Seeking One Who Explains; Or, The Difference Between Grammar and Philosophy

Epictetus Encheiridion, 49

“Whenever someone is haughty because he understands and can explain the books of Chrysippus, say to him: “If Chrysippus hadn’t written so obscurely, you’d have nothing to be haughty about.”

But what do I desire? To understand nature and follow it. Therefore, I seek one who explains it. And because I have heard that Chrysippus does this, I go to him. But I do not understand what he has written. Therefore, I seek out someone who explains him. And within these steps there is nothing worthy of pride. Whenever I find the right interpreter, it is still up to me to practice his precepts. This alone is worthy of pride.

But if I am amazed at this act of explanation, have I done anything but transform into a grammarian instead of a philosopher? (Except, I interpret Chryippos instead of Homer.) Hence, whenever anyone says to me “Read me Chrysippus,” I turn red when I am incapable of demonstrating actions equal to and harmonious with his words

Ὅταν τις ἐπὶ τῷ νοεῖν καὶ ἐξηγεῖσθαι δύνασθαι τὰ Χρυσίππου βιβλία σεμνύνηται, λέγε αὐτὸς πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ὅτι “εἰ μὴ Χρύσιππος ἀσαφῶς ἐγεγράφει, οὐδὲν ἂν εἶχεν οὗτος, ἐφ᾿ ᾧ ἐσεμνύνετο.

 Ἐγὼ δὲ τί βούλομαι; καταμαθεῖν τὴν φύσιν καὶ ταύτῃ ἕπεσθαι. ζητῶ οὖν, τίς ἐστὶν ὁ ἐξηγούμενος· καὶ ἀκούσας, ὅτι Χρύσιππος, ἔρχομαι πρὸς αὐτόν. ἀλλ᾿ οὐ νοῶ τὰ γεγραμμένα· ζητῶ οὖν τὸν ἐξηγούμενον. καὶ μέχρι τούτων οὔπω σεμνὸν οὐδέν. ὅταν δὲ εὕρω τὸν ἐξηγούμενον, ἀπολείπεται χρῆσθαι τοῖς παρηγγελμένοις· τοῦτο αὐτὸ μόνον σεμνόν ἐστιν. ἂν δὲ αὐτὸ τοῦτο τὸ ἐξηγεῖσθαι θαυμάσω, τί ἄλλο ἢ γραμματικὸς ἀπετελέσθην ἀντὶ φιλοσόφου; πλήν γε δὴ ὅτι ἀντὶ Ὁμήρου Χρύσιππον ἐξηγούμενος. μᾶλλον οὖν, ὅταν τις εἴπῃ μοι “ἐπανάγνωθί μοι Χρύσιππον,” ἐρυθριῶ, ὅταν μὴ δύνωμαι ὅμοια τὰ ἔργα καὶ σύμφωνα ἐπιδεικνύειν τοῖς λόγοις.

Image result for medieval manuscript chrysippus

Chrysippus

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