My Brother's Material

"What then is my brother's material?" the man asked. That belongs to his own philosophy. Nevertheless, with respect to your philosophy, his life is one of the external things you may not directly control, like a piece of land, like health, like reputation. But Philosophy does not promise wealth or health. "In every circumstance I will maintain," philosophy says, "the governing part conformable to nature." Whose governing part? "His part in whom I exist."

The man's brother is an external force in his existence. Since Stoic philosophy only operates upon the mind of those who practice it, the man's philosophy will not necessarily have a direct effect on his brother's behavior. This is similar to the Christian idea of a personal relationship to God. Other people's actions are external to our relationship to God and how they affect our souls. Even so, Christianity posits the power of prayer, and there is within it room to change our "brother's" behavior.

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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