# Chapter 1

[1] We are responsible for some things, while there are others for which we cannot be held responsible. The former include our judgement, our impulse, our desire, aversion and our mental faculties in general; the latter include the body, material possessions, our reputation, status – in a word, anything not in our power to control. [2] The former are naturally free, unconstrained and unimpeded, while the latter are frail, inferior, subject to restraint – and none of our affair.

[3] Remember that if you mistake what is naturally inferior for what is sovereign and free, and what is not your business for your own, you’ll meet with disappointment, grief and worry and be at odds with God and man. But if you have the right idea about what really belongs to you and what does not, you will never be subject to force or hindrance, you will never blame or criticize anyone, and everything you do will be done willingly. You won’t have a single rival, no one to hurt you, because you will be proof against harm of any kind.

[4] With rewards this substantial, be aware that a casual effort is not sufficient. Other ambitions will have to be sacrificed, altogether or at least for now. If you want these rewards at the same time that you are striving for power and riches, chances are you will not get to be rich and powerful while you aim for the other goal; and the rewards of freedom and happiness will elude you altogether.

[5] So make a practice at once of saying to every strong impression: ‘An impression is all you are, not the source of the impression.’ Then test and assess it with your criteria, but one primarily: ask, ‘Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?’ And if it’s not one of the things that you control, be ready with the reaction, ‘Then it’s none of my concern.’

# Chapter 2

[1] The faculty of desire purports to aim at securing what you want, while a version purports to shield you from what you don’t. If you fail in your desire, you are unfortunate, if you experience what you would rather avoid you are unhappy. So direct aversion only towards things that are under your control and alien to your nature, and you will not fall victim to any of the things that you dislike. But if your resentment is directed at illness, death or poverty, you are headed for disappointment.

[2] Remove it from anything not in our power to control, and direct it instead toward things contrary to our nature that we do control. As for desire, suspend it completely for now. Because if you desire something outside your control, you are bound to be disappointed; and even things we do control, which under other circumstances would be deserving of our desire, are not yet within our power to attain. Restrict yourself to choice and refusal; and exercise them carefully, with discipline and detachment.1

# Chapter 3

In the case of particular things that delight you, or benefit you, or to which you have grown attached, remind yourself of what they are. Start with things of little value. If it is china you like, for instance, say, ‘I am fond of a piece of china.’ When it breaks, then you won’t be as disconcerted. When giving your wife or child a kiss, repeat to yourself, ‘I am kissing a mortal.’ Then you won’t be so distraught if they are taken from you.

# Chapter 4

Whenever planning an action, mentally rehearse what the plan entails. If you are heading out to bathe, picture to yourself the typical scene at the bathhouse – people splashing, pushing, yelling and pinching your clothes. You will complete the act with more composure if you say at the outset, ‘I want a bath, but at the same time I want to keep my will aligned with nature.’ Do it with every act. That way if something occurs to spoil your bath, you will have ready the thought, ‘Well, this was not my only intention, I also meant to keep my will in line with nature – which is impossible if I go all to pieces whenever anything bad happens.’

# Chapter 5

It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them. Death, for example, is nothing frightening, otherwise it would have frightened Socrates. But the judgement that death is frightening – now, that is something to be afraid of. So when we are frustrated, angry or unhappy, never hold anyone except ourselves – that is, our judgements – accountable. An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.

# Chapter 6

Don’t pride yourself on any assets but your own. We could put up with a horse if it bragged of its beauty. But don’t you see that when you boast of having a beautiful horse, you are taking credit for the horse’s traits? What quality belongs to you? The intelligent use of impressions. If you use impressions as nature enchiridion prescribes, go ahead and indulge your pride, because then you will be celebrating a quality distinctly your own.

# Chapter 7

If you are a sailor on board a ship that makes port, you may decide to go ashore to bring back water. Along the way you may stop to collect shellfish, or pick greens. But you always have to remember the ship and listen for the captain’s signal to return. When he calls, you have to drop everything, otherwise you could be bound and thrown on board like the livestock.

So it is in life. If, instead of greens and shellfish, you have taken on a wife and child, so much the better. But when the captain calls, you must be prepared to leave them behind, and not give them another thought. If you are advanced in years, don’t wander too far, or you won’t make it back in time when the summons reaches you.

# Chapter 8

Don’t hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace.

# Chapter 9

Sickness is a problem for the body, not the mind – unless the mind decides that it is a problem. Lameness, too, is the body’s problem, not the mind’s. Say this to yourself whatever the circumstance and you will find without fail that the problem pertains to something else, not to you.

# Chapter 10

For every challenge, remember the resources you have within you to cope with it. Provoked by the sight of a handsome man or a beautiful woman, you will discover within you the contrary power of self-restraint. Faced with pain, you will discover the power of endurance. If you are insulted, you will discover patience. In time, you will grow to be confident that there is not a single impression that you will not have the moral means to tolerate.

# Chapter 11

Under no circumstances ever say ‘I have lost something,’ only ‘I returned it.’ Did a child of yours die? No, it was returned. Your wife died? No, she was returned. ‘My land was confiscated.’ No, it too was returned.

‘But the person who took it was a thief.’

Why concern yourself with the means by which the original giver effects its return? As long as he entrusts it to you, look after it as something yours to enjoy only for a time – the way a traveller regards a hotel.

# Chapter 12

[1] If you want to make progress, drop reflections like: ‘I will end up destitute if I don’t take better care of my affairs,’ or, ‘Unless I discipline my slave, he’ll wind up good for nothing.’ It is better to die of hunger free of grief and apprehension than to live affluent and uneasy. Better that your slave should be bad than that you should be unhappy.

[2] For that reason, starting with things of little value – a bit of spilled oil, a little stolen wine – repeat to yourself: ‘For such a small price I buy tranquillity and peace of mind.’ But nothing is completely free. So when you call your slave, be prepared for the possibility that he might ignore you, or if he does answer, that he won’t do what he’s told. He is not worth entrusting with your peace of mind.

# Chapter 13

If you want to make progress, put up with being perceived as ignorant or naive in worldly matters, don’t aspire to a reputation for sagacity. If you do impress others as somebody, don’t altogether believe it. You have to realize, it isn’t easy to keep your will in agreement with nature, as well as externals. Caring about the one inevitably means you are going to shortchange the other.

# Chapter 14

[1] You are a fool to want your children, wife or friends to be immortal; it calls for powers beyond you, and gifts not yours to either own or give. It is equally naive to ask that your slave be honest; it amounts to asking that vice be not vice but something different.2 You can, however, avoid meeting with disappointment in your desires; focus on this, then, since it is in the scope of your capacities. [2] We are at the mercy of whoever wields authority over the things we either desire or detest. If you would be free, then, do not wish to have, or avoid, things that other people control, because then you must serve as their slave.

# Chapter 15

Remember to act always as if you were at a symposium. When the food or drink comes around, reach out and take some politely; if it passes you by don’t try pulling it back. And if it has not reached you yet, don’t let your desire run ahead of you, be patient until your turn comes. Adopt a similar attitude with regard to children, wife, wealth and status, and in time, you will be entitled to dine with the gods. Go further and decline these goods even when they are on offer and you will have a share in the gods’ power as well as their company. That is how Diogenes, Heraclitus3 and philosophers like them came to be called, and considered, divine.

# Chapter 16

Whenever you see someone in tears, distraught because they are parted from a child, or have met with some material loss, be careful lest the impression move you to believe that their circumstances are truly bad. Have ready the reflection that they are not upset by what happened – because other people are not upset when the same thing happens to them – but by their own view of the matter. Nevertheless, you should not disdain to sympathize with them, at least with comforting words, or even to the extent of sharing outwardly in their grief. But do not commiserate with your whole heart and soul.

# Chapter 17

Remember that you are an actor in a play, the nature of which is up to the director to decide. If he wants the play to be short, it will be short, if he wants it long, it will be long. And if he casts you as one of the poor, or as a cripple, as a king or as a commoner – whatever role is assigned, the accomplished actor will accept and perform it with impartial skill. But the assignment of roles belongs to another.4

# Chapter 18

If you hear a raven croak inauspiciously,5 do not be alarmed by the impression. Make a mental distinction at once, and say, ‘These omens hold no significance for me; they only pertain to my body, property, family, or reputation. For me every sign is auspicious, if I want it to be, because, whatever happens, I can derive some benefit from it.’

# Chapter 19

[1] You will never have to experience defeat if you avoid contests whose outcome is outside your control. [2] Don’t let outward appearances mislead you into thinking that someone with more prestige, power or some other distinction must on that account be happy. If the essence of the good lies within us, then there is no place for jealousy or envy, and you will not care about being a general, a senator or a consul – only about being free. And the way to be free is to look down on externals.

# Chapter 20

Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation. Whichis whyit is essential that wenot respond impulsively to impressions; take a moment before reacting, and you will find it is easier to maintain control.

# Chapter 21

Keep the prospect of death, exile and all such apparent tragedies before you every day – especially death – and you will never have an abject thought, or desire anything to excess.

# Chapter 22

If you commit to philosophy, be prepared at once to be laughed at and made the butt of many snide remarks, like, ‘Suddenly there’s a philosopher among us!’ and ‘What makes him so pretentious now?’ Only don’t be pretentious: just stick to your principles as if God had made you accept the role of philosopher. And rest assured that, if you remain true to them, the same people who made fun of you will come to admire you in time; whereas, if you let these people dissuade you from your choice, you will earn their derision twice over.

# Chapter 23

If you are ever tempted to look for outside approval, realize that you have compromised your integrity. So be satisfied just being a philosopher, and if you need a witness in addition, be your own; and you will be all the witness you could desire.

# Chapter 24

[1] Don’t let thoughts like the following disturb you: ‘I am going to live a life of no distinction, a nobody in complete obscurity.’ Is lack of distinction bad? Because if it is, other people cannot be the cause of it, any more than they can be the cause of another’s disgrace. Is it solely at your discretion that you are elevated to office, or invited to a party? No; so it cannot be a dishonour if you are not. And how can you be ‘a nobody in obscurity’ when you only have to be somebody in the areas you control – the areas, that is, where you have the ability to shine?

[2] But your friends, you say, will be helpless. If by ‘helpless’ you mean that they won’t get money from you, and you won’t be able to make them Roman citizens – well, whoever told you that responsibility for such things belongs to us? Besides, who can give another what he does not have himself? ‘Make money,’ someone says, ‘so that we can all share in it.’ [3] If I can make money while remaining honest, trustworthy and dignified, show me how and I will do it. But if you expect me to sacrifice my own values, just so you can get your hands on things that aren’t even good – well, you can see yourself how thoughtless and unfair you’re being. Which would you rather have, anyway – money, or a worthy and faithful friend? So why not support me to that end, rather than asking me to engage in behaviour that involves the loss of these qualities?

[4] ‘But my community will be helpless – to the extent that I can help.’ Again, what kind of help do you have in mind? You can’t give it buildings or baths, true, but so what? The blacksmith can’t give it shoes, nor can the cobbler supply it with arms. It’s enough if everyone plays their respective part. I mean, wouldn’t you benefit your community by adding another lawful and loyal citizen to its rolls?


Then evidently you have it in you to benefit it all on your own.

‘Well, what will my profession in the community be?’ Whatever position you are equipped to fill, so long as you preserve the man of trust and integrity. [5] If you lose that in your zeal to be a public benefactor, what use in the end will you betothe community once you have been rendered shameless and corrupt?

# Chapter 25

[1] Someone was preferred above you at a formal dinner or awards banquet, and their advice was solicited before yours. If such marks of esteem are good, you should be pleased for the other person; if they are not, don’t chafe because you did not get them. And remember, if you do not engage in the same acts as others with a view to gaining such honours, you cannot expect the same results. [2] A person who will not stoop to flattery does not get to have the flatterer’s advantages. One who dances attendance on a superior is rewarded differently from someone who sits out. Refuse to praise someone and you cannot expect the same compensation as a flatterer. It would be unfair and greedy on your part, then, to decline to pay the price that these privileges entail and hope to get them free.

[3] How much is a head of lettuce worth? One obol, perhaps? Now if someone pays an obol and gets the head of lettuce, while you will not pay this much and therefore go without, don’t imagine that you necessarily come off second best. As he has the lettuce, you still have the money. [4] And it’s much the same in our case. You were not invited to someone’s party, because you wouldn’t pay the host the price of admission, namely paying her court and singing her praises. So pay the bill, if you expect to gain by it, and give no further thought to the expense. But if you won’t pay the bill and still want the benefits, you are not only greedy but a fool. [5] If you forgo the meal, however, must it mean that you leave empty- handed? You have the advantage of not having to praise the host, which you find disagreeable (and won’t have to put up with the insolence of his slaves).

# Chapter 26

We can familiarize ourselves with the will of nature by calling to mind our common experiences. When a friend breaks a glass, we are quick to say, ‘Oh, bad luck.’ It’s only reasonable, then, that when a glass of your own breaks, you accept it in the same patient spirit. Moving on to graver things: when somebody’s wife or child dies, to a man we all routinely say, ‘Well, that’s part of life.’ But if one of our own family is involved, then right away it’s ‘Poor, poor me!’ We would do better to remember how we react when a similar loss afflicts others.

# Chapter 27

Just as a target is not set up in order to be missed, so evil is no natural part of the world’s design.

# Chapter 28

If your body was turned over to just anyone, you would doubtless take exception. Why aren’t you ashamed that you have made your mind vulnerable to anyone who happens to criticize you, so that it automatically becomes confused and upset?

# Chapter 29

[1] Reflect on what every project entails in both its initial and subsequent stages before taking it up. Otherwise you will likely tackle it enthusiastically at first, since you haven’t given thought to what comes next; but when things get difficult you’ll wind up quitting the project in disgrace. [2] You want to win at the Olympics? So do I – who doesn’t? It’s a glorious achievement; but reflect on what’s entailed both now and later on before committing to it. You have to submit to discipline, maintain a strict diet, abstain from rich foods, exercise under compulsion at set times in weather hot and cold, refrain from drinking water or wine whenever you want – in short, you have to hand yourself over to your trainer as if he were your doctor. And then there are digging contests to endure, and times when you will dislocate your wrist, turn your ankle, swallow quantities of sand, be whipped – and end up losing all the same.

[3] Consider all this, and if you still want to, then give athletics a go. If you don’t pause to think, though, you’ll end up doing what children do, playing at wrestler one minute, then gladiator, then actor, then musician. And you – you’re an athlete now, next a gladiator, an orator, a philosopher – but nothing with all your heart. You’re like a monkey who imitates whatever it happens to see, infatuated with one thing after another. You haven’t approached anything attentively, or thought things through; your approach to projects is casual and capricious.

[4] Some people, likewise, see a philosopher or hear someone like Euphrates lecture (only, who can lecture like him?) and get it in their heads to become philosophers too. [5] Listen, friend, research the role, then assess your capacity to fill it, just as you assess your arms, thighs and back if you hope to be a wrestler or pentathlete. [6] We are not all cut out for the same thing. Do you think that as a philosopher you can eat and drink, or exercise desire and aversion, as you do at present? You have to stay up nights, put up with pain, leave your family, be looked down on by slaves, suffer ridicule from strangers, be outdone in status, in power, in legal matters – get the worst of it, in other words, down to the last little thing. [7] Ponder whether you’re prepared to pay this price for serenity, freedom and calm. If not, then don’t go near it – don’t, like children, be a philosopher now, a tax officer later, then an orator or politician. These roles don’t mix; you have to be one person, good or bad. You have to care either for your mind or for material things; specialize in what is within you or without – which is to say, you have to stick to the role of philosopher or layman.

# Chapter 30

Duties are broadly defined by social roles. This man is your father: the relationship demands from you support, constant deference and tolerance for his verbal, even his physical, abuse.

‘But he’s a bad father.’

Look, nature has endeared you to a father, not necessarily a good one.

‘My brother is unfair to me.’

Well then, keep up your side of the relationship; don’t concern yourself with his behaviour, only with what you must do to keep your will in tune with nature. Another person will not hurt you without your cooperation; you are hurt the moment you believe yourself to be.

The titles of neighbour, citizen and general will likewise suggest to you what functions they entail, once you begin to give social relationships their due in your daily deliberations.

# Chapter 31

[1] Realize that the chief duty we owe the gods is to hold the correct beliefs about them: that they exist, that they govern the world justly and well, and that they have put you here for one purpose – to obey them and welcome whatever happens, in the conviction that it is a product of the highest intelligence. This way you won’t ever blame the gods or charge them with neglect. [2] And this cannot happen unless you stop applying ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to externals and only describe things under our control that way. Because, if you regard any external as good or bad, and fail to get what you want or get what you don’t want instead, you will blame the gods and inevitably hate them for being the cause of your trouble.

[3] Every living thing by nature shrinks and turns away from whatever it considers harmful or malicious, just as it loves and gravitates toward what is helpful and sympathetic. Anyone who imagines that they are being wronged can no more love the offender than the offence. [4] And so we find even fathers being blamed by their children, when they fail to give them what the child regards as good. It is the same reason Polyneices and Eteocles became enemies – the idea each had that it would be better to rule alone. It is why farmers curse the gods; why sailors, traders and men who have lost wives or children curse them too. Piety cannot exist apart from self-interest. The upshot is, when you practise using desire and aversion correctly, you practise being pious.

[5] At the same time, it is never wrong to make sacrifice, pour libations, or offer first fruits in the traditional manner, as long as it is done attentively and not carelessly or by rote, and you neither offer too little nor spend beyond your means.

# Chapter 32

[1] In your approach to divination, bear in mind that you don’t know what will happen, you go in order to learn it from the prophet. A philosopher, however, arrives already knowing the value of what’s to come. If it’s anything outside his sphere of influence, he knows it can be neither good nor bad. [2] So if you consult a prophet, leave desire, fear, and aversion behind, in the assurance that the future, per se, is indifferent, and nothing to you. You can make use of it, whatever it is, and there’s not a soul who can stop you. Approach the gods with a dignified attitude, think of them as your advisers. But once their advice has been given, remember the source and consider who you would be slighting if you were to set that advice aside.

[3] Make use of divination the way Socrates thought it should be used,6 i.e. solely when it’s a matter of learning the future – not when there’s a problem that can be resolved by the application of reason (another human resource). Don’t, for example, resort to divination if you are duty-bound to come to the defence of your country or share in some danger threatening a friend. Suppose the seer declares the omens unfavourable – which, in cases like this, could spell exile for you, physical injury, even death. And still reason demands that you stick by your friend, or help defend your country. On that score we have only to consult the greatest prophet of all, Apollo: he refused to let someone enter his temple who had once ignored cries for help from a friend under assault from robbers.

# Chapter 33

[1] Settle on the type of person you want to be and stick to it, whether alone or in company.

[2] Let silence be your goal for the most part; say only what is necessary, and be brief about it. On the rare occasions when you’re called upon to speak, then speak, but never about banalities like gladiators, horses, sports, food and drink – commonplace stuff. Above all don’t gossip about people, praising, blaming or comparing them. [3] Try to influence your friends to speak appropriately by your example. If you find yourself in unfamiliar company, however, keep quiet.

[4] Keep laughter to a minimum; do not laugh too often or too loud.

[5] If possible, refuse altogether to take an oath; resist, in any case, as far as circumstances will permit.

[6] Avoid fraternizing with non-philosophers. If you must, though, be careful not to sink to their level; because, you know, if a companion is dirty, his friends cannot help but get a little dirty too, no matter how clean they started out.

[7] Where the body is concerned, take only what is strictly necessary in the way of food, drink, clothing, shelter and household slaves. Cut out luxury and ostentation altogether.

[8] Concerning sex, stay as chaste as you can before marriage. If you do indulge, engage only in licit liaisons. Don’t be harsh or judgemental towards others who have sex; if you are celibate yourself, don’t advertise the fact.

[9] If you learn that someone is speaking ill of you, don’t try to defend yourself against the rumours; respond instead with, ‘Yes, and he doesn’t know the half of it, because he could have said more.’

[10] There is no call to be a regular at the public games. But if the occasion should arise and you go, don’t be seen siding with anyone except yourself; which is to say, hope only for what happens to happen, and for the actual winner to win; then you won’t be unhappy. Yelling, jeering and excessive agitation should be avoided completely. Don’t talk much about the event afterwards, or any more than is necessary to get it out of your system. Otherwise it becomes obvious that the experience captivated you.

[11] Don’t too soon, or too lightly, attend other people’s lectures; when you do go remain serious and reserved, without being disagreeable.

[12] When you are going to meet someone, especially someone deemed important, imagine to yourself what Socrates or Zeno would have done in the situation and you won’t fail to get on, whatever happens. [13] When you are going to the house of someone influential, tell yourself that you won’t find them in, that you will be locked out, that the door will be slammed in your face, that they won’t give you the time of day. And, despite that, if it’s the right thing to go, then go and face the consequences. Don’t say to yourself later, ‘It wasn’t worth it.’ That’s the mark of a conventional person at odds with life.

[14] In your conversation, don’t dwell at excessive length on your own deeds or adventures. Just because you enjoy recounting your exploits doesn’t mean that others derive the same pleasure from hearing about them.

[15] And avoid trying to be funny. That way vulgarity lies, and at the same time it’s likely to lower you in your friends’ estimation.

[16] It is also not a good idea to venture on profanity. If it happens, and you aren’t out of line, you may even criticize a person who indulges in it. Otherwise, signal your dislike of his language by falling silent, showing unease or giving him a sharp look.

# Chapter 34

As with impressions generally, if you get an impression of something pleasurable, watch yourself so that you are not carried away by it. Take a minute and let the matter wait on you. Then reflect on both intervals of time: the time you will have to experience the pleasure, and the time after its enjoyment that you will beat yourself up over it. Contrast that with how happy and pleased you’ll be if you abstain. If the chance to do the deed presents itself, take extra care that you are not overcome by its seductiveness, pleasure and allure. Counter temptation by remembering how much better will be the knowledge that you resisted.

# Chapter 35

If you decide to do something, don’t shrink from being seen doing it, even if the majority of people disapprove. If you’re wrong to do it, then you should shrink from doing it altogether; but if you’re right, then why worry how people will judge you?

# Chapter 36

Just as the propositions ‘It is day’ and ‘It is night’ together contribute much to disjunctive propositions, but nothing to conjunctive ones,7 so, even allowing that taking the largest portion of a dish contributes to the health of the body, it contributes nothing to the communal spirit that a dinner party should typify. So when you dine in company, remember not only to consider what the food on offer can do for your health, have some consideration for your host’s good health too.

# Chapter 37

If you undertake a role beyond your means, you will not only embarrass yourself in that, you miss the chance of a role that you might have filled successfully.

# Chapter 38

As you are careful when you walk not to step on a nail or turn your ankle, so you should take care not to do any injury to your character at the same time.8 Exercise such caution whenever we act, and we will perform the act with less risk of injury.

# Chapter 39

Each man’s body defines the limit of his material needs, as, on a small scale, the foot does with regard to shoes. Observe this principle, and you will never be in any confusion as to what those limits are. Exceed them, and you inevitably fall off a virtual cliff. As with shoes – if you don’t limit yourself to what the foot needs, you wind up with gold heels, purple pumps or even embroidered slippers. There’s no end once the natural limit has been exceeded.

# Chapter 40

At the age of fourteen girls begin to be addressed by men as ‘ladies’. From this they infer that the world honours them for nothing so much as their potential as sexual partners. Consequently, they become preoccupied with their appearance to the exclusion of everything else. They must be made to realize that they are entitled to be called ‘ladies’ only insofar as they cultivate modesty and self- respect.

# Chapter 41

It shows a lack of refinement to spend a lot of time exercising, eating, drinking, defecating or copulating. Tending to the body’s needs should be done incidentally, as it were; the mind and its functions require the bulk of our attention.

# Chapter 42

Whenever anyone criticizes or wrongs you, remember that they are only doing or saying what they think is right. They cannot be guided by your views, only their own; so if their views are wrong, they are the ones who suffer insofar as they are misguided. I mean, if someone declares a true conjunctive proposition to be false, the proposition is unaffected, it is they who come off worse for having their ignorance exposed. With this in mind you will treat your critic with more compassion. Say to yourself each time, ‘He did what he believed was right.’

# Chapter 43

Every circumstance comes with two handles, with one of which you can hold it, while with the other conditions are insupportable. If your brother mistreats you, don’t try to come to grips with it by dwelling on the wrong he’s done (because that approach makes it unbearable); remind yourself that he’s your brother, that you two grew up together; then you’ll find that you can bear it.

# Chapter 44

The following are non-sequiturs: ‘I am richer, therefore superior to you’; or ‘I am a better speaker, therefore a better person, than you.’ These statements, on the other hand, are cogent: ‘I am richer than you, therefore my wealth is superior to yours’; and ‘I am a better speaker, therefore my diction is better than yours.’ But you are neither wealth nor diction.

# Chapter 45

Someone bathes in haste; don’t say he bathes badly, but in haste. Someone drinks a lot of wine; don’t say he drinks badly, but a lot. Until you know their reasons, how do you know that their actions are vicious? This will save you from perceiving one thing clearly, but then assenting to something different.

# Chapter 46

[1] Never identify yourself as a philosopher or speak much to non- philosophers about your principles; act in line with those principles. At a dinner party, for instance, don’t tell people the right way to eat, just eat the right way. Remember how Socrates so effaced himself that people used to approach him seeking an introduction to philosophers, and he would graciously escort them; that’s how careless he was of the slight. [2] If conversation turns to a philosophical topic, keep silent for the most part, since you run the risk of spewing forth a lot of ill-digested information. If your silence is taken for ignorance, but it doesn’t upset you – well, that’s the real sign that you have begun to be a philosopher. Sheep don’t bring their owners grass to prove to them how much they’ve eaten, they digest it inwardly and outwardly bring forth milk and wool. So don’t make a show of your philosophical learning to the uninitiated, show them by your actions what you have absorbed.

# Chapter 47

When your body gets used to simple living, don’t preen over it; if you’re a water drinker, don’t take every opportunity to announce it. If you want to train for physical austerities, do it for yourself, not for outsiders. Don’t embrace marble statues;9 but if you happen to be very thirsty, try taking some cold water in your mouth and spitting it out – and don’t tell anyone.

# Chapter 48

[1] The mark and attitude of the ordinary man: never look for help or harm from yourself, only from outsiders. The mark and attitude of the philosopher: look for help and harm exclusively from yourself.

[2] And the signs of a person making progress: he never criticizes, praises, blames or points the finger, or represents himself as knowing or amounting to anything. If he experiences frustration or disappointment, he points the finger at himself. If he’s praised, he’s more amused than elated. And if he’s criticized, he won’t bother to respond. He walks around as if he were an invalid, careful not to move a healing limb before it’s at full strength. [3] He has expunged all desire, and made the things that are contrary to nature and in his control the sole target of his aversion. Impulse he only uses with detachment. He does not care if he comes across as stupid or naive. In a word, he keeps an eye on himself as if he were his own enemy lying in ambush.

# Chapter 49

Whenever someone prides himself on being able to understand and comment on Chrysippus’ books, think to yourself, ‘If Chrysippus had written more clearly, this person would have nothing to be proud of.’ As for me, I care only about understanding nature, and following its leads. So I look for someone to interpret nature for me, and after hearing that Chrysippus can, I turn to him. So far, I have no cause for conceit. When I find that Chrysippus really can interpret nature, it still remains for me to act on his suggestions – which is the only thing one can be proud of. If I admire the interpretation, I have turned into a literary critic instead of a philosopher, the only difference being that, instead of Homer, I’m interpreting Chrysippus. But whenever people ask me to interpret Chrysippus for them, I only feel shame that my actions don’t meet or measure up to what he says.

# Chapter 50

Whatever your mission, stick by it as if it were a law and you would be committing sacrilege to betray it. Pay no attention to whatever people might say; this no longer should influence you.

# Chapter 51

[1] How long will you wait before you demand the best of yourself, and trust reason to determine what is best? You have been introduced to the essential doctrines, and claim to understand them. So what kind of teacher are you waiting for that you delay putting these principles into practice until he comes? You’re a grown man already, not a child any more. If you remain careless and lazy, making excuse after excuse, fixing one day after another when you will finally take yourself in hand, your lack of progress will go unnoticed, and in the end you will have lived and died unenlightened.

[2] Finally decide that you are an adult who is going to devote the rest of your life to making progress. Abide by what seems best as if it were an inviolable law. When faced with anything painful or pleasurable, anything bringing glory or disrepute, realize that the crisis is now, that the Olympics have started, and waiting is no longer an option; that the chance for progress, to keep or lose, turns on the events of a single day. [3] That’s how Socrates got to be the person he was, by depending on reason to meet his every challenge. You’re not yet Socrates, but you can still live as if you want to be him.

# Chapter 52

[1] The first and most important field of philosophy is the application of principles such as ‘Do not lie.’ Next come the proofs, such as why we should not lie. The third field supports and articulates the proofs, by asking, for example, ‘How does this prove it? What exactly is a proof, what is logical inference, what is contradiction, what is truth, what is falsehood?’ [2] Thus, the third field is necessary because of the second, and the second because of the first. The most important, though, the one that should occupy most of our time, is the first. But we do just the opposite. We are preoccupied with the third field and give that all our attention, passing the first by altogether. The result is that we lie – but have no difficulty proving why we shouldn’t.

# Chapter 53

[1] In every circumstance we should have the following sentiments handy:

Lead me, Zeus, lead me, Destiny, To the goal I was long ago assigned
And I will follow without hesitation. Even should I resist, In a spirit of perversity, I will have to follow nonetheless.

[2] Whoever yields to necessity graciously We account wise in God’s ways.10

[3] ‘Dear Crito if it pleases the gods, so be it.’

[4] ‘Anytus and Meletus can kill me, but they cannot harm me.’

# Footnotes

  1. Restrict yourself... detachment: To exercise choice and (its opposite) refusal with ‘detachment’ means with an awareness that success in either case is not ours to guarantee.
  2. It is equally naive... something different: I.e. because vice, like virtue, depends on the free choice of the agent (the slave), not on the will of his master.
  3. Diogenes, Heraclitus: Diogenes is Diogenes the Cynic, whom Epictetus often cites with approval. Heraclitus was a Greek philosopher of the fifth century BC for whom Stoics had a special regard; cf. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations VIII 3: ‘Alexander and Caesar and Pompey, what are they compared with Diogenes and Heraclitus and Socrates?’
  4. But the assignment of roles belongs to another: Cf. I 25, 13.
  5. If you hear a raven croak inauspiciously: An allusion to the ancient belief in bird augury, a form of divination.
  6. Make use of divination... should be used: One version of Socrates’ views on divination is recorded in Xenophon’s Memorabilia, I 1, 6 sq.
  7. Just as the propositions... conjunctive ones: I.e. the disjunctive proposition ‘Either it is day or it is night’ is always true at any one time, whereas the conjunctive proposition ‘Both it is day and it is night’ is false at any moment.
  8. As you are careful... at the same time: E.g. by ‘strutting’ or otherwise walking in an inappropriate manner, or engaging in undignified thoughts or daydreams.
  9. Don’t embrace marble statues: Outdoors, naked, in cold weather: a bizarre and showy kind of austerity practised by Diogenes and other Cynics.
  10. And I will follow... God’s ways: The quotation is from an unknown play by Euripides.