Epictetus

Epictetus

Born: 50. Died: 125.

Ideas

- Only bodies exist, but bodies are combinations of two fundamental principles, logos, a rational principle, and physis, a creative principle.

- God is nature: Logos, the rational principle, accounts for the order and unity of the universe; nature is thus intelligent and intelligible.

- Because God is nature, the universe as a whole is the best possible.

- Human beings, as opposed to plants and animals. have logos as their individual governing principle.

- Logos also defines the goal of life as virtue; the life of virtue is a life lived according to reason: It is the life of a philosopher.

- Reason distinguishes between things that are and things that are not under one's control; externals, like reputation, wealth, and power are not under one's control; desire, aversion, and opinion are.

- The virtuous individual finds freedom in limiting his or her desires to those things under one's control and accepting all other externals as indifferent.

Biography

Epictetus was born a Roman slave in Hieropolis, in Asia Minor (the peninsula comprising most of modern Turkey). While still a slave, he began studying with the Stoic Musonius Rufus.

Shortly after his master freed him, Epictetus founded his own school in Nicopolis, Epirus.

Like Socrates, Epictetus wrote nothing. His teaching, based on early, rather than late Stoic doctrines has been preserved by one of his students, Arrian (known also for writing the history of Alexander the Great), in The Enchiridion, or Manual, and The Discourses, which are transcriptions of Epictetus's lectures.

Epictetus developed a large following, even among early Christians, and in 90, the Emperor Domitian expelled him from Rome along with many other philosophers whose teachings he saw as dangerous to his tyranny.

Major Works of Epictetus

- Discourses
- Enchiridion
- Fragment
- The Handbook

Quotes from Epictetus

- "The good of man is in the will, and the evil too." (from "Discourses")

- "It is difficulties which show what men are." (from "Discourses")

- "It is impossible for a man to begin to learn what he thinks he knows." (from "Discourses")

- "Nothing is given or had for nothing." (from "Discourses")

- "What is the first business of him who philosophizes? To throw away self-conceit. For it is impossible for a man to begin to learn that which he thinks he knows." (from "Discourses")

- "It is the act of an ill-instructed man to blame others for his own bad condition; it is the act of one who has begun to be instructed to lay the blame on himself; and of one whose instruction is completed, neither to blame another nor himself." (from "The Encheiridion")

- "This is your duty, to act well the part that is given to you." (from "The Encheiridion")

- "He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." (from "Fragment")

- "It is difficult ... for a rich man to be moderate, or for a moderate man to be rich." (from "Fragment")

- "Think of God more frequently than you breathe." (from "Fragment")

- "You [would] avoid slavery? Take care that others are not your slaves." (from "Fragment")

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