Cl36Sp08L24EpictetusAb - CLASSICS 36: LECTURE TWENTY -F OUR...

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C LASSICS 36: L ECTURE T WENTY -F OUR E PICTETUS : THE POWER IN POWERLESSNESS 1. Biography: E. a Greek, born in Phrygia (modern Turkey), lived in 1 st -2 nd century A.D., in the generation after Seneca. Served as slave to the politically powerful Epaphroditus at Rome, who allowed him to be educated and eventually freed him. E. was exiled by the emperor Domitian along with many other philosophers in Rome in 89 A.D. He set up a philosophic school in Nicopolis (NW Greece, near modern Corfu), where he remained. He suffered poor health and was lame. His “Discourses” were not written by him, but are a record of his teachings compiled by his student Arrian, who explained that he was trying to capture the authentic tone as well as the content of his master’s teaching. 2. Living free 2.1 How should we live? By valuing only what is in our power. Why? Because it is bad to value or otherwise be in the power of persons or things that we cannot control. (1.1) In what way bad? Can’t exercise responsibility; can’t be confident of moral purity; lays you open to anxiety and disturbance (1.1.14-16). 2.2 What, then, is in our power? Only our reason, which enables us to use ‘impressions’ rightly or wrongly. ‘Impressions’ are thoughts, both internal and generated by the senses; so they include e.g. something’s appearing desirable or undesirable, or our impulses to act (1.1.12). To use impressions properly therefore has moral implications; e.g. assenting to the belief that something truly is desirable. ‘In our power’ means it is possible for us to be in complete control, not that it is easy to gain such control, still less that we are born with it. 2.3
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Cl36Sp08L24EpictetusAb - CLASSICS 36: LECTURE TWENTY -F OUR...

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