Epictetus and Nietzsche

Philosophy of Epictetus and Nietzsche

The external world according to Epictetus (the stoic philosopher) represents the aprohairetic category which is outside the control of humans (unlike the prohairetic things which humans control). The good and evil exists only in our prohairesis, the faculty that distinguishes humans from animals and makes people have dual feelings about things (agree and disagree, like/dislike, feel impelled/repel). Personal morality is therefore fully subjective (prohairetic). Ontology was also subjective and a part of prohairesis while the goal of Epictetus’ philosophy was to develop the serenity of mind (ataraxia) represented by the quote “We are disturbed not by events, but by the views which we take of them” that notes that things should be accepted with patience and stoicism (http://books.google.com/books?id=eX-8XOn3GYUC&pg=PA80&lpg=PA80&dq=Epictetus+ontology&source=bl&ots=z_WLH26s_Z&sig=5JcRhSIHZBPxt72o8M1WYyujyS4&hl=ru&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=9&ct=result#PPA79,M1).

Nietzsche completely rejected the contemporary morality based on the Judeo-Christian ethics, utilitarianism and Kantianism. He endorsed the master-slave morality which represented dual relationship between good and evil, wealth and poverty, master and slave, strong and weak. Nietzsche was extremely pragmatic so he considered morality and ontology to be the tools for certain groups to achieve some goals. He criticized the Judeo-Christian ethics as an ingenious plot created by the slaves (Jews and Christians dominated by the Roman Empire) to gain more power and to make the whole society more slave-like.

Epictetus viewed individual power as the sole source of control, strength and freedom. He noted “I must die. Must I then die lamenting? I must be put in chains. Must I then also lament? I must go into exile. Does any man then hinder me from going with smiles and cheerfulness and contentment?” (   Implying that his physical body can be tortured and controlled by the outsiders, while it is the personal will that allows a person to reach ataraxia. Epictetus viewed gods and deities as independent from a person, who nonetheless could control that person’s future life, health and situations. Even then the person was free to control his opinions, smile, and happiness.

Nietzsche simply rejected God fully, noting that God was dead (http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/philosophy/friedrich_nietzsche_quotes.html). The individual power therefore was in no way limited by God and only by the impact of other people who through religion imposed chains on the strong. Nietzsche therefore considered individuals to be fully free and omni-powerful as long as they break self-imposed chains to assert their own power over the hypocritical slave philosophy.

Finally, their experiential analysis of Epictetus and Nietzsche relates directly to my own experiences of the problematic situations related in (1) and (2) making me to a certain degree agree with both philosophers. I fully agree that with Epictetus that it is absolutely necessary to have full control over one’s state of mind if we want to be happy because it is our emotions of anger or happiness that make us feel angry or happy. I also agree with Nietzsche that indeed morality in the modern world is used to cater for certain materialistic purposes. The USA, a truly Christian nation directly violates the “thou shall not kill” commandment by attacking other nations rather than to let them have a slap on another cheek and most of the people, even truly religious people are persuaded that it does a right thing. Also, I agree that religion is used as a tool to manipulate people and the Muslim religion is a clear example of how the state can keep people in control.



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