Examples of Impulse with Reservation

Here Epictetus gives examples of impulse with reservation. His first example is the love of a pot; he tells us to say to ourselves that “We love a pot,” so that when it breaks, we will not be disturbed. He also advises us to do the same in the case of our child or wife, reminding ourselves that we love a human being. Here it becomes clear that Epictetus is not asking us simply to mouth the words, but to fully understand that we love someone who is subject to death. Cf. Diss. 3.24.84 ff.

This attitude seems extremely unfeeling. Yet is it important to understand that the positive and negative impulses are directed toward fulfilling one’s role or duty toward others, such as here a child or wife. [like a statue] The love expressed here is unconditional and does not depend on reciprocation. Cf. ch. 30, where Epictetus tells us that we should love our father and brother regardless of whether they fulfill their roles to us. We should not become angry, if they do not act toward us in the manner that we wish (this is outside of our control). Furthermore, we should not think they will be with us forever; it is the nature of humans to die. We must follow our impulse to love them with the reservation that they will die, so that we do not fall into excessive grief. Cf. ch. 14