You can’t escape nature. Don’t try.

Socrates understood that each individual’s innate characteristics affect their destiny in life.

How many times had he heard the refrain (in various forms), “Fate is inescapable”?  It’s all over the stories in Greek Tragedies that were played in the theater at Athens.

Oedipus hears a prophesy that he will kill his father.  So he runs away from home and adopts different parents.  He ends up killing a stranger at the crossroads, who turns out to be his father.  Fate is inescapable. (And it got worse after that, as you probably know)

But many philosophers preferred to attach another premise to the statement: Fate, they said, may be determined.  But “Character is Fate, for a Human” (ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων), as Heraclitus put it.

It’s an intentional paradox: You can’t escape your character, and it determines your success in life.  But you can change it.

However, it’s hard.  And we are given a certain set of qualities at birth, our individual “nature.”  This determines what vices we will struggle with, ways we will probably go to excess, or fall short.

When confronted by an out of town physiognomist, Zopyrus, Socrates even admitted that, by natural inclination, he was a lecher.

A piglet depicted fulfilling its nature

You might imagine that the divine power that rules the universe drops us down to earth like a lump of rocky clay. 

There may be some intractable elements, some rocks in the clay, some softer clay, some harder clay.  Our job is not to judge our clay against other’s clay, but to discover the amazing shape we can form our own clay into.

Other philosophers are in agreement, like Lucretius the Epicurean. 

As Richard Hutchins explains, for Lucretius. “Even if you were not born a winner in the genetic lottery, there are no excuses. Any human can develop their reason through education and philosophy to achieve an inner peace worthy of the life of the gods.”

Stay ancient,