Whoever then has knowledge of good things, would know how to love them; but how could one who cannot distinguish good things from evil and things indifferent from both have power to love?
—Epictetus Discourses, II.22
Contemporary historians of philosophy … in conformity with a tradition inherited from the Middle Ages … consider philosophy to be purely abstract-theoretical activity.
Sanctimonious people everywhere denounce damn lies and the lying liars who tell them. Speaking the truth, they imply, would cure our political and personal ills. Its absence is the cause of our woes. But is telling the truth really good for you?
I must die, must I? If at once, then I am dying:
if soon, I dine now, as it is time for dinner, and afterwards when the time comes I will die.
—Epictetus, Discourses, I.i
Spin the bottle in any college dorm and you’ll kiss a relativist. But have you ever set lips on an absolutist?
Good health is the great goal in life, according to a delightfully glum children’s game made for The Infant’s Hospital.
“Know Thyself. Delphic Oracle.” This famous call to the examined life that Socrates answered and passed on to the world is reprinted on the title page of The Rule of Life, a forgotten but extraordinary book published in 1834. The book reminds us that a genre of popular literature, collections of moral maxims, helped keep alive the Socratic tradition of the examined life.