CHAPTER 12: On Contentment
There are some who say a divine being does not exist. Others say that he does exist, but he is inactive and careless. They presume he takes no forethought about anything. Yet, others propose that such a being exists and does, indeed, exercise forethought, but only about great things and heavenly things. Still others hypothesize a divine being exercising forethought both about things in Heaven and on Earth, but in a general way only. There is a final class, to whom Ulysses and Socrates belonged, who say, "I move not without thy knowledge."
Ulysses (known as Odysseus to the Greeks) was a major character in the Homeric Epics which are the foundation of Western Literature. In Homer's poems, which run to novel length, written about the Trojan War, Ulysses was considered the most intelligent of the Greek Warriors. He conceived the ruse of building the model Horse that allowed the Greeks (hiding inside) into Troy to utterly destroy the city. For this reason, Ulysses had a high reputation in the classical world. The words Homer put into his mouth regarding God, then, would carry great weight to the students of Epictetus.
The statement by Ulysses, "I move not without thy knowledge," expressed a higher conception of God as an all powerful being. Epictetus proposes any number of views from atheism to an amorphous being that generally controls the affairs of men. Epictetus rejects all of these views to adopt the God of Socrates and Ulysses. This is a God who is personal and directly concerned with the affairs of every individual. The views of Epictetus on this matter completely coincide with the Christian view as will become clear in succeeding paragraphs.
Stoicism and Christianity Index
- On Contentment
- The Necessity of the Wager (12a)
- Control What You Can (12b)
- Hell Is Other People (12c)
- Giving Yourself Trouble (12d)