Ignorance is Not an Excuse

My Father, God rest his soul, used to say that the reason to study history and philosophy was so that we could grow in wisdom and not continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. While I have been incredibly fortunate to have been educated with at least some exposure to the classics and great teachers, I am astounded by my absolute lack of knowledge in certain areas. Recently, I discovered another amazing contributor who I had completely missed, namely, Epictetus, who lived between 55 and 135 AD.

Epictetus was born c. 55 AD,[1] presumably at Hierapolis, Phrygia.[2] The name given by his parents, if one was given, is not known-the word epiktetos (επικτητος) in Greek simply means “acquired”. He spent his youth as a slave in Rome to Epaphroditos, a very wealthy freedman and secretary to Nero.[3] Early on in life, Epictetus found a passion for philosophy, and with permission of his wealthy owner, Epictetus studied Stoic philosophy under Musonius Rufus,[4] as a slave, which allowed him to rise in respectability as he grew more educated.[5] It is known that he became crippled, and Origen recounts a story that his leg was deliberately broken by his master.[6]

Here is what Wikipedia says:

Epictetus (Greek: ?π?κτητος; AD 55 – AD 135) was a Greek sage and Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia (present day Pamukkale, Turkey), and lived in Rome until banishment when he went to Nicopolis in northwestern Greece where he lived the rest of his life. His teachings were noted down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses. Philosophy, he taught, is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control, but we can accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. Individuals, however, are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power. As part of the universal city that is the universe, human beings have a duty to care for all fellow humans. The person who followed these precepts would achieve happiness and peace of mind.

It is not known how Epictetus obtained his freedom, but eventually he began to teach philosophy in Rome. Around 93 AD Domitian banished all philosophers from Rome,[7]and Epictetus traveled to Nicopolis in Epirus,Greece, where he founded a philosophical school.[8]

His most famous pupil, Arrian, studied under him as a young man (c. 108 AD) and claims to have written the famous Discourses based on his lecture notes, although some scholars argue that they should rather be considered an original literary composition by Arrian comparable to the Socratic literature.<[9] Arrian describes Epictetus as being a powerful speaker who could “induce his listener to feel just what Epictetus wanted him to feel.”[10] Many eminent figures sought conversations with him,[11] and the Emperor Hadrian was friendly with him[12] and may have listened to him speak at his school in Nicopolis.[13][14]

He lived a life of great simplicity, with few possessions[15] and lived alone for a long time,[16] but in his old age he adopted a friend’s child who would otherwise have been left to die, and raised him with the aid of a woman to help him.[17] He died sometime around 135 AD.[18] After his death, his lamp was purchased by an admirer for 3,000 drachmae[19]

No writings of Epictetus himself are known. His discourses were transcribed and compiled by his pupil Arrian (author of the Anabasis Alexandri.[10] The main work is The Discourses, four books of which have been preserved (out of an original eight).[20] Arrian also compiled a popular digest, entitled the Enchiridion, or Handbook. In a preface to the Discourses, addressed to Lucius Gellius, Arrian states that “whatever I heard him say I used to write down, word for word, as best I could, endeavouring to preserve it as a memorial, for my own future use, of his way of thinking and the frankness of his speech.”[10]

Epictetus maintains that the foundation of all philosophy is self-knowledge, that is, the conviction of our ignorance and weakness when measured by the standard of good, and ought to be the first subject of instruction.

And from EssentialLifeSkills.net the following:

Like Seneca, Epictetus left us an exceptional legacy of quotes filled with wisdom and insight. His Encheiridion or Manual for Living instructs us on how one can be a good person and live a happy and fulfilling life.

Moral progress for Epicteus is not the natural province of the highborn, nor is it achieved by accident or luck. Instead, it is achieved by working on yourself daily.

Although his works are less well known today because of the decline of classical education, they have had an enormous influence on leading thinkers on the art of living for over two millennia.

There is little question that Epictetus was the master of his circumstances. Having been a slave and banished from Rome, his insight and experience speak to the capacities that reside within us all. I see little value in my continued accolades, since the words of Epictetus will most certainly speak for themselves.

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. -Epictetus

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. – Epictetus

First say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do.” — Epictetus

All religions must be tolerated… for every man must get to heaven in his own way. – Epictetusand

Control thy passions lest they take vengence on thee. – Epictetus

First learn the meanning of what you say, and then speak. – Epictetus

First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. – Epictetus

Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire. – Epictetus

God has entrusted me with myself. – Epictetus

He is a drunkard who takes more than three glasses though he not drunk. – Epictetus

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. – Epictetus

If eveil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it. – Epictetus

If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please. – Epictetus

If thy brother wrongs thee, remember not so much his wrong-doing, but more than ever that he is thy brother. – Epictetus

If you desire to be good, begin by believing that you are wicked. – Epictetus

If you seek truth you will not seek victory by dishonorable means, and if you find truth you will become invincible. – Epictetus

If you want to improve, be content to be throught foolish and stupid. – Epictetus

It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows. – Epictetus

It is not death or pain that is to be dreaded, but the fear of pain or death. – Epictetus

It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting. – Epictetus

It is the nature of the wise to resist pleasures, but the foolish to be a slave to them. – Epictetus

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. – Epictetus

Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them. – Epictetus

Neither should a ship rely on one small anchor, nor should life resist on a single hope. – Epictetus

No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it furst blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen. – Epictetus

No Man is free who is not master of himself. – Epictetus

People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them. – Epictetus

Practice yourself ,for heaven’s sake in little things, and then proceed to greater. – Epictetus

Silence is safer than speech. – Epictetus

The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things. – Epictetus

The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. – Epictetus

The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. – Epictetus

There is nothing good or evil save in the will. – Epictetus

There is onlly one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will. – Epictetus

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will. – Epictetus

To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete. – Epictetus

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. – Epictetus

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. – Epictetus

When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger. – Epictetus

Whenever you are angry be assured that it is not only a present evil, but that you have increased a habit. – Epictetus

Whoever does not regard what he has as most ample wealth, is unhappy, though he be master of the world. – Epictetus

You are a little soul carrying around a corpse. – Epictetus

You may be always victorious if you will never enter into any contest where the issue does not wholly depend upon yourself. – Epictetus

Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it. – Epictetus

If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.” – Epictetus

Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabatage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others. – Epictetus

He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at. – Epictetus

Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself. – Epictetus

Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems. – Epictetus

Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him. – Epictetus

Attach yourself to what is spiritually superior, regardless of what other people think or do. Hold to your true aspirations no matter what is going on around you. – Epictetus

If you would cure anger, do not feed it. Say to yourself: ‘I used to be angry every day; then every other day; now only every third or fourth day.’ When you reach thirty days offer a sacrifice of thanksiving to the gods. – Epictetus

Do not try to seem wise to others. – Epictetus

Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now. – Epictetus

Seek not the good in external things; seek it in yourselves. – Epictetus

Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. – Epictetus

I must die. Must I then die lamenting? I must be put in chains. Must I also lament? I must go into exile. Does any man then hinder me from going with smiles and cheerfulness and contentment? – Epictetus

It is better to die of hunger having lived witout grief and fear, than to live with troubled spirit, amid abundance. – Epictetus

Don’t seek to have events happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen, and all will be well with you. – Epictetus

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent. – Epictetus

Asked, who is the rich man? Epictetus replied, He who is content. – Epictetus

Remind thyself that he whom thou lovest is mortal that what thou lovest is not thine own; it is given thee for the present, not irrevocably nor for ever, but even as a fig or a bunch of grapes at the appointed season of the year. – Epictetus

How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? You are no longer a boy, but a full-grown man. If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary. From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event. That is how Socrates fulfilled himself by attending to nothing except reason in everything he encountered. And you, although you are not yet a Socrates, should live as someone who at least wants to be a Socrates. – Epictetus

In order to please others, we loose our hold on our life’s purpose. – Epictetus

No great thing is created suddenly.- Epictetus

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.- Epictetus

We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free. – Epictetus

The good or ill of man lies within his own will. – Epictetus