This article was written on 23 Jan 2011, and is filed under Miscellania, Quotations.

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Epictetus’ Epigraph to Tristram Shandy

Ταρασσει τοὐϚ Ἀνϑρώπους οὐ τὰ Πράγματα, αλλα τὰ περι τῶν Πραγμάτων, Δογματα.

It  is  not  events [pragmata] themselves that  trouble  people, but  their  judgements [dogmata] about those circumstances.

Epictetus, Handbook 5

Pretty funny in context. The other half of the joke is that Laurence Sterne uses Locke’s association of ideas to explain how his mother came to associate the sound of her husband’s clock-winding with sex, providing the motor for Tristram’s life and the whole book.


  1. Stas Feldman-Bogdashko
    25 January 2011

    G. Legman, In Rationale of the Dirty Joke (1968) has a chapter on the clock/coitus jokes (pp. 80-83).

  2. David Auerbach
    29 January 2011

    Thanks for the pointer. I see there is also a bit on “Dr. Slop’s baptizing-syringe. What a quixotic book. It really makes me think of Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy.

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