ON NOT BEING A PHILOSOPHER
Summary of the Story:
Simply, Robert Lynd, the Irish essayist and journalist, became interested in Epictetus in his essay On Not Being a Philosopher. He wanted to read his works. He wonders if in the words of Epictetus, was the book of wisdom that he had been looking for at intervals ever since he was at school. He never lost his early faith that wisdom could be found somewhere in a book. He desired wisdom. He wanted to get it at the cost of a few shilling. So he read the books of Emerson and Marcus Aurelius. He thought to become wise by reading. But when he finished reading, he was the same man that he had been before. Still he never lost faith in books.
Lynd read Epictetus. He agreed with nearly everything he said. He found close resemblance between the opinions. Epictetus held the same opinions. He felt death, plan and poverty as real evils except when he was in arm-chair reading a book by a philosopher. Even in the small things of life, he failed to comfort himself like a philosopher of the school of Epictetus. He commands a spiritual attitude of which nature is incapable. He has failed to achieve his imperturbability in small affairs.
When Epictetus expresses his opinions on material possessions and counsels us to be so indifferent to then that we should not object to their being stolen, the writer agrees with him in theory and yet in practice he is unable to obey and follow him. There is nothing more certain than that a man whose happiness depends on his possessions is not happy. He is sure, a wise man can be happy on a pittance-neither Epictetus nor he believes happiness to be the aim of life. But Epictetus holds up an ideal of imperturbability. He assures us that we shall achieve this if we care so little for material thing. “Stop admiring your clothes and you are not angry at the man who steals them.”
The writer fells that he could imitate Epictetus if he lives in a world in which nothing happened. But in a world where disagreeable things happen, it is not possible. In spite of this, most of us cannot help believing that the philosophers were right that most of the things we bother about are not worth bothering about. The truth is that such men as Socrates and Epictetus were right in their indifference to external things, yet most of us would be alarmed if one began to put philosophy of Epictetus into practice too literally. What we regard as wisdom in Epictetus, we should look on as insanity in an acquaintance, or perhaps, not in an acquaintance but at least in a near relation. The reasoning of Epictetus may be sound but neither individually nor as a society we live in, can we follow him. We should be fools to imitate philosophers like Epictetus. We are convinced that, while philosophers are worth reading, material things are worth bothering about. It is as though we enjoyed wisdom as a delightful spectacle on a stage which it would be unseemly for the audience to attempt to invade. Lynd remarks, “To become wise without effort by listening to a voice, by reading a book – it is at one the most exciting and the most soothing of dreams.” He took down Epictetus in such a dream.
Answer the following Questions 1 Marks
1. Where was Robert Lynd born?
Ans. Robert Lynd was born in Belfast.
2. What is the name of the American poet-philosopher whose work the author has read? 2017 2019
Ans. Emerson is the American poet-philosopher whose work the author has read.
3. According to the author, most philosophers write as though life were an argument conducted in……………, what?
Ans. According to the author, most philosophers write as though life were an argument conducted in jargon.
4. Whom does the author want to conduct the laborious quest for wisdom? 2017
Ans. The author wants the philosophers to conduct the laborious quest for wisdom.
5. Whose son is the slave who does not bring the hot water supposed to be?
Ans. Zeus’ son is the slave who does not bring the hot water supposed to be.
6. Who was the writer of the essay, ‘On Not Being a Philosopher’?
Ans. Robert Lynd was the writer of the essay, ‘On Not Being a Philosopher’.
7. Who did Lynd look to for performing the ‘laborious quest’ for wisdom?
Ans. Lynd looked to the philosophers for performing the ‘laborious quest’ for wisdom.
8. Whose son is the ‘slave’ who does not bring warm water?
Ans. Zeus’ son is the ‘slave’ who does not bring warm water.
9. Who was Zeus? 2017 2019
Ans. Zeus was the king of the Greek pantheon of gods and goddesses. He symbolizes power and order.
10. Why the author of ‘On Not Being a Philosopher’ was fearfully excited? 2019
Ans. The author of ‘On Not Being a Philosopher’ was fearfully excited because he could read the king of the philosopher he liked. He thought that he would soon become wiser like king Solomon, after reading the book of Epictetus.
Answer the following Questions 2 Marks
1. Who was Marcus Aurelius and what is the name of the book in which we fund his philosophy?
Ans. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor and a stoic philosopher who was born in 121 A.D. and died in 180 A.D.
We find his philosophy, in the book called ‘Meditations’.
2. In what context does Lynd mention Solomon?
Ans. Lynd desired for wisdom as eagerly as Solomon. Lynd had the idea that wisdom is to be found somewhere in a book; and to be picked as easily as a shell from the sand.
3. Who was Socrates and what did he promote? 2018
Ans. Socrates was a Greek philosopher. He influenced the thinking of the whole society for centuries.
He promoted love and inquiry which would lead to knowledge and justice.
4. Who was Epictetus? 2019
Ans. Epictetus was a Greek stoic philosopher of the first and second century A.D. who was originally a slave. Though he wrote no treatise himself, his discourses were compiled by a pupil and these are to be found in Enchiridion.
5. Who was Solomon?
Ans. Solomon was the Son of David and King of the Hebrews. He figures as one of the richest, most powerful and wisest of the biblical kings. Commercial expansion, peace, and new architectural designs marked his reign.
6. Who was Marcus Aurelius?
Ans. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor and also a stoic philosopher who was born in 121 A.D. and died in 180 A.D. He epigrammatic style and unique expression has been immortalized in Meditations.
7. Who was Ralph Waldo Emerson?
Ans. Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in 1803, Emerson was an American essayist, poet, and transcendentalist philosopher. His lectures and essays revolve around the belief he espoused, i.e., that the individual can find redemption only in his own soul.
8. Who did Lynd read at one time and why?
Ans. At one time Lynd read Emerson and at another, he read Marcus Aurelius. He read them with the hope of becoming wise by reading them.
9. Does Lynd’s reading of Emerson Marcus Aurelius bring about any change in him? What was their effect on him?
Ans. No, Lynd’s reading of Emerson Marcus Aurelius didn’t bring about any change in him. Though he agreed with them while reading them, he couldn’t concentrate on the things they asked to concentrate after reading them.
10. In spite of not being any wiser, does Lynd lose faith in books? What does he still believe? 2016
Ans: No, in spite of not being any wiser, Lynd doesn’t lose faith in books. Rather he kept on reading more and more books, from one philosopher to another, in search of wisdom. He believes that, in books, there is some kind of wise presence that would enrich the reader with philosophical depth and the strength of character. And all this can be gained by the reader while he may be relaxing in an armchair and smoking.
Answer the following Questions 4 Marks
1. Discuss the circumstances that lead to Lynd’s reading Epictetus. 2019
Ans. Lynd overheard one person asking the other whether he had read ‘Epictetus’ lately. Amusingly, Lynd was looking that would make him wise instantly. He realized that he had some of the best books of some great philosopher on his book-shelves. He also realized that browsing materials were as diverse as those of Emerson and Marcus-Aurelius had not achieved the desired result of making him wise overnight, hence Lynd thought of turning to Epictetus for wisdom.
2. On what point does he find himself agreeing with Epictetus? 2018
Ans. While Lynd was going through Epictetus, he was agreeing with nearly everything he said. He found a very close resemblance between the opinion of Epictetus and himself. He learned to be indifferent to death, pain, and poverty; which are eminently desirable. Also, one should not be troubled about anything over which one has no control, whether the oppression of tyrants, or peril of earthquake. They both hold almost similar kind of thinking except for Lynd felt death, paid and poverty are the real evils when he is in as arm-chair and reading a book by a philosopher.
3. Why does the author end with the phrase “it was only a dream”? 2017
Ans. The author feels that it would be possible to follow Epictetus’ path in a world where nothing happens. But on Earth, where a lot of disagreeable things happen, it is quite next to impossible. Most of us know that the philosophers are right enough when they say that most of the things we bother about are not worth bothering about Philosophers like. Socrates and Epictetus were right in their indifference to external things, yet most of us would not welcome if someone welcomes such philosophy into practice, even though we call them wisdom. Hence, bringing such philosophy into practice ‘was only a dream’.
4. Does Lynd find any similarity in his and Epictetus’s viewpoint? Is he, then able imbibe Epictetus’s philosophy in his life?
Ans. When Lynd went through Epictetus, he gave codes to follow in one’s daily life and he found himself agreeing to every point that the philosopher made. The problem that arose is that he was able to agree in theory. But he found himself completely unequipped when it came to real-life situations.
After reading Epictetus, Lynd drew a conclusion that philosophy is not possible in real life situations even though we believe that philosophers however diverged, their philosophy is right.