A Stoic Philosopher born around 55CE, who lived initially in Rome, and taught in northern Greece.

The major record of his work is contained in The Discourses and The Handbook (or Enchiridion http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/epicench.html ).


He makes use of the following terms:
  • prohairesis - Moral character
  • eph'h\xEAmin - What is within our power
  • eudaimonia - Happiness
    • ataraxia - imperturbability
    • apatheia - Freedom from passion
    • eupatheiai - Good feelings
  • the three topoi - Fields of study
  • sunkatathesis - acceptance (of an impression)
  • phantasia - an impression (e.g a sensory impression)

The three _topoi_
  1. The Discipline of Desire - When I see a man anxious, I say, What does this man want? If he did not want some thing which is not in his power, how could he be anxious? From this, he teaches that we should limit our desires to those things under our control.
  2. The Discipline of Action - How we act is within our power. We should act virtuously, taking into acount our role.
  3. The Discipline of Assent (sunkatathesis) - Examination of impressions. Stop, let me see what you are, and where you come from, and 'Is it concerned with what is in our power or with what is not in our power?. The purpose being to only concern ourselves with impressions which are "true" and "relevant" (through being eph'h\xEAmin), and not to build new beliefs too highly without supporting evidence. We should also be careful to only judge impressions as "good" or "bad" when they are things which may be influenced, not when they are external forces. Non-_eph'h\xEAmin_ impression may of course be positive or negative, but are not within the moral sphere.

On inevitability in the external world

What has He given me for my own and subject to my authority, and what has He left for Himself? Everything within the sphere of the moral purpose He has given me, subjected them to my control, unhampered and unhindered. My body that is made of clay, how could He make that unhindered? Accordingly He has made it subject to the revolution of the universe?[along with] my property, my furniture, my house, my children, my wife [ "He" being nature / the external world / Zeus / God ]

On living correctly

When you are about to undertake some action, remind yourself what sort of action it is, say "I intend to do this, but also to maintain my good prohairesi ". Be aware of the likely outcomes, and how you should react.

On difficulties

Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. That is, use your fate as an oportunity to practice the maintainance of your prohairesi. You cannot control fate, but you can control your actions and beliefs

[The above was summarised from http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/e/epictetu.htm which was authored by Keith H. Seddon - http://www.btinternet.com/~k.h.s/stoic-foundation.htm Any inaccuracies introduced are my fault!]

Topic revision: r3 - 21 Nov 2003, andyp
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