Saturday, February 2, 2019

Epictetus Discourses 1.27 - In how many ways do impressions arise, and what should we have at hand to help us deal with them?

The world is full of ideas, impressions, opinions and events.  We are bombarded with so many voices telling us what to think and not to think; what to do and not do.  And our ruling center needs to sort through the mountains of data to guide us on a safe course.  This is what philosophy aims to teach us: how to successfully navigate the bombardment.

Epictetus says, "Whatever difficulty may trouble us, we must bring forward the appropriate remedy to apply against it" (v. 3, p. 58).  If we have a bad habit that needs correction, then we find a solution to stop the old and begin a new habit.  If we are uneducated and have faulty thinking, then we must find and apply a solution in the form of sound reasoning and thinking.  "Against sophistic arguments we should apply logical reasoning, and train ourselves in such reasoning so as to become familiar with it.  Against specious appearance, we should apply clear preconceptions, keeping them well polished and ready for use" (v. 6, p. 58).

He then uses "death" as an example of a process we all ought to go through when trying to deal with false impressions.

If you are afraid of death and wish to escape it, then find a way.  Can you go to a place or to people who can prevent you from dying?  Then go!  But if you cannot escape death, will you then grieve?  Or will you accept your fate?

If you can change the "external circumstance" (i.e. it's in your control), then do so.  But if you cannot, then this is where you must embrace and love your fate.  Else, you become impious (you hate God/Zeus/the Universe).

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