35988Virtue as analogous to game-playing
- Aug 14, 2014Epictetus uses the concept of game-playing to illustrate virtuous action.
"Things themselves are indifferent; but the use of them is not
indifferent. How then shall a man preserve firmness and tranquility,
and at the same time be careful and neither rash nor negligent? If he
imitates those who play at dice. The counters are indifferent; the
dice are indifferent. How do I know what the cast will be? But to use
carefully and dexterously the cast of the dice, this is my business.
Thus in life also the chief business is this: distinguish and separate
things, and say, "Externals are not in my power: will is in my power.
Where shall I seek the good and the bad? Within, in the things which
are my own." But in what does not belong to you call nothing either
good or bad, or profit or damage or anything of the kind" (Discourses
2.5.1-5, trans. George Long).
"Socrates, then, knew how to play at ball. How?" By using pleasantry
in the court where he was tried. "Tell me," he says, "Anytus, how do
you say that I do not believe in God. The Demons, who are they, think
you? Are they not sons of Gods, or compounded of gods and men?" When
Anytus admitted this, Socrates said, "Who then, think you, can believe
that there are mules, but not asses"; and this he said as if he were
playing at ball. And what was the ball in that case? Life, chains,
banishment, a draught of poison, separation from wife and leaving
children orphans. These were the things with which he was playing; but
still he did play and threw the ball skillfully. So we should do: we
must employ all the care of the players, but show the same
indifference about the ball" (2.5.18-19).
The following paper opposes this idea to the idea of virtue as a
Jacob Klein (2014). "Of Archery and Virtue: Ancient and Modern
Conceptions of Value"
Value only virtue.
Pursue appropriate objects of aim, not objects of desire.