Ethics, Morals and Programming.

Review: Enchiridion
by Epictetus

Enchiridion means handbook in Greek. It's a collection of 52 passages extracted from Epictetus' main body of work, Discourses. This work was done long, long after Epictetus died by a scholar named Arran. The Enchiridion is meant to act as something like a "Cliff's Notes" to Epictetus' Discourses, which is very long.

This book contains many "do this" or "you should do this". It is practical advice. Thought it was written in an ancient context, the advice still rings appropriate, even today.

It is sometimes said that Stoic philosophy is the removal of passions and emotion. It is also said that ancient Stoicism bears no resemblance to this impression. The grain of truth is somewhere in between.

"You are but an appearance, and not absolutely the thing you appear to be." And then examine it by those rules which you have, and first, and chiefly, by this: whether it concerns the things which are in our own control, or those which are not; and, if it concerns anything not in our control, be prepared to say that it is nothing to you.

A repeating theme in Enchiridion might be summed up in this quote:

Exercise, therefore, what is in your control.

If you come to this material as a youth, you may find many of these passages act like guideposts as you make your way through your life's early trials.

As programmers are interested in stoic philosophy because it can help us render better decisions, especially with respect to how we spend our time.

It is only the Enchiridion that has made its way to the reading list of this web site. The larger text is certainly a worthy read, but did not make it for one reason or another. For section criteria, please visit the manifesto . While the book suggested by this page contains all of Epictetus' works, again, it is only the Handbook (Enchiridion) that is on the list.

The book recommended is the Robin Hard translation.


  • As you read this, meditate on how it might apply to the act of programming and also with your dealings with other programmers.

Free Options and Other Formats

There are more than one English translations available.