(c. 50 A.D. - 125 A.D.)
1. Of all existing things some are
in our power, and others are not in our power. In our power are thought,
impulse, will to get and will to avoid, and, in a word, everything which
is our own doing. Things not in our power include the body, property,
reputation, office, and, in a word, everything which is not our own doing.
Things in our power are by nature free, unhindered, untrammelled; things
not in our power are weak, servile, subject to hindrance, dependent on
others. Remember then that if you imagine that what is naturally
slavish is free, and what is naturally another's is your own, you will
be hampered, you will mourn, you will be put to confusion, you will blame
gods and men; but if you think that only your own belongs to you, and that
what is another's is indeed another's, no one will ever put compulsion
or hindrance on you, you will blame none, you will accuse none, you will
do nothing against your will, no one will harm you, you will have no enemy,
for no harm can touch you.
Aiming then at these high matters, you
must remember that to attain them requires more than ordinary effort; you
will have to give up some things entirely, and put off others for the moment.
And if you would have these also - office and wealth - it may be that you
will fail to get them, just because your desire is set on the former, and
you will certainly fail to attain those things which alone bring freedom
Make it your study then to confront every
harsh impression with the words, 'You are but an impression, and not at
all what you seem to be.' Then test it by those rules that you possess;
and first by this - the chief test of all - 'Is it concerned with what
is in our power or with what is not in our power?' And if it is concerned
with what is not in our power, be ready with the answer that it is nothing
2. Remember that the will to get
promises attainment of what you will, and the will to avoid promises escape
from what you avoid; and he who fails to get what he wills is unfortunate,
and he who does not escape what he wills to avoid is miserable. If
then you try to avoid only what is unnatural in the region within your
control, you will escape from all that you avoid; but if you try to avoid
disease or death or poverty you will be miserable.
Therefore let your will to avoid have no
concern with what is not in man's power; direct it only to things in man's
power that are contrary to nature. But for the moment you must utterly
remove the will to get; for if you will to get something not in man's power
you are bound to be unfortunate; while none of the things in man's power
that you could honorably will to get is yet within your reach. Impulse
to act and not to act, these are your concern; yet exercise them gently
and without strain, and provisionally.
3. When anything, from the meanest
thing upwards, is attractive or serviceable or an object of affection,
remember always to say to yourself, 'What is its nature?' If you
are fond of a jug, say you are fond of a jug; then you will not be disturbed
if it be broken. If you kiss your child or your wife, say to yourself
that you are kissing a human being, for then if death strikes it you will
not be disturbed.
4. When you are about to take something
in hand, remind yourself what manner of thing it is. If you
are going to bathe put before your mind what happens in the bath - water
pouring over some, others being jostled, some reviling, others stealing;
and you will set to work more securely if you say to yourself at once:
'I want to bathe, and I want to keep my will in harmony with nature,' and
so in each thing you do; for in this way, if anything turns up to hinder
you in your bathing, you will be ready to say, 'I did not want only to
bathe, but to keep my will in harmony with nature, and I shall not so keep
it, if I lose my temper at what happens.'
5. What disturbs men's minds is not
events but their judgments on events. For instance, death is nothing
dreadful, or else Socrates would have thought it so. No, the only
dreadful thing about it is men's judgment that it is dreadful. And
so when we are hindered, or disturbed, or distressed, let us never lay
the blame on others, but on ourselves, that is, on our own judgments.
To accuse others for one's own misfortunes is a sign of want of education;
to accuse oneself shows that one's education has begun; to accuse neither
oneself nor others shows that one's education is complete.
6. Be not elated at an excellence
which is not your own. If the horse in his pride were to say, 'I
am handsome,' we could bear with it. But when you say with pride,
'I have a handsome horse,' know that the good horse is the ground of your
pride. You ask then what you can call your own. The answer
is - the way you deal with your impressions. Therefore when you deal
with your impressions in accord with nature, then you may be proud indeed,
for your pride will be in a good which is your own.
7. When you are on a voyage, and
your ship is at anchorage, and you disembark to get fresh water, you may
pick up a small shellfish or a truffle by the way, but you must keep your
attention fixed on the ship, and keep looking towards it constantly, to
see if the Helmsman calls you; and if he does, you have to leave everything,
or be bundled on board with your legs tied like a sheep. So it is
in life. If you have a dear wife or child given you, they are like
the shellfish or the truffle, they are very well in their way. Only,
if the Helmsman call, run back to your ship, leave all else, and do not
look behind you. And if you are old, never go far from the ship,
so that when you are called you may not fail to appear.
8. Ask not that events should happen
as you will, but let your will be that events should happen as they do,
and you shall have peace.
9. Sickness is a hindrance to the
body, but not to the will, unless the will consent. Lameness is a
hindrance to the leg, but not to the will. Say this to yourself at
each event that happens, for you shall find that though it hinders something
else it will not hinder you.
10. When anything happens to you,
always remember to turn to yourself and ask what faculty you have to deal
with it. If you see a beautiful boy or a beautiful woman, you will
find continence the faculty to exercise there; if trouble is laid on you,
you will find endurance; if ribaldry, you will find patience. And
if you train yourself in this habit your impressions will not carry you
11. Never say of anything, 'I lost
it,' but say, 'I gave it back.' Has your child died? It was
given back. Has your wife died? She was given back. Has
your estate been taken from you? Was not this also given back?
But you say, 'He who took it from me is wicked.' What does it matter
to you through whom the Giver asked it back? As long as He gives
it you, take care of it, but not as your own; treat it as passers-by treat
12. If you wish to make progress,
abandon reasonings of this sort: 'If l neglect my affairs I shall have
nothing to live on'; 'If I do not punish my son, he will be wicked.'
For it is better to die of hunger, so that you be free from pain and free
from fear, than to live in plenty and be troubled in mind. It is
better for your son to be wicked than for you to be miserable. Wherefore
begin with little things. Is your drop of oil spilt? Is your
sup of wine stolen? Say to yourself, 'This is the price paid for
freedom from passion, this is the price of a quiet mind.' Nothing
can be had without a price. When you call your slave-boy, reflect
that he may not be able to hear you, and if he hears you, he may not be
able to do anything you want. But he is not so well off that it rests
with him to give you peace of mind.
13. If you wish to make progress,
you must be content in external matters to seem a fool and a simpleton;
do not wish men to think you know anything, and if any should think you
to be somebody, distrust yourself. For know that it is not easy to
keep your will in accord with nature and at the same time keep outward
things; if you attend to one you must needs neglect the other.
14. It is silly to want your children
and your wife and your friends to live for ever, for that means that you
want what is not in your control to be in your control, and what is not
your own to be yours. In the same way if you want your servant to
make no mistakes, you are a fool, for you want vice not to be vice but
something different. But if you want not to be disappointed in your
will to get, you can attain to that.
Exercise yourself then in what lies in
your power. Each man's master is the man who has authority over what
he wishes or does not wish, to secure the one or to take away the other.
Let him then who wishes to be free not wish for anything or avoid anything
that depends on others; or else he is bound to be a slave.
15. Remember that you must behave
in life as you would at a banquet. A dish is handed round and comes
to you; put out your hand and take it politely. It passes you; do
not stop it. It has not reached you; do not be impatient to get it,
but wait till your turn comes. Bear yourself thus towards children,
wife, office, wealth, and one day you will be worthy to banquet with the
gods. But if when they are set before you, you do not take them but
despise them, then you shall not only share the gods' banquet, but shall
share their rule. For by so doing Diogenes and Heraclitus and men
like them were called divine and deserved the name.
16. When you see a man shedding tears
in sorrow for a child abroad or dead, or for loss of property, beware that
you are not carried away by the impression that it is outward ills that
make him miserable. Keep this thought by you: 'What distresses him
is not the event, for that does not distress another, but his judgment
on the event.' Therefore do not hesitate to sympathize with him so
far as words go, and if it so chance, even to groan with him; but take
heed that you do not also groan in your inner being.
17. Remember that you are an actor
in a play, and the Playwright chooses the manner of it: if he wants it
short, it is short; if long, it is long. If he wants you to act a
poor man you must act the part with all your powers; and so if your part
be a cripple or a magistrate or a plain man. For your business is
to act the character that is given you and act it well; the choice of the
cast is Another's.
18. When a raven croaks with evil
omen, let not the impression carry you away, but straightway distinguish
in your own mind and say, 'These portents mean nothing to me; but only
to my bit of a body or my bit of property or name, or my children or my
wife. But for me all omens are favorable if I will, for, whatever
the issue may be, it is in my power to get benefit therefrom.'
19. You can be invincible, if you
never enter on a contest where victory is not in your power. Beware
then that when you see a man raised to honor or great power or high repute
you do not let your impression carry you away. For if the reality
of good lies in what is in our power, there is no room for envy or jealousy.
And you will not wish to be praetor, or prefect or consul, but to be free;
and there is but one way to freedom - to despise what is not in our power.
20. Remember that foul words or
blows in themselves are no outrage, but your judgment that they are so.
So when any one makes you angry, know that it is your own thought that
has angered you. Wherefore make it your first endeavor not to let
your impressions carry you away. For if once you gain time and delay,
you will find it easier to control yourself.
21. Keep before your eyes from day
to day death and exile and all things that seem terrible, but death most
of all, and then you will never set your thoughts on what is low and will
never desire anything beyond measure.
22. If you set your desire on philosophy
you must at once prepare to meet with ridicule and the jeers of many who
will say, 'Here he is again, turned philosopher. Where has he got
these proud looks?' Nay, put on no proud looks, but hold fast to
what seems best to you, in confidence that God has set you at this post.
And remember that if you abide where you are, those who first laugh at
you will one day admire you, and that if you give way to them, you will
get doubly laughed at.
23. If it ever happen to you to be
diverted to things outside, so that you desire to please another, know
that you have lost your life's plan. Be content then always to be
a philosopher; if you wish to be regarded as one too, show yourself that
you are one and you will be able to achieve it.
24. Let not reflections such as these
afflict you: 'I shall live without honor, and never be of any account';
for if lack of honor is an evil, no one but yourself can involve you in
evil any more than in shame. Is it your business to get office or
to be invited to an entertainment?
Where then is the dishonor you talk of?
How can you be 'of no account anywhere,' when you ought to count for something
in those matters only which are in your power, where you may achieve the
'But my friends,' you say, 'will lack assistance.'
What do you mean by 'lack assistance'?
They will not have cash from you and you will not make them Roman citizens.
Who told you that to do these things is in our power, and not dependent
upon others? Who can give to another what is not his to give?
'Get them then,' says he, 'that we may
If I can get them and keep my self-respect,
honor, magnanimity, show the way and I will get them. But if you
call on me to lose the good things that are mine, in order that you may
win things that are not good, look how unfair and thoughtless you are.
And which do you really prefer? Money, or a faithful, modest friend?
Therefore help me rather to keep these qualities, and do not expect from
me actions which will make me lose them.
'But my country,' says he, 'will lack assistance,
so far as lies in me.'
Once more I ask, What assistance do you mean? It will not owe colonnades
or baths to you. What of that? It does not owe shoes to the
blacksmith or arms to the shoemaker; it is sufficient if each man fulfills
his own function. Would you do it no good if you secured to it another
faithful and modest citizen?
Well, then, you would not be useless to
'What place then shall I have in the city?'
Whatever place you can hold while you keep
your character for honor and self-respect. But if you are going to
lose these qualities in trying to benefit your city, what benefit, I ask,
would you have done her when you attain to the perfection of being lost
to shame and honor?
25. Has some one had precedence of
you at an entertainment or a levee or been called in before you to give
advice? If these things are good you ought to be glad that he got
them; if they are evil, do not be angry that you did not get them yourself.
Remember that if you want to get what is not in your power, you cannot
earn the same reward as others unless you act as they do. How is
it possible for one who does not haunt the great man's door to have equal
shares with one who does, or one who does not go in his train equality
with one who does; or one who does not praise him with one who does?
You will be unjust then and insatiable if you wish to get these privileges
for nothing, without paying their price. What is the price of a lettuce?
An obol perhaps. If then a man pays his obol and gets his lettuces,
and you do not pay and do not get them, do not think you are defrauded.
For as he has the lettuces so you have the obol you did not give.
The same principle holds good too in conduct. You were not invited
to some one's entertainment? Because you did not give the host the
price for which he sells his dinner. He sells it for compliments,
he sells it for attentions. Pay him the price then, if it is to your
profit. But if you wish to get the one and yet not give up the other,
nothing can satisfy you in your folly.
What! you say, you have nothing instead
of the dinner?
Nay, you have this, you have not praised
the man you did not want to praise, you have not had to bear with the insults
of his doorstep.
26. It is in our power to discover
the will of Nature from those matters on which we have no difference of
opinion. For instance, when another man's slave has broken the wine-cup
we are very ready to say at once, 'Such things must happen.' Know
then that when your own cup is broken, you ought to behave in the same
way as when your neighbor's was broken. Apply the same principle
to higher matters. Is another's child or wife dead? Not one
of us but would say, 'Such is the lot of man'; but when one's own dies,
straightway one cries, 'Alas! miserable am I.' But we ought to remember
what our feelings are when we hear it of another.
27. As a mark is not set up for men
to miss it, so there is nothing intrinsically evil in the world.
28. If any one trusted your body
to the first man he met, you would be indignant, but yet you trust your
mind to the chance comer, and allow it to be disturbed and confounded if
he revile you; are you not ashamed to do so?
29. In everything you do consider
what comes first and what follows, and so approach it. Otherwise
you will come to it with a good heart at first because you have not reflected
on any of the consequences, and afterwards, when difficulties have appeared,
you will desist to your shame. Do you wish to win at Olympia?
So do I, by the gods, for it is a fine thing. But consider the first
steps to it, and the consequences, and so lay your hand to the work.
You must submit to discipline, eat to order, touch no sweets, train under
compulsion, at a fixed hour, in heat and cold, drink no cold water, nor
wine, except by order; you must hand yourself over completely to your trainer
as you would to a physician, and then when the contest comes you must risk
getting hacked, and sometimes dislocate your hand, twist your ankle, swallow
plenty of sand, sometimes get a flogging, and with all this suffer defeat.
When you have considered all this well, then enter on the athlete's course,
if you still wish it. If you act without thought you will be behaving
like children, who one day play at wrestlers, another day at gladiators,
now sound the trumpet, and next strut the stage. Like them you will
be now an athlete, now a gladiator, then orator, then philosopher, but
nothing with all your soul. Like an ape, you imitate every sight
you see, and one thing after another takes your fancy. When you undertake
a thing you do it casually and half-heartedly, instead of considering it
and looking at it all round. In the same way some people, when they
see a philosopher and hear a man speaking like Euphrates (and indeed who
can speak as he can?), wish to be philosophers themselves.
Man, consider first what it is you are
undertaking; then look at your own powers and see if you can bear it.
Do you want to compete in the pentathlon or in wrestling? Look to
your arms, your thighs, see what your loins are like. For different
men are born for different tasks. Do you suppose that if you do this
you can live as you do now - eat and drink as you do now, indulge desire
and discontent just as before? Nay, you must sit up late, work hard,
abandon your own people, be looked down on by a mere slave, be ridiculed
by those who meet you, get the worst of it in everything - in honor, in
office, in justice, in every possible thing. This is what you have
to consider whether you are willing to pay this price for peace of
mind, freedom, tranquillity. If not, do not come near; do not be,
like the children, first a philosopher, then a tax-collector, then an orator,
then one of Caesar's procurators. These callings do not agree.
You must be one man, good or bad; you must develop either your Governing
Principle, or your outward endowments; you must study either your inner
man, or outward things - in a word, you must choose between the position
of a philosopher and that of a mere outsider.
30. Appropriate acts are in general
measured by the relations they are concerned with. 'He is your father.'
This means you are called on to take care of him, give way to him in all
things, bear with him if he reviles or strikes you.
'But he is a bad father.'
Well, have you any natural claim to a good
father? No, only to a father.
'My brother wrongs me.'
Be careful then to maintain the relation
you hold to him, and do not consider what he does, but what you must do
if your purpose is to keep in accord with nature. For no one shall
harm you, without your consent; you will only be harmed, when you think
you are harmed. You will only discover what is proper to expect from
neighbor, citizen, or praetor, if you get into the habit of looking at
the relations implied by each.
31. For piety towards the gods know
that the most important thing is this: to have right opinions about
them - that they exist, and that they govern the universe well and justly
- and to have set yourself to obey them, and to give way to all that happens,
following events with a free will, in the belief that they are fulfilled
by the highest mind. For thus you will never blame the gods, nor
accuse them of neglecting you. But this you cannot achieve, unless
you apply your conception of good and evil to those things only which are
in our power, and not to those which are out of our power. For if
you apply your notion of good or evil to the latter, then, as soon as you
fail to get what you will to get or fail to avoid what you will to avoid,
you will he bound to blame and hate those you hold responsible. For
every living creature has a natural tendency to avoid and shun what seems
harmful and all that causes it, and to pursue and admire what is helpful
and all that causes it. It is not possible then for one who thinks
he is harmed to take pleasure in what he thinks is the author of the harm,
any more than to take pleasure in the harm itself. That is why a
father is reviled by his son, when he does not give his son a share of
what the son regards as good things; thus Polynices and Eteocles were set
at enmity with one another by thinking that a king's throne was a good
thing. That is why the farmer, and the sailor, and the merchant,
and those who lose wife or children revile the gods. For men's religion
is bound up with their interest. Therefore he who makes it his concern
rightly to direct his will to get and his will to avoid, is thereby making
piety his concern. But it is proper on each occasion to make libation
and sacrifice and to offer first-fruits according to the custom of our
fathers, with purity and not in slovenly or careless fashion, without meanness
and without extravagance.
32. When you make use of prophecy
remember that while you know not what the issue will be, but are come to
learn it from the prophet, you do know before you come what manner of thing
it is, if you are really a philosopher. For if the event is not in
our control, it cannot be either good or evil. Therefore do not bring
with you to the prophet the will to get or the will to avoid, and do not
approach him with trembling, but with your mind made up, that the whole
issue is indifferent and does not affect you and that, whatever it be,
it will be in your power to make good use of it, and no one shall hinder
this. With confidence then approach the gods as counsellors, and
further, when the counsel is given you, remember whose counsel it is, and
whom you will be disregarding if you disobey. And consult the oracle,
as Socrates thought men should, only when the whole question turns upon
the issue of events, and neither reason nor any art of man provides opportunities
for discovering what lies before you. Therefore, when it is your
duty to risk your life with friend or country, do not ask the oracle whether
you should risk your life. For if the prophet warns you that the
sacrifice is unfavorable, though it is plain that this means death or exile
or injury to some part of your body, yet reason requires that even at this
cost you must stand by your friend and share your country's danger.
Wherefore pay heed to the greater prophet, Pythian Apollo, who cast out
of his temple the man who did not help his friend when he was being killed.
33. Lay down for yourself from the
first a definite stamp and style of conduct, which you will maintain
when you are alone and also in the society of men. Be silent for
the most part, or, if you speak, say only what is necessary and in a few
words. Talk, but rarely, if occasion calls you, but do not talk of
ordinary things of gladiators, or horse-races, or athletes, or of meats
or drinks - these are topics that arise everywhere - but above all do not
talk about men in blame or compliment or comparison. If you can,
turn the conversation of your company by your talk to some fitting subject;
but if you should chance to be isolated among strangers, be silent.
Do not laugh much, nor at many things, nor without restraint.
Refuse to take oaths, altogether if that
be possible, but if not, as far as circumstances allow.
Refuse the entertainments of strangers
and the vulgar. But if occasion arise to accept them, then strain
every nerve to avoid lapsing into the state of the vulgar. For know
that, if your comrade have a stain on him, he that associates with him
must needs share the stain, even though he be clean in himself.
For your body take just so much as your
bare need requires, such as food, drink, clothing, house, servants, but
cut down all that tends to luxury and outward show.
Avoid impurity to the utmost of your power
before marriage, and if you indulge your passion, let it be done lawfully.
But do not be offensive or censorious to those who indulge it, and do not
be always bringing up your own chastity. If some one tells you that
so and so speaks ill of you, do not defend yourself against what he says,
but answer, 'He did not know my other faults, or he would not have mentioned
It is not necessary for the most part to
go to the games; but if you should have occasion to go, show that your
first concern is for yourself; that is, wish that only to happen which
does happen, and him only to win who does win, for so you will suffer no
hindrance. But refrain entirely from applause, or ridicule, or prolonged
excitement. And when you go away do not talk much of what happened
there, except so far as it tends to your improvement. For to talk
implies that the spectacle excited your
Do not go lightly or casually to hear lectures;
but if you do go, maintain your gravity and dignity and do not make yourself
offensive. When you are going to meet any one, and particularly some
man of reputed eminence, set before your mind the thought, 'What would
Socrates or Zeno have done?' and you will not fail to make proper use of
When you go to visit some great man, prepare
your mind by thinking that you will not find him in, that you will be shut
out; that the doors will be slammed in your face, that he will pay no heed
to you. And if in spite of all this you find it fitting for you to
go, go and bear what happens and never say to yourself, 'It was not worth
all this'; for that shows a vulgar mind and one at odds with outward things.
In your conversation avoid frequent and
disproportionate mention of your own doings or adventures; for other people
do not take the same pleasure in hearing what has happened to you as you
take in recounting your adventures.
Avoid raising men's laughter; for it is a habit that easily slips into vulgarity, and it may well suffice to lessen your neighbor's respect. It is dangerous too to lapse into foul language; when anything of the kind occurs, rebuke the offender, if the occasion allow, and if not, make it plain to him by your silence, or a blush or a frown, that you are angry at his words.
34. When you imagine some pleasure,
beware that it does not carry you away, like other imaginations.
Wait a while, and give yourself pause. Next remember two things:
how long you will enjoy the pleasure, and also how long you will afterwards
repent and revile yourself. And set on the other side the joy and
self-satisfaction you will feel if you refrain. And if the moment
seems come to realize it, take heed that you be not overcome by the winning
sweetness and attraction of it; set in the other scale the thought how
much better is the consciousness of having vanquished it.
35. When you do a thing because you
have determined that it ought to be done, never avoid being seen doing
it, even if the opinion of the multitude is going to condemn you.
For if your action is wrong, then avoid doing it altogether, but if it
is right, why do you fear those who will rebuke you wrongly?
36. The phrases, 'It is day' and
'It is night,' mean a great deal if taken separately, but have no meaning
if combined. In the same way, to choose the larger portion at a banquet
may be worth while for your body, but if you want to maintain social decencies
it is worthless. Therefore, when you are at meat with another, remember
not only to consider the value of what is set before you for the body,
but also to maintain your self-respect before your host.
37. If you try to act a part beyond
your powers, you not only disgrace yourself in it, but you neglect the
part which you could have filled with success.
38. As in walking you take care not
to tread on a nail or to twist your foot, so take care that you do not
harm your Governing Principle. And if we guard this in everything
we do, we shall set to work more securely.
39. Every man's body is a measure
for his property, as the foot is the measure for his shoe. If you
stick to this limit, you will keep the right measure; if you go beyond
it, you are bound to be carried away down a precipice in the end; just
as with the shoe, if you once go beyond the foot, your shoe puts on gilding,
and soon purple and embroidery. For when once you go beyond the measure
there is no limit.
40. Women from fourteen years upwards
are called 'madam' by men. Wherefore, when they see that the only
advantage they have got is to be marriageable, they begin to make themselves
smart and to set all their hopes on this. We must take pains then
to make them understand that they are really honored for nothing but a
modest and decorous life.
41. It is a sign of a dull mind to
dwell upon the cares of the body, to prolong exercise, eating, drinking,
and other bodily functions. These things are to be done by the way;
all your attention must be given to the mind.
42. When a man speaks evil or does
evil to you, remember that he does or says it because he thinks it is fitting
for him. It is not possible for him to follow what seems good to
you, but only what seems good to him, so that, if his opinion is wrong,
he suffers, in that he is the victim of deception. In the same way,
if a composite judgment which is true is thought to be false, it is not
the judgment that suffers, but the man who is deluded about it. If
you act on this principle you will be gentle to him who reviles you, saying
to yourself on each occasion, 'He thought it right.'
43. Everything has two handles, one
by which you can carry it, the other by which you cannot. If your
brother wrongs you, do not take it by that handle, the handle of his wrong,
for you cannot carry it by that, but rather by the other handle - that
he is a brother, brought up with you, and then you will take it by the
handle that you can carry by.
44. It is illogical to reason thus,
'I am richer than you, therefore I am superior to you,' 'I am more eloquent
than you, therefore I am superior to you. It is more logical to reason,
'I am richer than you, therefore my property is superior to yours,' 'I
am more eloquent than you, therefore my speech is superior to yours.'
You are something more than property or speech.
45. If a man wash quickly, do not
say that he washes badly, but that he washes quickly. If a man drink
much wine, do not say that he drinks badly, but that he drinks much.
For till you have decided what judgment prompts him, how do you know that
he acts badly? If you do as I say, you will assent to your apprehensive
impressions and to none other.
46. On no occasion call yourself
a philosopher, nor talk at large of your principles among the multitude,
but act on your principles. For instance, at a banquet do not say
how one ought to eat, but eat as you ought. Remember that Socrates
had so completely got rid of the thought of display that when men came
and wanted an introduction to philosophers he took them to be introduced;
so patient of neglect was he. And if a discussion arise among the
multitude on some principle, keep silent for the most part; for you are
in great danger of blurting out some undigested thought. And when
some one says to you, 'You know nothing,' and you do not let it provoke
you, then know that you are really on the right road. For sheep do
not bring grass to their shepherds and show them how much they have eaten,
but they digest their fodder and then produce it in the form of wool and
milk. Do the same yourself; instead of displaying your principles
to the multitude, show them the results of the principles you have digested.
47. When you have adopted the simple
life, do not pride yourself upon it, and if you are a water-drinker do
not say on every occasion, 'I am a water-drinker.' And if you ever
want to train laboriously, keep it to yourself and do not make a show of
it. Do not embrace statues. If you are very thirsty take a
good draught of cold water, and rinse your mouth and tell no one.
48. The ignorant man's position and
character is this: he never looks to himself for benefit or harm, but to
the world outside him. The philosopher's position and character is
that he always looks to himself for benefit and harm.
The signs of one who is making progress
are: he blames none, praises none, complains of none, accuses none, never
speaks of himself as if he were somebody, or as if he knew anything.
And if any one compliments him he laughs in himself at his compliment;
and if one blames him, he makes no defense. He goes about like a
convalescent, careful not to disturb his constitution on its road
to recovery, until it has got firm hold. He has got rid of the will
to get, and his will to avoid is directed no longer to what is beyond our
power but only to what is in our power and contrary to nature. In
all things he exercises his will without strain. If men regard him
as foolish or ignorant he pays no heed. In one word, he keeps watch
and guard on himself as his own enemy, lying in wait for him.
49. When a man prides himself on
being able to understand and interpret the books of Chrysippus, say to
yourself, 'If Chrysippus had not written obscurely this man would have
had nothing on which to pride himself.'
What is my object? To understand
Nature and follow her. I look then for some one who interprets her,
and having heard that Chrysippus does I come to him. But I do not
understand his writings, so I seek an interpreter. So far there is
nothing to be proud of. But when I have found the interpreter it
remains for me to act on his precepts; that and that alone is a thing to
be proud of. But if I admire the mere power of exposition, it comes
to this - that I am turned into a grammarian instead of a philosopher,
except that I interpret Chrysippus in place of Homer. Therefore,
when some one says to me, 'Read me Chrysippus,' when I cannot point to
actions which are in harmony and correspondence with his teaching, I am
rather inclined to blush.
50. Whatever principles you put before
you, hold fast to them as laws which it will be impious to transgress.
But pay no heed to what any one says of you; for this is something beyond
your own control.
51. How long will you wait to think
yourself worthy of the highest and transgress in nothing the clear pronouncement
of reason? You have received the precepts which you ought to accept,
and you have accepted them. Why then do you still wait for a master,
that you may delay the amendment of yourself till he comes? You are
a youth no longer, you are now a full-grown man. If now you are careless
and indolent and are always putting off, fixing one day after another as
the limit when you mean to begin attending to yourself, then, living or
dying; you will make no progress but will continue unawares in ignorance.
Therefore make up your mind before it is too late to live as one who is
mature and proficient, and let all that seems best to you be a law
that you cannot transgress. And if you encounter anything troublesome
or pleasant or glorious or inglorious, remember that the hour of struggle
is come, the Olympic contest is here and you may put off no longer, and
that one day and one action determines whether the progress you have achieved
is lost or maintained.
This was how Socrates attained perfection,
paying heed to nothing but reason, in all that he encountered. And
if you are not yet Socrates, yet ought you to live as one who would wish
to be a Socrates.
52. The first and most necessary department of philosophy deals with
the application of principles; for instance, 'not to lie'. The second
deals with demonstrations; for instance, 'How comes it that one ought not
to lie?' The third is concerned with establishing and analyzing these
processes; for instance, 'How comes it that this is a demonstration?
What is demonstration, what is consequence, what is contradiction, what
is true, what is false?' It follows then that the third department
is necessary because of the second, and the second because of the first.
The first is the most necessary part, and that in which we must rest.
But we reverse the order: we occupy ourselves with the third, and make
that our whole concern, and the first we completely neglect. Wherefore
we lie, but are ready enough with the demonstration that lying is wrong.
53. On every occasion we must have
these thoughts at hand,
'Lead me, 0 Zeus, and lead me,
Whither ordained is by your decree.
I'll follow, doubting not, or if with
Recreant I falter, I shall follow still.'
'Who rightly with necessity complies
In things divine we count him skilled
[Euripides, Fragment 965]
'Well, Crito, if this be the gods' will,
so be it.'
[Plato, Crito, 43d]
'Anytus and Meletus have power to put me
but not to harm me.'
[Plato, Apology, 30c]