Epictetus reproved the person reading hypothetical arguments. The teacher who had suggested the reading was laughing at the reader. Epictetus said to the teacher, "You are laughing at yourself. You did not prepare the young man nor did you ascertain whether he was able to understand these matters. Perhaps you are only employing him as a reader." Well then, said Epictetus, if a man has not ability enough to understand the complex, do we trust him in giving praise, do we trust him in giving blame, do we allow that he is able to form a judgment about good or bad? And if such a man blames anyone, does the man care for the blame? And if he praises anyone, is the man elated, when in such small matters as a hypothetical syllogism he who praises cannot see what is consequent on the hypothesis?
This passage is left out of many translations of Epictetus. Because the Discourses were originally put together from the lecture notes of Arian, they sometimes jump around a bit. This paragraph may have lost some of its context to the remainder of the discourse. Yet it does tie together the scene, reminding us of the beginning. Epictetus is, in essence, reinforcing to the student and the teacher the idea that truth transcends hypothesis.
Stoicism and Christianity Index
- What is the Law of Life?
- Theory Is Easy (26a)
- Philosophy at a Banquet (26b)
- The Reader (26c)
- Understanding Is the Beginning (26d)