Epictetus - Discourses - Book 1

Chapter 1. Of the things which are in our Power, and not in our Power


The only faculty that can contemplate both ourselves and other things is our rational faculty. Through reasoning, we can examine all other faculties. While we can become skillful musicians, we do not know when to sing or play instruments in our lives. While we can gain better writing skills, we do not know what we should be writing about and when we should be writing.

Our logical faculty should be used to guide everything that is within our control. We should not be concerned with forces outside of our control. 

We should achieve our best within our power and "use the rest according to their nature". As a result, we should have at least a basic understanding of science and natural effects of the world. While we cannot change the laws of physics, we can use and rely upon the immutable laws of physics to our advantage.

If we are enslaved, we cannot choose whether we are chained up, but we can choose how we react to this situation. Are we obligated to lament and cry over our situation? What hinders me from smiling and being cheerful despite the situation around me? In addition, what secrets we choose to reveal is our decision.

Agrippinus was able to keep a calm demeanor while awaiting his sentence of banishment or death. This was because he understood what was within and not within his control. 

We should be ready to die at all time. When the time comes, we should not fear death but come with the mentality of returning our body to its rightful owner. 

Chapter 2. How a Man on Every occasion can maintain his Proper Character

For a rational creature, our own irrational behavior should not be tolerated. 

I completely disagree with this, but Epictetus says that the decision to end one's life can be a rational decision. In order to be rational, we need to live a life of discipline and gain the skills necessary to live rationally.

We also need to determine what is appropriate for each person. One person may find a job of cleaning a toilet a rational job, while another may find that job to be too demeaning. If one finds it to demeaning,  it is their job to express their dissatisfaction because each person holds different values of what is important. 

Also, there are certain things that we should not consider on the spot. If asked whether we should partake in an external event, if we were to choose everytime without thinkinf of our prior commitments, we will find ourselves choosing the wrong actions. THere are some decisions that we should not even consider or deliberate upon because we have already decided on the matter long ago. By considering a question when we have already resolved long ago, a man is close to losing his character.


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