Reading Epictetus’ Discourses, book I

Epictetus-1I have been re-reading Epictetus’ Discourses, just finished book I. Here are some extracts as food for thought and discussion (I may post more in the next few days):

“Reason is unique among the faculties assigned to us in being able to evaluate itself – what it is, what it is capable of, how valuable it is – in addition to passing judgement on others. [5] What decides whether a sum of money is good? The money is not going to tell you; it must be the faculty that makes use of such impressions – reason.” (1, 4-5)

“If from the moment they get up in the morning they adhere to their ideals, eating and bathing like a person of integrity, putting their principles into practice in every situation they face – the way a runner does when he applies the principles of running, or a singer those of musicianship [21] – that is where you will see true progress embodied, and find someone who has not wasted their time making the journey here from home.” (4, 20-21)

“Why are we still lazy, indifferent and dull? Why do we look for excuses to avoid training and exercising our powers of reason? [31] ‘Look, if I err in such matters I haven’t killed my father, have I?’ No, fool – for there was no father there for you to kill! What did you do instead? You made the only mistake you had the opportunity to make.” (7, 30-31)

“Getting an education means learning to bring our will in line with the way things happen – which is to say, as the ruler of the universe arranged. [16] He arranged for there to be summer and winter, abundance and lack, virtue and vice – all such opposites meant for the harmony of the whole; and he gave us each a body and bodily parts, material belongings, family and friends.” (12, 15-16)

3 thoughts on “Reading Epictetus’ Discourses, book I

  1. Michael,

    That’s a matter of taste, to some extent. I use this one:

    Partly because I like older translations better, and partly because it is complete and available in electronic format.

    This one is also good, but is missing several chapters, which the curator considered redundant:

    Finally, there is the George Long translation, also good:


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