How to be free, Epictetus style

Part I of the Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers series

Figs in Winter
11 min readDec 2, 2022

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[Based on How to Be Free: An Ancient Guide to the Stoic Life, by Epictetus, translated by Anthony Long.]

Epictetus was a late first century and early second century slave-turned-teacher and Stoic philosopher. He literally changed my life. His Discourses were the first book from original sources that I read after discovering Stoicism as a practical philosophy, and it struck me like a ton of bricks. But in a good way. I immediately responded to Epictetus’s sense of humor, which often borders on sarcasm. I appreciated his no-nonsense talk to his students, the fact that he doesn’t pull punches, that he calls it as he sees it. But most importantly the fact that his philosophy is arguably the most useful form of Stoicism, which in turn is the most useful of ancient philosophies.

(I wrote three books on Stoicism based on Epictetus: How to Be a Stoic, A Handbook for New Stoics, and A Field Guide to a Happy Life.)

What better way, then, to begin this occasional series of commentaries based on the excellent “Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers” books put out by Princeton University Press, than with Anthony Long’s translation of Epictetus’s Encheiridion, retitled “How to Be Free.” Long is arguably the foremost scholar on Epictetus, and…

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Figs in Winter

by Massimo Pigliucci. New Stoicism and Beyond. Entirely AI free.