Friday, February 1, 2019

Epictetus Discourses 1.26 - What is the law of life?

Theory is nice and gets us thinking about what is appropriate, but actual living is what counts.  Epictetus says, "far more important is the law of life that states that we must do what follows from nature" (v. 1, p. 56).  We live in a physical universe and world.  While some may sit around and theorize all day and live in a world of words, it ultimately doesn't matter until they actually do something physical.  One other way of stating this is: theorizing is easy, doing is harder.

Now, with that stated, we indeed have to start with education.  Nothing great was ever accomplished without some thought or retrospective.  This is why Epictetus says we go astray due to ignorance.  Along those same lines, it is education and theory that teaches us; not anger.  "To whom has anger ever taught the art of navigation or music?  When it comes to the art of life, do you suppose, then, that your anger will teach me what I need to know?" (v. 7, p. 56).

He also teaches us that the first step in philosophy is "to become aware of the condition of one's ruling center" (v. 15, p. 57).  In other words, we need to know the state of our attitude and mindset.  If it is weak, then we ought not to use it in matters of importance.  If it is weak, we need to strengthen it and discipline and focus it.  And to begin to do so, means we examine our life.  As Socrates said, "the unexamined life is not worth living."

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