On Silent Action and Argument

Or, On Conversation with Epictetus

From Epictetus, Discourses, 1.19:

“For what is lacking now is not quibbles; nay, the books of the Stoics are full of quibbles. What then is the thing lacking now? The man to make use of them, the man to bear witness to the arguments by his acts.”



Epictetus condemns the over-infatuation with reading and arguing for show and display. It is involvement with quibbles. Superficialities. Unnecessaries. Mere trifles. Non-essentials.

Making use is distinguished as quibbling.

Making use is bearing witness through action. This implies the textuality of action, that it instantiates a logic, and that the argument instantiated is far more important than that spoken in words.


Student: But, but, no one will hear my argument.

Sage: What do you want, for the arguments to take the shape of sound, or for the argument to take the shape of a man?

Student: A man. But, but, who will be able to understand the argument when it is instantiated in action instead of words?

Sage: It is not your concern. The question for you is how to express argument? Does the truth of the conclusion of your argument deserve the mere and cheap organization of vocal chords, regardless of action, or is it significant enough to deserve the organization of your entire being at every moment (in action)?

Student: The latter. But, but, I cannot shake the worry that I will not be heard. That I will have no impact. That I will persuade no one.

Sage: Little one, here is the argument I hear you expressing: (Conclusion)The most important thing I can do is figure out how to be heard, how to draw sensory organs in my direction, how to cause others to linger over my activity. (Premise) I really, really want it.

To the degree that you care about this more than the organization of that which those who you want to draw are drawn to, you have entered the broad road of destruction. You have cared about what you have no control over. You have cared about what you have no control over above what you have control over. Thus, you have made that which you have control over slave to that which you have no control over. Go then. Be led around by the nose like an ox. When you are ready to argue through action, get to it.

The text of your life contains a logic. It is an expression. You are writing it each moment. You should express the care for what you can control. You should express that you are a son of the god. And not just for a time. Express it constantly with steadfastness. Make your life your argument. That is your task. That no one reads the text of your life is not your business. You write with your action. Write well. Do not worry about whether anyone reads.

Student: I go.

Sage: We will see…

Published by Purilib

Anonymously interested in grasping the good life.

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