{:title "Book Review: The Discourses of Epictetus" :layout :post :tags "Miscellaneous" }

The Discources of Epictetus

There is a book called The Discourses of Epictetus that I recently read. I don't read books of this nature, but philosophy has intrigued me for a while and I wanted to dip my toes. I think it's a cool book and I would suggest the translation by Robin Hard, because I found it easy to read. A student of Epictetus wrote the book, Epictetus was one of the most influential stoic philosophers. Arrian (the student) would listen to his teacher and he would write most of what he was told. His notes stood the test of time and are still with us two thousand years after Arrian wrote them. I know this isn't what I write about normally, it's not technology or anything of that nature, and it might seem silly. However, this book moved me and I felt compelled to write about my thoughts on a few topics/quotes from the book. Full disclaimer, I am not a philosophy student, nor am I very educated in this. I’m a novice that picked up the book because of interest and got hooked on to it enough to write my interpretations.

What is stoicism?

Stoicism philosophy that was founded in Athens around 2,300 years ago. It's a philosophy of life and it teaches you how to think. Stoicism teaches one to move forward in life instead of dwelling on a feeling or situation, and to use that time on reflection and self improvement.

Influences on me

Out of all the things he talked about, these are the things that hit me hard:

Now, this is not all of the Stoic philosophy, but these are what I was most intrigued by, and what I want to focus on.

Not everything is in your control

"Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power." Something that Epictetus mentions is that we often suffer from not being able to control everything. A good example would be that you can't control what other people think of you, but you can control how you conduct yourself. We waste time when we worry about what others think. It's beyond your control and you can't change what people think of you. Instead of wasting time thinking about what others think, use that time to improve. Epictetus states, "There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will." You can choose your own path, but you can't choose what another person or nature does. By learning how to accept that, it will save you a lot of suffering.

Challenges will always come

Epictetus says that the difficulties that we face in our lives aren’t to inflict pain on us, but to promote strength, and to provide an opportunity to improve. He believes that when we deal with hardships; we develop and learn from them. He brings up Hercules, and he states, "What would have become of Hercules do you think if there had been no lion, hydra, stag or boar - and no savage criminals to rid the world of? What would he have done in the absence of such challenges? Obviously, he would have just rolled over in bed and gone back to sleep. So by snoring his life away in luxury and comfort, he never would have developed into the mighty Hercules." He believes Hercules got known for what he did because of the challenges he faced, and if it weren’t for those trials, he would’ve remained unknown. His students ask him if they should go out and look for their own challenges, to which Epictetus states that doing that is sheer stupidity and madness. He tells them to just be prepared for when the challenges present themselves, and not to look for challenges. Every obstacle presents a chance to grow.


Discourses of Epictetus taught a very simple philosophy that is easy to understand but hard to apply. This book changed how I look at things in life, and while the text may be old, our life problems are more or less the same, so applying the lessons to our everyday lives isn't hard. I would suggest anyone to give it a shot.