Jump to content

Exploring Encheiridion 6 – Episode 37


webmdave
 Share

Recommended Posts

  • Admin
Don’t preen yourself on any distinction that is not your own. If the preening horse should say “I am beautiful,” it would be acceptable. But when you are preening and say, “I have a beautiful horse,” admit that you are preening yourself on a good quality that belongs to the horse. What, then, is your own? The management of impressions. So whenever you are in harmony with nature in the way you perform this function, that’s the time to preen yourself; for then you will have a good thing that is your own to preen yourself on.  (Ench 6) Don’t preen yourself on any distinction that is not your own. If the preening horse should say “I am beautiful,” it would be acceptable. But when you are preening and say, “I have a beautiful horse,” admit that you are preening yourself on a good quality that belongs to the horse. What, then, is your own? The management of impressions. So whenever you are in harmony with nature in the way you perform this function, that’s the time to preen yourself; for then you will have a good thing that is your own to preen yourself on.  (Ench 6) If Epictetus were teaching today, he would probably not choose a horse as the object of his lesson. Instead, he might say, “Don’t preen yourself on your expensive sports car, sparking diamond bracelet, large, finely appointed house, etc., because the good qualities of those possessions do not belong to you.” The object does not matter; the lesson remains the same. Preening Oneself The first thing we need to do with this lesson is to understand the meaning of the word “preen” in this passage. Most translators use the English word “elated” in Encheiridion 6. However, A.A. Long chose the word “preen” for his translation, and I think his choice brings out the whole meaning of this passage. When I referred to my resources, I discovered the Greek verb used in this passage means to “lift up and set on.”[1] There are two aspects of this verb: to lift up and to set on. Therefore, Epictetus is doing more than warning us not to feel a sense of elation or pride when we look at our expensive sports car, sparking diamond bracelet, large, finely appointed house, etc. We could feel that sense of elation or pride while we’re alone, lying in bed, or daydreaming sitting in a park. The word “elated” seems to overlook the public aspect of this passage, and that may be why A.A. Long chose the word “preen.” The online Oxford Learner’ Dictionaries offers the following definition of preen when used as a transitive verb, which is the case in this passage: [transitive] preen yourself (on something) (usually disapproving) to feel very pleased with yourself about something and show other people how pleased you are.[2] That definition helps us understand Encheiridion 6. Epictetus is warning us not to show off our possessions as if their good qualities somehow transfer to us and lift us up in the eyes of others. The word “preen” is often used to describe a person grooming and admiring himself or herself in a mirror. But that’s not the whole meaning here. Likewise, the word “preen” may bring to mind the myth of Narcissus. Many of you are likely familiar with that Greek myth, from which we get the psychological construct of the Narcissist. Narcissus was a beautiful young man who wandered upon a still pool of water while he was hunting. When he saw his own reflection in the pool of water, he fell in love with it and remained there staring at it for the remainder of his life. While Narcissus was quite happy to remain at the pool, staring at and loving his reflection, that is not the point of Epictetus’ lesson. However, with some modification and modernization of that myth, we can make Epictetus’ point clear. Imagine a modern version of Narcissus who walks into their bathroom one day and sees their reflection in the mirror. They feel elated by their own beauty. WOW, they think, I look hot. So, they pull their smartphone out and take a photo of themselves in the mirror.

View the full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.