February 28

SOLITUDE is the state of a helpless person. For not he who is alone is therefore solitary, any more than one in a crowd the contrary. When therefore, we lose a son, or a brother, or a friend on whom we have been used to repose, we often say we are left solitary even in the midst of Rome, where such a crowd is continually meeting us.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §13. ¶1.

AT what time soever thou wilt, it is in thy power, to retire into thyself, and to be at rest, and free from all businesses. A man cannot anywhither retire better, than to his own soul: he especially who is beforehand provided of such things within, which whensoever he doth withdraw himself to look in, may presently afford unto him perfect ease and tranquillity.



February 27

LET it always appear, and be manifest unto thee, that solitariness, and desert places, by many Philosophers, so much esteemed of, and affected, are of themselves but thus and thus; and that all things are here to them that live in Towns, and converse with others: as they are the same nature everywhere to be seen and observed: to them that have retired themselves to the top of mountains, and to desert Havens, or what other desert and inhabited places soever. For anywhere if thou wilt mayest thou quickly find and apply that to thyself, which Plato saith of his Philosopher, in a place; as private and retired saith he, as if he were shut up and enclosed about in some Shepherd's lodge, on the top of a hill. There by thyself to put these questions to thyself, or to enter into these considerations: What is my chief and principal part, which hath power over the rest? What is now the present estate of it, as I use it; and what is it, that I employ it about? Is it now void of reason or no? Is it free, and separated; or so affixed, so congealed and grown together, as it were with the flesh, that it is swayed by the motions and inclinations of it?



February 26

HE that hath not one and the selfsame general end always as long as he liveth, cannot possibly be one and the selfsame man always. But this will not suffice except thou add also what ought to be this general end. For as the general conceit and apprehension of all those things which upon no certain ground are by the greater part of men deemed good, cannot be uniform and agreeable, but that only which is limited, and restrained by some certain proprieties and conditions, as of community: that nothing be conceived good, which is not commonly, and publicly good : so must the end also that we propose unto ourselves, be common and sociable. For he that doth direct all his own private motions and purposes to that end, all his actions will be agreeable and uniform; and by that means will be still the same man.



February 25

SET death before me, set pain, set a prison, set ignomony, set condemnation before me, and you will know me. This is the proper ostentation of a young man come out from the schools. Leave the rest to others. Let no one ever hear you utter a word about them, nor suffer it, if anyone commends you for them: but think that you are nobody, and that you know nothing. Appear to know only this, how you may never be disappointed of your desire; never incur your aversion. Let others study causes, problems, and syllogisms. Do you study death, chains, torture, exile: and all these with courage, and reliance upon him who hath called you to them, and judged you worthy a post in which you may show what the rational governing faculty can do when set in array against powers independent on the choice. And thus, this paradox becomes neither impossible nor a paradox, that we must be at once cautious and courageous: courageous in what doth not depend upon choice, and cautious in what doth.



February 24

WHAT is asserted by the philosophers may, perhaps, appear a paradox to some: let us, however, examine, as well as we can, whether this be true: That it is possible in all things to act at once with caution and courage. For caution seems, in some measure, contrary to courage; and contraries are by no means consistent. The appearance of a paradox to many, in the present case, seems to me to arise from something like this. If, indeed, we assert that courage and caution are to be used in the same instances, we should justly be accused of uniting contradictions: but, in the way that we afifirm it, where is the absurdity? For, if what hath been so often said, and so often demonstrated, be certain, that the essence of good and evil consists in the use of the appearances; and that things independent on choice are not of the nature either of good or evil: what paradox do the philosophers assert, if they say: "Where things are not dependent on choice, be courageous; where they are, be cautious?" For in these only, if evil consists in a bad choice, is caution to be used.



February 23

WHEN one of the company said to him, "Convince me that logic is necessary."

"Would you have me demonstrate it to you?" says he.


"Then I must use a demonstrative form of argument."


"And how will you know then whether I argue sophistically?"

On this, the man being silent, "You see," says he, "that even by your own confession, logic is necessary; since without its assistance, you cannot learn so much as whether it be necessary or not."

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §25. ¶1.


February 22

THIS, again, is folly and insolence to say: "I am impassive and undisturbed. Be it known to you, mortals, that while you are fluctuating and bustling about for things of no value, I alone am free from all perturbation." — Are you then so far from being contented with having no pain yourself, that you must needs make proclamation: "Come hither, all you who have the gout, or the headache, or a fever, or are lame, or blind, and see me free from every distemper." This is vain and shocking, unless you could show, like Aesculapius, by what method of cure they may presently become as free from distempers as yourself, and bring your own health as a proof of it.



February 21

EVERY error in life implies a contradiction: for, since he who errs doth not mean to err, but to be in the right, it is evident that he acts contrary to his meaning. What doth a thief mean ? His own interest. If, then, thieving be against his interest, he acts contrary to his own meaning. Now every rational soul is naturally averse to self-contradiction: but so long as anyone is ignorant that it is a contradiction, nothing restrains him from acting contradictorily: but whenever he discovers it, he must as necessarily renounce and avoid it, as anyone must dissent from a falsehood whenever he perceives it to be a falsehood: but while this doth not appear, he assents to it as to a truth.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §26. ¶1.


February 20

YOU see that Caesar hath procured us a profound peace; there are neither wars nor battles, nor great robberies nor piracies, but we may travel at all hours, and sail from east to west. But can Caesar procure us peace from a fever too? From a shipwreck ? From a fire? From an earthquake? From a thunderstorm? Nay, even from love? He cannot. From grief? From envy? No, not from any one of these. But the doctrine of philosophers promises to procure us peace from these too. And what doth it say? "If you will attend to me, O mortals, wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, you shall neither grieve nor be angry, nor be compelled nor restrained ; but you shall live impassive, and free from all." Shall not he who enjoys this peace, proclaimed, not by Cresar (for how should he have it to proclaim?) but by God, through reason, be contented, when he is alone reflecting and considering: "To me there can now no ill happen; there is no thief, no earthquake. All is full of peace, all full of tranquillity; every road, every city, every assembly. My neighbour, my companion, unable to hurt me."

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §13. ¶1.


February 19

HOW do we act in a voyage? What is in my power? To choose the pilot, the sailors, the day, the time of day. Afterwards comes a storm. What have I to care for? My part is performed. The subject belongs to another, to the pilot. But the ship is sinking: what then have I to do? That which alone I can do; I am drowned, without fear, without clamour, or accusing God; but as one who knows that what is born must likewise die. For I am not eternity, but a man; a part of the whole, as an hour is of the day. I must come like an hour, and like an hour must pass away. What signifies it whether by drowning or by a fever? For, in some way or other, pass I must.



February 18

ALL are preserved and improved by operations correspondent to their several faculties; as a carpenter, by building; a grammarian, by grammar; but if he accustom himself to write ungrammatically, his art will necessarily be spoiled and destroyed. Thus modest actions preserve the modest man, and immodest ones destroy him; faithful actions, the faithful man, and the contrary destroy him. On the other hand, contrary actions heighten contrary characters. Thus impudence, an impudent one; knavery, a knavish one; slander, a slanderous one; anger, an angry one; and inequitable dealings, a covetous one.



February 17

HERE is the artificer; here are the materials; what is it we want? Is not the thing capable of being taught? It is. Is it not in our own power, then? The only thing of all others that is so. Neither riches, nor health, nor fame, nor, in short, anything else, is in our power, except the right use of the appearances of things. This alone is, by nature, not subject to restraint, not subject to hindrance. Why, then, do not you finish it? Tell me the cause. It must be by my fault, or yours, or from the nature of the thing. The thing itself is practicable, and the only one in our power. The fault then must be either in me, or in you, or, more truly, in both. Well, then, shall we now, at last, bring this intention along with us? Let us lay aside all that is past. Let us begin. Only believe me, and you will see the consequence.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §19. ¶4.


February 16

THE materials of action are indifferent; but the use of them is not indifferent.

How, then, shall one preserve intrepidity and tranquillity; and at the same time be careful, and neither rash nor indolent?

By imitating those who play at tables. The dice are indifferent; the pieces are indifferent. How do I know what will fall out? But it is my business to manage carefully and dexterously whatever doth fall out. Thus in life, too, this is the chief business; distinguish and separate things, and say, "Externals are not in my power, choice is. Where shall I seek good and evil? Within; in what is my own." But in what belongs to others, call nothing good, or evil, or profit, or hurt, or anything of that sort.



February 15

IT is not death or pain that is to be feared; but the fear of pain or death. Hence we commend him who says:

Death is no ill, but shamefully to die.

Courage, then, ought to be opposed to death, and caution to the fear of death: whereas we, on the contrary, oppose to death, flight; and to our principle concerning it, carelessness and desperateness and indifference.



February 14

IF you perceive any of those things which you have learned and studied occurring to you in action, rejoice in them. If you have laid aside ill-nature and reviling; if you have lessened your harshness, indecent language, inconsiderateness, effeminacy; if you are not moved by the same things as formerly, if not in the same manner as formerly, you may keep a perpetual festival: to-day, because you have behaved well in one affair; to-morrow, because in another. How much better a reason for sacrifice is this, than obtaining a consulship or a government?


WHENSOEVER by some present hard occurrences thou art constrained to be in some sort troubled and vexed, return unto thyself as soon as may be, and be not out of tune longer than thou must needs. For so shalt thou be the better able to keep thy part another time, and to maintain the harmony, if thou dost use thyself to this continually; once out, presently to have recourse unto it, and to begin again.



February 13

IT is not easy to gain the attention of effeminate young men, for you cannot take custard by a hook; but the ingenuous, even if you discourage them, are the more eager for learning. Hence Rufus, for the most part, did discourage them, and made use of that as a criterion of the ingenuous and disingenuous. For he used to say, As a stone, even if you throw it up, will by its own propensity be carried downward; so an ingenuous mind, the more it is forced from its natural bent, the more strongly will it incline towards it.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §6. ¶4.

WHATEVER rules you have deliberately proposed to yourself for the conduct of life, abide by them as so many laws, and as if you would be guilty of impiety in transgressing any of them; and do not regard what anyone says of you, for this, after all, is no concern of yours.



February 12

TWO things must be rooted out of man: conceit and diffidence. Conceit lies in thinking you want nothing; and diffidence, in supposing it impossible, that under such adverse circumstances, you should succeed.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §14. ¶4.

WHAT, then, is it to be properly educated? To learn how to adapt natural preconceptions to particular cases, conformably to nature; and, for the future, to distinguish that some things are in our own power, others not. In our own power are choice, and all actions dependent on choice; not in our power, the body, the parts of the body, property, parents, brothers, children, country, and, in short, all with whom we are engaged in society. Where, then, shall we place good? To what kind of things shall we adapt the preconception of it? To that in our own power.



February 11

WHEN you let go your attention for a little while, do not fancy you may recover it whenever you please; but remember this, that by means of the fault of to-day your affairs must necessarily be in a worse condition for the future. First, what is the saddest thing of all, a habit arises of not attending; and then a habit of deferring the attention, and always driving off from time to time, and procrastinating a prosperous life, a propriety of behaviour, and the thinking and acting conformably to nature. Now, if the procrastination of anything is advantageous, the absolute omission of it is still more advantageous; but, if it be not advantageous, why do not you preserve a constant attention?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §12. ¶1.

"WHAT, then, is it possible by these means to be faultless?"

Impracticable; but this is possible, to use a constant endeavour to be faultless. For we shall have cause to be satisfied if, by never remitting this attention, we shall be exempt at least from a few faults.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §12. ¶4.


February 10

WHERE is improvement, then?

If any of you, withdrawing himself from externals, turns to his own faculty of choice, to exercise, and finish, and render it conformable to nature; elevated, free, unrestrained, unhindered, faithful, decent: if he hath learnt too, that whoever desires, or is averse to, things out of his own power, can neither be faithful nor free, but must necessarily be changed and tossed up and down with them; must necessarily too be subject to others, to such as can procure or prevent what he desires or is averse to: if, rising in the morning, he observes and keeps to these rules; bathes and eats as a man of fidelity and honour; and thus, on every subject of action, exercises himself in his principal duty; as a racer, in the business of racing; as a public speaker, in the business of exercising his voice: this is he who truly improves; this is he who hath not wrought in vain.



February 9

UPON every action that thou art about, put this question to thyself; How will this when it is done agree with me? Shall I have no occasion to repent of it? Yet a very little while and I am dead and gone; and all things are at end. What then do I care for more than this, that my present action, whatsoever it be, may be the proper action of one that is reasonable; whose end is, the common good; who in all things is ruled and governed by the same law of right and reason, by which God Himself is


CONTRACT thy whole life to the measure and proportion of one single action. And if in every particular action thou dost perform what is fitting to the utmost of thy power, let it suffice thee. And who can hinder thee, but that thou mayest perform what is fitting? But there may be some outward let and impediment. Not any, that can hinder thee, but that whatsoever thou doest, thou may do it, justly, temperately, and with the praise of God. Yea, but there may be somewhat, whereby some operation or other of thine may be hindered. And then, with that very thing that doth hinder, thou mayest be well pleased, and so by this gentle and aequanimous conversion of thy mind unto that which may be, instead of that which at first thou didst intend, in the room of that former action there succeedeth another, which agrees as well with this contraction of thy life, that we now speak of.



February 8

IT is high time for thee to understand that there is somewhat in thee, better and more divine than either thy passions, or thy sensual appetites and affections. What is now the object of my mind, is it fear, or suspicion, or lust, or any such thing? To do nothing rashly without some certain end; let that be thy first care. The next, to have no other end than the common good. For, alas! yet a little while, and thou art no more: no more will any, either of those things that now thou seest, or of those men that now are living, be any more.



February 7

KEEP thyself pure from all violent passion, and evil affection, from all rashness and vanity, and from all manner of discontent, either in regard of the gods, or men. For indeed whatsoever proceeds from the gods, deserves respect for their worth and excellency; and whatsoever proceeds from men, as they are our kinsmen, should by us be entertained, with love, always; sometimes, as proceeding from their ignorance of that which is truly good and bad (a blindness no less, than that by which we are not able to discern between white and black:) with a kind of pity and compassion also.



February 6

WHAT doth an adulterer lose? The modest, the chaste character; the neighbour. What doth an angry person lose? Something else. A coward? Something else. No one is wicked without some loss or damage. Now, if, after all, you make the loss of money the only damage, all these are unhurt and undamaged. Nay, it may be, even gainers; as, by such practices, their money may possibly be increased. But consider: if you refer everything to money, the man who loses his nose is not hurt. Yea, say you, he is maimed in his body. Well; but doth he, who loses his smell itself, lose nothing? Is there, then, no faculty of the soul which he who possesses it is the better for, and he who parts with it the worse?

What sort do you mean?

Have we not a natural sense of honour?

We have.

Doth he who loses this suffer no damage? Is he deprived of nothing? Doth he part with nothing that belongs to him? Have we no natural fidelity? No natural affection? No natural disposition to mutual usefulness, to mutual forbearance? Is he, then, who carelessly suffers himself to be damaged in these respects, unhurt and undamaged ?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §10. ¶5.


February 5

DO men lose nothing but money? Is not modesty to be lost? Is not decency to be lost ? Or may he who loses these suffer no damage? You, indeed, perhaps no longer think anything of this sort to be a damage. But there was once a time when you accounted this to be the only damage and hurt; when you were anxiously afraid lest anyone should shake your regard from these discourses and actions. See, it is not shaken by another, but by yourself. Fight against yourself, recover yourself to decency, to modesty, to freedom.


DO not variegate the structure of your walls with Euboean and Spartan stone; but adorn both the minds of the citizens and of those who govern them by the Grecian education. For cities are made good habitations by the sentiments of those who live in them, not by wood and stone.



February 4

NEVER regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust, or lose your sense of shame, or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill-will, or hypocrisy, or a  desire for things best done behind closed doors. If you can privilege your own mind, your guiding spirit and your reverence for its powers, that you keep you clear of dramatics, of wailing and gnashing of teeth. You won't need solitude - or a cast of thousands either. Above all, you'll be free of fear and desire. And long your body will contain the soul that inhabits it will cause you not a moment's worry. If it's time for you to go, leave willingly - as you would to accomplish anything that can be done with grace and honor. And concentrate on this, you whole life long:  for your mind to be in the right state - the state a rational, civic mind should be in.



February 3

THE first and highest purity, or impurity, then, is that which is formed in the soul. But you will not find the impurity of the soul and body to be alike. For what else of impurity can you find in the soul than that which renders it filthy with regard to its operations? Now the operations of the soul are its pursuits and avoidances, its desires, aversions, preparations, intentions, assents. What, then, is that which renders it defiled and impure in these operations? Nothing else than its perverse judgments. So that the impurity of the soul consists in wicked principles, and its purification in the forming right principles; and that is pure which hath right principles, for that alone is unmixed and undefiled in its operations.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §11. 5-8.


February 2

PRAY, what figure do you think Hercules would have made if there had not been such a lion, and a hydra, and a stag, and unjust and brutal men; whom he expelled and cleared away? And what would he have done if none of these had existed? Is it not plain that he must have wrapped himself up and slept? In the first place, then, he would never have become a Hercules by slumbering away his whole life in such delicacy and ease; or if he had, what good would it have done? What would have been the use of his arm, and the rest of his strength; of his patience, and greatness of mind, if such circumstances and subjects of action had not roused and exercised him?

What then: must we provide these things for ourselves, and introduce a boar, and a lion, and a hydra, into our country?

This would be madness and folly. But as they were in being, and to be met with, they were proper subjects to set off and exercise Hercules. Do you therefore likewise, being sensible of this, inspect the faculties you have, and after taking a view of them, say, "Bring on me now, O Jupiter, what difficulty thou wilt, for I have faculties granted me by thee, and abilities by which I may acquire honour and ornament to myself." — No; but you sit trembling, for fear this or that should happen; and lamenting, and mourning, and groaning at what doth happen; and then you accuse the gods.



February 1

PRAY, what would Hercules have been if he had said: "What can be done to prevent a great lion or a great boar or savage men from coming in my way?" Why, what is that to you? If a great boar should come in your way, you will fight the greater combat; if wicked men, you will deliver the world from wicked men. — "But, then, if I should die by this means?" — You will die a good man in the performance of a gallant action.


CONDEMN your actions: but when you have condemned them, do not despair of yourself, nor be like those poor-spirited people who, when they have once given way, abandon themselves entirely, and are carried along as by a torrent. Take example from the wrestling masters. Hath the boy fallen down? Get up again, they say; wrestle again till you have acquired strength.