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  • kcantekin 9:52 pm on March 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: altruism, , , freedom, 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 9:33 am on February 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , freedom, , 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.”

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