Epictetus on the ruling center, reflections, and reality

For Epictetus, just as a doctor works on the human body and the farmer works on the land, the good person works on her “ruling center.” Some other ways to think of this ruling center: the rational, enlightened mind, the capacity we have for examining our knee-jerk reactions and determining whether they are based on…

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: Do’s and don’ts for a good life

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently organized the entries of the Handbook of Epictetus into three categories: ones that encourage the reader to readjust her thinking, ones that advise the reader what to do for a happy and virtuous life, and ones that describe thoughts and actions to avoid. I’ll focus on the…

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…

“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]…