Welcome to the Society of Epictetus

Were I a nightingale, I would act the part of a nightingale;
were I a swan, the part of a swan; but since I am a reasonable
creature, it is my duty to praise God. This is my business, I do it;
nor will I ever desert this post, so long as it is permitted me;
and I call on you to join me in the same song.

Epictetus Επικτητος (c.35-135 CE)

Epictetus (epic-TEE-tus) was a Greek born into slavery. He was either born a cripple or crippled at an early age when he was in bondage to Nero's freedman Epaphroditus. As a young man he showed considerable intellectual promise, and his master allowed him to study with Musonius Rufus, the leading teacher of Stoic philosophy in Rome. When he completed his studies, Epaphroditus gave him his freedom and he started a school in Rome. One of his students, Arrian, saved his class notes, and from these we have the Discourses of Epictetus, one of the most extensive records of one of antiquity's greatest Stoic philosophers.

In 2015, the Society of Epictetus was founded as a nonprofit organization to promote and support the traditionally recognized philosophical theory and religious practice of Stoicism. The Corporation is organized exclusively to pursue any and all religious, educational, and charitable purposes deemed proper and consistent with the goal of establishing and maintaining the Stoic philosophical way of life.

You are encouraged to register as a member of the Society. Membership is freely open to all without regard to age, race, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. There is only one requirement, one concept upon which we all agree: The Stoic philosophical system includes a Cosmos which is conscious and providential. This is the teaching of Epictetus and all classical Stoics and is our ancient tradition in the world. As David Sedley points out, amidst the disagreements and evolution of thought within the ancient Stoa, "there were defining points of agreement." We agree with Sedley, who outlines those essential points of agreement as follows:

"In physics, to be a Stoic was to believe that the world is a supremely rational, good, and indeed divine organism…

In epistemology, all Stoics agreed that there is a kind of infallible grasp, which they call the cognitive or cataleptic impression…

In ethics, you could not be a Stoic without holding that only one thing is good, namely virtue…" [1]

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The following quotations are from scholars of Stoicism who confirm our understanding of the religious element in Stoic philosophy. This is the original Stoa, the ancient practice, and one that forms our understanding and practice.

"From the first, Stoicism was a religious philosophy, as is shown by the great hymn of Cleanthes, the successor of Zeno as head of the school (Edward Caird, 1904, The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers, p. 76)."

"Stoicism may be called either a philosophy or a religion. It was a religion in its exalted passion; it was a philosophy inasmuch as it made no pretense to magical powers or supernatural knowledge (Gilbert Murray, 1915, The Stoic Philosophy, p. 14)."

"There must have been a core of common beliefs and a common outlook that defined what it was to be a Stoic, even if stances on practical ethical questions were radically contended. That core, I suggest, was formed pivotally by the religious orientation of Stoic ethics. I am convinced that religion is the single most important perspective from which we can understand the specific shape and coherence of Stoic virtue ethics (Christoph Jedan, 2009, Stoic Virtues: Chrysippus and the Religious Character of Stoic Ethics, p. 2)."

"Epictetus' religious sympathies and spirituality are broadly in line with traditional Stoicism, but they are also infused with a deep and ubiquitous affinity for the Socrates of Plato's dialogues. (A. A. Long, 2002, Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life, p. 16)."

[1] (Sedley, David. "64 - David Sedley on Stoicism." History of Philosophy without any gaps. King's College London, 22 Jan. 2012. Web. 27 Dec. 2013.

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