« AnteriorContinuar »
GRISWOLD, RUFUS WILMOT
Roger Williams and His Controversies
1794-1871 Byron and the Growth of History from Myth Grotius, HUGO
PAGE Erasmus (Portrait, Photogravure)
Frontispiece Fénelon (Portrait, Photogravure)
1699 Benjamin Franklin (Portrait, Photogravure)
1769 Thomas Fuller (Portrait, Photogravure)
1817 The Luxembourg Portrait of Gladstone (Photogravure) 1906 Goethe at the Court of Charles Frederick (Photogravure) 1915 Westminster Abbey (Photogravure)
1936 Penn's Purchase of Pennsylvania (Photogravure)
(First to Second Century A. D.)
PICTETUS, one of the greatest thinkers of the Stoic school, was born at Hierapolis in Phrygia in the first century after Christ.
The date of his birth is not known, but it is put by some between 40 and 50 A. D. Little or nothing is known of his life, except that from being a slave in Rome under Nero, he became one of the recognized heads of the Stoic school of philosophy. His first master was Musonius Rufus, whose lectures on philosophy were in high repute at Rome under Nero and Vespasian. Epictetus, however, is more indebted to his own studies of the great thinkers of Greece than to the philosophy of Rome under the emperors. He is, in his own right, a thinker of great breadth and power, not despising authority, but never hesitating to go beyond it in the search for truth. With no creed imposed on him by public opinion or hereditary influences, he set himself to decide the problem of the universe and of life in the universe. What is good and evil? Is it one and the same thing in different forms? Why do we live at all? Why do others live and strive to help us or to hurt us? Why do the gods find pleasure in our lives, and how can we so live as to become ourselves divine? These questions Epictetus answered very simply, and at least as satisfactorily as they have been answered by any one else. To him there is nothing good but God and the will of God. For us happiness and every other incident of the Good depends on our own will. We have in ourselves a part of the Divine nature and we can continually increase its power for good by willing that it shall work in harmony with the Supreme Good. Evil is whatever opposes the will of God which at all times and in all things is the Supreme Good. Whatever separates us from God is evil, but nothing else is. Pain, if it be a protest of higher law against our reaction to a lower life, or if it be a spur to a higher endeavor, may be good in itself, and it is certainly good in its results. So of all other things which make us uncomfortable. Comfort may be a curse — discomfort the greatest blessing, as it stirs us to progress and leads us to tranquil co-operation in carrying out divine purposes. This is the positive part of the view Epictetus takes of the object and conduct of life. He does not wholly free it from negation, however. It is the ineradicable weakness of Stoicism to tend always to substitute tranquillity for peace, and freedom from perturbation for the satisfaction of efficiency. There is always in it too much faith in repression — too little in expression. But no other Stoic ever came nearer than Epictetus to the sublime simplicity of soul illustrated by those great ones of the race who for their work's sake have forgotten to ask whether they were to be comfortable or uncomfortable, tranquil or disturbed, happy or unhappy.
Epictetus committed nothing to manuscript. His discourses were reported by his celebrated disciple, the historian Arrian, who wrote also “The Enchiridion,” a handbook of his teachings.*
W. V. B.
OF PROGRESS OR IMPROVEMENT
I JE who is making progress, having learned from philosophers H that desire means the desire of good things, and aversion
means aversion from bad things; having learned too that happiness and tranquillity are not attainable by man otherwise than by not failing to obtain what he desires, and not falling into that which he would avoid; such a man takes from himself desire altogether and defers it, but he employs his aversion only on things which are dependent on his will. For if he attempts to avoid anything independent of his will, he knows that sometimes he will fall in with something which he wishes to avoid, and he will be unhappy. Now if virtue promises good fortune and tranquillity and happiness, certainly also the progress toward virtue is progress toward each of these things. For it is always true that to whatever point the perfecting of anything leads us, progress is an approach toward this point.
How then do we admit that virtue is such as I have said, and yet seek progress in other things and make a display of it ? What is the product of virtue ? Tranquillity. Who then makes improvement? Is it he who has read many books of Chrysippus ? But does virtue consist in having understood Chrysippus ? If this is so, progress is clearly nothing else than knowing a great deal of Chrysippus. But now we admit that virtue produces one thing, and we declare that approaching near to it is another thing, namely, progress or improvement. Such a person, says one, is
* See Volume I. of World's Best Essays, where it is given in full.