Good and Bad

From Stoic Wiki
Revision as of 19:29, 13 November 2017 by Alan (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
Of things that are, some are good, and some are bad, and some are indifferent: the good then are virtues, and the things which participate in virtues; and evil things the opposite; and the indifferent things are wealth, health, reputation.
Stop applying labels like “good” and “bad” to what is not under your control. The labels good and bad apply only to things under your control. If you consider anything beyond your control as good or bad, you will fail to get what you want and get what you don’t want. You will blame the divine order and think of it as the cause of your troubles.
Do not say more to yourself than the first impressions report. You have been told that someone speaks evil of you. This is what you have been told; you have not been told that you are injured. I see that the little child is ill; this is what I see, but that he is in danger I do not see. In this way, then, abide always by first impressions and add nothing of your own from within.

Just as we practise answering sophistic questions, so should we train for impressions every day, as they implicitly pose their own questions.

‘So-and-so’s son died.’ (‘The question’).

Answer: ‘Since it’s nothing he can control, it isn’t bad.’

‘So and so’s father left his son nothing when he died.’

‘Not something the son can control, so not bad.’

‘Caesar condemned him.’

‘Outside his control – not bad.’

‘He lamented these events.’

‘That is in his control – and bad.’

‘He withstood it like a man.’

‘That is in his control – and good.’

If we make a habit of such analysis, we will make progress, because we will never assent to anything unless it involves a cognitive impression.

‘His son died.’

What happened? His son died.

‘Nothing else?’


‘Well, does that mean that if someone wrongs me I shouldn’t hurt them in return?’

First of all, look at what wrongdoing is and remember what you have heard about it from philosophers. Because if ‘good’ as well as ‘bad’ really relate to our choices, then consider whether your position does not amount to saying something like, ‘Well, since that guy hurt himself with the injustice he did me, shouldn’t I wrong him in order to hurt myself in retaliation?’
  1. Robert Dobbin, Discourses and Selected Writings, 2008.
  2. Robert Dobbin, Discourses and Selected Writings, 2008.