If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.” …We can’t control the impressions others form about us, and the effort to do so only debases our character. Let the quality of your deeds speak on your behalf. Epictetus
As much as I gravitate to much of the commonsensical philosophy of life adopted by Stoic sages, there is much in Epictetus (and others) which one simply cannot live their life by. I’m not simply saying one shouldn’t – though I am also saying that – I’m saying it is impossible. The first instalment is infused with a kind of grassroots humour akin to the annoyance of something stuck between your teeth! The latter makes up part of Epictetus’ philosophy which has been memed to death, mostly, I think, because we live in times where the idea of free will seems most easily negotiated within the solitary confines of one’s own mind; i.e. happiness lies in recognizing what is beyond one’s control and letting go of any and all inclinations to possess it. Epictetus includes amongst matters outside of one’s control “the opinions of others.” Instead, let us focus on the deeds of others! I won’t even bother with the obvious limitations of a behaviouralist approach to reading the intentions of others off their actions. But what of intentions? Deeds only speak to our actions and not the intention with which we act – but clearly, it is just as important, if not more important, that someone acts with benevolent intentions rather than malice, that someone may have acted in ignorance or be deranged in which case their actions would not be blameworthy, and in the former case, not of the man to whom we assign blame.
But more importantly, and beyond the moral scope, the primordial state is that of being in the world with others. We are not first “who we are” and then seek to negotiate our existence over-against externalities, like others! The who of our being is the very out-birth of those fine and delicate arrangements which thread their way into our comportment ever so subtly until finally…finally…we must reckon with claims to our authenticity – here, here lies, that possibility, in those most intimate moments with others, for that is the space in which the magic of interpersonal(ised) comportment retrieves, or revives our wonder, our ecstatic, realisation of self. Alas, this can not come about without others!