Lecture XIV

◄Lecture XIIIB - Lecture XV►

Is marriage a handicap for the pursuit of philosophy?

1Again when someone said that marriage and living with a wife seemed to him a handicap to the pursuit of philosophy, Musonius said that it was no handicap to Pythagoras, nor to Socrates, nor to Crates, each of whom lived with a wife, and one could not mention better philosophers than these.[1] 2Crates, although homeless and completely without property or possessions, was nevertheless married; furthermore, not having a shelter of his own, he spent his days and nights in the public porticoes of Athens together with his wife. 3How, then, can we, who have a home to start with and some of us even have servants to work for us, venture to say that marriage is a handicap for philosophy? 4Now the philosopher is indeed the teacher and leader of men in all the things which are appropriate for men according to nature, and marriage, if anything, is manifestly in accord with nature. 5For, to what other purpose did the creator of mankind first divide our human race into two sexes, male and female, then implant in each a strong desire for association and union with the other, instilling in both a powerful longing each for the other, the male for the female and the female for the male? 6Is it not then plain that he wished the two to be united and live together, and by their joint efforts to devise a way of life in common, and to produce and rear children together, so that the race might never die? 7Tell me, then, is it fitting for each man to act for himself alone or to act in the interest of his neighbor also, not only that there may be homes in the city but also that the city may not be deserted and that the common good may best be served? 8If you say that each one should look out for his own interests alone, you represent man as no different from a wolf or any other of the wildest beasts which are born to live by violence and plunder, sparing nothing from which they may gain some advantage, having no part in a life in common with others, no part in cooperation with others, no share of any notion of justice. 9If you will agree that man's nature most closely resembles the bee which cannot live alone (for it dies when left alone) , but bends its energies to the one common task of his fellows and toils and works together with his neighbors; if this is so, and in addition you recognize that for man evil consists in injustice and cruelty and indifference to a neighbor's trouble, while virtue is brotherly love and goodness and justice and beneficence and concern for the welfare of one's neighbor—with such ideas, I say, it would be each man's duty to take thought for his own city, and to make of his home a rampart for its protection. 10But the first step toward making his home such a rampart is marriage. 11Thus whoever destroys human marriage destroys the home, the city, and the whole human race. 12For it would not last if there were no procreation of children and there would be no just and lawful procreation of children without marriage. 13That the home or the city does not depend upon women alone or upon men alone, but upon their union with each other is evident. 14One could find no other association more necessary nor more pleasant than that of men and women. 15For what man is so devoted to his friend as a loving wife is to her husband? What brother to a brother? What son to his parents? 16Who is so longed for when absent as a husband by his wife, or a wife by her husband? Whose presence would do more to lighten grief or increase joy or remedy misfortune? To whom is everything judged to be common, body, soul, and possessions, except man and wife? 17For these reasons all men consider the love of man and wife to be the highest form of love; and no reasonable mother or father would expect to entertain a deeper love for his own child than for the one joined to him in marriage. 18Indeed how much the love of a wife for her husband surpasses the love of parents for their children is clearly illustrated by the familiar story of how Admetus,[2] receiving from the gods the privilege of living twice the time allotted to him if he could get someone else to die in his place, found his parents unwilling to die for him although they were old, but his wedded wife Alcestis, though still very young, readily accepted death ill her husband's place.

19How great and worthy an estate is marriage is plain from this also, that gods watch over it, great gods, too, in the estimation of men; first Hera (and for this reason we address her as the patroness of wedlock) , then Eros, then Aphrodite, for we assume that all of these perform the function of bringing together man and woman for the procreation of children. 20Where, indeed, does Eros more properly belong than in the lawful union of man and wife? Where Hera? Where Aphrodite? 21When would one more appropriately pray to these divinities than when entering into marriage? What should we more properly call the work of Aphrodite than the joining of wife and husband? W22hy, then, should anyone say that such great divinities watch over and guard marriage and the procreation of children, unless these things are the proper concern of man? 23Why should one say that they are the proper concern of man but not the concern of the philosopher? Can it be because the philosopher is worse than other men? 24Certainly he ought not to be worse, but better and more just and more truly good. 25Or could one say that the man who does not take an interest in his city is not worse and more unjust than the man who does, the man who looks out only for his own interests is not worse than the one who looks out for the common good? 26Or can it be that the man who chooses the single life is more patriotic, more a friend and partner of his fellow-man, than the man who maintains a home and rears children and contributes to the growth of his city, which is exactly what a married man does? 27It is clear, therefore, that it is fitting for a philosopher to concern himself with marriage and having children. 28And if this is fitting, how, my young friend, could that argument of yours that marriage is a handicap for a philosopher ever be sound? 29For manifestly the study of philosophy is nothing else than to search out by reason what is right and proper and by deeds to put it into practice. 30Such, then, were the words he spoke at that time.

◄Lecture XIIIB - Lecture XV►

1 Cf. Epictetus Disc. III, 22, 76.

2 He refers particularly to lines '282-298 of Euripides' Alcestis.