January 11

WHAT was it, that waked Epicurus from his sleep, and compelled him to write what he did? What else but that which is of all others the most powerful in mankind, nature; which draws everyone, however unwilling and reluctant, to its own purposes? For since, says she, you think that there is no relation between mankind, write this doctrine, and leave it for the use of others, and break your sleep upon that account; and, by your own practice, confute your own principles. Do we say that Orestes was roused from sleep by the agitation of the Furies; and was not Epicurus waked by Furies more cruel and avenging, which would not suffer him to rest, but compelled him to divulge his own evils, as wine and madness do the priests of Cybele? So strong and unconquerable a thing is human nature! For how can a vine have the properties not of a vine, but of an olive-tree? Or an olive-tree not those of an olive-tree, but of a vine? It is impossible. It is inconceivable. Neither, therefore, is it possible for a human creature entirely to lose human affections. But even those who have undergone a mutilation cannot have their inclinations also mutilated: and so Epicurus, when he had mutilated all the offices of a man, of a master of a family, of a citizen, and of a friend, did not mutilate the inclinations of humanity. ... What a misfortune is it when anyone, after having received from nature standards and rules for the knowledge of truth, doth not strive to add to these, and make up their deficiencies; but, on the contrary, endeavours to take away and destroy whatever truth may be known even by them.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §20. ¶3.


  1. "Is it possible for a human creature entirely to lose human affections?" Epictetus argues that it is not. We are made for each other, to support and succor each other. It is simply how we are built. The feelings and impressions may be just that, but in this passage, Epictetus tells us that we work against our own natures when we try to suppress our inclination to help and support, and moreover, that we should cultivate these ties, build on these feelings, in short, that we should nurture and act on our compassion. It is unnatural not to.

  2. For in this is true happiness to strive to always live, grow and seek according to your nature. True happiness is to understand what your nature is and to always live and grow and seek growth in accordance with that nature. This is what our society today is missing. Rather than striving for the next best thing, gadget, vehicle or house, strive to fulfill an individual's true nature. Continuously striving to live the best life possible, true to the individual's Nature and the world's Nature will allow us to find true and lasting happiness.