The Daily Stoic: January 2, 2021

Filed in PhilosophyTags: Clarity, Daily Stoic, Epictetus, Perception

Reflections on The Daily Stoic:

  • The Discipline of Perception
  • January's Theme: Clarity
  • Topic: Education is Freedom
  • Stoic: Epictetus

Today's quote:

What is the fruit of these teachings? Only the most beautiful and proper harvest of the truly educated - tranquility, fearlessness, and freedom. We should not trust the masses who say only the free can be educated, but rather the lovers of wisdom who say that only the educated are free.

- Discources, 2.1.21 - 23a

Epictetus knows something about freedom. He was born a slave, and obtained his freedom in early adulthood. As a slave, he was not free to pursue education without the permission of his master - though his master, also a once-enslaved freedman, gave then-slave Epictetus permission to study under the tutelage of stoic philosophers. Thus, there is particular weight in Epictetus recognizing that it is not his obtained freedom that enabled him to be educated but rather it was his obtained education that enabled his tranquility, fearlessness, and freedom.

If Epictetus viewed his freedom gained through education to be more significant than his literal freedom from slavery, then perhaps we can find a lesson for ourselves in his perspective. As the prophet Hosea admonishes the Israelites, " people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:5) The Apostle Peter describes knowledge as part of our path of sanctification and growth in our faith: "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love." (2 Peter 1:5-7)

And perhaps our freedom through education involves not only knowledge, but also wisdom. "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is." (Ephesians 5:15-16) If we lack wisdom, we need only ask: "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." (James 1:5)

If our intention is to live in tranquility, fearlessness, and freedom, we must invest our time purposefully, seeking knowledge and wisdom that align with God's will: "...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Corinthians 3:17)