…does it matter?
Today I read the Enchiridion by Epictetus.
Except that it isn’t by Epictetus, apparently!
It was written by one of his pupils, Flavius Arrian. We are told, he wrote down the thoughts spoken by Epictetus ‘word for word, as best I could’ when listening to informal conversations of Epictetus and some of his students.
What Arrian wrote has subsequently been translated by someone else – in this case Thomas Wentworth Higginson. (See yesterday’s post for the source of the version of the book which I read – Ebooks – The Enchiridion / The Meditations).
Given the original was published in AD c. 125 in Latin, it is beyond my ability, or desire, to read the book in the original form.
Therefore, I am reliant on the translation by TW Higginson, accurately reflecting what was originally written in both content and tone. Reflecting what Arrian ‘thinks’ Epictetus said and what he intended it to mean.
One of the issues which never ceases to amaze is Chinese whispers.
If you know the facts of a story and listen to it related back after it has been passed through two or three people then it is sometimes completely unrecognisable and, most often, significantly changed at least.
The words of the Enchiridion are interesting. The messages are fascinating and powerful. I believe that Epictetus was the original source of them but we will never know how close to his meaning the words we read are.
Does it matter?
It is my opinion that it doesn’t.
Because each person who reads anything, even the content of this website, interprets the message using the filters of their previous experiences and the mindset they are in at the time of reading.
Next time I read the book I will almost certainly take away different messages from this time.
None the less I am glad that I had encountered the words of Epictetus as spoken by modern Stoics – bloggers, videographers etc before reading them in ‘as close to the original words’ as I have just done.
I may never have started ‘studying’ Stoic Philosophy if The Enchiridion in this form had been my introduction.
You are but a semblance and by no means the real thing.