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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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Excursus I. The Stoic Telos Formulae

The Stoic Telos Formulae


Excursus I

Aside from the general Stoic definitions of the telos already discussed, which are not different from one another in content and in any case are not based on an essentially different interpretation of virtue (κατ’ ἀρετὴν ζῆν, ὁμολογουμένως ζῆν, ὁμολογουμένως or ἀκολούθως τῇ φύσει ζῆν), the sources report to us yet an additional one, which more or less seems to lie at a distance from those simpler ones. Indeed Cicero more often represents it like this, as if these other formulae give and are supposed to give only a more detailed explanation of the concept “life according to nature”; he even attributes the same one to Zeno himself. The formula is this: vivere adhibentem scientiam earum rerum, quae natura evenirent (fin. IV, 14) = ζῆν κατ’ ἐμπειρίαν τῶν φύσει συμβαινόντων (D. L. 87). This, however, is attributed to Chrysippus by Diogenes loc. cit. and in Stobaeus ecl. II, 76. According to this it is very doubtful whether Zeno even used this formula; it is also unlikely that the founder of the school should have invented in addition to his short and characteristic formula an even longer, but somewhat unclear and artificial one, whereas it is conceivable in the case of his successors, especially in the case of a Chrysippus, that he felt the need to give a definition of his own too, just as he also altered for example the Zenonian definition of the φαντασία not ←207 | 208→exactly to its advantage (Vol. I, 150). Now it leaps to the eye that in fact the telos formula in question is no improvement...

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