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The Importance of Practice: From the Teachings of Musonius Rufus (vegetarian), Part 1 of 2

2022-07-25
Lingua:English
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Gaius Musonius Rufus was one of the great Stoic philosophers of the Roman Empire. His philosophy focused on the study and practice of virtue. He was a vegetarian and taught that being mindful of one’s diet was a vital virtue. Today, we would like to present the discourses “Which is more effective, theory or practice?” and “On Training,” where the wise philosopher expounds on the importance of enacting the teachings on virtue into our daily life.

“To Musonius, practice seemed to be more effective, and speaking in support of his opinion, he asked one of those present the following question: ‘Suppose that there are two physicians, one able to discourse very brilliantly about the art of medicine but having no experience in taking care of the sick, and the other quite incapable of speaking but experienced in treating his patients according to correct medical theory. Which one,’ he asked, ‘would you choose to attend you if you were ill?’ He replied that he would choose the doctor who had experience in healing. ‘Well, then,’ said Musonius, ‘that being the case, in the matter of temperance and self-control, is it not much better to be self-controlled and temperate in all one’s actions than to be able to say what one ought to do?’”

ON TRAINING “He was always earnestly urging those who were associated with him to make practical application of his teachings, using some such arguments like the following. Virtue, he said, is not simply theoretical knowledge, but it is practical application as well, just like the arts of medicine and music. Therefore, as the physician and the musician not only must master the theoretical side of their respective arts but must also train themselves to act according to their principles, so a man who wishes to become good not only must be thoroughly familiar with the precepts which are conducive to virtue but must also be earnest and zealous in applying these principles. How, indeed, could a person immediately become temperate if he only knew that one must not be overcome by pleasures but was quite unpracticed in withstanding pleasures? How could one become just when he had learned that one must love fairness but had never exercised himself in avoidance of selfishness and greed?”
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