Discourses, Books 1-2
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Discourses, Books 1-2

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  1,945 ratings  ·  74 reviews
Epictetus (c. A.D. 60-after 100) was a former slave exiled by the Emperor Domitian, who taught the most humane version of Stoic philosophy, the unofficial religion of the Roman world for centuries. The Discourses summarize the "Roman virtues"-the brotherhood of man, universal justice, and calm indifference in the face of pain. Offering a path of asceticism, endurance and e...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published January 1st 1925 by Harvard University Press (Cambridge) (first published 1865)
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Jun 07, 2014 sckenda rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Interested in Stoic Wisdom
At times in my life I have felt overmatched by events, and I have needed inner resources of strength and courage that I did not believe I possessed. Roman history and philosophy were reservoirs of inspiration, out of which I found a measure of daily bravery for the challenge.

Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius are my favorite Romans, and this is the first review of a three-part series of reviews of the stoic philosophers. When it comes to philosophy, I prefer mine in the form of practical wi...more
Epictetus (c. 60 - c. 125 CE), whose name literally meant "bought", was a Greek born in what is now western Turkey and became, we know not how, a slave in Rome. His last master, himself a freedman, allowed him to attend the lectures of the Roman Stoic philosopher C. Musonius Rufus and eventually freed him. Epictetus taught philosophy in Rome until Emperor Domitian banned all philosophers from the city. He moved to Nicopolis in Epirus and started a school of his own, where he remained until his d...more
In this rereading of Epictetus’ Discourses, I wanted to concentrate on two things in particular: first, whether his belief in God or the gods (and Epictetus is by far the most overtly religious and theistic of the Greco-Roman moralists) is strictly necessary to his philosophy; and, second, how closely Epictetus’ stoicism approaches the non-theistic position of philosophical Buddhism.

Epictetus regularly uses Socrates as his example of what all men should be. And one finds the admonition that rea...more
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,...more
Mike W
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,...more
I find it near to impossible to rate a work of antiquity as I might try to rank a contemporary work. How does one choose subtraction over addition in ranking an artifact of historical interest? The Discourses of Epictetus possess such a special status and have greater merit at the start than contemporary works. By various measures, I commend the Discourses. One measure, mentioned above, is the historical measure. Reading the Discourses is time travel. How rare and privileged is it to see the wor...more
Antonio Baclig
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...more
Stoicism is based on one big assumption and 2 decisions based on this assumption.

The assumption: There are things outside your control and things within your control.
Decision #1: I accept that which is outside my control and refuse to let it bother me.
Decision #2: I will perfect what is in my control.

I wish I had read this in college, because it provides a workable system to attaining something closer to inner peace in a wide variety of situations. I don't control my law school acceptance, but I...more
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=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_St... 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...more
Federico Trejos
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
Jim Coughenour
I just read Epictetus with a small group and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. In my totally dilettantish opinion, after only 1 reading – I found the Discourses rambling and repetitive, and Epictetus too much of a scold – but with interruptions of actual genius. On the other hand, the short Enchiridion (or "handbook") at the end is a gem of bitter wisdom. Epictetus's stoicism is a philosophy for the desperate moments of life, but in such moments it holds up pretty well. (Cf. "Courage Under Fi...more
Olivier Goetgeluck
"In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control."

"The chief thing to remember is that the door is open. Don't be a greater coward than children, who are ready to announce, 'I won't play any more.' Say, 'I won't play any more,' when you grow weary of the game, and be done with it. But if you stay, don't carp."

"When happiness is come by fairly, others are happy for us too."

Billie Pritchett
Epictetus's Moral Discourses lays out the basic tenets of Stoicism in a quasi-conversational, quasi-lecture style, and The Enchiridion is an abbreviated version of the Moral Discourses, and quite a bit more fun and easier to read. The basic idea of Stoicism is that most of human suffering comes from a simple confusion: Too often we think we're disturbed, bothered, or swayed by things, people, or events, but ultimately what disturbs, bothers, or sways is the principles or ideas we have about thes...more
Eric Eisberg
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
I love this man's philosophy. Down-to-earth and true to this day, despite the fact that he wrote his observations before the first century.
These discourses are something everyone should read to see where we came from.
My first and best introduction to Stoic philosophy.
Bill Pfister
This one I go back to every few years...
When I read Descartes' Discourse on Method, the translator said that he was influenced by the Stoics, citing both Epictetus and Seneca in endnotes. If you'd asked me what a Stoic was before reading this, I probably would have said, "stiff upper lip", or something of the sort, but that comes from our modern usage of the term, Stoic.

I think I got a good feeling for Stoicism from this book, which is what I wanted, not to become an expert. I liked Dobbin's translation and notes, which made it very...more
Epictetus was willing to endure all circumstances that fell upon him because of his core belief that the world existed for a religious purpose. Whatever was to come was meant to come. Despite my inability to relate to his fundamental motivation for stoicism, his virtue still seeps through the text and it is hard not to admire the man. Today, our discussions on virtue seem to drift to one extreme or the other. Either tolerance for all things that do not cause harm to others or righteous living as...more
A follower of Zeno and Chrysippus (as evidence by the numerous references), Epictetus expounds the lessons of Stoicism. On a superficial level, it’s kind of like Western Buddhism. Detachment from worldly desire being a core concept in both. Whereas Buddhism seeks to train the mind in the ways of sila (ethical behavior) to cut the chain of endless rebirth, Epictetus teaches how virtue helps you pass through the purpose of this existence.
Men act like a traveller on the way to his own country who
Jul 19, 2008 Paula rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All Humans
Recommended to Paula by: The Great Books collection
Shelves: favorite-books
The ideals of Stoicism are not very popular today. Only the military truly appreciates what they have to offer, and for some that alone is enough to turn them away. Yet, there is no wisdom the world needs more than what Epictetus offers. His insights are so startlingly right, his presentation so witty, his life so exemplary that we would be fools to ignore him. He teaches us, not just to be Men (as the military interprets stoicism), but to be fully Human in the best sense. Here is just a taste:

The rantings of the ancient philosopher Epictetus, who went around telling people how they could become less offensive (to *him*) by controlling their emotions. Because it was all about *him*. Because people who have problems are just a bunch of whiners.

Epictetus had a point of view which nowadays we call "uncultured" and "inhuman". His system of "philosophy" consists mainly of sneering at anyone who's Other. His collection of beliefs is one which any teenage hipster could come up with -- and e...more
Bob Nichols
Epictetus constructs an ideal human and then tells us that reason should mold us to fit that ideal. As to what constitutes the ideal, he advises that we must concern ourselves with only that which is in our power, not what is outside our power to control. This advice is anchored in a view of the cosmos that has a mind of its own. Given this fated universe, our task is to go with the flow, not fight it, and to focus only on what we have control over. Importantly, this means our desires and concer...more
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
Jana Light
This is a great work of stoic philosophy. However, I tend to roll my eyes quite a bit at several of the main tenets of stoic philosophy, and my reading of this book proved to be no exception. While Epictetus imparts quite a bit of wisdom concerning how to avoid needless angst or unhappiness, he denigrates many of the things in life that make life worth living -- things that make us human -- and therefore I can't ever get on board with stoicism proper.

Good points:
* We should clearly differentiate...more
Pascal Verlaine
At places in book one (of four), either due to the complexities of the argument, the lack of a greater stoic context or translational difficulties (there were a number of constructions I could not unravel), I have to admit I would get a little lost. Books two through four were much more straight forward. Despite these difficulties, I think of it as a treasure.

I am not a scholar, I can only speak to how this work was useful to me, personally.

Epictetus's Handbook, sort of a readers digest of his...more
Panos Sourtzinos
The teachings of Epictetus is a must read for everyone. The meaning of his teachings, so true, so simple and yet so powerful. This is a book to be read with open mind and with no judgment. Then it will be experienced as it should, and can be liberating. A life with no fear is just a step away, as long as you are able to realize that. Definitely I suggest to read this book!
Nick Klagge
A much better expression of Stoic ideas than "Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius." Epictetus (or his student Arrian) seems to be a more focused thinker than M.A., whose book really does just read like a scattershot collection of his thoughts. The Enchiridion and The Discourses cover pretty much the same material, with the former basically a condensed version of the latter. If you are interested in Stoic philosophy, I would recommend starting with the Enchiridion, then if you like it moving on to The Di...more
Excellent! Numerous are the levels of value in reading the Discourses and Encheiridion of Epictetus (compiled by his pupil Arrian): (1) Counsel for mastering daily living and in particular the mechanics of living in the moment; there is much here that interfaces with contemporary cognitive therapies; (2) Stoic philosophy with attention to its practice and occasional comparison with competing philosophies of the day; (3) History, glimpses of Roman social life, culture, mores, and more (the range...more
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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...
The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness The Golden Sayings of Epictetus Enchiridion and Selections from the Discourses The Essential Writings Of Human Freedom (Penguin Great Ideas)

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“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.)” 156 likes
“Difficulty shows what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. Why? So that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat.” 29 likes
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