Epictetus

(c.55 - c.135 C.E.)

Pronounced Epic-TEE-tus

Epictetus was a Roman slave turned Philosopher born about A.D. 55 in Hierapolis, Phrygia, in the eastern outreaches of the Roman Empire. He spent his life outlining the path to happiness, fulfilment, and tranquillity.

There are two surviving documents that summarize Epictetus's philosophy The Enchiridion and The Discourses. The following book explains the philosophy of Epictetus in modern language.

From "A Manual for Living" by Sharon Labell ISBN 0062511114

Events Don't Hurt Us, But Our Views of Them Can

Things themselves don't hurt or hinder us. Nor do other people. How we view these things is another matter. It is our attitudes and reactions that give us trouble. Therefore, even death is no big deal in and of itself. It is our notion of death, our idea that it is terrible, that terrifies us. There are so many different ways to think about death. Scrutinize your notions about death - and everything else. Are they really true? Are they doing you any good? Don't dread death or pain; dread the fear of death or pain. We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.

Quietly Accept Events As They Occur

Don't demand that events happen as you would wish them to. Accept events as they actually happen. That way peace is possible.

Everything Happens for a Good Reason

As you think, so you become. Avoid superstitiously investing events with power or meanings they don't have. Keep your head. Our busy minds are forever jumping to conclusions, manufacturing and interpreting signs that aren't there. Assume, instead, that everything that happens to you does so for some good. All events contain an advantage for you - if you look for it!

No One Can Hurt You

People don't have the power to hurt you. Even if someone shouts abuse at you or strikes you, if you are insulted, it is always your choice to view what is happening as insulting or not. If someone irritates you, it is only your own response that is irritating you. Therefore, when anyone seems to be provoking you, remember that it is only your judgment of the incident that provokes you. Don't let your emotions get ignited by mere appearances. Try not to merely react in the moment. Pull back from the situation. Take a wider view; compose yourself.

Seeking to Please Others is a Perilous Trap

In trying to please other people, we find ourselves misdirected toward what lies outside our sphere of influence. In doing so we lose our hold on our life's purpose. Content yourself with being a lover of wisdom, a seeker of the truth. Return and return again to what is essential and worthy. Do not try to seem wise to others. If you want to live a wise life, live it on your owns terms and in your own eyes.

Treasure Your Mind, Cherish Your Reason, Hold to Your Purpose

Don't surrender your mind. If someone were to casually give your body away to any old passerby, you would naturally be furious. Why then do you feel no shame in giving your precious mind over to any person who might wish to influence you? Think twice before you give up your own mind to someone who may revile you, leaving you confused and upset.

Refrain from Defending Your Reputation or Intentions

Don't be afraid of verbal abuse or criticism. Only the morally weak feel compelled to defend or explain themselves to others. Let the quality of your deeds speak on your behalf. We can't control the impressions others form about us, and the effort to do so only debases our character. So, if anyone should tell you that a particular person has spoken critically of you, don't bother with excuses or defenses. Just smile and reply "I guess that person doesn't know about all my other faults. Otherwise he wouldn't have mentioned only these.

Wisdom is Revealed Through Action, Not Talk

Don't declare yourself to be a wise person or discuss your spiritual aspirations with people who won't appreciate them. Show your character and your commitment to personal nobility through your actions.