Epictetus
Epictetus


CHAPTER 17: The Logical Art is Necessary

Since reason is the faculty which brings order to the universe, it ought not to be left in disorder. Yet how may we bring order to it? It is plain that it must bring order to itself or it must be brought by another thing. This other thing also must be reason, or it must be superior to reason, which is impossible. But if it is reason that brings order, who shall analyze THAT reason? For if that reason does this for itself, our reason also can do it. If we require outside reason to bring order, the thing, will go on to infinity and have no end. Reason therefore must be made orderly by itself.

For Epictetus the greatest gift God gave to us is our reason. He tells us that it was the mind of God that gave order to the Universe, and it is our own reason that allows us to bring order to our own environment. But to give order, our minds must also be orderly. Epictetus assumes that this order might come within or from without. But he shows upon closer scrutiny that it impossible that it could come from without because that would require an infinite number of order creators going back to infinity.

One of the church fathers, Augustine, was a noted philosopher. He considered a similar question regarding the order and motion of the universe. He understood that for something to move, it must have been moved by something else (in a way similar to a queue ball moving other balls around a pool table). He hypothesized that one thing causing another to move back beyond infinity was a conceptual impossibility. He said that there must have been one being to set the whole universe into motion, and this being must have been intelligent because the universe is orderly. This "prime mover" or "first mover" must have been God.

Order had to begin somewhere and both Epictetus and Augustine would agree that it came from God. The difference is that, for Epictetus, God gave man the ability to create order in his own mind. For Augustine order comes directly from God.

Chapter 17:

  1. The Logical Art is Necessary
  2. Logic and Philosophy (17a)
  3. The Logical Yardstick (17b)
  4. The Role of Authority (17c)
  5. Reason, Faith, and Understanding (17d)
  6. Reason Coupled with Faith (17e)
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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