Epictetus’s Belief in One God

In Discourses II.14, Epictetus presents, with apparent approbation, what “the philosophers say” :

  • there is an all-knowing God who provides for the universe
  • the gods are to be pleased and obeyed
  • Man must discover their character so as to become like them (viz. faithful, beneficent, high-minded etc.) — “In everything he says and does, he must act as an imitator of God.”

He emphasizes the importance of learning these things through the practice of philosophy, stating that one knows neither the universe, the gods nor oneself until one has pursued this learning.  Implicitly, it’s not a matter of indoctrination, but of intellectual discovery.

A number of familiar arguments come together here:

  • the universe is orderly
  • the orderliness of the universe is compared metaphorically to that of a city or household
  • such order could not occur by chance, or be maintained without governance
  • hence the necessary existence of One who created and still governs the universe
  • leads to the need to discover who we, His creatures, are and why we were created
  • the need to address the question of our ongoing relationship, if any, with Him

So here we have the Argument from Design for the existence of a single, omniscient, omnipotent, immanent and benevolent Deity!

I find this reassuring.

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