Musonius Rufus

How to Live

Al that we have of Musonius Rufus’s work was written by his followers and, other men  around his time. Today, what little of this work survives was preserved among the works of other authors, ad was not collected until 1822 by the Dutch scholar Peerlkamp.

The Good

If you do a good thing through your hard work, the work passes but the good remains. If you gain pleasure through dishonour, the pleasure will pass, but the dishonour remains.

We begin to loos our hesitation to do immoral things when we lose our hesitation to speak of them.

If you  choose to hold on to what is right, don’t despair in difficult circumstances. Reflect on how many things have already happened in your life in ways that you didn’t wish, and yet they have turned out for the best.

There is no more shameful inconsistency than to think of how weak your body is during the stress of pain, yet to forget this when enjoying pleasure.

A quick-witted pupil will require fewer proofs, and will agree with a sound argument faster.

Pupils requiring proofs for every obvious pint, or that demand lengthy demonstrations (where simple explanations should suffice), are completely inept and stupid.

We can assume that the Gods don’t need proof of anything since nothing is obscured or lacks clarity for them. It is only obscure things require a proof.

Humanity must seek what is not simple and obvious using the simple and obvious.

Philosophy only profits you if your conduct is in harmony with sound teaching.

All of us are created by nature so that we can live our lives nobly, free from error -not just some of us, but all. I can give you the clearest evidence for this: Lawgivers set down for everyone what we may and may not do. No one is above the law. Not the young or the old, not the strong nor the weak, not anyone.

However, if the whole idea of virtue came to us from outside ourselves, and we didn’t inherit a part of it -whereas in the other arts the untaught are not expected to be perfect.  

So, similarly in the conduct of life it would be unreasonable to expect anyone to be free from error if they have not learned  virtue (as it is the only thing that saves us from error day to day).

On the assassination of  Galba someone said to Rufus, “can you still maintain that the world is ruled by Divine Providence?” To which he relied, “Did I ever for a moment build my argument on Galba?


If you want to be healthy, you should spend your life taking care of yourself. Unlike hellebore, reason shouldn't be cast out after the illness is cured. Let remain in the soul to guard your judgement. the power of reason shouldn't be compared to medicines, but to healthy foods. It introduces a good frame of mind into those where it become habitual. 

However, when the emotions are at their greatest heat, wise words and warnings barely have any effect at all.They are like the scents that revive those fallen in a fit, yet don't cure the disease.

to help us to cheerfully endure those hardships which we may expect to suffer because of virtue and goodness, it is useful to recall what hardships people will endure for immoral reasons.

consider what lustful lovers undergo for the sake of evil desires and how much exertion others expend for the sake of profit. How much suffering pursuing game, bear in mind that they all submit to all kinds of toil and hardship voluntarily. It's monstrous that they endure such things for no honourable reward, yet for the sake of the good (not only the avoidance of evil that wrecks our lives, also the gain of virtue) we're not ready to bear the slightest hardship.

Anyone will admit how much better it is instead of:

  • Struggling to win someone else's wife. Struggle to discipline your desires.
  • Enduring hardship for the sake of money. Train yourself to want little.
  • Troubling to be famous. Take  the trouble to reducing your thirst for fame
  • Trying to injure an envied person. Ask ho to stifle envy.
  • Slaving, as sycophants do, to win false friends. Undergo suffering to possess true friendship.


Would the philosopher sue anyone for personal injury?

I would never prosecute anyone for personal injury, nor recommend it to anyone else claiming to be a philosopher.

None of the things which people believe they suffer as personal injuries are an injury or disgrace to those experiencing them. Even the hardest to bear are blows. But, remember that there is nothing shameful or insulting about them.

Spartan boys are whipped publicly, yet they celebrate it! If the philosopher cannot look down on blows and insults when they ought to look down on death what good would they be? Yet the spirit of the perpetrator is monstrous trying to insult by mocking, a slap in the face, or by verbal abuse.

Disgrace lies not in enduring them, but rather in doing them for what does the man who accepts insult to that is wrong? It is the doer of wrong who puts themselves to shame. The sensible man wouldn’t go to the law, since the wouldn’t even consider that he had been insulted!

Besides, to be annoyed or angered about such things would be pretty, instead easily and silently bear what has happened, since this is appropriate for those whose purpose is to be noble-minded.

To scheme how to bite back the bitter, and to return evil for evil is the act of a wild beast not a human capable of reasoning that most wrongs are done through ignorance and misunderstanding, from which humans will cease as soon as they are taught.

To accept injury without a spirit of savage resentment to show ourselves merciful towards those who wrong us, being a source of good hope to them. It is characteristic of a benevolent and civilized way of life. How much better is the philosopher who conducts themselves so as to feel forgiveness for anyone who wrongs them, rather than to behave as if ready to defend themselves with lawyers and indictments.


Women and men have the gift of reason from the gods, which we use day to day to judge the good from the bad, right from wrong. Similarly, women have the same senses as men: sight, hearing, smell, and the others. Both have the same body parts. One has nothing more than the other. Both are naturally inclined towards virtue  and the ability to acquire it. Both are pleased by good, just acts and reject their opposites. If this is true, how they may say that men should search out how they may lead good lives, which is the study of philosophy. But, women should not? Should men be good, but not women?

I don’t expect women who study philosophy to avoid important tasks for mere talk, any more than men, but I argue that their discussions should result in practical application.  As there is no merit in the science of medicine unless it heals the body, similarly, if a philosopher teaches reason, it is of no use if it doesn’t contribute to the virtue of the soul! Most importantly, let us examine the doctrine the philosopher ought to follow, does the study which:

Endorse modesty as the greatest good and indulgence as the  greatest evil.

Endorse household management as a virtue.

Intend to guide to the greatest self-restraint.

Finally, the teaching of philosophy encourage woman to be  content with her lot, and to work with her own hands.

It isn’t to mould soft characters, any more than it is to pick up soft cheese with a hook. Yet, youngsters of sound nature.  Even if you turn them away. Hold philosophy with a yet tighter grip. Thus Rufus frequently belittled pupils, using this to discriminate between the superior and inferior. The used to say, “just as a stone thrown up will fall back down because it its nature, so with the better person, the more you repel them, the more they fall towards their natural direction.

For humanity, however, it appears that we feel it necessary to use some special and unique training and education for males over females. As if it were not essential that the same virtues should be present in both or, as if it were possible to arrive at the same virtues through different instruction. And yet it is easy to see that there isn’t one set of virtue for a man and another for a woman.