Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος

55 – 135 CE

Born a slave, Epictetus found freedom and—until he was banished in 93 CE—taught philosophy in Rome as a way of life. He taught that the foundation of all philosophy is self-knowledge, that we all have basic goodness, and that we are not separate but interconnected and one with each other and all of the world. His influence extends from Marcus Aurelius to medal-of-honor winning US vice-presidential candidate James Stockdale and includes artists like James Joyce, Tom Wolfe, David Mamet and J.D. Salinger.

Eras

Sources

Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Unlisted Sources

Quotes by Epictetus (59 quotes)

“We’re not disturbed by what happens to us – only by our thoughts about what happens to us”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 2. The Wordless Teachings

Themes: Suffering

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“Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 73. Heaven’s Net

Themes: Letting Go

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“Every desire degrades us, and renders us slaves of what we desire... If it's freedom you seek, then wish nothing and shun nothing that depends on others, or you will always be a helpless slave.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 46. Enough

Themes: Slavery

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“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 63. Easy as Hard

Themes: Consumerism

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“He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 49. No Set Mind

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“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, "He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone."”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 79. No Demands

Themes: Projection

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“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 41. Distilled Life

Themes: Inscrutable

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“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 38. Fruit Over Flowers
65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

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“It is only our opinions and principles that can render us unhappy, and it is only the ignorant person that finds fault with another.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 38. Fruit Over Flowers

Themes: Opinion

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“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 27. No Trace

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“Most of what passes for legitimate entertainment is inferior or foolish… Your life is too short and you have important things to do. Be discriminating about what images and ideas you permit into your mind. If you yourself don't choose what thoughts and images you expose yourself to, someone else will, and their motives may not be the highest… determine not to waste your time and attention on mindless pap.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 60. Less is More

Themes: Entertainment

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“Nature hath given men one tongue but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 56. One with the Dust
61. Lying Low

Themes: Less is More

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“Not death or pain is to be feared, only the fear of death or pain.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 50. Claws and Swords

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“Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig... there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 59. The Gardening of Spirit

Themes: Patience

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“Seemeth it nothing to you, never to accuse, never to blame either God or Man? to wear ever the same countenance in going forth as in coming in? This was the secret of Socrates: yet he never said that he knew or taught anything…”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 77. Stringing a Bow

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“Small-minded people blame others. Average people blame themselves. The wise see all blame as foolishness.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 8. Like Water

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“The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 66. Go Low

Themes: Philosophy

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“We are not disturbed by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens to us.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 81. Journey Without Goal
2. The Wordless Teachings

Themes: Suffering

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“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 53. Shameless Thieves

Themes: Wealth

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“Who is the rich man? He who is content.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 67. Three Treasures

Themes: Wealth

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“I have to die. If it is now, well then I die now; if later, then now I will take my lunch, since the hour for lunch has arrived – and dying I will tend to later.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Chapters: 50. Claws and Swords

Themes: Death and Dying

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“Does the tyrant say he will throw me into prison? He cannot imprison my spirit. Does he say that he will put me to death? He can only cut off my head.”

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“No labor, according to Diogenes, is good but that which aims at producing courage and strength of soul rather than of body.”

Themes: Courage

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“When you have shut your doors and darkened your room, remember, never to say that you are alone; for you are not alone; your genius is within.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

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“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”

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“Curb your desire—don’t set your heart on so many things and you will get what you need.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Desire

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“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

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“Show me a man who—though sick, is happy; who—though in danger, is happy and I'll show you a Stoic.”

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“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Control

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“if you attempt to adopt the affairs of others as your own, your pursuits will be thwarted and you will become a frustrated, anxious, and fault-finding person.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

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“Getting distracted by trifles is the easiest thing in the world... If you are old, do not go far from the ship, or you might fail to appear when you are called.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

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“It is not so much what you are doing as how you are doing it... harmonizing your will with nature should be your utmost ideal.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Skillful Means

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“Desire and aversion, though powerful, are but habits. And we can train ourselves to have better habits.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

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“Open your eyes: See things for what they really are... It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

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“Sickness may challenge your body. But are you merely your body? Lameness may impede your legs but you are not merely your legs. Your will is bigger than your legs.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Health

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“Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own submerged inner resources. The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Problems

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“Like a traveler who takes care of a room at an inn, take great care with what you have while the world lets you have it... Inner peace begins when we stop saying of things, 'I have lost it' and instead say, 'it has been returned to where it came from.'”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Travel

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“Moral progress results in freedom from inner turmoil. The surest sign of the higher life is serenity and external circumstances and people should not have the power to cause you any disturbance.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Progress

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“It is much better to die of hunger unhindered by grief and fear than to live affluently beset with worry, dread, suspicion, and unchecked desire.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Integrity

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“There is no need to yearn, envy, and grab... Diogenes and Heraclitus were impeccable models of living by such principles rather than by raw impulse.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Greed

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“Behold the world fresh—as it is, on its own terms—through the eyes of a beginner. To know that you do not know and to be willing to admit the you do not know without sheepishly apologizing is a real strength, and sets the stage for learning and progress in any endeavor.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

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“Arrogance is the banal mask for cowardice but far more important, it is the most potent impediment to the flourishing life. Clear thinking and self-importance cannot logically coexist... Conceit is an iron gate that admits no new knowledge, no expansive possibilities, nor constructive ides.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

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“Your own purpose should seek harmony with nature itself for this is the true road to freedom... Understand that nature as a whole is ordered according to reason, but that not everything in nature is reasonable.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Reason Middle Way

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“Except for extreme physical abuse, other people cannot hurt you unless you allow them to... Don't consent to be hurt and you won't be hurt—this is a choice over which you have control.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Power

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“You are not an isolated entity, but a unique, irreplaceable part of the cosmos... an essential piece of the puzzle of humanity, a part of a vast, intricate, and perfectly ordered human community.”

from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

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“Other people's views and troubles can be contagious... It is not a demonstration of kindness or friendship to the people we care about to join them in indulging in wrongheaded, negative feelings.”

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“Evil does not naturally dwell in the world, in events, or in people. Evil is a by-product of forgetfulness, laziness, or distraction: it arises when we lose sight of our true aim in life.”

Themes: Evil

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“The virtuous life depends—first and foremost—on reason. If you safeguard your reason, it will safeguard you.”

Themes: Reason Virtue

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“What hurts a person is not the occurrence itself—for another person might not feel oppressed by the situation at all. What hurts a person is the response they have uncritically adopted.”

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“Your possessions should be proportionate to the needs of your body, just as the shoe should fit the foot.”

Themes: Consumerism

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“... be suspicious if you appear to others as someone special... it is actually a good thing to be thought foolish and simple with regard to matters that don't concern us.”

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“In trying to please other people, we lose hold on life's purpose. To live a wise life, live it on your own terms and in your own eyes.”

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“Invoke the characteristics of the people you admire most and adopt their manners, speech, and behavior as your own. There is nothing false in this. We all carry the seeds of greatness within us, but we need an image as a point of focus in order that they may sprout.”

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“The first task of the person who wishes to live wisely is to free themselves from the confines of self-absorption... to live simply, do it for yourself, do it quietly, and don't do it to impress others”

Themes: Humility

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“A half-hearted spirit has no power. Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes... Unless we fully give ourselves over to our endeavors, we are hollow, superficial people and we never develop our natural gifts.”

Themes: Carpe diem

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“The life of wisdom—like anything else—demands its price... You can't be flying off in countless directions however appealing they are, and at the same time live an integrated, fruitful life... You can either put your skills toward internal work or lose yourself to externals, which is to say, be a person of wisdom or follow the common ways of the mediocre.”

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“What is essential is to understand nature and align your intentions and actions with the way things are... Look to the example of people whose actions are consistent with their professed principles.”

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“Philosophy calls us when we reach the end of our rope.It's purpose to free us from the hold of our griefs and fears, to illuminate the ways our soul has been infected by unsound beliefs, untrained tumultuous desires, and dubious life choices; we become philosophers to discover what is really true and what only the accidental result of flawed reasoning.”

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“Men are not influenced by things, but by their thought about things.”

Themes: Karma

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Quotes about Epictetus (5 quotes)

“The manner in which Epictetus, Montaigne, and Salomon de Tultie wrote, is the most usual, the most suggestive, the most remembered, and the oftener quoted; because it is entirely composed of thoughts born from the common talk of life.”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time
from Pensées (1669)

Themes: Memory

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“Epictetus—perhaps the greatest of the Stoics—was a slave to an official of Nero and doubly helpless in a court where the fortune of the greatest hung on an imperial scoundrel's whim, and he was happy.”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE
from The Echo of Greece, 1957

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“What about your beloved Epictetus? Or your beloved Emily Dickinson? You want your Emily, every time she has an urge to write a poem, to just sit down and say a prayer till her nasty, egotistical urge goes away? No, of course you don’t! But you’d like your friend Professor Tupper’s ego taken away from him.”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE
from Franny and Zooey​

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“In Seneca's letters, in the discourses of Epictetus, in Marcus Aurelius' diary, there is an atmosphere of purity, goodness, noble strength, such as pervades few books in all the literature of the world.”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE
from Roman Way

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“Plotinus—the culmination of this mystic theosophy—restored the repute of philosophy by living like a saint amid the luxuries of Rome... an idealist who graciously recognized the existence of matter... Plotinus is the last of the great pagan philosophers; and like Epictetus and Aurelius, he is a Christian without Christ.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Caesar and Christ

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