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andreas waltzman

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What could be the tools to satisfy the common desire of all people that is to lead to happiness? The great Greek philosophers offered a wide range of answers and provided all the tools, depending on the approach of each of them, to the great question "what constitutes happiness and how is it achieved".

Concepts like knowledge and self-knowledge, self-improvement, moral virtue, kindness and good behavior, harmony, acceptance of the natural order of things, freedom and self-control were all part of their own answers to the big question we all ask ourselves.

Philosophers such as Epictetus, Epicurus,Socrates and Aristotle have provided us with all the tools to realize our purpose, and nature has endowed us with Logic. In the saved works of these great philosophers, each of us can find a roadmap for happiness.

 

Epictetus lived from 55 AD to 135 AD and belongs to the Stoics philoshophers. The life of the Epictetus is like a fairy tale.Epictetus was born in Phrygia in Hierapolis.He is a slave, born of slave parents and has a very serious health issue, is lame either by birth or because of violence. The Roman Empire in the years of the Epictetus is huge. His hometown, Hierapolis, is very close to Ephesus and the ancient Colossae. About this same time the Apostle Paul, who addressed his letters to the Ephesians and Colossians, came to this region. Hierapolis, the sacred city of the goddess Cybele, home of Epictetus, is today's Pamu Kale in Turkey. Hermaphroditus buys Epictetus, owns it, and drives it to Rome. Hermaphroditus is secretary of two emperors at first Nero and after Diomitian. The times are very agitated these two emperors are left in history for their brutality and insanity, Nero fires on Rome and kills his family, Diomitian is left in history for persecutions against Christians. In Rome, the Epictetus follows the philosophy of the well-known Stoic philosopher Gaius Mussonius Rufus for his work.

The Mussonius Rufus helps the Epictetus a lot. Becoming a freelance “slave” is something that is common nowadays. His thinking and philosophy are evolving. When in 94 AD Diomitian, by imperial decree, expelled the philosophers and closed the schools, then Epictetus fled to Nicopolis, Epirus, where he founded his own school, became well known, had many students, lived very poorly, and lives off of teaching. He remains devoted to teaching until the end of his life in Nicopolis, and dies in 135 AD. Before he dies he has adopted an orphan child to save her and after many years of solitary life, he lives with a woman and the child is raised together.

 Epictetus was instructed in the traditional Stoic curriculum of logic, physics and ethics and after eventually gaining his freedom, he went on to pursue a life of thinking and teaching philosophy in a school he founded in Nicopolis.Epictetus focused more on ethics than the early Stoics had and understood the philosophy as a code of conduct. Along with all other philosophers of the Hellenistic period, he saw moral philosophy as having the practical purpose of guiding people towards leading better lives. The aim was to live well and effectively.

 

 

Socrates and Epictetus are two unique examples in the history of ancient philosophy where one's life and work are one and the same. There is a unity between life and teaching. Socrates is the template for Epictetus, and he is often referred to. The philosophy behind Socrates is not the same. Philosophy with Socrates goes down the street and into the marketplace, Socrates is the Athenians' apostle, the horse that wakes them up is the one who says "my independent human life". That is, if a person does not look at his life, if he does not know himself, then life is not worth living. Every school is occupied with the prosperous life, that is, the integrated, the nested life.

Each school interprets differently the term happiness and the means by which happiness is acquired. Every school follows a different lifestyle.For Epictetus, the prosperous life is the life that flows seamlessly, it is prosperity, a synonym of bliss. Man must live "by nature and by reason". This means that he is aware of both his own nature and the divine nature, the reason being both natural and divine. The prosperous life lies with the "self-knowledge", with the constant exercise of the mind, with the distinction and with the detachment, that is, with non-attachment. The eudaimonia ('happiness') of those who attain this ideal consists of ataraxia (imperturbability), apatheia (freedom from passion), eupatheiai ('good feelings'), and an awareness of, and capacity to attain, what counts as living as a rational being should.

 

THE EPICTETUS PHILOSOPHY

The main points that Epictetus focuses on are integrity, self-management and personal freedom, which he promotes by asking his students to examine in detail two central ideas, the option to freely choose a life-style and the correct use of impressions.
In the Enchiridion,Epictetus gives explicit advice on how to live. It's called a Enchiridion because all people who want to live properly should always have it at hand. It is a book of constant and necessary use, such as the sword (often referred to by this word and the simile seems to have been taken from there) for a soldier.

 

Some things we dominate and others do not, says Epictetus, and we need to know the difference. Our power is our opinion, our disposition, our desire to enjoy, our desire to avoid, in other words our own energy. It is not our body that is our body, our property, our glory, our office, in a word that is not our own energy.

 

There is only one way to be happy, and that is to stop doing things beyond our control. People do not mind things, but the opinions they form about things. For example, death is not a terrible thing, if it were, it would seem to Socrates, the idea of death, because it is terrible, it scares us. If we change our impressions, so our feelings will change. Albert Ellis's cognitive psychotherapy was also based on this position.

 

The actual process of self-improvement is primarily a matter of consciously slowing down your thought process to allow reflection of what is happening. It looks a bit like the filters we say in psychotherapy, between thought and action. He says “Impression, wait a while. Let me see what you are and what you symbolize, let me test you ”. Having an impression means being aware of something in the world.

So if anyone has made you angry they know that it is your thinking that makes you angry (this is similar to what the Dalai Lama says about anger). So before you react, don't let your impressions drift away. Because if you take a little time you will find it easier to control yourself. Anger destroys our ability to reason and make good decisions, so we need to treat it with care and determination. The Epictetus says that each thing has two handles, one of which you can lift and one of which is unseen. That is, each thing has two sides, one bearable and one not! Anger seems useless to any event in our lives. It prevents us from managing the situation that actually caused it. It is a tool of irrationality.

 

The basis of his philosophy is self-knowledge. Philosophy is a way of life, Epictetus teaches, not just theory. For him all external events are regulated by fate, so we cannot control them. We must accept them calmly, without passions. However, we are responsible for our actions. Trying to control the uncontrolled we begin to suffer. Although the term idiom he uses refers to the notion of destiny and fate, it should not be confused with fatalism. In the case of the believer we can choose although all the possibilities in which an event may evolve are already given. But which of the predefined options we choose is up to us. So in order to make the right choices, we must have studied nature, so knowing the possibilities of events to choose the ones that will make us happy. For example, sickness is not something we can control, when we get sick, how long, if we recover, it is not up to us. We can of course visit a good doctor but we cannot control whether the treatment will work.

 

In order to achieve serenity, apatheia (freedom from passion), we must stop dealing with stupid anxieties, trying to control others, because we will constantly be led into anguish and anxiety. Instead, we should give our energy to trying to improve ourselves and to do our job and live with honor, trying to accept the challenges that lie ahead of us as calmly as possible.

 

Apatheia that is, the calmness of the soul, is a condition of virtue and happiness. Our anxiety about life is one of our many passions. Passion is an unnatural movement of the soul, a surplus momentum, that drives us into perilous reactions to our moral balance and happiness. So we have to get out of our souls all kinds of passion to conquer the virtue and become happy.

 

Feelings of mourning, mercy and affection are well-known disturbances of the soul. Sadness is the most aggressive, and  Epictetus considered mourning or sadness an act of the worst. It's like going against God's will, he said.

 

When faced with obstacles, we should never blame others but ourselves, that is, our opinions. The unscrupulous blames the others for his own accidents, the one who started to train himself and the trainee neither himself.

 

"You don't want things to happen as you want them to, but you want things to happen and you'll be happy," Epictetus often said.

 

Illness is an obstacle for the body, but not for free judgment. If you are lame, this is an obstacle for the foot, but not for freedom of judgment.

 

Determine for yourself a character and a way of life that will keep you unchanged and alone when you are with others.

 

He used to say that freedom and slavery are just names for virtue and evil both depend on the will. No one whose will is free is a slave. Here is a little reminiscent of what Austrian psychologist Victor  Frankl said that you can choose to behave in any situation. Just as the Epictetus was a slave, so Frankl was a prisoner in concentration camps.

It focuses a lot on freedom. A truly free person is not only free from debt, but also from the hassles of trying to persuade or change others. We find it very difficult to withstand criticism, especially when it is not done well. Epictetus asks: "If someone gave your body to someone they knew on the road by chance you would be very angry. And aren't you ashamed to give your own mind, letting anyone who is verbally attacked affect you? ”

The essence of God is goodness, we have all the good that could be given to us.

 

Epictetus uses the following statements about how the Stoics should live their lives:

 

Life is like a celebration

 

It encourages us to think of our lives as a celebration, arranged in our favor by God, as something to live happily and not to be bothered by difficulties but to see the bigger picture.

 

Life is like a game

 

It encourages his students to value external things that are indifferent (neither good nor bad). What counts is how we play the game. Just as when somebody is playing ball they do not think if the ball is good or bad, they just want to throw it and catch it. He also talks about suicide with toys. That is to say, if you can't stand life you can give up, as if you didn't like a game you would stop it. Be like the kids who say 'I won't play anymore' and leave when they don't enjoy the game. So do you and if you stay, eventually stop complaining. Anyone who finds life unbearable is free to resign, but to think well before leaving his role. The Stoics will never find it unbearable and will not complain to anyone - God or man.

 

Life as a weave

 

Whatever material we are given we must use it properly and as best we can. (like those who make the knits, etc.)

 

Life as a theatrical play

 

The role we play in life regulates and what actions are right for us. We must accept our fate, whatever it is, since we do not choose our role. Remember that you are an actor whose character is decided by the author - whether small or big. 'Whatever you want to be, play the role you were given as best you could. It is your job to do the best you can, but it is another's job to choose what role to play.

 

Life as a sporting race

 

Just as athletes need to prepare to enter the arena, so do the Stoics prepare for the philosophical life of the ethics taught. Training for Stoic life is like training an athlete, difficult, demanding and unpleasant. We must have thought of all that is needed to prepare someone for something, so that we will not look stupid unless we have calculated correctly. We need to be constantly trained and ready for everything we can face, the struggle is here at all times.

 

Life as a military service

 

This metaphor returns to the Stoic idea that the universe is ruled by God and whether we like it or not, we are all at His service. Life is like the service of a soldier, everyone is responsible for something. If you do not, your commander will complain and bring all the rest of the army at a disadvantage with your mistake. If everyone did what they wanted there would be no soldier to keep a watch on or fight. So it is and in every man's life is a campaign. It is for you to play the role of a soldier, to do everything to please the General.

 

The Stoic philosophy can also be included in the phrase in the 12-step program: “God give me the power to change what I can, the patience to endure what I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference between them. ”.

 

 

HIS WORK

Epictetus did not leave any written paper , ignoring his posthumous speech. However,Arrian of Nicomedia(Lucius Flavius Arrianus), one of his most faithful students, compiled from his course notes 2 works that form the backbone of his oral teaching, the "The Discourses, " consisting of  8 volumes (only 4 have survived) and  "Enchiridion", which is an epitome of his main teachings, selected through "The Discourses ". Epictetus is established by two bright Roman emperors, Emperor Hadrian who goes to Nicopolis to attend his teachings, and by Emperor Marcus Aurelius,  a well-known Stoic philosopher, known for his work Meditations("things to one's self") (Ta eis heauton). Marcus Aurelius mentions Epictetus as his teacher and considers him superior to Plato. For many centuries, the Enchiridion maintained its authority both with Pagans and  Christians. Simplicius of Cilicia wrote a commentary upon it in the 6th century, and in the Byzantine era Christian writers wrote paraphrases of it. Over one hundred manuscripts of the Enchiridion survive.His works is translated in the 8th century into Arabic?, in the 14th century in the Medici courtyard, in the 18th century in Chinese by the Jesuit monk Matteo Ritchie.

Epictetus teachings have been studing by Philosophers since the 17th century to this day, exemplarily, Descartes, Pascal, Spinoza, Kant, Nietzsche have been influenced by his work.Also the Fathers of the church and many Byzantine emperors, especially from the moral part of his teaching.

 

One of his most well-known modern "students" with a medal of honor, was the  American pilot, James Bond Stockdale (December 23, 1923 – July 5, 2005). As he has revealed, he managed to survive physically and mentally in his seven -year captivity in Vietnam by applying the teachings of the Epictetos. While a student at Stanford, Stockdale had studied Epictetus’ Enchiridion assiduously. When he released, he writes a book about his traumatic experience and the impact of the Enchiridion on his life.

 

 

Epictetus Quotes:

"Define yourself a character and a way of life that you will keep, whether you are alone or with others."

 “No one can be free unless he owns himself.”

“Take care to punish your defects so you don't get punished.”

“People are disturbed not by what is happening but by their view of what is happening.”

 “To have patience and temperance.”

 “If you want to be praised, learn to say good things first, and after learning how to say good things, do good actions, and then you will hear good words for you.”

 “If you take a position that exceeds your strengths, on the one hand you will resign and on the other you will fail to do what you can.”

 

Andreas “Waltzman” Gialamas

Research and translation from Greek Language

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