Wednesday, July 23, 2008

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

Summary:
- 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.

Reaction:

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.