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Epictetus. (c.A.D. 50–c.A.D. 138).  The Golden Sayings of Epictetus.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
LXXXI
 
 
“Epictetus, I have often come desiring to hear you speak, and you have never given me any answer; now if possible, I entreat you, say something to me.”  1
  “Is there, do you think,” replied Epictetus, “an art of speaking as of other things, if it is to be done skilfully and with profit to the hearer?”  2
  “Yes.”  3
  “And are all profited by what they hear, or only some among them? So that it seems there is an art of hearing as well as of speaking…. To make a statue needs skill: to view a statue aright needs skill also.”  4
  “Admitted.”  5
  “And I think all will allow that one who proposes to hear philosophers speak needs a considerable training in hearing. Is that not so? Then tell me on what subject you are able to hear me.”  6
  “Why, on good and evil.”  7
  “The good and evil of what? a horse, an ox?”  8
  “No; of a man.”  9
  “Do we know then what Man is? what his nature is? what is the idea we have of him? And are our ears practised in any degree on the subject? Nay, do you understand what Nature is? can you follow me in any degree when I say that I shall have to use demonstration? Do you understand what Demonstration is? what True or False is?… must I drive you to Philosophy?… Show me what good I am to do by discoursing with you. Rouse my desire to do so. The sight of the pasture it loves stirs in a sheep the desire to feed: show it a stone or a bit of bread and it remains unmoved. Thus we also have certain natural desires, aye, and one that moves us to speak when we find a listener that is worth his salt: one that himself stirs the spirit. But if he sits by like a stone or a tuft of grass, how can he rouse a man’s desire?”  10
  “Then you will say nothing to me?”  11
  “I can only tell you this: that one who knows not who he is and to what end he was born; what kind of world this is and with whom he is associated therein; one who cannot distinguish Good and Evil, Beauty and Foulness,… Truth and Falsehood, will never follow Reason in shaping his desires and impulses and repulsions, nor yet in assent, denial, or suspension of judgment; but will in one word go about deaf and blind, thinking himself to be somewhat, when he is in truth of no account. Is there anything new in all this? Is not this ignorance the cause of all the mistakes and mischances of men since the human race began?…”  12
  “This is all I have to say to you, and even this against the grain. Why? Because you have not stirred my spirit. For what can I see in you to stir me, as a spirited horse will stir a judge of horses? Your body? That you maltreat. Your dress? That is luxurious. Your behaviour, your look?—Nothing whatever. When you want to hear a philosopher, do not say, ‘You say nothing to me’; only show yourself worthy or fit to hear, and then you will see how you will move the speaker.”  13
 

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