A Response to Epictetus
Essay title: A Response to Epictetus
In Epictetus The Handbook, the Stoic philosopher compiles a “how-to” guide on how to live as the perfect Stoic Sage. He begins his work by discussing the things in life that are up to us, as humans, as well as those things that are not. Human desire falls into the first camp of things that are in fact up to us, and he spends a great deal of his work examining the role of desire in ones life. Given this focus on desire, it is interesting to consider how Epictetus, a dedicated Stoic, would respond to the common notion that it is better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all. In response to this proposal, Epictetus would argue that the most expedient way to become the Stoic Sage would be to not love at all. He would justify this view by arguing that love, as a type of desire, should be eliminated completely. One should be concerned wholly with the ruling principle of ones soul and not with externals, such as feelings and desires. However, if considered retrospectively – that is, after one has loved and lost – Epictetus would respond that its better to have loved and lost, as it is best to align ones will with the course of nature.
Foremost, Epictetus would argue that it is better to not love at all because of his committed view of desire. Epictetus believes that desire should be eliminated completely, and this attitude toward desire is based on three principles. Firstly, even though what we desire is up to us, whether or not we succeed in getting what we desire is not up to us. Those who fail to gain what they desire, states Epictetus, are “bound