Epictetus
Epictetus


Might for Right

"Let us assume that the Emperor makes you governor of a province?" someone proposes. I assume it, and when I have assumed it, I show how a good man behaves. "Lay aside your musical instrument and clothe yourself in rags. Then come forward onto the stage." Well, at least I have not lost the power of displaying a good voice. How, then, do you now appear? I appear as a witness summoned by God. "Come forward, you, and bear testimony for me, for you are worthy to be brought forward as a witness by me. Is anything external to the will good or bad? Do I hurt any man? Have I made every man's interest dependent on any man except himself?" What testimony do you give before God? "I am in a wretched condition, Master, and I am unfortunate. No man cares for me. No man gives me anything. Everyone blames me, and all speak ill of me." Is this the evidence that you are going to give, and disgrace his summons, who has conferred so much honor on you, and thought you worthy of being called to bear such testimony?

The Lerner and Lowe musical "Camelot" has King Arthur groping in his mind for his mission in life. After considerable thought he figures out that "might does not make right", but that might should be used for right. This becomes the motto of the "Round Table", "Might For Right!" Again, we see the physical realm is not as important as the spiritual. Yet, it is our duty to align, as much as possible, the physical to the spiritual good as Epictetus would if he were to be made governor.

No matter the circumstances, good or evil, we have an opportunity to act well. Ultimately, Epictetus would have us know, we will be brought to judgment before God to make an accounting of our actions. This ultimate accounting is fundamental to Christian belief, though it is only tangential to stoicism. In the letters of Paul and Peter we have innumerable references to the judgment day when every person will be brought before God. (Rom 2:3, 2Cor 5:10, 1Pet 4:17, etc.) For Christians, belief in this ultimate accounting has been a factor motivating behavior.

Realization that every act is to be weighed in the scales of justice motivates us to obey the word of God. Yet, this is not the sole reason for being a Christian, nor even the most important factor. For Christians the most important reason is the joy inherent in Christianity and the sheer practical results of living after the example of Jesus.

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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