Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life
A. A. Long
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The philosophy of Epictetus, a freed slave in the Roman Empire, has been profoundly influential on Western thought: it offers not only stimulating ideas but practical guidance in living one's life. A. A. Long, a leading scholar of later ancient philosophy, gives the definitive presentation of the thought of Epictetus for a broad readership. Long's fresh and vivid translations of a selection of the best of Epictetus' discourses show that his ideas are as valuable and striking today as they were amost two thousand years ago.
This is a book for anyone interested in what we can learn from ancient philosophy about how to live our lives.
they make. \Vhat is required of anyone who wants genuine freedom is to transfer all wants, values, and attachments away from externals and situate them within the scope of one's volition. Prohairesis or volition is the locus of all that truly matters to humans who have understood cosmic order and their own natures and capacities. Its perfection is the human good, and the goal of Epictetus' teaching. Like earlier Stoics, he holds that goodness and badness in the strict sense pertain only to what
challenge and attract such apparent models of success as Alexander the Great. Epictetus, embellishing the myth of Diogenes, turns him into a Stoic icon and awards him the 'kingly and reproving' position. Why kingly? Tradition associated Diogenes not only with Alexander but also with the Great King of Persia, whose lack of happiness he contrasted with his own state (3.22.6o). When the Stoics defined real kingship as the pt·erogative of the sage, they were taking their lead from the Cynics for whom
on earth, and bound to an earthy body and earthy associates, how was it possible for us not to be impeded by externals in relation to these things? What does Zeus say? Epictetus, if it had been possible, I would have made your little body and property free and unhindered. But in fact-take note of my words-this is not your own but only artfully moulded clay. Since I could not give you this, I have given you a portion of myself, this fawlty of positive and negative impulse and of dt,sire and
matters of empirical fact: his interlocutor is no genuine Sceptic, who really intends to think about it. Rather, owing to bad habits, he is completely committed to the judgement that imprisonment and death, as distinct from unethical actions, exemplify the bad things he wants to avoid. Philosophy and Pedagogy 107 If everyone natumlly desires happiness and is naturally equipped with the means of achieving it, why is philosophy necessary? Why doesn't nature deliver happiness along with all its
he officially distances himself. Still, Epictetus was probably not widely read as compared with Cicero, Seneca, and his own erudite contemporaries. The most important influence on Epictetus from a living person was almost certainly his Stoic teacher, Musonius Rufus. A knight or member of the equestrian order, Musonius was one of anumber of upper-class Romans whose Stoicism and resolute character displeased the paranoid emperor Nero. During the latter's reign 14 Epictetus in his Time and Place