A Soul's Worth

Only consider at what price you sell your own will, if for no other reason, at least for this, that you sell it not for a small sum. But that which is great and superior perhaps belongs to Socrates and such as are like him. "Why then, if we are naturally such, are not a very great number of us like him?" Is it true then that all horses become swift, that all dogs are skilled in tracking footprints? "What, then, since I am naturally dull, shall I, for this reason, take no pains?" I hope not. Epictetus is not superior to Socrates, but if he is not inferior, this is enough for me. I shall never be a Milo, and yet I do not neglect my body. Nor shall I be a Croesus, and yet I do not neglect my property. Nor, in a word, do we neglect looking after anything because we despair of reaching the highest degree.

The chapter ends with Epictetus exhorting his students not to sell their souls cheaply for they are worth much. To do this they must do their best first to understand what is right and then to do what is right. He tells us that we have many rights and responsibilities. We have many interests and rolls. All of these confer upon us the duty to act in a positive, proactive way.

He tells us not to be discouraged because we do not have the Wisdom of Socrates, the body of Arnold Swartzenegger or the money of Bill Gates. For this does not mean that we do not hold the power within us to be as successful as these men in their field, and even should we fall short, the important thing is to be as good as possible. We must strive to realize the potential within ourselves.

It is then not wisdom itself that is important. It is not the physical power or wealth we possess that is important. What is important is how we use it to follow our principles in making ourselves better beings and thereby the world a better place.

Chapter 2:

  1. How to Maintain Proper Character
  2. Chamber Pots and Character (2a)
  3. Examples of Character (2b)
  4. Philosophers and Beards (2c)
  5. A Soul's Worth (2d)
Stoicism and Christianity Index

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This is a translation and explanation of the first book of the Discourses of Epictetus. His words are in regular text, comments are in bold.

Biographical Information on Epictetus

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