Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Epictetus Discourses 2.26 - What is the distinctive characteristic of error?

"Every error involves a contradiction; for since someone who commits an error doesn’t want to do that, but to act rightly, it is clear that he isn’t doing what he wants.  For what does a thief want to achieve? Something that is to his benefit. If theft, then, is contrary to his benefit, he isn’t doing what he wants.  Now every rational mind is by nature averse to contradiction; but as long as someone fails to realize that he is involved in a contradiction, there is nothing to prevent him from carrying out contradictory actions; when he becomes aware of it, however, he must necessarily turn aside from the contradiction and avoid it, just as harsh necessity forces one to renounce what is false as soon as one realizes that it is false, although one assents to it as long as its falsity remains unapparent." (v. 1-3, p. 140).

"For if anyone can make that clear to him, he'll renounce his error of his own accord, but if you fail to show him, don’t be surprised if he persists in it" (v. 5, p. 140)

"Make the ruling centre aware of a contradiction, and it will renounce it; but if you fail to make it clear, blame yourself rather than the person whom you’re unable to convince." (v. 7, p. 141)

In summary, we must assume people are rational and want to do what is right.  We must also assume that once a person is taught correctly, they will act correctly.  Furthermore, if we attempt to correct others, we must not become shocked if they don't immediately change.  Do your best to teach and correct others, but don't fault yourself if you're unable to change their mind.

Marcus Aurelius prodded himself to always be in the mindset of, not blame, but of helping and teaching others in Book 6.27 and again in Book 5.28.

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