Epictetus part 27: Everything has a purpose

A lot of things happen in the world. Some of them affect us or people we know. And we are prone to labelling some of these as negative or bad. However: Stoics understand that nothing that happens is by itself evil. Everything that happens has its root in universal Nature. In the twenty-seventh paragraph of the Encheiridion, Epictetus acknowledges this. He says in a rather cryptic sentence:


As a target is not set for missing it, so nothing of bad nature happens in the universe.


When you set up a target, you do not do it because you don’t want to reach it. You want to hit the target you set up, right? In the same way, Nature doesn’t make things happen randomly. Everything that happens has a reason. Everything has a purpose. Just like setting up a target you do not want to hit makes no sense, so it is with the things that happen: if they have no meaning, it doesn’t make sense that they happen.

Stoicism propagates the idea of universal order. The word Epictetus uses here is ‘cosmos’. We assume that the underlying force of reason (logos) orders the universe (cosmos). Logos is the force that holds the universe together: it is the rational design of past, present and future. If something happens to you, be wary to immediately call it bad. Realize that it happens for a reason.

This article is part of the weekly Epictetus series. New articles will be published every Monday. Be sure you don’t miss any of them by subscribing here. Thanks!

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