Epictetus
Epictetus


The Sixth Sense - Conscience

Well if we were inquiring about white and black, what criterion should we employ for distinguishing between them? "The sight," the magistrate said. And if about hot and cold, and hard and soft, what criterion? "The touch," he responded. Well then, since we are inquiring about things which are according to nature, and those which are done rightly or not rightly, what kind of criterion do you think that we should employ? "I do not know," he said. And yet not to know the criterion of colors and smells, and also of tastes, is perhaps no great harm. But if a man does not know the criterion of good and bad, and of things according to nature and contrary to nature, does this seem to you a small harm? "It would be the greatest harm."

Epictetus lays the groundwork for his proof. He begins by showing how we have faculties that allow us to perceive things in nature. He points out that beyond the five senses normally considered to make up our interface with the world. We also have the ability to discern the difference between good and evil. We would call this a conscience. Epictetus notes that this might be the most important sense of them all.

Chapter 11:

  1. On Natural Affection
  2. The Sixth Sense - Conscience (11a)
  3. Good and Evil (11b)
  4. Lack of Fortitude (11c)
  5. We Control Our Own Actions (11d)
  6. The Devil Made Me Do It (11e)
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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