Wednesday 10 July 2024

They are doing it still


It’s fascinating how common it is to find hints of modern thinking in ancient writings. The example below comes from Arrian of Nicomedia and his Discourses of Epictetus which were Arrian’s notes on lectures given by the Stoic philosopher Epictetus.

For how do we proceed in the matter of writing? Do I wish to write the name of Dion as I choose? No, but I am taught to choose to write it as it ought to be written. And how with respect to music? In the same manner. And what universally in every art or science? Just the same. If it were not so, it would be of no value to know anything, if knowledge were adapted to every man’s whim. Is it then in this alone, in this which is the greatest and the chief thing, I mean freedom, that I am permitted to will inconsiderately? By no means; but to be instructed is this, to learn to wish that every thing may happen as it does. And how do things happen? As the disposer has disposed them? And he has appointed summer and winter, and abundance and scarcity, and virtue and vice, and all such opposites for the harmony of the whole; and to each of us he has given a body, and parts of the body, and possessions, and companions.

Arrian of Nicomedia - Discourses of Epictetus (c 108 AD)

There are hints of behavioural psychology in there –

Do I wish to write the name of Dion as I choose? No, but I am taught to choose to write it as it ought to be written. And how with respect to music? In the same manner.

Centuries go by and we forget so many ideas offering worthwhile development. Again and again we sink back into dogma, lies and futile ideologies spun by the rich and powerful and their academic stooges, endlessly reinventing the conceptual wheel in case we catch on.

They are doing it still.


DiscoveredJoys said...

Back then, in Athens, you could be cancelled with extreme prejudice if you were out of step with the Elite views.

Something that Arrian of Nicomedia avoided - he was chums with several people who would be Roman Emperors.

Sam Vega said...

A big modern development here. We can't write the name of Dion as we choose, because nobody would understand who we were referring to. But we can spend ages wittering on about how Dion makes us feel, and whether he committed a micro-aggression against us, or whether he is defined as a woman sometimes; because all such things are matters of opinion and cannot be verified.

One of our problems is not the lack of creativity, but allowing mediocre people to think that it's OK for them to be creative.

James Higham said...

The product of short historical memory span perhaps.

Doonhamer said...

The Numpty Dumpty dictionary. "When I use a word of means precisely what I intend it to mean"
Exactly what some pollies want. "I mis-spoke!" " I have been quoted out of context! "
And a "compact" becomes a "contract".
And the pollies and the legal high heid yins will love a language, and a dictionary, which is in constant flux. Lots of lovely debating and judiciary moolah.
Thank God for old fixed text on paper.
When the British Library decides that it makes sense to digitise all the real books it holds we will know that our history is doomed. A la BBC drama department.

A K Haart said...

DJ - being a Roman Emperor's chum was iffy though. Stoicism could become very necessary.

Sam - yes, it's a general internet downside where mediocre people can propagate deranged opinions and bad ideas. Many of them MPs, celebrities and so on.

James - and unwelcome ideas being quietly ignored so that they almost drop out of the historical record.

Doonhamer - yes, I sometimes wonder if we should have stayed with paper, but then I remember all the books I'm reading which I'd never have found in bookshops. Always swings and roundabouts.