Thursday, March 22, 2018

Epictetus Discourses Book 1 Chapter 18 - some questions

How should we view and deal with thieves and robbers?  How do you react and think about immoral people?

Someone poses this question to Epictetus: "Well, shouldn't we do away with thieves and degenerates?"

Epictetus responds, "Shouldn't we rid ourselves of people deceived about what's most important, people who are blind - not in their faculty of vision, their ability to distinguish white from black - but in the moral capacity to distinguish good from bad."  He compares the loss of moral capacity with loss of seeing or hearing and he asks if we should execute the deaf and blind?  If someone loses the capacity to be moral, Epictetus views this as similar to the loss of a sense.  Should we execute someone who is blind?  No!  Similarly, should we execute someone who's ability to make moral choices is lost?  No!

But I will say, how do you determine the difference between someone who has lost their moral ability and someone who knows right from wrong, but still chooses to be immoral?  That's a tough question.

Interestingly enough, while working today, I happened to have the TV on and the Today Show with Megyn Kelly aired a segment about mothers dealing with children who have brain disorders - the very kind that prevents them from making moral or empathetic choices.  It's an interesting segment to watch and should give you pause when you are quick to "hate and take offence" (see verse 9).  The Today Show segment is called "Mothers Open Up About Concerns For Their Children With Brain Disorders" and it aired today, March 22, 2018.

Epictetus then goes on to discuss how we need to not place our desires in things that can be robbed from us.  He goes so far as to say that a tyrant can chain us up, and lop off our head, but the tyrant can never take our integrity from us.

How do we get to be this resilient?  "We should discipline ourselves in small things, and from there progress to things of greater value.  If you have a headache, practise not cursing.  Don't curse every time you have an earache.  And I'm not saying you can't complain, only don't complain with your whole being."  Later he says, "You are invincible if nothing outside the will can disconcert you."

In summary, test yourself.  Allow yourself to get into the mindset of constantly being tested and then work to win at those tests - to be the better man!  To quote one of my favorite Rocky lines, "How much can you take, and keep moving forward!  That's how winning is done!"


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