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Miscellaneous.

WHEN some person asked him how it happened that since reason has been more cultivated by the men of the present age, the progress made in former times was greater. In what respect, he answered, has it been more cultivated now, and in what respect was the progress greater then? For in that in which it has now been more cultivated, in that also the progress will now be found. At present it has been cultivated for the purpose of resolving syllogisms, and progress is made. But in former times it was culti- vated for the purpose of maintaining the governing faculty in a condition conformable to nature, and progress was made. Do not then mix things which are different, and do not expect, when you are labouring at one thing to make progress in another. But see if any man among us when he is intent upon this, the keeping himself in a state conformable to nature and living so always, does not make progress. For you will not find such a man.

The good man is invincible, for he does not enter the contest where he is not stronger. If you (his adversary) want to have his land and all that is on it, take the land; take his slaves, take his magisterial office, take his poor body. But you will not make his desire fail in that which it seeks, nor his aversion fall into that which he would avoid. The only contest into which he enters is that about things which are within the power of his will; how then will he not be invincible?

Some person having asked him what is Common sense, Epictetus replied, As that may be called a certain Common hearing which only distinguishes vocal sounds, and that which distinguishes musical sounds is not Common, but artificial; so there are certain things which men, who are not altogether perverted, see by the common notions which all possess. Such a constitution of the mind is named Common sense.1

It is not easy to exhort weak young men; for neither is it easy to hold (soft) cheese with a hook.2 But those who have a good natural disposition, even if you try to turn them aside, cling still more to reason. Wherefore Rufus3 generally attempted to discourage (his pupils), and he used this method as a test of those who had a good natural disposition and those who had not. For it was his habit to say, as a stone, if you cast it upwards, will be brought down to the earth by its own nature, so the man whose mind is naturally good, the more you repel him, the more he turns towards that to which he is naturally inclined.


1 The Greek is κοίνος νοῦς, the Communis sensus of the Romans, and our Common sense. Horace (Sat. i. 3, 65) speaks of a man who “'communi sensu plane caret,'” one who has not the sense or understanding which is the common property of men.

2 This was a proverb used by Bion, as Diogenes Laertius says. The cheese was new and soft, as the antients used it.

3 Rufus is mentioned i. 1, note 12.

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