Epictetus
Epictetus


Wise Men Should Argue

In debating hypotheses it is sometimes necessary to demand the granting of some hypothesis as a kind of passage to the argument which follows. Must we then allow every hypothesis that is proposed, or not allow every one? And if not every one, which should we allow? If a man has allowed an hypothesis, must he in every case abide by allowing it? Must he sometimes withdraw from it, but admit the consequences and not admit contradictions? But suppose a man says, "If you admit the hypothesis of a possibility, I will draw you to an impossibility." With such a person shall a man of sense refuse to enter into a contest, and avoid discussion and conversation with him? But what other man than the man of sense can use argumentation and be skillful in questioning and answering, and be incapable of being cheated and deceived by false reasoning? Shall he enter into the contest, and yet not take care whether he shall engage in argument rashly and carelessly? And if he does not take care, how can he be such a man as we conceive him to be? But without some such exercise and preparation, can he maintain a continuous and consistent argument? Let him show that all these speculations become superfluous, and are absurd and inconsistent with our notion of a good and serious man.

A wise man does not avoid argument with the skeptic and Sophist, for it is only the wise man who is able to manage such people. Think of all the times in the New Testament when Jesus was confronted with a rhetorician who tried to trip him up. He always deftly handled their objections.

A wise person, then, will endeavor to understand the tricks and arguments of the Sophists. He might even plant a seed of hope and faith in the skeptic that might one day blossom.

Chapter 7:

  1. On Sophistry
  2. The End Proposed in Reasoning (7a)
  3. Why Stoics Learn to Argue (7b)
  4. Granting Premises (7c)
  5. Inferences (7d)
  6. Wise Men Should Argue (7e)
  7. A Syllogistic Crime (7f)
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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