Monday, April 1, 2019

Epictetus Discourses 2.19 - To those who take up the teachings of the philosophers for the sake of talk alone

Epictetus calls out fake philosophers - people who read books and then quote them, but don't actually demonstrate they've thought about and applied what they've read.

The real test of a Stoic is in the actions.

"Show me how you're accustomed to behave in a ship when confronted with a storm.  Do you remember these theoretical distinctions when the sails are rattling and some mischievous bystander hears your cries of terror?" (v. 15, p. 119)

"If Caesar sends for you to respond to an accusation, and you remember these distinctions if, as you're entering the room pale and trembling, someone comes up to you and says, 'Why are you trembling, man?'" (v. 17, p. 119)

For a true Stoic, virtue is the sole good.  If you are a hypocrite, or show cowardice or pretend to be Stoic but are not, you "pride yourself on qualities that you don't possess." (v. 19, p. 119)

A real Stoic is "someone who is ill and yet happy, in danger and yet happy, dying and yet happy, exiled and yet happy" (v. 24, p. 119-120).

"It is a human soul that one of you should show me, the soul of a man who wants to be of one mind with God, and never find fault with God or man again, and to fail in none of his desires, to fall into nothing that he wants to avoid, never to be angry, never to be envious, never to be jealous, and who ... wishes to become a god instead of a human being, and though enclosed in this poor body, this corpse, aspires to achieve communion with Zeus" (v. 26, p. 120).

Epictetus tells us his mission: "this is the task that I've laid down for myself, to set you free from every obstacle, compulsion, and restraint, to make you free, prosperous, and happy, as one who looks to God in everything, great or small" (v. 29, p. 120).

Epictetus desired to make proof, out of his students, that nothing is in our power "other than to make right use of impressions" (v. 32, p. 120).

Showing ... being ... demonstrating ... is Stoic; discussing to learn is good, but then you should get down to business and show what you've learned.  Otherwise it's all pointless.

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