Arnold Williams (notebuyer) wrote,
Arnold Williams

Stoicism, Epictetus, References

One of my greatest pleasures has been reading the Discourses of Epictetus. For those who would like a complete copy online, click here. For ease of carrying around, and to absorb the abuse of being read in odd places, The Discourses of Epictetus - The Handbook - Fragments (Everyman's Library) contains both a readable translation and a paperback binding.

But my favorite version is the fairly literal translation in two volumes from Loeb Classical Library: here is volume 1 and here is volume 2. The translation is quite effective, and it contains the handbook in volume 2.

For those who need a bit of help with Epictetus, I recommend this book by AA Long, a UCal Berkeley professor who writes well, despite not himself being able to accept Epictetus's worldview. It contains helpful information about authors and cultural references that Epictetus makes.

Finally, I recommend some exposure to Xenophon's Socrates, because most people who have read Plato have him a bit too firmly in Plato's image. Finally, those who haven't read Homer are going to find a lot of references skating past them. For the Odyssey, I recommend Richmond Lattimore's translation, because it has the virtues of being fairly literal while retaining the poetic structure that the Greek had, and the same for the Iliad. For Homeric Hymns, the Loeb Classical Library again: it's not that available otherwise.

With these books in hand, you'll have a fairly complete understanding of Epictetus in a reasonably short time. Applying what he says takes longer, but is also worth it. For those with a taste for combining Stoicism with Christianity, that, too has a long history, and contributions can be made in many ways. Personally, I've found echoes of Epictetus most strongly in the book of Habakuk,
in the Old Testament, particularly in this verse, after considering the justice and injustice of all that the prophet sees:

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

which reflects quite neatly the idea that good and evil do not consist in what happens to you, but in your responses.
Tags: philosophy, recommendations, stoicism
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