Jan 7 • 18M

Taking the Crowded Bus of Life #164

Epictetus on the Stoic attitude

Dr Andreas Matthias
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Every Friday, we discuss Stoic living, philosophies of happiness, the future of mankind, philosophical issues in the news and in daily life, famous philosophers and their ideas, and how to live a more calm and thoughtful life following the insights of the best minds that humanity has produced over the centuries. A premium version of this podcast comes out on Saturdays. Go to https://dailyphilosophy.substack.com to subscribe! Find more articles from us on https://daily-philosophy.com.
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Dear friends of Daily Philosophy,

I’m happy to welcome everyone to our first post of the new year!

In 2022, we will be touching on a number of topics. Like last year, I will try to cluster similar topics together a bit, so that we will have a focus theme for a few weeks before switching to another topic. Of course, we will be breaking up the monotony with all sorts of additional, exciting articles, interviews, guest articles, and much more.

For this first month, we will go a bit more into Stoic philosophy, which is so popular nowadays — but often misunderstood. In the premium newsletter, to which you can subscribe for the price of two coffees a month (or one coffee, if you do so in the coming eight days), we will begin by exploring the future of mankind — a topic which many readers wished for, but which requires a lot of research and which therefore I can tackle only with the support of our premium members.

Later on this year, I would like to go more into ethics, particularly the ethics of the environment and of global warming, and the very interesting topics in the philosophy of global risk more generally. We will also talk about political philosophy, and I’d like to do a project over the whole year where we will get to know the most prominent philosophers in the history of philosophy, each from their most prominent quote (“Philosophy in Quotes”). We will also cover daily topics from the news that are relevant to philosophy, or where philosophers have something interesting to say.

So stay tuned, look for this email every Friday (or Saturday, if I’m late :)) and always keep telling me what you like or dislike and what other topics you’d love to see covered. You can always reply to these emails to reach me in person, or you can leave a comment below. Thanks!

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What you may have missed

On Daily Philosophy this past week:

It is impossible to identify one person who is supposed to be the “father” or “mother” of philosophy. Skills like philosophy, writing or art developed independently many times over the course of human history. And one could argue that even a child that asks, for example, “why is it wrong to steal something?” is actually doing philosophy by asking one of the timeless philosophical questions.

This is from an article “Who is the Father (or Mother) of Philosophy?” Read the whole article right here.

Professor John Shand just published a brilliant meditation on the meaning of life and the role of God in it on Daily Philosophy:

When one dies, if one is the last to go, one is just left with a detritus of objects and the ghost of events, actions and happenings, and then in turn those objects are removed or heading away from each other forever, the places where those events took place are overlaid and rubbed out by new ones, until not a trace remains that once had the meaning or value it did.

Read the whole article here: “Meaning, Value, Death, and God.”

And, finally, if you missed our “Best of 2021” review of the best articles of the past year, here it is: “Highlights of 2021.”

Now let’s go back to Epictetus for a dose of Stoic wisdom in our lives!

Reading Epictetus

The interest in stoic books and life advice has been consistently growing over the past few years. Google Trends shows four times more searches for “stoic” now than in 2009. Unfortunately, much of that public interest in Stoicism is, like everything else in our societies, exploited commercially to sell more books and Stoic lifestyle courses. (And yes, I do see the irony that this very sentence will be in the book on Stoicism that I will be publishing three months from now, in a bid to commercially exploit public interest in Stoicism :)).

But we want to do something different and a lot more interesting here. We’re going to read Epictetus himself, the ancient philosopher-slave. Surprisingly for a 2000-year-old text, the Handbook of Epictetus is really easy to read (in translation, at least), and, besides the wisdom and gravitas that one would expect, also contains some of the weirdest philosophical arguments ever made in the philosophy of happiness. Unlike many modern philosophers, especially since the advent of the weaponised political correctness movements, Epictetus has the courage to pursue his arguments to their very logical end and he doesn’t shy away from conclusions that to the unsuspecting reader must seem obviously wacky (but more on this in our next episode).

Epictetus riding a bus

In his Enchiridion (literally: “handbook”), Epictetus makes the well-known Stoic point (discussed here previously) that we must accept what we cannot change, while still trying to exercise control over what we can change:

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