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?