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The Stoic Handbook of Epictetus

Translated and paraphrased by Donald J. Robertson


What is the Stoic Handbook
Here's a very brief introduction..
Stoicism is an ancient Graeco-Roman school of philosophy.
Founded in Athens around 301 BC by Zeno of Citium, it later became popular
among the Romans.
Of all the ancient schools of philosophy, Stoicism had the most practical and
therapeutic advice about overcoming irrational emotions and unhealthy
desires.
Epictetus (c. 55 135 AD) was one of the most renowned Stoic teachers of the
Roman Imperial period.
The Handbook (Enchiridion) contains a summary of his Stoic philosophy, written
by his student Arrian.
These slides contain a direct translation of the Greek text, slightly paraphrased for
readability.
Zeno of Citium: The Founder of Stoicism
This piece of jewellery from the Roman Imperial period is believed to
depict Zeno of Citium, the founder of the Stoic school.
Copyri ght (c) the Trustees of the Bri ti sh Museum
Some things are up to us..
Some things are "up to us", or under our direct control, while others
are not.
Our judgements are "up to us", particularly value-judgements about
what is "good" and "bad" or "helpful" and "harmful", as are our
voluntary "impulses" or intentions to act, the desires and aversions
based on these, and in a word whatever are our own voluntary actions.
What is not up to us.
What is "up to us" is our own true self, and naturally free, unhindered,
and unimpeded; while what is not up to us is weak, slavish, hindered,
and alien to us, being not truly our own.
The root of all suffering
Remember therefore that if you confuse these things and think what is
naturally slavish to be free, and that which is not your own to be your
own, then you will be hindered, grieve, be distressed, and you will
angrily blame mankind, resent life and even hate the gods.
The promise of philosophy...
By contrast, the promise of philosophy is that if you think only what is
your own to be your own, and what is not your own to be not your
own, just as it actually is, then nobody will ever force you to do
anything or prevent you from doing anything.
You will neither blame nor criticise anybody, nor will you do anything
against your will.
You will not have any enemy, nor will you be harmed, for nothing
genuinely harmful will be able to reach your true self.
No man can serve two masters...
Therefore with such ambitious goals, remember that you must hasten
yourself to undertake them without reservation, for you cannot serve
two different masters. You will have to completely abandon some of
your goals in life and set aside others for the time being.
For if you wish to have both Happiness and also to have social status
and wealth it may be your misfortune to lose out on the latter, because
you aim at wisdom and virtue. More importantly, you will definitely fail
to attain wisdom and virtue, which alone produces freedom and
Happiness (eudaimonia).
Question every disturbing impression...
Therefore train yourself without hesitation to say in response to the
impression underlying every troubling passion that "you are merely an
appearance and in no way the thing appearing.
Evaluate each judgement..
Next examine it and evaluate it against these the philosophical rules
and standards which you have, but first and foremost this, whether it
concerns value-judgements about things that are "up to us" or about
things not up to us.
And if it concerns something that is not up to us, judging it "indifferent"
with regard to achieving virtue and Happiness, have ready-to-hand the
answer: "It is nothing to me."
Conclusion and next steps...
The most important step lies in analyzing and evaluating these ideas for
yourself.
Take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns.
Use them to list the advantages (pros) and disadvantages (cons) of
Epictetus Stoicism.
How would your own philosophy potentially address any negative
points and build upon the positives?