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What If I Don’t Desire Epictetus?

“Freedom is secured not by the fulfillment of one’s desires, but by the removal of desire.” – Epictetus

What’s the point of freedom, if you don’t want to do anything with it?

10 thoughts on “What If I Don’t Desire Epictetus?”

  1. t ball says:

    I think he’s saying that once you’ve sated your desire, it is removed. I’m going with that for an answer.

    1. Rowan says:

      I don’t think that’s his contention at all. My interpretation is that Epictetus is saying that freedom is found in the abandonment of desire, rather than in the fulfillment of it.

      1. t ball says:

        I wasn’t being serious.

  2. Ralph says:

    It’s the classic stoic stance. We are “free” (from frustrated desires) to the extent that we do not desire anything. If we don’t desire anything, the status quo is maintained. The people in power stay in power. Calling that “freedom” is an interesting exercise in semantic stretch, so say the least.

  3. Tom says:

    Very zen-like and true, but the corollary (for those who are supposed to govern) is that they are to do the will of the people and be practically unnoticeable.

    “Governing a large country is like frying a small fish. You spoil it with too much poking.”

  4. Ralph says:

    It’s pretty amazing how much of a sausage grinder American popular culture is. You actually get to the point where you can quote the Tao Te Ching to make the point that Zen is like Stoicism.

    You’re right of course. Taoism, Zen, and Stoicism are all alike. They are all equivalent and exchangeable for Vedanta, Magick, and Shamanism, in precisely the way pork bellies, soybeans, and crude oil are all equivalent and exchangeable.

    They are consumer products with exactly the same message to you. You won’t be free and happy if you try to struggle against injustice. Find freedom and happiness deep inside yourself in solitude–where it won’t hurt the established order, or in things you buy–like Buddha in a Box, enlightenment for $15.99.

    Y’know, chocolate actually gives you the same kind of “karma” you get from a nice day at the spa!

  5. Ralph says:

    Oh and by the way, isn’t it a nifty coincidence that all religions and philosophies from the entirety of human history on earth tell us exactly the same thing that cynical political apathy does–Just enjoy yourself without causing trouble for the powerful people who run things, nothing you can do about it anyway?

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Even existentialism can declare that — hello, Notes from Underground.

  6. Ruby says:

    I think what he is saying is that when you remove your desires, you have freedom. You don’t have to fulfill your desires to have freedom.

  7. Horatio says:

    If we remove our desires, then the freedom has no freaking point, because we don’t want to DO anything with the freedom. Freedom without context of how people want to use their freedom is meaningless.

    “I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out that I couldn’t do the things I wanted.” – Frederick Douglass

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Psst... what kind of person doesn't support pacifism?