1. Question:

From Epictetus, Discourses, 1.11, (Perseus English Link):

  1. Is Epictetus implying there is only ever just one cause for our actions?

  2. Or, is Epictetus arguing there is one cause which outweighs all others?

  3. What is Epictetus saying this cause actually is?

    • Our own Inclinations / δοκή?
    • A combination of our own Assumptions / ὑπόληψις - AND - Principles / δόγμα?
    • Or, is Epictetus arguing that our Principles / δόγμα are ultimately the underlying cause - for even those other two causes, (our own Assumptions and Inclinations)?

2. The Text, Epictetus Discourses 1.11:

Because ἓν / one is given emphatic placement, and because I understand ἐπὶ πάντων to indicate "Primacy / Importance", I read it as:

Ἐπίκτητος: - ἀλλ’ ἓν καὶ ταὐτόν ἐστιν ἐπὶ πάντων τὸ αἴτιον : ... ἔδοξεν.

Epictetus: - On the contrary - there is one cause, above all : ... our Inclinations.

2.1. But, Published English Translations Suggest Just One Cause:

Epictetus: But that there is the same motive in all cases, which moves us to do or forbear any action: ... to do right.

2.2. And Further, The Text Actually Indicates THREE Causes:

The Visitor: Anything else, other than our inclinations / ἔδοξεν?

Epictetus: Nothing [but] ... inward assumptions / ὑπολήψεις and principles / δόγματα. ... we will make make sure of our own principles / δόγματα.

1 Answer 1


As I understand it (from 2.), Epictetus is saying that there is one "main cause," among several "possible" causes. However, since what passes as a "main cause" at any particular time can change, then both statements "only one cause ..." and "one cause more than others" - are false.

I believe that a more accurate statement would be, "among all causes, there is always one [above all] that motivates us" [into action].

  • -Guill - +1, Thank you! A.) I had not considered rendering "ἐπὶ πάντων" followed by the accusative as "among all"; B.) I would like to find other examples of the syntax meaning that - but that is a very great solution to the problem - I will let you know if I can confirm it; C.) If you can think of any other examples like that, (references) - it would be helpful! Apr 4, 2016 at 20:52

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