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The Enchiridion Summary

The Enchridon by Epictetus is a short book about Stoicism. We are warned of the excesses of wealth and of succumbing to pleasure. Epictetus prized reason above all else, since it is a gift from the Gods, and it is what separates us from animals, but the use of reason does not come without a price.

To be a philosopher, to prize reason over your other impulses, will cause you to feel social embarrassment, even more so if you go against your principles.

Wealth and Pleasure

Epictetus tells us that we should be careful about what we wish for. Most people want wealth and pleasure, but Epictetus, himself a slave, tells us that wealth and pleasure are bad for us, because they do not come for free. You may gain wealth, but with your wealth will come anger, grief, and fear. And it is better to die of hunger and so to be released from grief and fear than to live in abundance with perturbation. That is why you must remove such thoughts as: If I neglect my affairs, I shall not have the means of living.

And with pleasure, if you have too much of it, you become dependent on it, and essentially, your pleasures will own you. This is an easy point to understand. If you are constantly seeking out positive emotions, then you will become addicted to activities that can give you positive emotions. You will avoid hard work, and you will be less developed and proficient.

Wealth is not a good thing, because moderation is a good thing. Moderation invites to frugality and the acquisition of good things while wealth invites to great expenditure and draws us away from moderation. It is difficult for a rich man to be moderate, or for a moderate man to be rich.

Choose rather to punish your appetites than to be punished through them.

Don’t forget to choose your friends wisely. If you want to live with pleasure and without perturbation, keep company that is good.

The Nature of Work

Do not try to be many things at once. Be resigned to your fate. Be good at something or bad at it but choose something. If you keep switching roles, then you will never get anywhere. Each profession requires a certain commitment, toil, and sleepless nights – if you are not willing to make these sacrifices, then you have not yet found the right thing to do yet, whether to be a philosopher or a common man.

If you are negligent and slothful and you procrastinate, then you will not know that you are not making improvement.

Epictetus impels us to examine ourselves closely, to look at our bodies, to think about our mental constitution, and to determine which work we are most fit to do. Not everyone can play in the NBA.

Let everything that appears to you to be the best be to you a law which must never be transgressed. If anything is laborious or unpleasant is presented to you, remember that now is the contest, now is the Olympic games, and they cannot be deferred.

Reflection

As it is pleasant to see the sea from the land, it is pleasant for him who has escaped his troubles to think of them.

Epictetus places an importance on reason, not because our reason helps us understand nature better. For him, this is not so important. What is most important is for us to understand ourselves, to have a rich inner life, where we can reflect on our troubles from a distance calmly and reasonably.

A well constituted body endures heat and cold. A well constituted soul endures anger and grief and excessive joy.

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"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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