The Enchiridion - Epictetus

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The Enchiridion - Epictetus

Text of The Enchiridion - Epictetus

The EnchiridionBy Epictetus Written 135 A.C.E. Translated by Elizabeth Carter 1. Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion pursuit desire a!ersion and in a "ord "hate!er are our o"n actions. Things not in our control are body property reputation command and in one "ord "hate!er are not our o"n actions. The things in our control are by nature #ree unrestrained unhindered$ but those not in our control are "ea% sla!ish restrained belonging to others. &emember then that i# you suppose that things "hich are sla!ish by nature are also #ree and that "hat belongs to others is your o"n then you "ill be hindered. 'ou "ill lament you "ill be disturbed and you "ill #ind #ault both "ith gods and men. But i# you suppose that only to be your o"n "hich is your o"n and "hat belongs to others such as it really is then no one "ill e!er compel you or restrain you. (urther you "ill #ind #ault "ith no one or accuse no one. 'ou "ill do nothing against your "ill. )o one "ill hurt you you "ill ha!e no enemies and you not be harmed. Aiming there#ore at such great things remember that you must not allo" yoursel# to be carried e!en "ith a slight tendency to"ards the attainment o# lesser things. *nstead you must entirely +uit some things and #or the present postpone the rest. But i# you "ould both ha!e these great things along "ith po"er and riches then you "ill not gain e!en the latter because you aim at the #ormer too, but you "ill absolutely #ail o# the #ormer by "hich alone happiness and #reedom are achie!ed. Wor% there#ore to be able to say to e!ery harsh appearance -'ou are but an appearance and not absolutely the thing you appear to be.- And then e.amine it by those rules "hich you ha!e and #irst and chie#ly by this, "hether it concerns the things "hich are in our o"n control or those "hich are not$ and i# it concerns anything not in our control be prepared to say that it is nothing to you. 2. &emember that #ollo"ing desire promises the attainment o# that o# "hich you are desirous$ and a!ersion promises the a!oiding that to "hich you are a!erse. /o"e!er he "ho #ails to obtain the ob0ect o# his desire is disappointed and he "ho incurs the ob0ect o# his a!ersion "retched. *# then you con#ine your a!ersion to those ob0ects only "hich are contrary to the natural use o# your #aculties "hich you ha!e in your o"n control you "ill ne!er incur anything to "hich you are a!erse. But i# you are a!erse to sic%ness or death or po!erty you "ill be "retched. &emo!e a!ersion then #rom all things that are not in our control and trans#er it to things contrary to the nature o# "hat is in our control. But #or the present totally suppress desire, #or i# you desire any o# the things "hich are

not in your o"n control you must necessarily be disappointed$ and o# those "hich are and "hich it "ould be laudable to desire nothing is yet in your possession. 1se only the appropriate actions o# pursuit and a!oidance$ and e!en these lightly and "ith gentleness and reser!ation. 3. With regard to "hate!er ob0ects gi!e you delight are use#ul or are deeply lo!ed remember to tell yoursel# o# "hat general nature they are beginning #rom the most insigni#icant things. *# #or e.ample you are #ond o# a speci#ic ceramic cup remind yoursel# that it is only ceramic cups in general o# "hich you are #ond. Then i# it brea%s you "ill not be disturbed. *# you %iss your child or your "i#e say that you only %iss things "hich are human and thus you "ill not be disturbed i# either o# them dies. 4. When you are going about any action remind yoursel# "hat nature the action is. *# you are going to bathe picture to yoursel# the things "hich usually happen in the bath, some people splash the "ater some push some use abusi!e language and others steal. Thus you "ill more sa#ely go about this action i# you say to yoursel# -* "ill no" go bathe and %eep my o"n mind in a state con#ormable to nature.- And in the same manner "ith regard to e!ery other action. (or thus i# any hindrance arises in bathing you "ill ha!e it ready to say -*t "as not only to bathe that * desired but to %eep my mind in a state con#ormable to nature$ and * "ill not %eep it i# * am bothered at things that happen. 5. 2en are disturbed not by things but by the principles and notions "hich they #orm concerning things. 3eath #or instance is not terrible else it "ould ha!e appeared so to Socrates. But the terror consists in our notion o# death that it is terrible. When there#ore "e are hindered or disturbed or grie!ed let us ne!er attribute it to others but to oursel!es$ that is to our o"n principles. An uninstructed person "ill lay the #ault o# his o"n bad condition upon others. Someone 0ust starting instruction "ill lay the #ault on himsel#. Some "ho is per#ectly instructed "ill place blame neither on others nor on himsel#. 6. 3on4t be pride#ul "ith any e.cellence that is not your o"n. *# a horse should be pride#ul and say - * am handsome - it "ould be supportable. But "hen you are pride#ul and say - * ha!e a handsome horse - %no" that you are proud o# "hat is in #act only the good o# the horse. What then is your o"n5 6nly your reaction to the appearances o# things. Thus "hen you beha!e con#ormably to nature in reaction to ho" things appear you "ill be proud "ith reason$ #or you "ill ta%e pride in some good o# your o"n. 7. Consider "hen on a !oyage your ship is anchored$ i# you go on shore to get "ater you may along the "ay amuse yoursel# "ith pic%ing up a shellish or an onion. /o"e!er your thoughts and continual attention ought to be bent to"ards the ship "aiting #or the captain to call on board$ you must then immediately lea!e all these things other"ise you "ill be thro"n into the ship bound nec% and #eet li%e a sheep. So it is "ith li#e. *# instead o# an onion or a shell#ish you are gi!en a "i#e or child that is #ine. But i# the captain calls you must run to the ship lea!ing them and regarding none o# them. But i# you are old ne!er go #ar #rom the ship, lest "hen you are called you should be unable to come in time.

8. 3on4t demand that things happen as you "ish but "ish that they happen as they do happen and you "ill go on "ell. 9. Sic%ness is a hindrance to the body but not to your ability to choose unless that is your choice. 7ameness is a hindrance to the leg but not to your ability to choose. Say this to yoursel# "ith regard to e!erything that happens then you "ill see such obstacles as hindrances to something else but not to yoursel#. 10. With e!ery accident as% yoursel# "hat abilities you ha!e #or ma%ing a proper use o# it. *# you see an attracti!e person you "ill #ind that sel#8restraint is the ability you ha!e against your desire. *# you are in pain you "ill #ind #ortitude. *# you hear unpleasant language you "ill #ind patience. And thus habituated the appearances o# things "ill not hurry you a"ay along "ith them. 11. )e!er say o# anything -* ha!e lost it-$ but -* ha!e returned it.- *s your child dead5 *t is returned. *s your "i#e dead5 She is returned. *s your estate ta%en a"ay5 Well and is not that li%e"ise returned5 -But he "ho too% it a"ay is a bad man.- What di##erence is it to you "ho the gi!er assigns to ta%e it bac%5 While he gi!es it to you to possess ta%e care o# it$ but don4t !ie" it as your o"n 0ust as tra!elers !ie" a hotel. 12. *# you "ant to impro!e re0ect such reasonings as these, -*# * neglect my a##airs *4ll ha!e no income$ i# * don4t correct my ser!ant he "ill be bad.- (or it is better to die "ith hunger e.empt #rom grie# and #ear than to li!e in a##luence "ith perturbation$ and it is better your ser!ant should be bad than you unhappy. Begin there#ore #rom little things. *s a little oil spilt5 A little "ine stolen5 Say to yoursel# -This is the price paid #or apathy #or tran+uillity and nothing is to be had #or nothing.When you call your ser!ant it is possible that he may not come$ or i# he does he may not do "hat you "ant. But he is by no means o# such importance that it should be in his po"er to gi!e you any disturbance. 13. *# you "ant to impro!e be content to be thought #oolish and stupid "ith regard to e.ternal things. 3on4t "ish to be thought to %no" anything$ and e!en i# you appear to be somebody important to others distrust yoursel#. (or it is di##icult to both %eep your #aculty o# choice in a state con#ormable to nature and at the same time ac+uire e.ternal things. But "hile you are care#ul about the one you must o# necessity neglect the other. 14. *# you "ish your children and your "i#e and your #riends to li!e #or e!er you are stupid$ #or you "ish to be in control o# things "hich you cannot you "ish #or things that belong to others to be your o"n. So li%e"ise i# you "ish your ser!ant to be "ithout #ault you are a #ool$ #or you "ish !ice not to be !ice - but something else. But i# you "ish to ha!e your desires undisappointed this is in your o"n control. E.ercise there#ore "hat is in your control. /e is the master o# e!ery other person "ho is able to con#er or remo!e "hate!er that person "ishes either to ha!e or to a!oid. Whoe!er then "ould be #ree let him "ish nothing let him decline nothing "hich depends on others else he must necessarily be a sla!e.

15. &emember that you must beha!e in li#e as at a dinner party. *s anything brought around to you5 9ut out your hand and ta%e your share "ith moderation. 3oes it pass by you5 3on4t stop it. *s it not yet come5 3on4t stretch your desire to"ards it but "ait till it reaches you. 3o this "ith regard to children to a "i#e to public posts to riches and you "ill e!entually be a "orthy partner o# the #easts o# the gods. And i# you don4t e!en ta%e the things "hich are set be#ore you but are able e!en to re0ect them then you "ill not only be a partner at the #easts o# the gods but also o# their empire. (or by doing this 3iogenes /eraclitus and others li%e them deser!edly became and "ere called di!ine. 16. When you see anyone "eeping in grie# because his son has gone abro