March 18, 2017 - Ancient Stoicism in Plain English
Tag(s): Book Excerpts ||

Don’t become a treacherous animal (Epictetus Discourses in Plain English 1.3)

Chuck Chakrapani

Key ideas of this discourse

Discourses is a collection of Epictetus’ conversations with his students and visitors, as recorded by his student Flavius Arrian. Discourses forms an excellent introduction to Stoicism and, in this series, The Stoic Gym presents Epictetus’ Discourses in plain English.

We have two aspects to us: animal-like and god-like.
The god-like aspect of us is our ability to reason.
Most of us are quicker to be animal-like than to be rational and god-like.
We should take care not to become like treacherous animals.

You should be proud to be a child of god

If you truly believed that we are children of God, as you should, you would not think of yourself as despicable or inferior in any way. If a king were to adopt you, there would be no end to your conceit. How come you are not proud knowing that you are child of God? In fact, you are not happy at all about this. Why?

We have two aspects to us: Divine and animalistic

Because, from birth, two elements coexist within us: a body that is common to all animals, and a rational mind and intelligence that we share only with god. Unfortunately, we are quick to identify ourselves with animals, even though it is miserable and mortal. Only very few of us identify ourselves with God, even though it is divine and blessed.

Everyone will necessarily deal with things according to their beliefs. So those that think that they are born for fidelity and respect, and are confident in their correct use of impressions, will not entertain any mean or ignoble thoughts about themselves. But the majority does the opposite and says, “Who am I but a poor, miserable piece of flesh?” Yes, the flesh is miserable. But you are better than the flesh. Why turn away from this fact and hang on to something that is mortal?

Take care not become a treacherous animal

Because our relationship to the animal kingdom, some of us adopt animal-like qualities and become like wolves – noxious, faithless, and treacherous; or like lions – wild, savage, and untamed; in fact, most of us become cunning foxes. So take care, don’t take on the traits of treacherous animals.

Think about this

Take care that you don’t become one of the roguish animals. Epictetus