In today’s Stoicism article, we will decode Chapter 6 from Epictetus’ handbook, where we explore his thoughts on foolish vs. wise pride.
Make sure to also read Chapter 1 from my Epictetus breakdowns to get a clearer sense of what he means by the things that belong to us and the things that do not.
In this post, Epictetus gives us a simple formula to follow which we can use to become wiser and avoid getting swept up in materialistic delusions.
I/ Foolish Pride
Do not take pride over things that are not yours.
For example, if a sports car were able to speak and said, “I am proud to be an attractive sports car,” then we might tolerate that.
But when you boast about having a beautiful sports car, you are taking credit for traits that are not yours.
The beauty of a sports car does not belong to you, and the sports car itself is only something that is borrowed by you from the world.
To take pride over the traits of the sports car is foolish.
(Read this breakdown for the Stoic guide to breaking attachments.)
You might ask:
If it is foolish to take pride over traits that are not my own, what is mine to feel pride about?
II/ Wise Pride
The intelligent use of thoughts, actions, perspectives, and intentions.
That’s what belongs to you.
Your ability to make wise judgments in any given moment is a quality that is uniquely yours.
If you want to take pride in this, go ahead.
ENCHIRIDION CHAPTER SIX, EPICTETUS, TRANSLATION BY ROBERT DOBBIN:
Don’t pride yourself on any assets but your own. We could put up with a horse if it bragged of its beauty. But don’t you see that when you boast of having a beautiful horse, you are taking credit for the horse’s traits? What quality belongs to you? The intelligent use of impressions. If you use impressions as nature enchiridion prescribes, go ahead and indulge your pride, because then you will be celebrating a quality distinctly your own.