Long on Epictetus, part I

Anthony Long is one of the best modern writers on Stoicism, and we have already encountered him when I wrote about his essay on Spinoza and Stoicism. In this and the next post I will comment on Long’s Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life. While the entire book is well worth reading, I will […]

Epictetus on suicide: the open door policy

“And what does it matter to you by what way you descend to Hades? All roads are equal. But, if you want to hear the truth, the one that a tyrant sends you along is shorter. No tyrant ever took six months to cut someone’s throat, but a fatal fever often lasts a year.” So […]

Epictetus vs the Epicureans and the Academics

This must be Epictetus’ week. Well, for me it’s actually Epictetus’ year, since I decided that the book I’m writing, How To Be a Stoic (to be published by Basic Books in spring ’17) will be organized as an indirect conversation between myself and the slave-turned-teacher, who will guide me and my readers in a breezy […]

Epictetus and the Master Argument

Epictetus, even more so than most Stoics, thought that philosophy has to be useful, or it becomes the kind of sterile intellectual exercise (some would dare say mental masturbation) that it is notorious for in certain quarters of the modern academy. His attitude is perhaps most explicitly and fascinatingly on display in Discourses II.19, where he tackles the famous […]

Epictetus’ Handbook

I finally finished my project of re-reading all of Epictetus: the Discourses, the Fragments, and now the Enchiridion, or Handbook. The latter, of course, is a famous collection of what Epictetus allegedly said (according to his student, Arrian), meant for a more general audience, i.e., people who are just beginning to approach Stoicism. As such, it […]

Epictetus’ Fragments

After having gone again over Epictetus’ Discourses (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), I re-read the Fragments, which are either direct quotes or paraphrases of Epictetus from other sources. Here are some of the most interesting highlights: “What do I care whether matter is made up of atoms, indivisibles, or fire and earth? Isn’t it […]

Epictetus, a bit of an anti-intellectual?

I have commented before that Epictetus seems to be one of the most Cynic-leaning of the Stoics, and indeed it sounds like at times that tendency leads him almost to what by today standards would qualify as anti-intellectualism. This is particularly evident in Book IV, section 4 of the Discourses, which begins: “Remember, it isn’t just […]

Epictetus on Cynicism

I was a bit surprised, though with hindsight I probably shouldn’t have been, by the level of support — no, admiration — that Epictetus displays for Cynicism in section 22 of book III of the Discourses. I mean, I knew the guy was sympathetic to that other school, and of course Stoicism has had a […]