The Handbook (The Encheiridion), Paperback Book
3 out of 5 (1 rating)


From the Introduction: "Stoic philosophy, of which Epictetus (c. a.d. 50--130) is a representative, began as a recognizable movement around 300 b.c.

Its founder was Zeno of Cytium (not to be confused with Zeno of Elea, who discovered the famous paradoxes).

He was born in Cyprus about 336 b.c., but all of his philosophical activity took place in Athens.

For more than 500 years Stoicism was one of the most influential and fruitful philosophical movements in the Graeco-Roman world.

The works of the earlier Stoics survive only in fragmentary quotations from other authors, but from the Renaissance until well into the nineteenth century, Stoic ethical thought was one of the most important ancient influences on European ethics, particularly because of the descriptions of it by Cicero, through surviving works by the Stoics Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and also Epictetus--and also because of the effect that it had had in antiquity, and continued to have into the nineteenth century, on Christian ethical views. Nowadays an undergraduate or graduate student learning about ancient philosophy in a university course may well hear only about Plato and Aristotle, along perhaps with the presocratics; but in the history of Western thought and education this situation is somewhat atypical, and in most periods a comparable student would have learned as much or more about Stoicism, as well as two other major ancient philosophical movements, Epicureanism and Scepticism.

In spite of this lack of explicit acquaintance with Stoic philosophers and their works, however, most students will recognize in Epictetus various ideas that are familiar through their effects on other thinkers, notably Spinoza, in our intellectual tradition."



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Stoics are weird. And I'm kinda surprised so many people reviewed this book as some amazing bit of timeless philosophy.The Handbook is just that, a handbook. An ancient Roman self-help book from the Stoic perspective. Some of the the advice still holds true, things like:- don't doddle and miss your boat, a literal boat, not a figurative one- know that there are things in your power and things beyond your power, don't confuse them- do be disciplined in your undertakings and don't procrastinateGood stuff right? Unfortunately that is pretty much all of the advice he gives that still holds true. The rest doesn't make sense unless you live in ancient Rome and the world is innately perfect and harmonious and magical even when shitty things happen. This seems to be the gaping hole in Stoic philosophy, the conviction that the universe was perfect and harmonious despite evidence to the contrary. When shitty things happen to you, according to the Stoics, they aren't really shitty, they just seem shitty because you have let yourself become out of sync with the universe. Your wife and child died? Well of course they did! That's the nature of the universe, you should have expected it and accepted it. You're a slave? Well that's just how it is, you can't very well expect to be free can you? Just try to get used to it.This is the backbone of Epictetus' advice, lowering your expectations so that they coincide with the course your life is probably going to take anyway. No one ever rocked the boat or overcame great odds based on Stoic philosophy. Throw in some quick advice about how to respond to omens and when you should and shouldn't see a fortune teller and that's about it. Well, that and advising you to be as boring as possible, not hanging out with non philosophers, not talking at all if you can help it, not swearing but frowning to show your disapproval when others do and certainly not having sex if you can avoid it. Stoics sure tried their darnedest to live boring, unremarkable lives. But ol' Epictetus wasn't a complete <strike>twat</strike> wet blanket. He understood that there are somethings you just can't live without."Take what has to do with the body to the point of bare need, such as food, drink, clothing, house, household slaves, and cut out everything that is for reputation and luxury."Timeless, no?Ultimately this is a quick, fairly amusing read, but I certainly wouldn't take it too seriously.