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Arrian's Discourses of Epictetus
That when we cannot fulfil that which the character of a man promises, we assume the character of a philosopher.
What is the matter on which a good man should be employed, and in what we ought chiefly to practise ourselves.
1 The line is from the prayer of Ulysses to Athena: “Hear me child of Zeus, thou who standest by me always in all dangers, nor do I even move without thy knowledge.” Socrates said that the gods know everything, what is said and done and thought (Xenophon, Mem. i. 1, 19). Compare Cicero, De Nat. Deorum, i. 1, 2; and Dr. Price's Dissertation on Providence, sect. i. Epictetus enumerates the various opinions about the gods in antient times. The reader may consult the notes in Schweighaeuser's edition. The opinions about God among modern nations, who are called civilized, and are so more or less, do not seem to be so varied as in antient times: but the con- trasts in modern opinions are striking. These modern opinions vary between denial of a God, though the number of those who deny is perhaps not large, and the superstitious notions about God and his administration of the world, which are taught by teachers, learned and ignorant, and exercise a great power over the minds of those who are unable or do not dare to exercise the faculty of reason.
2 “To follow God,” is a Stoical expression. Antoninus, x. 11.
3 This means that we ought to learn to be satisfied with everything that happens, in fact with the will of God. This is a part of education, according to Epictetus. But it does not appear in our systems of education so plainly as it does here. Antoninus (iv. 23): “Everything harmonizes with me, which is harmonious to thee, 0 universe. Nothing for me is too early nor too late. which is in due time for thee?”
4 Upton has collected the passages in which this doctrine was mentioned. One passage is in Gellius (vi. 1), from the fourth book of Chrysippus on Providence, who says: “nothing is more foolish than the opinions of those who think that good could have existed without evil.” Schweighaeuser wishes that Epictetus had discussed more fully the question on the nature and origin of Evil. He refers to the commentary of Simplicius on the Encheiridion of Epictetus, c. 13 (8), and 34 (27), for his treatment of this subject. Epictetus (Encheiridion, c. 27) says that “as a mark is not set up for the purpose of missing it, so neither does the nature of evil exist in the universe.” Simplicius observes (p. 278, ed. Schweig.): “The Good is that which is according to each thing's nature, wherein each thing has its perfection: but the Bad is the disposition contrary to its nature of the thing which contains the bad, by which disposition it is deprived of that which is according to nature, namely, the good. For if the Bad as well as the Good were a disposition and perfection of the form (εἴδους) in which it is, the bad itself would also be good and would not then be called Bad.”
6 “Et quota pars homo sit terrai totius unus.” Lucret. vi. 652, and Antoninus, ii. 4.
7 The original is δόγμασι, which the Latin translators render “decretis,” and Mrs. Carter “principles.” I don't understand either. I have rendered the word by “thoughts,” which is vague, but I can do no better. It was the Stoic doctrine that the human intelligence is a particle of the divine. Mrs. Carter names this “one of the Stoic extravagancies, arising from the notion that human souls were literally parts of the Deity.” But this is hardly a correct representation of the Stoic doctrine.
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