Epictetus
Epictetus


CHAPTER 15: What Philosophy Promises

"How may I persuade my brother to cease being angry with me?" asked a student. Philosophy does not propose to secure for a man any external thing. If it did, philosophy would be doing something which is not within its province. A carpenter's material is wood, and that of the statue-maker is copper, so the matter of the art of living (philosophy) is each man's life.

The student speaking to Epictetus thinks he is consulting a sort of ancient pop-psychologist on the level of "Dear Abby". He asks Epictetus how he can get back on the good side of his brother. Epictetus responds by making an analogy. He points out that every craft has a medium in which it works, and philosophy or what he calls the art of living is "each man's life". On first blush, Epictetus' answer seems somewhat obscure. We already know that philosophy covers the realm of human life. But the key word in this passage is "each". A person only controls him or her self, not other people.

Chapter 15:

  1. What Philosophy Promises
  2. My Brother's Material (15a)
  3. The True Test of Philosophy (15b)
  4. The Fruit of Philosophic Labor (15c)
Stoicism and Christianity Index

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This is a translation and explanation of the first book of the Discourses of Epictetus. His words are in regular text, comments are in bold.

Biographical Information on Epictetus


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