January 7

YOU say theorems are useless. To whom? To such as apply them ill. For medicines for the eyes are not useless to those who apply them when and as they ought. Fomentations are not useless; poisers are not useless; but they are useless to some, and, on the contrary, useful to others. If you should ask me now, Are syllogisms useful? I answer, that they are useful; and, if you please, I will show you how. "Will they be of service to me, then?” — Why, did you ask, man, whether they would be useful to you, or in general? If anyone in a dysentery should ask me whether acids be useful, I answer. They are. "Are they useful for me, then?" — I say. No. First try to get the flux stopped, and the exulceration healed. Do you, too, first get your ulcers healed; your fluxes stopped. Quiet your mind, and bring it free from distraction to the school, and then you will know what is the force of reasoning.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §21, ¶3.


  1. The medicine is only effective for the illness it is meant to cure.

    Philosophy is only effective for a quiet mind. We need to be free of as much drama as possible in order for a study of philosophy to have full effect. It is in the stillness that we can hear the still quiet voice of reason.

  2. We all want the panacea, the magic pill that fixes all of the messes we have made. It has taken years to bring ourselves to these places, where confusion and chaos at constant companions. It is by slow and steady realizations and application of the principles of philosophy, that we will slowly climb out of the pit trap we have dug for ourselves. The first lesson is patience.

  3. Some say that these philosophical sayings are useless. They are not useless, but simply not useful to every person all the time. Some may have already mastered the serene life. Others are not yet ready to hear these things. Don't waste your time and theirs by nitpicking ridiculous extremes. First apply the general principle, then when you have fully understood it, seek to perfect it. - Lessons from Epictetus