Notes on the “Discipline of Assent”

September 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Epicurus once said

“Falsehood and error always depend upon the intrusion of opinion when a fact awaits confirmation or the absence of contradiction, which fact is afterwards frequently not confirmed or even contradicted following a certain movement in ourselves connected with, but distinct from, the mental picture presented- which is the cause of the error.” (Letter to Herodotus)

Which essentially says that whenever something happens to us, or when we decide to do something, we hold an opinion in addition to a fact in its plainness and nakedness.

“My house has burned down”

This is a fact.

“Something bad has happened to me. I have suffered.”

This is an added opinion to the fact.

These things which I am telling myself. Are they objective? Is this the only way to see it? Is it possible to see it in another way? Are my views influenced by the beliefs of my friends, family, or someone else that presumably has “authority”?

Marcus Aurelius adopted this philosophy as well.

“That you don’t know for sure it is a mistake. A lot of things are means to some other end. You have to know an awful lot before you can judge other people’s actions with real understanding.”

Meditations, 11.18

More to come on this Socratic nature of the questioning of knowledge, focusing on questioning of “self-knowledge”, “inner thoughts”, and outward actions that result from them.


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