Sunday, September 19, 2004


Things stoic

Paul Musgrave inspired me to pull out an old copy of Epictetus's Discourses, which I remember picking up at a used book store while I was an undergraduate. I hope to regain and then to retain, until late in life, the spirit I had as an undergraduate in a used book store. Here are some things Epictetus said:
What things are to be learned, in order to know how to conduct an argument, the philosophers of our sect have accurately taught; but we are altogether unpracticed in the proper application of them. Only give to any one of us whom you will some illiterate person for an antagonist, and he will not find out how to treat him. But when he has moved the man a little, if he happens to answer at cross purposes, the questioner does not know how to deal with him any further, but either reviles or laughs at him, and says: "He is an illiterate fellow; there is no making anything of him." Yet a guide, when he perceives his charge going out of the way, does not revile and ridicule and then leave him, but leads him into the right path. Do you also show your antagonist the truth, and you will see that he will follow. But till you show it, do not ridicule him; but rather recognize your own incapacity. ...

These reasonings have no logical connection: "I am richer than you; therefore I am your superior." "I am more eloquent than you; therefore I am your superior." The true logical connection is rather this: "I am richer than you; therefore my possessions must exceed yours." "I am more eloquent than you; therefore my style must surpass yours." But you, after all, consist neither in property nor in style. ...

When any person treats you badly, or speaks ill of you, remember that he acts or speaks from an impression that it is right for him to do so. Now, it is not possible that he should follow what appears right to you, but only what appears so to himself. Therefore, if he judges from false appearances, he is the person hurt; since he too is the person deceived. For if anyone takes a true proposition to be false, the proposition is not hurt, but only the man is deceived. ...

Collective Improvisation:

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