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The Enchiridion, or "Handbook" is a summary of the teachings of the slave-turned-Stoic philosopher Epictetus (first century A.D) posthumously compiled and published by one of Epictetus' students. Though brief this work is considered to be the living spirit of Stoicism, wherein the principles of right conduct and true thinking are outlined. The Enchiridion has played a significant role in the development of modern philosophy and intellectual attitudes, showing secular thinkers how sound reasoning can free them from the shackles of absolutism and emotionalism and, in so doing, live a more tranquil and productive life.

The book was recently translated by George Long, from whom the above description of the Enchiridion is drawn.

Summary

The Enchiridion, literally "in hand" and often translated to "handbook", is an ancient Stoic text written by Epictetus, who was a slave to Nero. It is a collection of thoughts (mostly imperative commands) compiled posthumously by Arrian, one of Epictetus' students. The work is comprised of fifty-three "chapters", which are nothing more than paragraphs dedicated to each topic. The text contains mostly "practical advice" derived from the philosophy of Stoicism, without much in the way of philosophical argument or reasoning behind the advice; it is merely a collection of principles, suggested actions as to how to live a more enlightened and worry-free life.

 

Subjective Impressions

As a practicing Stoic*, I was beyond excited to read Epictetus. I haven't read his Discourses, but I have read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and much of Seneca's Letters of a Stoic, and I've heard that Epictetus is a pleasure to read. Upon investigating the topic some more, I was regrettably told by someone that a person looking to read Epictetus had ought to start with the Enchiridion and read the discourses afterwards. I took their advice, and regret it immensely. The text was entirely unsatisfying to read, it was a complete waste of money and I wish I hadn't even bought it. It's incredibly short; just over 20 pages long, and doesn't really explain why one had ought to do what the text claims.

For example, the eighth chapter says: "Demand not that events should happen as you wish; but wish them to happen as they do happen, and you will go on well." Great, that's all fine and good, but the text doesn't explain why a person had ought to wish for an event to take place simply the way that it transpires. If the text wishes to focus on practicality more than it focuses on abstract ideas and argument, then in my opinion the text should give practical examples as to how the various principles, ideas, and bits of advice can improve one's life. For example, in my writeup I want to eliminate my ego, I don't really go in-depth as to why I believe what I believe, but I do give many practical examples on how a person's life can be improved with the elimination of ego. I want to see the same type of thing in the Enchiridion. If a person doesn't give either a practical reason or an ideological reason, their idea is completely pointless, and arguably meaningless.

There are a few times in which he almost gives a satisfying practical reasoning as to how the enaction of his arbitrary principles can improve someone's life, but then he just doesn't expound or add upon them at all. I spent maybe just under an hour reading the Enchiridion. I would not recommend it at all. Don't waste your time or your money, for that price you can buy a couple of classics off Thriftbooks. You will gain absolutely nothing from the Enchiridion; no new perspective, no interesting ideology or arguments to turn over in your head. I'm sure his Discourses is good, and I'll probably review it once I read it, but all in all the Enchiridion is just not worth the time.

 

 


 

* Capital-'s' Stoic =/= stoic; Stoicism is an ancient school of Roman philosophy, while 'stoic' is a term that means emotional suppression. Stoicism is not about emotional suppression.

The Enchiridion is an important plot device in Adventure Time, a fantastic show that aired on Cartoon Network about 10 years ago. In the show, the book is a sort of manual for heroing which can only be acquired by those whose hearts are righteous. The process of acquiring the book was a bit of a quest wherein our hero Finn the human had to defeat both physical and moral dangers.

The book is an ancient tome with some gems, a mini sword, shield and skull on its cover. The cover also had some depressions which turned out to be purpose built for more gems, the placement of which would open a portal to Prismo's time room, which is another dimension.

The contents of the book, which are essential reading for heroes include a chapter teaching how to kiss a princess, how to find a Cyclops as well as what a Cyclops is good for - its tears have healing powers.

Finn gives up the book to a bear who said he wanted to be a hero. The book is eventually destroyed when it was used to open the portal mentioned above. However, a copy or alternate dimension version of it was seen in other episodes.

Iron Noder 2020, 21/30

En`chi*rid"i*on (?), n. [L., from Gr. ; in + hand.]

Handbook; a manual of devotions.

Evelyn.

 

© Webster 1913.

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