Saturday, November 05, 2005

Agrippinus was a man of this sort, said Epictetus, that when any
hardship befell him, he would compose something commending it. If he had a fever, then something on fever. If a bad reputation,
then something on bad repuation. And if exiled, then something commending exile. Once, as he was about to dine, a messenger brought him word that Nero had ordered him into exile. Well then, he said, we shall enjoy our lunch in Aricia.
Stobaeus III.7,16-- Fragment 21 (Schenkl) ]

Agrippinus was Roman and a Stoic of considerable personal importance to Epicteteus. Here, as in several passages of the Discourses, he uses the example of Agrippinus to illustrate and recommend the virtue of accepting the roles that fate or circumstance assign us. If we fall ill, we acquire the role or identity of a sick man. If we are driven into exile, we acquire the role of an exile or refugee. If a natural disaster or personal tragedy befalls us, we become victims of these misfortunes. Our choice is not whether or not to accept these roles--they have already befallen us-- but how we shall accept them, well or badly. Agrippinus' example is of someone who is determined to accept & play these roles as well as one can.

Think about the choice we would face in similar situation. Is Aggrippinus' example something we should study to imitate?

"But Aggrippinus & Epictetus do more than recommend that we just accept our arduous roles, they tell us to embrace & praise them. And they do so because they believe we live in universe controlled by a rational, benevolent intelligence who intends the best for us. God is not careless with our well-being. So whatever befalls us is ultimately for our own good. They believe, moreover, that illness and exile and personal tragedies are not evils. Only bad judgments and decisions and beliefs are really evil".

What then if we cannot follow these Stoics in their benign view of our universe and in their rejection of any evil residing in externals. Does it follow that Agrippinus' example is groundless and misguided?


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