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The Ethics of the Stoic Epictetus

An English Translation, Revised Edition


William O. Stephens

This text remains the only English translation of Bonhöffer’s classic, definitive examination of Epictetus’s ethics. Thorough, knowledgeable, perceptive, and accessible, the unity of this book and its thematic presentation make it an invaluable resource for both scholars and general readers eager to apply Stoic thinking in their daily lives. The translation is crisp, clear, consistent, and very readable. Careful attention to the details and nuances of the German as well as the Greek of Epictetus make this an excellent achievement. This new edition includes a useful biography of Bonhöffer, a new overview of the last twenty years of scholarship on Epictetus, and an extensive bibliography. It is essential reading for students taking courses on ancient Hellenistic or Roman philosophy, their instructors, and any non-academics who want to learn Stoicism.

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Appendix: Excursuses on Some Important Points of Stoic Ethics by Adolf Bonhöffer

In the body of the translation bold-faced numbers within square brackets, for example [18], indicate Bonhöffer’s original pagination. (Tr.)

The main purpose of my earlier published work Epictet und die Stoa (Stuttgart, Enke, 1890) was to shed light on the essential doctrinal agreement of Epictetus with the old Stoa and his great importance for the clarification of many important concepts in Stoicism, a philosophy that has been handed down to us full of so many gaps. What was done in the previous book for psychology and epistemology will be done in the present work for ethics, and in this respect it constitutes the continuation of the earlier work. Well-grounded objections to the main position of my book have not been advanced. One party pointed out that the Greco-Roman moral philosophy of the first century represents a very special type which is far removed from the original Stoic philosophy. In reply to this, let me remark first that the characteristic feature of this moral philosophy consists, among other things, precisely in a return to the strict principles of the old Stoa considered as the true heiress of Socratic philosophy; second, that Epictetus in particular occupies a distinctly exceptional position among the moral philosophers of the imperial period in so far as he is completely free of the eclecticism of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius; and, compared with his teacher Musonius Rufus, on the one...

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