The Daily Stoic for June 24th. “The Truly Educated Aren’t Quarrelsome”.
“The beautiful and good person neither fights with anyone nor, as much as they are able, permits others to fight . . . this is the meaning of getting an education—learning what is your own affair and what is not. If a person carries themselves so, where is there any room for fighting?”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.5.1; 7b–8a
Today’s stoic excerpt describes the example of Socrates, known for traveling around Athens and engaging in long discussions with people he disagreed with. Supposedly, Socrates never lost his temper, being more interested in hearing what others had to say that trying to win the argument.
Yes, I think that’s certainly a good example. I have talked before about how I am more interested lately in getting to know others’ opinions instead of talking about my own. I think it allows your mind to be more receptive to different points of view and enriches you as a person.
However, there’s again one of these quotes where stoicism seems to clash with some of my assumptions. Namely this one:
“The next time you face a political dispute or a personal disagreement, ask yourself: Is there any reason to fight about this? Is arguing going to help solve anything?”
The Truly Educated Aren’t Quarrelsome
I certainly agree that political disputes, generally speaking, are a waste of time. In matters such as politics, religion, and sports, humans don’t usually react to rational arguments. It’s our emotions who usually lead this kind of discussions.
As an example, if I am trying to defend that gay and lesbian couples have the same rights -to marry, adopt children, etc- in front of a very religious person, or someone from a country such as Russia, most probably my efforts will be in vain. So why bothering?
However, I can’t help but feel that, if we all applied that same philosophy, mankind would not evolve. We need people with strong, righteous opinions to make the world a better place. Gandhi, while being the perfect model of a pacifist, had no trouble arguing and discussing with people who didn’t share his points of view.
He is just an example, but I think these people are necessary: John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr., Aaron Swartz, Noam Chomsky… I wonder what would have happened if they had thought: “well, why bothering? The truly educated aren’t quarrelsome”.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “The Truly Educated Aren’t Quarrelsome”, contains a teaching that needs to be applied with caution, in my opinion. Not being quarrelsome should not prevent us from fighting and arguing to defend the right causes, even in front of the dumbest, most fanatical person.