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Words of Wisdom

Stoic Philosophy is Applied in Humility - Excerpts from Epictetus’ Enchiridion, Part 1 of 2



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Epictetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher, who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. Epictetus, who led a simple lifestyle with very few possessions, taught a practical philosophy to help people lead meaningful lives. The detailed steps and techniques in this regard, presented in his teachings, illustrate Stoicism as a way of life. Epictetus’ teachings have had an immense influence throughout the centuries, including on the great philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, on early Christian moral thought, on current approaches in psychology and more, and continues to have an impact on many intellectuals, thinkers, and philosophers around the world. Today, we will read a selection from “The Enchiridion” by Epictetus, as we come to a better understanding of the many profound details and ethics in maintaining a spirit of moderation and humility, and in keeping a balanced relationship with the outside world and ourselves. “In every affair consider what precedes and what follows, and then undertake it. Otherwise, you will begin with spirit, indeed, careless of the consequences, and when these are developed, you will shamefully desist.…do not, like children, be now a philosopher, then a publican, then an orator, and then one of Caesar’s officers. These things are not consistent. You must be one man.” “Is your natural tie, then, to a good father? No, but to a father. Is a brother unjust? Well, preserve your own just relation toward him. Consider not what he does, but what you are to do to keep your own will in a state conformable to nature, for another cannot hurt you unless you please. You will then be hurt when you consent to be hurt. In this manner, therefore, if you accustom yourself to contemplate the relations of neighbor, citizen, commander, you can deduce from each the corresponding duties.” “Be assured that the essence of piety toward the gods lies in this — to form right opinions concerning them, as existing and as governing the universe justly and well. And fix yourself in this resolution, to obey them, and yield to them, and willingly follow them amidst all events, as being ruled by the most perfect wisdom. For thus you will never find fault with the gods, nor accuse them of neglecting you…”
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