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Words of Wisdom

Everyone Should Learn Virtue: From the Teachings of Musonius Rufus (vegetarian), Part 1 of 2



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Gaius Musonius Rufus was one of the great Stoic philosophers of the Roman Empire. Epictetus, another great Stoic philosopher, was his most notable student, whose principles were deeply influenced by his mentor. Although the works of Gaius Musonius Rufus are mentioned in the writings of Epictetus, most have been lost through time. However, his philosophical teachings, in the form of aphoristic sayings and discourses, were preserved by his students. Today, it is a delight to present the discourses entitled, “That women too should study philosophy” and “Should daughters receive the same education as sons?” where the wise philosopher encourages everyone to study the practice of virtue.

“Women as well as men, he said, have received from the Gods the gift of reason, which we use in our dealings with one another and by which we judge whether a thing is good or bad, right or wrong.”

“Moreover, not men alone, but women too, have a natural inclination toward virtue and the capacity for acquiring it, and it is the nature of women no less than men to be pleased by good and just acts and to reject the opposite of these.”

“But above all, a woman must be modest and self-controlled; she must not be a slave to desire, not be contentious, not lavish in expense, nor extravagant in dress. Such are the works of a virtuous woman, and to them I would add yet these: to control her temper, not to be overcome by grief, and to be superior to uncontrolled emotion of every kind.”

“Now as for courage, certainly it is to be expected that the educated woman will be more courageous than the uneducated, and one who has studied philosophy than one who has not; and she will not therefore submit to anything shameful because of fear of death or unwillingness to face hardship, and she will not be intimidated by anyone because he is of noble birth, or powerful, or wealthy, no, not even if he be the tyrant of her city.”

“And yet, that there is not one set of virtues for a man and another for a woman is easy to perceive. In the first place, a man must have understanding and so must a woman, or what pray would be the use of a foolish man or woman? Then it is essential for one no less than the other to live justly.”
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