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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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3rd Section. Judgment According to Nature (Intellectual Development of the Mind)

Judgment According to Nature


[122] Third Section

(Intellectual Development of the Mind)

Judgment (συγκατάθεσις) is in Epictetus the third stage of philosophical education which, as has been shown in detail in volume I (p. 23 etc.), deals specifically with logic and imparts to the human being dialectical certainty and firmness, which both in itself belongs to the concept of perfect human nature, and in particular makes the moral principles adopted in the first two stages completely firm and unlosable. Although it specifically has to do only with dialectic, we can now subsume under this third topos everything that Epictetus teaches in general about the duty of intellectual development in a narrower sense, that is about the cultivation of knowledge and of mental interests. With the pronounced ethical and parainetic tendency of the Epictetan lectures naturally no rich results are to be expected for this subject. Yet that which Epictetus occasionally remarks on this subject will suffice to show his considerable difference from Cynicism and to refute, or rather reduce to its correct proportion, the assertion of Epictetus’ inclination toward Cynicism.

Let us start from the 175th fragment, the authenticity of which cannot be doubted. “What do I care whether the world consists of atoms or homoiomeries or of fire and earth? Is it not enough to know the essence of good and evil etc.? But that which is beyond us, that which perhaps cannot be comprehended at all by human understanding, is to be dismissed, and even if it...

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