Epictetus vs. Seneca “a Comparison in the Writings of Two Stoic Philosophers.”

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Born of different stations, languages and creeds, Epictetus and Seneca are Roman philosophers who externally appear to be very different. Epictetus was born to a slave mother, sold as a slave himself and spent the majority of his youth as a slave in Rome. Seneca was born into money; he became tutor to a boy named Nero who later acquired position of Emperor of Rome in 54 A.D. Though these two men seem to be from very different worlds, they have a shared purpose in studying philosophy. The purpose of their writings was to teach people how to live well. Though they had a shared purpose, they suggested its achievement through different means. Epictetus professed an ‘expect the worst so you wont be disappointed when it happens’ philosophy, while Seneca suggested a more comfortable option.

To Epictetus philosophy was a way of life, not just a theoretical study. He believed living a philosophic life with a “happy” ending could only be achieved through living virtuously and “in accordance with nature”. As this was his belief, he had few possessions and no family. He lived a simple life. He suggested, in his books, The Discourses and The Encheiridion that living a life in accordance with nature could be achieved by living moderately. This is not a bad suggestion, but there are many things on living simply that Epictetus has to offer in his writings. In his Encheiridion he presents a story about a man who is aboard a ship. The ship docks and the man ventures off in order to fetch water, a small shellfish and a vegetable. Of course it behooves this man to keep his ship within distance incase it was to start away with out him he could leave behind the small shellfish and the vegetable to run and catch his ship. Epictetus believes this is how it should be in real life as well, he says, “if you are given a wife and a child instead of a vegetable and a small shellfish that will not hinder you; but if the captain calls, let all those things go and run to the boat...
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