Epictetus
Epictetus


Felicion the Shoemaker

When absurd notions about things, independent of our will, lie at the bottom of our opinions, we must of necessity pay regard to tyrants. I wish that men would pay regard to tyrants only, and not also to the bedchamber men. How is it that the man becomes all at once wise, when Caesar has made him superintendent of the chamber pot? How is it that we say immediately, "Felicion sensibly spoke." If he were thrown out of the bedchamber, he might again appear to be a fool.

What is worse than the fact that people fear the tyrant is that every level of the bureaucracy suddenly gains "stature" and power.

Epaphroditus had a shoemaker whom he sold because the shoemaker was useless. This fellow, by good fortune, was bought by one of Caesar's men. The man became Caesar's shoemaker. You should have seen what respect Epaphroditus paid to him, "How does the good Felicion do, I pray?" Then if any of us asked, "What is Epaphroditus doing?" The answer, "He is consulting about something with Felicion." He had sold the man as useless! Who then made the shoemaker wise all at once? This is an instance of valuing something other than the things which depend on the will.

Here is an example of the folly of molding one's actions to the desires of supposed governmental or official authorities based on their position and not on their acts or the practicality of their advice. This representative figure "Felicion" stands in for the bureaucrat who has wide influence in spite of his foolishness.

Epictetus is advocating an independence of spirit - not so much self-reliance in the physical realm, but in the mental sphere. He does not advise us to ignore the words of others as useless, rather he would have us judge people based on the content of their characters, not their position or rank. We find further evidence of this viewpoint in the first paragraph of this discourse. We recall Epictetus implying that men should not desire to imitate the Emperor, but Socrates.

Chapter 19:

  1. How We Should Behave to Tyrants
  2. Tyrants and Pipkins (19a)
  3. God Is Useful (19b)
  4. Felicion the Shoemaker (19c)
  5. Alexander and Diogenes (19d)
  6. Honors Are Vanity (19e)
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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