ABOUT THE ‘ENCYCLOPEDIC EDUCATION’ AND THE ‘EDUCATION TO THE NATURE OF THINGS’. SYNOPSIS OF ALL THE PASSAGES CONTAINING THE TERMS ‘παιδεία’ ‘παίδευσις’ ‘παιδευτής’ ‘παιδεύω’ ‘παιδεύομαι’ (education, educator, to educate) IN THE WORKS OF EPICTETUS

 

Up to now the current interpretation of the Stoic philosophy of Epictetus has ignored the concept of ‘education to the nature of things’. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the fundamental importance and the constant presence of this concept in the works of Epictetus, provided that we look carefully at what is concealed under the ancient Greek terms referring generically to ‘education’. This result is obtained and documented through the simple logical analysis of all the relevant passages in the works of Epictetus.

 

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1. INTRODUCTION

In this paper I suggest that for the correct interpretation of the Stoic philosophy of Epictetus it is essential to recognize that the nouns ‘παιδεία’, ‘παίδευσις’, ‘παιδευτής’ and the verbs ‘παιδεύω’, ‘παιδεύομαι’, in addition to the meaning of ‘education’ in a generically encyclopedic sense, have also the very specific and technical meaning of ‘education to the nature of things’. This meaning is not of random and occasional occurrence in Epictetus. As the frequencies calculated below demonstrate, out of 37 total occurrences of these terms in his works, in 27 cases, i.e. in more than 73% of the cases, it is possible to give a coherent and precise meaning to the words of Epictetus only by referring them to the ‘education to the nature of things’.

2. THE WORDS OF EPICTETUS

Let us consider an example among many, that of ‘Discourses’ I,22,9 quoted here in section 4.2 as ENOT8. To my knowledge, all the scholars translate this passage essentially this way: ‘What, then, does it mean to get an education? It means learning to apply natural preconceptions to particular cases in accordance with nature. And further, it means making the distinction that some things are in our power while others are not’ [1]. What does it mean ‘to get an education’? Which ‘education’ are we talking about? Perhaps the education of the young Lacedemonians or that of the Persians? The education to geometry and to music or the education to rhetoric and to dialectic? And if education means ‘learning to apply natural preconceptions to particular cases in accordance with nature’ we are again at the same point: what does the expression ‘in accordance with nature’ mean? Which ‘nature’ are we talking about? Whatever thing we do, will it not be a ‘natural’ thing? Is it possible for a man to operate in a way that is ‘contrary to nature’? In fact the law abiding and the criminal person are both educated to something: the first one to certain moral ideas and policies; the second to some very different ones. But all these moral ideas and policies are simple ‘cultural models’ that have their defenders and their reasons. In philosophy, on the contrary, in order to understand the phenomena of nature we do not need generic cultural models but standards linked to something that must be invariant and valid without exception for all human beings, whatever be their culture, race, religion, ideology, language, age, gender and so on. The question then is: does this canon exist? The answer is: yes. This canon exists and is represented, as Epictetus tells us in his works [2], by the infinite freedom of the human proairesis to choose between a ‘diairetic’ attitude, i.e. to behave in harmony with ‘the nature of things’, and a ‘counterdiairetic’ attitude [3], i.e. to behave in contrast to ‘the nature of things’. Epictetus knows very well how easy it is to misunderstand the point, and in the example we are discussing helps immediately his translator by stating very clearly in the next sentence the he was referring not generically to ‘nature’ but to the ‘nature of things’. The ‘nature of things’ [2], [4], [5], is exactly their essential bipartition in things that are in our exclusive power and things that are not in our exclusive power. This definition makes the term ‘diairesis’ a perfect equivalent of the term ‘nature of things’ and allows us to consider the expression ‘education to diairesis’ a synonym of the expression ‘education to the nature of things’. For the correct interpretation of the Stoicism of Epictetus I think therefore necessary to qualify the term ‘παιδεία’ as ‘education to the nature of things’ i.e. ‘education to diairesis’, since this is the only interpretation consistent with the general structure of his philosophy and is also clearly his intended goal as an educator. Only in few cases, 10 out of 37, i.e. in 27% of the cases, Epictetus uses the term education in a generically encyclopedic sense. It follows that the correct translation of 'Diatribe' I,22,9 cannot be but the following: What does it mean then to be educated to the nature of things? It means learning to adapt our natural preconceptions to the particular substances and cases in a way appropriate to the nature of things and, well then, to discriminate that, among things, some are in our exclusive power while others are not in our exclusive power” [2].

3. THE GUIDING PRINCIPLE OF THE SYNOPSIS

For the sake of a greater clarity, it seems appropriate to divide the synopsis into three sections.
The first section contains all the quotations of the works of Epictetus in which the terms we are analyzing mean education in a generically encyclopedic sense. I will tag them as EE (Encyclopedic Education) followed by a number (EE1, EE2, etc.). In this section therefore, I will keep myself close to the current translations.
The second section contains all the quotations for which I propose the translation ‘education to the nature of things’. In this section I will break away from the translations published so far. I will tag them as ENOT (Education to the Nature Of Things) followed by a number (ENOT1, ENOT2, etc.).
The third section contains all the quotations in which Epictetus employs the terms we are analyzing to indicate first education in a generically encyclopedic sense and then in the specific sense of ‘education to the nature of things’, in this or in the reverse order.
I am aware that in some cases, fortunately few, the difference between the two possible interpretations of the text of Epictetus is very subtle. The elucidation of these subtleties would require a discussion which goes however beyond the precise and limited scope of the present paper.

4. THE SYNOPSIS

All the present quotations of Epictetus are taken from the F. Scalenghe’s English translation [2] of the text of Epictetus edited by W. A. Oldfather [6].

4.1 First Section. Quotations containing the terms we are analyzing with the meaning ‘education’ in a generically encyclopedic sense.

(EE1) - But now, what happens? Your educator is corpse-like, and corpse-like are you. Once foddered today, you sit crying about tomorrow and whence you could feed.
‘Discourses’ I,9,19
(EE4) - Well, philosopher! Persist, persuade our youths, that much more people may experience what you experience and talk like you talk. Our well-ordered towns grew great thanks to these discourses. Sparta became great because of these discourses. Lycurgus, with his laws and his system of education infused into the Spartans these persuasions, that to be a servant is no more shameful than beautiful and that to be free is no more beautiful than shameful. Those who died at Thermopylae died because of these judgements. And for what discourses but these did the Athenians desert their town?
‘Discourses’ II,20,26
(EE5) - What impression have I about myself? How do I deal with myself? Do I too deal with myself the way the prudent man deals with himself, and as a self-restrained man does with himself? Do I too ever say that I have been educated to meet whatever will come?
‘Discourses’ II,21,9
(EE6, 7, 8) - “I do not marry”. “Neither do I, for people ought not to marry”. Not even beget children, nor engage in city's business. What will, then, happen? Whence will citizens come? Who will educate them? Who will be superintendent of the ephebi, who head of the gymnasium? And to what will he educate them? What Lacedaemonians or Athenians were educated to?
‘Discourses’ III,7,19
(EE9) - In this way the mysteries become beneficial, thus we come to the impression that all these rites were instituted from our ancients for the education and rectification of our life.
‘Discourses’ III,21,15
(EE10) - Who among us does not admire the words of Lycurgus the Lacedaemonian? For crippled to an eye from one of the citizens, he assumed the younker from the populace, that he may take vengeance upon him as he decided. Yet he abstained from this, but he educated him and after declaring him a good man, brought him to the theatre. To the amazed Lacedaemonians "When I got him”, he said, "from you, this fellow was outrageous and violent. I give him back to you acquiescent and friend to people”.
‘Fragments’ F5

4.2 Second Section. Quotations containing the terms we are analyzing with the specific meaning of ‘education to the nature of things’.

(ENOT1) - That is why we especially need education to the nature of things, so as to learn to adapt our preconception of reasonable and unreasonable to particular substances, in harmony with the nature of things.
‘Discourses’ I,2,6
(ENOT2) - This is the contest in which your teacher and educator to the nature of things ought to compete, if he were someone.
‘Discourses’ I,9,12
(ENOT3) - Something like that ought to happen between an educator to the nature of things and the thoroughbred among the youths.
‘Discourses’ I,9,18
(ENOT4, 5) - And he who is being educated to the nature of things, is bound to come to educate himself to the nature of things with this design: “How may I stay in every circumstance in the company of gods, how may I be well pleased of the government of Matter Immortal, how may I become free?”
‘Discourses’ I,12,8
(ENOT6) - Here only, then, in the case of what is greatest and most dominant, in the case of freedom, was it granted to me to want at haphazard? Not at all. But to be educated to the nature of things means precisely to learn to dispose each thing so as it happens. And how does it happen? As the constitutor constituted it.
‘Discourses’ I,12,15
(ENOT7) - Mindful, then, of this constitution, we must come to be educated to the nature of things not in order to change the premises (for this is not given to us nor it's better) but in order that, being things around us as they are and are by nature, we have our intelligence reconciled to the events.
Discourses’ I,12,17
(ENOT8) - What does it mean, then, to be educated to the nature of things? It means learning to adapt our natural preconceptions to the particular substances and cases in a way appropriate to the nature of things and, well then, to discriminate that, among things, some are in our exclusive power while others are not in our exclusive power.
‘Discourses’ I,22,9
(ENOT9) - Well then, it is the work of the man who has been educated to the nature of things to hit the mark in all these cases. Whatever be the thing that oppresses us, against that we must bring the help. If to oppress us are the sophisms of Pyrrho and of the Academy, let's bring the help against them.
‘Discourses’ I,27,2
(ENOT10) - We ought to remember these things, and the one who is called to meet some difficult circumstance must know that the right time has come to demonstrate if we have been educated to the nature of things.
‘Discourses’ I,29,33
(ENOT11) - Here too. “Take the leadership!” I take it and, once taken, I show how a man who has been educated to the nature of things deals with this business.
‘Discourses’ I,29,44
(ENOT12, 13) - And the man who has been indeed educated to the nature of things will turn his mind towards a person uneducated to do that, who decrees something upon what is holy and what is unholy, upon what is unjust and what is just? What an injustice on the part of those who have been educated to the nature of things! Did you learn these things here? Will you not leave the petty discourses upon these issues to others, to slothful pipsqueaks, so that they may sit still in a corner and get their petty fees or grumble that nobody provides them with nothing; and you instead come to use what you learned?
‘Discourses’ I,29,54
(ENOT14) - What is, then, the fruit of these judgements? The one that must be the most beautiful and appropriate to those who indeed are educated to the nature of things: undisconcertment, control of fear, freedom.
‘Discourses’ II,1,21
(ENOT17) - But simply and with your entire intellect, be either this or that; either free or servant; either a man who has been educated to the nature of things or a human being uneducated to that; either a generous fighting cock or a mean one; and when you are struck, either stand until you die or renounce straightaway.
‘Discourses’ II,2,13
(ENOT18) - But if you envy, O slothful fellow, and pity and are jealous and tremble and never intermit a day without lamenting yourself and the Gods, why do you still say to have been educated to the nature of things?
‘Discourses’ II,17,26
(ENOT19) - What kind of education to the nature of things, you sir? Because you were busy with syllogisms and arguments with equivocal premisses? Will you not, if possible, unlearn all this and begin from the beginning, after becoming conscious that till now you did not even touch the business.
‘Discourses’ II,17,27
(ENOT20, 21) - I am now your educator to the nature of things, and with me you educate yourselves to the nature of things. I have this design: to make you come out unhampered, unconstrained, unimpeded, free, serene, happy, men who have Zeus in view in every circumstance, both small and great. And you are here to learn and study this.
‘Discourses’ II,19,29
(ENOT22) - If our educator to the nature of things, our common pedagogue will fail, what is necessary for him to experience?
‘Discourses’ III,22,17
(ENOT23) - But till I pass my time with Your things, whom do You dispose me to be? A magistrate or a layman, a senator or one of the common people, a soldier or a general, an educator to the nature of things or a housemaster? The task and the position that You will put in my hand, as Socrates says, I’ll die ten thousand times before I abandon them.
‘Discourses’ III,24,99
(ENOT24) - But if he wants his son or his wife to cease their aberrations, he wants what is another's to cease being what is another's. And this is the education to the nature of things: to learn what is exclusively ours and what is another's.
‘Discourses’ IV,5,7
(ENOT25, 26, 27) - It is not the things themselves that disconcert the human beings, but their judgements about these things. For example, death is nothing terrible, or else it would have appeared such also to Socrates; but the judgment upon death, that it's terrible, this is the terrible thing. When, then, we are hindered or disconcerted or grieved, let’s never impute anyone else but ourselves, that is our judgements. To bring charges to other people for what he fares ill is the work of the uneducated to the nature of things. To bring charges to himself is the work of the one who has begun to educate himself to the nature of things. To bring charges neither to another nor to himself is the work of the man educated to the nature of things.
‘Manual’ E5

4.3 Third Section. Quotations containing the terms we are analyzing with the meaning ‘education’ in a generically encyclopaedic sense and then with the specific meaning of ‘education to the nature of things’.

(EN2) (ENOT15) - For on these points one must not trust the majority, who say that only the free citizens are in power of being educated; but rather trust the philosophers, who say that only the men educated to the nature of things are free.
‘Discourses’ II,1,22
(EN3) (ENOT16) - How, then, shall we any longer trust you, O dearest lawgivers, who allow none but the free citizens to be educated? For the philosophers say “We do not allow anyone to be free but those who have been educated to the nature of things, that is, it is Matter Immortal that does not allow it”.
‘Discourses’II,1,

Grand Total:     37  times    ‘education to the nature of things’                  27 times
                                            ‘encyclopedic education’                                 10 times

5. THE ENCYCLOPEDIC EDUCATION VERSUS THE EDUCATION TO THE NATURE OF THINGS (i.e.  TO THE EDUCATION TO DIAIRESIS)

If we assume, as we said in section 2, that the present Universe to which we all belong is composed of only two sets of things [7], [5]: ​​the set of what is ‘proairetic’ and the set of what is ‘aproairetic’, then we are entitled to believe in the existence both of the education in a generically encyclopedic sense and of the education to the nature of things.
In this regard, Diogenes Laertius [8] informs us that in general the Cynics philosophers favored what I call here ‘education to the nature of things’; that they refused to attach any importance to the encyclopedic education, and discouraged people to learn geometry, music and all notions of this kind. Antisthenes, for example, argued that those who have become virtuous have no need to learn the literature, in order not to be distracted from philosophy; and to the fellow who showed him a sundial Diogenes the Cynic said: “This thing is useful only not to be late for lunch”.
The attitude of the Stoics was always less drastic, although some accused Zeno [9] of having declared useless, early in his ‘Republic’, the encyclopedic education. In keeping with their qualification of all aproairetic things as ‘neither good nor evil’, the Stoics never underestimated the importance of encyclopedic education, but certainly defined it not decisive as the education to the nature of things for the acquisition of virtue. Stobaeus [10] tells us that according to Aristo of Chios, people who are fond of encyclopedic education but neglect the education to the nature of things are similar to Penelope’s suitors, who always failed to conquer her while managed to conquer her maids. And according to the same Aristo [11]: “the majority of human beings resembles the father of Odysseus, Laertes; who, while totally concerned with his field, cared very little about himself. In fact, these multitudes have the greatest care of their material possessions, while are careless about their souls, which are filled with wild passions”. And again Diogenes Laertius [12] eventually informs us that Chrysippus clearly stated that the encyclopedic education is somehow profitable. This is also the teaching of Epictetus, who never denies the importance of encyclopedic education, while at the same time stresses the point that it is only in relation to their permanent ‘education to the nature of things' that young people will become virtuous or vicious, happy or unhappy creatures, freemen or slaves, living peace or living war.
Anyway, the tension that develops between encyclopedic education and education to the nature of things is quite natural, because each of us is inevitably bound to live and operate in a certain defined and actual context. And as long as we are careful not to confuse the two levels, i.e. until the game of life is well played, there is no reason why we should not play it [13].
As we have just read in ENOT11 Epictetus tells us: “Here too. ‘Take the leadership!’ I take it and, once taken, I show you how a man who has been educated to the nature of things deals with this business”. Which example of ‘education to the nature of things’ do we have better than the one offered by the life of Marcus Aurelius in his ‘Memories’ [14]? Let me try briefly to explain why. All men sweat, breathe, use impressions, have impulses and repulsions. However, these are obviously not peculiarities of the man. Which is, then, the work peculiar to the man? In order to do the work he has been structured by nature for, the unique, real and fundamental thing that a man must be educated to is the respect of the nature of things and the honor of his proairesis [7], which means ‘education to the nature of things’ i.e. ‘to diairesis’. The cheeky man, the scoundrel, the unfaithful people still do possible things and therefore things just as natural as those that the virtuous man does. And as it would be foolish to expect what is natural not to happen, so it would be absurd to demand the impossible to happen. Now, since the nature of things inviolably states that prize and punishment, good and evil, happiness and unhappiness be incorporated, for each of us, in our own acts of thought, any man educated to the nature of things is absolutely right when he does not grieve for the aberrations of other people and actually makes them become occasions, on one hand, to correct his superficiality or imprudence and, secondly, to educate to the nature of things the aberrant fellows. Of course without hoping any reward or complaining of not being heard or of being misunderstood. Julius Capitolinus tells us in the ‘Historia Augusta’ [15] that in 138 A.D. the young Marcus, then seventeen years old, upon knowing about his adoption by Hadrian was appalled and not cheered by the news; that when he was ordered to go to live in the private home of Hadrian, he left his mother’s house with extreme reluctance; and that when asked why he was sad for the imperial adoption, Marcus used to enumerate the misfortunes and evils that are contained in the imperial power. Now, the man who judges that to become an emperor is a good thing inherently productive of happiness for himself and for other people - like the crowds of micro-imperators who go under the name of citizens imagine [16] - he will crave, though in vain, for such a high office and would touch the heaven with a finger if he could obtain it. On the contrary, the man who judges that to become an emperor is an evil thing because it is intrinsically productive of unhappiness for himself and for other people, will do everything he can to kill the emperor. The man who looks instead at the office of emperor like he looks at any other external and aproairetic thing, being in itself something neither good nor evil, can accept the decision of fate and will show, if he is capable to do it, how a man ‘educated to the nature of things’ and able to live free in this world behaves in similar circumstances. This is the risk that the seventeen years old Marcus agreed to run. Although not equipped, as he himself admits, with a particularly brilliant intellect, living at court he must have soon realized that fate had plunged him into a stinking sewer and appointed him to a work dirtier than the one appointed to the cleaner of the filthiest toilets [17]. That Marcus was able or not to decently clean the culverts that fate had entrusted him into custody, everyone has the right to have his own opinion. Anyway Marcus did not refuse the job, and most historical records assess positively his work. If I am non wrong, with the resources that he had, in the conditions and times that were granted him, first and perhaps the only one in history, he endeavored to play his role as guardian of the imperial shithole in such a way as to be beneficial to men by creating them the least possible amount of difficulties and by being ready to accept any suggestion that proved useful for this purpose.

REFERENCES
[1] R. Dobbin. (Ed.) “Epictetus. Discourses Book I”. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
[2] F. Scalenghe’s Italian and English translations of all the works of Epictetus are available at www.epitteto.com
[3] F. Scalenghe. “Epictetus: Diairesis and Contradiairesis” in ‘Prometeus’ Ano 7, Numero 15, Janeiro-Junho 2014, E-ISSN: 2176-5960
[4] F. Scalenghe’ s dialogue ‘The nature of things’ is available at: http://www.epitteto.com/Dialogo%204.html
[5] F. Scalenghe. “About the Arithmetic and the Geometry of Human Proairesis and the Natural Asymmetry by Which Unhappiness Wins the Game Against Happiness 3 to 1”. International Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 3, No. 6, 2015, pp. 72-82. doi: 10.11648/j.ijp.20150306.14
[6] W. A. Oldfather (Ed.) ‘Epictetus. The Discourses as reported by Arrian, the Manual and the Fragments’. London, Heinemann 1961.
[7] F. Scalenghe. ‘Proairesis’, ‘Proairetic’ and ‘Aproairetic’: Synopsis of All the Passages Containing these Terms in the ‘Discourses’ and the ‘Manual’ of Epictetus. International Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 3, No. 3, 2015, pp. 24-33. doi: 10.11648/j.ijp.20150303.11
[8] Diogenes Laertius ‘Vitae philosophorum’ VI, 103-104 in Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1925
[9] Diogenes Laertius ‘Vitae philosophorum’ VII, 32 in Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1925
[10] Stobaeus ‘Florilegium’ 4, 109, Vol. I, p. 246 Hense. in ‘Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta’ I, 350, 1. H. F. A. Von Arnim (Ed.)  in aedibus BG Teubneri, 1905. F. Scalenghe’s Italian translation of all the Greek fragments of the SVF is available at www.epitteto.com
[11] Stobaeus ‘Florilegium’ 4, 110, Vol. I, p. 246 Hense. in ‘Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta’ I, 350, 2. H. F. A. Von Arnim (Ed.)  in aedibus BG Teubneri, 1905. F. Scalenghe’s Italian translation of all the Greek fragments of the SVF is available at www.epitteto.com
[12] Diogenes Laertius ‘Vitae philosophorum’ VII, 129. in ‘Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta’ III, 738. H. F. A. Von Arnim (Ed.)  in aedibus BG Teubneri, 1905. F. Scalenghe’s Italian translation of all the Greek fragments of the SVF is available at www.epitteto.com
[13] Epictetus ‘Discourses’ Book I,  Chapter 25, § 7-13 in F. Scalenghe’s English translations of all the works of Epictetus available at www.epitteto.com
[14] F. Scalenghe’s Italian translation (with comments) of the ‘Meditations’ of Marcus Aurelius is available at: http://www.epitteto.com/files/MARCO%20AURELIO.pdf
[15] Julius Capitolinus ‘Marcus Antoninus philosophus’ in ‘Scriptores Historiae Augustae’ Vol. I p. 132-205 Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1960.
[16] Epictetus ‘Discourses’ Book IV, Chapter 1, § 54-61 in F. Scalenghe’s English translations of all the works of Epictetus available at www.epitteto.com
[17] Marcus Aurelius ‘Meditations’ Book IV, Fragment 12 in J. Dalfen (Ed.) Marci Aurelii Antonini ‘Ad se ipsum’ Libri XII. Teubner, Leipzig, 1979.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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