Epictetus
Epictetus


Sophistry No Virtue

"What, then, was not Plato a philosopher?" I reply, "And was not Hippocrates a physician? But you see how Hippocrates speaks." Does Hippocrates, then, speak thus in respect of being a physician? Why do you mingle things which have been accidentally united in the same men? And if Plato was handsome and strong, ought I also to set to work and endeavor to become handsome or strong, as if this was necessary for philosophy, because a certain philosopher was at the same time handsome and a philosopher? Will you not choose to see and to distinguish in respect to what men become philosophers, and what things belong to them in other respects? And if I were a philosopher, ought you also to be made lame? What then? Do I take away these faculties which you possess? By no means; for neither do I take away the faculty of seeing. But if you ask me what is the good of man, I cannot mention to you anything else than that it is a certain disposition of the will with respect to appearances.

Epictetus agreed with Paul, "Sophistry is not a virtue". It is merely a slick way of presenting arguments. To foster a virtuous life, we have to go beyond such thinking. Paul has obviously taken this step. Epictetus advocates it as well.

In another translation of this chapter we read: "What then? Do I reject these special faculties? (Meaning sophistry.) By no means; neither do I reject the faculty of sight. But if you ask me what is the good of man, I can only tell you that it is a kind of power of choice."

It is this that makes the essence of a person. Our ability to make the choice between virtue and evil is tested every day. Logic may be a tool to help us to do this. But sophistry may just be a tool for our baser side to talk us out of doing what is right. If we stick to the Bible and the basic underpinnings of logical stoicism we may achieve the true end of man, to acquire the virtue of making choices wisely.

Chapter 8:

  1. Concerning Faculties and the Uninstructed
  2. Why Not Sophistry? (8a)
  3. Sophistry No Virtue (8b)
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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