Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Discourses” as Want to Read:
The Discourses
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Discourses

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  2,793 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
For centuries, Stoicism was virtually the unofficial religion of the Roman world

Yet the stress on endurance, self—restraint and power of the will to withstand calamity can often seem coldhearted. It is Epictetus, a lame former slave exiled by the Emperor Domitian, who offers by far the most positive and humane version of stoic ideals. The Discourses, assembled by his pup
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 2nd 1995 by Everyman (first published 108)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mike W
Dec 15, 2012 Mike W rated it it was amazing
Stoicism offers a guide to happiness and serenity in life, and Epictetus was, perhaps, the greatest Stoic philosopher. First and foremost, Epictetus was a deeply religious man. He was convinced that God created the world according to Reason, and that human beings, in so far as we have the gift of rational thought, can attain happiness by living according to our own nature--which meant for Epictetus according to reason.

But what does it mean to live "according to nature" or reason? For Epictetus,
Mar 05, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
THE MORAL DISCOURSES. (?). Epictetus. ****.
This was the translation by Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, and also included The Enchiridion and various Fragments, as published by Everyman’s Library in 1910 and later reprinted in 1913. This translation was the benchmark for this work for the longest time. Since then there have been many more accessible translations using contemporary language. Aside from that, I have to start off by telling you that this is a browsing book. Each discourse stands on its own,
Eric Eisberg
Jul 18, 2014 Eric Eisberg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, classics
Epictetus is one of the great spiritual minds of human history. His ideas are very similar to Buddhist ones, promoting a doctrine of nonattachment, acting morally and living simply. He differs in a few key ways, however. Like all Stoics, he imagines that death is the end of our consciousness in a very permanent way. He also stresses that our actions, if anything, are the only things in our power and that we should simply accept changes of fortune by learning not to desire anything but our own vi ...more
Douglas Dalrymple
May 22, 2017 Douglas Dalrymple rated it really liked it
I made my way slowly through the Discourses over the past six months or so. It's Roman-era self-help literature of the best sort – but that’s what philosophy was to the ancients: a guide for living, not an exercise in logic or intellectual abstraction. Our own age (an era in which victimhood is virtue and affluence is happiness) could do with a bit of the old Stoicism. It’s summarized more succinctly in Epictetus’s brief Enchiridion than in the Discourses or by the more sophisticated Marcus Aure ...more
Comparing ancient and modern philosophy is always an interesting thing to do. Ancient philosophy seems to have been much more practical and applied; something that everyone could take part in, instead of being relegated to experts in the field. It was not there to argue about everything in existence (well, except for the Skeptics) but was instead meant to teach you how to live your life to the fullest. In ancient philosophy, a lot was taken for granted that would never be done so today; such as ...more
Nov 05, 2014 Marc-André rated it it was amazing
Shelves: phil
J'ai recommandé chaudement la lecture d'Épictète à mon entourage après en avoir moi-même consulté les discours. Quoi que le principe en soit au mieux difficilement applicable, il est très simple, en apparence du moins, et sa pratique ne peut qu'être bénéfique. Ce principe, sous-jacent à tous les discours, c'est : cultives seulement ce qui dépend de toi. Ces choses qui peuvent être dites dépendre purement de nous, en tant que nous sommes des Hommes, sont bien peu nombreuse pour Épictète, et risqu ...more
Mar 14, 2008 Jake rated it it was amazing
This was the last book I read before going to Basic last year, and I really think it contributed a lot to how much I learned about myself during my training stint.

Also, [url= Admiral James Stockdale[/url] credited this work with helping him through seven and a half years of torture by the Viet Cong. I think that alone says more than I would be able to.

I guess Epictetus' main thesis is simply this (and the course of the book is spent fleshing this out): th
Patrick Michael
May 27, 2014 Patrick Michael rated it it was amazing
"It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters."

"First say to yourself what you would be;
And then do what you have to do."

"People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them."
Kieran Jones
Feb 28, 2016 Kieran Jones rated it really liked it
Love me some good ol' stoic philosophy. I read this as a result of reading Good to Great, of business canon. I loved it and do see the applicability. It's a good reminder that you need to read outside of your sphere to gain depth and perspective on your subject.
Ian Mathers
Jul 18, 2008 Ian Mathers rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Rating is for the edition of the book rather than for Epictetus, really... with all this really old, public domain stuff you gotta be careful. This is pretty good, especially if you want one, relatively inexpensive volume. Not as feel good as Aurelius, but much much funnier.
Bill Pfister
This one I go back to every few years...
Joey Kittel
May 17, 2017 Joey Kittel rated it it was amazing
You have to read this book
Brian Denton
Jun 27, 2015 Brian Denton rated it it was amazing
This book is an extended variation on the stoic philosophy of Epictetus best captured by this passage from the first entry of his Handbook:

“Some things are up to us and others are not. Up to us are opinion, impulse, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is our own action. Not up to us are body, property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not our own action. The things that are up to us are by nature free, unhindered and unimpeded; but those that are not up to us are weak, serv
Richard Meadows
Jun 28, 2016 Richard Meadows rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-non-fiction
Epictetus wasn’t an easy read for me. If I was new to the Stoics, I probably would have abandoned his Discourses immediately, which would have been a crying shame.

One of the obstacles is that this isn’t a book in the conventional sense. It’s made up of notes scribbled down by a student, which means it is unstructured, fragmented, and at times repetitive. It’s almost essential to have some background knowledge of what is being discussed, so I’d recommend reading Marcus Aurelius and/or Seneca firs
Antonio Baclig
Nov 04, 2010 Antonio Baclig rated it really liked it
Repetitive, often ranting, written (spoken, actually--written down by a disciple) with certainty, Epictetus's works can be summed up by a sentence or two: "Some things are up to us and others are not. Up to us are opinion, impulse, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is our own action. Not up to us are body, property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not our own action."

So don't worry about the "externals" that are out of your control, what most people spend so much energy
May 18, 2013 JP rated it it was amazing
Written during the first century A.D., Arrianus wrote the words of Epictetus in the style in which they were delivered in speech. To provide a synoposis of the explanation given in this book (from the Modern Library), Stoicism was founded by Zeno in taking from Plato the value of self-sufficiency. If the universe is self-sufficient, dualism would not be possible and so monism must be. And that implies that everything is good and natural. Ironically, the efficient workings of the self-sufficient ...more
Raul Mazilu
Jan 05, 2015 Raul Mazilu rated it really liked it
Perhaps more actual than ever, Epictetus' speech decries the attachment to material goods. Instead, Epictetus proposes a life of freedom and independence.

Were it a self-help book, it would probably bear the title "How to eliminate the pressure you willingly impose on yourself when you attach undue value to that which, in reality, is dependent on external factors".

The short sketches, set against a background of everyday Greek life, offer practical advice. In a manner similar to Viktor Frankl and
Federico Trejos
Jul 03, 2013 Federico Trejos rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vitalis, uprising
Epictetus is a genius of the ancients, a man whose moral and ethical thought and pathos have the golden mean in mind. The whole idea and notion of balance, ressponsability, dutifulness, and a sense of following, liberally determined, the values one believes at any cost. The stoics were definitely the first existentialists, along with the Bible (for me a great existentialist text) with some elements of severity, extreme measures, principle, radicalism of the cynics, without the irreverence, more ...more
Jun 03, 2012 Stewartw22 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: st-john-s
Read: Discourses I 29; II 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 18, 22, 26; III 5, 12, 13, 15, 18; IV 2, and Handbook 1-27.

Edition has introduction to the histo-political world of Epictetus, a biography, and a rough overview of Hellenistic philosophy (read: Epicureanism/Stoicism etc.). Additionally, some Stoic vocabulary at the end along with some modern interpretations/criticism of his work - focused mostly on his Discourses.

The Discourses can be tedious and repetitive at times to read given the discou
Aug 20, 2013 Xavier rated it it was amazing
Shelves: r-non-fiction
"Come, then, Epictetus, shave yourself." "If I am a philosopher," I answer, "I will not shave myself." "But I will take off your head?" If that will do you any good, take it off.

This is just a sample of the kind of thing you'll find within an hour of reading this book.

It's a bit less accessible than the Enchiridion. Which does make it slightly more fun to reread.
It is part of the Stoic tradition that lasted a thousand years. Put simply, a must read.
Nov 09, 2014 Yognik1789 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translated, psyche
I am fond of certain stoic principles which Epictetus mentions in Enchiridion - regarding self-mastery, controlling desires (not branding them evil as say Gandhi would do), being unemotional and controlling oneself from getting perturbed by external sources which lie outside one's control. However most other tenants, I dislike as I sense an element of fatalism and passiveness in them. But still a quick and pithy read, I'd say... Do check out this master work of one of the most famous stoics...
Jun 16, 2014 Marcella rated it it was amazing
Maybe not as good as Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, but still a very good Stoic book and with a lot to say about how to contact our lives.
I said that Meditations was better because the paragraphs are shorter and easier to read, but I would still recommend The Discourses as much as I would recommend Meditations
Apr 20, 2008 Patrick\ rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
His discourse on the use of the forms of right reasoning is a survey with concluding opinon. We haven't gone far from his understanding of the fundamental ground of reasoning. Worth a read, but probably not the complete works in a number of volumes unless you are a philosopher or a glutten for philosophical minutiae. I am neither. I think it an important work in my own grounding.
Kyle Bunkers
Sep 18, 2016 Kyle Bunkers rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
An interesting read. There's a lot to think about. I found a lot of wisdom and common sense. If you find Stoic tranquility to be something worthy pursuing, definitely a good book to read. It has some datedness to some material, though.
Peter Matt
Oct 28, 2016 Peter Matt rated it really liked it
Great thoughts of a handicapped slave.
Jul 26, 2015 T rated it it was amazing
new fave book
Olivier Goetgeluck
Mar 26, 2013 Olivier Goetgeluck rated it really liked it
I don't add to my troubles.

Our emotional responses to upsetting actions - not the actions themselves - are what create anxiety and depression; and that our emotional responses are products of our judgements - are in fact (irrational) judgements tout court:
'Much of what we call emotion is nothing more nor less than a certain kind - a biased, prejudiced, or strongly evaluative kind - of thought. What we call feelings almost always have a pronounced evaluating or appraisal element.

Talk to yourself,
May 31, 2017 Mariah rated it it was amazing
Ancient Philosophy has filled a void in my life that I never even knew was there. Stoicism is such a fascinating and beautiful way to go through life.
Don Smith
Jun 19, 2017 Don Smith rated it it was amazing
Maybe the best Stoic manual for living well and honestly that I know of.
Apr 30, 2017 Dillon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stoicism
Without a doubt, the best book I've ever read. It's almost jarring to realize that many of the daily issues and troubles that plague life in modern society have been around for over 2,000 years. But to say that the principles and strategies espoused in this work are only for "daily issues" would be an incredible disservice to the material contained within.

Stoicism, as described by Epictetus, is a philosophy of life. This means that it's meant to be applied to anything, no matter how small or lar
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Enneads
  • Ptolemy's Almagest
  • Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life
  • The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
  • Sophist
  • The Geometry of René Descartes: with a Facsimile of the First Edition
  • De Anima (On the Soul)
  • On Duties (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
  • Musonius Rufus: Lectures and Sayings
  • Early Greek Philosophy
  • Epitome of Copernican Astronomy and Harmonies of the World
  • Fragments
  • Plutarch's Lives, Vol 2
  • The Essential Epicurus
  • Philosophical Fragments
Epictetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He was probably born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia (present day Pamukkale, Turkey), and lived in Rome until his exile to Nicopolis in northwestern Greece, where he lived most of his life and died. His teachings were noted down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses. Philosophy, he taught, is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. ...more
More about Epictetus...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“Τίς εἶναι θέλεις, σαυτῷ πρῶτον εἰπέ: εἶθ' οὕτως ποίει ἃ ποιεῖς. (First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.)” 182 likes
“Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.” 37 likes
More quotes…