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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 conclusion “and you will then see,” is not in the text, but it is what Epictetus means. The argument is complete. If we admit the existence of God, and that he is our father, as Epictetus teaches, we have from him the intellectual powers which we possess; and those men in whom these powers have been roused to activity, and are exercised, require no other instructor. It is true that in a large part of mankind these powers are inactive and are not exercised, or if they are exercised, it is in a very imperfect way. But those who contemplate the improvement of the human race, hope that all men, or if not all men, a great number will be roused to the exercise of the powers which they have, and that human life will be made more conformable to Nature, that is, that man will use the powers which he has, and will not need advice and direction from other men, who professing that they are wise and that they can teach, prove by their teaching and often by their example that they are not wise, and are incapable of teaching. This is equally true for those who may deny or doubt about the existence of God. They cannot deny that man has the intellectual powers which he does possess; and they are certainly not the persons who will proclaim their own want of these powers. If man has them and can exercise them, the fact is sufficient; and we need not dispute about the source of these powers which are in man Naturally, that is, according to the constitution of his Nature.
3 A festival at Rome in December, a season of jollity and license (Livy, xxii. 1). Compare the passage in Tacitus, Ann. xiii. 15, in which Nero is chosen by lot to be king: and Seneca, De Constant. Sapient. c. 12, “Illi (pueri) inter ipsos magistratus gerunt, et praetextam fascesque ac tribunal imitantur.”
5 See Schweighaeuser's note.
6 Demetrius was a Cynic philosopher, of whom Seneca (De Benef. vii. 1) says: “He was in my opinion a great man, even if he is com- pared with the greatest.” One of his sayings was; “You gain more by possessing a few precepts of philosophy, if you have them ready and use them, than by learning many if you have them not at hand.” Seneca often mentions Demetrius. The saying in the text is also attributed to Anaxagoras (Life by Diogenes Laertius) and to Socrates by Xeuophon (Apologia, 27).
8 See Schweighaeuser's note.
9 Paradoxes (παράδοξα), “things contrary to opinion,” are con- trasted with paralogies (παράλογα), “things contrary to reason” (iv. 1. 173). Cicero says (Prooemium to his Paradoxes), that paradoxes are “something which cause surprise and contradict common opinion;” and in another place he says that the Romans gave the name of “admirabilia” to the Stoic paradoxes.—The puncture of the eye is the operation for cataract.
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