Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Epictetus: How a Man on every occasion can maintain his Proper Character

- Man is naturally attracted to rationality and repulsed by the irrational.
- You have to know yourself to apply rationality to the world, because we perceive rational action differently depending on who we are.
- If you know who you are you don't need advice, you won't consider things that are alien to your nature.
- The person who is true to herself won't let others' desires affect her decisions. Even under threat she will act according to her rational nature.
- You make yourself remarkable by acting according to your rational nature. People who are animals are disregarded.
- To change your decisions, your path, because of a threat -- even a threat of death -- is not being true to yourself.
- How do you learn your nature? If you have a nature, you must therefore have the power to perceive it. Discipline yourself to learn your nature.
- Don't let the best be the enemy of the good. Strive to be your best even if you won't be as good as others.


Obviously Epictetus values being rational and detached over pleasure, but why? He also seems to over-estimate people's ability to be mindful of their own thinking and actions; it's not my experience of others that they equally easily know themselves.

1 comment:

Kami said...

I think he's instructing people to become more mindful as an ideal to reach for.

As far as separating out pleasure, that may be a reaction to his culture. Did he coexist with Hedonists? If so, is this a not-very-veiled comment on their philosophy and choices?

I think it's possible to be very mindful and also be involved in pleasure, even both at the same time. I consider aspects of arranging for someone else's pleasure or indulging in pleasure mindfully is a form of creative expression and is artful and beautiful.