Epictetus, the Discourses as reported by Arrian, the Manual, and Fragments/Book 3/Chapter 17

CHAPTER XVII

Of Providence

Whenever you find fault with Providence, only consider and you will recognize that what happens is in accordance with reason. "Yes," you say, "but the wicked man is better off." In what respect? In money; for in respect to that he is superior to you, because he flatters, is shameless, lies awake nights. What is surprising in that? But look rather and see if he is better off than you are in being faithful, and considerate. For you will not find that to be the case; but where you are superior, there you will find that you are better off than he is. And so I once asked a man who was complaining about the prosperity of Philostorgus, "Would you have been willing to cohabit with Sura?"[1] "May that day never come!" said he. 5Why, then, are you indignant if he gets something for what he sells? Or how can you deem him blessed who acquires what he has by means which you abhor? Or what harm does Providence do if it gives the better thing to the better men? Or is it not better to be considerate than to be rich? He agreed that it was. Why, then, are you indignant, man, when you have the better part? I would have the rest of you always remember, then, and be ready to apply the following truth: That this is a law of nature for the superior to have the better of the inferior, in the respect in which he is superior; and then you will never be indignant. "But my wife treats me badly." Very well; if someone asks you what this amounts to, say, "My wife treats me badly." "Nothing else, then?" Nothing. "My father doesn't give me anything" . . .[2] But is it necessary in your own mind to add to the preceding statement, that to receive nothing from your father is an evil, and at that to add a lie too? For this reason we ought not to cast out poverty, but only our judgement about poverty, and so we shall be serene.

FootnotesEdit

  1. Probably the Palfurius Sura who had been expelled from the Senate under the Flavian emperors. Suet. Dom. 13, 2.
  2. The lacuna is probably to be filled out thus: What does this amount to? Merely that your father doesn't give you anything.