Epictetus, the Discourses as reported by Arrian, the Manual, and Fragments/Book 3/Chapter 18


That we ought not to allow any news to disturb us

Whenever some disturbing news is reported to you, you ought to have ready at hand the following principle: News, on any subject, never falls within the sphere of the moral purpose. Can anyone bring you word that you have been wrong in an assumption or in a desire?—By no means.—But he can bring you word that someone is dead. Very well, what is that to you? That someone is speaking ill of you. Very well, what is that to you? That your father is making certain preparations. Against whom? Surely not against your moral purpose, is it? Why, how can he? But against your paltry body, against your paltry possessions; you are safe, it is not against you. But the judge condemns you on the charge of impiety. And did not the judges similarly condemn Socrates? Surely it is no concern of yours that the judge pronounced you guilty, is it?—No.—Why, then, are you any further concerned? 5Your father has a certain function, and if he does not perform it, he has destroyed the father in him, the man who loves his offspring, the man of gentleness within him. Do not seek to make him lose anything else on this account. For it never happens that a man goes wrong in one thing, but is injured in another.[1] Again, it is your function to defend yourself firmly, respectfully, without passion. Otherwise, you have destroyed within you the son, the respectful man, the man of honour. What then? Is the judge secure? No; but he too runs just as great a risk. Why, then, are you afraid of what decision he is going to render? What have you to do with another man's evil? Your own evil is to make a bad defence; only guard against that, but just as being condemned or not being condemned is another's function, so it is another's evil. "So-and-so threatens you." Me? No. "He blames you." He himself will attend to how he is performing his own proper function. "He is on the point of condemning you unjustly." Poor devil!


  1. On this point see the Introduction, Vol. I, p. xx: "Every man bears the exclusive responsibility himself for his own good or evil, since it is impossible to imagine a moral order in which one person does the wrong and another, the innocent, suffers"; or, as here, where a person might do wrong in the moral sphere, and yet not suffer also in the moral sphere. Compare also the note on I. 28, 10, in Vol. I. This general position, which as an unverifiable postulate underlies the whole Stoic philosophy, and is the very starting-point of their whole system of thinking, is what might be styled the πρῶτον ψεῦδος of Stoicism.