Who then is a Stoic? As we call a statue “Pheidian” that hasIndeed. Show me such a man/person, for I have never seen one either. Neither a sage nor an apprentice. Our living, breathing Stoics must all be like the black swans, hiding in Australia.
been formed in accordance with the precepts of Pheidias, so show me a man formed in accordance with the principles he professes. Show me a man who though ill is happy, though in danger is happy, though dying is happy, though exiled is happy, though maligned is happy. Show him to me, for by the gods, I long to see a Stoic.
But you cannot, you say, show me someone fully formed in this
fashion? Then just show me someone who is becoming so formed, who is on the road in that direction. Do me this favor, please. Do not begrudge an old man the sight of a spectacle that to this very day he has never seen. [Discourses II. 19. 23-24 ]
But think about the question raised here. What are we to make of the remarkable absence of practicing Stoics in our own day, and apparently in Epictetus’ day as well? Why aren't there more Stoics than Buddhists or Presbyterians? Is it possible that the Stoic view of what is good and evil is not one that anyone can actually live? Is it possible that we must learn to deal with death and sickness and all of our perils not by pretending that they are evils? I am not recommending fear or anger or sorrow, but something other than denial.
Observe your actions, Epictetus tells us, and you will out to what sect of the philosophers you belong. Well, apparently not to the Stoics. None of us.