Principal Doctrine 16

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Chance has little effect upon the wise man, for his greatest and highest interests are directed by reason throughout the course of life.


The core statement of this Doctrine is specifically the durational superiority of reason over chance: while Epicurus acknowledges that chance does have, quite undeniably, some effects on people, the wise are affected by it but briefly; in the general course of their lives, however, it is reason that rules, not chance. Hence, of course, the rhetorical syntax of the structure, "has ruled (in the past), rules (in the present), and will continue to rule (in the future)", juxtaposed to the opening adjective qua-adverb "briefly".

In this, subtle acknowledgment of the effects of (often adverse) circumstance on people, Epicurus distances himself from Stoic teachings to the effect that chance -- in the case of Stoic doctrine, Fate -- should have absolutely no emotional effect on the Sage whatsoever. Instead of recommending Stoic apatheia, i.e. total shock-proof indifference to whatever befalls us by chance, Epicurus espouses a psychologically richer, and far more practicable attitude that recognizes a viable mix of short-term vulnerability, yet in context with long-term serenity, as supported by the continuous application of reason.

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