November 17

SUPPOSE I should prove to you that you are deficient in what is most necessary and important to happiness, and that hitherto you have taken care of everything, rather than your duty ; and, to complete all, that you understand neither what God or man or good or evil means? That you are ignorant of all the rest, perhaps, you may bear to be told; but if I prove to you that you are ignorant even of yourself, how will you bear with me, and how will you have patience to stay and be convinced? Not at all. You will immediately be offended and go away. And yet what injury have I done you? unless a looking-glass injures a person not handsome, when it shows him to himself such as he is. Or unless a physician can be thought to affront his patient when he says to him, "Do you think, sir, that you ail nothing? You have a fever. Eat no meat to-day, and drink water." Nobody cries out here, "What an intolerable affront!" But if you say to anyone, Your desires are in a fermentation; your aversions are low; your intentions contradictory; your pursuits not conformable to nature; your opinions rash and mistaken; he presently goes away, and complains he is affronted.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §14. ¶3.


  1. We fall prey to our own opinions so easily. If we disagree regarding God, or good, or evil, we defend our stance, saying "That is merely your opinion. I have my own opinions on the matter that are equally valid." But if we are told that we don't even know ourselves well enough to form an opinion, we are offended. We stumble about blindly, grasping to this dogma or that doctrine as a drowning man to wreckage. Wisely did the Delphic Temple speak. Know yourself. But we refuse, we are wounded, as if a mirror, when it shows us our face, is somehow insulting us. - Inspired by Epictetus