This short resumée of the late stoic theory on representation, judgement and assent, give the basic knowledges to understand the Discipline of Assent.Representation
The stoics understood sensorial perception as a corporal process common to lot of animals, by which the image of an external object is transmitted to the soul / to the mind.
This image, called in greek "phantasia" (like "phantasy"), is produced in the soul and more specifically in the "directive principle": in greek the "eghemonikón" (like "egemonic" - something ruling on everything else).This "phantasia" ...
If the representation is formed depending on hard to change structure of the mind, which lay out of control of the conscious mind, judgements are sentences or bundles of sentences enunciating the nature, quality and value of the represented object.
For example if I see a cake, the representation of the cake will be produced in my mind and I have no power on it: I can't choose to imagine it or not. The cake will appear in my mind with certain features and among them the actual existence of the cake with its position in space: in front of me.
This representation take the place of the object and already perturbates my mind, i.e. elicits mental processes of various kind.Some mind processes, more active and changeable as the mere perception, will actually "say" things about this cake, for example:
That means NOT that judgements are under our control, the opposite is true: our judgements depend on the structure and actual state of our mind. That means: it depends on a story of development, interaction, socialization, pain and pleasure, joy and sadness, punishments and praise, etc.Assent
In the end we come to what is really in our power: the assent to representations and judgements.
If before reacting to our first representations and judgements we find the time to look at them one more time, there we find a narrow but decisive space for freedom: the moment of assent.
Every representation or judgement, which became conscious, can be scrutinized again and be assented to or rejected:
The things "throw themselves" on us to be perceived, "stamp" our mind and produce an emotion in the soul. This process does not depend on our will.
The assent to this perceptions and to the judgements which follow as reaction, this assent instead is a free act of the human mind.
The wise man jumps and turns pale as a thunderclap break the air and hits his ears. In this regard he acts exactly as any other human being, BUT he does not assent to the judgements which follow: "this thing is dreadful and dangerous" or "the gods are upset with me". The fool instead give his assent to the first representations and judgements that come to mind.
Resuming these elements one more time:
Instead of starting a complex theoretical discussion on the possibilities and forms of knowledge [note to deepen this subject] let's read two passages about adequate representations respectively from Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius:
An adequate representation does not add interpretation to the pure perception of the object, while a not adequate one substitute to the pure perception an image of something different.
For example: If I see a guy with a hat, striped shirt, disfigured face and a glove armed with razors... I have three main options:
To guess that it's Freddy Kruger or a camouflage implies some additional consideration and inferences, that means: it does not belong to the representation of what we have seen.
For sure: we can't and we don't want always have to make this distinction, because it would enormously complicate our reasoning and just make our everyday life impossible!
Take the example from Marcus Aurelius to understand when and how this distinction can actually help us:
"... Suppose that it has been reported to thee that a certain person speaks ill of thee. This has been reported; but that thou hast been injured, that has not been reported. ..."
In this case to stop the flow of thoughts and to come back to the first representation can really change the course of the further developments.
I have inconsciously translated the fact that someone said that I'm a moron... with the fact that "I have been damaged" or even that "that person damaged me" or that "she did something wrong to me".
Here to "stop" the representation allows us to notice that it is saying "to much" and than ask which are the "first data" and which features have been added.
In the example the data are: a person said that I am a moron.
To jump to the conclusion of have being damaged, I should first analyse which relation occurs between the utterance of this opinion and something belonging to be having been broken or destroyed.
To assume that she did "something wrong" would imply a moral judgement about right and wrong, that means I should find some rules for it. Etcetera...Adequate Judgement
This informations, which we said a representation should not have, can be parts of a judgement, i.e. of a sentence enunciating something about one or more objects and their relationships.
I can for example affirm that Maria damaged me by affirming that I am a moron in front of Sabrina, because it reduces the chances I had to seduce her. This judgement implies other perceptions and judgements and can therefore be defined as adequate or not only on the basis of a larger analysis of my beliefs and other judgements.
To take care of my own beliefs and judgements is not easy work, because it requires to track down their genesis back to the origins or build new chains of judgements basing on "general principles" I have recognised or established.
To fulfil this difficult task constitute the main function of the Discipline of Assent: analysis and selection of beliefs, judgements and dogmas (general principles).
Epictetus means that there are some "pre-notions", common to every human being and necessarily true for everyone, which are the basis of every further judgement. To apply this pre-notions (for example, that the good is to prefer) correctly to the actual judgement of a specific situation or object is instead very different from human to human and it is the task of philosophical education to make one capable to apply them right.