The Enchiridion Part Forty-Six

If talk about philosophy should arise, be the most part silent.

OPENING
I am A Man of Letters. I’ve been reading lately, and I have found some words I would like to share. Today, “The Enchiridion” by Epictetus. Part Forty-Six…

BODY

Never call yourself a philosopher, nor talk a great deal among others about philosophy, but show them philosophy by your actions. Thus, at an entertainment, do not say how people ought to eat, but eat as you ought. For remember that in this manner Socrates always avoided being pretentious. When people came to Socrates and asked to be introduced to a philosopher, he introduced them to philosophers. He did not mind being overlooked. If talk about philosophy should arise, be the most part silent. If anyone tells you that you know nothing, and you are not hurt by hearing this, then you may be sure that you have a strong start on being a philosopher. For in this there is the great danger of throwing up what you have not digested. Sheep don’t throw up grass to show the shepherds how much they have eaten; they inwardly digest their food, then outwardly produce wool and milk. In the same way, do not make an exhibition of your philosophy, but exhibit through the actions produced by your philosophy after it has been digested.

COMMENTARY
In “The Discourses,” Epictetus had this to say about actions, and about being, for the most part, silent.

When children come clapping their hands and crying out, “To-day is the good Saturnalia!” do not tell them Saturnalia is not good. By no means! You clap your hands also. You should do the same when you are not able to make a man change his mind. Be assured that he is a child, and clap your hands with him, and if you do not choose to do this, keep silent.

It is plain that you value not at all your own will, but you look externally to things which are independent of your will. You care only what people say and what people think of you. You care if you will be considered a man of learning. […] You have exhibited yourself to us as a mean fellow, querulous, passionate, cowardly, finding fault with everything, blaming everybody, never quiet, always vain. This is what you have exhibited to us. Go away now and read your books. If a mouse should leap out and make a noise, you are as good as dead.

Be not difficult to please nor fastidious about what happens. “Vinegar is disagreeable, for it is sharp;” “Honey is disagreeable, for it disturbs my habit of body;” “I do not like vegetables;” “I do not like leisure, it is a desert;” “I do not like a crowd, it is confusion.” If circumstances make it necessary for you to live alone or with a few, call it quiet and use the thing as you ought by talking with yourself, exercising the appearances, working on your preconceptions. If circumstances make it necessary for you to fall into a crowd, call it a festival and try to enjoy the festival with other men. For what is a more pleasant sight to him who loves mankind than a number of men? We see with pleasure herds of horses or oxen: we are delighted when we see many ships: who is pained when he sees many men? “But they deafen me with their tumultuous cries.” Then your hearing is impeded. What are their cries to you? Your power of making use of appearances is not hindered. No tumult is able to do this.

Where is the great good and evil in men? It is where the difference is. If the difference is preserved and remains fenced round, and neither modesty is destroyed, nor fidelity, nor intelligence, then the man also is preserved. But if any of these things are destroyed then the man too perishes. In this consist the great things. For example, some say Paris sustained great damage when Troy was invaded, and when his brothers perished. But this is not so. No man is damaged by an action which is not his own. […] The ruin of Paris was when he lost his modesty, his fidelity, his hospitality, and his decency. When was Achilles ruined? Was it when Patroclus died? No. It happened when he began to be angry, when he wept for a girl, when he forgot that he was at Troy not to get mistresses but to fight. These things are the ruin of men, this is being besieged, this is the destruction of cities, when right opinions are destroyed, and when they are corrupted.

CHORUS
Here again is Part Forty-Four of The Enchiridion

Never call yourself a philosopher, nor talk a great deal among others about philosophy, but show them philosophy by your actions. Thus, at an entertainment, do not say how people ought to eat, but eat as you ought. For remember that in this manner Socrates always avoided being pretentious. When people came to Socrates and asked to be introduced to a philosopher, he introduced them to philosophers. He did not mind being overlooked. If talk about philosophy should arise, be the most part silent. If anyone tells you that you know nothing, and you are not hurt by hearing this, then you may be sure that you have a strong start on being a philosopher. For in this there is the great danger of throwing up what you have not digested. Sheep don’t throw up grass to show the shepherds how much they have eaten; they inwardly digest their food, then outwardly produce wool and milk. In the same way, do not make an exhibition of your philosophy, but exhibit through the actions produced by your philosophy after it has been digested.

CLOSING
Thank you for listening. For more information about the words I have read and the music to follow, please visit A Man of Letters. amoletters.com.

Until I return, I am… A Man of Letters.

MUSIC
Cliff Edwards – I Did It With My Little Ukulele (1933)

Episode 1646