NEWLY TRANSLATED BY
The four books of the Discourses are neither Dialogues in the style of Plato nor Orations written by Isocrates for display, but the faithful recording -by his pupil Arrian- of Epictetus’ live talking. I have done my best to preserve this peculiarity and have kept very close to the Greek text. The reader should bear this in mind, and read according to the right ‘tempo’.
Thank you for choosing this new translation of Epictetus.
“You only remember of that diairesis by means of which a boundary is drawn between what is and what is not in your exclusive power”. (II, 6, 24)
THAT COURAGE DOES NOT CONTRADICT CAUTION
To be a man means to know the art of combining courage and caution: caution in choosing for us our true good and courage in front of what can in no way be an evil for us (1-7)
[II,1,1] Perhaps the following contention of the philosophers appears paradoxical to some people, and yet let’s analyse at our best wheter it is true that we must do everything both with caution and with courage. [II,1,2] For caution seems to be somehow the opposite of courage, and opposites do not coexist at all. [II,1,3] That which appears to many to be paradoxical in this topic, seems to me to pertain to something of this sort: if for the same things we urged the use of both caution and courage, we would be rightly imputed for combining what cannot be combined. [II,1,4] Now, instead, what is strange in what is said? For if it is sound what has been often said and often demonstrated, namely that the substance of the good as well as that of the evil is in the use of our impressions, while that which is aproairetic admits neither the nature of evil nor the nature of good, [II,1,5] what a paradox do the philosophers urge if they say: “Where aproairetic things are involved, there be courageous; where proairetic things are involved, there be cautious”? [II,1,6] For if the evil lies in an evil proairesis, only to this regard it is worth to use caution; and if what is aproairetic and not in our exclusive power is nothing to us, one must use courage towards it. [II,1,7] And so we shall be cautious and at the same time courageous and, by Zeus, courageous because of our caution. For, being cautious about the actual evils, it will occur to us to be courageous towards what is not an evil.
But we make a mess out of the things and, like the deer for fear of the crimson feathers fall into the hunters’ nets, in order to flee from death or exile or ill reputation we seek comfort in shame, in cowardice, in servility (8-14)
[II,1,8] Well then, we experience what the deer experience. When the hinds fear the crimson feathers and flee from them, where do they turn and to what do they withdraw as a safe retreat? To the nets: and so they perish because they have exchanged what one must fear and what in the face of which one has to be courageous. [II,1,9] So we too, where do we use fear? In front of the aproairetic things. Again, about what do we conduct ourselves with courage as if there were nothing terrible in it? About the proairetic things. [II,1,10] To be deceived or to be reckless or to do something shameless or to desire something with a shameful crave makes no difference to us, if only we hit the mark in the aproairetic things. Where, instead, there are death or exile or pain or ill reputation, there is withdrawal, there is agitation. [II,1,11] Therefore, as it is likely to happen to those who heavily aberrate in the greatest issues, that which is in us by nature courageous, this we fashion brazen, insane, haughty, shameless; whereas that which is in us by nature cautious and self respecting, this we fashion cowardly and wicked and full of fears and disconcertments. [II,1,12] For if one transposes his caution there where proairesis and the deeds of proairesis are, together with being cautious to want something he will also have his aversion in his exclusive power. If, on the contrary, he transposes his caution there where lies what is not in our exclusive power and is aproairetic, having his aversion turned to things that are in power of other people he will necessarily fear, he will be unstable and disconcerted. [II,1,13] For it is not death or pain that is a frightening thing but to fear pain or death. For this reason we praise the one who says: “Terrible is not to die but to die shamelessly”. [II,1,14] Our courage ought, then, to be turned round against the death, and our caution against the fear of death. Now, on the contrary, in the face of death we turn to flight; in the face of the judgement on the death we turn to heedlessness, to carelessness, to indifference.
Many bogeys for many human beings (15-16)
[II,1,15] Socrates did well when he called these things bogeys. For as masks appear terrible and frightening to children because of their inexperience, in the face of troubles we too experience something of this sort for no other reason than inexperience, like the children do in the face of the bogeys. [II,1,16] For what is a child? Ignorance. What is a child? Lack of culture. But where he knows, he has that knowledge not less than we have it.
The bogey of death (17-18)
[II,1,17] What is death? A bogey. Turn it round and decipher it. Look how it does not bite: the body must be separated from the pneuma, as it was separated before, either now or later. Why, then, are you vexed if now? For if it is not now, it will be later. [II,1,18] Why? So that the world’s regular cycle may be accomplished, as it needs the present, the future and the past times.
The bogey of pain (19-20)
[II,1,19] What is pain? A bogey. Turn it round and decipher it. The flesh is moved harshly and then smoothly again. If this is not advantageous to you, the door is open. [II,1,20] If it is advantageous, bear with it. For the door must be open for all contingencies, and we have no trouble.
If diairesis is the root and antidiairesis is the trunk, then the branches of the diairesis tree are laden with fruits whose names are freedom and happiness. If, on the contrary, counterdiairesis is the root and antidiairesis is the trunk, then the branches are laden with fruits whose names are unhappiness and slavery (21-28)
[II,1,21] What is, then, the fruit of these judgements? The one that must be the most beautiful and appropriate to those who indeed are trained to diairesize: undisconcertment, control of fear, freedom. [II,1,22] For on these points one must not trust the majority, who say that only the free citizens are in power of being educated; but rather trust the philosophers, who say that only the men trained to diairesize are free. [II,1,23] -How is this?- Thus: now, is freedom something else but the power to enjoy ourselves as we decide? “Nothing else”. Tell me, men, do you decide to live aberrating? “We do not”. Therefore no person who aberrates is free. [II,1,24] Do you decide to live fearing, do you decide to live grieving, do you decide to live disconcerted? “Not at all”. Then no one who fears, who grieves, who is disconcerted is free; whereas whoever has gotten rid of grieves, of fears and of disconcertments, well this man, through the same way, has got rid also of being a servant. [II,1,25] How, then, shall we any longer trust you, O dearest lawgivers, who allow none but the free citizens to be educated? For the philosophers say “We do not allow anyone to be free but those who have been trained to diairesize, that is, it is Matter Immortal that does not allow it”. [II,1,26] -When, therefore, in the presence of a praetor one makes his slave to turn round, has he done nothing?- He did something. -What?- He made his slave to turn round in the presence of a praetor. -Nothing else?-Yes, he is also bound to pay a tax of five per cent. [II,1,27] -What then? Has not the slave who experiences this become free?- No more than undisconcerted. [II,1,28] Since you, who can make others to turn round, have you no lord? Have you not money as your lord, or a wench, or a young boy, or a tyrant, or some tyrant’s friend? Why, then, do you tremble when you go away to meet such a circumstance?
From words to facts (29-33)
[II,1,29] For this reason I often say: “Study these things and have ready at hand the knowledge of what you must face with courage and of what you must dispose yourselves towards with caution, because in the face of the aproairetic we must be courageous and in the face of the proairetic cautious”. [II,1,30] – But did I not read the texts to you and did you not know what I am doing?”- [II,1,31] In what? In trifling phrases. Let you have your trifling phrases. Show me, instead, how you stand towards desire and
aversion; if you do not fail in what you want, if you do not stumble on what you do not want. Those trifling periods, if you have a sound mind, you will somehow remove and cancel. [II,1,32] -What then? Did Socrates not write?- And who wrote that much? But how? Since he could not always have at hand someone to control his judgements or to be controlled by him in turn, Socrates controlled and reviewed himself and always fittingly trained some preconception. [II,1,33] This is what a philosopher writes. The trifling phrases, the “said-he-said-I” he leaves to others, to the insensitive or the blessed, to those who have such leisure thanks to their undisconcertment or to those who, because of their stupidity, compute nothing of what comes next.
The show that suits a young man who leaves Epictetus’ school (34-40)
[II,1,34] And now, when the right time calls, will you depart and show us those trifling periods, will you read them and brag? “See how I compose dialogues!” [II,1,35] No, sir, but rather that: “See how I do not fail in my desire. See how, in my aversion, I do not stumble on what I avert. Bring death and you will recognize it. Bring pain, bring prison, bring ill reputation, bring a condemnation”. [II,1,36] This is the exhibition of a young man who has come from my school! Leave other things to others and let no one hear your voice about that. If one praises you for this reason, do not tolerate it, but think to be a nobody and to know nothing. [II,1,37] Appear to know only this: how you never fail nor stumble on what you avert. [II,1,38] Let others study lawsuits, others study problems, others study syllogisms. You to die, to be fettered, to be racked, to be banished. [II,1,39] And all this with courage, relying on the One who has called you to do that, on What has judged you worth of this task, appointed to which you will exhibit what a rational ruling principle arrayed against aproairetic forces can do. [II,1,40] And thus the paradox that at the same time we must be both cautious and courageous will no longer appear either impossible or a paradox, because we must be courageous in the face of the aproairetic things and cautious about the proairetic ones.
ON CONTROL OVER DISCONCERTMENT
Reassuring truths for the man who has to appear in a court of law (1-7)
[II,2,1] You who go away for a lawsuit, see what you want to keep and where you want to accomplish something. [II,2,2] For if you dispose to keep your proairesis in accord with the nature of things, all safety is yours, every facility is yours, you have no trouble. [II,2,3] When you dispose to keep unconditioned the things that are in your exclusive power and are free by nature and to be content with that, what do you turn anymore your mind towards? Who is lord of those things, who can dispossess you of them? [II,2,4] If you dispose to be self respecting and faithful, who will not allow you to be so? If you dispose not to be hampered nor constrained, who will constrain you to desire what does not seem to you to be desirable, and to avert what it does not appear to you that should be averted? [II,2,5] But someone will perform against you things that seem to be frightful. And how can he also make you to experience them with aversion? [II,2,6] When, then, it’s in your exclusive power to desire and to avert, what do you turn anymore your mind towards? [II,2,7] This is your preamble, this your exposition of the case, this your means of persuasion, this your victory, this your peroration, this your approbation.
Reassuring truths indeed, but provided that one knows which our true goods are (8-14)
[II,2,8] For this reason Socrates, to the one who reminded him to prepare himself for his lawsuit said: “Don’t you think, then, that I am prepared for this with all my life?” [II,2,9] -“What kind of preparation?”- “I have kept safely” he says, “that which is in my exclusive power”. -“How, then?”- “I never performed an injustice, either privately or publicly”. [II,2,10] If you want instead to keep the
external objects too, your body, your petty properties, your petty dignity, I tell you: make immediately all the preparation you can and, well then, analyse the nature both of the judge and of your adversary. [II,2,11] If one has to clasp knees, clasp knees; if one has to cry, cry; if to wail, wail. [II,2,12] For when you subject that which is yours to the external objects, from now on be a servant and don’t hold yourself back, willing to be a servant at one moment and not willing at another; [II,2,13] but simply and with your entire intellect, be either this or that; either free or servant; either a man who has been trained to diairesize or a human being uneducated to diairesize; either a generous fighting cock or a mean one; and when you are struck either stand until you die or renounce straightaway. Let it not happen that you take many blows and later you renounce. [II,2,14] If this is shameful, discriminate immediately: “Where is the nature of the evil and the good things? Where our inner truth also is. In fact, where our inner truth and the nature of things are involved, there we must be cautious; while where it comes to external reality and natural events, there we must be courageous”.
Socrates knew this very well (15-20)
[II,2,15] Do you think that Socrates, whilst he wants to keep the external objects, would come forward and say: “Anytus and Meletus can kill me but not damage me”? [II,2,16] Was he so stupid as not to see that this way does not bring here but elsewhere? What then? Is it that Socrates has no argument and, further, that he provokes his judges? [II,2,17] Like my friend Heracleitus who, having in Rhodes some troubles because of a bit of land, after demonstrating to the judges that he was telling what was right, coming to the peroration said: “But I’ll neither entreat you nor I do turn my mind towards what you are going to judge; it is you who are judged rather than I”. And so he overturned the affair. [II,2,18] What need was there of behaving like that? Only do not entreat, do not add up “And I do not entreat”, unless it is the right time to provoke the judges on purpose, like it was for Socrates. [II,2,19] You too, if you prepare such a peroration why do you mount the platform, why do you heed the summons? [II,2,20] If you want to be crucified, await and the cross will come along. But if reason chooses to heed and persuade at your best, you must do what comes next after this, while keeping, of course, what is your own.
“Make my intellect able to suit itself to whatever comes about”. Remember this universal principle and you will never lack the right suggestion (21-26)
[II,2,21] So it is also ridiculous to say: “Suggest something to me!” What must I suggest to you? Say rather, “Make my intellect able, whatever comes about, to suit itself to this”. [II,2,22] Since that request is similar to the one of an illiterate person who says: “Tell me what to write, when some name is put forward for me to write”. [II,2,23] For if I say “Write Dio”, and then the teacher comes and puts forward for him to write not the name “Dio” but “Theo”, what will happen? What will he write? [II,2,24] But if you have studied to write, you are also prepared to write all the words that are dictated. If it is not so, what must I suggest to you now? If the business of life will dictate something else, what will you say or what will you perform? [II,2,25] Remember, then, this universal principle and you will not be at a loss for a suggestion. If, instead, you gape open in the face of external objects, it is necessary for you to be rolled up and down according to the plan of your lord. [II,2,26] And who is lord? He who has power over any of the things that you are eager for or that you avert.
TO THOSE WHO RECOMMEND PEOPLE TO THE PHILOSOPHERS
Diogenes knew very well the art of distinguishing men from human beings and for this reason he never wrote a letter of recommendation (1-5)
[II,3,1] Diogenes says well to the one who urges to get recommendation’s letters from him: “That you
are a human being” he says, “he will recognize at a glance. Whether you are good or bad, he will recognize if he is skilled in screening between those who are good and those who are bad. But if he is unskilled, he will not recognize this difference, even though I write to him ten thousand times”. [II,3,2] For the fact is similar as though a drachma urged to be recommended to someone in order to be evaluated. If he is an assayer of silver, you will recommend yourself. [II,3,3] We ought, then, have also in life the sort of ability that we have in the case of money, so that I may say precisely as the assayer says: “Bring the drachma that you want and I’ll screen it”. [II,3,4] On syllogisms I say: “Bring the one that you want and I’ll distinguish the analytical and the not analytical one”. Why? Because I know how to resolve syllogisms; because I have the faculty that the one who discerns what is successful in the case of syllogisms must have. [II,3,5] And in life, what do I do? Now I say that something is good, now that it is evil. What is the cause of this? The opposite of what happens in the case of syllogisms: my lack of culture and my inexperience.
TO THE PERSON WHO HAD BEEN ONCE CAUGHT IN ADULTERY
The metamorphoses of a very learned and very insipient person (1-11)
[II,4,1] As Epictetus was saying that the man is born for faithfulness and that the one who overthrows this overthrows what is peculiar to the man, there entered one of those who had the reputation of being scholars and who had once been caught in adultery in town. [II,4,2] If then, says Epictetus, we give up the faithfulness that we are born for and lay snares for the wife of a neighbour, what are we doing? What else but losing and abolishing? Whom? The faithful, the self respecting, the holy man we are. [II,4,3] Is that all? Do we not abolish also the neighbourhood, the friendship, the town? To what task do we appoint ourselves? As whom am I to use you, sir? As a neighbour, as a friend? Of what kind? As a citizen? About what am I to trust you? [II,4,4] If you were a vessel so rotten that one could make no use of you, you would be cast outside upon the dunghills and no one would take you up from there. [II,4,5] And if as a human being you cannot fulfill any task of a man, what will we do with you? Let it be so: you cannot have a place as a friend. Can you have a place as a servant? And who will trust you? Don’t you want, then, you too to be cast upon a dunghill as an unprofitable vessel, as dung? [II,4,6] And then you will say: “Nobody turns his mind towards me, towards a man and a scholar!”? For you are someone bad and unprofitable. It is as if the wasps were vexed because nobody turns his mind towards them but all avoid them and, if one can, strikes and knocks them down. [II,4,7] You have such a sting that you throw into troubles and sorrow whomever you strike. What do you want us to do with you? There is no place where you may be set. [II,4,8] What then? Are not ladies a common property by nature? I also say this. The little pig too is common to the invited guests; but when the portions are already there, if you think so, come and snatch up the portion of the fellow who lies down beside you, stealing it secretly, or let your hand drop by your side and sate your greed; and if you cannot drag away a piece of meat, grease your fingers and lick them all round. A wonderful fellow-drinker and Socratic table companion! [II,4,9] Come on, is not the theatre a common property of the citizens? When they sit down come, then, if so it appears to you, and cast someone of them out of his seat. [II,4,10] In this sense the ladies also are common by nature. When the lawgiver, like a banquet-giver, has apportioned them, will you not, you too, seek your own portion instead of filching and sating your greed upon another’s one? [II,4,11] “But I am a scholar and I understand Archedemus!” Understand therefore Archedemus and be an adulterer, a faithless person and a wolf or an ape instead of a man. For what prevents you to be so?
HOW DO GREATNESS OF MIND AND DILIGENCE COEXIST?
We must show greatness of mind about the subject matters that we encounter in our life but an extreme diligence in our use of them, as the skilled chess-player is able to do (1-3)
[II,5,1] The subject matters are indifferent but our use of them is not indifferent. [II,5,2] How, then, will a man keep both stability of judgement and undisconcertment, and at the same time a diligent and not rash nor negligent attitude? If he imitates the dice-players. [II,5,3] The pebbles are indifferent, the dice are indifferent. Whence do I know what is going to fall? But to use what has fallen with diligence and art, this is by now my work.
Our proairesis can assume a diairetic or a counterdiairetic attitude (4-5)
[II,5,4] And so in life too, your cardinal deed is this: discriminate things, divide them and say [II,5,5] “External objects are not in my exclusive power; proairesis is in my exclusive power. Where shall I seek the good and the evil? Inside myself, in what is my own”. About what is another’s, never name it good or evil, benefit or damage or anything else of this sort.
To play successfully with diairesis and antidiairesis does it perhaps mean that we must use the external objects, what is another’s, in a word, the subject matter of our normal existence, at random or carelessly or even refuse to use them? (6-9)
[II,5,6] What then? Must you use these external objects carelessly? Not at all. For this again is an evil for our proairesis and, through this way, is not in accord with the nature of things. [II,5,7] You must use the external objects both with diligence, because their use is not indifferent, and with stability of judgement and undisconcertment, because the subject matter does not make any difference. [II,5,8] For where what makes the difference is, there nobody can either hamper or constrain me. Where I can be hampered or constrained, there the attainment of those things is not in my exclusive power and is neither good nor evil. The use, indeed, is either evil or good, but this is in my exclusive power. [II,5,9] It is difficult to mix and combine the diligence of the person who pines away for the subject matters and the stability of judgement of the man who pays no heed to them, except that it is not impossible. Otherwise it would be impossible to be happy.
Like the steersman (10-14)
[II,5,10] Let’s do the sort of thing that we do in the case of a sea-voyage. What is possible for me? To select the steersman, the sailors, the day, the right time. [II,5,11] And then a storm has fallen upon us. What do I further care about? For I have fulfilled my part. The storm is another’s hypothesis, of the steersman. [II,5,12] But the ship is sinking too. What have I to do? What I can, this only I do: I drown without fear, neither croaking nor bringing charges to Zeus but knowing that what is born must also be destroyed. [II,5,13] For I am not eternal but a man, a part of the whole, as an hour of a day. I must be present as the hour and as an hour I must pass away. [II,5,14] What difference is it to me, then, how I pass away, whether drowned or because of a fever? For by something of this sort I must pass away.
Like the ball player (15-17)
[II,5,15] You will see that also the skilled handball players do that. None of them quarrels about the handball as being something good or evil, but about throwing and receiving it. [II,5,16] Well then, in this lies the rhythm, in this the art, the speed, the good intelligence; so that I cannot catch the ball even if I stretch out the fold of my garment, whilst he catches it if I throw it. [II,5,17] Yet if we receive or throw it with disconcertment and fear, what kind of game is anymore this? Where will one be stable? Where will one see what comes next? One player will say “Throw the handball!”; another “Don’t throw it!”; yet another “Don’t throw it up!”. Indeed this is a strife, not a game.
Like Socrates (18-20)
[II,5,18] Therefore Socrates knew how to play ball. How? How to play in a court of law. “Tell me”, he says, “Anytus, how do you say that I do not legitimize the existence of God? And the genes, what do you think that they are? Are they not either God’s boys or creatures mixed from men and Gods?” [II,5,19] When Anytus acknowledges that: “And who do you think can believe that there are mules but not asses?”. Like playing with a handball. Which was there in the midst, then, the handball? The handball was to be fettered, exiled, to drink the poison, to be deprived of the wife, to forsake his offspring orphan. [II,5,20] This was there in the midst what he was playing with, and nevertheless he played and played the ball with rhythm. So should we too exhibit on one side the diligence of the most skilled handball player and on the other side his same indifference about the handball.
Like the weaver (21-22)
[II,5,21] For you must at any rate work artfully some of the external subject matters, not approving it but, whatever it is, exhibiting your art in working with it. So the weaver too does not make himself the wool but, whatever he assumes, he works artfully with it. [II,5,22] Another gives you the food and an estate but these very things you can be deprived of, and of the body itself. Well then, do work the subject matter that you employ.
As each person has in any case to deal with a defined and actual environment, we must learn to play successfully the game of diairesis and antidiairesis, using correctly the second when it’s the proper time and using artfully the first. Therefore life, body health and wealth in money are ‘preferable’ to death, to body sickness and to poverty in money only in theory, because in defined and actual cases the last ones become necessary choices if we decide not to fail our nature of men (23-29)
[II,5,23] And then if you come out of this game without experiencing any harm, while other people meeting you will rejoice with you merely because you were saved, the man who knows how to stare at these sorts of things will praise and congratulate you if he sees that you conducted yourself in this affair decorously; but he will do the opposite if he sees that you have been preserved in life thanks to some indecorous act. For where a man rejoices with good reason, there it’s reasonable to rejoice with him too. [II,5,24] How, then, is it said that of the external objects some are in accord with nature and others are not in accord with nature? It is as if we were absolute beings. For I’ll say that for the foot itself it is in accord with nature to be clean, but if you take it as a foot and not as an absolute thing, it will be a proper deed for the foot to step into the mud, to trample on thorns and in case of need to be amputated for the sake of the whole body; otherwise it will no longer be a foot. Something of this sort has to be conceived about us too. [II,5,25] What are you? A human being. If you consider yourself as an absolute thing, it is in accord with nature to live to old age, to be rich in money, to be healthy. But if you consider yourself as a man and part of a certain whole, on account of that whole it is a proper deed for you now to be sick, now to sail and run risks, now to be in want and, on occasion, to die before your hour. [II,5,26] Why, then, are you vexed? Don’t you know that as the foot will no longer be a foot, so you too will no longer be a man? For what is a man? A part of a town, the first one made of gods and men, and after that of the town which is said to be the nearest to us and to be a small imitation of the whole. [II,5,27] “Must I, then, be judged now?” Another one must now have a fever, another one must sail, another one die, another one be condemned. For it is impossible for those who live with such a body, in this context, with these fellow creatures, that such different things do not fall at the same time upon different people. [II,5,28] Your work is, then, to come and say what you ought, to dispose the speech as it is incumbent on you. And then that fellow says: “I judge you guilty”. [II,5,29]” Well be it for you! I did my part; if you too did yours, you will see”. For there is also a danger for him, don’t let this thought slip your mind.
We must be indifferent about the subject matters of life, not about our use of them (1-2)
[II,6,1] The hypothetical proposition is indifferent, yet our determination upon it is not indifferent, but is either science or opinion or deception. Thus to live is indifferent, but our use of living is not indifferent. [II,6,2] When, then, someone tells you “These things also are indifferent”, do not become careless; and when someone exhorts you to be diligent do not become slave-minded and infatuated with the subject matters.
Recognize ourselves, that is our limits (3-5)
[II,6,3] It is also beautiful to know our own preparation and strength, so that in things for which you have had no preparation you can keep quiet and not be vexed if, in those, others have more than you have. [II,6,4] For you will urge to have more in syllogisms, and if they are vexed at that, you will console them: “I learned them, you didn’t”. [II,6,5] So also where a consummate skill is needed, do not seek what ensues only from that, but give way to those who have that consummate skill and let it be sufficient for you to remain stable in your judgements.
Use the diairesis in everyday life and you will constantly hit the mark of man’s nature (6-19)
[II,6,6] “Depart and greet So-and-so”. “I greet him”. “How?” “Not slave-mindedly”. “But you were excluded”. “I did not learn how to enter from a window. For when I find the door closed it is necessary for me either to retire or to enter from a window”. [II,6,7] “But chat with him too”. “I chat with him”. “In which way?” “Not slave-mindedly”. [II,6,8] “But you did not get what you wanted”. For was perhaps this your deed? No, it was his. Why, then, do you lay claim on what is another’s? If you always remember what is yours and what is another’s, you will not be disconcerted. [II,6,9] For this reason Chrysippus says well: “As long as the consequences of something are doubtful to me, I always cleave to the judgements more thoroughbred for obtaining what is in accord with the nature of things, for Matter Immortal itself made me able to select them. [II,6,10] If I knew that it’s my destiny now to be sick, I would even impel to this; for the foot too, if it had good sense, would impel to be covered with mud”. [II,6,11] Since what are the ears of corn born for? Is it not also to parch? And if they parch is it not to be harvested too? For they are not born as absolute things. [II,6,12] If they had conscience, then, should they wish to be never harvested? But to be never harvested is a curse for the ears of corn. [II,6,13] In like manner, know that for men too it is a curse not to die: similar to not ripen, to not be harvested. [II,6,14] But since we are ourselves those who must be harvested and at the same time those who understand the fact of being harvested, we are vexed on this account. For we neither know who we are, nor we have studied humanity as the horsemen study horsemanship. [II,6,15] But Chrysantas, when he was on the point of smiting the enemy, refrained from that because he heard the trumpet sounding the recall: so much more serviceable seemed to him the injunction of the general than to follow his own plan. [II,6,16] Yet no one of us, not even when necessity calls, disposes to heed to it easily, but we experience what we experience -we call them “difficult circumstances”- crying and groaning. [II,6,17] What kind of difficult circumstances, sir? If you call circumstances that which surrounds you, everything is “circumstances”. If you call them in this way because they are difficult, what kind of difficulty is involved in the fact that what is born is destroyed? [II,6,18] What destroys is either a dagger or a wheel of torture or the sea or a tile or a tyrant. What do you care about the way you descend to Hades? They are all equal. [II,6,19] And if you want to hear the truth, the one by which the tyrant sends you is the shortest cut. No tyrant ever took six months to cut someone’s throat, whilst fever often takes even one year.
Epitaph on the daily, stubborn, everlasting refusal of diairesis on which the amazing heap of religious superstitions, philosophies ‘de l’esprit’, myths of redemption and dreams of social liberation is grounded (19)
All these judgements are a noise and a boast of empty names.
As far as you are concerned, be content to never lose the consciousness of the distinction between what is and what is not in your exclusive power (20-27)
[II,6,20] “I run the risk of my head in Caesar’s presence!” And do I not run a risk by dwelling in Nicopolis, where there are so many earthquakes? And what risk do you yourself run when you sail through the Adriatic? Is not your head in danger? [II,6,21] “But my conceptions too run risk in Caesar’s presence!” Yours? How? Who can constrain you to conceive anything that you do not want? Are you in danger because of the conceptions of another person? And what kind of risk is it for you the fact that others conceive false judgements? [II,6,22] “But I run the risk of being banished!” What is it to be banished? Is it to be somewhere else than in Rome? “Yes”. What then? “And if I am sent to Gyara?” If this is good for you, you will depart. If not, you have a place to which you may depart instead of Gyara, a place where also the fellow that sends you to Gyara will come, whether he wants it or not. [II,6,23] Well then, why do you go up to Rome as though this were some great thing? It is smaller than your preparation for it, so that a young thoroughbred can say: “It was not worth so much to have heard so many lessons, to have written so many papers, to have sat down so many times at the side of a little old man he himself not worthy so much”. [II,6,24] You only remember of that diairesis according to which a boundary is drawn between what is and what is not in your exclusive power. Never lay claim to anything that is another’s. [II,6,25] Tribune and prison are both a place; the tribune an elevated one; the prison a wicked one. But our proairesis can be guarded equal, if you dispose to guard it equal, in each of these two places. [II,6,26] And then we will be emulators of Socrates, when we can write paeans in prison. [II,6,27] But as we stand till now, see if we could have tolerated that in prison someone else said to us: “Do you want me to read you paeans?” “Why do you provide me with troubles? Do you not know what evils I am in? Is it possible for me, in these evils…?” What evils? “I am going to die”. And will other people be immortal?
HOW OUGHT WE TO DIVINE?
Divination, even if it could foresee the events, couldn’t be but totally unaware of their value (1-8)
[II,7,1] Because our divination is ill timed, many of us omit many proper deeds. [II,7,2] For what can the seer see more than death or danger or sickness or, generally, things of this sort? [II,7,3] If, then, one ought to run risks for a friend, if it is even a proper deed to die for him, when is it still the right time for me to divine? Have I not inside me the one who has told me the substance of the good and of the evil, who has explained the signs of both? [II,7,4] What further need do I have of entrails or birds of omen and why do I tolerate the seer when he says: “This is useful to you”? Does he know what is useful? Does he know what is good? [II,7,5] As he has learned the signs of the entrails, in like manner did he learn which are the signs of the good and of the evil? For if he knows the signs of these things, he knows also those of beautiful and of shameful, of just and unjust deeds. [II,7,6] You sir, tell me what signs are given to me: life or death, poverty in money or wealth in money. Whether these are useful or useless, am I going to try to know it from you? [II,7,7] Why don’t you say a word on points of grammar? Yet here, where we all people err and contradict each other, you do speak? [II,7,8] For this reason the lady who disposed to send the vessel of monthly provisions to the banished Gratilla, replied very well to the one who said: “Domitian will confiscate them”. “I dispose”, she said, “to have him confiscate them rather than myself not to send them”.
We do not need divination but a serene detachment from cowardice and fear (9-14)
[II,7,9] What, then, leads us to divine so constantly? Cowardice, the fear of the outcome. For this reason we flatter the seers: “Will I inherit, lord, my father’s property?” “Let’s see, let’s offer a sacrifice
about that”. “Yes, lord, as luck wants”. And then if he says: “You will inherit”, we thank him as if we had got the inheritance from him. Well then, for this reason they mock us too. [II,7,10] What then? We ought to come to them apart from desire and from aversion, just as the traveller tries to know from the person he meets, which one of two roads brings forth to his destination, without desiring that the road which brings him there is the right more than the left one: for he does not dispose to depart through one of these but through the one that brings him forth to his destination. [II,7,11] So we ought also to come to Zeus as to a guide, as we use our eyes without praying them to show us such objects rather than such ones, but we receive the impressions of the objects as they show them. [II,7,12] Now, instead, trembling we hold the hand of the augur and invoking him like a God we entreat him: “Lord, have mercy: allow me to come out safe”. [II,7,13] Slave! Do you want anything but what is best for you? And is there anything best for you than what seems best to Zeus? [II,7,14] Why, as far as you are concerned, do you ruin your umpire, do you lead astray your counsellor?
WHICH IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THE GOOD?
Flesh and mud too are substances of Zeus because everything is made out of the same atoms, of the same Matter Immortal. The dawn of the good, the dawn of right reason breaks up from Matter Immortal through the man’s flesh like a rainbow from the atmosphere (1-8)
[II,8,1] Zeus is beneficial, but the good too is beneficial. It is then likely that where the substance of Zeus is there is also that of the good. [II,8,2] Which substance of Zeus? Flesh? Far from it. Land? Far from it. Fame? Far from it [II,8,3] Mind, science, right reason. Therefore simply seek here the substance of the good. Do you seek it, perhaps, in a vegetable? No. Or in a being lacking reason? No. If, then, you seek it in a rational being, why do you still seek it somewhere else than in the gap with the beings lacking reason? [II,8,4] Vegetables are not even able to use the impressions. For this reason you do not speak of “good” with regard to them. [II,8,5] The good, then, needs the use of impressions. The use only? For if the use only is needed, then, please, say that also in the other animals there are goods and happiness and unhappiness. [II,8,6] Now, you don’t say that; and you do it well. For if they have, even to the highest degree, the use of impressions, still they do not have any understanding of their use of the impressions. And suitably: for they have been born manservants to others and not cardinal beings themselves. [II,8,7] The ass is it perhaps born as a cardinal being? No. But because we needed a back able to bear something. But, by Zeus, we needed it to walk too. For this reason Zeus added also the use of impressions: otherwise it could not walk. [II,8,8] Well then, and here somehow Zeus has stopped. If Zeus had added to the use of impressions also the understanding of their use, it’s plain that, because of reason, the ass would not have been anymore our subordinate nor would provide us with these utilities, but would be our equal and similar.
All creatures issue from the same incorruptible Matter Immortal and every creature has its peculiarity. In man and in man only, Zeus becomes able to engender gods (9-14)
[II,8,9] Will you not, then, seek the substance of the good there where, if it is absent in any of the other creatures, you will not speak of “good”? [II,8,10] “What then? Are not those also works of Gods?” Are they? But not cardinal works nor parts of gods. [II,8,11] You instead, you are a cardinal being, you are a sparkling of Matter Immortal, you have in yourself a particularity of It. Why do you ignore your congenerousness? [II,8,12] Why don’t you know whence you have come? Will you not remember, when you eat, who is eating and whom you feed? When you have sexual intercourse, who is having it? When you have conversation, when you have training, when you hold a dialogue; don’t you know that you feed a god, that you train a god? You carry about a god and you ignore it, wretched fellow! [II,8,13] Do you think that I am talking of some God silver or golden-made from the outside? You carry it within yourself and you are unaware that you are defiling it with impure thoughts and filthy actions. [II,8,14]
In the presence of even a statue of Zeus you would not dare to do anything of what you do. And when Zeus Itself is present within you and regards and gives hear to everything, are you not ashamed to be brooding and making these things, O insensible of your own nature, and object of divine disgust!
Divinity of Matter Immortal and materialness of the divine (15-23)
[II,8,15] Well then, if we send a young out of the school to certain activities, why do we fear that he will do something amiss: eat amiss, have sexual intercourse amiss, become slave-minded if he puts on rags and elated if he puts on smart robes? [II,8,16] Because he does not know his own divinity, he does not know with whom he is leaving. Do we tolerate him when he says: “I would like to have you here”? [II,8,17] Have you not got Zeus there? [II,8,18] And then do you seek someone else when you have It with you? Or will He tell you other words than these? If you were a statue of Pheidias, his Athena or his Zeus, you would have remembered both yourself and the artist, and if you had conscience you would try to do nothing unworthy of him who fashioned you and of yourself, and would not try to appear in an unfitting aspect to those who look at you. [II,8,19] Now, because Zeus has made you, for this reason do you neglect what sort of person you will show yourself to be? In what the artist Zeus is similar to another artist, or a structure is similar to a structure? [II,8,20] What work of an artist has straightaway in itself the faculties that its structure discloses? Is it not stone or bronze or gold or ivory? The Athena of Pheidias, once it has stretched out the hand and received the Victory upon it, stays so for the eternity. The works of Matter Immortal, instead, are works which move, breathe, which are able to use the impressions, to evaluate them. [II,8,21] And being a structure made by this craftsman, do you put It to shame? Why? And the fact that not only It fashioned you but also trusted and commended you to yourself only, [II,8,22] not even this will you remember, and will put to shame the guardianship too? If Zeus had placed beside you an orphan, would you neglect him in like manner? [II,8,23] Zeus has committed you to yourself and He says: “I had no other person more faithful than you. Guard him, on my account, such as he is by the nature of things: self respecting, faithful, elevated, undaunted, self- controlled, undisconcerted”. And then do you fail to guard him?
You too like the Zeus at Olympia (24-29)
[II,8,24] “But they will say: ‘Whence has this fellow brought us such a frown and so solemn a countenance’?'” Solemn not yet as it is worth. For I still lack confidence in what I learned and assented to. I still fear my weakness. [II,8,25] Let me take confidence and then you will see the sort of gaze and the sort of aspect one ought to have; when it is perfect and shining, then I’ll show you the statue of the god. [II,8,26] What do you think of it? Frown? Far from it. For does the Zeus at Olympia pucker his eyebrows? No, but its gaze has been fixed as befits one who says *no word of mine can be revoked or prove untrue…*. [II,8,27] Such I’ll show myself to you: faithful, self respecting, generous, undisconcerted. [II,8,28] Perhaps, then, immortal, ageless, exempt from disease? No, but a man who dies like a god, who is sick like a god. This I have, this I can: the rest I have not, the rest I cannot. [II,8,29] I’ll show you the sinews of a philosopher. What sinews? An unfailing desire, an unstumbling aversion, a dutiful impulse, a diligent purpose, an assent far from precipitation. That you will see.
THAT ALTHOUGH WE ARE UNABLE TO FULFILL THE PROFESSION OF A MAN, WE ADOPT THAT OF A PHILOSOPHER
We differ from all other creatures only for our reason (1-2)
[II,9,1] Even the mere fulfilment of the profession of a man is not a perchance result. [II,9,2] For what is the man? The man is a rational, mortal creature, Epictetus says. For instance, in the rational element from what creatures are we separated? From the beasts. And from what else? From the sheep and the like.
Who is, then, the human being? The human being is that mortal, rational creature unable to play happily with diairesis and antidiairesis (3-7)
[II,9,3] See, then, that you do nothing somehow like a beast. Otherwise you have lost the man, you did not fulfill your profession. See that you do nothing as a sheep: otherwise, in like manner too, the man is lost. [II,9,4] What do we do, then, as sheep? When we do something for the sake of our paunch, of our genitals, at random, in a filthy way, heedlessly, to what did we incline? To the sheep. What did we lose? Our rational element. [II,9,5] When we do something in a quarrelsome way, harmfully, wrathfully and impetuously, to what did we incline? To the beasts. [II,9,6] Well then, some of us are big beasts, while others are small and malignant beasts that give us occasion to say: “Let it be a lion to devour me!” [II,9,7] By means of all these actions the profession of a man is lost.
And who is the man? The man is that mortal, rational creature able to play happily with diairesis and antidiairesis, using rightly the first and skillfully the second (8-12)
[II,9,8] When is a coordinate clause safeguarded? When it fulfils his profession; so that the safety of a coordinate clause is to be plaited with a true coordination of clauses. When is a disjunctive clause safeguarded? When it fulfils his profession. When are flutes, when is a lyre, when is a horse, when is a dog safeguarded? [II,9,9] What is there amazing, then, if the man too is in the same way safeguarded and in the same way lost? [II,9,10] Each of us is safeguarded and grown by the appropriate deeds: the carpenter by those of carpentry; the grammarian by those of grammar. But if the grammarian accustoms himself to write illiterately, it is necessary for his art to be brought to naught and be lost. [II,9,11] Thus the self respecting deeds safeguard the self respecting man, while the disrespectful ones get him lost. The faithful deeds safeguard the faithful man; while the opposite ones get him lost. [II,9,12] The opposite deeds, again, grow the opposite creatures: the shamelessness grows the shameless human being; the faithlessness grows the faithless; revile the reviler; anger the one prone to anger; inappropriate encashment and payments, the lover of money.
One thing is to eat the bread and drink the wine of diairesis and a different thing is to keep them in a storeroom with the aim of showing them, perhaps, to someone (13-18)
[II,9,13] For this reason the philosophers prescribe not to be content with mere learning but to add to it study and then practice. [II,9,14] For since a long time we have accustomed ourselves to do the opposite and have fit for use conceptions that are opposite to the right ones. If, then, we do not make fit for use the right conceptions too, we will be nothing else but interpreters of other people’s judgements. [II,9,15] Who among us, just now, cannot speak as a rule of art about good and evil things? Of things that are, some are good, others evil, others indifferent. Good things are virtues and what partakes in the virtues; evils, the opposite things; indifferent are money’s wealth, body’s health, reputation. [II,9,16] And then if, meanwhile we speak, the noise becomes greater or one of those present mocks at us, we are panic-stricken. [II,9,17] Where are, you philosopher, the words that you were saying? Where did you blether them from? From your lips, from here. Why, then, do you defile what is another’s succour? Why do you play dice with the greatest issues? [II,9,18] For one thing is to put away bread and wine in a storeroom, another thing is to eat. What is ingested is digested, assimilated, becomes sinews, flesh, bones, blood, healthy look, good breathing. What is stored away you can readily take and show, when you want, but there is no avail of it for you, except in so far as people think that you have it.
But you go on with your beliefs in revealed and mysterious faiths, in horrible superstitions, in other people’s opinions, in everything except that in diairesis. Why, then, do you call yourself a stoic and play the philosopher when you are unable to first become a man? (19-22)
[II,9,19] What does it differ to comment on these principles or on those of philosophers having
different opinions? Sit down now and speak as a rule of art about the principles of Epicurus and you will probably speak as a rule of art more fittingly than he did. Why, then, do you call yourself a stoic, why do you deceive the multitude, why do you play the part of a Greek when you are a Jew? [II,9,20] Don’t you see how each one is called Jew, or Syrian, or Egyptian? And when we see someone playing a double game, we are accustomed to say: “He is not a Jew, but he plays that part”. When however he puts on the passion of the baptized and chosen fellow, then indeed he is and is called a Jew. [II,9,21] So we also, like impostor Jews baptized with words but in practice something else, we have no sympathy at all for reason and are far away from using the principles that we talk about, except that we are elated because we know them. [II,9,22] Thus, although we cannot fulfill the profession of a man, we add to it that of a philosopher: so large a load! It is like if a person who cannot lift ten pounds wanted to bear the stone of Aias.
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO FIND FROM THE NAMES THE PROPER DEEDS?
The deeds that are suggested by the names of human being… (1-3)
[II,10,1] Analyse who you are. In the first place you are a human being, that is a creature who has nothing more dominant than his proairesis and who has the rest subordinated to it, being the proairesis itself neither servant nor subordinate. [II,10,2] Consider, then, from what creatures you have been separated by virtue of reason. You have been separated from beasts; you have been separated from sheep. [II,10,3] Besides this you are a citizen of the world and a part of it; not one of the manservant but one of the cardinal parts, for you are able to understand the government of Matter Immortal and to take into account its consequences.
…of citizen of the world… (4-6)
[II,10,4] What is, then, the profession of a citizen? To have no private profit, to deliberate on nothing as an absolute unit but like the hand or the foot, which, if they had some reasoning power and understood the structure of nature, would never impel or desire otherwise than by referring to the whole. [II,10,5] For this reason the philosophers say well that the virtuous man, if he knew beforehand the things that will be, would cooperate to be sick and to die and to be crippled, because he is aware that this is allotted by the constitution of the whole, that the whole is more dominant than the part and the town of the citizen. [II,10,6] Now, because we do not know things beforehand, it is a proper deed to cleave to the judgements that are more thoroughbred for an option, since for this purpose we have been born.
… of son… (7)
[II,10,7] After this remember that you are a son. What is the profession of this role? To believe everything that is his own as belonging to his father; to heed to him in everything; never to censure him with anyone else nor tell him or perform to him anything harmful; to withdraw in everything and give way to him, cooperating with him at his best.
… of brother… (8-9)
[II,10,8] After this know that you are a brother too. For this role one is bound to give way, to ready obedience, to kindly speech, to never lay claim to anything aproairetic in contrast with your brother but to turn it over with pleasure, so that you have more in what is proairetic. [II,10,9] For see what sort of thing is to get for oneself a good intelligence in exchange for a head of lettuce or perhaps for a seat; how big is the revenue!
… of councilor, of youth, of elder, of father… (10-11)
[II,10,10] After these roles, if you are councilor of a town, remember that you are a councilor. If you are young, remember that you are young. If old, that you are an elder. If father, that you are a father. [II,10,11] For each name of this sort, coming to a reckoning, always gives as sum its own deeds.
The loss that you suffer when you forget who you are (12-13)
[II,10,12] If you depart and then censure your brother, I tell you: “You forgot who you are and what is your name”. [II,10,13] If you were a smith and used your hammer amiss, you would have forgotten the smith you were. And if you forgot the brother you are and instead of a brother you become a personal enemy, will you appear to yourself to have changed nothing for nothing?
The most dramatic loss is not the loss of a few small coins but the one of he who becomes unable to play rightly with diairesis and antidiairesis (14-23)
[II,10,14] If instead of man, a tame and sociable creature, you have become a harmful, treacherous, biting beast, have you lost nothing? Must you lose coins in order to be penalized, and does the loss of nothing else penalize the man? [II,10,15] Yet, if you throw away your skill in grammar or in music, you would believe a penalty its loss; and if you throw away self respect, restraint, gentleness, do you believe that this business is nothing? [II,10,16] And yet those things are lost by some external and aproairetic cause, while these are lost by our fault. Those are neither beautiful to have nor shameful to lose; while not to have and to lose these is shameful, it’s disgraceful, it’s a misfortune. [II,10,17] The one who experiences what a lewd fellow experiences, what does he lose? The male. And he who disposes of him? Beside many other things, he also loses none the less the male. [II,10,18] What does the adulterer lose? The self respecting, self-restrained, well regulated man, the citizen, the neighbour. What does he who gets angry lose? Something else. He who fears? Something else. [II,10,19] No one is evil without loss and penalty. Well then, if you seek the penalty in coins, all these people are undamaged, are without penalty and, perhaps, they benefit and gain when through some of these deeds they accrue their coins. [II,10,20] But see that if you refer everything to small coins, in your opinion not even the one who loses his nose will be damaged. -Yes, he says, for his body has been mutilated- [II,10,21] Come on, and the one who has lost the smelling itself, does he lose nothing? Is there, then, no faculty of the soul that, if a man gets it for himself he benefits, while the one who throws it away is penalized? [II,10,22] -What kind of faculty do you say?- Have we not a natural sense of self respect? -We have it- Is the man who loses this not penalized, is he dispossessed of nothing, does he throw away nothing of what is his own? [II,10,23] Have we not a natural attitude of faithfulness, a natural attitude to cherish, a natural attitude to be beneficial, a natural attitude to tolerate one another? Whoever, then, overlooks the fact that in this respect he is penalizing himself, is he undamaged and without penalty?
The insipience of answering to the wrongdoer as a wrongdoer does (24-30)
[II,10,24] What then? Am I not to damage the one who damages me? In the first place see what is damage and remember what you heard from the philosophers. [II,10,25] For if the good is in proairesis and the evil is, in the same way, in proairesis, notice if what you say is not something of this sort: [II,10,26] “What then? Because that fellow damaged himself by doing me some wrong, will I not damage myself by doing him some wrong?” [II,10,27] Why do we fancy nothing of this sort and instead, where there is some impairment of our body or of our estate, there we count this as a damage; and where the impairment affects our proairesis, we count that as no damage? [II,10,28] For the fellow who is deceived or does wrong, does not feel pain in his head or in his eyes or in his hip nor does he lose his land. [II,10,29] And we want nothing else but this. Yet whether we will have our proairesis self respecting and faithful or shameless and faithless, this we are not even near to quarrel about, except in school only and so far as petty discourses are involved. [II,10,30] Therefore we profit so far as petty
discourses are involved, and apart from them we don’t make even the least profit.
WHAT IS THE BEGINNING OF PHILOSOPHY?
The preconceptions with which human beings come to life (1-5)
[II,11,1] The beginning of philosophy -at least with those who undertake it as one ought to and enter by its door- is the consciousness of their weakness and inability on issues of vital necessity. [II,11,2] For we have come to this world without having by nature any concept of the right-angled triangle or of the half-tone diesis but we are taught about each of them through certain technical assumptions of knowledge and for this reason those who do not know them also do not think that they do. [II,11,3] But who has come into this world without having an innate concept of what is good and evil, beautiful and shameful, fitting and unfitting, of happiness, of what is befitting, of what is incumbent, of what one must do and not do? [II,11,4] For this reason we all use these names and try to adapt our preconceptions to each particular substances. [II,11,5] He did well; as he ought, as he ought not; he had a misfortune, he had good fortune; he is unjust, he is just. Who of us spares these names? Who of us delays their use until he has learned, precisely as those who do not know about geometrical figures or musical sounds do?
Identical preconceptions and opinions that are thought to be true but which, by the end, contradict each other (6-12)
[II,11,6] The cause is that we have come into this world as if we had been already taught by nature in this topic and, taking impulse from these teachings, we have added our conceit on to them. [II,11,7] – Yes, by Zeus, for do I not know by nature what is beautiful and what is shameful? Do I not have a concept of it?- You have it. -Do I not adapt it to each particular case?- You adapt it. [II,11,8] -Do I not, then, adapt it well?- All the inquiry is here and here is our conceit accrued. For after having taken impulse from these acknowledged concepts, people promote themselves to dispute because of an inappropriate adaptation of them. [II,11,9] For if they had further possessed, besides those concepts, the faculty of an appropriate adaptation of them, what would prevent them from being perfect? [II,11,10] Now, since you think that you adapt your preconceptions to each particular case in an appropriate way too, tell me: whence do you get this certainty? -It is because I think so- This other fellow, on the same question, does not think so, and yet he also thinks that he is adapting them well, does he not? -He thinks that- [II,11,11] Can, then, both of you adapt in an appropriate way your preconceptions in issues on which you entertain contradictory opinions? [II,11,12] -We cannot- In order to adapt them better can you, then, show us anything higher than what you think? Does the mad do anything else but what he thinks beautiful? Is this criterion, then, sufficient for him too? -It is not sufficient- Let’s come, then, to something higher than what one thinks. -And what is this?-
The starting point of philosophy and its goal (13-18)
[II,11,13] Look at the beginning of philosophy: the conscience of the contrast of human beings each against the other, the inquiry about the origin of the contrast, the disavowal and the distrust of mere thinking; then a search about what one thinks, to determine whether one thinks it rightly; and the finding of a standard, as we found the scale for the weights and the carpenter’s rule for the straight and crooked lines. [II,11,14] This is the beginning of philosophy. Is everything right what everyone of us thinks? And how is it possible for what is contradictory to be right? So, not everything is right. [II,11,15] -Is it right, then, what we think? And why our thinking rather than what the Syrians think, or the Egyptians; why my thinking rather than what So-and-so thinks?- There is no reason why. – In order to be a standard, what each person thinks is, therefore, not sufficient; for in the case of weights and measures we are not content with their mere disclosure, but we have found a standard for each of
them. [II,11,16] Here, then, is there no standard higher than what one thinks? And how is it possible that what among men is of the most vital necessity, should be unintelligible and impossible to find? [II,11,17] -There is, therefore, a standard- Why do we not seek and find it out and once found out, well then, use it inviolably not even stretching out our finger apart from it? [II,11,18] For this is what, I think, if found sets free of madness those who use only what they think as a measure of everything. So that, taking impulse from the standards we are acquainted with and that are thoroughly elucidated, we may, from now on, use for each particular cases well-articulated preconceptions.
An example: the analysis of the ecstasy (19-25)
[II,11,19] What substance has fallen under our inquiry? [II,11,20] -The ecstasy- Bring it under the standard, throw it on the scale. Must the good be a sort of thing worth to have confidence in and to rely on? -It must- Is it, then, worth to have confidence in something that is insecure? -No- [II,11,21] Is the ecstasy anything well secure? -No- Remove it, then; throw it out of the scale, disband it far away from the country of things good. [II,11,22] If you do not have a keen eyesight and one scale only is not sufficient, bring another scale. Is it worth to elate over the good? -Yes- And is it worth to elate over an actual ecstasy? See that you do not to say that it is worth; otherwise I’ll believe you not even worthy of having a scale! [II,11,23] Thus are things judged and weighed, when the standards are ready. [II,11,24] To do philosophy is this: to examine and to strengthen the standards. [II,11,25] The use of the recognized ones is, from now on, the work of the virtuous man.
ON HOLDING DIALOGUES
Dialectics: the art of arguing rightly by questions and answers (1-4)
[II,12,1] What the one who learns to use the art of argumentation ought to know, has been precised by our philosophers. About its befitting use we are, however, perfectly untrained. [II,12,2] Give to anyone of us you please some layman as a conversation partner, and we find no way of using him. After moving him a little, if the fellow opposes himself out of the tune, we can no longer handle him and thereafter either revile or mock him and say: “He is a layman; it’s impossible to use an argument with him”. [II,12,3] But the guide, when he takes with him someone who is erring, leads him on the way he ought, and does not leave after having mocked or reviled him. [II,12,4] You too, show him the truth and you will see that he follows. But till you do not show him the truth, do not mock him but rather become aware of your inability.
The Socratic dialogue: a model of dialectics (5-13)
[II,12,5] How did Socrates do his arguments? He constrained his conversation partner to be his witness, and needed no other witness. Therefore he has the power to say: “I can dispense with all the others and I am always content with my objector only as a witness. I do not take the votes of other people but only of my conversation partner”. [II,12,6] For he stated the contents of the concepts so evidently that anybody whatsoever who became conscious of a contradiction withdrew from it. [II,12,7] “Does he who envies rejoice?- Not at all. But rather he grieves”. Thanks to the opposite statement, Socrates has moved the fellow that he had nearby from his conceit. “And what? Do you think envy to be a grief at evils? And what is the envy of evils?”[II,12,8] And so he made him say that the envy is a grief for good things. “What then? Would one envy things that are nothing to him?- Not at all”. [II,12,9] And so, after having filled out and articulated the concept, he went his way without saying: “Define the envy” and once defined: “You defined it badly, for the definition is not reciprocally implied with the capital point”. [II,12,10] Technical phrases, and for this reason wearisome and hard to understand to the layman, from which we are unable to desist. [II,12,11] As to phrases to which the
layman himself, sticking to his own impressions, could give some way or disprove, we are not able at all to move him by their use. [II,12,12] Well then, once we become conscious of this inability of ours, suitably we, or at least those who have a bit of caution, abstain from the business. [II,12,13] But the rash multitude of us, once they stoop to something like that, are tangled and tangle others, and ultimately they depart reviling and being reviled.
Socrates held dialogues and was not used to revile others (14-16)
[II,12,14] This was the first and most peculiar thing about Socrates, that he never got irritated in a discourse, never blethered saying something reviling or outrageous but tolerated the revilers and stopped the strife. [II,12,15] If you want to recognize how great his faculty was in this field, read the Symposium of Xenophon and you will see how many cases of strife Socrates has dissolved. [II,12,16] Suitably for this reason it has been said with the greatest praise among poets that: “…straightaway he shrewdly used to stop even a great quarrel..”.
The difficulties of a Socratic dialogue today (17-25)
[II,12,17] What then? This business is not a very safe one now, and especially in Rome. For it is plain that he who does it will not need to do it in a corner, but coming perhaps to some person wealthy in money or of consular rank he will try to know from him: “You there, can you tell me to whom you committed your horses?” [II,12,18] “I can, indeed!” “To a chance comer and a person unskilled in horsemanship?” “Not at all”. “And what? To whom have you entrusted your gold or your money or your clothes?” “Not even these to a chance comer”. [II,12,19] “And have you already analysed to whom to entrust your body so as to take care of it?” “Why, certainly”. “This person too, it’s plain, is skilled in the art of physical training or in medicine”. [II,12,20] “No doubt!” “And are these things the most powerful that you have, or did you get for yourself anything else better than all of them?” “What kind of thing are you saying?” “I mean, by Zeus, that which uses them, evaluates each of them and deliberates”. “Are you saying my soul?” [II,12,21] “You conceived it rightly! For I just say this!” “By Zeus, I think it to be by far the best of my possessions!” [II,12,22]”Can you tell me in which way you have taken care of your soul? For it is unlikely that you, a person so wise and valuable in town, at random and haphazardly overlook the danger of neglecting and losing what you have of more powerful”. [II,12,23] “Not at all”. “And have you yourself taken care of it? [II,12,24] Learning from somebody or finding the way by yourself?” Hither, well then, the danger is that he first says: “Sir, and what do you care about? Are you my lord?” And then, if you persist in providing him with troubles, that he lifts up his fist and gives you punches. [II,12,25] I myself too was once upon a time a supporter of this pursuit, before I ran into these difficulties.
ON BEING ANXIOUS
Our anxiety is generated by a stubborn and illogical desire of what is not in our exclusive power: a citharist and the burst of applause (1-8)
[II,13,1] When I see a person in anxiety, I say: what does this fellow ever want? If he did not want something that is not in his exclusive power, how could he still be anxious? [II,13,2] For this reason the citharist too, when he sings alone is not anxious; but he is so when he enters the theatre, even if he has a very good voice and plays well the lyre. For he does not want only to sing well but also to win applause; and this is no longer in his exclusive power. [II,13,3] Well then, where science is joined to him, there he is confident. Bring forth any layman you want and he does not turn his mind towards him; but where he neither knows nor has studied, there he is anxious. [II,13,4] What is this? He does not know what a mob is, or what the praise of a mob is. He learned to strike the lowest and the highest
string, but what the praise of the multitude is and what power it has in life, he neither knows nor has studied. [II,13,5] Well then, it is necessary for him to tremble and be pale. When, then, I see a citharist who fears, I cannot say that he is not a citharist but I can say something else, and not one thing only but many. [II,13,6] In the first place I call him a foreigner and say: this fellow does not know where on earth he is but, though he has lived at home for that much time, he is unaware of the laws of the town and its habits and of what one has power on and of what one has not power on; and he never even invited a lawyer to tell him and explain him what is lawful. [II,13,7] Yet he does not write a testament without knowing how one has to write it or else he invites one who has this knowledge; nor he seals up a bond with his seal amiss or writes a guarantee amiss and nevertheless he uses desire and aversion, impulse, design and purpose apart from any lawyer. [II,13,8] Apart from a lawyer, how? He does not know that he wants things that are not given to him and does not want things that are necessary; and he does not know either what is his own or what is another’s. If indeed he knew that, he would never be hindered, never hampered, he would not be anxious.
Anxiety is therefore generated by the ignorance of diairesis and is congenital to the use of counterdiairesis (9-13)
[II,13,9] For how could not be so? Does anybody fear what is not evil? -No- What then? Does anybody fear things that are indeed evil but whose occurrence is in their exclusive power to prevent? -Not at all- [II,13,10] If, then, aproairetic things are neither good nor evil while all proairetic things are in our exclusive power and no one can deprive us of them nor secure upon us such of them as we do not dispose: where is there still place for anxiety? [II,13,11] We are anxious about our body, about our petty estate, about what Caesar will think, but about none of the things inside us. Are we anxious about not conceiving the false? -No, for that is in my power- Are we anxious about impelling against nature? -Not even about this- [II,13,12] When, then, you see someone who turns pale, as the physician looking at someone’s complexion says: “This fellow’s spleen is affected; and this fellow’s liver is”; so you also say: “This fellow’s desire and aversion are affected; he has not a free course, he is inflamed”. [II,13,13] For nothing else alters the complexion or makes one tremble or one’s teeth chatter or *keeps changing and sitting now on a foot, now on the other*.
Zeno and the king Antigonus (14-15)
[II,13,14] For this reason Zeno was not anxious when he was about to meet Antigonus; for over things that Zeno admired Antigonus had no power, and Zeno did not turn his mind towards things which Antigonus had power over. [II,13,15] Antigonus, on the contrary, when he was about to meet Zeno was anxious, and suitably so; for he wanted to please him and this was outside of his power. Zeno did not want to please him, for not even another artist wants to please a person unskilled in his art.
The firm possession of diairesis makes the man intrinsically self-confident (16-17)
[II,13,16] Do I want to please you? In exchange for what? For do you know the measures according to which a man is judged by a human being? Have you studied to recognize what a good man is and what an evil one is and how each of them becomes what he is? [II,13,17] Why, then, are you not yourself good? -How, he says, am I not so?- Because no good man mourns or sighs, no good man wails, no good man turns pale and trembles or says: “How will he receive me? How will he listen to me?”
Like the success of a man can never be the good of another man, in the same way the aberration of a human being can never be the evil of a man (18)
[II,13,18] Slave! As he will deem it best for him. Why do you care of what is another’s? Now, is it not his own aberration to give a bad reception to your words? -And how not?- Can the aberration of one person be the evil of another person? -No- Why, then, are you anxious about things that are another’s?
It is senseless to lack self-confidence in things you are skilled about. Socrates and Diogenes (19-26)
[II,13,19] -Yes, but I am anxious about how I’ll chat with him- So, have you not got the power to chat with him as you want? -But I dread to be shackled- [II,13,20] When you are about to write the name “Dio”, do you dread to be shackled? -Not at all- What’s the cause? Is it not that you have studied writing? -And how not?- And what? When you are about to read would you not stand in the same way towards reading? -In the same way- What’s the cause? The fact that every art has among its elements something potent and self-confident. [II,13,21] Have you, then, not studied chatting? And what else did you study at school? -Syllogisms and equivocal arguments- What for? Was it not in order to skillfully hold a dialogue? And skillfully is it not in a well-timed way, with safety, sagaciously and, further, without false steps, unimpededly and especially with confidence? -Yes- [II,13,22] If you are, then, a horseman who has come upon the plain against a fighter on foot, are you anxious? Where you have studied and he has not? -Yes, but he has the power to kill me- [II,13,23] Tell then the truth, shabby fellow, and do not brag nor urge to be a philosopher nor to be unaware of your lords but, as long as you have this handle given by your body, follow everyone who is stronger than you. [II,13,24] But Socrates studied speaking, he who argues in that way with the tyrants, with the judges, in the prison. Diogenes too had studied speaking, he who talks in that way to Alexander, to Philip, to the pirates, to the one who purchased him….(lacuna)…. [II,13,25] Leave all this business to those who have confidence in what they have studied. [II,13,26] You do go ahead with what is yours and never desist from it. Depart for a corner, sit and twine syllogisms and propound them to others: “In you there is not the man who can be the leader of a town”.
CHAPTER 14 TO NASO
The learning process of any art is boring and sometimes even unpleasant (1-6)
[II,14,1] When a certain Roman citizen entered with his son and was hearing one of his readings “This, said Epictetus, is my way of teaching” and then ceased speaking and was silent. [II,14,2] As the Roman citizen urged him to find what came next “Instruction, he said, in the technique of any art is boring to the layman who is unskilled in it. [II,14,3] But the products of the arts show straightaway the utility for which they are born and most of them have in themselves something that is attractive and charming. [II,14,4] To be present and to understand how a cobbler learns his art is unattractive, but the shoe is profitable and otherwise not unpleasant to see. [II,14,5] Also the learning process of a carpenter is annoying especially to the layman who happens to be present, but his work exhibits the utility of this art. [II,14,6] And one will see this much more in the case of music for, if you are present when a pupil is taught, the lesson will appear to you the less attractive of all, yet musical products are pleasant and delicious to hear to the laymen.
Philosophy is the art of becoming a man (7-8)
[II,14,7] So also in our case, we imagine the work of the philosopher to be something of this sort: he must conciliate his own decisions with the events, so that neither anything that happens happens while we are unwilling it, nor anything that fails to happen fails to happen while we wish it to happen. [II,14,8] And from this ensues, for those who have recommended themselves to philosophy, not to fail in desire and, in aversion, not to stumble on what is averted; to enjoy oneself without grief, without fear, undisconcertedly, while keeping with the mates the relationships -both natural and acquired- of son, father, brother, citizen, husband, wife, neighbour, fellow-traveller, ruler, ruled.
To be a man means to know that only Matter Immortal is; that any intelligence is born from matter; that from the intelligence of men are born gods which are faithful, free, beneficial, impartial as Matter Immortal is (9-13)
[II,14,9] We imagine that the work of the person who does philosophy is something of this sort. Well then, next to this we seek how this will be achieved. [II,14,10] We see, then, that the carpenter becomes carpenter learning certain things and the steersman becomes steersman learning certain things. May it not be, then, that here also it is not enough to decide to become a virtuous man but that there is the need of learning certain things too? We seek, then, what these things are. [II,14,11] The philosophers say that in the first place we must learn this: that there is a Matter Immortal and that It makes Itself the mind of the whole and that it is not possible to escape It not only when one does something but also when one bethinks himself or broods. Next we must learn of what nature are the gods. [II,14,12] For whatever their nature is found to be, the man who intends to please and obey them, necessarily does his best in trying to become alike them. [II,14,13] If, then, materialness is faithful, it is necessary for a god to be faithful. If materialness is free, a god also must be free; if beneficent, he also must be beneficent; if high-minded, he also must be high-minded. And therefore for a man it’s necessary to do and say, as an emulator of god, all that comes next”.
You must begin by stopping to use the language when you do not understand exactly what you are saying (14-20)
[II,14,14] -And whence must one begin?- If you stoop to this business, I’ll tell you that in the first place you must understand the meaning of each name you use. -So that now I do not understand the meaning of the names?- [II,14,15] You do not understand them. -And how is it, then, that I use them?- Like the illiterates use written speech, like the cattle uses the impressions: for one thing is the use and another thing is the understanding. [II,14,16] If you think you understand, bring forth the name you want and let’s put ourselves to the test to see if we understand it. [II,14,17] -But for an elder person who, perhaps, has already served in three military campaigns it is annoying to be confuted- [II,14,18] I also know this. For now you have come to me as someone who needs nothing. And what could one imagine you as falling short of? You are rich in money, you have offspring, perhaps also a wife and many household slaves; Caesar knows you, you have many friends in Rome, you give back the proper deeds, you know how to reciprocate with good things the person who does good things to you and to do evil things against the person who does evil things against you. [II,14,19] What do you lack? If, then, I show that you lack the most necessary things and the ones that are greatest for happiness; that hitherto you have taken care of everything but of what is befitting; and if I put on the finishing touch: that you know neither what a god is, nor what a man is, nor what the good is, nor what the evil is [II,14,20] and, equally the most intolerable of all, that you are ignorant of yourself; how can you tolerate me, afford the control, stay here?
We must not consider ourselves outraged by the Truth (21-22)
[II,14,21] You cannot do so at all, but straightaway you are embittered and get rid of me. Yet what evil have I done to you? Unless the mirror too does some evil thing to the ugly person by showing him what sort of face he has. Unless the physician too outrages the sick patient when he tells him: “O man, you think you have nothing but you have a fever; fast today, drink water”; and no one says: “What a terrible outrage!”. [II,14,22] But if you say to someone: “Your desires are inflamed, your aversions are those of a slave-minded fellow, your designs are inconsistent, your impulses are out of harmony with the nature of things, your conceptions are rash and false”; straightaway he goes out and says: “He outraged me!”
We are invited to the show of human life: comedy? tragedy? farce? nonsense? (23-24)
[II,14,23] Our deeds are of the same sort of those who attend a fair. Cattle and oxen are led to the fair to be retailed, and most people are there either to purchase or to sell. Few are those who come for looking at the fair: how it happens and why; who has set the fair and for what purpose. [II,14,24] In like manner here, in this fair: some people, like cattle, meddle in nothing but their fodder. You all who revolve around estates and lands and household slaves and certain offices: you must know that this is nothing else but fodder!
The divine smile with which the all-governing Matter Immortal looks at those who think it inert, amorphous, incapable of giving birth to intelligence (25-29)
[II,14,25] Yet few are the men who attend the fair because they are fond of the spectacle. “What is, then, the world, and who governs it? No one? [II,14,26] And how is it possible that a town or a house cannot remain even for a very short time without someone who governs and takes care of them, while a structure so great and wonderful is managed in such an orderly manner at random and haphazardly? [II,14,27] There is, then, someone who governs it. Of what kind is the governor and how does he govern? And who are we, who have been born from him, and for what kind of work? Do we have any connection and relationship with him, or none at all?” [II,14,28] This is what these few experience, and they have no leisure but for this: to depart after having visited the fair. [II,14,29] What then? They are mocked by the crowd; quite as in the other fair the spectators too are mocked by the merchants. Also the cattle, if it had consciousness, would mock those who admire anything but their fodder!
TO THOSE WHO REMAIN HARSHLY FIXED TO CERTAIN DETERMINATIONS
The improper use of diairesis can make us to mistake a blind obstinacy for a right firmness (1-3)
[II,15,1] When some people hear these discourses: that a man ought to be steadfast and that proairesis is something free and unconstrained by nature while everything else is hampered, is constrained, is servant, is another’s; they fancy that they must remain inviolably fixed to any of their determinations. [II,15,2] But, in the first place, the determination has to be sound. For I dispose that tensions be in the body, but like in a healthy one, in a body engaged in a trial. [II,15,3] Whereas if you show yourself to me with the tensions of a phrenetic fellow and you brag about it, I’ll tell you: “You sir, seek for someone to cure you. These are not tensions but atony”.
We must not mistake what simply comes to our mind for what we think: any determination must be first well analysed (4-12)
[II,15,4] In another way those too who misunderstand these discourses experience in their soul something of this sort. For example a fellow of mine, for no cause at all determined to starve himself to death. [II,15,5] I knew about it when he was already in the third day of abstinence and I went to him and tried to know what had happened. -I have determined, he says- [II,15,6] But yet what did convince you? For if you determined rightly, look, we sit at your side and cooperate to your going out; but if you determined unreasonably, transpose your mind. [II,15,7] -One must remain fixed to determinations- What do you do, you sir? Not to all determinations, but to those which have been taken rightly. Since if you experience that just now it’s night, don’t transpose your mind, if you think so, but remain fixed to this judgement and say that one has to remain fixed to determinations! [II,15,8] Don’t you want to set up first your beginning and your foundation stone, to analyse if the determination is sound or not sound and so, well then, build upon it the right tension, the safety? [II,15,9] But if you lay down a rotten and crumbling foundation, you must not build on it and the more and the stronger are the buildings that you put on it, that more quickly they will be cast down. [II,15,10] Without any cause you draw out from life a person who is a friend and an intimate of us, a citizen of the same town, both the big and the small one. [II,15,11] And then, while you work to a murder and make a man who did no wrong to perish, do you say that one must remain fixed to determinations? [II,15,12] If the imagination of killing me had ever come somehow to your mind, should you remain fixed to such a determination?
An obstinate irrationality is the sign of a weak soul (13-20)
[II,15,13] That fellow, then, with toil and pain was persuaded to change his mind. But it is impossible to make certain people of our days to transpose their mind. So that I think to know now what I was before unaware of, the meaning of what is customarily said: “The stupid is impossible to persuade or to break”. [II,15,14] Let it never happen to me to have a friend who is clever and stupid! Nothing is more intractable. “I have determined”. And mad people too; but the more securely they determine things that do not exist, the more hellebore they need. [II,15,15] Will you not do what a sick fellow does and call in a physician? “I am sick, lord; help me. Analyse what I must do; my deed is to obey you”. [II,15,16] So here too: “I don’t know what I must do; I have come to learn it”. No, but: “Talk to me about other things; this I have already determined”. [II,15,17] What other kind of things? For, what is greater and more serviceable than to be persuaded that it is not sufficient to have determined and to refuse to transpose one’s mind? These are mad tensions, not sound ones. [II,15,18] “I want to die, if you constrain me to this”. Why, you sir? What did it happen? “I have determined”. I was saved, then, because you have not determined to kill me! [II,15,19] “I do not take money from my pupils”. Why? “I have determined”. Know that the tension you are now using not to take money, nothing prevents that at some time makes you lean, for no reason, towards taking it and say again: “I have determined”; [II,15,20] Like in a sick body, suffering from a flux, the flux leans now towards these organs now towards those ones. Such is also a weak soul; where it inclines, there is doubt; but when to this inclination and to this profusion is joined some tension too, then the evil becomes helpless and incurable.
THAT WE DO NOT STUDY TO USE OUR JUDGEMENTS ABOUT THINGS GOOD AND EVIL
The orator and the citharist believe that being successful means to win the applause of the spectators (1-10)
[II,16,1] Where is the good? -In proairesis- Where is the evil? -In proairesis- Where is the oudeterous? – In the aproairetic things- [II,16,2] What then? Does any one of us remember these discourses out of school? Does any one of us, when by himself, study to answer in this way to everyday things as to the questions: “Is it indeed day?” “Yes”; “And what? Is it night?” “No”; “And what? Are the stars even in number?” “I cannot say”. [II,16,3] When money is shown forth to you, have you studied to give the answer one ought, namely that “It is not a good thing”? Did you exercise in these answers or only in sophisms? [II,16,4] Why, then, do you wonder if where you have studied there you become better, and where you have not studied there you remain the same? [II,16,5] For why is it that the orator, knowing that he has written well, that he has memorized what he has written, that he brings in himself a pleasant voice, yet he is still anxious? Because he is not content with the mere fact of studying. [II,16,6] What does he want, then? To be praised by all those present. So he has exercised himself in order to be able to declaim, but he has not exercised himself with reference to praise and censure. [II,16,7] For when did he ever hear from anyone what is praise, what is censure and which is the nature of each? What kinds of praise have to be pursued and what kinds of censure have to be avoided? When did he study this, a study consequent with these discourses? [II,16,8] Why, then, do you still wonder if where he learned, there he differs from all the others and where he has not studied, there he is identical to the multitude? [II,16,9] Like the citharist who knows to play the lyre, sings well, has a wonderful straight gown and yet, entering the stage, he trembles. For he knows these things, but he does not know what a mob is nor what the shouting and derision of a mob are. [II,16,10] And he does not even know what the anxiety itself is, if it is our work or another’s work; if it is possible to stop it or not. For this reason, if he is praised, he turns out arrogant; but if he is mocked, that petty arrogance is pricked and flattens out.
Certainly we must pursue success at any cost, for to be a man means to be successful. But what kind of success? The success in that which makes us men: in fortitude, in magnanimity, in virility, that is in the right use of diairesis (11-17)
[II,16,11] We too experience something of this sort. What are we infatuated with? External objects. What are we eager for? External objects. And are we, then, at a loss to know why we fear or why we are anxious? [II,16,12] What, then, is it feasible when we believe the events we infer to be evil things? We cannot help but fear, we cannot help but be anxious. [II,16,13] And then we say: “Lord God, how may I not be anxious?” Stupid! Don’t you have hands? Did not Matter Immortal make them for you? Sit now and wish that the snivel may not run from your nose! Rather wipe it and do not bring charges! [II,16,14] What then? Here, has Matter Immortal given nothing to you? Has It not given you the fortitude, has It not given you the magnanimity, has It not given the virility? And with so large hands do you still seek him who wipes your nose? [II,16,15] But this we neither study nor turn our minds towards. Since give me a fellow who cares about how he does something; who turns his mind not towards hitting the mark of something but towards his own activity. Who, when he strolls, turns his mind towards this activity of strolling? Who, when deliberating, turns his mind towards the deliberation itself and not towards hitting the mark of what he is deliberating about? [II,16,16] And if he hits that mark, he is elated and says: “How well did we deliberate! Did I not tell you, brother, that when we analyse something it is impossible that the outcome is not the one we wanted?” But if the business comes to a different issue, the proairesis of the wretched fellow has become slave and he finds nothing more to say about what happened. Who of us, for this reason, invited a seer? [II,16,17] Who of us slept in a temple for enlightment about his activity? Who? Give me but one fellow, that I may see the man whom I seek from a long time, the truly noble-natured and thoroughbred one; be he young or elder, give him to me!
Our difficulties arise from the impressions that we have not carefully analysed. So the evil thing is not death but the fear of death (18-23)
[II,16,18] Why, then, do we wonder anymore if we have a consummate skill upon external materials while in our activities we are slave-minded, indecent, worthless, cowardly, slothful, whole misfortunes? Because we have not cared about our activities nor we study them. [II,16,19] If we feared not death or exile but fear itself, we would study how not to stumble on those things that appear evil to us. [II,16,20] Now, at school we are fiery and glib, sufficient, if we run into a small inquiry on any of these points, to come to the consequences. But drag us to practical use and you will find us wretched shipwrecked fellows. Let a disconcerting impression befall us and you will recognize what we were studying and what we were training for. [II,16,21] Well then, because of our lack of study we always pile up disconcerting impressions and shape them bigger than what they are. [II,16,22] For instance when I sail, if I bend down towards the deep or look around the open sea and see no earth, I withdraw and fancy that if I suffer a shipwreck I must drain dry this open sea, while it does not come to my mind that three pints of water are sufficient for me. What is, then, that disconcerts me? The open sea? No, but my judgement. [II,16,23] Again, when an earthquake happens, I fancy that the town is going to fall upon me. For, is not a small stone sufficient to throw my brain out of my head?
If we decide to amend our judgements, we must learn to diairesize (24-27)
[II,16,24] What is, then, that dazes and weighs us down? What else but our judgements? What else but the judgement weighs down the person who quits and is far from his intimates and fellows and places and correlations? [II,16,25] When the children cry a little because their nurse has departed, if they get a cookie they have forgotten her. [II,16,26] Do you want, then, that we too become like children? No, by Zeus! For I do urge to experience this not through a cookie but through right judgements. [II,16,27] And which are these? Those that must have the man who studies all day long that he may not pine away for anything that is another’s, either a fellow, or a place, or gymnasia, not even his own body; the man who decides to remember the law and to have it before his eyes.
The golden rule that Matter Immortal gives us (28)
[II,16,28] And which is the divine law? To keep what is our own; not to lay claim to what is another’s but to use it when it is given; not to yearn for what is not given; when something is taken off, to give it back easily and immediately, being grateful for the time we used it. All this if you do not want to call your nurse and your mummy!
Again about amending our judgements (29-38)
[II,16,29] For what difference does it make what one is inferior to and what one is hung up to? Why are you better than the fellow who cries for a wench, if you mourn for a gymnasium, or some roofed colonnades, some youngsters and amusements of this sort? [II,16,30] Another comes and mourns because he his no longer going to drink the water of Dirce’s fountain. And is the water of the Marcian aqueduct worse than that of Dirce? “But that one was customary to me”. [II,16,31] This too will again be customary to you. And then if you pine away for such a thing, cry again for this water and seek to write a line similar to that of Euripides *The Nero’s baths and Marcian water*. Behold how a tragedy happens when the things that come to our lot run into stupid people. [II,16,32] “When, then, shall I see again Athens and the Acropolis?” Wretched fellow, is it not sufficient for you what you notice every day? Do you have something better or greater to see than the sun, the moon, the stars, the whole earth, the sea? [II,16,33] If indeed you understand what governs the whole and you carry it about within you, do you yearn any more after some stones and a pretty rock? When, then, you are about to desert the sun and the moon themselves, what will you do? Will you sit and cry as children cry? [II,16,34] What did you do at school, what did you hear, what did you learn, then? Why did you register yourself as a philosopher when it is allowed to register the real things as: “I was busy with some ‘Introductions to philosophy’ and read some work of Chrysippus; but I did not even get past the door of a philosopher. [II,16,35] For, where do I share the business that Socrates shared, he who lived that way, he who died that way? The business that Diogenes shared?” [II,16,36] Can you think about one of these men as being people who cry or are vexed because they are no more about to notice So-and-so a fellow nor So-and-so a woman, nor to be in Athens or Corinth but, perhaps, in Susa or Ecbatana? [II,16,37] For does the man who has the power, when he so disposes, to go out of the banquet and to play no more, keep on annoying himself by staying? Will he not stay as long as his soul is won by the game? [II,16,38] Probably such a man would submit to go into exile forever or to the exile of death, if he were so condemned.
Wean yourself by now, raise your head: what have you got to do with the slaves, the prisoners of counterdiairesis? (39-40)
[II,16,39] Don’t you want, like the children, to be by now weaned and to touch a more solid food and not to cry for mummies and nurses, loud weeping of old ladies? [II,16,40] “But if I am far from them I’ll annoy them”. You, will you annoy them? Not at all. But what annoys them will be what annoys you too: the judgement. What have you, then, to do? Tear it away; and their judgement, if they do well, they will themselves tear it away; otherwise, they will wail through their fault.
The Areopagus’ discourse of the free man (41-43)
[II,16,41] You sir be insane by now, as the sentence goes, about serenity, about freedom, about magnanimity. Lift your neck up at some time, as one who has been set free of servitude. [II,16,42] Dare to look up to Zeus and say: “Well then, use me for what you dispose; I am of one mind with you; I am your equal; I spurn nothing of what you think; where you dispose, lead me; with the clothes you dispose, clothe me. Do you dispose me to hold office, to be a private citizen, to remain, to go into exile, to be poor in money, to be rich in money? About all these things I shall speak in your defence to the people; [II,16,43] I shall show what the nature of each thing is”.
Be eventually the Heracles and the Theseus of yourself (44-47)
[II,16,44] No, but sitting inside the house like a wench, wait for your mummy that she may fodder you!
Had Heracles sat at the side of those at home, who would he be? Eurystheus and not Heracles. Come on, going around the whole world, how many intimates and friends did he have? But he had no dearer friend than Matter Immortal. For this reason he was trusted to be the son of Zeus, and so he was. Obeying Him, therefore, he went around to clear away injustice and lawlessness. [II,16,45] But you are not Heracles and cannot clear away another’s evils. You are not even a Theseus, that you may clear away the evils of Attica: clear away your own, then. From here, from your intellect, cast out, instead of Procustes and Sciron, grief, fear, craving, envy, joy over your neighbour’s misfortune, fondness of money, effeminacy, lack of self-restraint. [II,16,46] It is not possible to cast these out otherwise that by glancing at Zeus alone, pining away for Him alone, consecrating ourselves to His injunctions. [II,16,47] If you want instead something else, you will follow wailing and groaning the fellow who is stronger than you, seeking serenity always outside yourself and never being able to be serene. For you seek serenity where it is not and give up to seek it where it is.
HOW MUST WE ADAPT OUR PRECONCEPTIONS TO THE PARTICULAR CASES?
Do not fancy to know what you do not know. He who is unable to deal with the preconceptions of ‘healthy’ and of ‘sick’ must study medicine (1-9)
[II,17,1] Which is the first deed of one who practises philosophy? To throw away his conceit: for it is unmanageable to begin to learn what one thinks to know. [II,17,2] We all come to the philosophers chatting up and down about what one ought to do and not to do, about what is good and what is evil, what is beautiful and what is shameful; and on these grounds we praise and censure, bring charges and blame, decree and state distinctly about wonderful and bad jobs. [II,17,3] What do we come to the philosophers for? To learn what we do not think we know. And what is that? General principles. For, some of us want to learn what the philosophers chat about thinking it will be smart and cunning; others to secure money thereby. [II,17,4] It is ridiculous, then, to think that one decides to learn certain things but will actually learn something else or, well then, that one will profit in what he does not learn. [II,17,5] What deceives the multitude is what deceived Theopompus the orator too, where he brings charges to Plato for the decision of defining each term. [II,17,6] What does Theopompus say? “Did none of us before you say ‘good’ or ‘just’? Or did we utter these voices without understanding what each of them is, in an inarticulate and empty way?” [II,17,7] And who tells you, Theopompus, that we did not have some natural concepts or preconceptions of each of them? But it is not possible to adapt our preconceptions to the appropriate substances without articulating and analysing precisely this, which kind of substance has to be subordinated to each of them. [II,17,8] Since, then, say something of this sort to the physicians too: “Who of us did not say ‘healthy’ and ‘sick’ before Hippocrates was born? Or did we echo these voices in an empty way?” [II,17,9] For we have a preconception of ‘healthy’ too, but we are unable to adapt it. For this reason one says: “Persevere in abstinence”, and another: “Give him food”; one says: “Make him bleed”, and another “Cup him”. What is the cause? Is it anything but the fact that one is unable to adapt well the preconception of ‘healthy’ to each particular case?
He who is unable to well apply the preconceptions of ‘good’ or ‘useful’ has to study philosophy (10-13)
[II,17,10] So it stands here also, in the cases of life. Who of us does not chat about good and evil, useful and useless? For who among us does not have a preconception of each of these terms? Is it, then, well articulated and perfect? Show it! [II,17,11] ” How shall I show it?” Adapt it well to the particular substances. For instance, Plato classifies definitions under the preconception of ‘profitable’, while you classify them under that of ‘unprofitable’. [II,17,12] Is it possible that you both hit the mark? And how is it possible? Does not one fellow adapt the preconception of ‘good’ to the substance ‘money’s wealth’ while another does not? And another fellow to the substance ‘physical pleasure’, and yet another to the substance ‘body’s health’? [II,17,13] In general, if we all who chat about these names have no empty
knowledge of each of them and need no diligence in the articulation of our preconceptions, why do we quarrel, why do we wage war, why do we censure each other?
For it is contradictory to think that we are able to adapt well our preconceptions to any particular case and to be unhappy (14-18)
[II,17,14] And yet what need have I to quote now our contrast with one another and remember it? You yourself, if you adapt well your preconceptions why are you not serene, why are you hindered? [II,17,15] Let’s give up just now the second topic, the one about our impulses and about working them artfully in relationship to what a dutiful deed is. Let’s give up the third topic too, the one about our assents. [II,17,16] I give you all this as a gracious present. Let’s stick to the first topic, the one that provides us with an almost sensible demonstration that you do not adapt well your preconceptions. [II,17,17] Now you want what is possible and what is possible to you. Why, then, are you hindered? Why are you not serene? Now you do not flee from what is necessary. Why, then, do you stumble on troubles, why do you have ill fortune? Why is it that when you want something it does not happen, and when you do not want it, it does happen? [II,17,18] For, this is the greatest demonstration of a lack of serenity and of unhappiness. I want something and this thing does not happen: and what creature is more miserable than me? I do not want something and this thing happens: and what creature is more miserable than me?
Our counterdiairesis as a drama: Medea refuses to desert the idea of dominating what is not in her exclusive power (19- 22)
[II,17,19] And Medea, not submitting herself to this, came to the point of killing her offspring. With great temperament indeed, as far as this! For she had the impression one ought to have of what it means that the things one wants do not proceed successfully. [II,17,20] “And so I shall take vengeance upon him who wronged and outraged me. What avail can I take out of a person so badly disposed? How can it happen? I kill my offspring. [II,17,21] But I shall inflict a penalty upon myself too. Yet what do I care?” This is the decay of a mind that has great sinews. For she did not know where is the power to do what we dispose, that one must not get this from outside nor by transposing and refitting the things. [II,17,22] Do not want your husband and nothing of what you dispose will fail to happen. Do not want at any cost that he dwells together with you; do not want to remain in Corinth and, in short, do not want but what Zeus disposes. And who will prevent you, who will constrain you? No more than one can prevent or constrain Zeus.
Train yourself to diairesize (23-28)
[II,17,23] When you have such a leader as Zeus and you dispose and desire along with him, why do you still fear to fail? [II,17,24] Give graciously your desire and your aversion to poverty in money and to money’s wealth: you will fail, you will stumble on what you avert. Give them graciously to body’s health: you will have ill fortune. To offices, honours, fatherland, friends, offspring, in short to anything aproairetic. [II,17,25] Give them graciously, instead, to Zeus, to the other gods; commit them to their keeping; let them steer; let all that be positioned at their side. [II,17,26] And where will you any longer fail to be serene? But if you envy, O slothful fellow, and pity and are jealous and tremble and never intermit a day without lamenting yourself and the Gods, why do you still say to have been trained to diairesize? [II,17,27] What kind of training to diairesize, you sir? Because you were busy with syllogisms and arguments with equivocal premisses? Will you not, if possible, unlearn all this and begin from the beginning, after becoming conscious that till now you did not even touch the business and, well then, [II,17,28] thence begin to build besides what comes next: how nothing will be against your disposition and, when you dispose something, that nothing will fail to be?
Look at the good student of philosophy (29-33)
[II,17,29] Give me but one young boy who has come to school according to this design, who has become an athlete of this business and who says: “As for me, farewell to everything else. It is sufficient for me if I ever have the power to pass my life unimpeded and able to control grief; the power to lift my neck up in the face of things as a free man; the power to look up at the sky as a friend of Zeus and a man who fears nothing of what can occur”. [II,17,30] Let one of you show me such a young man, that I may say: Come, younker, to what is yours; for it is your destiny to adorn philosophy; these possessions are yours, the books are yours, the discourses are yours. [II,17,31] And then when he has done all he could and has mastered by practice the first topic, let him come again to me and say: “I dispose, yes, to be a self-controlled and undisconcerted man, but I dispose also as a pious, a philosopher, a diligent man to know what is for me the proper deed towards the gods, the proper deed towards parents, towards brothers, towards my fatherland, towards foreigners”. [II,17,32] Come to the second topic too: this also is yours. [II,17,33] “But I have already carefully studied the second topic too. I would dispose to stand safe and unshaken not only when I am awake but also when I sleep, when I am slightly drunk, when I am melancholy-mad”. You are a god, man; you have great designs!”
You too are like the bad student of philosophy? (34-38)
[II,17,34] No, but: “I want to know what Chrysippus says in his books on ‘The Liar’“. Will you not hang yourself with this design, wretched fellow? What will it avail you? You will read it all mourning, and trembling you will talk about it to others. [II,17,35] This is what you also do. “Do you want me to read for you, brother, and you for me?” “Man, you write in an amazing way”. And: “You write marvellously in the style of Xenophon”; [II,17,36] “You in that of Plato”; “You in that of Antisthenes”. And then after exposing to one another your dreams, you return again to the same things. You desire in the same way, you avert in the same way; similarly you impel, make designs, make proposals; you wish the same things, the same things you are eager for. [II,17,37] Nor you seek the man who will remind you these discourses, but take offence when you hear them. And then you say: “Old man with no affection; when I went out he did not cry nor said ‘What kind of difficult circumstances you depart to, my offspring! If you are saved I’ll light lamps!’ ” [II,17,38] Are these the words of an affectionate creature? It will be a great good for you to be saved such as you are, and a thing lamps-worth. For you must be immortal and exempt from disease!
We must accept the fact of not knowing something and our need to learn it (39-40)
[II,17,39] We must, then, come to reason after having thrown away this conceit, as I say, by which we think to know something profitable; like we do when we move towards geometry and music. [II,17,40] Otherwise, we will not be near to profit even if we go across all the “Introductions to philosophy” and all the treatises of Chrysippus, after those of Antipater and of Archedemus.
HOW MUST WE COMPETE WITH OUR IMPRESSIONS?
The might of our habits (1-7)
[II,18,1] Every attitude and faculty is confirmed and grown by the appropriate deeds: that of walking by walking, that of running by running. [II,18,2] If you dispose to be a reader, read; if a writer, write. When you do not read but are busy with something else for thirty days uninterruptedly, you will recognize what happens. [II,18,3] Thus, if you lie in bed for ten days, once you set up, attempt a longer stroll and you will see how numb your legs are. [II,18,4] In general, then, if you dispose to do something, do it by habit; and if you dispose not to do something, don’t do it but accustom yourself to perform something else instead. [II,18,5] It is so in the business of our souls too. When you get angry, recognize that not only this evil happened to you, but that you also grew that attitude and threw something like firewood
over a fire. [II,18,6] When you yield to something in an intercourse, do not count merely this defeat but also that you have fed and grown your lack of self-restraint. [II,18,7] For it is impossible that the attitudes and the faculties, thanks to the appropriate deeds, will not be rooted in if they formerly did not exist; and that others, which were already there, will not be intensified and made strong.
‘Good’ is the judgement: money is neither good nor evil.’ Evil’ is the judgement that makes us crave for money as a good or an evil thing. How a passion arises and the traces it leaves (8-9)
[II,18,8] The philosophers say that our infirmities too, without doubt, spring up in this way. For when you crave once for money, if a reasoning appraising the evil of this judgement is brought near to your conscience, the craving is stopped and our ruling principle is restored to its original state. [II,18,9] But if you bring near it nothing in assistance, the ruling principle does not revert to its original state but, provoked again by the appropriate impression, is inflamed to crave more quickly than before. If this constantly happens, well then, the ruling principle is made callous and the infirmity strengthens the fondness of money.
Welts, sores and scars (10-11)
[II,18,10] For when a fever stops, he who had the fever does not stand like before unless he has been completely cured. [II,18,11] Something of this sort happens also for the passions of our soul. Traces and welts are left behind in it and if one does not erase them very well, when one is whipped again in the same points, they no longer make welts but sores.
Bad judgements make bad habits (12-14)
[II,18,12] If, then, you dispose not to be prone to anger, do not feed your attitude, throw upon it nothing able to promote its growth. At first keep quiet and number the days in which you did not get angry. [II,18,13] “I used to get angry every day; now every other day, and then every third, and then every fourth”. If you omit to get angry for thirty days, offer a sacrifice to Zeus. For the attitude at first is worn out and then is also totally abolished. [II,18,14] “Today I did not grieve, nor tomorrow, nor uninterruptedly for two or three months, but I paid attention when certain provocative things happened”. Recognize that you are faring smartly.
To break up an evil habit is a much bigger deed than to break up a sophism (15-18)
[II,18,15] Today, when I saw a wonderful lad or a wonderful girl, I did not say to myself “Could one go to bed with her!”, and “Blessed her husband!”; for he who says this “Blessed” says also “Blessed is the adulterer!”. [II,18,16] I do not even picture what comes next: that she is present and strips naked and lies on a nearby bed. [II,18,17] I caress my head top and say: “Well, Epictetus, you solved a pretty sophism, much prettier than ‘The Dominator’“. [II,18,18] And if I’ll abstain and win also when the female decides so and nods and sends me words and also touches and snuggles me, this is already a sophism above ‘The Liar’, above ‘The Quiescent’. For this reason it is worth to have high thoughts about ourselves, not for being able to ask ‘The Dominator’.
‘Good’ is the judgement: sex is neither good nor evil. ‘Evil’ is the judgement that makes us crave for it like something good or evil in itself. What to do? (19-21)
[II,18,19] How does this, then, happen? Once upon a time dispose to please yourself, dispose to appear beautiful to Zeus. Crave to become pure with your pure self and with Zeus. [II,18,20] Then, when an impression of this sort befalls you, as Plato says, go and offer an expiatory sacrifice, go as suppliant to the shrines of evil-averters Gods. [II,18,21] It is sufficient too, if you retire in community with virtuous men and try yourself in this respect by their standards, whether you have as model one of the living or one of the dead men.
Look at Socrates… (22)
[II,18,22] Leave and go to Socrates and see him as he lies in bed with Alcibiades in jest of his youthful grace. Ponder what a victory he recognized he had won, what Olympic game, what his rank was in the series that Heracles began! So that, by the gods, by saying “Welcome, admirable man!”, one may justly greet him and not these rotten boxers and pancratiasts nor their like, the gladiators.
… and you will know how to win (23-26)
[II,18,23] You will win over your impression, you will not be dragged by it if you set these examples against it. [II,18,24] In the first place be not swept away by its sharpness but say :”Wait a little for me, O impression; let me see what you are and what you are an impression of; let me evaluate you”. [II,18,25] From now on do not let it picture what comes next. Otherwise, it goes off with you wherever it wants. Introduce, rather, another beautiful and generous impression, casting out this filthy one. [II,18,26] If you accustom and train yourself this way, you will see what your shoulders become like, what kind of sinews, what tension you develop! Now, instead, you have merely petty discourses and nothing more.
The true ascetic man (27-32)
[II,18,27] The true practiser is the one who trains himself against such impressions. [II,18,28] Stay, wretched fellow, be not swept away! Great is the contest, divine is the deed: it is for a kingdom, for freedom, for serenity, for undisconcertment. [II,18,29] Remember Zeus, invoke Him as help and guardian, like those who sail invoke the Dioscuri during a storm. And what a bigger storm than that of potent impressions able to shackle our reason? And the storm itself what else is it but an impression? [II,18,30] Since remove the fear of death and bring forth as many thunders and lightnings you want. You will recognize how much stillness and fine weather there is in the ruling principle! [II,18,31] But if, defeated once, you say that you will win later and then again you do the same thing; know that at some time you will fare so badly and be so weak as to be later unable even to reflect upon the fact that you aberrate, but you will begin to supply arguments in defence of your conduct. [II,18,32] Then you will strengthen the truth of the saying of Hesiod *The dilatory person always strives with misfortunes*.
TO THOSE WHO FROM THE DOCTRINES OF THE PHILOSOPHERS ACQUIRE ONLY THE LOGIC
‘The Dominator’ argument and the delights of logic (1-4)
[II,19,1] ‘The Dominator’ argument appears to have been asked starting from certain motivating propositions of this sort, because there is a mutual contradiction of these third propositions with the other two: (a) all that has truly happened in the past is necessary; (b) an impossible does not follow a possible; (c) possible is what is not true nor will be true. Noting this contradiction, Diodorus utilized the persuasiveness of the first two propositions for setting forth that nothing, which is not true nor will be true, is possible. [II,19,2] Well then, among these propositions someone will keep this pair: (c) possible is what is not true nor will be true, and (b) an impossible does not follow a possible, but not (a) all that has truly happened in the past is necessary. This is precisely what the school of Cleanthes seems to think, and Antipater strongly pleaded his cause. [II,19,3] Others will maintain the other two propositions, (c) possible is what is not true nor will be true, and (a) all that has truly happened in the past is necessary, but then an impossible follows a possible. [II,19,4] But it is unmanageable to maintain all three of these propositions, because of their mutual contradiction.
A certain study of these arguments does not favour virtue but vanity (5-10)
[II,19,5] If, then, one tries to know from me: “And you, which kind of propositions do you keep?”, I’ll answer that I don’t know. I have assumed from other people a narration of this sort: Diodorus kept one pair; the school of Panthoides, I think, and that of Cleanthes another pair and the school of Chrysippus yet the third possible pair. [II,19,6] “You, then, what?” I was not born to put to a test my impression and compare the statements and make a judgement of my own in this topic. For this reason I differ in nothing from the grammarian. [II,19,7] “Who was the father of Hector?” “Priam”. “Who were his brothers?” “Alexander and Deiphobus”. “Who was their mother?” “Hecuba. I have assumed this narration from other people”. “From whom?” “From Homer. Hellanicus too, I think, writes about the same things and possibly someone else like him”. [II,19,8] About ‘The Dominator’ what else higher have I to say? But if I am a vain person I’ll astound those present, especially at a banquet, enumerating those who have written on the subject. [II,19,9] “Chrysippus also has written in an amazing way on this topic in the first book of his treaty ‘On Things Possible’. Cleanthes too has written peculiarly on this topic, and also Archedemus. Also Antipater has written, not only in his books ‘On Things Possible’ but also peculiarly in those on ‘The Dominator’. [II,19,10] Have you not read the treatise?” “I have not read it”. “Read it”. And of what benefit will it be to him? He will be more babbler and ill timed than he is now. For what else did you gain by reading it? What kind of judgement have you made on this topic? But will you tell us of Helen and Priam and the island of Calypso which never was and never will be?
We need diairesis in order to live and to die, not in order to make a show of it (11-19)
[II,19,11] And here it is not a great problem to master the narration without having made on it a peculiar judgement of our own. But in ethics we experience this much more than in literature. [II,19,12] “Tell me about good and evil things”. “Listen: *Bringing me far from Ilium, a wind brought me to the Ciconians.* [II,19,13] Of the things, some are good; others evil; others indifferent. Good are, then, the virtues and what partakes of them; evil are the vices and what partakes of vices; indifferent are the things that are in between these: money’s wealth, body’s health, life, death, physical pleasure, pain”. [II,19,14] “Whence do you know this?” “Hellanicus tells this in his book ‘History of Egypt’“. For what difference does it make to say this or that Diogenes says so in his ‘Ethics’ or Chrysippus or Cleanthes? Have you put to the test any of their teachings and have you made a judgement of your own? [II,19,15] Show how you are accustomed to train yourself on a vessel. Do you remember of this diairesis when the sail crackles and, while you scream, a mischievous fellow-passenger standing by your side says: “Tell me, by the gods, what you were saying lately. Is it a vice to suffer shipwreck? Is it something that partakes of vice?” [II,19,16] Will you not lift a piece of wood and cudgel him? “What have we to do with you, man? We are perishing and you come and joke?” [II,19,17] If Caesar sends for you because you are accused, do you remember of diairesis? If someone, while you go into his presence and are pale and trembling, comes to you and says: “Why do you tremble, you sir? What business is your statement of claim about? Does Caesar give virtue or vice to those who enter inside?” [II,19,18] “Besides my evils, why do you also mock me?” “Yet, O philosopher, tell me: why do you tremble? The risk you run is it not death or prison or body’s pain or exile or ill reputation? And what else? Is this a vice, is it something that partakes of vice? What did you use to say that these things are?” [II,19,19] “What have I to do with you, man? My evils are sufficient for me”. And you say well. For your evils are sufficient for you: your meanness, your cowardice, the brag that you bragged sitting at school. Why did you embellish yourself with another’s judgements? Why did you call yourself a stoic?
Who is a stoic? (20-28)
[II,19,20] Keep an eye, thus, on what you yourselves used to perform and you will find of which philosophical choice you are. You will find that most of you are Epicureans, some few Peripatetics and these last, worn out Peripatetics. [II,19,21] Where is it that you conceive virtue to be equal or also better, in practice, than all the rest? Show me a Stoic, if you have one. [II,19,22] Where or how? But myriads who say petty stoic discourses. But do these same people tell worse the epicurean ones? And,
similarly, are they not precise with the peripatetic ones? [II,19,23] Who, then, is a Stoic? Like we say Pheidian a statue that has been moulded according to the art of Pheidias, in the same way show me someone who has moulded himself according to the judgements that he chats about. [II,19,24] Show me someone who is sick and judges to be fortunate, who is in danger and judges to be fortunate, who dies and judges to be fortunate, who has been exiled and judges to be fortunate, who has ill reputation and judges to be fortunate. Show him to me! I crave, by the gods, to see a Stoic. [II,19,25] Can you not show me a man so moulded? Show me one who is now thus moulding himself, one who has inclined to this. Be my benefactors: do not begrudge an old man the sight of a spectacle that till now I did not see. [II,19,26] Do you think that you will show the Zeus of Pheidias or his Athena, a structure of ivory and gold? Let one of you show the soul of a man disposed to be of one mind with Zeus, to blame no more either god nor man, to fail in nothing, to stumble on nothing, not to get angry, not to envy, not to be jealous (but why must one use circumlocutions?), [II,19,27] who from a man craves to become a god and who in this corpse-like body takes counsel with himself on his society with Zeus. [II,19,28] Show him to me! But you have none. Why, then, do you mock yourselves and cheat other people? And putting on a dress that is another’s, why do you walk about as thieves and clothes-stealers of names and of a business that in no way befits you?
Let’s work together for the achievement of a great project (29-34)
[II,19,29] I am now your trainer in diairesis, and with me you train yourselves to diairesize. I have this design: to make you come out unhampered, unconstrained, unimpeded, free, serene, happy, men who have Zeus in view in every circumstance, both small and great. And you are here to learn and study this. [II,19,30] Why, then, do you not accomplish the work, if you too have the design that one ought and I have the preparation that one ought to have for that design? What is lacking? [II,19,31] When I see a carpenter with his subject matter lying nearby, I wait for the work. Here too, therefore, there is the carpenter, there is the subject matter. What do we lack? [II,19,32] Is the business not teachable? It is teachable. Is it not, then, in our exclusive power? But it is the only one among all the others. Neither money’s wealth nor body’s health nor reputation nor anything else are, in short, in our exclusive power, except the right use of impressions. This only is by nature unhampered, unhindered. [II,19,33] Why, then, do you not accomplish the work? Tell me the cause. For this cause is either in me or in you or in the nature of the business. The thing itself is feasible and is the only one in our exclusive power. Well, then the cause is in me or in you or, what is more true, in both. [II,19,34] What then? Do you dispose that we begin at some time to convey here such a design? Let’s give up all that has been till now. Let’s only begin; trust me and you will see.
TO EPICUREANS AND TO ACADEMICS
The self-contradictory foundation of some Academic arguments (1-5)
[II,20,1] The sound and evident propositions are of necessity exploited by their objectors too; and one could almost make this as the greatest proof of a proposition being evident: that the objector too finds himself in the necessity of utilizing it. [II,20,2] For example if someone should object to the proposition that there is something universally true, it’s plain that he is bound to make the opposite declaration, that there is nothing universally true. Slave, not even this is true. [II,20,3] For what else is this assertion but the assertion that if there is a statement universally valid, it is false? [II,20,4] Again, if someone comes forward and says: “Recognize that nothing is knowable but that all is unintelligible”, or another says: “Trust me and you will benefit: for no reason one ought to trust a man”, or someone else says: [II,20,5] “Learn from me, man, that it is not feasible to learn anything; this I tell you and this I’ll teach you, if you want”; what difference is there between these people and -whom ever shall I say?- those who call themselves Academics? “Men, assent that no one assents; trust us that no one trusts anybody”.
The self-contradictory foundation on which Epicurus grounds the denial of a natural sociability in mankind (6-14)
[II,20,6] So also Epicurus, when he wants to abolish the natural society of men with one another, utilizes exactly what is abolished. [II,20,7] For what does he say? “Be not deceived, men, be not led astray, do not make mistakes: there is no natural society of rational creatures with one another, trust me. Those who say other things are deceiving you and use fallacies”. [II,20,8] Why, then, do you care? Let’s be deceived. Will it be more difficult for you to get rid of us, if all the rest of us are persuaded that we have a natural society with one another and that one must in all ways guard it? On the contrary, your position will be much better and safer. [II,20,9] You sir, why do you worry about us, why do you stay awake on our account, why do you light a lamp, why do you get up from bed, why do you compile so large books? That some of us may not be deceived upon gods as taking care of men or that no one may conceive other substance of the good but physical pleasure? [II,20,10] For if this is so, throw yourself to sleep and do what a worm does, things which you judged yourself worth of: eat and drink and have sexual intercourse and defecate and snore. [II,20,11] What do you care how the others will conceive upon these issues, if soundly or not soundly? For what have you to do with us? Do you care about sheep because they provide themselves to be shorn by us and milked and by last cut to pieces? [II,20,12] Would it not be your wish that the human beings, enchanted and bewitched by the Stoics, could slumber and provide themselves to be shorn and milked by you and your like? [II,20,13] Instead of concealing it, this is what you ought to say to your Epicurean fellows and especially convince them, before you convince all other people, that we are born by nature sociable, that self-restraint is a good thing, so that all may be kept for you. [II,20,14] Or ought one guard this society with some people and not with others? With whom ought one, then, to keep it? With those who maintain it in their turn or those who stand as transgressors of it? And who are greater transgressors than you Epicureans who have distinctly stated these doctrines?
Like we all, the Academics too use their sensations, the Epicureans too have social relationships with other people. But they believe that it tastes better to say that it is not so, and to explain to the world why other people too must feel ashamed in hearing the voice of nature (15-20)
[II,20,15] What was, then, that awoke Epicurus from his sleep and that constrained him to write what he wrote? What else but what is the strongest thing in men: nature, dragging him unwilling and groaning to its own plan? [II,20,16] “Since you think these unsocial theses, write them down and bequeathe them to others; stay awake because of them and become you yourself, in practice, the accuser of your own judgements”. [II,20,17] And then we say that Orestes, persecuted by the Furies, was awoken from his sleep! But were not the Furies and the Avengers much more embittered against Epicurus? They awoke him from sleep and did not allow him to rest but constrained him to tell out his evils, just as madness and wine compel the Galli to mutilate themselves. [II,20,18] So potent and invincible a thing is human nature. For how can a vine be moved not like a vine but like an olive tree; or an olive tree, again, not like an olive tree but like a vine? It is unmanageable, it is inconceivable. [II,20,19] Therefore it is not even possible for a human being to totally lose his movements as a man and those who amputate themselves of their penis cannot however amputate their masculine impulsions. [II,20,20] Thus Epicurus amputated himself of whatever makes a husband, a housemaster, a citizen, a friend; but did not amputate the impulsions that make a man. For that he could not. Any more than the slothful Academics can throw away or blind their sensations, even if this is what they are especially eager for.
The Academics, upset by the possible fallacy of our sensations, decree their total unreliability. The Epicureans, in their turn, upset by the actual ugliness of the transcendent Gods worshipped by human beings, decree the nonexistence of the gods worshipped by men too (21-27)
[II,20,21] What a misfortune! Even getting from nature measures and standards for the discernment of truth, one does not work artfully to add up and refine what is lacking but, on the opposite, he tries to
tear away and lose whatever power cognitive of the truth he has. [II,20,22] What do you say, philosopher? What do pious and holy things appear to be to you? “If you want, I’ll fashion that they are a good thing”. Yes, do it; so that our citizens turning their minds towards them, may honour what is divine and stop at some time to be lazy about the greatest issues. “Have you, then, the needed proofs?” I have them and I am grateful. [II,20,23] “Since, then, you are very pleased with these, take the opposite ones: that there are no gods and, if ever there are, that they take no care of men, that nothing is common between us and them, that this pious and holy which most people chat about is a falsity of brag persons and of sophists or, by Zeus, of lawgivers aimed at frightening and repressing the wrongdoers”. [II,20,24] Well, philosopher! You benefited our citizens, you recovered our youths who already lean to the contempt of divine things. [II,20,25] “What then? Are you not pleased with this? Take now the other points: how the justice is nothing, how self respect is a stupidity, how a father is nothing, how a son is nothing”. [II,20,26] Well, philosopher! Persist, persuade our youths, that much more people may experience what you experience and talk like you talk. Our well-ordered towns grew great thanks to these discourses. Sparta became great because of these discourses. Lycurgus, with his laws and his system of education infused into the Spartans these persuasions, that to be a servant is no more shameful than beautiful and that to be free is no more beautiful than shameful. Those who died at Thermopylae died because of these judgements. And for what discourses but these did the Athenians desert their town? [II,20,27] And then those who talk so marry, beget children, engage in city business, institute themselves priests and prophets. Of whom? Of Gods that do not exist? And they question the Pythian priestess in order to try to know false things and explain the oracles to others. What a great shamelessness and imposture!
How the Academics could be cured from their scepticism (28-31)
[II,20,28] You sir, what do you do? You confute yourself every day, and are you unwilling to give up these cold epicheiremata? When you eat, where do you bring your hand? To the mouth or to the eye? In order to take a bath where do you step into? When did you ever call the pot a dish or the ladle a spit? [II,20,29] If I were a servant of one of them, I would rack him, even if I had to be flayed by him every day. “Young boy, throw a little oil into the bath”. I would have thrown a little fish-sauce in and then, leaving, I would pour it on his head. “What is this?” “I had an impression indistinguishable from that of oil, absolutely similar; yes, by your luck!” [II,20,30] “Give me hither the gruel”. I would have brought him a side-dish full of fish-sauce mixed with vinegar. “Did I not ask for the gruel?” “Yes, my lord: this is the gruel”. “Is not this fish-sauce mixed with vinegar?” “What anymore than gruel?” “Take it and smell it; take and taste it”. “And whence do you know this, if the sensations are lying to us?” [II,20,31] If I had had three or four fellow-servants of one mind with me, I would have made him hang himself bursting open with rage or transpose his mind. Now, on the contrary, those people sneer at us, because they use all that is given to them by nature while abolishing it in their discourses.
If to any transcending God we can calmly say “Thank you for not being there”, then the human being only is accountable for his own happiness or unhappiness. The nature of things is invariant, human cultures are relative. Every time we misunderstand the fact that human cultures are relative to an invariant nature of things, we are unaware of passing off as religion worth of men any superstition worth of human beings and as freedom any indecency worth of slaves (32-37)
[II,20,32] Grateful men indeed and self respecting! If nothing else they eat bread every day, and dare to say: “We do not know if there is a Demeter or a Kore or a Pluto”. [II,20,33] Not to say that, although they enjoy the night and the day, the transformations of the year and of the stars, of the sea, of the earth, of the cooperation of human beings, these things they do not turn the mind towards not even a little, but only seek to vomit their petty problems and then, once they have trained their stomach, to depart for the baths. [II,20,34] These people, even for a brief time, have not worried about what they will say and on what and to whom and what sense these discourses will have for the hearers: that a noble-natured young, having heard these discourses, may experience something bad because of them or, if he has experienced it, that he may lose the seeds of his noble nature; [II,20,35] that we may provide an adulterer with motives to lose any shame of the events; that an embezzler of public funds
may, thank to these discourses, lay hold of some specious plea; that someone who neglects his own parents may add from them a certain brazeness. [II,20,36] According to you what is, then, good or evil, beautiful or shameful? This or that? What then? Does anyone any longer object to one of these fellows, or say that they are right or wrong, or try to change their mind? [II,20,37] By Zeus, one might much more hope to persuade the lewd fellows to change their mind than those who have become that much deaf and blind about their evils.
ON OUR INCONSISTENCY WITH THE NATURE OF THINGS
The fact that we recognize only some of our defects is a remarkable piece of Socratic intellectualism, and at the same time a proof of the existence of a nature of things and of its invariance (1-7)
[II,21,1] The human beings acknowledge some of their faults easily, some others not so easily. No one, then, will acknowledge to be imprudent or crazy but, quite to the opposite, you will hear everyone say: “I wish I had as much luck as I have good sense!” [II,21,2] But they acknowledge easily to be timid and say: “I am too timid, I acknowledge it; but for the rest you will not find me to be a stupid”. [II,21,3] One will not easily acknowledge that he is not master of himself, generally not that he is unjust, quite not that he is envious or officious; most people will acknowledge that they are pitiful. [II,21,4] What is, then, the cause? The dominant one is our inconsistency with the nature of things and our disconcertment in the judgements about good and evil things. Other causes are different for different people and almost everything that they fancy to be shameful, this they do quite not acknowledge. [II,21,5] Timidity they fancy to be proper of an intelligent character, and so to be pitiful. But to be silly, they conceive it to be totally a slave’s quality. And as far as society is concerned, they will never admit of trespassing against it. [II,21,6] With regard to most of their aberrations, they are especially brought to acknowledge them because they fancy that there is in them some involuntary element, precisely as in timidity and pity. [II,21,7] And if one ever acknowledges that he is not master of himself, he adds up to this the amorous passion, so as to be forgiven like for an involuntary act. But injustice they do not at all fancy as involuntary. They think that there is something involuntary also in jealousy, and for this reason they acknowledge this too.
The examination of our proairesis (8-10)
[II,21,8] The man who deals with such human beings so disconcerted, so ignorant about what they say, or about their evils, or if they have them, or how they stand by them, or how to rest from them, I think is worthy of constantly reflecting upon this question: “Am I also one of those people? [II,21,9] What impression have I about myself? How do I deal with myself? Do I too deal with myself the way the prudent man deals with himself, and as a self-restrained man does with himself? Do I too ever say that I have been educated to meet whatever will come? [II,21,10] Have I the consciousness that must have the man who knows nothing, that I know nothing? Do I come to the teacher prepared to obey him like I obey an oracular response? Or do I too, with my nose full of snivel, enter the school only to learn the history of philosophy and to understand books that I did not understand before and then, perhaps, to explain them to others?”
The examination of our proairesis continues (11-14)
[II,21,11] You sir, at home you have whacked your servant, you have turned your family into utter confusion and your neighbours in deep disconcertment: and then you come to me and play, as a wise man, the restrained? You sit and judge how I explained the elocution, and to what end I babbled all that came into my head? [II,21,12] You have come here in envy, slave-minded because nothing is brought to you from home, and meanwhile we have these discourses you sit and you brood about
nothing else but how things stand between you and your father or your brother. [II,21,13] “What are those at home saying about me? Now they think that I am making profit and say ‘He will come along knowing everything!’ [II,21,14] I did want at some time to return having learned everything, but that needs much toil, nobody sends me anything, to bathe at the Nicopolis’ baths is a rotten deed, at home I fared ill and here too”.
Who comes to my school to learn this and not other things? (15-22)
[II,21,15] And then people say: “Nobody gets benefit from the school”. Who comes to the school, who, with the aim of being cured? Who with the aim of providing that his own judgements be purified; who with the aim of becoming conscious of the judgements he needs? [II,21,16] Why, then, do you wonder if you bring outside of the school again the same judgements that you bring in? For you do not come here to put them away or to rectify them or to get other judgements in exchange of them. [II,21,17] Whence? You are not even near this! Rather notice, then, whether it happens to you what you come here for. You want to chat about the general principles of philosophy. What then? Are you not becoming more babblers? Does not the school provide you with some subject matter for a show off of those general principles? Do you not resolve syllogisms and equivocal arguments? Do you not scour the assumptions of ‘The Liar’, the hypothetical arguments? Why, then, are you still vexed if you get what you are here present for? [II,21,18] “Yes, but if my child or my brother had died or if I should die or be racked: what will I benefit by such notions?” [II,21,19] Did you come to me for this purpose, for this purpose did you sit at my side, for this purpose did you sometimes light the lamp and stay awake? Or when you go out into the covered walk, instead of a syllogism did you ever put in front of you an impression and then scoured it conjointly? [II,21,20] When did you ever do that? And then you say: “The general principles of philosophy are unprofitable”. To whom? To those who do not use them as one ought to. The eyewash is not unprofitable to those who put drops of it into their eyes when and how one ought to; the poultices are not unprofitable; the jumping-weights are not unprofitable but unprofitable to some and profitable to others. [II,21,21] If you now try to know from me: “Are the syllogisms profitable?” I’ll tell you that they are profitable and, if you want, I’ll demonstrate to you how. “But to me, then, of what benefit have they been?” You sir, you did not try to know if they are profitable to you but in general. [II,21,22] Let also he who suffers from dysentery try to know from me whether the vinegar is profitable, and I’ll tell him that it is profitable. “To me, then, is it profitable?” I’ll say: “No. Seek first to block your flux, to cicatrize your slight sores”. And you, men, cure first the sores, curb your fluxes, be at rest with your intellect, bring it to the school free from distractions and you will recognize what might reason has!
Except for very few cases, we all are intelligent people and therefore we all know how to love what is good. But there is a certain difference between what is loved by an intelligence that uses counterdiairesis -be he a father, a brother, a friend-, and what is loved by an intelligence able to use diairesis with art (1-11)
[II,22,1] Whatever one is eager for, this he has suitably a predilection for. Are men, then, eager for evil things? Not at all. Perhaps for things that are nothing to them? Not even for this. [II,22,2] It is left over, therefore, that they are eager for good things only; [II,22,3] and if these things they are eager for, these they also love. Whoever, then, is a scientist of good things, he is also the man who would know what to love. But he who cannot distinguish good things from evil ones and what is oudeterous from both, how could this fellow love? To love is therefore a power of the prudent man only. [II,22,4] – “How so?”, someone says, “for I am imprudent myself, yet I love my child”- [II,22,5] I am amazed, by the gods, at how you have in the first place acknowledged to be imprudent. What do you lack? Do you not use the sensations, do you not distinguish the impressions, do you not supply your body with the
suitable food, a shelter, a dwelling? Whence do you acknowledge, then, to be imprudent? [II,22,6] Because, by Zeus, you are often dazed by impressions, are disconcerted and defeated by their persuasiveness. You conceive the same things once good, then evil and later oudeterous. And generally you grieve, you fear, you envy, you are disconcerted, you are changeable. For this reason you acknowledge to be imprudent. [II,22,7] And in having predilections are you not changeable? You conceive that money’s wealth, physical pleasure and, in short, the business itself are sometimes good and sometimes evil; that the same people are sometimes good and sometimes evil; sometimes you behave with them informally and sometimes as if they were your personal enemies; sometimes you praise them and sometimes you censure them. [II,22,8] -Yes, I experience this too- What then? Do you think that he who has been deceived about someone can be his friend? -Quite not!- And the fellow who chooses a friend with fickleness, can he be well disposed towards him? –No, he can’t- And he who now reviles someone and later admires him? -Not even this- [II,22,9] What then? Have you never seen doggies fawning and romping with one another, so as to say: “There is nothing more friendly”? But that you may see what friendship is, throw between them a piece of meat and you will recognize it. [II,22,10] Throw between you and your child a bit of land and you will recognize how quickly your child wants to bury you and you wish the child to die. And then you say again: “What an offspring I brought up! All this time he has been wanting to carry me to the grave!” [II,22,11] Throw in a pretty wench and both the old fellow and the young one fall in love with her; or, again, throw in a bit of reputation.
The proofthat comes from a father and a son: Feres and Admetus (11-12)
If you must be in danger, you will say what the father of Admetus said: *Do you want to see the light and think your father does not?* [II,22,12] Do you think that he did not love his own child when it was small, and that he was not anxious when it had a fever and that he did not often say: “If I rather had the fever!”? And then when the test comes upon him, see what speech he lets loose!
The proof that comes from two brothers: Eteocles and Polyneices (13-14)
[II,22,13] Did not Eteocles and Polyneices have the same mother and the same father? Were not they fed together, had not they lived together, played together, had not they been bed-fellows, had not they often kissed one another? So that, I think, if one had seen them he would have mocked the philosophers because of the paradoxes they say on friendship. [II,22,14] But when the tyranny fell in the midst like a piece of meat, see what they say: *Where before the walls do you want to stand? -Why do you ask me?- You I shall range myself against, that I may kill you. -This is what I want too- * And they wish these whishes.
The fact that a man seeks exclusively his own peculiar interest is a holy thing, it is absolutely essential for his survival (15-21)
[II,22,15] For in general, be not deceived, every creature to nothing has been made so familiar as to his own interest. Whatever, then, appears to him to hinder it, be it a brother or father or child or beloved or lover, the creature hates, indicts and curses it. [II,22,16] For his nature is to love nothing as his own interest; this is father, brother, congenerous, fatherland and god. [II,22,17] When, then, we deem the Gods to hinder us from the attainment of this end, we revile them too, we overturn their delubra, we set fire to their temples like Alexander did, who summoned to set fire to those of Asclepius when his beloved one died. [II,22,18] For this reason, if one sets interest and holy and beautiful and fatherland and parents and friends to coincide, all this is safeguarded. But if he sets in one place his interest and somewhere else the friends and fatherland and parents and justice itself, all these things disappear overweighed by the interest. [II,22,19] For where the “I” and the”mine” are, it is necessary for the creature to lean there. If they are in the flesh, the dominant power has to be there; if in the proairesis, it has to be in the proairesis; if in the external objects, it has to be in these. [II,22,20] If, therefore, I am where my proairesis is, in this way only I’ll be a friend and a son and a father as one ought to be. For it
will be my interest to keep the faithful, self respecting man, the man able to tolerate another’s intemperance, able to abstain from intemperance, to co-work and guard his social relationships. [II,22,21] But if I set myself in one place and somewhere else the beautiful, in this way the argument of Epicurus, who declares the beautiful to be either nothing or, at best, what has a good reputation, becomes a strong one.
The trick lies in the knowledge of which truly is ‘his own peculiar interest’ (22-24)
[II,22,22] Because of this ignorance the Athenians quarrelled with the Lacedaemonians and the Thebans with both; the great king of Persia with Greece and the Macedonians with both; and now the Romans with the Getae and, still earlier, the facts of Ilium happened for this reason. [II,22,23] Alexander was Menelaus’ guest and if one had seen them exchange signs of friendship with one another, would have distrusted the person who said that they were not friends. But a small part, a pretty female, was thrown in between them, and around it was war. [II,22,24] And now when you see friends, brothers who seem to be of one mind, do not declare immediately something about their friendship, not even if they swear or say that it is impossible for them to be far from one another.
The judgements that make a human being intelligent and insipient compared to the judgements that make a man intelligent and wise (25-30)
[II,22,25] The ruling principle of an insipient person is not faithful, it is insecure, it is unscrupulous, it is overcome now by an impression and now by another one. [II,22,26] So, do not inquire what the others inquire about, whether they have the same parents, or have been reared at the same time and from the same pedagogue; but only where they set their interest, whether externally or in their proairesis. [II,22,27] If externally, do not call them friends; no more than faithful or well secure or self-confident or free men; not even men, if you have a sound mind. [II,22,28] For it is not the judgement of a man the one that makes them bite one another, revile, seize lonely places or market-places like beasts in the mountains, and show to have robbers’ attitudes in law courts. Nor is the judgement of a man the one that makes people not masters of themselves, adulterers, corrupters. Nor the one that makes them responsible of the many other trespasses that human beings commit against each other because of this judgement and this judgement alone: to set themselves and what is their own in aproairetic things. [II,22,29] If, on the contrary, you hear these men truly think the good to be only where proairesis is, where the right use of the impressions is, do not meddle any more whether they are son and father or brothers or have gone to school together for a long time and are fellows. Once you have recognized this only, declare confidently that they are friends, as you can declare that they are faithful, that they are just men. [II,22,30] For where is friendship but where faithfulness, self respect, devotion to the beautiful and to nothing else are?
The proof that comes from a wife and a husband: Eriphyle and Amphiaraus (31-33)
[II,22,31] “But he has looked after me for that much time and did he not love me?” Whence do you know, slave, whether he has looked after you as he sponges his shoes, as he curries his cattle? Whence do you know whether, throwing away the need he has of you as a small vessel, he will hurl you like a broken small plate? [II,22,32] “But she is my wife and we lived together that much time!” And how long did Eriphyle live with Amphiaraus being also mother, and of a large offspring? But a necklace came in between them. [II,22,33] What is a necklace? The judgement about things of this sort. That was the bestial element, that was what sundered the friendship, what does not allow a female to be a spouse, and a mother to be a mother.
We must rectify our bestial and appalling judgements (34-37)
[II,22,34] And let any of you, who is eager to be himself friend to somebody or to get for himself a friend, cut off these judgements, hate them, drive them out of his own soul. [II,22,35] Thus he will not
be, in the first place, reviling himself, in contradiction with himself, repenting, torturing himself. [II,22,36] Besides this, he will be entirely frank to the other man who is similar to him and able to tolerate the intemperance of the fellow who is unlike him, being with this last meek, gentle, forgiving as to an ignorant, as to someone who makes mistakes in the greatest issues. He will be embittered against nobody, inasmuch as he knows precisely the saying of Plato that “every soul unwillingly dispossesses itself of the truth”. [II,22,37] Otherwise you will perform all the other things that friends perform: you will drink together, share the same tent, sail on the same ship and you will be born by the same parents, and the snakes too! But friends are neither those nor you, till you have these bestial and abominable judgements.
ON THE FACULTY OF SPEAKING
The marvels that Matter Immortal is able to produce (1-4)
[II,23,1] Everyone would read with more pleasure and more easily a book written with well conspicuous letters. And would not everyone hear more easily discourses signified with locutions both decorous and comely? [II,23,2] One must not, then, say that there is no faculty of reporting, for this is to speak as a person both impious and cowardly. Impious, because he disparages the favours bestowed upon us by Matter Immortal and it is as though one abolished the profitableness of the faculty of vision or that of hearing or that of the speech itself. [II,23,3] At random, then, did Zeus give you the eyes? At random did It blend with them a pneuma so potent and able of such an art in his work that it forges, reaching out far away, the models of the objects seen? [II,23,4] And what messenger is so swift and diligent? At random did It made the intervening air so active and vibrant that the sight can penetrate through it like through a tense medium? At random did It make the light, without the presence of which there was no avail of any of the other things?
The marvel of the marvels: the proairesis and its leadership (5-15)
[II,23,5] You sir, do not be ungrateful or unmindful of the better things but for sight, for hearing and, by Zeus, for life itself and for what co-works to it, for the dry fruits, for the wine, for the oil, thank Matter Immortal. [II,23,6] And remember that It has given you something else better of all these things: the faculty that will make use of them, evaluate them, count the value of each of them. [II,23,7] For what is it that declares for each of these faculties, how valuable each of them is? Does each faculty do this by itself? Have you ever heard the faculty of sight to say anything about itself? Or that of hearing? They have, instead, been positioned but to do a service, as ministers and servants to the faculty able to use the impressions. [II,23,8] If you try to know how valuable each one is, what do you try to know this from? Who answers you? How can there be, then, another faculty better than this one, the one that uses also the rest as ministers and itself evaluates and declares the value of each? [II,23,9] Which of those knows what it is and what it is worth? Which of those knows when one has to use it and when not? Which is the faculty that opens and closes the eyes and turns them away from things from which they have to be turned away and moves them towards other things? The faculty of sight? No, but the faculty of proairesis. Which one shuts and opens the ears? [II,23,10] Thanks to which faculty do we become officious and nosey parkers or, again, unmoved by a discourse? Thanks to the faculty of hearing? No, thanks to none other but to the faculty of proairesis. [II,23,11] And then, when the proairesis sees that all the other faculties that surround itself are blind and deaf, unable to note anything else but those works for which they have been positioned to be its ministers and to do it a service, while proairesis only notices with sharpness and sees from above not only the other faculties and what each is worth of, but itself too; well then, is the proairesis about to declare that something else is more powerful that itself? [II,23,12] What else does the open eye do but see? Yet whether one must see the wife of someone and how, which faculty tells this? The faculty of proairesis. [II,23,13] Whether we
must trust or distrust the words that are said and, if we trust them, to be provoked or not, what tells us this? Is it not the faculty of proairesis? [II,23,14] And this faculty of expressing and embellishing locutions -if it is indeed a peculiar faculty- what else does it do, when the discourse runs into something, but embellish the names and compose them like the hairdressers composes our hair? [II,23,15] But whether it is better to speak or to keep silent, to speak in this way or that way, whether this is fitting or unfitting, the time and the need of each thing, which other faculty does say this but the faculty of proairesis? Do you want, then, that this faculty comes to vote against itself?
The proairesis only is self-determinative (16-19)
[II,23,16] “What then”, someone says, “if the business stands like this, can ministers be better than that to which they serve as ministers? The horse better than the horseman, the dog than the hunter, the instrument than the lyre-player, the manservants than the king?” What is it that makes use of the other faculties? The proairesis. [II,23,17] What takes care of everything? The proairesis. What is it that clears out the whole man, sometimes by hunger, sometimes by a noose, sometimes down the cliffs? The proairesis. [II,23,18] And then is there anything stronger than this in men? How is it possible that what is hampered be stronger than what is unhampered? [II,23,19] What is by nature able to hinder the faculty of sight? Both the proairesis and what is aproairetic. The same is true for the faculty of hearing and in the same way for the faculty of expression. But what is by nature able to hinder the proairesis? Nothing of what is aproairetic but proairesis itself, when it is perverted. For this reason the proairesis becomes the only vice or the only virtue.
Epicurus plays a game of modesty but modesty is not at all a virtue (20-22)
[II,23,20] And then, since our proairesis is a faculty so important and placed above everything else, must it come and tell us that the most powerful of the things that are is the flesh? One would have not tolerated this statement not even if the flesh itself had said to be the most powerful thing. [II,23,21] Now, Epicurus, what is it that declares this? That compiles “On the end”, “The Physics”, “On the Standard”? That has let your beard grow long? That writes, when dying: “While we spend our last and at the same time blessed day…”.? [II,23,22] Your flesh or your proairesis? You acknowledge, then, to have something better than the flesh and are you not mad? Are you indeed so blind and deaf?
Why should we be ashamed to tell the truth about proairesis, about the other faculties and their reciprocal relationships? (23-27)
[II,23,23] What then? Does anyone disparage the other faculties? Far from it. Does anyone say that there is no need or promotion outside of the faculty of proairesis? Far from it. This would be crazy, impious, ungrateful towards Matter Immortal. Matter Immortal gives back to each its own value. [II,23,24] For there is a certain use in the ass but not as much as in the ox; there is an use in the dog but not so big as in a household slave; there is an use in a household slave but not so big as in the citizens; there is also an use in these but not so big as in the magistrates. [II,23,25] Yet because some things are better we must not disparage the utility that is provided by the other things too. Also the faculty of expression has a certain value, but not so big as the faculty of proairesis. [II,23,26] When, then, I say this, do not think that I am urging you to neglect the expression, for I am not urging you to neglect your eyes or ears or hands or feet or clothes or shoes. [II,23,27] But if you try to know from me: “Of the things that are which one is, then, the most powerful?” What to say? The faculty of expression? I cannot; but that of proairesis, when it becomes right.
Why should we be ashamed to tell the truth about the human beings, about the men and their reciprocal relationships? (28-29)
[II,23,28] For this is the faculty that uses that one and all the other arts and faculties, both small and great. When this happens successfully, a good man is born. When this fails, a bad human being is born.
[II,23,29] Through proairesis we are misfortuned or fortuned, we blame each other or we are well pleased; in short proairesis is what engenders unhappiness when it is neglected and happiness when it obtains our diligence.
Every faculty has to be cultivated according to its value (30-35)
[II,23,30] To remove the faculty of expression and to say that there is none, is indeed the act of a person not only ungrateful towards those who have given it, but also cowardly. [II,23,31] A person of this sort seems to me to fear that, if indeed there is a faculty in this topic, we may not be able to despise it. [II,23,32] Such are also those who say that there is no gap between prettiness and ugliness. And then would the fellow who sees Thersites be stirred similarly to the one who sees Achilles? Similarly the fellow who sees Helen and any chance lady? [II,23,33] This is a stupidity and a clumsiness of those who do not know the nature of each thing but fear that if one becomes aware of the difference, straightaway he leaves swept away and defeated. [II,23,34] The great thing, instead, is this: to reserve to each thing its own faculty and, once reserved, to see the value of the faculty. To decipher, then, what is more powerful and to closely pursue this in every circumstance, this to be eager for, after having made the rest accessory to this and without, at his best, neglecting it. [II,23,35] For we must take care of the eyes, but not as the most powerful thing; but also of the eyes for the sake of what is more powerful. Because this latter will not stay in accord with the nature of things unless it works rationally with the eyes and chooses certain objects instead of others.
Do not mistake ends and means: the aim of Odysseus was Ithaca, not the Sirens (36-41)
[II,23,36] What happens, then? It is like if someone, while he goes away towards his fatherland, journeyed to a wonderful inn and, as he is pleased with the inn, he stayed there. [II,23,37] You sir, you forgot your purpose. You did not travel to this but through this. “But this is pretty”. And how many other inns are pretty, how many meadows are; but simply as a transit. [II,23,38] Your program, instead, was that one: to return to your fatherland, to set your household free from worries, to do what a citizen does, to marry, to beget children, to hold the legitimate offices. [II,23,39] For you did not come to this world to select for you the prettiest places but to behave yourself in those in which you were born and to which you have been appointed citizen. Something of this sort happens here too. [II,23,40] Since a man must come to his completion through the discourse and a certain transmission of knowledge; since he must purify his own proairesis and structure rightly the faculty that uses the impressions; since the transmission of knowledge necessarily happens through general principles and a certain elocution and a variety and subtlety of form of these principles; [II,23,41] some people are captured by this and halt just here, one captured by the elocution, another by the syllogisms, another by equivocal arguments, still another by some other inn of this sort. And remaining attached to this, they rot away as though they were among the Sirens.
The aim of the man is a right proairesis, not eloquence (42-45)
[II,23,42] You sir, your program was to fashion yourself able to use the impressions that befall you in a way which is in accord with the nature of things: unfailing in desire, unstumbling in aversion, never misfortuned, never having ill fortune, free, unhampered, unconstrained; reconciled to the government of Zeus, obedient to this government, being well pleased of this government; not blaming anybody, not imputing anybody, able to say these lines from your whole soul: *Lead me, Zeus, and you indeed, Destiny*. [II,23,43] And then, while you have this program, because you are well pleased with a trifling phrase, because you are pleased with certain general philosophical principles, do you halt just there and choose deliberately to reside there, forgetful of those at home and say: “These things are pretty”? And who says that they are not? But as a transit, as inns. [II,23,44] For what prevents the fellow who expresses himself like Demosthenes from being misfortuned? What prevents the fellow who resolves syllogisms like Chrysippus from being miserable; what prevents him from mourning, from envying, in short from being disconcerted and unhappy? Nothing! [II,23,45] See, then, that these were worthless
inns and that the program was another one.
If you want to misunderstand what I say about ends and means, please misunderstand and put me too among those who damage their hearers (46-47)
[II,23,46] When I say this to some people, they think that I knock down our diligence about speaking or about the general philosophical principles. Yet I do not knock this down but only the habit of dwelling exclusively and unendedly in this business and of setting our hopes in such business. [II,23,47] If by setting forth this view one damages his hearers, then set me down too as one who damages his hearers. When I notice that the most powerful and dominant thing is a certain one I cannot, in order to gratify you, say that it is another one.
TO ONE OF THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN THOUGHT BY HIM UNWORTHY OF AN ANSWER
Not only speaking, but listening too is an art (1-10)
[II,24,1] When someone told him ‘I came often here craving to listen to you, but you never gave me an answer. [II,24,2] Now, if it’s possible, I pray you to say something to me’; Do you think, said Epictetus, that as for anything else, so there is also an art of speaking and that the one who has this art will speak skilfully while the one who does not have it will speak unskilfully? [II,24,3] -I think so- Therefore that man would speak skilfully, who through the speech could benefit himself and benefit others too; while the fellow who rather damages himself and damages others, would be unskilled in this art of speaking? You would find that some are damaged while others benefited. [II,24,4] And are all the hearers benefited by what they hear or would you find that some of these are benefited while others are damaged? -For them also it is so, he said- Therefore here too, are those who hear skilfully benefited while those who hear unskilfully are damaged? -He acknowledged that- [II,24,5] Is there, then, also a certain skill in listening precisely as there is in speaking? -So it seems- [II,24,6] If you decide so, analyse the issue in this way also. Whom do you think able to touch the strings of an instrument with musical skill? – The musician- [II,24,7] And what? Who appears to you able to fashion a statue as one ought? – The sculptor- And to skilfully look at it does it appear to you something requiring no art at all? -This too requires some art- [II,24,8] If, then, to speak as one ought is the part of the skilled speaker, do you see that also listening with benefit is the part of the skilled listener? [II,24,9] But for the time being, if you decide so, let’s give up the question of ‘perfectly’ and of ‘benefit’, since we are both far away from anything of this sort. [II,24,10] But I think anyone would acknowledge that he who is going to listen to the philosophers is in need of a certain amount of consummate skill as listener. Or is it not so?
The pupil must be able to stimulate the interest of the teacher (11-18)
[II,24,11] What, then, should I talk to you about? Show me! What are you able of hearing about? About good and evil things? Of whom? Of the horse? -No- Of the ox? -No- [II,24,12] What then? Of the man? -Yes- Do we know, then, what a man is, what his nature is, what the concept of man is? Do we have on this subject pierced ears? Do you have the concept of what the nature of things is and can you, and how much, follow me when I speak? [II,24,13] Shall I use demonstrations with you? How? Do you understand what a demonstration is or how anything is demonstrated or by what means? Or which operations are similar to a demonstration but are not a demonstration? [II,24,14] Do you know what is true and what is false? What follows what, what contradicts what or is inconsistent with or out of harmony with what? Am I to move you to philosophy? [II,24,15] How can I point out to you the contradiction of the multitude of human beings, contradiction by which they quarrel on things good and evil, on what is useful and useless, if you do not know exactly this, what a contradiction is? Show
me what I’ll conclude through a dialogue with you. Move an impulsion for it in me! [II,24,16] As the appropriate grass, when shown to the sheep, moves in it an eagerness to eat, while the sheep will not be moved if you place before it a stone or some bread; in the same way there are in us too certain natural impulsions to speak, when he who will listen appears to us to be an interesting person, when he inspires us. But if he lies nearby like a stone or fodder, how can he move such desire in a man? [II,24,17] Does the vine say to the farmer “Take care of me”? Yet disclosing by its very appearance that to take care of it will be to his advantage, it stimulates his diligence. [II,24,18] The persuasive and cunning children, whom do they not stimulate to play with them, to creep, to stammer with them? Who dashes to play or to bray with an ass? Even if small, yet it is a donkey.
Ignorance is the cause of the moral misery of human beings (19-20)
[II,24,19] -Why, then, do you tell me nothing?- I have to tell you only this: that the person unaware of who he is, what he has been born for, what sort of world is this one in which he lives and with what mates, what good and evil things are, beautiful and shameful things are; who understands neither a reasoning nor a demonstration nor what is true nor what is false nor is able to distinguish them; who will neither desire, nor avert, nor impel, nor design, nor assent, nor dissent, nor suspend his judgement in accord with the nature of things; on the whole this person will go around deaf and blind, thinking to be somebody when, instead, he is nobody. [II,24,20] Is it now the first time that the business stands like this? Is it not like this from the time when the human race exists? From that time, have all the aberrations and misfortunes not been born from this ignorance?
Agamemnon and Achilles (21-23)
[II,24,21] Why did Agamemnon and Achilles quarrel with one another? Was it not because they did not know what is useful and what is useless? Does not one say that it’s useful to give Chryseis back to his father, while the other says that this is not useful? Does not one say that he must take the war’s prize of another, and the other that he ought not? Is it not for all these reasons that they forgot who they were and what they had come for? [II,24,22] Please, you sir, what did you come here for? To get beloved girls for yourself or to wage war? “To wage war”. Against whom? The Trojans or the Greeks? “The Trojans”. Do you, then, let loose Hector and unsheathe the sword against your king? [II,24,23] And you, sir, you give up the king’s deeds *who has the charge of nations and sustains such mighty cares*, and you spar for a wench at your most warlike ally, whom you ought to treat with deference and protect in every way? And do you become worse of a smart high priest who cleaves to wonderful gladiators with every diligence? Do you see what sort of things causes the ignorance of what is useful?
The external gifts we have are not our true self (24-29)
[II,24,24] “But I am wealthy in money too!” Are you, perhaps, wealthier in money than Agamemnon? “But I am also handsome!” Are you, perhaps, more handsome than Achilles? “But I have also a pretty forelock!” And was not that of Achilles more handsome and blond? Did he not comb and shape it smartly? [II,24,25] “But I am also strong!” Can you, perhaps, lift so big a stone as Hector or Aias did? “But I am also of noble-breed!” Are you, perhaps, from a divine mother, from a father who was progeny of Zeus? Of what use are these things to Achilles when he sits and cries for the wench? [II,24,26] “But I am also an orator!” And was he not? Do you not notice how he dealt with Odysseus and Phoenix, the most skilful in discourses among the Greeks, how he struck them dumb? [II,24,27] This only I have to tell you, and without any spirited vigour. -Why?- [II,24,28] Because you did not inspire me. For, what in you might inspire me as the experts in horsemanship are inspired when they see some thoroughbred horses? Your body? You shape it in a ugly manner. Your clothes? This too is effeminate. Your aspect, your gaze? Nothing. [II,24,29] When you want to hear a philosopher, do not tell him: “Do you say nothing to me?”. But only show yourself able to hear and you will see how you will move the speaker.
HOW IS LOGIC NECESSARY?
Logic: you should use it even to deny its necessity (1-3)
[II,25,1] When someone of the those present said ‘Persuade me that the logic is profitable’ Do you want me, said Epictetus, to demonstrate this? -Yes- [II,25,2] Must I, then, argue through a demonstrative argument? The other acknowledged. Whence, then, will you know if I impose upon you? [II,25,3] As the other was silent, ‘You see’, said Epictetus, ‘how you yourself acknowledge that the logic is necessary, if, without it, you cannot even learn whether it is necessary or not necessary’.