Apology). Socrates, says
Epictetus, was not really in prison, because "he was there
of his own free will," while a prison is a place in which "a man is
against his will" (I.I2 .23 f). But the child analogy is infelicitous.
A child might not be afraid of armed guards most likely because
he does not grasp what they tend to signify (namely danger) ,
rather than because he is indifferent to his welfare.
Doors are slammed in the faces only of those who wish to get in.
So too, Epictetus continues, people are afraid of a tyrant, or
rejected and hurt by hirn, only because they want something
from hirn (IV.7.19-2I).
See how large and sharp [the swords of the guards] are? Well, what do
these large and sharp swords do? They kill. And what does fever do? The
same. And what does a tile do? The same. Do you want me then to be in
awe of all these things and cringe before them and act as their slave? (25).
[No wonder] I wash, drink, sing, but do it all in fear and misery (I.29.62f).
Put him in jail, the tyrant says about me. I follow, it's in the game. But
your neck will be chopped off. And does the tyrant, and any of you who
obeys him, keep his neck forever ? ["That is why, " Epictetus says elsewhere,
when Demetrius was in a similar predicament he "said to Nero 'You
threaten me with death, but nature threatens you'" (I.25.22f).] But you
will be thrown out unburied. If land the corpse are one, I will be; but if
I am not identical with the dead body, speak more subtly, as the fact is,
and don't try to frighten me. These things are frightening to ... fools (IV.
7.3If; cp. LI9.1-8, 16f).
In the Demetrius context Epictetus advises not to betray
weakness because to do so (for example, to "admire" your "body"
or "property") is to invite being taken advantage of, "just as
when the snake draws in his neck" he shows where he is vulnera-
ble and "I say, strike that part of hirn he is protecting." Ifyou
bear this in mind, Epictetus concludes, whom will you have to
"flatter or be afraid of any more?" (25.24f). Defenses idea?
3I. Other Sateguards
Sometimes to avoid making mistakes it helps to remember how
you feIt in the past after you had given in to the same inclination,
"as slaves remember their blows" (except that it is through
physical pain that the slave is conditioned: "it is the pain which
induces the memory" in hirn). We might term this a way of
resisting temptation (III.25.9f, 6f; cp. M34).
To avoid being "violent" and "regretful," remind yourself,
when you're about to attack someone, that "you're a tarne
animai" (125).
The suspect fragment 30 advises "neither to fasten our ship to
one small anchor nor our life to one hope." This is equivalent to
our preventive maxim, "Don't put all your eggs in the same
basket" (though there are over 60 such idioms in the English
language, if lenitive ones are induded). But though the fragment
is suspect, it is, as will be seen, in the spirit of Epictetus' uncon-
troverted sayings. The following analysis, however, at points
leaves somewhat behind both the fragment and its spirit.
The rather vague idea behind the fragment can be expressed
equally vaguely as follows: No event or goal or aspiration should
be regarded as crucial. \Ve should not build our lives around only
one thing or hope. Why? Because the risk is great. Wh at kind of
risk? Disappointment and frustration. \Vhy? Because "man
cannot live with man forever" and "everything is perishable"
(III.24 20f) .
Or did you neglect to study this matter too, but like female weaklings did
you enjoy everything you took pleasure in as though you were to enjoy it
forever, places, people, ways of life? And so now you sit and cry because
you no longer see the same people and pass your time in the same places.
Certainly you deserve this fate, to be more miserable than crows and
ravens, who can fly where they please, and change their nests and cross the
seas, without sighing or longing for their former situations.
"Yes but they feel this way because they are not rational beings."
And has our reason been given us by the gods for misfortune and un-
happiness, that we may live in misery, in mourning? Or shall all men be
deathless, and nobody leave horne, but shall we stay rooted in the soillike
the plants; and if one of our acquaintances goes abroad, are we to sit and
cry, and again, if he comes back, are we to dance and clap like children?
Aren't we ever going to grow up rand realize that nothing stays put, etc.]?
(5-10 ; cp. 4).
Indeed, not only things and situations and other people are
subject to change, but also ourselves (our likes, etc. )- though
Epictetus does not pay much attention to this type of change,
eventuality, risk. Yet "subject" instability is as noteworthy as
"object" instability. Men are generally partial to novelty and
variety, and though some of us may not growtiredintermittently
or for good of the same thing, situation, or person, others do.
Again, as soon as one level of needs, desires, or interests is taken
care of another generally appears, and so on indefinitely. That is
why "progress" is bound to be perpetual or the concept of ne-
cessities open. This, though, does not call for pessimism. For after
all what matters is not whether we have many needs, but whether
we can satisfy those we have. And if we can't, we can always
practice self-control or suicide. There is always a way out. Or isn't
there? Anyway, saying there is helps.
To further clarify or toy with the many-hopes principle,
suppose a man does center his life around one crucial goal. He will
not only be miserable if his goal' 'does not come to pass"; but,
unless he lies down and expires, he will sooner or later be misera-
ble (or bored and restless) even if it does come to pass. For the
glow accompanying achievement does not endure. Indeed, to go
on following Epictetian leads, nothing stays the same (cp. 1.27.IOf;
1I1.24.4-ro, 20).
No goal is sacrosanct: life as a whole is not, for Epictetus
anyhow. Goals, like ideals and standards, are instruments. They
are set up for our benefit, and of course by uso Consequently
oppressive and misery-producing goals, ideals, standards should
be discarded as pointless. We don't live in order to have or realize
goals; rather, we realize goals in order to enjoy life. (We generally
value the sense of achievement, which is a function of goal-
realization.) Also, goals and even goal-realization are less im-
portant than the process of realizing goals; for the last keeps us
busy and (hopefully) pleasantly so. At any rate, to focus on goals
and goal-realization at the expense of the process of realizing goals
is doing things only on account of their expected rewards, and
this is impoverishing rather than enriching one's life. Activities,
as well as their outcomes, should be enjoyed (cp. II.I6.rsf).
The thing to do, then, is to set up attainable goals, enjoy the
process of realizing them and, once realized, to start the same
thing with other projects, like Epictetus' children who
gather up broken pieces and dust and build something or other, then pull
it down and build something else again; and so are never at a loss to pass
the time pleasantly (IILI3.I8f).
Moreover, we should start playing again without regret or nos-
talgia for past success, but like those happy-go-Iucky
crows and ravens, who can fly where they please, and change their nests
and cross the seas, without sighing or longing for their former situations
(24. 6).
Unless a memory is pleasant there is no point to looking back
anyway. The past is past and only a psychopath can change it
(that is, his memory of it - which however is all that counts any-
how; ethically that is).
But, it might be said, this would make for continual exertion,
while, as Schopenhauer put it, the ideal is "rest." But, as
Anacharsis-cum-Aristotle replied (N.E. II76b30),rest ismeaning-
ful only as relaxation: we can't work continuously, so we have to
take breaks. Indeed, life without exertion is boring (cp. I.Io.7). -
At least, life as we know it: perhaps medicine, with its euphoria
drugs and electrodes, will change this. But equally, with exertion
gone, procreation or family care and therefore life itself (as far as
earth man is concerned) will follow suit (at any rate until "evo-
lution" brings earth man back). Another likely result will be the
vindication of hedonism, though no one (or no earth man) might
be around to see this happen. (The prob ability that medicine will
bring about the abolition of the race seems greater than that
physics or engineering with its hydrogen bombs will do so.)
32. Resistance M ethods
Readiness for disappointment and loss is the "highest and most
important" habit.
\Vhen you grow attached to something, act toward it not as an inalienable
possession, but as though it was a jar or a cup made of glass, so that when
it breaks, you'll remember its nature and not be perturbed (III.24.84f).
Extend this to people: " ... if you kiss your child, brother,
friend," don't let your "imagination" or "enthusiasm" run away
with you but check it, "as do those who stand behind generals
riding in triumph reminding them that they are mortal" (85f).
Epictetus, however, does not mean to equate lass of loved ones
with loss of possessions. Losing some oil or wine, he says elsewhere
(IV.I.I4I), is one thing, losing your child is quite another (pre-
sumably because one's emotional as well as financial investment
in one's child is greater; and it is greater presumably because one's
child belongs to the category of relatively irreplaceable entities,
as explained in the ninth paragraph of seetion 29).
Whatever a man has, Epictetus continues, is given hirn only for
a time. Indeed, at any moment it might be taken from hirn,
through loss or destruction (and to long for a loved one inoppor-
tunely is like "hankering for figs in winter"). Remind yourself
that what you love is ephemeral, and that nothing you love is
yours to keep (III.24.86f). The feeling of inalienable ownership is
based on illusions (cp. also 20f, 4-10). Handle life "as travellers
treat an inn" (Mn; cp. II.23.36-4S). Call things your own as
you call "hotel beds" your own (1.24.14). Be "loose," not pos-
sessive (cp. IV.I.1S3).
When you're taking delight in something recall the opposite
image. What harm is there, if, when you're kissing your child, you
whisper to yourself, "Tomorrow you'll die" ? Say likewise to your
friend, "Tomorrow either of us will go away never to see the
other again. "
"But," comes the retort, "these are ominous words" (cp.
Herodes Atticus, in Gellius 19.12).
And so are "some incantations" (Epictetus replies), but "since
they do us good," they have a point. Besides, he goes on, be-
cause a word is ominous does not mean that it shouldn't be
spoken; for how else are we going to guard ourselves against the
things themselves (adversity)? (III.24.88f).
"When you are about to meet someone," especially a Very
Important Person or a man of great power - Epictetus advises by
way of further illustrating the precept to prepare for the worst-
say to yourself that "you won't find hirn horne, that you'U be shut
out, that the doors will be slammed in your face, that he'll ignore
you." Wondering "what would Socrates or Zeno have done in
these circumstances" will help (M33.12).
"And when you call your servant remember that he might not
pay attention to you and if he does pay attention to you that he
might not do what you want hirn to do." Don't make your peace
of mind dependent on hirn or on "any chance-corner" (MI2.2;
This then is
what you should practice all day long. Start with the most trivial things
and those most vulnerable - a pot, a cup, then go to a tunic, a mere dog,
horse, parcel of land; from there to yourself, your body, members of your
body, your children, your wife, your brothers ... Purify your judgments,
in case something which isn't really yours c1ings to them, grows on them,
and might cause pain when it is tom loose ... train yourself everyday, as
you do in the gymnasium ... (IV.I.III-I3; cp. I.I8.18f).
Imitate Diogenes who "everything he had .... he was prepared
to let go ... " not because he feIt nothing about anything, but
because he had eliminated all conditions of affective enslavement.
"Diogenes was free," free as a bird (IY.I.I5zf; cp. III.24.6).
For Epictetus, then, taking precautions is essential for ethical
success. Life is not necessarily ideal. To be unprepared is to be
overoptimistic and to invite defeat and suffering. It is like eating
whatever looks edible. To be sure, in attempting to prepare for
adversity one might overdo it; one might become so inured to
pain that one's capacity for enjoyment is impaired. But then
anything can be overdone. If preventive medicine and insurance
of all kinds are feasible and desirable, so is preventive ethics.
After all , the first two are the logical offsprings of the third.
(Historically as weIl, philosophy and medicine went hand in hand
in antiquity, beginning at least with Democritus and running
through especially the Pyrrhonian Skeptics, many of whom were
practicing physicians. IncidentaIly, the Skeptics' ethical "end"
was ataraxia.)
This is not to deny that there are no asymmetries between
medical and Epictetian vaccination. Thus, while complete absence
of what the inoculation is intended to prevent is usually a reason-
able expectation in the former case, this is not so in the latter,
though wh ether Epictetus was aware of this, as of the above ob-
jection about overdoing mental vaccination, is an interesting
33. Examples
If you're prepared for adversity, Epictetus remarks, you won't
be painfully surprised when it hits: you won't say that the
adversity was "unexpected." This, he adds,
will be the first relief. For [after having lost an offspring] it is always very
helpful to be able to say [cl la Solon or Anaxagoras or Xenophon] "I knew
I gave birth to a mortal." For this is what you'll say, or again "I knew I
was mortal," "I knew I might have to leave horne," "I knew I might be
banished," "I knew I might be thrown in jail" (11I.Z4.104-6).
When you meet with difficulties, follow the example of the
athlete and say, "It is for this that I was practicing, for
this I was training" (IO.6-8). "Does anything take [the ideal
Stoic] by surprise?" Indeed, doesn't he expect worse things to
happen to hirn than actually do happen? Doesn't he count it as
"gain" when things fall to go to their limit of badness? Doesn't
he use the maxim that to every bad there is a worse? Doesn't he
say to hirnself that things could be worse?
So-and-so insulted you. I am [replies the Stoic] very thankful to him for
not hitting me. But he did hit you. Many thanks to him for not wounding
me. But he did wound you. Many thanks to him for not killing me (IV.
5.8-10; cp. II.I6.28; III.z6.37f).
In the above passages Epictetus combines preventive with
remedial devices and slides naturally from the former to the
latter. Remedialism may not require immunization in physio-
logical cases, but in psychological cases it is certainly more ef-
fective if so preceded. Notice also how weIl intellectual antidotes
fit in with Epictetus' general tenet that thought affects attitude
and feeling. The "I knew" language is a case in point. By saying
this to oneself when something bad happens, one might feel hetter;
for it would be like winning a bet, like having a prediction come
true. Some "gain" is squeezed out of amisfortune.
But, it might be said, such comments as "I knew this would
happen" are idle postmortems. Yet surely, sometimes it does help
to say this, or again, "I am not sad, I am happy" (smiling perhaps:
cp. I.I.22). Then too, if it is admitted that unfavorable self-talk,
like "I am a coward, I am stupid," does make a difference to how
one feels, it seems arbitrary not to ascribe the same power to
lenitive talk. Anyway, how one reacts to happenings is largely a
matter of attitude, even when the happenings occur on one's body.
To paraphrase Epictetus (I8.19), when I have a "headache" or an
"earache" I may of course "groan," but do I have to become
depressed, anxious (or "say My my")? (This no doubt may not
apply to sustained bodily pain or serious injury.) One's whole
outlook on life, whether for example life is agame or a cross, is
largely a matter of attitude (not true orfalse). Attitudes in turn
are to an extent affected by what one says about things and
oneself. Lenitive talk, especially when combined with prepared-
ness, as it usually is in Epictetus, need not be useless.
And when it is useless, it need not be harmful. If a man is going
to drown anyway, what difference does it make that he has failed
to save hirns elf from drowning? Lenitive "failure" need not
collect disappointment, though when (or if) it does, the sum-total
of pain is admittedly increased.
N or is lenitive talk necessarily rationalization. This is not to
say, however, that lenitive lorms 01 words may not be put to such
use. We must distinguish between "lenitive talk," which refers to
a function of expressions, and "lenitive forms of words," which
does not. J ust as I can use "Eisenhower" to name a fictitious as
weIl as a real person, so I can use "It's one of those things" to
procrastinateorrationalize, as wellas a tranquilizer. Only the last
(lenitive) use is relevant to an understanding of Epictetus' work
in remedial ethics. The above distinctions may not be Epictetus'
own, but he makes an analogous distinction in the course of
discussing the nature of liturgy (see above section 9).
When in a predicament, to go on with his lenitive devices, "say"
to yourself: It doesn't concern me but
either my poor body or my poor property or my poor belief or ... For me
everything is a good sign, if I will; for whatever the outeome, I ean profit
from it (MI8; ep. IV.4.28).
Look at the bright side of things. After all, the negative outlook
is not necessary (cp. j28b).
But what if [some things or people I lost] are indispensable to me? Don't
set your heart on them and they are not. Don't tell yourself they are
indispensable and they are not (IV.I.IIO,107).
Tell yourself you can do without them, and eventually perhaps
you will detach yourself from them.
"Don't ever say ab out anything I have lost it, only I have
returned it," whether it is a "dead child," a "dead wife," or a
"lost farm." (I have returned it to "the giver" (MII). This, by
the way, is one obvious context in which Zeus is inoperative.)
Say something good about your troubles:
"How unlueky I am that this has happened to me." Don't talk like that,
but rather "Lueky me, that though this has happened to me I go on living
untroubled seeing that I am not erushed by the present, or seared of the
future." ... [Or,] "This is not bad luek, but to stand it high-mindedly is
good luek" (l28b).
Imitate Socrates who, insteadof "wailing" while in prison, wrote
"hymns," or Agrippinus the Stoic, who when something would
bother hirn
would write a eulogy on it: if he had fever, on fever; if he suffered disgraee,
on disgraee; if he was sent into exile, on exile. And onee ... when he was
about to have breakfast someone brought him word that Nero ordered him
into exile - "Then," he said, "we will breakfast in Aricia [a stop outside
Rome]" (121; ep. I.I.28-3'1; on Soerates IV.4.22; II.6.26f; PI. Phaedo
I must die; but must I die groaning too ? I must be ehained; whining too ?
I must go into exile; and does anybody prevent me from going with a smlle
and graeefully and without worry? (I.I.22).
Derive some benefit from illnesses, lameness, insults, even
death (III.zo). Hence Epictetus' idea that things in themselves
are neither good nor bad: one's attitude toward them makes the
difference (cp. also M45).
Or be nonchalant, indifferent: If an innkeeper dies and leaves
his beds to you, fine. If he wills them to someone else, you can
always look for another bed or even sleep on the ground "with
courage andsnoring and remembering that tragedies occur among
the rich and the kings and the tyrants" but not among the poor
(except as members of "the chorus," 1.24.14-6).
For everything befalling you remember to turn to yourself and inquire
what power you possess for coping with it. If you see a beautiful male or
female [you desire but can't have ?], you'll find continence the power to
use here; if you meet with hardship, you'll find endurance; if offensiveness,
you'll find restraint. And if you get used to behaving in this manner you
won't be overwhelmed by your impressions PilO; cp. III.20.9-II).
Besides, it takes two to be insulted: you can't revile a "stone,"
can you? (1.25.29; cp. M20).
Or make fun of your troubles (I presume this is in part the
intent of these and other passages) :
"I am about to die." And others will live forever? (II.6.27). And is the
universe going to be shaken when you die? (III.IO.14f). "Should I then be
the only one to be decapitated now?" Why, would you have all be decapi-
tated, so you can be pacified? (I.I. 18). "If only there is no bad news." In
this way for you every place can be a cause of bad luck. Isn't it enough
you' re miserable where you are, but also overseas and by letter? (III.24.
2Sf). "My God, look at the kindoffatherandmotherI 'vegot!" What, was
it given you to come forward and choose and say "Let this man have
intercourse with this female at this hour, so I may be born?" (LI2.28-9;
cp. 2.21, 29, I9.28f; II.I6.22f; III.5 If, 24.77, 26.37; IV731).
The detachment passages are reminiscent of prohairesis, yet no
reference to it is to be found in these or cognate passages (cp. also
M44). Perhaps, then, Epictetus can get along without this
concept or can subsume it under the principle of Detachment,
which says that when you lose something, shrink, identify with
less, and less still, and so on, though not to infinity, since suicide
may be preferable and Epictetus allows for suicide. Prohairesis
could be the vanishing point or ideal limit of this process of self-
shrinking. "Prohairesis is your self" could mean no more than
this. Similarly, "mind (or will) is your self" could mean that when
you lose everything, as it were, you still have your mind (or will).
(This of course is easier said than done.)
After all , Epictetus was apparently more interested in re-
medialism than in Ego Theories (or metaphysics). Not that egos
are substances. For "the self" collects "identifying with" and to
identify with X is to value X highly. "Discovering my self" is
at best like discovering good rather than (say) my heart, and
at worst it is amisleading expression.
34. "It's tate" and Other Tonics
Adopt the bystander's attitude toward your troubles: try to be
as rational and matter-of-fact toward them as you are toward the
troubles of others. When someone else's cup is broken, Epictetus
remarks, we're ready with the statement, "Things like that
happen." Similarly, when someone else's child or wife dies, we say
"This is man's lot." On the other hand, when our own cup is
broken or our loved on es perish we cry "My my, how wretched
I am" ; but we should recall how we feel when we hear bad news
that relates to others (M 26). And perhaps, though Epictetus would
never say this, we should follow his example when his leg was
broken ("I told you so") or when he would say "This is man's
lot" in reply to Rufus who by way of testing him would say to
him, "Y ou'll suffer this or that in the hands of your master"
(1.9 2 9f ).
Supposing now that you do, by talking like that, experience
some relief:
Later on, when your imagination bites you, a thing you can't control,
struggle against it with your intellect, fight it down, don't let it grow strong
or take the next step which is the drawing up of the pictures it wants to
draw. [Drive out the depressing thought. Think of something else. Practice
thought-control.] If you are in [that exile island] Gyara, don't picture life
in Rome with the fun you had living there and will have on your return ...
And if you are in Rome, don't picture life in Athens .... (III.24.I08f).
Why torture yourself? But "Athens is beautiful." Y es "but
happiness is much more beautiful, and peace of mind, un-
perturbedness, the feeling that your affairs depend on nobody"
(IV-436f ; cp. 1.9.9).
If something is bothering you, remind yourself that you can't
get something for nothing. Say that everything has its price. If
the wine or oil is spilt or stolen,
say to yourself, this is the price for peace of mind, this is the price for un-
ruffled spirit; for nothing is got without a price (MIZ.Z; cp. IV.2.z).
When your servant doesn't do what you expect hirn to do, don't
get all worked up; don't go around with a "long face, saying
everybody hates me" (LI8.19). It's better that your employee be
bad than that you should be disturbed. Don't let others upset
you (cp. Mrz).
If you haven't been invited to a party don't be depressed.
Maybe you refused to pay the "price" for which the host "seHs"
it: maybe you refused to flatter hirn. If you lament for not being
invited, or for not being picked for some important function, you
only show how "naive and greedy" you are. Y ou don't get a "head
of lettuce" free, do you? So you didn't get invited to the party,
but then neither did you have to praise a person you probably
dislike or to put up with the insolence of his butler, and engage
in gossip and smaH talk (cp. MzS; IV.3.zf; M33.Z). Indeed, con-
sider yourself lucky that you didn't have to mix with the ethical
layman, with his silly talk and concerns; for you are bound to get
some "soot" on yourself if you brush u p against some bod y covered
with it (IILI6.3f; cp. IV.2.rf. And, don't be divided, S-IO, IO.ZS).
The price idea is evidently used above preventively as weIl. For
Epictetus' advice, "Don't be greedy" has the force of, "Be
prepared to pay something for what you want." The preventive
use of the price idea is more obvious elsewhere, as when Epictetus
wams someone ab out getting a "consulship" or "tribuneship."
The position, he says, has its "price," namely servility. If you
want position and all that goes with it, he continues, don't think
that you'll get them gratis (zo-4). First weigh the likely conse-
quences, the probable losses as weH as gains, making sure too
that you don't sell yourself cheap (3.8; L2.S-II, 33). On one
occasion Epictetus is particularly graphie about the trouble one
lets hirns elf in for attaching hirnself to men in so-called high places
and for social climbing (IV.I-4Sff).
Speaking of the insatiate, elsewhere Epictetus compares hirn to
"the thirst of a man in fever" (9.4), and to the behavior of
children who put their hand in a narrow-necked jar trying to take out figs
and nuts: if they fill their hand, they can't withdraw it, and then they cry.
Let a few go [boy] and you'll gct it out (III.9.zz).
So also the insatiate (Epictetus adds): if he drops some desires
he'lI succeed. Imitate Socrates or Diogenes, Epictetus says in
another connection, rather than the man who tries to seduce as
many women as he can lay his hands on (IV.9.6f). And, the man
who dies for admiration is blind enough not to realize that his
professed admirers "secretly despise" hirn (III.23.14f).
(The habitual confider (IV.I3) is not only insecure but a trap
to others. "Unbosoming his troubles" somehow makes you feel
neither "fair" nor "frank" if you don't reciprocate. But how do
you know he won't gossip ? Y ou have no obligation to reciprocate.
After alI, you didn't invite hirn to confide.)
The following is yet another context combining preventiveness
with lenitivism, with the emphasis perhaps on the latter:
Don't be dissatisfied with or particular about things. "Vinegar is filthy, for
it is acid; honey is filthy, for it upsets my digestion; I don't like vegetables."
In the same way you say "I don't like having time on my hands, it is
loneliness (eremia) , I don'tlike crowds, it is noise." Don't talk like that but
if it turns out that you have to be by yourself or in small company, call the
circumstance peace and make proper use of it - discuss with yourself, train
your perceptions, polish your protoconcepts. And if you find yourself in a
crowd, call it agame, a festival, a holiday, try to rejoice with people.
But, the reply comes, people in a crowd bother me with their
shoutings: "H's only your hearing that is being bothered"
(IV-4.2S-8; cp. 24; I.I2.20f). Don't be a cosmic grouch.
35. Loneliness
On loneliness Epictetus speaks further as follows (in fact, a
special chapter by that title is devoted to the subject). The
"concept of loneliness," he says, does not imply being "alone"
but being "helpless." Indeed, he adds, one can be lonely in a
crowd or when surrounded by people, as in big cities, big apartment
houses, large households (III.I3.If).
To disentangle loneliness from aloneness is not only correct but
useful (though Epictetus does not bring out the extra fact that
loneliness is a matter of feeling, rather than of being, helpless).
The disentanglement is useful because people tend to assumethat
solitude means loneliness, with the result that when alone they
come to experience insecurity and perhaps panic. "I am alone,
therefore I must be lonely." A feeling is here the direct outcome of
conceptual confusion; which once again shows the power that
thought and language can have over conduct.
(The English "lonely" is not very helpful, though why the
word is verbally related to "alone" is perhaps obvious enough:
perhaps because people tend to feel more helpless when alone than
otherwise. Eut, as Epictetus would say, this is not "necessary."
Yet to construe sodety as an organism, as he does, though on a
different occasion, would seem to require that the connection
should be necessary.)
To be lonely, then, implies to feel insecure and exposed to
dang er (zf). For this reason, Epictetus adds, we call ourselves
lonely or forlom (eremia means both) most especially
when we meet with bandits. For it is not the mere sight of a human being
that relieves us from eremia, but the sight of a trusting and nonthreatening
and useful human being (3f).
This point coheres with the initial one that being lonely does
not entail being alone but being (or feeling) helpless, that in fact
one can be lonely and helpless even in the company of others. For,
in the words of the present quotation, it is not being with people
that "relieves us from loneliness (or abandonment)" but being
with "helpful" people. This of course is necessary, if "loneliness"
entails "helplessness." That is, Epictetus' initial characterization
of loneliness implies the present oue. So far, then, he is consistent
in his analysis of "the concept of the lonely person."
Eut though he starts by distinguishing loneliness from solitude,
he ends up by conflating the two - possibly because eremia meant
being deserted as weIl. In any case, he realizes that solitude itself
might present problems; for in the same general context he
endorses the view that people are sodal beings and enjoy each
other's company and therefore don't like to be by themselves,
adding that uevertheless it is good for a man to
prepare hirnself for this also, to be able to be self-dependent, to be able to
live with hirnself ... not to need others ....
And he praises the knack of finding ways of spending time
profitably and confidently when alone, and makes some sug-
gestions. Do some thinking, he says, meditate on Zeus' plans,
eorrect what is still troubling you, ete. (S-8; ep. I4.2).
Finally, he sets up ehildren as an example of what to do to
forestall or alleviate loneliness or the feeling of malaise when
alone. When ehildren are "left alone, what do they do?" he asks.
They gather up broken pieces and dust and build something or other, then
pull it down and build something else again; and so are never at a loss to
pass the time pleasantly. Am I then, if you go to sea, to sit and cry because
I am in this way left alone and deserted? Won't I have broken pieces,
won't I have dust? "But they do this out of foolishness" - and we are
miserable out of wisdom? ... Why do we make ourselves worse than little
children? (I3.r8f).
In sum, when alone or lonely find something to do and don't
eomplain about how deserted you are. Imitate ehildren - or (to
interpolate) cats, if you ean fall asleep at will, as they can when
bored. The above remedies apply also to boredom. (Cats are more
representative than dogs of the Stoic or Cynic philosophy.)
36. Objections
Nevertheless, there may be serious flaws in Epictetus' ethics
or psychology (even apart from its unverifiable or mythologieal
ingredient, such as Zeus or predetermination). We remember hirn
saying, for example, to practice "all day long" building resistance
to possible misfortune (IV.I.II1-3; cp. LI.2S; IIL3.16). Taken
literally, this would entail spending one's energy on practically
nothing else. It would also make for self-absorption. But the for-
meris absurd, while in connection with the latter, what is the point
of becoming a Stoic if this means becoming in the process neurotic
or obsessive? Yet, as we shall see presently, Arrian's notes abound
with statements of this kind. The problem is how to take them.
The easy (and traditional) way is to take them at face value;
another is to regard them as pedagogic devices of meeting one
extreme with another. The latter alternative is not as farfetched
as it may seem, granting the premise (advanced in section 2) that
Epictetus did in fact use this device as a method of teaching and
that his extant writings are snapshots of informal talks and not
systematic treatises, publications, or even lectures. Perhaps obvi-
ous examples of deliberate exaggerations besides the above one,
are the first inscription to this book and the statement that "in our
acts we are ... complete failures one and aH" (I1.6.14f, I6.18L In
fact, unless such assertions are taken with a pinch of salt, Epictetus
is not merely often implausible but a logical mess. For, as I shall
also go on indicating in the sequel, practically every extremist-
sounding statement is matched by its opposite somewhere in the
extant writings.
Harm may be a function of preconception but that it is only this
and, further, that nobody can harm anyone else sounds implausi-
ble (IV.5.28; cp. I2.7, I3.8; M48.1; LII.33-40). Besides, both are
contradicted elsewhere in the remains, as when it is said that to
injure others is self-injury (II.Io.26).
To say that "nobody [canJ force you to accept what is false"
ignores hypnotism and brainwashing (LI7.22; cp. 11.6.21;
IIL22.{2f). And the ideas that there is something inalienable in
us (that prohairesis is "by nature free," ILI5.1; cp. IV-S.23) and
that fe ar cannot compel a man to do something against his will
(I.69-71; cp. Aurelius 8.41) ignore, in addition, the fact that
practically everybody has his breaking-point or, as Epictetus
himself says, that there is a price for which everyone sells himself
(1.25-II ,33)
To take literaHy the ancient (as well as modern) saying, "Touch
what you will ... and it will turn to gold" is naive (III.20.12; cp.
15; IV.IO.9f). It is misleading to "promise" that
if you pay attention to me ... wherever you may be, whatever you may
be doing, you'n be in no sorrow, no anger, no oppression, no hindrance, but
will live unperturbed and free from an care (IILI3.1I; cp. I2f).
No one can promise this; for, to paraphrase Timon and Sextus
(Ag. Eth. 170-2), no one can be free from all care. Epictetus
himself elsewhere denies by implication that any man has the
power to confer this greatest of goods. For, as we remember from
section 20, he denies that any man has "the power to bestow the
greatest benefit" (IV.I.60f), adding on other occasions that it is
"insane" to expect the best to happen to one (1.I2.IIf), that it is
unrealistic not to expect untoward things to occur in a life time,
for life is "a campaign" (III.24.28-37), and that the ideal Stoic
simply does not exist (I1.I9.21-5).
Equally magical are the notions that "if you will, you are free"
(I.I7.28) and that changing oneself is the easiest thing in the world,
you need only "will it" (IV.9.I6). We read further that to avoid
"abject thoughts" and yearning for the unattainable, to think
constantly of "exile and every terrible-seeming thing, and most of
all death" (M2I). But this is morbid and not likely to lead to
relaxing or to taking life in one's stride (cp. I.I.I7).
In places one is advised not
to lead things, but follow them (III.IO.I8f), [to] enjoywhat you have and
be satisfied with what the moment brings (IV.4.45f; cp. 3.11; 12), [and
to] want not that things happen as you wish. but wish that they should
happen as they actually do happen and you'll be at peace (M8; cp. M33.
10; LIZ.I5; 1LI4.7f).
But again the result is very likely to be boredom or worse, rather
than the anticipated contentment. Moreover, the apparent advice
here is incompatible with reform and deliberate change of any
kind. Yet Epictetus hirnself on another occasion fleetingly sees
that actuality is not necessarily satisfactory (I.n.6f).
Besides, to wish for what already exists or is known to exist is
a contradiction in terms, since wishing implies the opposite,
namely that the wished object or state of affairs does not exist or
is not known to exist by the wishing subject. What may be meant,
then, is wish elimination - which connects with Epictetus' saying
that "you should totally eradicate desire" (IV4-33; cp. /27; MI5;
M48.3; III.zz.I3, thoughherea would-beCynicis beingaddressed).
But this too is absurd, and for the same reasons. r, if life is
such a desert that there is no use desiring anything, suicide is a
better solution. Life minus desire is practically pointless, since
desire tends to collect interest, and a life devoid of interest is not
worth living.
To be sure, if desire involves some pain, renunciation is in a way
consistent with a pain-oriented ethics. But only "in a way." For
to go against all desire (or wish) is to go against one's entire nature,
and this is as painful as anything can be (if indeed it is at all
possible, seeing that to deny desire is itself adesire, if one of a
higher order).
A strong desire may perhaps be oppressive. Hence Epictetus'
remark that
freedorn is not attained by [the satisfaction of] desire but by [itsJ annihi-
hilation (IV.I.I75).
Eut first, if, as Epictetus himself elsewhere intimates (1.4.1),
desire-satisfaction leads to happiness, what sense is there to
speaking of desire as tyrannical? Surely happiness itself is not so?
\Ve want and like happiness. Not that Epietetus eondemns happi-
ness but, as we also saw, he does tend to dismiss pleasure. Yet
pleasure too is something wanted and liked. (I t might be said that
the desire tor pleasure is despotie. Eut "the desire for pleasure"
may wen be a misleading expression for obsession, and obsession is
eompulsive (undesirable!) preeisely beeause it is unpleasant. To
eondemn obsessive desire is of course to condemn only one kind
of desire, not desire per se. Those who eondemn desire simply,
may mean to condemn only obsessive desire, or else construe an
des ire as obsessive.)
Next, "freedom" does not exclude des ire (or pleasure). Ta use
Epictetus' own words,
Free is he who lives as he wants ... [or pleases ? IV.I.!; cp. ILI.23].
Of course, as we saw above, des ire can be obsessive, and obsession
is incompatible with freedom in the sense of spontaneity. Eut
then that is why I did not say that freedom "means" desire ;
rather, that it does not exclude it.
Perhaps when Epictetus rejects desire he means to reject desire
(or some particular desire) when it cannot be satisfied or for the
time being (ep. M2.2; 1.4.1; II1.I3.21f; 1V.4.37).
Or perhaps he means to reject bodily desire. We remember, for
example, his disparagement of the pleasures of "the flesh"
(III.7.3-5). Likewise, in fragment 23 bodily functions, like eating
and drin king (and sex ?), are things to endure. EIsewhere someone
is told to treat his body as an overloaded donkey (beeause his body
is not his self, 1V.I.78-80). Fragment 26 reads: "You are a little
soul carrying around a eorpse" (the body?). And so on (ep. M41;
1.3.5-9; II1.2241).
Yet, to compound the confusion, on other oeeasions Epictetus
makes fun of the idea that one should neglect one's body and
property (just beeause one doesn't happen to be a Milo or a
Croesus, 1.2.37). He even construes care of body as a virtue
(III.22.86-<); cp. I.44), speaks approvingly of bodily cleanliness
as "innate" and as a "distinctive characteristic of man," and goes
so far as to say that cleanliness "comes from the gods" (IV.II.I-3).
In this whole last chapter, according to Oldfather (II,4I3n), he
fights the tendency to uncleanliness of ascetics and others,
"vigorously maintaining the validity of [paganJ feeling in this
regard." To glorify bodily care is of course the antithesis of a
disparagement of the body and a condemnation of the flesh.
Often Epictetus appears to be restricting the scope of what is
within one's control to subjective states alone - to choosing,
assenting, and thinking in general (MI; 14; II.S4f, I9.3z;
III.24.S6, 68 ff; IV.6.9; and other comments on prohairesis and
Eut again this would lead to the atrophying of desire (if desire
is typically outward-directed) or to pain or even to immediate
death. Surely, to live only for the sake of assenting or choosing is
silly. Eut perhaps this, like the statements apparently expressing
the no-desire and zero-wish positions, is not quite what Epictetus
has in mind, but some form of authentie realism.
The surmise that many of the excerpts examined in this seetion
are deliberate exaggerations or manners of speaking or quoted out
of context is perhaps reinforced as one remembers Epictetus'
refrain that life is agame, and in particular as one considers his
remarks on matters of social and international policy. For these
remarks are diametrically and often consciously opposed to the
philosophy of withdrawal which was seen to permeate much of the
material presented in this section. At any rate, whether these
remarks substantiate this surmise or the suspicion that Epictetus
was confused, the fact remains that, as we shall see next, they do
not advocate either asceticism or monasticism.
37. Independence and Outgoingness
Epictetus' individual ethics, at any rate onee the apparent ex-
cesses have been trimmed, is essentiaIly an ethies of freedom from
psyehological slavery. And this need not be ineompatible with
interest in people and things. N or is Epictetus unaware of this.
Thus, as we already had oeeasion to notiee (in section 24), training
for life embraees for hirn developing social tendencies. Or, as he
puts it in a different eonneetion, the "ideal" for man (his arete)
includes being "fair," as weIl as sueh self-regarding habits as
"restraint" and "self-eontrol" (III.I.7-9; and below). Also, the
individual ean enjoy the "sight" and "eompany" of others
(IV4.26-8), and can be a family man (III.2I.S, 2-4, etc.) and
clean; for cleanliness is both a private and a social desideratum,
so that a dirty man might as weIl go live in the "wilderness"
(IV.II.r3-8). The individual needn't be a recluse (ep./r), and ean
even risk death for his family and eountry (M32.3).
The free man will "labor to attain worrylessness, while yet have
regard for [his] social ties" (IV.Io.r3). He will "rejoiee in those
who stay with [hirn, though he] won't be sad at those who leave"
(III.24.rrf). If anything goes wrong with his outward relations,
he will be able to stand the exeision. He won't be swept by his
impulses. He will have stamina (karteria), will "bear and forbear"
(lw.Sf). For he won't develop symbiotie relationships; he won't
be irrationally attached to "externals. "When your pot is damaged,
Epictetus says, you don't starve to death, but go out and buy
yourself another one (IV.IO.34).
For 01 course it is aIl right, he says on another oceasion, to go
out and buy things. There is nothing wrong with going to a shoe
store to get shoes or to the market for vegetables. Only, don't
"flatter" the merchant, or the rich, or the one you depend on for
the fulfillment of your needs. Don't "kiss his hand" - unless you
do it minus your heart. If the man is willing to sell or give what
you want, fine. Otherwise go to someone else. Or forget about it.
H's not worth the bother. The price is too high. H's like paying "a
talent for a head of lettuce." Get what you want but don't cringe,
don't be afraid (II1.24-44-9; cp. 71; II.6.6-8, I8.1g; 1.I9.4-6).
Again, rational will may be what we should pay most attention
to, but this does not me an that others and things and ne-
cessities, like shoes and clothes, and one's lesser faculties,
like sight and hearing and speech, should be neglected. For
this is neither "good" nor "natural." A man should strive to
exercise his capacities and talents on some "outward material,
though without incorporating it," or: he must be careful to
preserve his balance.
It is indeed difficult to mix and combine the two [but it is] impossible to be
happy otherwise.
What is the solution? Well, it is
as though we were on a sea trip. What can I do? I can select the captain,
the crew, the day, the hOJr. Then a storm breaks.
H is no longer my concern, but that of the captain. \Vorse, the
ship goes down. So what? "I drown without fear ... realizing
that what is born must also perish." I am a human being, not
immortal. Why cry? I am like "the hour in the day." As it must
pass, so must I at some time. What difference does it make how-
whether it is by fever or by drowning? All roads to the grave are
the same. Imitate the cool dice player, who takes it the way the
dice falls (11.23.23-7,5.6-14,21, zf, 6.18).
One needn't be "unfeeling like astatue" (III.2-4). Even
"affection" is part of the game of life - provided again one doesn't
sell his soul to his love-object, doesn't exchange independence for
slavery, repose for anxiety; for there is no "advantage" in that.
What, Epictetus asks, is there to prevent an individual
from loving somebody as one subject to death, as amigrant? Didn't
Socrates love his children? But as a free man .... [And] was there anybody
Diogenes didn't love ... ? (z4.59"-64; cp. LII.I7).
Self-assurance is compatible with affection and should combine
with it. That is why Socrates, who was so stable that he "always
wore the same facial expression" (25.31; cp. II1.5.17), lived such a
full and happy life, because he was warm and self-confident.
Contrariwise (to interpolate a little) , lack of self-confidence tends
to make for aggression; fear is apt to generate hostility. Or, as
Epicurus put it (in C. Bailey's fragment 84), "Whoever causes
fe ar is not free from fear."
Epictetus also tends to endorse sexual love, though he is not
blind to the dang er and potential turbulence involved in eros
(IV.I.1S-7, 20, 36; II1.I3.10). Thus, he exonerates Crates for
marrying on the ground that he was in love (22.76); for, as we
shall see in section 39, philosophers like Crates were not supposed
to marry. (See Laertius 6.96f for the grande affaire between Crates
and Hipparchia, the first, or one of the first, fern ale philosophers.)
Again, Epictetus compares "being in love with a pretty girl" to
being absorbed in a kind of Socratic dedication to an ideal, when
one doesn't care whether one is ill, hungry, or nearing death
(II1.5.18f). Accordingly, he adds on another occasion,
when somebody out of love is forced to do something against his own
judgment, all the while seeing the better path but laclcing the strength to
follow, one might be more disposed to think that he deserves forgiveness,
as being in the clutches of something violent, and in a way divine (IV. I.
At times Epictetus evinces a humorous attitude toward love, as
when he was seen earlier to remark that young beginners in
philosophy should avoid pretty girls because "pot and stone ...
don't mix" (III.I2.12).
Humor, sympathy, and reverence characterize also some of his
comments on straight sex. Thus, referring to philosophers who
easily lose their heads, he says he wouldn't mind standing
over one [of them] while he was making love, to observe his eagerness and
what words he utters, whether he remembers his own name, or the
arguments he hears or makes or reads (IV.I.143).
In his cosmology he was seen to point to sex as evidence of design
and to maintain that the godhead participates in the very act of
intercourse (1.6.8; II.8.lZ).
In one of his discussions of courage he implies that a life minus
one's private parts may not be worth living (1.2.25-9). Sometimes
he speaks of sexual incontinence, but the context is usually one of
training or committing adultery. Adultery, or adultery without
the consent of both spouses (it is not clear which), is condemned
because it is thought to be a form of betrayal, greed, or stealing,
and therefore to gather loss of self-respect (II.I8.6, 15-8, 4.8-II).
And though he is not altogether in favor of free love, unlike
Rufus he does not condemn it either. N or does he recommend that
it should be made illegal. His reasoning behind this is not apparent,
but the tenets in his own words are as follows:
Abstain as weil as you can before marriage from sex; and you have
intercourse stay within the law [don't commit adultery ?]. But don't make
yourself obnoxious to those who do make love or censorious; also don't
keep bringing up your abstinence (M33.8).
Many Stoics and Cynics went further. Indeed, according to Sextus
and Laertius, Diogenes, Zeno, and Chrysippus, for example, con-
doned or regarded as neutral practically every erotic activity,
except of course rape. (Some Cynic ladies, like Nicion, were call
girls.) The general, though not the only idea was that sexual desire
is a pain, and sexual gratification arelief (a medicinal attitude
toward love-play). So also Sextus. Diegenes' er Crates' reason for
making love in the street was that if something can be done in
private, there is no reason why it shouldn't be done in public.
Perhaps he had in mind psychic wholeness. Aristippus the Hedon-
ist was also a champion of eros.
Consistently or not, then, Epictetus does allow for fellowship
and outgoingness. It is not an accident that though he frequently
speaks of freedom from pain or fear, he nowhere uses the ex-
pression "freedom from feeling." (Similarly, the idiom "Be a
stoic" does not mean "Have no feelings (or affection)" but "Take
it easy, don't panic.") Moreover, Epictetus attacks Epicurus on
the whole pre.cisely because he took him to be advocating with-
drawing from social affairs (1.23; II.2D; III.7). The remainder of
this chapter can likewise function as evidence that he does not
teach (or does not teach consistently) an ethics of unconcern. But
first a note on his afiinity to Epicurus, for he is much closer to
hirn than he realizes.
Thus, Epicurus as well sanctions freedom from pain and fear,
ethical realism, considers happiness more important than survival,
disparages death and burial, makes the ethieal use of intelligenee
take preeedenee over all other uses, eompares philosophy to medi-
eine, saying that unless philosophy "heals the sufferings of the
mind [it isJ pointless, " adding that "pains of mind are worse ethan
pains of bodyJ" (154; Laert. 10.137). No belief or ideology was
justified for hirn if it inereased rather than deereased the sense of
inseeurity. Even his disparagement of disinterested seienee and
his utilitarian eoneeption of morality find echo es in Epietetus, the
former in fragment land the latterin, e.g. the assertion that the
function of virtue is to make for worrylessness and happiness
(1.4.3-6). They also shared empirieism of a kind and to an extent
the doetrine of protoeoneepts. And if Epietetus is ineonsistent in
his soeial ethies, he at times agrees with mueh that he finds
most objeetionable in Epieurus. lt is not an aeeident that Gellius,
who had the highest regard for Epietetus, defends Epieurus
against Plutareh (z.8f; 17.19-4).
38. Man as Social
Before going on with Epictetus' polieies, let me finish his
psyehology. He vaeillates between a relatively weak soeial
psyehology (the individual is loosely tied to soeiety) and a
relatively strong, whieh eulminates in the eoneeption of sodety as
an organism. The weak psyehology has already been suffieiently
Man was not meant to be a hermit : "Do you think that man is
a being made to live by itself or soeially? Soeially" (f I). "Nobody
is bad without loss and damage" (II.IO.Ig). "Man is naturally
faithful" and "affeetionate" (4.1; IV.I.IZ6). A disloyal individual
is not "a man but a wolf or an ape" (I1.4.II) or a "snake" or a
"wasp" (IV.I.IZ7). Man is not a "wild beast" but a "tarne and
sodal animal" (II.IO.I4; ep. IV.I.lzof, IZ7, 5.Io;lz5; PI. Soph.
He has a natural sense of trust, affeetion, benevolenee, toler-
anee (I1.Io.Z3). He doesn't have to lose money to suff er ; hurting
others is enough (I4f). "Unfairness is a great injury to the unfair"
(IV.5.IO) and "nobody ean do wrong with impunity" (I.IIgf).
These may be lofty views, traceable to Antiphon's or Soerates'
idea that to hann others is self-harm (cp. 11.IO.26). However, one
must be careful not to misunderstand Epictetus in this connection.
He is not intent on moralizing; rather, he is expressing what to
him is a psychological theory. Sociability is not an obligation
somehow imposed on the individual, but a need and an inclination.
Epictetus adheres to psychological egoism: a man can be moved
only by what he thinks is his own interest. Zeus hirnself and even
the sun, Epictetus says, are so motivated because there is a
cosmic principle of "self-conservation." Surely, he exclaims, "one
cannot expect a man to hold aloof from hirnself." Nor, he adds,
can self -interest, as such, be regarded as "unsocial." The individual
and society are so constituted that their interests coincide.
Sociability is a fact about human nature, not an obligation. To
cut oneself off from society or to harm one's fellow-man is like
starving oneself to death (1.I9.II-5, 22.13f; 11.22.1, 15-21).
It might be said that the idea to injure others is self-injury,
renders punishment superfluous. But what if self-injury is not
always evident to the agent? A more serious objection is to say
that the idea lacks in realism, if not in self-consistency.
But this idea apart, how does Epictetus explain the fact that
many men act unsocially and appear to enjoy being cruel and
sadistic? Indeed, he hirnself says as much. Some of us, he remarks,
are "Iarge beasts," others "mean little animals" (11.9.6). Does he
contradict himself? Does he read an ideal (or wish) into his subject ?
Does he so define the word "man" that it necessarily implies being
In either case his analysis is deficient. This is obvious if he
contradicts hirnself. But equally, if he unwittingly recommends a
way of life (such as the life of co operation as against that of
competition), or defines or redefines a word, he again falls to
capture any organism. His talk belongs not to psychology or bi-
ology but to crypto-reform (moral or linguistic) or to lexicography.
(This risk is characteristic of "theories of man," partly because of
the emotiveness as well as vagueness attaching to the word "man."
Maybe, then, a really scientific theory would dispense with this
word, save perhaps as a shorthand, and would confine itself to
formulating relatively precise correlations, such as that bipeds
have kidneys.)
In defense of Epictetus it might be said that recent investi-
gations (such as those of I. D. Suttie, Karen Horney, and of the
World Health Organization about delinquents and orphans) show
that hostility is indeed not a primary propensity but a function of
insecurity, resulting from refused affection or approval. But what
if the demand for affection or approval is "selfish"? Again, the
idea that unless an individual "relates" hirns elf to others he
eventually ceases to be "human," is inadequate to establish man's
sociable nature, if an individual can "relate" to others aggressively.
A similarly inconclusive argument for man's sociability is that the
individual's very identity is a function of others (more precisely,
of what he believes others think of hirn).
Sociability Epictetus also characterizes as man's function,
promise, calling. Hence his comparison of men to instruments and
expressions, which obviously can literally be described as having
functions. (Animals too are so described and compared.) As the
function or promise of a flute is to play music, Epictetus says, so
man's purport is, among other things, to be sociable. And, as
something which does not play music is either not a musical
instrument or it is a paar one, so if samething is not sociable, it is
either not a human being or it is a deficient human being (cp. II.9f).
This view is obviously part of Epictetus' cosmic teleology and
therefore need detain us only long enough to give it a brief epitaph.
Perhaps the nations of function, purpose, and destiny, in the
biologie al field, give way to some such nation as tendency, which
in turn can be explicated operationally and statistically.
In arguing for the social nature of man, Epictetus even resorts
to organismic analagies. The individual is compared to members
of the human body, the total organism being the community and
ultimately the universe at large. Just as a detached "foot will no
langer be a foot, so you also if detached [from the community]
will no longer be a man." The individual can no more live outside
the social environment than a foot can survive dismembered from
a body (unless it is put in a freezer?). Moreover, since the social
whole is more "basic" than the social parts, it is "right" for the
individual occasionally to be siek, to run risks, to be in want, and
even to die before his time, for the sake of the group.
What then is the role of a citizen ? To regard nothing as a matter of private
interest, to consider nothing as though he were a detached unit, but to be
like the foot or the hand, which if they possessed intellect and understood
the nature of things, would never will or desire anything except in refer
ence to the whole.
For this reason the philosophers correct1y say that if the good man had
foreknowledge of events, he would collaborate even with disease and
death and maiming [cp. Marxism on justification of Communist Party
even though Revolution and communist take-over inevitable], for he
would realize that this role is assigned to him by the configuration of the
whole, and the whole is more primary than the part, and the city than the
citizen. Seeing however that we have no foreknowledge, it is fitting that
we should ding to those things which are naturally choiceworthy, as we
are born for this (11.5.24-6, IO.4-6; cp. 5.13f; 6.9f; Aurel. 6.54, 45, etc.).
The organic comparison perhaps is not meant to be taken too
seriously; perhaps it is another deliberate exaggeration. In any
case, it is obvious that while a person can commit suicide for ex-
ample, a foot cannot. A person has a "will of his own," but in
what sense can a foot or toe be said to have a will of its own? And,
while the heart, for instance, is indispensable to a normal human
organisrn, no particular individual seems indispensable to society.
Likewise about government: While no foot can in any way per-
form the operations of the brain, practically any mature citizen
can be "head of state" or fill some political office. At least, govern-
ment in most cases is routine work, requiring no extraordinary
abilities. This destroys as well the argument of political organicism
against democracy as a form of government, though Epictetus
is more anxious to defend social than political organicism.
People form communities not because they are parts of wholes,
but more likely because they are thrown together or (as the words
"community" and koinnia suggest) because they share common
Epictetus speaks, though not perhaps in so many words, of
individual sacrifice. (It is "right," he was seen to say, for the
individual to run risks and even die before his time for the sake of
the whole.) But the idea of individual sacrifice no more fits
organicism as a description of man than the idea of individual' 'my"
or self does. If the individual is part and parcel of society, he cannot
be said to have interests which rnay conflict with those of society's,
and therefore to be capable of "sacrificing" hirns elf for society,
any more than this can be said of a foot in relation to its body.
(A man can "sacrifice" his foot.)
The idea of individual sacrifice may fit organicism as an ideal-
though Epictetus does not make the distinction between de-
scriptive and normative organicism (though, as we saw, he does
use value words, e.g. "right" and "fitting," in expounding his
version of organicism). But in any case, he cannot accept unquali-
fied normative organicism either. For, for one thing, he condemns
slavery. He cannot, in view of this condemnation, require of the
individual that he should sacrifice himself for just any society he
may happen to belong to.
Epictetus' cosmic pan-feeling doctrine, mentioned in section 13,
may be briefly examined at this point. Now if this doctrine is
taken literally and as meaning that individuals do, rather than
should, share in each other's feelings, Epictetus is no more plausi-
ble here than he is in his description of society as an organism. On
the other hand, if the doctrine is taken in the above second sense
or as aprescription and again literally, it (like organicism) would
dash with other parts of the extant writings. For it would require
the sharing of pains as weIl as of pleasures, and this would make
for the ethical waste and even perhaps for the reverberation
discussed in section 27; and also for utopianism. For is it realistic
to hope that a policy of universal friendship will work with
thousands, millions, billions of people? (That is why Plato re-
stricted the size of the population in his ideal societies to a very
smaIl number of people, no more than 10,000 in the Republic and
almost half as many in his later work, the Laws. But, short of
force, how can this be attained, while if force is used, what will
happen to friendship?)
Perhaps all that can reasonably be expected of actual man is
considerateness and limited affection. At any rate, nothing more
can Epictetus' individual ethics absorb.
39. Troubleshooting and Cosmopolitanism
Epictetus' description of man as naturally sociable blends with
his doctrine of the philosopher Scout (or philanthropia) in that the
Scout helps people because he is interested in them, not because he
feels obliged or compelled to do so. Philanthropia was an incli-
nation, not a duty. The Stoics and before them the Cynics, de-
veloped the idea and practice of philanthropia. Of course Socrates
himself was a "gadfly." But with his admirers and followers,
from Diogenes through Demonax notably, this "interest in
mankind" took the form of concern for the unhappy, not primarily,
as with Socrates (cp. III.I4.9). for the ignorant and conceited.
Philanthropia meant neither charity nor philanthropy. It did
not mean charity in the same sense in which emotional or psy-
chiatrie help does not mean charity. (The story may be different
with "charitable.") It did not mean philanthropy either because
neither the Cynics nor the Stoics were typically concerned with
financial problems, any more than (with the exception of Seneca)
they were wealthy. Not perhaps that they were opposed to helping
the needy with money: many Cynics practiced living off others
and some gave or threw away their inheritance or wealth and
lived in that manner. Ulysses did well, Epictetus says, to
request food from the girls when he was shipwrecked (III.26.33),
implying elsewhere that it is not always disgraceful for the poor
to be supported by the rich (f I3); for poverty is not necessarily
shameful, nor should one be upset if others "pity" hirn for being
poor or a nobody. What others think of one is in any case beyond
one's control and therefore of no consequence (IV.6.zIff).
The distinctive job of the Scout was ethical rather than eco-
nomic assistance. I t was to help people with their emotional
troubles (free of charge or in return for room and board). The
posthumously deified Demonax was so liked that people would
beg hirn to spend the night with them. The Scout was not typi-
cally a political reformer either, though this did not prevent some
Cynics from Alexandria and Megalopolis, and some Stoics, such as
Sphairos of Borysthenes and Blossios of Cumae, to engage in
social reform and even to initiate uprisings.
The Scout, as Epictetus portrays hirn, was not an ordinary
fellow. Though his appearance and wit are not neglected, his only
possessions and armor are his "self-esteem." And,
He must be beaten Iike a donkey and while he is being beaten he must love
the very men who beat him as if he were the father and brother of them all
(I1I.22.I3ff, 52, 54f, 86ff).
Peregrinus, a second century A.D. Cynic, even burnt hirnself alive
for the benefit of mankind, as he put it. Small wonder that the
Cynic Scout is described by Epictetus as a "messenger" of and
"friend and servant" of "the gods" (23,69f, 95; on Peregrinus see
Lucian Per. 33, 23, though Lucian regarded Peregrinus as a fake;
but the discussion in Dudley (171 ff) suggests bias on Lucian's
The philosopher Scout is needed because the world is a "battle-
field" (unhappiness-riddled); otherwise, Epictetus adds, he would
be superfluous (III.22.67-9). To protect in effect the Scout
against the accusation of being a "meddler" and allow hirn to
off er uninvited assistance, Epictetus tacitly likens hirn to a
"general" (97). But aseparate case should have been made for
giving the Scout the right to offer unsolicited help. For this right
is not self-evident, any more than it is democratic. Surely, only
totalitarian societies are comparable to armies obeying generals.
At any rate, unless being a physician implies the above right,
Epictetus is once again caught in a contradiction; for, as we
remember from section 25, he also compares the philosopher (and
hirnself as weIl) to a physician. Or is a philosopher, even in
Epictetus' practical use of the term, not to be identified with the
philosopher Scout? Maybe. (But see also, on meddling, next
The ethical troubleshooter, Epictetus goes on, cannot marry.
The reason is not that there is something wrong with marriage
per se ("For people ... marry ... to be happy," I.II.3f) nor, as
we saw in section 37, with love and sex, but because the Scout
cannot be partial to any segment of mankind, but must regard all
humans as his "children."
"Yes; but Crates married." You're referring to a special case that arose
out of love and you're assuming a wife herself another Crates [that is,
Scout; III.22.67ff, Sr, 76J.
But then why reproach Demonax for not marrying and raising
a family of his own? (See section 1).
The Scout need not be a male. Nor does Epictetus hirnself seem
to have been an antifeminist. On one occasion (M 40) he reproves
the tendency of females to look upon themselves as playthings of
males, and on another (III.24.37) he says that "a beautiful woman
is something pleasant." (Occasionally he pokes fun at ejjeminacy,
I.27ff.) The Scout does not discriminate racially or ethnically
either. But both egalitarianism and cosmopolitanism are argued
for separately by Epictetus.
His egalitarianism is manifest especially in his brief comments
on slavery, which can be paraphrased as follows: The principle of
siblinghood encompasses the slave ("the slave" too is "our
brother"). Next, slavery is not "natural" but conventional or
arbitrary. "Naturally" the slave is just as "divine" as the
freeman; the "seed" which brought hirn to life is of the same
quality as that of the freeman (i.e. there is no blood difference
between slave and free man). Next, the more fortunate is not
entitled to despise or "tyrannize" the less fortunate. Finally, the
legal system of slaveryis "base" (I.I3.2-5; cp. II.Z3.24f). Revolt?
Epictetus defends a doctrine of equal rights and at the same
time holds that people are unequal in ability. This is a consistent
stand. Doctrines of equal rights do not typically mean equal
ability, or for that matter, equal rewards, but equal opportunity
and equal protection before the law (however "equal" occurs
throughout the doctrines).
Epictetus may not be a consistent pantheist, but it is worth
noting in any case that pantheism (or literal pantheism) cannot
condemn slavery, since its basic premise, "Everything is divine"
implies that everything (and therefore actual slavery) is all right.
(Pantheism of course is not only ethically impotent, since it cannot
reject; it is also absurd, if divinity is a species of value and if it is
impossible to value or worship just anything.)
Epictetus' endorsement of cosmopolitanism is as follows: "you
are a world citizen," he says (II.IO.3; cp. I5.IOf; III.z4.53). Why,
he adds ironically, does one say, "I am an Athenian" rather
than mentioning the bit of earth on which one was born?
(I.9.2f). When Socrates was where he came from, he
did not give any such answer but said instead, "I am a citizen
of the world" (lf). And, Epictetus adds, so did Diogenes, who
made the whole universe his "fatherland." (R. D. Hicks, in his
edition of Laertius, conjectures that kosmopolites originated with
Diogenes; II, 64 na.) When Diogenes was taken prisoner, Epictetus
goes on, he did not hanker for Athens and his friends there, but
got on very weIl with the pirates, and even tried to change them.
"Later, when he was sold into slavery in Corinth he lived there
just as he had lived in Athens." Had he gone even to the
"Perrhaebians" (inhabitants of a remote place in Thessaly,
Northern Greeee), he would not have ehanged his way of life
(III.24.6S f).
40. Legal Questions
Cosmopolitanism eoheres with the Cynie-Stoie emphasis on
freeelom in that to belong to the whole world rather than to any
part of it is the height of plaee-independence. (But what if this
eoneluces to the feeling of homelessness anel nonbelongingness,
and therefore to insecurity?) Internationalism also eoheres with
pacifism and worlel government. \Var was generally eondemned
by the Stoics, and Rufus almost lost his life on aecount of his
antiwar attitude.
Epictetus, however, says nothing in the extant writings on
either paeifism or world government, though he does often speak
of "the world city." But this may weIl belong to his organicism or
eosmopolitanism, rather than to a theory of world government.
In an)' ease, he was not against government per se. Like Diogenes
(though unlike other Cynies), he does not seem either to repudiate
the state as an institution or to maintain that laws are superfluous.
To be sure, on one occasion he says that divine law, rather than
"the laws of Masurius and Cassius," should be obeyed (IV.3.I2).
But this need not be theoretieal anarehism. Perhaps Epietetus is
thinking here of slavery law, and Roman law ("the laws of
Masurius anel Cassius") was a slavery law. Or, judging by the
wider eontext and other passages (e.g. I.1S9-61), including the
ones on slavery discussed above, perhaps the meaning is that
divine or ethieal preseriptions are more binding than legal; whieh
probably means not that man shouldn't be governed by laws, but
that legality should be based on morality (see eh. x).
Then too, as already noted, Epictetus advises that sexual anel
marital laws be obeyed (M33.8; 11.4.10). And he also speaks
approvingly of "the citizen eomplying with the laws of the city"
(1.I2.7f; ep. II1.24.107, IO.8; 1.29.9).
On yet another occasion he discusses not the desirability of the
state but its proper funetion, saying the following (II1.7.33-6):
No state is rational if it is based only on threats or eoereion. Laws
must be supported by reasons; they must be "advantageous,"
presumably to the people. Otherwise they are arbitrary and
despotie, and exact no respect but at most fear. Neither, Epictetus
adds elsewhere, is servility "profitable" to the state or to the
citizenry, but is its "destruction" (24.49). Revolution?
If Epictetus accepted the state he must also have accepted
legal punishment, whether in the form of retribution, deterrence,
or reformation. The last, though, can be termed punishment only
perhaps by extension. For it is not absurd to say that so-and-so
should be reformed but not punished. Punishment, unlike reform,
definitely implies pain-infliction and indines toward the past
rather than the future; so that it is doser to retribution C'Y ou
must pay for this") than to reformation C'You'll have to change")
or deterrence C'You'll be made into an example"). It is true, how-
ever, that in legal contexts "reformation" too tends to imply
inflicting some kind of pain on the offender , such as coercion and
confinement. (No doubt, if the offender is willing to undergo
change, there is no compulsion. But then perhaps there is strictly
no "punishment" either.) Reform is not for the offender's
own good only, but also, if not especially, for the good of others.
All three "forms" of punishment have a common basis - the
tendency to pain-infliction. And though they differ, they are
compatible: vindictiveness, concern for the offender and society,
and warning others, all three or four motives can coexist in the
same act of punishment.
Now, though Epictetus' acceptance of the state commits hirn to
the acceptance of legal punishment, what he actually and ex-
plicitly says on the latter subject in the remains is not very dear
and can only be surmised. As we saw in section 26, he
certainly is against vengeance in interpersonal relations. He was
also seen to be against sentencing the bandit and adulterer to
death. Then there are two stories he mentions, one concerning the
Stoic Agrippinus, the other Lycurgus.
Agrippinus used to say, Epictetus relates, that he did not
sentence the offender as his "enemy" but as his "guardian," and
compared his role as judge or governor to a physician who
"persuades" and "encourages" his patient to "submit to the
operation" (122). But the context does not indicate whether
Epictetus is merely describing Agrippinus here or siding with hirn.
Of course the point of telling the story could be that he wanted to
express his preference for reformation rather than retribution,
and if he admired Agrippinus (as he did: see section 33), this is a
definite possibility.
The Lycurgus passage is more conclusive. Lycurgus literally
refused to use the eye-for-an-eye doctrine or, in Epictetus' own
words, instead of using the right given hirn by
the people [to] punish in any way he pleased [the youth who] blinded hirn
in one eye [he] educated him and turned him into a good man.
\Ve "all aclmire," Epictetus continues, Lycurgus' statement in the
theatre to the effect that he received a rascal and is returning a
pu blic-minded being (f 5).
Ginn this 50mewhat slim evidence, then, it is perhaps reason-
able to suppose that Epictetus favored reformation rather than
retribution or even perhaps deterrence. And he presumably con-
demned retribution because of its underlying motive (revenge)
anel, judging especially by the Lycurgus passage, because of its
sterility as a method of improving the offender. Not that
retribution (or deterrence) may not have a beneficial effect on
the offender, but only by chance, not by design.
The individual in Epictetus' thought is often the center of con-
centric circles, with country, race, and world as peripher-
ies. One meaning of this is that, as the constitution of a typical
federal union is more basic than the several constitutions of the
constituent states, so "naturallaw" is more basic than national,
the law of Zeus than the law of Caesar.
Stripped of its mythological or metaphorical component, this
reduces to the idea that Stoic law, or rather Stoic ethics is the most
binding moral framework the individual need live by. If a norm,
legal or other, contravenes Stoic ethics (or some version of Stoic
ethics), it is invalid - for the Stoic. Whether or not the non-Stoic
lives by the norm is his affair, not the Stoic's. For, ideally at any
rate, the Stoic is not a proselytizer: he leaves it up to the indi-
vidual how, or even whether, he is going to be "saved" (cp. IH.
23.Z7f). He may, however, offer assistance if asked.
Stoic naturallaw doctrine, then, is not strictly a law doctrine: it
involves neither laws 01 nature nor legal, enforceable laws. Stoic
law is not discoverable by observation of phenomena or by experi-
mental and laboratory research; nor is it necessarily passed by
legally instituted authorities or backed by force. "Naturallaw" is
law only by courtesy.
Neither Epictetus, though, nor the rest of the Stoics were clear
on this. And they were not clear on this because their interest in
this connection was not in theory (the theory of law) but in
practice, in telling the individual that he needn't follow the
customs and laws of his society if they don't make sense. (This
is literally a revolutionary idea.) Only, instead of alwa ys appealing
to what makes ethical sense, the Stoics, and before them the
Cynics and Sophists, frequently spoke, misleadingly, of what
happens. There are many things that happen (that are part
of "nature"), but unfortunately not all of them make ethical
sense. (Hence, going backwards and self-refutingly, the need
forsaying that "reason is ubiquitous," that "Pravidence exists."
Which also tends to make negative ethics superfluous.)
I have been speaking of making ethical sense, rather than of
making sense simply, because otherwise my point about the Stoic
appeal to nature as a misleading appeal to human interests would
be blurred, since the second, unqualified expression has also a
nonethical use, as when we say that science makes (or tries to
makel sense of things. The two uses of "making sense" can be
contrasted by saying that, while, for example, death and decay
and senility may make sense scientifically (are understood, ex-
plained, can be predicted), they don't necessarily make sense
ethically (in terms of what we wish). To go from what makes
sense in one use of this phrase to what makes sense in the other, is
evidently fallacious. Yet it wouldn't be surprising if much of the
appeal of the doctrine of naturallaw or of universal reason rested
on such an equivocation.
Notice as weIl that some such ambiguity (whether a cause or an
effect of the naturallaw doctrine) is widespread, permeating the
whole range of logos- or reason-terms, and that includes also
"explanation" and "understanding." Thus to say, "Explain
yourself" is obviously not arequest for a descriptive or scientific
account, but for an excuse.
Wh at makes ethical sense? A short and vague answer, implicit
in the above, is: happiness. Epictetus would add: unfazedness.
Perhaps, then, the timeliest aspect of his work is his
"demythologized" or "purified" ethics. Cosmopolitanism and
siblinghood are contemporary trends, while some psychiatrists
and psychotherapists use typically Stoic techniques and notions,
whether they realize it or not. Thus the method of making fun of
one's troubles forms part of Frankl's "existential therapy" or
"logotherapy" under the name of "paradoxical intention" (Man' s
Search tor Meaning, pp. 196f; Doctor and Soul, 2d ed., pp.
221ff). Compare also Frankl's statement that even when
"conditions" are beyond our contral, we still have "freedom to
take a stand toward the conditions" (Meaning, p. 205; cp. p. xiii;
the latter, by theway, is the only connectionin which "the ancient
Stoics" are mentioned, though again not by Frankl hirns elf but by
Allport who wrote the Preface). Eut it must be emphasized that
the theoretical underpinning of "logotherapy," consisting as it
does of an objectification of meanings and values, is not traceable
to Epictetus.
Also worth mentioning is A. Ellis' "rational therapy" which is
more akin to Epictetus' ethics and more consciously indebted to
it. Thus in Reason and Emotion in Psychotherafry (p. 54) Ellis
quotes approvingly the second inscription to this book, for one of
his basic findings and theses is that
Sustained negative emotions (other than those caused by continuing
physical pain or discomfort) are invariably the result of stupidity, igno-
rance ... and intemalized sentences about outside things and events ...
and for the most part they may be, and should be, eliminated by the
application of knowledge and straight thinking (53f).
(Eut on page 361 Ellis misreads Epictetus' smoke-door metaphor,
thinking it relates to life, rather than to freedom to depart from
life, or suicide.)
Admittedly Epictetus' nonchemico-physical therapeutic tech-
niques will be outmoded when (or if) anxiety, dejection, and the
rest will all be erasable by means of an operation or shock
treatment or electricalconditioningor a pill, etc. (N arcotics andalco-
hol, of course, have been put to such use since time immemorial.)
Eut meanwhile, at any rate, apparently his techniques have still
some use, not to mention the fact that rational education, another
characteristic feature of his thought, will stay with man as long as
man is rational; for indeed the denial of this is self-contradictory.
Admittedly too, his stress on mental upbringing and training,
as against change in "externals," contrasts with present-day
trends or realities. Eut what good would the affluent or classless
(not necessarily Marx's) society or going to the mo on or getting
ahead do if one is weak, greedy, afraid, neurosis-ridden? Also, of
course, it is what one makes of things, not the things themselves,
that counts. To be impressed, for example, by "gross national
products" at the expense of mental health is to put the cart
before the horse. Epictetus does not believe that solving
external problems, as such, brings peace of mind. He does
not believe that the way to contentment is inevitably attained by
accumulating things or reorganizing society. The center of ethical
gravity should be in the individual rather than outside, though, he
would add, this does not mean that "externals should be neglected."
Epictetus was impressed by the phenomenon of suffering and
tried to do something ab out it. His emphasis on the individual,
rather than the social and physical environment, is the result of
his pinpointing the source of distress in man's innate or acquired
impulses and ways of categorizing things. As he puts it in a slightly
different connection, one must keep "watch over hirns elf as over
an enemy lying in ambush" (M48.3). Take the widespread tenden-
cy to possessiveness. "If only I could own her (hirn), every-
thing would be all right; I would be safe." Yet, as soon as one
feels he has finally got hold of someone else's soul, it slips away.
You may love, Epictetus says, but treat your love-object as
something transient and fickle - though again not necessarily be-
cause he is "mean," for he may not be. Say anyway, "That's the
way things are." Everyone is in the same boat (cp. M12.Z). And,
if X does not satisfy you, turn to Y or Z. Don't put all your eggs
in the same basket. To be dependent on this or that individual
is (more) to be dependent on whims. (Fe ar of this prompts one
also to favor "the rule of law" over that of man. Unreliability
decreases as one goes from man to nonman.)
Impulse, desire, hope, are apt to mislead. So is self-thought. We
say, "I can't do this," when to a bystander it is obvious that we
can. We think we have to live (or go on living) in a certain way,
when nobody forces us to do so. We don't even have to live if we
don't want to. The door is open. Even suicide in Epictetus is an
expression of freedom. And what liberates is knowledge. The una-
ware is at the mercy of inherited or borrowed predilections. He
misconstrues changeable courses of action as immutable. He feels
he has no option, when he has. And so, in his nonfatalist moods,
Epictetus allows for more freedom than even existentialism does.
Absurdity, anguish, nausea, abandonment, despair, he would say,
are not necessary. But the remains neglect revolt theory.
Since interest in substantive questions is interlaced in Epictetus
with interest in logic and analysis, this may wen prove that the
split in current philosophy between analysts and nonanalysts is
unnecessary. Certainly it is not clear why a concern with language
and concepts cannot combine with a concern with problems of life
and death. Vested interests apart, only a narrow definition of
philosophy or a superficial acquaintance with the powers of
conceptual clarification prevents the analyst from appreciating
what the existentialist or Marxist or anarchist is trying to do, or
vice versa. Indeed, despite both camps, the results of concept
analysis is not just description or information, but change in one's
outlook on life and language. Surely no layman would recognize
his conception of truth, meaning, happiness, value, right, wrong,
duty, state, existence, reality, god, or sin in the logician's or
analyst's results. He comes to conceptual philosophy with
linguistic as weil as extralinguistic assumptions, and often feels
depressed (or elated) after a dose of philosophical analysis.
Philosophical analysis is not lexicography, while it can be de-
bunking. Analytic and nonanalytic philosophy complement rather
than compete with each other, the former by providing the
latter with at least a tool, the latter by supplying the former with
direction. Which shows too that they can coexist in the same
thinker and moment of thought.
For a bibliography of Epictetus in different languages, editions, trans-
lations, selections, and commentaries, through 1946 see VV. A. Oldfather,
Contributions Toward a Bibliography 01 Epictetus (Urbana, 1927) and a
Supplement, ed. M. Harman (Urbana, 1952). For short lists of translations
in Dutch, English, French, and German, and of critical works on Epictetus
in various languages, see J. Souilhe, ed., tr., Epict?;te, Entretiens (Paris,
1948), I, lxxxiiif, and Oldfather below. The following two lists include
translations and commentaries in English only, and the third, writings
mentioned or alluded to in this book.
Matheson, P. E., Epictetus: The Discourses and 1Vlanual together with
Fragments 01 his Writings, 2 vols. Oxford, 1916. Translation, intro-
duction, notes, and index. Reprinted in W. J. Oates, ed., The Stoic and
Epicurean Philosophers, New York, 1940.
Oldfather, W. A., Epictetus: The Discourses as Reported by Arrian, the
Manual, and Fragments, 2 vols. London and Cambridge, Mass., vol. I,
1925, vol. II, 1928; the Loeb Classical Library Series. Greek text,
English translation, with abrief commentary, biography, bibliography,
and a thorough but somewhat indiscriminate index. The translation is
more literal and reliable than Matheson's, though it, like Matheson's
(and G. Long's and T. W. Higginson's), is inaccurate on points of ethics
and logic (though I am indebted to all four). The Greek text is based
on H. Schenkl, Epicteti Dissertationes ab Arriano Digestae (Leipzig,
1894; editio minor 1898; 2d ed. 1916). Standard text edition. Oldfather's
edition contains the extra fragment z8b.
Arnold, E. V., Roman Stoicism. London, 191I.
de Lacy, P., "The Logical Structure of the Ethics of Epictetus," Classical
Philology, 38 (Jan.-Oct., 1943), II2-25.
Hicks, R. D., Stoic and Epicurean. New York, 1910.
More, P. E., Hellenistic Philosophies. Princeton, 1923.
Zeller, E., The Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics. Tr. from the revised
German edition by O. J. Reiche!. London, 1880.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics. Loeb Library (see above II).
Arnim, J. von, ed., Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, 4 vols. Stuttgart, 1964.
Augustine, The City oj God. Loeb Library.
Bailey, C., Epicurus. Remains, trans., and notes. Oxford, 1926.
Bailey, C., The Greek Atomists. Oxford, 1928.
Bowlby, J., Child Care and the Growth oj Love. Based by permission of the
World Health Organization on the Report Maternal Care and Mental
Health. Abridged and edited by M. Fry. Harmondsworth, 1953.
Bonhffer, A., Epiktet und das Neue Testament. Giessen, 1911.
Camus, A., L'Etranger. Paris, 1942.
Cicero, De Divinatione. De Finibus. De Natura Deorum. Etc. All in Loeb
Colardeau, Th., Etude Sur Epictete. Paris, 1903.
Diogenes Laertius, Lives oj Eminent Philosophers. Loeb Library.
Dudley, D. R., A History oj Cynicism jrom Diogenes to the 6th Century A.D.
London, 1937.
Eilis, A., Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. New York, 1962.
Frankl, V. E., Man's Search jor Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy.
Preface by G. W. Allport. Part One tr. by 1. Lasch. New York, 1963.
Frankl, V. E., The Doctor and the Soul. 2d revised and expanded ed. Tr.
in part by R. and C. Winston. New York, 1965.
Geilius (Lucius), Attic Nights. Loeb Library.
Hicks, R. D. Ed., tr. of Diogenes Laertius (see above).
Horney, K., The Neurotic Personality oj Dur Time. New York, 1937.
Kazantzakis, N., Zorba the Greek. Tr. C. Wildman. London, 1954. Original
published in Athens, 1946.
Kneal, W. and M., The Development oj Logic. Oxford, 1962.
Lipsius, J., Manuductio ad Stoicam Philosophiam. Antwerp, 1604, Wesei,
Lucian, Demonax. Peregrinus. Both in Loeb Library.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. Loeb Library.
Marx, K., Economic and Philosophie Manuscripts oj I844. Tr. T. B. Bot-
tomore, in E. Fromm, Marx's Concept oj Man, New York, 1961.
Mates, B., Stoic Logic. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1953.
Origen, Contra Celsum. Ed., tr. H. Chadwick. Cambridge, 1953.
Pascal, B., Entretien avec de Saci sur Epictete et Montaigne. In M. Havet,
Pensees de Pascal, Paris, 1852.
Plato, Apology. Crito. Laches. Laws. Meno. Phaedo. Phaedms. Republic.
Sophist. Theaetetus. All 10 in Loeb Library.
Sallustius, Concerning the Gods and the Universe. Ed. with Prolegomena
and trans. by A. D. Nock. Cambridge, 1926.
Seneca, De Ira. Epistulae Morales. Loeb Library.
Sextus Empiricus, Against Ethicists. Against Grammarians. Against
Log. Ag. Physicists. DutUnes oj Pyrrhonism. All in Loeb Library.
Simplicius, Epicteti Enchiridion. Tr. from the Greek by G. Standhope, in
Epictetus His Morals, with Simplicius His Comment, London, 174I.
Stobaeus, Anthologium, 5 vols. Eds. C. Wachsmuth and O. Hense. Berlin,
Suidas, Suidae Lexicon, Graece et Latine, 2 vols. Eds. T. Gaisford and
G. Bernhardy. Halle, 1843, 1853.
Suttie, 1. D., The Origins 01 Love and Hate. Harmondsworth, 1960.
Xenophon, Apology. Loeb Library.
Abandonment, 129. See Loneliness
Abstraction, 45
Absurdity, 13, 129
Academy, 32, 45
Achievement, sense of, 94
Achilles, 42
Act(uality), 71-3; act-reiteration, 25
Adriatic, 17
Adultery, 114
Adversity, 96ff. See Misfortune
Advertising, 74
Affection, 112-4, 117, 119
Agamemnon, 42
Aggression, 92, 113, 117
Agony, 82. See Anxiety
Agrippinus, 100, 124f
Alcohol(ism), 75, 128
Algodicy, 47
Alleviation, 83, 85f. See Remedial
Allport, G. W., 128, 132
Analysis: conceptual, 7, 27, 67, 129f ;
philosophieal, ix, 129f; psycho-
logical, 83-5
Anarchism, 11, 123, 130
Anaxagoras, 16,98
Anger, 73, 107
Anguish, 15, 129. See Anxiety
Animals, 30, 42-4, 65, 117
Antecedent, the, 37f
Anthropocentrism, 15; -morphic, 47,
Antidogmatism, I I
Antifeminism, 121
Antigonus, 91
Antipater, 34, 53
Antiphon, 115
Antisthenes, 3f, 7, 68f, 76; Ept. on,
Anxiety, 13, 17,29,61,83, 87f, gof, 99,
112, 128. See Fear
Apatheia, apathy, 8d
Apollonius, 73
Apprehension: incontrovertible, clear,
Appropriateness, 59
A1'eti, 111
Argument, inference, 26, 36-8, 45f;
complete, inc., 37; equivocal,
questioning, 35; forms, pennits,
types, 6, 26, 28; inductive, neces-
sary, 27, 46
Aricia, 100
Aristippus, 16, 114
Aristotle, 7, 11, 22, 30, 37, 54, 66, 72,
79f , 95, 132
ArniIn, J. von, x, 11,52,132
Arrian, F., 8-10, 49, 59, 106
Art(ifact), 8, 15, 45f, 73f, 117
Asceticism, 10, 108, 110
Aspiration, 63, 87, 93
Assent, 28, 30f, 33, 110
Ata1'axia, 22, 24, 81, 97; -ist, 83
Athens, 3, 5, 17, 102; -ian, 122
Attitude (outlook, posture, etc.), 2,
12ff, 24, 62, 82, 84, 99f, 128
Augustine, 10, 57, 132
Axiom system, 38
Bailey, C., 69, 113, 132
Beautiful, 64; male, woman etc., 101f,
Belief, 22, 28, 30, 74, 84. See Thought
Beyond, the, 52
Biological, 43, 66, 116f
Bird(s), 93f , 97
Bitterness: see Disappointment
Blossios of Cumae, 120
Body, 42, 48 52f, 74,92,99, 109f, II5
Bonhffer, A., I, 132
Boredom, 13, 94, 106, 108
Bottomore, T. B., 89, 132
Brainwashing, 107
Brotherhood: see Siblinghood
Burial, 53, II5
Cacodicy, 46ff
Cacophemism, 68
Caesar, 2, 16, 57, 61, 126
Calamity, 84. See Tragedy
Calm (etc.), 5f, 14, 30, 52, 69, 83
Camus, A., 10, 132
Capacity (disposition, skill, etc.), 8, 22,
24, 43f, 54,61,65, 7Iff, 86f, 110
Capitol, 2, 80
Carneades, 8, II, 34, 45
Carthusians, 10
Cassius, 123
Categoricals, 38
Cats, 106
Cause, 15, 83
Celsus, rf
Challenge, 48, 72
Change, 54, 68, 93
Character, 25
Charity, 120
Child: outlook, -ren, 4, 13, 30, 42,
91-5, 103, 106, 121
Choice, 22, 61, IIO
Christ(ian(ity)), If, 10
Chrysippus, 3, 9, 33f , 38, 44, 114; Ept.
on, 4, 62
Chrysostom, 10
Cicero, 4, II, 19, 44f, 132
Classical: attitude, statues, 8d
Cleanliness, 109-1 I
Cleanthes, x, 3, 19, 34, 44, 50f; Ept.
on, 4, 6, 50
Colardeau, Th., 5, 7, 9f, 132
Committal talk, 78
Communist: Party, revolution, take-
over, II8. See Marx
Competition, 14, 90, II6
Compound logic, 38
Conditional, the, 35, 37f; generalized,
38; reasoning, 26, 29, 36
Conduct, 77, 8r. See Thought
Confider, 104
Conjunction, 37
Consequent, the, 37f
Considerateness, 119
Constraint: see Spontaneity
Contended cow, 30
Contradiction (consistency, etc.), 25f,
29-31, 34-7, 80; in description, pre-
cept, 29
Contro!, 110, 120, 127; of impulse, 71,
80; thought-c., 84, 102; self-, 83, 94,
I II; c. test, 85ff
Cooperation, 14, II6
Corinth, 122
Cosmic: grouch, 104; laughter, 5, 135;
stratification, 43. Cosmology, ix,
38f, ch. iv. Cosmos, 4If, 47, 53
Cosmopolitanism, 121-3, 127
Country, III, 122, 126
Crates, 3, I13f; Ept. on, II3, 121
Creation, 20, 48, 52
Cringe: see Fcar
Crinus, 4
Criteria, standards, 26-8, 32f, 60, 63f,
66-8, 94; descriptive, normative cri-
teriology, 26f
Critias, 11,57
Crito, 83
Croesus, 76, 109
Cross-examination, 36
Cyclical regeneration, 40f
Cynicism, 3, 5, II, 14f, 19, 33, 69, 114,
II9f, 123, 126
Cyrenaics, I I
Daimonn, 53
Danger, 23, 48
Death, vii, I2f, 6, 52, 83f, 86f, 108,
IIof, II3, !I5, 1I7f, 127, 129;
-lessness (survival, etc.), 19, 52, 60,
87, 93; deadened, 25, 31
Debating, 80
Decay, 127
Deception, 14f; self-d., 43, 77f
Defenses, 92
Definition, 7, 26f, 38
Deifying, 44, 54
Dejection: see Depression
Delay, technique of, 83, 85
Deliberation, 22, 31
Demetrius, 92
Democracy, !I8; -tic, 121
Democritus, 19, 69, 97
Demonax, 4, 19, I20f
Demythologizing Ept., 54, 127
Denier, 33f
Deontic logic, 29
Dependence: on individuals, types, 88
Depression, 14, 62, 99, 103, 128
Descartes, R., 10
Desire, 62, 83, 87, 108-10, 129
Despair, 20, 24, 129
Detachment, technique of, 83f, Ioof
Determinism, 54
Deterrenee (in law). 124f
Devil. satan. 43. 56
Dialeetie. 9. 26
Diatf'ibai. 8
Dice player. 14. 112
Diodorus. 34f
Diogenes. 3. 5. 7. 19.53. 72. 114. 120.
123. Ept. on D's: affeetion. 112;
relation to Antisthenes. 3; cO!'mo-
politanism. 122; independence. 5,
16, 97; freedom view, 16; "mine"-
view, 3; prowess, 48; sexual re-
straint, 104; slavery days. 122;
value division, 62
Diogenes Laertius, 3. 9. 11. 19, 25. 33f,
41. 52f, 55, 60-70. 76, II3-5, 122,
Disappointment, (ete.) 14,20, 23f, 84,
87, 89!, 93, 95, 99
Discrimination: ethnie. racial, sexual,
Diseussion, 29, 36
Disease, 65. 71, 74. II8. See Medicine
Disjunetion, exclusive. 37
Disposition: see Capacity, Habit
Distress, ix, IIf, 129
Disturbance, vii, 21, 73
Divided, 103
Divination, 53f
Divine: see God(s)
Dogs, 106
Domination, 7, 14
Double negation, 35
Drug!', pills, 95, 128
Dudley, D. R., 55, 121, 132
Duty, 16, 70, II6, II9, 130
Eecle!'iasticism, 53
Education, 5f, 12,22,25, 63, 74, 128;
ebild, 24. See Learning
Effeminaey, 121
Effort, exertion, 82, 95
Egalitarianism, equality, 11, 12d
Eggs, 93, 129
Ego (-theories), Iod
Egyptians, 36
Electrica1 eonditioning, 128
Electrodes, 95
Ellis, A., 128, 132
Emotion, 22, 83f, 128
Empedocles, 40
Empiricism, 32, II5
Encheiridion, 8
Energy, 41, 54
Enthymeme, 37
Envy, 87
Epaphroditus, If
Ephemeral, transitory, ix, 20, 86
Ept. studies, ix. Epiktetos, I
Epieurus, Epieureans, II, 18f, 60, II3-
5; Ept. on, 31, 57, 69, II4
Error, erring man, 43, 78-80
Ethics. ix, 20f, 29, 54-6, 62, 74, 91,
95, 106, 115, 122f, 126ff; divisions of,
24; forestalling, 85f; happiness-
oriented. 71; individual, 71, III,
II9; mental, 71; negative, 71, 83,
85f, 127; positive, 71; preventive,
71, 83, ch. vii, 104; remedial, 71,
85f, eh. viii; pain-oriented: see Pain;
purified, demythologized, 127; re-
sistance, 85f, 32; social, II5; socio-
politieal, 71; straight, 56, 82; thera-
peutic, 16; & medicine, 71, 82;
& value, 56, 61. Ethical: waste, II9;
gravity (center of), 128f; layman,
81, 103; reverberation, 82, II9
Eubulides, 34
Euhemerus, I I
Euthanasia, 17f
Evil, 47; Problem of, no-e. view, 47f.
See Good
Exertion, 95
Exile, 17, 83
Existence, 130; -ial reminders, thera-
py, ix, 127; -ialism, ix, 129f
Explanation, 44, 127
Extensionally, 38
Extemals, 14f. 6xf, 80, 128f
Failure, 79, 89f, 99
Fair, 13, 25, 59f, 64, 111
False: see True
Family, 70, 76, III; eare, 95
Fatalistie-looking expressions, 54
Fate (ete.), 20, 41, 54, 102, 106, II7f,
129. See Providence
Favorinus, 9
Fear, vii, 13ff, 18, 21, 25, 88, 90-2,
100, II2f. See Anxiety, Freedom
Feeling, 3d, 62, 65f, 81, 114; pan-f.
doetrine, 40, 119
Fire, 41, 53f
Flatter, 92, 103, 111
Formal: logie, 27; principle, 35
Frankl, V. E., 127f, 132
Freedom, 5, 7, IIf, 15f, 22, 33, 84, 87f ,
91,97,103,107,109, 122f, 127, 129;
negative, nominal, political, po-
sitive, psyehological, 88f; the free
man, 5, IIIf; earefree posture, 24
Friendship, 119. See Affeetion, Feeling
Frustration, 15, 20, 87, 93
Fun, 121; make f. of troubles, 101, 127
Galen, 10
Galileans, 2
Game, 12ff. See Life
Gellius, 8-10, 34, 96, 115, 132
Generalization, 27, 45
Generals, 3, 121
Girls: eall, II4; pretty, 75, II3
Goals, 83, 94
God(s), 10, 14, 19, eh. iv, 20, II3,
122f, 130; "god"-intoxieated state-
ment, 50. See Zeus
Good, 11, 14, 23, 59ff, 112; & ad-
vantage, 60; & divinity, 56; a
protoeoneept, 59. G./bad/indifferent
trichotomy, 62. See Value
Gossip, 103f
Govemment, state, 89, 118, 123f, 130;
world g., 123
Grammar, grammaeentric fix, 27f
Grave, the, 16f, 112
Greed, 103, 128
Gregory of Nazianzus, 10
Gross national produets, 128
Gyara, 17, 102
Habit, 25, 83; habitual eonfider, 104
Hades, 16, 52
Hadrian, 5, 10
Hang-ups, 15
Happiness, I If, 14t, 20f, 29f, 59ff, 64,
66, 71, 102, 109, 115, 127, 130;
-oriented ethics, 71. Happy-go-
lueky, 94. Eudaimonism, 12, 16, 20,
Hardship, 48, 72
Harm, 107; self-, II6
Health, 59, 61, 64; mental, 128; World
H. Organization, II7, 132
Heap, the, 34
Heath, T. L., II
Hedonism, 95; negative, 69; psyeho-
logieal, 66; value h., 66f. Hedonists,
67, 114. Hedone, 68, 73
Hegemonikon, 76
Hegesias, 19
Hell, 50, 52, 56
Heraclitus, 38, 41
Hereules, 3, 48f
Herodes Atticus, 96
Hicks, R. D., 122, 13rf
Hierapolis, I
Hipparehia, 113
Homelessness, feeling of, 123
Hope, 83, 87, 93, 129; many-hopes
prineiple, 94
Horney, K., II7, 132
Hostility: see Aggression
Humanism, I I
Hydrogen bombs, 95
Hypnotism, 107
Idea-repetition, 74
Ideal, 54, 94f, III, II3; eonduet,
8 I; -izing, 54
Idcntify with, 23, lOri
Identity: in logie, 35; psyehol., 18, 11 7
Ideology, 2, 15, 52
Imagination, 33, 45
Immanenee, 53
Implication, 26, 28, 38
Impulse, 31, 71, 80f, 83, 129
Inactivity, 81, 95
Ineantations, 15, 53, 96
Indian giver, 42
Indifferent, neutral, 33, 6If, 66, 81,
91f, 101, II4
Individualism, I I
Indoetrination, 74
Induetion, 27, 46
Infallibilism, 32
Infanticide, 18
Inferenee: see Argument
Inferiorityeomplexes, 18
Innate, 42, 60, 129
Inoeulation, 84, 97f
Inorganic, the, 43
Inquiry, 31, 36, 89
Inseeurity: see Instability
Instability (ete.), 20, 27, 67f, 88, 93,
123,129; objeet, subjeet i., 93
Instruments, 73f, 117
Insults, 84, 98, 101
Insuranee, 97
Intellect, 22, 29, 84, 98, 102, II7. See
Intelligible, 38, 54. See Sense-making
Interest, 56, 62, 79-81, 108, 119; self-
i., II6
Intemationalism, 123
Introspeetion, 21, 72
Irrefutable propositions, 30f
]ealousy, 87
lews, 36
]udgment: Last, 52; suspension, 29,
34. See Thought
Kant, 1., 10
Karteria, 84, 11 I
Kathekon, 70
Kazantzakis, N., 10, 132
Kneale, W. & M., 38, 132
Knowledge, 12, 20, 22, 24, 28, 30, 32,
128; healing force of, know-how, 22,
28; "Know yourself," 21, 86;
liberating force of, 22, 129; practical,
27; self-k., 21. Epistemology, 11,27,
29. See Thought
Lameness, If, 5, 42, 50
Language, ix, 7, 9, 27f, 38, 129f;
ordinary, 61
Law(ful). 29, 38, 45, 54, 114, 122-4,
126f; rule of, 129
Learning, 6, 14,24,30,83; programed,
72,75; theory, 25, 85. See Teaching
Legal: see Law
Lenitive, 54, 93, 99; words, talk, 99
See Remedial
Liar, the, 33f
Life, ix, ch. ii, 82, 86,91, 94f, 97, 107f,
129: a burden, cro!'s, 12,99; agame
(dance, etc.), vii, ch. ii, 92, 99, 110;
law of, 29; philosophy of, 27
Lipsius, J., 10, 132
Logic(al). ix, 7, 12, ch. iii, 73, 129f
Logocentric predicament, 28
Logos, 27, 38, 54, 127
Loneliness, 7, 83, 104-6
Love, vii, 69, 78, 84, 96, 120, 129. See
Affection, Sex
Lucian, 2, 4, 10, 121, 132
Lycurgus, 124f
Magnified attributes, 57
Malaise, 106
Man, vii, 42-5, 70f, 38, 128f; an
intellectual being, 84; "m.," 116
Marcus Aurelius, 2, 10, 15, 41, 54, 84,
107, 118, 132
Marriage, 76, 114, 121
Marx, K., 89, 128, 132; -ism, 118, 130
Masurius, 123
Master argument, 34f
Mates, B., 38, 132
Matter, 74
Meaning, 7, 26-8, 35, 130
Measure(ment), 26, 28, 87
Meddler, 121. See Proselytizing
Mediation, principle of, 83f
Medicine, 6, 71, 74f, 82, 86,95,97, 121,
124, 128
Megarics, 11, 36
Mental, 72; health, training, 128; in-
oculation, 84; physician, 75; vacci-
nation, 97. Mind, 101
Mercy-killing, 17
Metaphysical, 3, IIf, 21, 52, 54, 57f,
68, 101
Milo, 75, 109
Miracles, 53
Misfortune, 20, 48, 83, 85, 99, 106
Mittner, M., 10
Modalities, 38
Models, 65
Modus tollens, 36
Monasticism, 1I0f, 115
Moral (ity), 115, 123; quasi-linguistic
theory of, 71; layman, 81. Im-, 13.
See Ethics
Music, 15
My thology(-ical) , 52, 58, 106, 126
Narcotics, 128
Nature (-al), ch. iv, 112, 122; con-
fonnity with, 29, 55; natural law,
126f; naturalism, 54; will of, 20, 47;
uses of "n.," 47, 65
Nausea, 129
Necessary, 34f, 89, 100, 105, 129
Negative: ethics, 71, 83, 85f; states,
Nero, If, 92, 100
Neurotic (un-), 15, 106, 128
New Testament, I, 15, 58
News, bad, 8If, lolf
Nicias, 16
Nicopolis, 5, 17, 49
Nobody, a, 120
Nonbelongingness, feeling of, 123
Nonchalantness, 10, 101
Nonnationalism, 11
Obsession, 15f, 106, 109. See Freedom
Obversion, 35
Oedipus, 14
Oldfather, W. A., x, I, IOf, 15f, 67,
110, 131
Old Testament, 58
Olympia, 5, 49
Olympic games, 14
Ontological argument, 60; -gy, 20
Operators (logical), 37f
Optimism, 12
Order, 38, 45f
Organicism: cosmic, 40, 123; de-
scriptive, normative, II9; political,
II8; social, 40, 82, II7-9
Origen, I, 10, 132
Ought, 59, 65
Outgoingness, 111, 114
Ownership, 45, 96
Pacifism, 123
Pagan(s), 1, 1 ro
Pain, II, I5ff, 21, 82, 84-6,92,97,108,
I14f, II9, 124, 128; bodily, 99, II5;
no-po view, 47; -orient at ion, ix, 21-
4, 6rf
Panic, 81, 9,14,114
Pantheism, 42, 122
Paradise, 50, 56
Paradoxical intention, 127
Party, 13, 103
Pascal, B., 10, 132
Passion, 63, 71, 74
Paul, St., 10
Peregrinus, 120f
Perrhaebians, 122
Personification, 54
Pessimism, 24, 54, 86, 93
Phantasia, 33; kataliptike, 32
Pheidias, 49
Philanthropia, 119f
Phi1o, -nian conditional, 38
Philosopher(s), -phy, vii, ix, 3, 6, 8, 1of,
2If, 26f, 31, 40, 64, 74, 76f, 83, 91,
97, 113-5, II8, 121; analytic,
current, ix, 129f; phony, 76; Scout,
II 9-2 I. "Take it philosophically, " 10
Phoniness, 43, 76
Phrygia, I
Pity, 120
Plants, 42f, 65,93
Plato, 3, 11, 16, 19, 22f, 31f, 36, 66,
roo, II5, 132; Ept. on, 71
Pleasure, 27, 50, 23, 19, 119
Plutarch, I, 115
Polemo, 4
Political, 12, 16, 71, 88, 118, 120
Ponos, 66
Possessive, 96, 129
Possible, imp., 34f, 37f, 78
Poverty, 101, 120
Power, 14, 58f, 88. See Capacity,
Praise, 64, 91
Precariousness: see Instability
Prediction, 27, 46, 54, 99
Prepared(ness), 20, 99, 103. See Pre-
Presocratics, 3
Pressure : see Spontaneity
Prevention, 83, ch. vii, 98, 103f
Priam, 14
Price idea, 102f
Prison, jail, 13, 18, 83, 91
Problems (difficulties) in living, ix,
22, 24f
Procrastination, nf. 99
Prodicus, 7, I I
Progress, 2,93. See Self-improvement.
Prohairesis, 22f, 101, 17, 110
Projection (etc.), 35, 44, 54, 57, 81, 84,
Prolepsis, 59
Proof, 26f
Propaganda, 74
Propositionallogic, 37
Proselytizing, 126
Protagoras, II, 71
Protoconcepts, 21, 65f, 104, II5; po-
sitive, neg., 60, 65
Providence (etc.), ch. iv, 117, 127
Psychiatry, rof, 120, 127
Psychology, 4, 23, 106, IISf. See
Analysis, Ethics
Psychopath, 95
Psychotherapy, 75, 127f
Ptolemy, 19
Punishment, 19, 52, 65, 79, II6, I24f
Puzzles (fallacies, etc.), 26, 11,68,80
Pyriphlegethon, 52
Pythagoras, 25, 40, 87
Quantification theory, 38
Rational, 22, 25, 43, 59, 7of, 79, 82,
123, 128. See Realism, Reason
Rationalism, 32, 34
Rationalization, 43, n f , 99
Realism (-tic), 14, 20, 22f, 29, 54f, 65,
75, 78, 81, 83, 86, 110, 119
Reason(ing), 6, 12, 14, 22, 27f, 30, 32,
50, 53-5, 71, 79, 83f, 93, 127f;
reason-universal, 39, 127
Reform, 108, 120
Reformation (in law), 124f
Regret, 83, 92
Religion (piety, etc.), 15, 56-60, 70;
& advantage, 56. See God(s)
Remedial, 23, 54, ch. viii
Resignation, 10, 24
Responsibility, 70, 79
Responsiveness, 7of
Rest, 95; -less, 94
Retribution, 124f
Revelation, 53
Revolution (etc.), 40, 120, 122, 124,
126, 129
Right(s), 18f, 47, II7ff, 12If, 125,
Role-analogy, 54f
Roman law, 123
Rome, 5, 17, 100, 102
Rufus, M., 2, 49, II4, 123; Ept. on, 2,
Saeredness: see Religion
Saerifiee(s), 53f, II8f
Sallustius, 41, 132
Salvation, 52, 61, 126
Satisfaetion, 72, I08f
Schenk!, H., x, 131
Sehopenhauer, A., 95
Seienee (-tifie), 21, 36, 38, 46, 54, 61,
80, 82, II6, 126f
Scout: see Troubleshooting
Sea, 42
Self ("mine"), 3, 21, 23, 61, 92, IOd,
Iogf, II8
Self-: absorption, 106; assuranee
(eonfidenee, relianee), 14, 83, II2f;
awareness, 43; eommittal talk, 78;
eonservation, II6; eontrol, 83, 94,
III; deeeption, 43, nf; defeat, 31,
79f, 90; dependenee, sufficieney, 41,
44, 105; esteem, 120; examination,
2If; image, 18; improvement, n;
influenee, 78; injury, 107, II6;
interest, II6; knowledge, 21; -ish, 87,
II7; refutation (eontradietion), 30-
3,38,127; respeet, 52, 114; shrinking,
10 I; talk, 99; thought, 129
Seneea, 2, 16, 18, 120, 132
Senility, 127
Sense, 83; -making, 126f
Senses (-impression), 27, 32f, 81, 83;
systematie doubt of, 32f
Sensualism, 68; -ity, 73
Separation, prineiple of, 83f
Sex, 10, 45, 53, 69, 73, 101, 109, 1I3f,
Sextus Empirieus, II, 18, 21, 34, 38,
40, 45, 53, 17, II4, 132
Siblinghood, 122, 127
Siek, ill, 6, 74f
Sign-theory, II
Silencer, 33f
Simplieius, 4, 133
Sin, 79f, 130; aboriginal guilt, 52
Sixth sense, 46; religious, 53
Skeptics, II, 21, 30-2, 34, 97; Aca-
demie, 31; Pyrrhonian, 21, 32, 97
Skill: see Capacity
Slave(ry), I5f, 30, Hf, 87ff, 92,97, IIIf,
119, 122-4
Small talk, 103
Smiling, I, 99
Smoke-door metaphor, 17, 19, I28f
Sociability, 7of, II6f
Social: climbing, getting ahead, 13,
128; theory, 12, eh. ix
Socializing, 3, 53
Society, 40, 15, 38; affluent, class-
less, 128
Soerates, 3, 7-9, 19f, 23f, 31, 36, 53,
78f, 83, 91, II5, II9f. Esteemed by
Ept., 75. Ept. on S's: affeetion, 84,
II2; eosmopolitanism, 122; defi-
nitions, dialeetie, 7, 26; deflatio-
nism, 120; erring view, 78; facial
expression, II3; fearlesness, 5, 23;
idealism, II 3; preparedness, 96;
view of the self, 23; sexual re-
straint, 104; teaehing, 4, 6, 9;
temper, 7f; trial & prison behavior,
91, !0O; "unexamined life," 22, 83;
writing, 8. Ept. on hemloek, 83
Solon, 98
Sophists, II, 47, 126
Sophron, 18
Sorrow, 15, 86, 107
Souilhe, J., 5, 131
Soul, 52f, 109; foul, pure, 79; slippery,
Speeulation, 2If, 25
Sphairos of Borysthenes, 120
Spinoza, B., 10
Spirit, 53
Spontaneity, 15, 47, 89, log. See
Standards: see Criteria
Stars, 42
Stilpo, 3
Stobaeus, 87, 133
Stoicism, x, 2f, 7, 9, II, 14f, 19, 24,
27f, 32-4, 36, 39--42, H, 52f, 55, 60,
67-70, 114, II9f, 123, I 26ff. Ept. on,
4. Neo-Stoicism, 10. "Be astoie,"
10, 24, 114. Stoa, 2f
Strength, 22, 48f, 83f, III. See Power
Suffering, 18, 48, 7d, 82, 129
Suieide(s), vii, I2f. 6. 55. 83-5. 94,
101, 108, II8, 128f
Suidas, 1, 133
Sun, 42, 44, II6
Supematural, 52, 58
Survival: see Death
Suttie, I. D., II7, 133
Syllogism, syllogismos, 6, 37
Symbolism (Iogical), 27
Sympathy, 82
Tacitus, 1
Talk & conduct: see Thought
Tautologies, 38
Teaehing, 5-8, 83, 106. See Learning
Thales, 52
Theodiey, 48
Theology, 11,21,52; theie eoneepts, 56
Therapy, 12, 74, 128; existential, logo-,
rational, 127f. See Learning
Thought, 30, 15, 110, 128; thought
(eonception, judgment, opinion,
talk, ete.) & eonduet, vii, 18, 78f,
84, 98f, 105, 128f; t.-analysis, ix, 25;
t.-eontrol, 84, 102; wishful, 83
Timon, 107
Toil, 66f, 84
Tolerance, 11
Totalitarian, 121
Tragedy, 13, 24; literary, 14f
Training, ix, 24, 29, 33, 70, 72, 97f,
128. See Learning
Tranquilizer, 99
Treatment, 21, 24; shoek treatment,
128. See Learning
Troubleshooting, 75, 39
True, false, 12, 14f, 26-36, 62, 68, 77f,
99, 130; truth-table, 37f; t/f/
neither, 62; uneertain, 29, 3 I;
undeeidable, 77
Types, 68, 88
Tyrant, 16, 23, 9If, 101
Ulysses, 120
Understanding, 30, 43, 127
Unfazed(ness), etc., 22, 24, 81, 103, 127
Universe: see World
Universal sentences, 38
Unperturbedness, 14, 81f, 95, 102
Unreliability, 20, 129
Unserious: life, outlook, 24; philoso-
phy of -ness, 62
Useful, 6, 59, 63, 65, 84
Using pereeptions, 3f, 33
Utilitarian, 14, 30, 115
Validity, inv., 29, 37
Value, 19, 27, eh. v, 122, 128, 130;
eriteria, 64-8; disputes, 63; realism,
65; relativity, 64f; theory, 12, 56
Vindietiveness, 124f
Virtue, 12, 14, 20, 64f, 115
Void, the, 40
Vulnerable, ix, 23, 88, 92
War, 20, 123
Water, 4of
Whims, 129
Wieked (mean, ete.), 78f, II 6, 129
Will, 22, 45, 101, 107f, 118; alien, 70;
free, 52, 91; of nature, 20, 47;
rational, 61,112; weak, 80,128
Wise, sage, 13,21,42, 54f
Wish, 83, 87, 89, 108, 110; -ful
thinking, 83
World, universe, ix, 40, 45, 50, 53, 126;
a battle-field, 121; city, 123; -con-
flagration, 41, 53; revolution of, 40;
stranger, 20, 87, 91. See Nature
Worry(lessness), 100, I II, 115
Worship, 58f, 122
Xenophon, 91, 98,133
Zeno (the Stoie), 3, 19, 70, 114. Ept.
on, 4, 6, 91,96
Zeus, 13, 19f, eh. iv, 58f, 100, 106,116,
Zorba, 10, 24