Friday, 5 July 2013

Epictetus - Stoic Walk vs Stoic Talk

I have been looking at more Stoic stuff, this time the life and work of   Epictetus (55-135 CE) and can't help thinking that he seems such a contrast to Seneca and not just in terms of ideas although they are broadly upon the same Stoic page (Epictetus was a student of Musonius Rufus and went on to form his own school of sorts). Epictetus was a slave for much of his early life although he seems to be been fortunate in his choice of masters who were quite liberal in allowing him to pursue philosophical studies. He also lived quite simply  away from the limelight with few possessions as a freedman, this in contast to Senecas not inconsiderable assets and apparent thirst for high office. From the introduction in one of his works The Enchiridion or Handbook comes the following concept:

Epictetus opens both this work and the Discourses with making a clear distinction between the Prohairetic things, those things over which we have control, such as our opinions, emotions, fears, desires dislikes etc and the Aprohairetic, those things over which we have no control and therefore should not be deluded by ; such things as , our bodies, possessions, the physical world and its vagaries, glory, fame etc. To be distracted by such things is the way to disaster. I note in particular those two last items, Fame and Glory, again two things which Seneca from his letters to Lucilius at least appears to imply were the destiny of great men..almost their duty. This is why for me Epictetus seems to have the Stoa walk nailed right down and Seneca..well..he writes damn fine letters..but.

Its July now and the sun seems to be shining..long may it continue to do so..for the followers of  Seneca and Epictetus alike!


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