Epictetus - Philosophy Essay Example

Published: 2017-09-04
 Epictetus - Philosophy Essay Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Philosophy Philosophers
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 2106 words
18 min read


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Life is made up of issues that are within our grasp of control and those that are outside. Our attitudes towards life are what reflect our reactions to issues around us. Since time immemorial, people have been afraid of death not death per se, but the sudden death that prevents a person from getting the opportunity to repent their wrong ways of life before they finally succumb to death. Also, the reason repentance is so important is because everyone wants to hold on to the idea that they will live forever that is the life after death, but only if their ways are straight and their conscious clear. However, Epictetus bit of advice in his Handbook is that we ought to embrace death and exile. However, this is just a one man claim whose text is inevitable with the arguments that would ensue.


In this fashion, to advance the papers arguments, the text choice is 21. Let death and exile, and all other things that appear terrible be daily before your eyes, but chiefly death, and you win never entertain any abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything (Rioux 30). The passage is the result of ethical teachings of Epictetus who in the company of other philosophers were exiled from Rome by Emperor Domitian.

He relocated to Nicopolis in Epirus; a town on the north-western side of Greece and opened up a school to teach the Stoic moral philosophy. In the new city, he gained a reputation attracting a lot of Romans from the upper-class such as Flavius Arrian (c. 86-160) who later composed the Handbook and Discourses to capture verbatim teachings of Epictetus. His only desire was to preserve the great works of the philosopher. Though arguably, there is a conjecture that the Handbook and Discourses were put down in writing at around 104-107 years; a period believed to have been convenient for Arrian who was born in c.86; to have been a student (Keith para.6)

It is important to make it clear that despite the fact that Epictetus was basing his teachings on the early works of Stoics that dealt with Stoic thought branches; physics, logic, and ethics, the handbook almost exclusively concentrates on ethics. He wanted to teach his students to live a philosophic life that would be secured by living ones life guided by reason. Therefore, when he posited that, Let death and exile, and all other things that appear terrible be daily before your eyes, but chiefly death, and you win never entertain any abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything, what did he mean?

Exile in this context is used to refer to the state where one is barred from their native country, either for disciplinary or political reasons. Abjection on the other end refers to the state where a person has been cast off. According to Ralpert, Epictetus wanted to teach his students to use their head and shurn the heartfelt emotions when making decisions. He continuously argued that somethings are beyond our control while other we can control. Therefore, a man should desist from trying to control those things that are in the hands of others such as death and exile. He used the paragraph phrase to train his students on the best way to deal with loss. He advised them that instead of saying that you have lost something it is more objective to say that you have returned it (11).

He went on to argue that, if as a parent (father) you are continuously wishing that your wife, children, and even peers live forever, then your level of stupidity is remarkable. The reason is that as Epictetus argues; you are straining your heart and mind wishing for things that are way beyond your grasp of control. Also, coveting shows your eager wish to possess those things that do not belong to you but are under the supervision of other people. Therefore, how we should handle matters of loss, he advised that when you wish to possess desires and only those desires that are disappointing, then this is within your scope of control. It means that we ought to think as human beings to exercise that which is within our control, for instance, changing our attitudes towards tragedy and death (Ralpert 13).

Nevertheless, Epictetus advise is not as simple as it appears because he wants people to stop hoping and we know we live life hoping that tomorrow would be better than today. He advises people to focus on embracing the disastrous matters of life that we would rather forget and not talk about them. His advice is on repressing emotions than what would distinguish a rational human being from a non-human. Death truly is inevitable, and there is no refuting that. On the contrary, what is there to live for when all we wait for is for the inevitable to happen. Also, if we ought to appreciate being displaced from our native lands and death as the daily occurrence of life, then what is the need of investing heavily in education, security and government? Therefore, it would appear to be to argue that the reason these institutions do not work is that matters of life are well beyond our control and, thus, we ought not to feel when we lose a loved one to death or to departure to reside in another place.

The arguments get more complex when assessing the matter of coveting those things that are beyond our grasp of control. Epictetus advises that we ought to embrace death, but goes ahead to say that we should not wish we had it. What he want to pass across is that it is not to keep wishing that, for instance, you were dead or that you are not afraid of death, especially every time something unbearable hits you hard. In short, separate your emotions from the rational things and let the facts guide your decisions.

Finally, it is important to point out that the reason most people wish for death is that they believe that they will rise again in the spirit to live eternally. At this juncture, an individual is going beyond their scope of control because for starters no evidence shows that when people die they rise again in the spirit world. Most importantly, where exactly is this spirit world located? The idea of eternal life and hell fires have caused most people to sacrifice living today because they await for that they have not yet experienced and this for Epictetus, depicts the highest level of stupidity.

Therefore, just as the thesis statement concludes; death is inevitable, and the only thing individuals can control it is their attitudes towards death. Wishing that when one dies, they will rise again to live with the angels is also arguable when using facts to rationalize the matter. No one has seen heaven, and so far there has been no opportunity of seeing a person waking up from the tomb and some of these ideas posited about reasons for taking away a persons life are lame. In this light, people should strain to live a philosophical life. That means, questioning the obvious and not hoping to get conclusive answers to the questions asked about life; what it is or what it ought to be.

The reason this paragraph is crucial for the thesis is that it is important that people learn that there are two categories of life situations; those that we have control over and those that are beyond our control. Also, people need to live today without placing any limits in their life or wishing that there is a better place because facts show that all there is and all a person has is now in their grasp, and they should not compromise it for the hope that there is something better; that beyond their reach. Further, it is important that people stop allowing emotions to rule every aspect of their lives and instead tread on a rational road. Difficult it may seem, but it is simpler because the truth of the matter is that you can prove what you decide. Therefore, the paragraph is not limited to death, but more importantly on the guide of people living in eudaimonia; flourishing and in happiness.

A scene from an article: The death of little Raccoon (https://laurenralpert.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/phi-1500s15-lecture-17.pdf, p.14)

Calvin: Dad, did you check on the little Raccoon this morning?

Dad: Yes CalvinIm afraid he died.

WAAAHHHHH!!!! I'm sorry too Kiddo. But he did not have much of a chance. WAAAAAHHHH!!! At least he died warm and safe, Calvin. We did all we could, but now he's gone.

Calvin: SniffI know Im crying because out there he is gone but hes not gone inside me.

Taking Calvin to where Raccoon was buried

Hobbes: This is where dad buried the little Raccoon.

Calvin: I didn't even know he existed a few days ago, and now that he's gone forever it's as I found him for no reason. I had to say goodbye as soon as I said hello.

Still in a sad, awful, terrible way, Im happy I met him.

What a stupid world.

You know Hobbes, I can't figure out this death stuff. Why did that little Raccoon have to die? He didn't do anything wrong. He was just little! What's the point of putting him here and taking him back so soon? It's either mean, or it's arbitrary and either way, I have got the Heebie-Jeebies.

Hobbes: Why is it always at night that we talk about these things?

Calvin: Mom says death is as natural as birth and it is all part of the life cycle'. She says we don't understand it but there are many things we don't know, and we just have to do the best we can with the knowledge we have. I guess that makes sense but don't you go anywhere

Hobbes: Dont worry.

This is a good example of how we react when we lose something we hold dearly and most especially to death. It is evident in the tone of the comforting dad. He is trying to make his son see reason. They did try doing everything within their control to save the little Raccoon, but anything else beyond that was out of their control. Calvin also recounts her mothers advice about death; it is something inevitable and beyond our control and all you can do is embrace the cycle of life.

Despite this knowledge, however, Calvin still wanted to hold on and increase the survival of the little Raccoon. We can see that he goes ahead to curse the world calling it stupid and yet it was his limitation, thinking that he would control the life of a dying raccoon he had brought home from the world. It is how most people behave. At one point, they had no idea that something existed and in the next point they are seeking to control the future of that particular situation. However, what distinguishes Calvin from other individuals is that he rationalizes the situation and accepts that there was nothing more he would have done. He is now well aware that the only thing he has control over is his attitude towards death and the feelings of how to deal with the loss of the raccoon.


The paper begins by stating that life is filled with issues that are within and without control. It goes ahead to borrow heavily from the arguments posited by Epictetus, especially the phrase on embracing death and exile and avoiding coveting those things that do not belong to you. It becomes clearer that the only thing we have control over is dealing with losses of those we love and our attitude towards the matter of death. Therefore, it is essential to living philosophically while being guided by reasons and facts. In this respect, life is made up of issues that are within our grasp of control and those that are outside our control. Our attitudes towards life is what reflects our reactions to issues around us.

Works Cited

Keith, Seddon H. "Epictetus (55-135 C.E. )." 2016. Web. 1 May 2016 <http://www.iep.utm.edu/epictetu/>.

Ralpert, Lauren. "Philosophical of Action: Epictetus." PHI 1500: Major Issue in Philosophy: Bearcats Baruch, 2015. 1-24. Print.

Rioux, Jean W. Ethics Collected Readings. Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2005. Print.

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