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Discourses and Selected Writings (Penguin Classics) Paperback – November 25, 2008

18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140449464 ISBN-10: 0140449469 Edition: 1st

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About the Author

Epictetus (c. 55-135 AD) was a teacher and Greco-Roman philosopher. Originally a slave from Hierapolis in Anatolia (modern Turkey), he was owned for a time by a prominent freedman at the court of the emperor Nero. After gaining his freedom he moved to Nicopolis on the Adriatic coast of Greece and opened a school of philosophy there. His informal lectures (the Discourses) were transcribed and published by his student Arrian, who also composed a digest of Epictetus' teaching known as the Manual (or Enchiridion).

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 1 edition (November 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449469
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449464
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Megarian on May 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a nice, flowing, intelligent translation of the Discourses of Epictetus by an important and respected scholar in the field. The edition also includes the Enchiridion (Handbook) and fragments. The notes and recommended readings are current and helpful.

There is one caveat though: The text is ABRIDGED. The product description does not make this clear. Dobbin justifies omitting selected discourses from books 3-4 due to repetition of themes. For example in book 3, sections 1-2, 6-7, 9-15, 17-19, 21, 24-26 are missing. In book 4, discourses 5-12 have been omitted. This unfortunately limits the usefulness of the text. If you want the complete text, I recommend the Everyman edition (edited by Christopher Gill, with a revised translation by Robin Hard). Better yet if you can afford it, get the two volume Loeb Classical Library edition with the facing Greek text.

In short, this is a nice abridged edition of Epictetus, useful for those who want a streamlined introduction to the philosopher, but limited due to the abridgment.
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66 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Michael Baranowski on May 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
Dobbin's translation attempts to 'modernize' Epictetus, but succeeds only in rendering the text awkward and clunky. Far, far better is the Everyman's Library edition, translated by Robin Hard. The Discourses of Epictetus - The Handbook - Fragments (Everyman's Library) Here's a comparison to illustrate my point, from Book 3, Chapter 22 (On The Cynic Calling) Line 20:

Dobbin: "My mind represents for me my medium - like wood to a carpenter, or leather to a shoemaker. The goal in my case is the correct use of impressions."

Hard: "From this time forth, the material I must work upon is my own mind, as wood is the material of a carpenter or leather that of a shoemaker; for my business is to make right use of my impressions."
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By LindaT VINE VOICE on April 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
Philosophy has intrigued me since I was eighteen years old (never mind how long ago that was!) While I am hardly an expert in philosophy, it has made for some fascinating reading, and the writings of the Stoics have particularly grabbed me, especially Epictetus. He was the first Stoic writer I read. I later went on to read Marcus Aurelius and parts of Seneca, but I must confess that Epictetus is my favorite.

I was pleasantly surprised the first time I began the DISCOURSES. I had confused STOICISM with SPARTAN and was expecting to read admonitions to sleep on nails, sleep outside in the freezing cold wearing only one thin garment and to self-flagellate regularly. Well, I found none of the above. Basically, Epictetus teaches that happiness consists of learning what is in our control and what isn't, and to live in harmony with God and nature. Also central to Stoic thought is the importance of correct reasoning.

I was also pleasantly surprised that Stoicism does not advocate an uncaring view of the world. The DISCOURSES are full of examples of family, politics, friendship issues as well as dealing with hardships. I had a good chuckle over the the title: "To those who tackle philosophy just to be able to talk about it." (Book 2, chapter 19) On page 126, he says "Just pay attention to the way you behave and you will discover the philosophy you really belong to."

The introduction and "Further Reading" sections give examples of prominent people whose lives were (and some still are) profoundly influenced by Epictetus.

This volume contains all four "Books" of Epictetus' DISCOURSES as well as the ENCHIRIDION, a condensation of his teachings into smaller paragraphs and sayings. I was also pleased to find fragments of other writings from Epictetus as well which I didn't know still were around.

They are well worth reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Louden on May 26, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have taught an Ancient Philosophy course a few times, always including a few meetings on Epictetus. In my experience, Dobbins' Penguin version of Epictetus is easily the best edition for such a course. Since the course is a survey (covering the Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, and Marcus Aurelius), but with a sustained focus on Plato and Aristotle, we don't have time to read every line of Epictetus. Dobbins' edition, however, affords students considerable exposure, the translation is accurate and fresh, and Penguin editions do an amazing job of keeping the prices well within an undergraduate's budget. I highly recommend this edition.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By rodrigo on February 10, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Greeks were really something else and for me Epictetus is at the top of the list. One of the best moral philosophers as far as I'm concerned. He was a very clear thinker and presented his ideas very vividly, in a diatribe or near-dialogue form. Some of the things he discusses are incredible for his time, for example Discourse I, 19 includes this gem: "The upshot is that it is not anti-social to be constantly acting in one own's self-interest. We do not expect someone, after all, to be indifferent regarding himself and his welfare." The discourse continues and is basically Adam Smith circa 150 CE.
Read Pierre Hadot (modern French philosopher) first, then Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on May 31, 2013
Format: Paperback
There's a great deal of wisdom in Epictetus and we can benefit from it today, even if we don't believe in a divine will or a natural order or purpose with which to align ourselves, or even if we are not facing an extremely adverse situation, like Vice Admiral James Stockdale.

There could be a danger of falling into passivity or fatalism in following Stoic ideas, but Epictetus' arguments are presented in the form of Socratic dialogue or debate that appeals to our intellect and reason and emphasizes our responsibility for moral choice. In numerous metaphors and illustrations, he repeats his essential ideas of focusing on what is within our control (governing our will and mind), learning not to give in to desire, aversion, anger, or fear (the "correct use of impressions"), and accepting that our body, possessions, status, and family are externals that don't really belong to us, but are borrowed.

There is good advice about accepting our mortality. When it's time to leave the fair or the party (among other metaphors Epictetus uses) we should make a graceful exit and be grateful for the time we've had.
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