Saturday, November 26, 2005

Oudeis Oudamou

Do not allow these thoughts to distress you: I shall live unrecognized
and be a nobody everywhere [oudeis oudamou], for if the lack of recognition were an evil, then you could be implicated in something evil through the actions of someone else. But that cannot be the case, no more than you can become involved in something shameful in this way. [ Encheiridion 24, slightly modified ]

As the rest of our text of Encheiridion 24 goes on to explain, receiving honors or recogition is not something in my power or "up to me". So it cannot be a good, nor its absence an evil. Other people may or may not be disposed to recognize my virtues and talents and other fine qualities--to list them all would be tedious. It doesn’t matter. Obscurity is nothing to me. It is enough that I know I have them and I recognize them. There is no possibility of self-delusion here, I'm sure.

I want to draw attention to the translation of Oldfather and Hard and others, who read the second clause as “I shall live without honour.” That translation is too liable to misunderstanding. Living without a personal sense of honour is not what Epictetus is talking about here. He is referring to public honors and recognition. Those externals don’t matter. Very different is whether you feel you are living an honorable & proper life, which is something very important and not up to the judgments of others.

Another textual comment if I may. As scholars of the Encheiridion have long pointed out, our text in some chapters of the Encheiridion plainly has problems. Early editions of the Encheiridion apparently appended related passages from the Discourses to Arrian’s very brief remarks. Subsequent editions managed to conflate Arrian’s text and the related texts from the Discourses. Encheiridion 29 is an undeniable product of this kind of transmission, as I believe is our text of Encheiridion 24. I think I have cited in full the original text of Arrian, and the rest of Encheiridion 24 is material derived from a missing book of the Discourses.


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