Epictetus’ “Of Tranquility”: Don’t be a slave, exercise your prohairesis

In his discourse “Of Tranquility” (2.2), Epictetus frames his general advice, that we should keep in mind what is up to us and what is not, using the analogy of someone about to litigate a dispute in court. He advises his listeners to “consider . . . what you wish to maintain and what you…

Epictetus’ Handbook: Three Ways to Readjust your Thinking

Epictetus’ Handbook* is ancient wisdom for the modern attention span. I am perpetually juggling work and home responsibilities and tend to have ten half-read books on my nightstand. It is not a badge of honor, but a curse. I have read only a few of the Discourses but have actually read all of the Handbook. It spans…

Stumbling Blocks for a Stoic Novice

I wrote in my last post of humans’ attaining their true end by using their intellect to contemplate nature, thereby achieving greatness of soul. This takes a certain steeliness of mental faculties, and personally, in the guise of being a “realist” I have gotten into lazy, flaccid, un-steely mental habits. Despite being for the most…

Of Providence, and Of Not Hanging Back With the Brutes

Humans’ Proper End I recently read Epictetus’s “Of Providence,” from his Discourses (book 1, chapter XVI). This particular discourse concerns the distinctions between humans and beasts; we humans clearly have the edge in rational capacity, and if we do not utilize it, we are not achieving all we should: It is therefore enough for [beasts]…