more from Epictetus

Single Idea 22604

[catalogued under 25. Social Practice / D. Justice / 3. Punishment / a. Right to punish]

Full Idea

You should ask 'Ought not this man to be put to death, who is deceived in things of the greatest importance, and is blinded in distinguishing good from evil?' …You then see how inhuman it is, and the same as 'Ought not this blind man to be put to death?'

Gist of Idea

Punishing a criminal for moral ignorance is the same as punishing someone for being blind


Epictetus (The Discourses [c.56], 1.18.6-7)

Book Reference

Epictetus: 'The Discourses, The Handbook, Fragments', ed/tr. Gill,C [Everyman 1995], p.44

A Reaction

This is the doctrine of Socrates, that evil is ignorance (and weakness of will [akrasia] is impossible). Epictetus wants us to reason with the man, but what should be do if reasoning fails and he persists in his crimes?