January 19

WHY do you say nothing to me, then?

I have only this to say to you: That whoever is ignorant of what he is, and wherefore he was born, and in what kind of a world, and in what society; what things are good, and what evil; what fair, and what base: who understands neither discourse nor demonstration; nor what is true nor what is false; nor is able to distinguish between them: such a one will neither exert his desires, nor aversions, nor pursuits, conformably to nature; he will neither intend, nor assent, nor deny, nor suspend his judgment conformably to nature; but will wander up and down entirely deaf and blind, supposing himself to be somebody, while he is in reality nobody. Is there anything new in all this? Is not this ignorance the cause of all the errors that have happened from the very original of mankind?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §24. ¶2.


January 18

IN the same manner as we exercise ourselves against sophistical questions, we should exercise ourselves likewise in relation to such appearances as every day occur, for these two offer questions to us. Such a one's son is dead. What do you think of it? Answer: it is independent on choice, it is not an evil. — Such a one is disinherited by his father. What do you think of it? It is independent on choice, it is not an evil. — Caesar hath condemned him. This is independent on choice, it is not an evil. — He hath been afflicted by it. This is dependent on choice, it is an evil. — He hath supported it bravely. This is dependent on choice, it is a good.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §8. ¶1.


January 17

OF things that are external, happen what will to that which can suffer by external accidents. Those things that suffer let them complain themselves, if they will; as for me, as long as I conceive no such thing, as that that which is happened is evil, I have no hurt; and it is in my power not to conceive any such thing.


AT ANY things there be, which oftentimes insensibly trouble and vex thee, as not armed against them with patience, because they go not ordinarily under the name of pains, which indeed are of the same nature as pain; as to slumber unquietly, to suffer heat, to want appetite: when therefore any of these things make thee discontented, check thyself with these words: "Now hath pain given thee the foil: thy courage hath failed thee."


January 16

IN short, then, remember this, that whatever external to your own choice you esteem, you destroy that choice. And not only power is external to it, but the being out of power too; not only business, but leisure too. — "Then, must I live in this tumult now?" — What do you call a tumult? — "A multitude of people." — And where is the hardship? Suppose it is the Olympic games. Think it a public assembly. There, too, some bawl out one thing, some do another; some push the rest. The baths are crowded. Yet who of us is not pleased with these assemblies, and doth not grieve to leave them? Do not be hard to please, and squeamish at what happens. "Vinegar is disagreeable (says one), for it is sour. Honey is disagreeable (says a second), for it disorders my constitution. I do not like vegetables, says a third. Thus, too (say others), I do not like retirement; it is a desert: I do not like a crowd; it is a tumult." — Why, if things are so disposed that you are to live alone, or with few, call this condition a repose, and make use of it as you ought.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §2. ¶3.


January 15

DO but remember the general rules. What is mine? What not mine? What is allotted me? What is the will of God, that I should do now? What is not His will? A little while ago it was His will that you should be at leisure, should talk with yourself, write about these things, read, hear, prepare yourself. You have had sufficient time for this. At present He says to you, "Come now to the combat. Show us what you have learned, how you have wrestled." How long would you exercise by yourself? It is now the time to show whether you are of the number of those champions who merit victory, or of those who go about the world, conquered in all the games round. Why, then, are you out of humour? There is no combat without a tumult. There must be many preparatory exercises, many acclamations, many masters, many spectators.



January 14

AND it is impracticable, as well as tedious, to undertake the very thing that Jupiter himself could not do: to convince all mankind what things are really good and evil. Is this granted you? The only thing granted you is to convince yourself, and you have not yet done that; and do you, notwithstanding, undertake to convince others? Why, who hath lived so long with you as you have with yourself? Who is so likely to have faith in you, in order to be convinced by you, as you in yourself? Who is a better wisher, or a nearer friend to you, than you to yourself? How is it, then, that you have not yet convinced yourself? Should not you now turn these things every way in your thoughts ? What you were studying was this: to learn to be exempt from grief, perturbation, and meanness, and to be free. Have not you heard, then, that the only way that leads to this is to give up what doth not depend on choice: to withdraw from it, and confess that it belongs to others? What kind of thing, then, is another's opinion about you? — "Independent on choice." Is it nothing, then, to you? — "Nothing." While you are still piqued and disturbed about it, then, do you think that you are convinced concerning good and evil?



January 13

THEN hath a man attained to the estate of perfection in his life and conversation, when he so spends every day, as if it were his last day.


WHATSOEVER thou dost affect, whatsoever thou dost project, so do, and so project all, as one who, for aught thou knowest, may at this very present depart out of this life.


AS it is impossible to assent to an evident falsehood, or to deny an evident truth, so it is impossible to abstain from an evident good.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §7. ¶1.

EVIDENT good at first sight attracts, and evil repels. Nor will the soul any more reject an evident appearance of good than they will Caesar's coin.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §3. ¶2.