NC Wieland

In which Epictetus writes a column for the Chronicle of Higher Education

reading diary, philosophy snippetsNC Wieland

"If we all applied ourselves as heartily to our proper business, as the old politicians at Rome to their schemes, perhaps we too might make some proficiency. ...

What then do I say? that man is made for an inactive life? No, surely. But why is not ours a life of action? For my own part, I wake at dawn to recollect what things I am to read over again with my pupils, and then say to myself quickly, What is to me how such a one reads? My present business is to sleep.

Yet what likeness is there between their kind of activity and ours? If you consider what it is they do, you will see. For about what are they employed the whole day, but in calculating, contriving, consulting, about provisions, about an estate, or other interests like these? Is there any likeness, then, between reading such a petition from any one, as, 'I entreat you to give me permission to export corn'; and 'I entreat you to learn from Chrysippus, what the administration of the universe is; and what place a reasonable creature holds in it. Learn, too, what you yourself are; and wherein your good and evil consist.' Are these things at all alike? Do they require an equal degree of application? And is it as shameful to neglect the one as the other?

Well, then, are we older men the only idle dreamers? No: but you young men are so in a greater degree. And as we old folks, when we see young ones trifling, are tempted to trifle with them; so, much more, if I were to see you earnest and ardent, I should be excited to labor with you."

Discourses of Epictetus, Book I, Chapter XI, 'Concerning those who seek preferment at Rome'. Trans. Elizabeth Carter and Thomas Wentworth Higginson.