Study Questions on The Handbook by Epictetus

developed by Dr. Jan Garrett

for use with the translation by Nicholas White (Hackett Publishing)

For background on the Stoics, see Introduction to Stoic Ethics

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

1. What kinds of things are up to us (under our control)? (1)

2. What kinds of thing are not up to us? (1)

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

4. Which are enslaved . . . not our own? (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 appearance"? (1)

9. What ensures that we experience misfortune? (2) Towards what then should we be averse? (2)

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

11. What is it that upsets 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 make our lives "go well" ? (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? (13)

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 or who is the Captain 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 inauspicously? (s. 18) How can I make every portent favorable? [=How can I be invincible? (s. 19)] Note: in s. 19 "despise" means "be superior to," not to condemn.

21. What should we think about irritating situations? What is the source of the irritation? (20)

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

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

25. What does Epictetus say to the person (probably student of Stoic ethics) who feels bad that he was not invited to a banquet? (25)

26. In the first para. of s. 29, the "things that come first" are causes and "those which follow after" are effects. What is E's point in this paragraph? How does it apply to philosophy?

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

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

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

30. When you encounter some kind of apparent pleasure, how should you proceed? (34)

31. What shows lack of natural talent? (41)

32. What is the difference between a non-philosopher and a philosopher? (48)

33. 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.")

34. 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. (s. 52)