This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
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 τὸ παθεῖν ὅτι, etc.: Schweighaeuser has a note on the distinction between τὸ ὀρέγεσθαι and τὸ ὁρμᾶν. Compare Epictetus, iii. 2, 1; iii. 3, 2; iii. 22, 43; and i. 4, 11. Schweig. says that ὀρέγεσθαι refers to the ἀγαθόν and συμφέρον, and ὁρμᾶν to the καθῆκον, and he concludes that there is a defect in the text, which he endeavours to supply.
2 Mrs. Carter says: “The most ignorant persons often practise what they know to be evil: and they, who voluntarily suffer, as many do, their inclinations to blind their judgment, are not justified by following it. (Perhaps she means “them,” “their inclinations.”) The doctrine of Epictetus therefore, here and elsewhere, on this head, contradicts the voice of reason and conscience: nor is it less pernicious than ill-grounded. It destroys all guilt and merit, all punishment and reward, all blame of ourselves or others, all sense of misbehaviour towards our fellow-creatures, or our Creator. No wonder that such philosophers did not teach repentance towards God.” Mrs. Carter has not understood Epictetus; and her censure is misplaced. It is true that “the most ignorant persons often practise what they know to be evil,” as she truly says. But she might have said more. It is also true that persons, who are not ignorant, often do what they know to be evil, and even what they would condemn in another, at least before they had fallen into the same evil themselves; for when they have done what they know to be wrong, they have a fellow- feeling with others who are as bad as themselves. Nor does he say, as Mrs. Carter seems to imply that he does, for her words are ambiguous, that they who voluntarily suffer their inclinations to blind their judgment are justified by following them. He says that men will do as they do, so long as they think as they think. He only traces to their origin the bad acts which bad men do; and he says that we should pity them and try to mend them. Now the best man in the world, if he sees the origin and direct cause of bad acts in men, may pity them for their wickedness, and he will do right. He will pity, and still he will punish severely, if the interests of society require the guilty to be punished: but he will not punish in anger. Epictetus says nothing about legal penalties; and I assume that he would not say that the penalties are always unjust, if I understand his principles. His discourse is to this effect, as the title tells us, that we ought not to be angry with the errors of others: the matter of the discourse is the feeling and disposition which we ought to have towards those who do wrong, “because they are mistaken about good and evil.”He does not discuss the question of the origin of these men's mistake further than this: men think that a thing or act is advantageous; and it is impossible for them to think that one thing is advantageous and to desire another thing. Their error is in their opinion. Then he tells us to show them their error, and they will desist from their errors. He is not here examining the way of showing them their error; by which I suppose that he means convincing them of their error. He seems to admit that it may not be possible to convince them of their errors; for he says, “if they do not see their errors, they have nothing superior to their present opinion.” This is the plain and certain meaning of Epictetus which Mrs. Carter in her zeal has not seen.
3 Here the text, 9, 10, 11 is defective. See Schweighaeuser's note.
4 The conclusion explains what precedes. A man can have no pain in his horns, because he has none. A man cannot be vexed about the loss of a thing if he does not possess it. Upton says that Epictetus alludes to the foolish quibble: “If you have not lost a thing, you have it: but you have not lost horns; therefore you have horns” (Seneca, Ep. 45). Epictetus says, “You do not lose a thing when you have it not.” See Schweig.'s note.
6 This ought to be the method in teaching children."
7 That is obstinate, as this animal is generally; and sometimes very obstinate. The meaning then is, as Schweighaeuser says: “a man should be invincible, not with a kind of stupid obstinacy or laziness and slowness in moving himself like an ass, but he should be invincible through reason, reflection, meditation, study, and diligence.”
8 “From the rustics came the old proverb, for when they commend a man's fidelity and goodness they say he is a man with whom you may play the game with the fingers in the dark.” Cicero, De Officiis, iii. 19. See Forcellini, Micare.
9 The MSS. have ὑομένος or οἰόμενος. Schweighaeuser has accepted Upton's emendation of οἰνωμένος, but I do not. The “sleep” refers to dreams. Aristotle, Ethic, i. 13, says: “better are the visions (dreams) of the good (ἐπιεικῶν) than those of the common sort;” and Zeno taught that “a man might from his dreams judge of the progress that he was making, if he observed that in his sleep he was not pleased with anything bad, nor desired or did anything unreasonable or un- just.” Plutarch, περὶ προκοτῆς, ed. Wyttenbach, vol. i. o. 12.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.