Courage: All is Peace with Epictetus and Socrates


Epictetus – Google Images

The perceptions of things around us can either make or mar us. Where others see opportunities, others see difficulties, and the major difference is often courage. Epictetus describes the cowardly and courageous scouts. These two take the same route, but submit conflicting reports. It is convenient to give excuses about dangers on the way, stopping us from achieving our full potential. It is important however to remember that the outside of fear, all is peace. Even in the face of real dangers, courage gives the clarity required to make progress. We must not be too afraid to live, for a life lived in fear, is a miserable one. Below are excerpts on courage and some of the things that make courage wane:

“It is circumstances (difficulties) which show what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. For what purpose? you may say. Why, that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat. In my opinion no man has had a more profitable difficulty than you have had, if you choose to make use of it as an athlete would deal with a young antagonist. We are now sending a scout to Rome; but no man sends a cowardly scout, who, if he only hears a noise and sees a shadow anywhere, comes running back in terror and reports that the enemy is close at hand. So now if you should come and tell us: “Fearful is the state of affairs at Rome; terrible is death; terrible is exile; terrible is calumny; terrible is poverty; fly, my friends, the enemy is near,” we shall answer: “Begone, prophesy for yourself; we have committed only one fault, that we sent such a scout.”

Diogenes, who was sent as a scout before you, made a different report to us. He says that death is no evil, for neither is it base; he says that fame (reputation) is the noise of madmen. And what has this spy said about pain, about pleasure, and about poverty? He says that to be naked is better than any purple robe, and to sleep on the bare ground is the softest bed; and he gives as a proof of each thing that he affirms his own courage, his tranquility, his freedom, and the healthy appearance and compactness of his body. There is no enemy near, he says; all is peace. How so, Diogenes? “See,” he replies, “if I am struck, if I have been wounded, if I have fled from any man.” This is what a scout ought to be. But you come to us and tell us one thing after another. Will you not go back, and you will see clearer when you have laid aside fear?”

The discourses of Epictetus (Translated by George Long)

Epicurus pic on death

“Then now, I said, you will understand what our object was in selecting our soldiers, and educating them in music and gymnastic; we were contriving influences which would prepare them to take the dye of the laws in perfection, and the colour of their opinion about dangers and of every other opinion was to be indelibly fixed by their nurture and training, not to be washed away by such potent lyes as pleasure—mightier agent far in washing the soul than any soda or lye; or by sorrow, fear, and desire, the mightiest of all other solvents. And this sort of universal saving power of true opinion in conformity with law about real and false dangers I call and maintain to be courage, unless you disagree.”

Excerpt From: Plato. “The Republic.” iBooks.

It is important to choose carefully the type of “scouts” we pay attention to. Be courageous! Conquer!!!

Dr Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher