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The Discourses

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  4,167 ratings  ·  137 reviews
For centuries, Stoicism was virtually the unofficial religion of the Roman world

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 Emperor Domitian, who offers by far the most precise and humane version of Stoic ideals. The Discourses, assembled by his pupil Arr
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 2nd 1995 by Everyman (first published 108)
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Mike W
Dec 15, 2012 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,
Eric Eisberg
Jul 18, 2014 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
Otto Lehto
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Engaging, inspiring, earthly, funny... Epictetus can give you great insights, skills and determination to change your life for the better, even if you don't agree with everything he says.

The text might be old, but our life problems are pretty much the same, so the lessons feel as contemporary and relevant as ever.

We can't avoid pain and hardships. Even though the topics are sombre, there is entertainment value to be had from gallows humour: I was laughing out loud half of the time, and the othe
One of the most satisfying and rewarding works of philosophy you will ever encounter. I can't speak to all the issues revolving around editions or translations. Just go with a Penguin version and you should be fine.

In any case, just locate this content and absorb it. Epictetus is one of the rarest-mentioned philosophers but after reading this wonderful tract on self-control, you will likely agree with me that he should be discussed the most. He has a great deal to say which should resound in mo
Patrick Michael
May 27, 2014 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."
Brian Denton
Jun 27, 2015 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
Ian Mathers
Jul 18, 2008 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.
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
Mar 14, 2008 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
May 22, 2017 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
Federico Trejos
Jul 03, 2013 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
Kieran Jones
Feb 28, 2016 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. ...more
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
It is a good book, at least for me it was not as good as Seneca's Letters to Lucillus or Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, but worth reading for anyone interested in stoicism. ...more
Antonio Baclig
Nov 04, 2010 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
Richard Meadows
Jun 28, 2016 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
May 18, 2013 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 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
Jun 03, 2012 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
Kevin Bunick
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you suffer from anxiety, especially over everyday occurrences or seemingly trivial matters (like me), you should find this book extremely helpful. I did not expect it to be a 2,000 year old self-help book when I choose it, but voila! It focuses on explaining how to release things out of your control, albeit in a logical format. It's like an ancient "Don't sweat the small stuff" presented in philosophical arguments. Don't be scared off because you think it might be a difficult read because it' ...more
Bruno Arine
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
The first time I tried to read Epictetus' Discourses, I couldn't finish it. Do you know why? Because by chapter 29 out of 90 I had heard, for the third or forth time, how Epictetus would reply if one commanded him to shave himself. His musings on stoicism are thoroughly profound, I admit, but I couldn't put up with a philosopher droning on about the same thing ad nauseam. The book seemed boring and repetitive, and I eventually found myself taking shorter and shorter routes to work so that I coul ...more
Aug 20, 2013 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 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... ...more
Apr 20, 2008 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. ...more
Jun 16, 2014 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
Sep 18, 2016 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. ...more
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
I enjoyed Enchiridion more than this, mostly due to this one having certain passages being very difficult to relate to (historical figures were anecdotally referred to and it was tough to find the context), but this was still an excellent read for anyone interested in philosophy.
Peter Matt
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great thoughts of a handicapped slave.
Joey Kittel
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
You have to read this book
Ben Rogers
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Life changing!

Highly recommended for all to read.

The Sphinx
Jul 01, 2020 rated it liked it
I'll have to agree with Nietzsche that stoicism is a philosophy for slaves despite of Aurelius, Seneca and Cicero being the premium members of the club. I feel that the stoic cultivation of a detached attitude towards external factors that are seemingly outside our control can easily stiffle creativity. Because frustration and anger is often the main motivating factor for coming up with creative solutions and making serious progress. I would take Palpatine's advice over Epictetus any day of the ...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

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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.)” 201 likes
“Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.” 71 likes
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