Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy


Epictetus in a nutshell
One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to modern lives.In A Guide to the Good Life, Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient ph… more about book…

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Epictetus in a nutshell(r/philosophy)

First i want to clarify that this is not a direct quote of Epictetus, it is from a book on Stoicism called A guide to the good life and it is a somewhat altered version (but more accurate i believe) of Epictetus’ own “dichotomy of control”. However, i think that this version better represents what Epictetus was trying to say.
The closest quote we have that relates to this is from the Enchiridion and it is as follows (note that the Enchiridion was not written by Epictetus, he never wrote anything, but compiled from notes by his pupil Arrian).

Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.

Now to answer your question, Stoicism was a complex philosophy with a long history and with branches in metaphysics, ethics and logic. This illustrates one of the main ideas of the ethics of stoicism, which strove to be “free of the (negative) passions” through the use of a variety of exercises (askesis). The core of this is illustrated in the image, though of course, it is not the whole story. To see how stoics practiced these ideas, one must look at Arrians notes of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius’ meditations (a hypomnema, a type of philosophical diary was another form of stoic practice), and Seneca’s letters. Hope this helps


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William B. Irvine

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Oxford University Press

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A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

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Epictetus in a nutshell

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