January 21

THE school of a philosopher is a surgery. You are not to go out of it with pleasure, but with pain: for you come there not in health; but one of you had a dislocated shoulder, another an abscess, a third a fistula, a fourth the headache. And am I, then, to sit uttering pretty trifling thoughts and little exclamations that, when you have praised me, you may each of you go away with the same dislocated shoulder, the same aching head, the same fistula, and the same abscess that you brought? And is it for this that young men are to travel? And do they leave their parents, their friends, their relations, and their estates that they may praise you while you are uttering little exclamations?

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


  1. Unless our philosophy affects people's lives for the better and changes them, fixes their "ills", then it is worthless. All of the great and high sounding phrases in the world are nothing if we don't actually help people to see what is wrong with their lives and give them tools to fix it.

    As always, "the proof of the pudding is in the tasting".

  2. Unless we first acknowledge that we are in need of healing, we are unlikely to seek a physician. It is telling that over half of the students who register Harvard's Positive Psychology 1504 (which amounts to 400 student per semester) have indicated that they attend because the want to heal from depression, hearbreak and anxiety. It seems that the sick are still flocking to the doctors.

  3. I really enjoyed this reading on two levels. First,we need to acknowledge we are sick/have problems/are unhappy before we can get better and getting better is hard work that only we can do.
    Second, when we encounter others, we need to know that they too may be struggling, in pain or are unhappy, and we need to try and have patience with them.