Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life

Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life

Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life

Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life

Synopsis

The philosophy of Epictetus, a freed slave in the Roman Empire, has been profoundly influential on Western thought: it offers not only stimulating ideas but practical guidance in living one's life. A. A. Long, a leading scholar of later ancient philosophy, gives the definitive presentation of the thought of Epictetus for a broad readership. Long's fresh and vivid translations of a selection of the best of Epictetus' discourses show that his ideas are as valuable and striking today as they were amost two thousand years ago.
This is a book for anyone interested in what we can learn from ancient philosophy about how to live our lives.

Excerpt

The idea of writing this book began to crystallize while I was teaching a graduate seminar on Epictetus at Berkeley in the spring of 1999. My students were far more responsive to his Stoic discourses than I had dared to hope, and by the end of the semester I myself was thinking about little else. By a happy coincidence, I was about to begin a sabbatical year of research leave, generously assisted by grants from my university. My official project for this leave had not been a study of Epictetus, but now I knew that this was what I wanted to write, and so I set to work.

Although the idea of this book arose only recently, Epictetus has been on or near my desk for more years than I care to recall. I have been fascinated by him ever since I began to work on Hellenistic philosophy, and I have incorporated him in much that I have previously published. But I had never devoted a whole course to Epictetus before, and I had never immersed myself in him completely. Like many others, I tended to read him piecemeal, concentrating on passages that bore on my general interests in Stoicism rather than trying to engage with his singular mind and arresting style for their own sake. Now, instead, I read him through in entirety several times.

In doing so, I became especially interested in his educational strategies and his devotion to Socrates, and I also found myself increasingly impressed by the distinctive stamp of his Stoicism and by his remarkable personality. Quite coincidentally, excerpts of Epictetus were beginning to reach a large public through Tom Wolfe's brilliant novel A Man in Full. Reactions to that book in newspapers had shown that Epictetus' text, just by itself, was capable of touching modern nerves. Yet, there was no up-to-date and comprehensive introduction to Epictetus. All the more reason, I thought, to write a book that would offer a sufficiently

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