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That the logical art is necessary.

SINCE reason is the faculty which analyses1 and perfects the rest, and it ought itself not to be unanalysed, by what should it be analysed? for it is plain that this should be done either by itself or by another thing. Either then this other thing also is reason, or something else superior to reason; which is impossible. But if it is reason, again who shall analyse that reason? For if that reason does this for itself, our reason also can do it. But if we shall require something else, the thing will go on to infinity and have no end.2 Reason therefore is analysed by itself. Yes: but it is more urgent to cure (our opinions3) and the like. Will you then hear about those things? Hear. But if you should say, “I know not whether you are arguing truly or falsely,” and if I should express myself in any way ambiguously, and you should say to me, “Distinguish,” I will bear with you no longer, and I shall say to you, “It is more urgent.”4 This is the reason, I suppose, why they (the Stoic teachers) place the logical art first, as in the measuring of corn we place first the examination of the measure. But if we do not determine first what is a modius, and what is a balance, how shall we be able to measure or weigh anything?

In this case then if we have not fully learned and accurately examined the criterion of all other things, by which the other things are learned, shall we be able to examine accurately and to learn fully any thing else? How is this possible? Yes; but the modius is only wood, and a thing which produces no fruit.—But it is a thing which can measure corn.—Logic also produces no fruit.—As to this indeed we shall see: but then even if a man should grant this, it is enough that logic has the power of distinguishing and examining other things, and, as we may say, of measuring and weighing them. Who says this? Is it only Chrysippus, and Zeno, and Cleanthes? And does not Antisthenes say so?5 And who is it that has written that the examination of names is the beginning of education? And does not Socrates say so? And of whom does Xenophon write, that he began with the examination of names, what each name signified?6 Is this then the great and wondrous thing to understand or interpret Chrysippus? Who says this?—What then is the wondrous thing?—To understand the will of nature. Well then do you apprehend it yourself by your own power? and what more have you need of? For if it is true that all men err involuntarily, and you have learned the truth, of necessity you must act right.—But in truth I do not apprehend the will of nature. Who then tells us what it is?—They say that it is Chrysippus.—I proceed, and I inquire what this interpreter of nature says. I begin not to understand what he says: I seek an interpreter of Chrysippus.—Well, consider how this is said, just as if it were said in the Roman tongue.7—What then is this superciliousness of the interpreter?8 There is no superciliousness which can justly be charged even to Chrysippus, if he only interprets the will of nature, but does not follow it himself; and much more is this so with his interpreter. For we have no need of Chrysippus for his own sake, but in order that we may understand nature. Nor do we need a diviner (sacrificer) on his own account, but because we think that through him we shall know the future and understand the signs given by the gods; nor do we need the viscera of animals for their own sake, but because through them signs are given; nor do we look with wonder on the crow or raven, but on God, who through them gives signs?9

I go then to the interpreter of these things and the sacrificer, and I say, Inspect the viscera for me, and tell me what signs they give. The man takes the viscera, opens them, and interprets: Man, he says, you have a will free by nature from hindrance and compulsion; this is written here in the viscera. I will show you this first in the matter of assent. Can any man hinder you from assenting to the truth? No man can. Can any man compel you to receive what is false? No man can. You see that in this matter you have the faculty of the will free from hindrance, free from compulsion, unimpeded. Well then, in the matter of desire and pursuit of an object, is it otherwise? And what can overcome pursuit except another pursuit? And what can overcome desire and aversion (ἔκκλισιν) except another desire and aversion? But, you object: “If you place before me the fear of death, you do compel me.” No, it is not what is placed before you that compels, but your opinion that it is better to do so and so than to die. In this matter then it is your opinion that compelled you: that is, will compelled will10. For if God had made that part of himself, which he took from himself and gave to us, of such a nature as to be hindered or compelled either by himself or by another, he would not then be God nor would he be taking care of us as he ought. This, says the diviner, I find in the victims: these are the things which are signified to you. If you choose, you are free; if you choose, you will blame no one: you will charge no one. All will be at the same time according to your mind and the mind of God. For the sake of this divination I go to this diviner and to the philosopher, not admiring him for this interpretation, but admiring the things which he interprets.

1 Λόγος ἐστὶν διαρθρῶν. Διαρθροῦν means “to divide a thing into its parts or members.” The word “analyse” seems to be the nearest equivalent. See Schweig.'s note on ὑπὸ τίνος διαρθρωθῆ;

2 This is obscure. The conclusion, “Reason therefore is analysed by itself” is not in Epictetus; but it is implied, as Schweighaeuser says (p. 197, notes). So Antoninus, xi. 1, writes: “These are the properties of the rational soul; it sees itself, analyses itself.” If reason, our reason, requires another reason to analyse it, that other reason will require another reason to analyse that other reason; and so on to infinity. If reason then, our reason, can be analysed, it must be analysed by itself. The notes on the first part of this chapter in the edition of Schweighaeuser may be read by those who are inclined.

3 “Our opinions.” There is some defect in the text, as Wolf remarks. “The opponent,” he says, “disparages Logic (Dialectic) as a thing which is not necessary to make men good, and he prefers moral teaching to Logic: but Epictetus informs him, that a man who is not a Dialectician will not have a sufficient perception of moral teaching.”

4 He repeats the words of the supposed opponent; and he means that his adversary's difficulty shows the necessity of Dialectic.

5 Antisthenes who professed the Cynic philosophy, rejected Logic and Physic (Schweig. note p. 201).

6 Xenophon, Mem. iv. 5, 12, and iv. 6, 7. Epictetus knew what education ought to be. We learn language, and we ought to learn what it means. When children learn words, they should learn what the thing is which is signified by the word. In the case of children this can only be done imperfectly as to some words, but it may be done even then in some degree; and it must be done, or the word signifies nothing, or, what is equally bad, the word is misunderstood. All of us pass our lives in ignorance of many words which we use; some of us in greater ignorance than others, but all of us in ignorance to some degree.

7 The supposed interpreter says this. When Epictetus says “the Roman tongue,” perhaps he means that the supposed opponent is a Roman and does not know Greek well.

8 Encheiridion, c. 49. “When a man gives himself great airs because he can understand and expound Chrysippus, say to yourself, If Chrysippus had not written obscurely, this man would have had nothing to be proud of.” See the rest.

9 Compare Xenophon, Mem. i. 1, 3.

10 This is true. If you place before a man the fear of death, you threaten him with the fear of death. The man may yield to the threat and do what it is the object of the threat to make him do; or he may make resistance to him who attempts to enforce the threat; or he may refuse to yield, and so take the consequence of his refusal. If a man yields to the threat, he does so for the reason which Epictetus gives, and freedom of choice, and consequently freedom of will really exists in this case. The Roman law did not allow contracts or agreements made under the influence of threats to be valid; and the reason for declaring them invalid was not the want of free will in him who yielded to the threat, but the fact that threats are directly contrary to the purpose of all law, which purpose is to secure the independent action of every person in all things allowed by law. This matter is discussed by Savigny, Das heut. Römische Recht, iii. § 114. See the title 'Quod metus causa,' in the Digest, 4, 2. Compare also Epictetus, iv. 1, 68, etc.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (3):
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