CHAPTER 7

To the administrator of the free cities who was an Epicurean
When the administrator came to visit him, and the man was an Epicurean, Epictetus said: It is proper for us who are not philosophers to inquire of you who are philosophers, as those who come to a strange city inquire of the citizens and those who are acquainted with it, what is the best thing in the world, in order that we also, after inquiry, may go in quest of that which is best and look at it, as strangers do with the things in cities. For that there are three things which relate to man, soul, body, and things external, scarcely any man denies. It remains for you philosophers to answer what is the best. What shall we say to men? Is the flesh the best? and was it for this that Maximus sailed as far as Cassiope in winter with his son, and accompanied him that he might be gratified in the flesh? Then the man said that it was not, and added, "Far be that from him." Is it not fit then, Epictetus said, to be actively employed about the best? "It is certainly of all things the most fit." What, then, do we possess which is better than the flesh? "The soul," he replied. And the good things of the best, are they better, or the good things of the worse? "The good things of the best." And are the good things of the best within the power of the will or not within the power of the will? "They are within the power of the will." Is, then, the pleasure of the soul a thing within the power of the will? "It is," he replied. And on what shall this pleasure depend? On itself? But that cannot be conceived: for there must first exist a certain substance or nature of good, by obtaining which we shall have pleasure in the soul. He assented to this also. On what, then, shall we depend for this pleasure of the soul? for if it shall depend on things of the soul, the substance of the good is discovered; for good cannot be one thing, and that at which we are rationally delighted another thing; nor if that which precedes is not good, can that which comes after be good, for in order that the thing which comes after may be good, that which precedes must be good. But you would not affirm this, if you are in your right mind, for you would then say what is inconsistent both with Epicurus and the rest of your doctrines. It remains, then, that the pleasure of the soul is in the pleasure from things of the body: and again that those bodily things must be the things which precede and the substance of the good.

For this reason Maximus acted foolishly if he made the voyage for any other reason than for the sake of the flesh, that is, for the sake of the best. And also a man acts foolishly if he abstains from that which belongs to others, when he is a judge and able to take it. But, if you please, let us consider this only, how this thing may be done secretly, and safely, and so that no man will know it. For not even does Epicurus himself declare stealing to be bad, but he admits that detection is; and because it is impossible to have security against detection, for this reason he says, "Do not steal." But I say to you that if stealing is done cleverly and cautiously, we shall not be detected: further also we have powerful friends in Rome both men and women, and the Hellenes are weak, and no man will venture to go up to Rome for the purpose. Why do you refrain from your own good? This is senseless, foolish. But even if you tell me that you do refrain, I will not believe you. For as it is impossible to assent to that which appears false, and to turn away from that which is true, so it is impossible to abstain from that which appears good. But wealth is a good thing, and certainly most efficient in producing pleasure. Why will you not acquire wealth? And why should we not corrupt our neighbor's wife, if we can do it without detection? and if the husband foolishly prates about the matter, why not pitch him out of the house? If you would be a philosopher such as you ought to be, if a perfect philosopher, if consistent with your own doctrines. If you would not, you will not differ at all from us who are called Stoics; for we also say one thing, but we do another: we talk of the things which are beautiful, but we do what is base. But you will be perverse in the contrary way, teaching what is bad, practicing what is good.

In the name of God, are you thinking of a city of Epicureans? "I do not marry." "Nor I, for a man ought not to marry; nor ought we to beget children, nor engage in public matters." What then will happen? whence will the citizens come? who will bring them up? who will be governor of the youth, who preside wi over gymnastic exercises? and in what also will the teacher instruct them? will he teach them what the Lacedaemonians were taught, or what the Athenians were taught? Come take a young man, bring him up according to your doctrines. The doctrines are bad, subversive of a state, pernicious to families, and not becoming to women. Dismiss them, man. You live in a chief city: it is your duty to be a magistrate, to judge justly, to abstain from that which belongs to others; no woman ought to seem beautiful to you except your own wife, and no youth, no vessel of silver, no vessel of gold. Seek for doctrines which are consistent with what I say, and, by making them your guide, you will with pleasure abstain from things which have such persuasive power to lead us and overpower us. But if to the persuasive power of these things, we also devise such a philosophy as this which helps to push us on toward them and strengthens us to this end, what will be the consequence? In a piece of toreutic art which is the best part? the silver or the workmanship? The substance of the hand is the flesh; but the work of the hand is the principal part. The duties then are also three; those which are directed toward the existence of a thing; those which are directed toward its existence in a particular kind; and third, the chief or leading things themselves. So also in man we ought not to value the material, the poor flesh, but the principal. What are these? Engaging in public business, marrying, begetting children, venerating God, taking care of parents, and, generally, having desires, aversions, pursuits of things and avoidances, in the way in which we ought to do these things, and according to our nature. And how are we constituted by nature? Free, noble, modest: for what other animal blushes? what other is capable of receiving the appearance of shame? and we are so constituted by nature as to subject pleasure to these things, as a minister, a servant, in order that it may call forth our activity, in order that it may keep us constant in acts which are conformable to nature.

"But I am rich and I want nothing." Why, then, do you pretend to be a philosopher? Your golden and your silver vessels are enough for you. What need have you of principles? "But I am also a judge of the Greeks." Do you know how to judge? Who taught you to know? "Caesar wrote to me a codicil." Let him write and give you a commission to judge of music; and what will be the use of it to you? Still how did you become a judge? whose hand did you kiss? the hand of Symphorus or Numenius? Before whose bedchamber have you slept? To whom have you sent gifts? Then do you not see that to be a judge is just of the same value as Numenius is? "But I can throw into prison any man whom I please." So you can do with a stone. "But I can beat with sticks whom I please." So you may an ass. This is not a governing of men. Govern us as rational animals: show us what is profitable to us, and we will follow it: show us what is unprofitable, and we will turn away from it. Make us imitators of yourself, as Socrates made men imitators of himself. For he was like a governor of men, who made them subject to him their desires, their aversion, their movements toward an object and their turning away from it. "Do this: do not do this: if you do not obey, I will throw you into prison." This is not governing men like rational animals. But I: As Zeus has ordained, so act: if you do not act so, you will feel the penalty, you will be punished. What will be the punishment? Nothing else than not having done your duty: you will lose the character of fidelity, modesty, propriety. Do not look for greater penalties than these.