Page:Discourses of Epictetus volume 1 Oldfather 1925.djvu/27

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will; they cannot consist in any of those things which others can do either to us or for us. Man's highest good lies in the reason, which distinguishes him from other animals. This reason shows itself in assent or dissent, in desire or aversion, and in choice or refusal,[1] which in turn are based upon an external impression, φαντασία, that is, a prime datum, a "constant," beyond our power to alter. But we remain free in regard to our attitude towards them. The use which we make of the external impressions is our one chief concern, and upon the right kind of use depends exclusively our happiness. In the realm of judgement the truth or falsity of the external impression is to be decided. Here our concern is to assent to the true impression, reject the false, and suspend judgement regarding the uncertain. This is an act of the moral purpose, or free will. We should never forget this responsibility, and never assent to an external impression without this preliminary testing. In order to escape from being misled by fallacious reasoning in the formation of these judgements we need instruction in logic, although Epictetus warns against undue devotion to the subtleties of the subject.

Corresponding to assent or dissent in the realm of the intellectual are desire or aversion in the realm of good and evil, which is the most important

  1. This triple division of philosophy, with especial but not exclusive application to ethics, is the only notably original element which the minute studies of many investigators have found in Epictetus, and it is rather a pedagogical device for lucid presentation than an innovation in thought. See Bonhöffer, 1890, 22 ff.; Zeller, p. 769; especially More, p. 107 f.