Study Questions on The Encheiridion by Epictetus

developed by Dr. Jan Garrett

for use with the translation by P.E. Matheson (included in Cahn and Markie, eds., Ethics (2009), pp. 183-94)

Last modified: July 21, 2010

For background on the Stoics, see Introduction to Stoic Ethics

The numbers after the questions below refer to the numbered sections of the Encheiridion, not pages.

1. What kinds of things are in our power (under our control)? (1)

2. What kinds of thing are not in our power? (1)

3. Which are by nature free, unhindered, and untrammeled? (1)

4. Which are servile . . . dependent on others? (1)

5. What will happen if you confuse these two categories? (1)

6. What will happen if you keep them straight? (1)

7. How can we win freedom and happiness? (1)

8. What question should we address to every "harsh impression"? (1)

9. What ensures that we will be miserable? (2) What then should we will to avoid? (2)

10. What is E's point in section (s.) 3?

11. What is it that disturbs people, according to E? (5) State the three stages of Stoic education according to E? (5) What is E's point here?

12. Is a beautiful horse truly your own? Your "own" physical beauty (assuming you are physically beautiful)? Something else? (6)

13. What is the point in s. 7?

14. How can we ensure that we "have peace" ? (8)

15. How does a Stoic regard "his" or "her" spouse, property, etc.? (11)

16. If you wish to make progress, what must you do? Why? (12)

17. How do we get enslaved to another person? How can we truly be free? (14)

18. Will a Stoic sage (wise person) grieve with another person who has lost his child or his property? Explain. (16) Will the sage grieve when his/her own child dies? (26)

19. Who is the Helmsman in s. 7 and the Playwright in s. 17? What is your duty as an "actor"? (s. 17) What is E's point with this metaphor?

20. Should I worry if the raven croaks "with evil omen"? (s. 18) How can I make every omen favorable? [=How can I be invincible? (See s. 19)] Note: in s. 19 "despise" means "be superior to," not to condemn.

21. What should we think about "outrageous" situations? What is the source of the outrage? (20)

22. When can you be sure that you have lost your plan of life? (23)

23. What should we think when a friend says, "Get cash so that we may have some"? (24)

24. What does Epictetus say to the person (probably one of his students) who feels bad that he was not invited to a banquet? (25)

25. In the first para. of s. 29, "what comes first" are causes and "what follows" are effects. What is E's point in this paragraph? How does it apply to philosophy?

26. What is E's advice for dealing with relations? (30)

27. How can we avoid blaming and hating the gods? (31) Can anyone other than a Stoic sage be truly pious?

28. If someone brings you word that someone else is saying bad things of you, how should you answer? (33, para. 5)

29. When you imagine some pleasure, how should you proceed? (34)

30. What is a sign of a dull mind? (41)

31. What is the difference between an ignorant person and a philosopher? (48)

32. Chrysippus was the brilliant third head of the Stoic school (3rd c. B.C., long before Epictetus' time, 50-130 AD). What is E's point in s. 49? (Perhaps the word translated "grammarian" could be translated "interpreter of texts," or much more loosely, a "professor.")

33. Is the ability to give proofs ("demonstrations") of moral principles the chief point in Stoic ethics? Is the ability to define proof, logical consequence, etc. the chief point? Explain. (52)