Enchiridion 1 and what’s up to us.

Aside

Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.

In Enchiridion 1, Epictetus through Arrian discusses which things are “up to us,” (ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν).  He does not provide a definition, although we can use the short hand and definitive prohairetic things.  Instead, Epictetus gives us a list of examples, whereby we can infer the general rule or type of things he’s discussing.

He ends this list, which I interpret not to be a closed class, with what’s often translated as “whatever are our own actions/works.” Oftentimes, this word ἔργα (erga) is translated as actions, works, deeds, etc.  A literal reading is often “works.”

It is not the person who eagerly listens to and makes notes of what is
spoken by the philosophers who is ready for philosophizing, but the
person who is ready to transfer the prescriptions of philosophy to his
deeds (erga) and to live in accord with them.

— Arius Didymus

I came across another interesting translation which uses “whatever we bring about.” That’s an interesting take, probably closer to the spirit of the passage in Ench.1.  As Stoics, we’re more concerned with the intent of a thing than its results in the world.  We’re more concerned about how we handle judgments and impressions than how the results of those go out from us.  “Whatever we bring about” then encompasses these internal things, our actual focus, better than do the English words “works,” “actions,” or “deeds.”

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