There is nothing good or evil save in the will.

What did Epictetus mean by:

There is nothing good or evil save in the will.


This quote, “There is nothing good or evil save in the will,” is an exploration of morality from a deeply subjective perspective. It suggests that the concepts of good and evil do not exist independently in the world, but rather are constructs of our will or personal judgement. In essence, the actions, events, or circumstances we encounter are not inherently good or evil; it’s our personal interpretation or response that assigns these moral values.

This idea is rooted in the philosophy of Stoicism, which emphasizes the importance of personal perception and judgement over external circumstances. According to this philosophy, our control over our own thoughts and reactions is the only true form of power we possess. Therefore, good and evil are not dictated by the events that happen to us, but by our responses to these events.

Applying this concept to today’s world or to personal development, it encourages us to take responsibility for our own perceptions and reactions. For example, if someone treats us unkindly, we can choose to view this as an evil act and respond with anger or resentment. Alternatively, we could choose to view it as an opportunity for personal growth, perhaps by practicing forgiveness or empathy. The event itself doesn’t change, but our perception of it as good or evil does.

Moreover, this perspective can foster resilience. By accepting that we can’t control external events, only our reactions to them, we can better adapt to adversity. It also promotes empathy and understanding, as it acknowledges that different people may have different perceptions of the same event, neither of which is inherently right or wrong.

Overall, this quote reminds us that our power lies not in changing the world around us, but in controlling our interpretations and responses to it. It suggests that moral judgement is a deeply personal process, and that understanding this can help us navigate life more effectively.

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