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  • kcantekin 8:25 am on May 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    On Preconceptions 

    Epictetus – Discourses Book 1
    I.22. On Preconceptions

    Everyone has preconceptions. And the essence of these preconceptions are shared by all people. It is from the application of these preconceptions to particular cases that conflicts arise.

    For instance, all people have similar preconceptions as to what holiness, or justice, or audacity are, but they reach conflicting conclusions as to what is holy, just, brave, or audacious.

    Education teaches people to apply natural preconceptions to particular cases in accordance with nature, and to distinguish what is in our power from what is not in our power.

    We should assign goodness to things that are in our power and not to things outside it. It follows that our health, property or family are not good, but nor are they evil. If we classify things outside our power as good, then it will be impossible to remain happy when these things are taken from us by misfortune. Also, if these things are good, our natural inclination for self-interest will force us to pursue these things no matter what, and being outside our power and control, we will unavoidably be subjected to the power of others.

    There is another disadvantage in applying the designation of good to externals: When we face a misfortune and lose these ‘goods’, we risk blaming God, as we might start doubting whether he looks after us. And this might push us to be impious and finally hate God.

  • kcantekin 1:04 pm on March 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    To people who want to be admired 

    Epictetus – Discourses Book 1
    I.21. To people who want to be admired

    I do not need anyone’s approval except my own.

    I should be satisfied if my desires and aversions agree with nature.

    Seeking external approval would mean setting my desires onto a thing outside of my control.

    And that would lead me to nowhere but unhappiness.

    • danielechiti 10:15 pm on April 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Well said! But do not take my approval as admiration, for if it flatters you today it may lead you to unhappiness tomorrow. For I, an Epicureus in the flesh, reason differently from your lazy stoic kind!


  • kcantekin 7:42 am on March 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    Concerning reason, and how it studies itself 

    Epictetus – Discourses Book 1
    I.20. Concerning reason, and how it studies itself

    1. Thinking that money is valuable to us, we have developed the art of assaying to assess whether a coin is forged or not.
    2. We should be concerned with the veracity and value of impressions, just as we are concerned with the value of coins.
    3. To assess and make correct use of impressions, nature has given us the gift of reason.
    4. Reason itself is a collection of individual impressions, but it can study and pass judgment on itself, and the impressions that constitute itself.
    5. This ability makes reason the supreme faculty.

    But using reason to make correct assessment of impressions is not easy. It requires intensive preparation and hard study. “So what? Do you think the greatest art can be acquired easily and overnight?”

    Take Epicurus, who says that flesh is the principle thing. How did he reach this judgment if not through the faculty of reason. So isn’t the thing that passes judgment greater than the thing that is judged?


  • kcantekin 9:52 pm on March 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: altruism, , , , power, self-interest   

    How we should act towards the powerful 

    Epictetus – Discourses Book 1
    I.19. How we should act towards the powerful

    What is the advantage of being powerful? Is it that everybody pay you attention and respect?

    Well, I can pay attention to a mundane thing such as my pen when I am filling it with ink, or to my dishes when I am washing them. That does not mean that these things are better than I am; it only means that these things are useful to me.

    One also looks after his horse, washes its feet and curries its coat, makes it comfortable. But one does this for in self-interest, because looking after one’s horse is looking after one’s self.

    So if I respect the powerful, do I flatter them as I flatter my horse; or do I respect them as human beings? Do I respect them as I respect Socrates; do I want to be like them as I want to be like Socrates?

    But what about respect out of fear? The tyrant may indeed cut of my head if he wants to. So should I look out for him like I look out for a contagious disease? What sort of respect is that?

    What is the source of fear; what keeps people subdued? It is not the person of the tyrant, nor his bodyguards and their arms. It is a persons own thoughts. Remember, what has been made free by nature can only be hampered by itself.

    Only one who holds his body in higher regard than his freedom will be cowed by the threat of bodily harm. God has given us freedom and he will not allow any of his children to be enslaved. If he wants, the tyrant may be the master of my corpse; but that is all he can be, and nothing more.

    Looking after one’s self is not selfishness, it is only man’s nature. We cannot expect someone to be indifferent to his welfare. But constantly acting in self-interest is not anti-social, and it is not antithetical to altruism. God made rational man is such a way that once he holds correct views about things external to the will—realising that they are not good nor evil—he cannot attain personal ends without also providing for the community.

    “Someone is raised to the office of tribune and accepts congratulations on every hand (…) He mounts the Capitol, where he offers a sacrifice of thanks. Now who, I ask you, has ever offered sacrifice for right desires, or for impulses in agreement for nature? We only thank the gods, it seems, for what we popularly suppose are the good things in life.” 

  • kcantekin 1:50 pm on March 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , integrity   

    Don't be angry with wrongdoers 

    Epictetus – Discourses Book 1
    I.18. Don’t be angry with wrongdoers

    It is a general observation of philosophy that people are guided by a single standard:

    1. People assent to things they feel must be true,
    2. People dissent to things they feel is not true,
    3. People suspend judgment concerning things they are not clear as to their truth value.

    This is the same with impulses: “It is impossible to consider one thing advantageous and desire something different, or consider one thing right and have an impulse to something else.”

    It follows that people who do wrong do it because they are confused as to what is good and what is bad.

    So to be angry with them is groundless as it is useless. If we could show these people where their thinking goes wrong, they would reform themselves.

    The reason we might get angry when someone wrongs us, or steals from us is that we put too high a premium on things that can be stolen, or otherwise taken away from us. If we don’t attach too high a value to things that can be taken from us, then we won’t get angry to those who take these things from us.

    What is only and truly ours cannot be taken. What can be taken is not under our control anyway.

    “As long as you honour material things, direct your anger at yourself rather than the thief… ‘But the tyrant will chain —’ What will he chain? Your leg. ‘He will chop off —’ What? Your head. What he will never chain or chop off is your integrity. That’s the reason behind the ancient advice to ‘know yourself’… Walk upright and free, trusting in the strength of your moral convictions, not the strength of your body, like an athlete. You weren’t meant to be invincible by brute force, like a pack animal. You are invincible if nothing outside the will can disconcert you.”

  • kcantekin 8:23 am on March 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    Concerning the necessity of logic 

    Epictetus – Discourses Book 1
    I.17. Concerning the necessity of logic

    Logic is at the head of the Stoic curriculum because it is a useful tool in weighing and measuring abstractions.

    We can use logic to analyse concepts and terms, and forestall any uncertainty as to their meanings.

    But we should keep in mind that logic is only a tool for interpreting nature. Logic does not create truth by itself; but through logic we may better understand God and the will of nature.

  • kcantekin 8:19 am on March 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , gratitude,   

    On Providence (II) 

    Epictetus – Discourses Book 1
    I.16. On Providence (II)

    Just looking around us to see the natural circumstances that enable our physical and civil existence as rational beings should make us feel respect and gratitude for Providence that encompasses all of these things.

  • kcantekin 8:44 am on February 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    What Philosophy Professes 

    Epictetus – Discourses Book 1
    I.15. What philosophy professes

    Philosophy cannot advise us on the behaviour and life of others.

    It cannot give us anything that is outside of our control.

    Philosophy teaches you the art of living your own life. That means essentially, keeping the soul’s governing principle aligned to nature.

    But that is only for your soul. The souls of others are external to you, you cannot control them, and philosophy cannot teach you to change them.

    Learning to stay true to nature without being affected by externals such as property, health, or reputation is not an easy process. It requires extensive and repetitive training. Nothing comes to fruition overnight.

  • kcantekin 10:12 pm on February 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , mind, nature   

    That God supervises everyone 

    Epictetus – Discourses Book 1
    I.14. That God supervises everyone

    1. There is unity between nature and mind.
    2. The mind works through nature; concepts and memories are formed by the association of impressions of natural phenomena.
    3. Since God created nature, and God gave us the faculty of having impressions,
    4. How can we deny him the ability to oversee everything that happens in this communion of nature and mind?
  • kcantekin 7:06 am on February 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: despotism, , , natural law   

    On the treatment of slaves 

    Epictetus – Discourses Book 1
    I.13. On the treatment of slaves

    If your slave won’t do your bidding,
    You must bear with him as you bear with your brother,
    We are all children of God.

    Just because you are placed in a position above others,
    Are you going to behave like a despot?
    Remember you are governing fellow descendants of God.

    You think you can hold a slave in contempt, because you own him?
    Don’t you see that you are valuing the law of mortals,
    Above the natural law of the universe?

  • kcantekin 9:33 am on February 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , responsibility, satisfaction,   

    On satisfaction 

    Epictetus – Discourses Book 1
    I.12. On satisfaction

    There are five theories about the existence of God.

    1. Outright denial of the existence of any divinity.
    2. That God exists but is completely indifferent to anything.
    3. That God exists but is attentive to only heavenly matters, and that he never attends to earthly matters.
    4. That God exists and attends to earthly matters, including human welfare, but only in a general way.
    5. That God is so attentive to humans that we cannot to anything without him noticing.

    Odysseus and Socrates were proponents of the fifth view.

    But if God is so attentive to human affairs, and if we wish to ‘follow the gods’ as the Stoics and Platonics tell us to do, how can we be free?

    What is freedom? Is it having everything go according to our will and never contrary to it?

    Wanting all your wishes realised without caring about the reason behind those wishes is the definition of insanity. Is insanity and freedom the same thing? Of course not.

    Freedom does not mean that your wishes get a carte blanche. As with writing, music, and every other art and science where we have to learn to bring our will in line with the way these disciplines work, with freedom too we have to learn aligning our will to the order of the universe that God has created.

    Education helps us understand nature’s way, and the way of our own individual nature; so that we can start aligning our will to how things happen, and stay remain true to our own nature.

    Complaining, protesting, griping, whining and getting upset when faced with certain circumstances is the exact opposite behaviour we are seeking to achieve.

    If you feel desolate when you are alone, you should feel like God’s equal in divine uniqueness instead.

    If you are complaining of your company, and being upset of the dispositions of the people who are with you, you should feel like a guest in a feast or festival instead.

    If you refuse to keep your will in line with the circumstances, you will be doomed to be unhappy. Then, you are in prison. Conversely, Socrates was not in prison precisely because he chose to be in prison.

    You should not complain of the circumstances of your bodily existence, it is a gift from God. Do you want to make God your enemy? Do you want to go against him?

    Instead, why not care about and cherish your reason, which is the greatest gift of all and which is your side where you are equal with the gods.

    Being miserable for things that you don’t control is a waste of time and potential.

    But for the problems that you can control, the virtues of your character are all you need to deal with them.

    “You should thank the gods for making you strong enough to survive what you cannot control, and only responsible for what you can. The gods have released you from accountability for your parents, your siblings, your body, your possessions – for death and for life itself. They made you responsible only for what is in your power – the proper use of impressions. So why take on the burden of matters which you cannot answer for? You are only making unnecessary problems for yourself.”

  • kcantekin 10:12 am on February 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    Concerning family affection 

    Epictetus – Discourses Book 1
    I.11. Concerning family affection

    1. What we observe occuring naturally must not be confused with what ought to happen.
    2. That is because our impressions based on our different ideas of right and wrong effect how we observe natural phenomena.
    3. As rational beings we strive to do the rational thing, the right thing, based on our impressions of natural phenomena.
    4. However impressions are a matter of choice. They are judgments, and we are masters of our own judgments.
    5. It follows that what we do is solidly based on our choices about our impressions and not on anything external to us.

    Take the father who does not remain by her sick daughter’s bed, because he cannot bear the grief of seeing her sick. Is this good and natural behaviour, based on affection?

    The father leaves his daughter’s side because he thinks this is a good idea at the time, he thinks this is the rational thing to do at that moment. But closer scrutiny will show that this choice is based on a warped understanding of what is natural; that watching a loved one suffer is painful, and that it is natural and rational to escape from such pain.

    However you must see that this reasoning is simply and completely based on his impression of death and pain. His opinion that these things are bad and must be counteracted upon.

    But as we learned earlier, we must not assign the qualities of good and bad to phenomena external to us. We must be careful to apply desire and aversion to external things. Applying this principle to our impressions is a matter of choice and education.

    If the father in our example had not assigned the quality of bad to the suffering of his daughter and the pain this caused to him, and had he not applied aversion to this external phenomena, he could reason that is is a natural norm that family members show affection and support to each other in times of infirmity. And that is is natural that a father comforts his sick daughter. Once the natural norm is found, subjective impressions on external phenomena will no longer effect our ability to do the right choices in life.

    The discovery of this natural norm is the objective of our education. Once the natural norm is found, and desire and aversion are applied in accordance with the requirements of these norms, a theory of good and bad – or ethics – will emerge.



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