Top 7 Brilliant Ideas of Epictetus: The Philosopher Who Was Born a Slave

Top 7 Brilliant Ideas of Epictetus: The Philosopher Who Was Born a Slave

Last Updated on September 15, 2023 by The Unbounded Thinker

Epictetus, one of my favorite philosophers, was widely known for his fascinating philosophical ideas. Although he was a slave at a young age, he studied stoic philosophy under an influential teacher.

It is said that Epictetus’ teachings influenced more people than Plato’s. Many people, including the affluent and great thinkers, were highly interested in his teachings.

Here are some of his brilliant philosophical teachings I would love to share with you.

1.How To Achieve Your Goals

According to the stoic philosopher, you can only get what you want if you work extremely hard. He also believed that you can achieve your goals if you quit doing anything that doesn’t take you closer to them and only focus on doing the things that take you closer.

2.Stop Being Concerned With Things Beyond Your Power

Epictetus taught that we should only be concerned with the things we can change. He believed it’s a waste of time and energy to be concerned with the things, such as other people’s character, the past, the weather, which we can’t change. He argued that we only live well when we allow the things we can’t control to do whatever they want.

3.Only Care About The Things That Matter

Epictetus noticed that many people were stressed because they cared about many things. They cared about their estate, brother, slave, pet, emperor, the weather, and the society. He advised people that they could reduce their burdens by choosing to only care about the things that truly mattered to them.

4.There is A Creator

This great philosopher also argued that all the things in the universe reveal the presence of an artificer as they could not have occurred randomly. He believed that things such as our intellect and sexual intercourse were purposefully designed by a Higher Power. He asked non-believers to explain, ‘how objects so wonderful and workmanlike should come to being at random and spontaneously.

5.Anxiety Occurs When We Want Things That Are Beyond Our Control

‘When I see a man in anxiety, I say to myself. What can it be that this fellow wants? For if he did not want something that was outside his control, how could he be in anxiety?’ – Epictetus, Stoic Philosopher

Epictetus argued that we become anxious when we want something that is beyond our control. He provided an example of a good singer who only becomes anxious when singing in front of a crowd because she wants the crowd to applaud her performance but fears it might not do so. This singer could not have been anxious if she focused on her singing (which she can control). She only became anxious because she focused on applause (which she couldn’t control).

6.Understand The True Nature of Everything You Love

Epictetus urged his students to understand the true nature of the things they loved so that they won’t be sad when they lost them. For instance, he advised people who loved their family members to realize that they are vulnerable to death so that they won’t be disturbed when they die. Also, he advised people who owned an earthen vessel to understand its true nature so that they won’t be disturbed when the vessel breaks.

7.Your Opinions Determine Your Reactions

To illustrate this point, Epictetus provided an example of a man who wept after his son passed away. He revealed that the passing away of the man’s son was not a bad thing because it could have affected everybody if it was bad. However, the fact that it only affected this man shows that he had some opinions about his son. Maybe he thought that there is no one as wonderful as his son. Such opinions caused devastation when he lost his son.

Epictetus also provided an example of an insult. He revealed that we react wrongly to an insult because of our opinions about it.


Check out my other post: Epictetus on How to Unite with God

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  1. I love how you break down useful info from great minds so it’s clearer and even better accessible and memorable! One of my favorite quotes as a perpetual student of life and philosophy is by Epictetus : If You Want To Imorove, Be Content To Be Thought Stupid and Foolish.