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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 V. Stoic Pantheism

Stoic Pantheism


Excursus V

There is more or less agreement among scholars about the basic pantheistic character of the Stoic notion of God, and it cannot really be questioned very seriously. Because it is as certain that the Stoics, in fact, as it appears, all without distinction, often indulged in expressions that are suggestive of a spiritualistic interpretation of the deity, as it is surely a fact that, on the other hand, they were in the habit of speaking about God in such a naturalistic way that [244] the notion of a purely mental being and activity was obviously foreign to them. Whoever describes God as pneuma which pervades all things, even what is ugly, or as logos which extends through the matter (οὐσία) of the universe, whoever calls the divine pronoia an αἰθέριον σῶμα which makes up the seeds of all things, is a pantheist in his basic outlook even if at the same time he uses expressions which strictly speaking have a proper sense only when God is conceived of as a personal being. Because whoever really puts into effect this notion in which psychologically it is absolutely impossible to speak of God in a pantheistic or even naturalistic way will detest any expression that somehow mixes God with matter or makes God appear as inseparably combined with it, whereas conversely the application of theistic expressions to pantheistic standpoints can well be understood as the adaptation to the popular, anthropomorphistic notion of God.

But as certain as it is...

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