Enchiridion XLIX


When anyone shows himself vain on being able to understand and interpret the works of Chrysippus, say to yourself: “Unless Chrysippus had written obscurely, this person would have had nothing to be vain of. But what do I desire? To understand nature, and follow her. I ask, then, who interprets her; and hearing that Chrysippus does, I have recourse to him. I do not understand his writings. I seek, therefore, one to interpret them.” So far there is nothing to value myself upon. And when I find an interpreter, what remains is to make use of his instructions. This alone is the valuable thing. But if I admire merely the interpretation, what do I become more than a grammarian, instead of a philosopher, except, indeed, that instead of Homer I interpret Chrysippus? When anyone, therefore, desires me to read Chrysippus to him, I rather blush when I cannot exhibit actions that are harmonious and consonant with his discourse.

You will never meet anyone who understands the works of Chrysippus, as they were lost. It is understood that they were respected and influential in his day, and clearly were in Epictetus', but no one now remembers what he said. 


james said...

Wikipedia has a longish entry on Chrysippus, listing some of his teachings. But in describing the fragments of one alleged to be so prolific and "diffuse and obscure in his utterances and careless in his style", I wonder if wikipedia represents him accurately.

Grim said...

If they do, it is by wild chance. They have only fragments to go upon, and he was said to have been difficult to understand even by those who had a chance to study with him directly. Here Epictetus treats grasping him as the kind of substantial achievement that one has to learn not to be too proud of having accomplished, which suggests that most people who managed it were quite proud of themselves.