Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Three Final Excerpts from Epictetus

I've been posting some excerpts from Epictetus who was a Stoic philosopher from two thousand years ago and quite interesting to compare with Buddhist philosophy, along with commentary of my reactions to try to encourage discussion.

There were three more excerpts which stood-out for me which I'd like to share, so here they are: 
As if in a PlayPeople-Pleasing No Original Evil.

As if in a Play

Enchiridion 17: Remember that thou art an actor in a play of such a kind as the author may choose; if short, of a short one; if long, of a long one… see that you act the part naturally… For this is your duty, to act well the part that is given to you; but to select the part belongs to another.

Commentary: This appears at first to be the fatalistic stagnation of the very will which the Stoics would have us strengthen. "to select the part belongs to another" — indeed, it belongs to your self! The instruction then is rather to the ego, that it should have no importance attached to any role, but also that it should play the role as the self, as witness, would have it played should it be called upon to advise another. Emotions then, Epictetus advises, "may be displayed externally, but the mind remains still and undisturbed". But if an emotion is displayed well, it is by necessity felt, and if felt, the mind is necessarily disturbed in the expected manner… if you wish to avoid such disturbance, then you must indeed have selected your part to begin with, the part of the Stoic philosopher! Who today would make such a choice? Is it truthful?


Enchiridion 23: If it should ever happen to you to be turned to externals in order to please some person, you must know that you have lost your purpose in life. Be satisfied then in everything with being a philosopher.

Commentary: To please is to enjoy favourable conditions and to have another enjoy favourable conditions also. This should not be spurned, but the Stoic is concerned with a danger that we become enslaved by our need to please or be pleased, believing we must.

No Original Evil

Enchiridion 27: As a mark is not set up for the purpose of missing the aim, so neither does evil by nature exist in the world.

Commentary: This is the lesson of the meaning of sin as error. In Christian philosophy, it was rephrased as follows, though its impact was not properly appreciated: "Just as man does not set up a mark, or form an intention, for the purpose of missing the mark, so too nothing that God intended could be by purpose or design evil by nature."

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