Freedom and That Which Depends on Us: Epictetus and Early Stoics

Susanne Bobzien

in Determinism and Freedom in Stoic Philosophy

Published in print November 2001 | ISBN: 9780199247677
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597091 | DOI:
 Freedom and That Which Depends on Us: Epictetus and Early Stoics

Show Summary Details


Central passages: Plutarch, Aud. Poet. 33d, Epictetus, Enchiridion 53.1, Seneca Letters 107.10; Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies 1.21.2

Eleutheria (freedom) was an indispensable philosophical concept in early Stoic ethics, and became central in the moral philosophy of the Roman Stoa. The Stoic notion of eleutheria has been a source of modern misinterpretation and mis‐assessment of the early Stoic theory of fate and of Chrysippus’ compatibilism. In particular, it has been illegitimately confounded with Chrysippus’ notion of that which depends on us. There is no evidence that the Stoic concept of eleutheria and the question of that which depends on us were connected in any way before the Roman Stoa. This chapter contains first an analysis of Epictetus’ concept of that which depends on us and how it relates to the early Stoic concept; then an outline of the Stoic notion of eleutheria (moral freedom), its role in early Stoic philosophy and in Epictetus, and its connection with the concept of that which depends on us, and the specific philosophical contexts in which the two concepts belong. Finally, the chapter provides a discussion of a couple of passages, including the famous dog and cart simile, which are shown to be often wrongly associated with Chrysippus’ compatibilism, to belong rather in the wider context of Epictetan ethics, and to have had their origin in Cleanthes’ philosophy.

Keywords: Cleanthes; destiny; early stoicism; Epictetus; fate; freedom; moral freedom

Chapter.  13806 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.