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The Discourses of Epictetus, tr. by P.E Matheson, [1916], at



Epicurus understands as well as we do that we are by nature social beings, but having once placed our good not in the spirit but in the husk which contains it he cannot say anything different. On the other hand he firmly grasps the principle that one must not admire nor accept anything which is severed from the nature of the good: and he is quite right.

How can we be social beings, if (as you say) we have no natural affection for our offspring? Why do you advise the wise man not to bring up children? Why are you afraid that they may bring him into troubles?

Does the mouse he rears indoors cause him trouble? What does he care then, if a tiny mouse begins crying in his house? But he knows that if once a child is born, it will not be in our power not to love it nor care for it.

p. 264

Epicurus says that the man who is wise does not enter into politics, for he knows what sort of things the politician has to do. Of course if you are going to live among men as if they were flies, what is to prevent you? But Epicurus, as though he did not know what natural affection is, says 'Let us not bring up children.'

If a sheep does not abandon its offspring, nor a wolf, does a man abandon his? What would you have us do? Would you have us foolish as sheep? Even they do not abandon their young. Would you have us savage as wolves? Even they do not abandon theirs. Nay, who takes your advice when he sees his child fallen on the ground and crying? Why, I think that if your father and mother had foreseen that you were going to talk thus, even then they would not have cast you away from them.

Next: Chapter XXIV. How One Should Contend Against Difficulties