Chapter 2

2.1 Μέμνησο, ὅτι ὀρέξεως μὲν ἐπαγγελία τὸ ἐπιτυχεῖν οὗ ὀρέγῃ, ἐκκλίσεως δὲ ἐπαγγελία τὸ μὴ περιπεσεῖν ἐκείνῳ ὃ ἐκκλίνεται· καὶ ὁ μὲν ἐν ὀρέξει ἀποτυγχάνων ἀτυχής, ὁ δὲ ἐν ἐκκλίσει περιπίπτων δυστυχής. ἂν μὲν οὖν μόνα ἐκκλίνῃς τὰ παρὰ φύσιν τῶν ἐπὶ σοί, οὐδενί ὧν ἐκκλίνεις περιπεσῇ· νόσον δ' ἂν ἐκκλίνῃς ἢ θάνατον ἢ πενίαν, δυστυχήσεις.  2.2 ἆρον οὖν τὴν ἔκκλισιν ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν οὐκ ἐφ' ἡμῖν καὶ μετάθες ἐπὶ τὰ παρὰ φύσιν τῶν ἐφ' ἡμῖν. τὴν ὄρεξιν δὲ παντελῶς ἐπὶ τοῦ παρόντος ἄνελε· ἄν τε γὰρ ὀρέγῃ τῶν οὐκ ἐφ' ἡμῖν τινος, ἀτυχεῖν ἀνάγκη, τῶν τε ἐφ' ἡμῖν ὅσων ὀρέγεσθαι καλὸν ἄν, οὐδὲν οὐδέπω σοι πάρεστι. μόνῳ δὲ τῷ ὁρμᾶν καὶ ἀφορμᾶν χρῶ, κούφως καὶ μεθ' ὑπεξαιρέσεως καὶ ἀνειμένως.

The Goal of Desire (Act with Reservation)

In Diss. 3.2 ff. Epictetus distinguishes three fields (τόποι) of ethical study, (1) the study of desire and aversion; (2) the study of positive and negative impulse; and (3) the study of avoiding error and rashness in judgment. Here he mentions the first two of these. See Introduction, Fields of Study.

2.1

μέμνησο: : > μιμνήσκω, 2 sg. perf. mid. imper.

τὸ ἐπιτυχεῖν … τὸ μὴ … περιπεσεῖν: articular infinitives (G. 574575; S. 2025).

ὀρέγῃ: > ὀρέγω,  2 sg. pres. mid. ind. The antecedent of the relative οὗ has been omitted (S. 2509): “(that) which.” It is common for the antecedent to be omitted if it is a demonstrative pronoun.

ἀτυχής ... δυστυχής: “unfortunate” ... “misfortunate.” The distinction is obscure, but Long (2018) may be right in translating these words as “unfortunate” and “miserable” respectively, implying that there are degrees of misfortune; encountering what you do not want is worse than not obtaining what you want. However, such a distinction can only be from the viewpoint of the non-philosopher in relation to things outside his control.

ἂν: a contracted form of ἐάν, “if” (long alpha), commonly seen in Plato. Not to be confused with the more common modal particle ἄν (short alpha) used with potential optatives, contrafactual conditionals, etc. (see LSJ ἄν at the very end of the entry, and ἐάν).

ἐκκλίνῃς: > ἐκκλίνω, 2 sg. pres. act. subj. in a future more vivid condition introduced by ἂν (“if”) (G. 650; S. 2291.3a).

τὰ παρὰ φύσιν τῶν ἐπὶ σοί: “what is unnatural among those things that are under your control,” (Oldfather 1928);  “those undesirable conditions that are up to us” (Smith 2014).

οὐδεν ὧν: the relative is attracted into the case of the omitted antecedent. One might expect οὐδενὶ ἐκείνων ἃ (“nothing of thοse [things] which”) but the general antecedent must be supplied here from context. It is very common for the antecedent to be omitted if it is a demonstrative pronoun (G. 613.b and 614; S. 2522 and 2509). Compare 1.5 where attraction of the relative pronoun occurs, and the antecedent is present (τοῖς κανόσι οἷς ἔχεις).

περιπεσῇ: > περιπίπτω, 2 sg. fut. mid. ind.

2.2

ἆρον ... τὴν ἔκκλισιν: “withdraw your aversion,” (Oldfather 1928), “stop trying to avoid” (Smith 2014). ἆρον: > αἴρω, 2 sg. aor. act. imper., “remove”; first aorist with the sigma dropping out after the liquid (G. 328; S. 544c).

ἐπὶ τοῦ παρόντος: “for the present,” “for the time being” (LSJ πάρειμι [εἰμί sum] II)

ἄνελε: > ἀναιρέω, 2 sg. aor. act. imper., “remove,” “put off,” “suspend.” Since desiring what is right is the most important element of Stoic ethics, Epictetus here advises that students put off or suspend desire until they have established a firm understanding and foundation of what is good. Cf. Diss. 3.12.8, where Epictetus maintains that the one in training (ἀσκητής) not employ his desire, and use his aversion toward things which are in his volition, i.e., under his control. Cf. also Diss. 1.4.1. Apparently, it is easier for students to know what to avoid.

ὀρέγῃ: > ὀρέγω, 2 sg. pres. mid. subj. in a conditional + imperative construction. Here ἀτυχεῖν ἀνάγκη is equivalent to the imperative.

τῶν τε ἐφ᾿ἡμῖν ... πάρεστι: a clearer word order would be: οὐδὲν τῶν τε ἐφ' ἡμῖν, ὅσων ὀρέγεσθαι καλὸν ἄν (sc. εἴη), οὐδέπω σοι πάρεστι, “none of the things that are up to us, and which it would be proper to desire, is yet within your reach” (Smith 2014). πάρεστι: see LSJ πάρειμι [εἰμί sum] II. The infinitive ὀρέγεσθαι explains the adjective καλόν (S. 2001 and 2002).

τῷ ὁρμᾶν καὶ φορμᾶν: “use only positive and negative impulses.” The articular infinitives are objects of χρῶ (> χράομαι, 2 sg. pres. mid. imper.), which takes a dative. Since the true Stoic “desire”—goodness of character—is not yet within the grasp of beginning students, they must for now rely on “impulses” regarding what it is reasonable to aim at in the external sphere, where the outcome is not “up to us.” (Smith 2014)

μεθ' ὑπεξαιρέσεως: “with reservation.” One should perform appropriate action (the object of impulse) with the knowledge that it may not be fulfilled. For example, one may love one’s spouse or child and act in such a way to ensure a long and healthy life for them, all while knowing that they are mortal and thus subject to death and disease. See the next chapter for more on this.

ὄρεξις, -εως, ἡ, desire

ἐπαγγελία, -ας, ἡ, promise, goal

ἐπιτυγχάνω,-τεύξομαι,-έτυχον, to attain

ὀρέγω, ὀρέξω, ὤρεξα,  to desire + gen.

ἔκκλισις, -εως, ἡ, aversion, avoidance

περιπίπτω, -πεσοῦμαι, -έπεσον, to fall into, encounter + dat.

ἐκκλίνω, ἐκκλινῶ, ἔκκλινα, to avoid

ἀποτυγχάνω, ἀποτεύξομαι, ἀπέτυχον, to fail in attaining, miss

ἀτυχής, -ές, unfortunate

περιπίπτω, περιπεσοῦμαι, περιέπεσον, to fall into, encounter + dat.

δυστυχής, -ές, misfortunate, miserable

πενία, -ας, ἡ, poverty, need

δυστυχέω, δυστυχήσω, ἐδυστύχησα, to be misfortunate, miserable

2.2

μετατίθημι, μεταθήσω, μετέθηκα, to transfer

παντελῶς, (adv.) absolutely, completely

ἀτυχέω, ἀτυχήσω, ἠτύχησα, to be unfortunate

οὐδέπω, not yet 

ἀφορμάω, ἀφορμήσω, ἀφόρμησα, to have a negative impulse, feel aversion, opp. ὁρμάω

κούφως, (adv.) lightly, nimbly

ὑπεξαίρεσις, -εως, ἡ, a reservation

ἀνειμένως, (adv.) without straining

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Suggested Citation

Albert Watanabe, Epictetus: Encheiridion. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2020. ISBN: 978-1-947822-13-9.
http://dcc.dickinson.edu/epictetus-encheiridion/chapter-2