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For more than two years now I've subscribed to a discussion list on yahoogroups.com named "Stoics". By turns these self-styled savants are annoying and delightful, petty and great-spirited, pedantic and perspicuous (or perspicacious?! --- see LaterDude (14 Oct 2002)).

Every so often in the forum a most un-Stoical war of words breaks out. Some recent battles have pitted vegetarians versus carnivores, pacifists versus fighters-for-the-truth, and academics versus good ol' boys. Sometimes these tempests are entertaining to watch; more often than not they're embarrassments. Emotions among the participants run hot. As Edward Gibbon characterized a dispute among bishops in the early Christian church, "If this Punic war was carried on without any effusion of blood, it was owing much less to the moderation than to the weakness of the contending prelates." (Decline and Fall, Chapter 15; see GibbonChapter15)

Sporadically the signal-to-noise ratio on Stoics gets so bad that I find myself on the verge of unsubscribing ... and then somebody unexpected makes the most brilliant observation, and I have to stay tuned. A recent example highlighted the apropos comment by Epictetus in his Handbook (aka Enchiridion, from the translation by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1865), part 46:

Never proclaim yourself a philosopher; nor make much talk among the ignorant about your principles, but show them by actions. Thus, at an entertainment, do not discourse how people ought to eat; but eat as you ought. For remember that thus Socrates also universally avoided all ostentation. And when persons came to him, and desired to be introduced by him to philosophers, he took them and introduced them; so well did he bear being overlooked. So if ever there should be among the ignorant any discussion of principles, be for the most part silent. For there is great danger in hastily throwing out what is undigested. And if any one tells you that you know nothing, and you are not nettled at it, then you may be sure that you have really entered on your work. For sheep do not hastily throw up the grass, to show the shepherds how much they have eaten; but, inwardly digesting their food, they produce it outwardly in wool and milk. Thus, therefore, do you not make an exhibition before the ignorant of your principles; but of the actions to which their digestion gives rise.

Sage advice, anticipating suggestions by Leonard Read (EducationVersusEduction (30 Apr 1999)) and Albert Einstein (ExempliGratia (22 Apr 2000)) among many others ....

(for further on Epictetus see Keith Seddon's essay [1] in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy; here in the ^zhurnal see BennettOnStoicism (29 Apr 1999), ApathyAndApatheia (3 Sep 1999), BeyondTheInnerCitadel (26 Sep 1999), SubliminalBlues (24 Dec 1999), DialogueDensity (21 May 2002), InsideTheInnerCitadel (15 Oct 2002), SpiritualExercises (25 Oct 2002), ...)

TopicPhilosophy - TopicStoicism - Datetag20021222

(correlates: ApathyAndApatheia, BeTheChange, GibbonChapter15, ...)