Summary and Analysis of Enchiridion by Epictetus
Epictetus, born about 50, died between 125 and 130 AD, was a greek slave before becoming a philosopher. Epictetus is not his proper name: épiktétos meant, in Greek, slave, servant. Epictetus taught the Stoic doctrine in Rome and had to emigrate in Epirus, at Nicopolis, where he attracted many disciples, expressing a real lifestyle. One of his disciples, Arrian of Nicomedia, received his teaching, and published eight books forming the Enchiridion (also called The HandBook).
The main question treated in the Enchiridion is: How to achieve happiness?
Find some Epictetus quotes to go further.
Epictetus and Happiness
Happiness requires freedom. To be happy is to be free, so the real problem is: how to become free?
Epictetus offers his famous distinction between things that do not depend on us (ie our body, fame, power …) and things that depend on us (our judgments about things, our desires, our dislikes …).
To be free is to focus on the things that depend on us, and do not give importance to those that do not depend on us. Indeed, they do not depend on our own will, but the chance of external circumstances, for example, fame to which we aspire does not depend entirely on our talent, but also those who will come and bother discover this talent.
In this type of action, we do not have total power, we are not only active cause and determining the success of our action. As a result, we are exposed to setbacks or disappointments that will make us unhappy.
However, many things or actions depend only on my own will. For example, I can decide whether to work tonight. I can decide what decision I focuses on one thing or another. It is free, so happy, when its attention on those things. Then: “If you think the only thing that yours is yours and what you’re abroad because overseas, no one will ever compel you, no one obstructe thou shalt not take thee to anyone, you accuse person, you shall not do anything against your will and no one will harm you, you have no enemy, for you will suffer no harm. ”
Which basically depends on us, it is not the events of our lives, or external things, but the judgments that focuses on these or these. For example, as mortal beings, we can not avoid dying, but we can decide what meaning we give to death. We can see it as something scary, and we will, anguished by this idea, ruin our whole life, but we can also see it as the normal end of a natural cycle, or a rest that relieves the suffering of old age, and thus give him a positive value.
“What disturbs men, are not things, but they judge things. Thus death is nothing terrible […] but the decision we make on the death by declaring it terrible, that’s what is terrible. ”
Many of our judgments are negative and express anxiety, hatred or rejection of this or that. So just work on those judgments, by reflection, and change, so they express a full acceptance of the world, life as it comes. Thus, we reach the happiness: “do not ask things to happens as you wish. But will that things happen as they arrive and you will be happy. ”
Epictetus and Body
Once we realized that things can not reach us, only our judgments on these things, we are invincible, because our judgments on these things are our only power. Nothing can reach us without our consent, “the disease is a barrier for the body, but not the will, if it wants to. Lameness is an impediment for the legs, but not the will. You say the same for each accident, and you will find it an impediment to something else, but not for you. ”
It’s about working our judgments, so as to remain impassive and without sadness when something painful affects us. Because it can be a positive assessment of this event. For example: my TV does not work anymore, so much the better, because I’m going to read a good book instead …
Epictetus and Serenity
This is the famous Stoic equanimity (ataraxia), which leads to stay calm under all circumstances.
Care must be taken to maintain equanimity in these cases the limits posed by the death of a loved one, “never say of anything:” I lost it. ” But “I have made.” Your child is dead, it is made. Your wife is dead, it is made. My property I was delighted. Well it is also made. ”
Grant importance to things that depend on us achieves a kind of invincibility, that nothing outside can disturb “you can be invincible, if you do not commit yourself in any fight, where it does not depend on you to be victorious. ”
The model to follow is ataraxia: “If you are not yet Socrates, you must live as if you wanted to be Socrates.”
Wise man is also distinguished by his humility: “If we just tell you that this was wrong about you, do not justify on what you reported, but say,” he must ignore all other defects that are in me, to speak only of those only which were known “.
Finally it is serious and austere. Laughter trouble indeed, as the desire, serenity, “Do not laugh much, or many things, and without restraint.” This is also a way to “slip into vulgarity.
Epictetus distinguishes three parts of philosophy:
“The first and most important part of the philosophy is to put into practice the maxims, such as” should not lie. ” The second is the demonstration of maxims such as “where does it must not lie? “. The third is the one that confirms and explains these demonstrations, such as “where does it demonstrate? What is a demonstration, a consequence, an objection that the true, the false? “.
Or Stoicism is essentially a practice. The aim of philosophy is not to know things from a theoretical point of view, but to apply our theoretical findings:
“The longer necessary, that that needs to rest, this is the first. Us, we act in reverse. We focus in the third part, all our concern is for her, and we neglect the first absolutely. We lie because we are prepared to demonstrate that one should not lie. “