Child-Like Minds

"Well, then, ought we to say such things to the many?" Why should we? Is it not enough for a man to be persuaded himself? When children come clapping their hands and cry out, "To-day is the good Saturnalia," do we say, "The Saturnalia are not good?" By no means, but we clap our hands also. Do you also then, when you are not able to make a man change his mind, be assured that he is a child, and clap your hands with him, and if you do not choose to do this, keep silent.

Here is a place where Christianity and Stoicism part company. We could compare the Saturnalia theme in this paragraph with our Santa Claus. (Saturnalia was a wild holiday where social conditions were turned upside down.) Do we disabuse children of the notion of the existence of this mythical person? Some say yes, others no. But Epictetus tells us that we should not take away from child-like minds their pet notions.

This, however, is a mistake. Sooner or later the child learns that there is no Santa Claus (though it need not be right away). It is a mark of growing maturity. In the same way, mistaken people should be properly educated if only to help make their lives better. Ultimately, by improving an individual life, we contribute to making the world a better place. Of course, the Bible has many exhortations to the Christian to go out and tell the world about Christianity. The practical reason for this is as strong as the spiritual reason. Christians work constantly to improve the world and the lives of others.

Chapter 29:

  1. On Constancy and Courage
  2. Do Philosophers Despise Kings? (2a)
  3. Opinions (2b)
  4. The Stronger and the Weaker (2c)
  5. Anytus and Meletus (2d)
  6. Superior Principles (2e)
  7. Child-Like Minds (2f)
  8. Like an Athlete (2g)
  9. Facing Adversity (2h)
  10. Might for Right (2i)
  11. Objective Truth (2j)
  12. Exhortation to Action (2k)
  13. The Runaway Slave (2l)
  14. Summary - Stoicism and Christianity (2m)
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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