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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive » Epictetus In Action

Epictetus In Action

Consider the following passages (neatly transcribed from my textbook).

Duties are universally measured by reations. Is a man a father? The [duty] is to take care of him, to yield to him in all things, to submit when is reproachful, when he inflicts blows. But suppose he is a bad father. Were you then by nature [guaranteed] a good father? No; [just] a father. Does a brother wrong you? Maintain then that your own position towards him, and do not examine what he is doing, but what you must do [in order] that your will shall be [in accord with] nature. For another will not damage you, unless you choose; but you will damaged when you shall think that you are damaged. In this way then you will discover your duty from the relation of a neighbor, from that of a citizen, from that of a general, if you are accustomed to contemplate [your relationships].

And continuing on…

You will be unjust then and insatiable, if you do not part with the price, in return for which… things are sold, and if you wi8sh to obtain them for thing. Well, what is the price of lettuces? An obulus perhaps. If then a man gives up the obulus and receives the lettuces, and if you do not give up the obulus and do not receive the lettuces, do not suppose that you receive less than he who has got the lettuces; for as he has the lettuces, so you have the obulus which you did not give… you have not been invited to a man’s feast, for you did not give the host the price at which the supper is sold; but he sells it for praise (flattery), he sells it for presonal attention. Give him the price, if it is for your interest, for which it is sold. But if you wish both not to give the price, and to obtain the things, you are insatiable and silly. Have you nothing then in place of the supper? You have indeed, you have the [satisfaction of] not flattering… him… whom you did not choose to flatter; you have [not had to put up with him].

The philosophy of the Stoics are very much in line with libertarianism. They reject the idea of entitlement in favor of rights. Everyone has the right to a good job, to be wealthy, etc. – but if you do not put the effort forth to achieve these ends, you will not get them. Everyone has the right to good food, education, etc. – but they are not guaranteed. Nobody is born with these as their birthrights.

Things that annoy, insult, and offend your sensibilities only do so because you are weak. Libel and slander, of course, damage your reputation and public image – although a Epictetus would likely see this as being the result of your own actions somehow. Which means that if a kid wants to hand his pants around his ankles (or hell, naked – and isn’t being a nuissence to public health & safety) there is no harm in it. Except to your lack of willpower to not complain.

These principals are very basic and fall very much in line with my own paradigm: Stop being jerks and bitching about what others are doing and get your own shit together.

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