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Don't Worry: All You Need is the Ability to Practice

Just like people today, Roman citizens loved live entertainment. People often attended the theater in order to see a reenactment of a famous play or work of literature. With the popularity of the theater, many Stoic philosophers use the theater in order to demonstrate how we should think about human nature. In one particular passage from the Discourses, Epictetus talks about the important role as philosopher that Nature provides us in life:


"You have been given such a body, such parents, such brothers, such a country, and such a post within it, and then you come to me and say, 'Change my task.' What, don't you have the resources to able you to deal with that which has been given to you? What you should say is, 'It's for you to set the task and for me to attend it well'... The time will soon be coming when the actors think that their masks, and high boots, and robes are their very selves. Man, you have all that only as your subject matter, your task. Speak out so that we may know whether you're a tragic actor or a buffoon; for in other respects, both are just alike. Thus, if one deprives a tragic actor of his high boots and mask, and brings him on the stage like a ghost, has the actor disappeared or does he remain? If he has his voice, he remains" (italics mine, I.28:39-43).


In this passage, Epictetus advises us that we all have the ability to deal with the gifts of Nature. This easily molds with Stoic beliefs. Also, it is clear that Epictetus sees the role as philosopher as a very crucial aspect to society. This idea arises when he asks the philosopher to speak in order for society to determine whether the philosopher is genuine or a fake, one who devotes themselves to improving their perceptions or one who rides the popular bandwagon of philosophy. The third idea is that we should not place a lot of importance on external objects or philosophical theory when trying to complete our philosophical practices. If the actor is truly devoted to his role and practices it well, it does not matter whether someone deprives him of his costume. As long as he can speak, he has influence.


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