Epictetus 50 - 138 (88)

Do not seek to bring things to pass in accordance with your wishes, but wish for them as they are, and you will find them.


The Art of Living

Epictetus was a Greek sage and Stoic philosopher. He was born at Hierapolis, Phrygia. He spent his youth as a slave in Rome to Epaphroditos, a wealthy freedman and secretary to Nero. Early in life, acquired a passion for philosophy, and with the permission of his wealthy owner, he studied Stoic philosophy under Musonius Rufus, which allowed him to rise in respectability as he grew more educated. He somehow became crippled, with Origen stating that his leg was deliberately broken by his master, and Simplicius stating that he had been lame from childhood.

He lived a life of great simplicity, with few possessions and lived alone for a long time, but in his old age he adopted a friend's child who would otherwise have been left to die, and raised him with the aid of a woman. was never married. obtained his freedom sometime after Nero's death in 68 AD, and began to teach philosophy in Rome. About 93 AD Emperor Domitian banished all philosophers from the city and fled to Nicopolis, Epirus, Greece, where he founded a philosophical school. His most famous pupil, Arrian, studied under him and claimed to have written the famous Discourses from his lecture notes.

Both the Discourses and the Enchiridion begin by distinguishing between those things in our power (prohairetic things) and those things not in our power (aprohairetic things). That alone is in our power, which is our own work; and in this class are our opinions, impulses, desires, and aversions. What, on the contrary, is not in our power, are our bodies, possessions, glory, and power. Any delusion on this point leads to the greatest errors, misfortunes, and troubles, and to the slavery of the soul.

We have no power over external things, and the good that ought to be the object of our earnest pursuit, is to be found only within ourselves. The determination between what is good and what is not good is made by the capacity for choice (prohairesis). Prohairesis allows us to act, and gives us the kind of freedom that only rational animals have. It is determined by our reason, which of all our faculties sees and tests itself and everything else.