The Value of Reason in the Stoic Philosophies of Epictetus and Aurelius

By Rocco A. Astore
2017, Vol. 9 No. 03 | pg. 2/2 |

Epictetus and Aurelius would agree that reason is the greatest virtue since it leads to the correct way of understanding nature and one’s limited abilities in comparison to it.78 That is, reason has a humbling effect, which is due to one being able to conceive and perceive the formidability of the natural order as being greater than one’s self. Though it may induce angst, Epictetus and Aurelius would agree that nature is nothing to fear, rather one should live in step with it, which derives from the rational ability to analyze, and then let go of any attachments that one possesses.79 Therefore, by using reason to take the time to investigate why nature is worthy of dedication, and how it is better to follow the flow of Providence in one’s life, rather than not, it follows that one would be correct to infer that reason is the greatest virtue.80 In other words, when people engage in reasoning, they are mimicking the procession of nature, or the processes of their original, or ultimate source, and by doing so, they are living fittingly as rational beings. Hence, reason, by being an activity that emulates the divine, or nature, might very well be the greatest virtue to Epictetus and Aurelius, because it enables one to comprehend the unfolding of Providence, and how to live within its all-encompassing system, correctly.81

Epictetus and Aurelius also seem to be in accordance when they claim that reason is useful and applicable to living ethically.82 That is, one of the most valuable aspects of reason is in its ability to make people’s lives better, and it does so through individuals’ choice to act by it. Furthermore, people, by putting their rational ideas into action, can never truly do wrong, since genuinely rational ideas never defy nature, and thus, they cannot be laden with errors.83 Also, using one’s ability to reason, strengthens one’s understanding of one’s self, as well as clarifies one’s comprehension of the natural order and one’s role in it.84 Hence, to Epictetus and Aurelius, the power of reason to put into motion new trains of thought, as well as its proven ability to never steer people off the course of what life intended for them, it is the case that reason may be the most valuable and highest virtue to both Stoics.85

Conclusion

The purpose of this article was to convey Epictetus’ and Marcus Aurelius’ views on nature, its process of becoming, and the part that people, and rationality play in it. Next, by describing what both Stoic philosophers find to be conducive to heightening reason, I have hoped to show that rationality can improve, and thus, it is possible to train one’s self to become a beacon of reason, to live happily. At the same time, it was my intent to show that to Epictetus and Aurelius, reason is more than just a means to contentment, and rather, it is, more importantly, the greatest virtue that one can garner since joyfulness depends on it. Lastly, it is my desire that this piece opens fresh debate on the value of Stoicism, and the importance that reason plays in that school of thought.


References

Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005). VII-28.

Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations. George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991). 7-122.


Endnotes

  1. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005). IX, 12-13, & 15.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., 1, 5.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., 1, 5, 8, & 13-15
  6. Ibid., 23-24.
  7. Ibid., XIV, 19.
  8. Ibid., 5
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid., 14-15.
  11. Ibid., 16-18, 19.
  12. Ibid., 12, 14.
  13. Ibid., 16-18, 19.
  14. Ibid., 5-6.
  15. Ibid., 6, 16, & 19.
  16. Ibid., 15-18.
  17. Ibid., 4-6.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 28, 45-46.
  20. Ibid., 28, 45-46, & 99.
  21. Ibid., 66-69.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Ibid., 64-65, 68, & 105.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid., 18-21, 63-64.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ibid., 64.
  29. Ibid.
  30. Ibid., 108-112.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid., 23, 108-112.
  33. Ibid.
  34. Ibid., 22.
  35. Ibid.
  36. Ibid., 112-115.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Ibid., 22, 112-115.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Ibid., 25-28, 37-38, & 114
  41. Ibid.
  42. Ibid., 37-38.
  43. Ibid., 11, 37-38, & 112-114.
  44. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005)., 3, 5, & 19, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 22.
  45. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005). 6, 12, & 16-17, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 32-35.
  46. Ibid.
  47. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005)., 3, 9, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 99, 105.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Ibid.
  50. Ibid.
  51. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005)., 3, 5-6, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 32-33, 65-66.
  52. Ibid.
  53. Ibid.
  54. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005)., 13-14, 21-24, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 70-71.
  55. Ibid.
  56. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005)., 12, 14-15, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 27-30, 39-40.
  57. Ibid.
  58. Ibid.
  59. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005)., 12, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 22.
  60. Ibid.
  61. Ibid.
  62. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005)., 6, 12, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 46-48.
  63. Ibid.
  64. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005)., 6-7, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 71-72.
  65. Ibid.
  66. Ibid.
  67. Ibid.
  68. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005)., 9, 19, 22-24, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 102-103.
  69. Ibid.
  70. Ibid.
  71. Ibid.
  72. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005)., 9, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 76-77.
  73. Ibid.
  74. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005)., 9, 11-13, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 112-114.
  75. Ibid.
  76. Ibid.
  77. Ibid.
  78. Epictetus. Encheiridion: The Manual for Living. George Long trans., (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 2005)., 3-4, 6, & Marcus Aurelius. Meditations., George Long trans., (New York: Prometheus Books., 1991)., 114-117.
  79. Ibid.
  80. Ibid.
  81. Ibid.
  82. Ibid.
  83. Ibid.
  84. Ibid.
  85. Ibid.

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