It’s been awhile since I have studied Ancient Greek philosophy. When I was studying it, as part of my graduate studies in History, we didn’t spend much time on the Stoics. Much of my time was spent with Asclepius, Hippocrates, Galen, and the other characters in Ancient Greek medicine.
The Art of Living is an interpretation of a translation of transcribed discourses from Epictetus.
The book is easy to read and easy to pick up and put down. Strict translations from the original Ancient Greek text tend towards painful reading.
You can see the gist of some key ideas that have carried over into modern day thinking.
- Control what you can, accept what you can’t. (Serenity prayer, anyone?)
- You are responsible for your thoughts.
- Don’t adopt other people’s views as your own.
- Clearly define the person you want to be.
- You can choose how you respond.
- Harmonize your actions with the way life is. Don’t try to make your own rules.
- Appreciate what you have.
- Happiness is within.
- Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
From this interpretation, I can see why Stoicism and Epictetus are going through a resurgence in popularity among the entrepreneurial set. Many of the messages have been passed down through the business/sales arm of the self-help community for generations.
The academic in me is “this close” to grabbing and reading a more literal translation of Epictetus’ discourses. The inner academic would like to see how muddied the message is in today’s translations of Stoic philosophy. Then there is the (larger) part of me that knows it has much better things to do than slog through literal English translations of Ancient Greek.
This translation/interpretation of Epictetus strikes me as a decent start. If nothing else, I’d put this in the category of “distraction book” – something you can pick up and put down easily in short stints, close the cover, and feel just a bit better for having spent time with it.