- 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: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Discourses and Selected Writings (Penguin Classics) 1st Edition
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
The Discourses and fragments are incredibly powerful resources to use in your own life. While it is not as readable as Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations or Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic. I do however feel that I gained more from the Discourses than any of the other books. The tone of the Discourses are more academic than either Meditations or Letters from a Stoic but if that does not deter you then it is an excellent read. Each chapter of the four books have their own theme and can be read self-contained. Throughout the book are the Stoic principles outlined and demonstrated such as the use of impressions, how reason is the greatest gift we have, how we must not fear death or generally fear anything outside our own control. The style of the books varies from purely being an explanation of how to live to being arguments on why we should live like a Stoic and is very thought provoking.
The Discourses might drag on in some places but overall it is an excellent book and if you have read Meditations and Letters from a Stoic I would highly recommend that you also read The Discourses.
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."
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.