How we must exercise ourselves against appearances
As we exercise ourselves against sophistical questions, so we
ought to exercise ourselves daily against appearances; for these
appearances also propose questions to us. "A certain person son is
dead." Answer: the thing is not within the power of the will: it is
not an evil. "A father has disinherited a certain son. What do you
think of it?" It is a thing beyond the power of the will, not an evil.
"Caesar has condemned a person." It is a thing beyond the power of the
will, not an evil. "The man is afflicted at this." Affliction is a
thing which depends on the will: it is an evil. He has borne the
condemnation bravely." That is a thing within the power of the will:
it is a good. If we train ourselves in this manner, we shall make
progress; for we shall never assent to anything of which there is
not an appearance capable of being comprehended. Your son is dead.
What has happened? Your son is dead. Nothing more? Nothing. Your
ship is lost. What has happened? Your ship is lost. A man has been led
to prison. What has happened? He has been led to prison. But that
herein he has fared badly, every man adds from his own opinion. "But
Zeus," you say, "does not do right in these matters." Why? because
he has made you capable of endurance? because he has made you
magnanimous? because he has taken from that which befalls you the
power of being evil? because it is in your power to be happy while you
are suffering what you suffer; because he has opened the door to
you, when things do not please you? Man, go out and do not complain.
Hear how the Romans feel toward philosophers, if you would like to
know. Italicus, who was the most in repute of the philosophers, once
when I was present being, vexed with his own friends and as if he
was suffering something intolerable said, "I cannot bear it, you are
killing me: you will make me such as that man is"; pointing to me.