Tag Archives: three topoi

The Discipline of Assent: Pricing Your Inventory

A couple of days ago I wrote about impressions and my experience with impressions at the home improvement store. Impressions are that “feeling” you get when you have an experience, and if you’d like to read more, you can check out that post here. Epictetus’ third discipline of Stoicism, the discipline of assent, is closely linked to impressions because if impressions are the “feeling” you get, then assent is your decision to accept that feeling as reality. In the original Greek, the word means “approve, agree, or ‘go along with.'”

“Thus, when we assent to an impression (phantasia), we are committing ourselves to it as a correct representation of how things are and are saying, ‘Yes, this is how it is.'”

(Seddon, Epictetus’ Handbook and the Tablet of Cebes, p.18)

Therefore, the discipline of assent basically means that we are learning how to make accurate interpretations of our experiences based on facts and not on feelings. Read more of this post

The Discipline of Action: Building Stoic muscles

Sometimes it feels like a lot of Stoic teachings are telling us what not to do. Don’t worry about things you can’t control. Don’t get upset when someone doesn’t like you. Don’t love your fancy expensive car. Don’t become obsessed with poverty and wearing potato sacks. Don’t brag about your progress. Don’t get too comfortable with Fortune.


In order to change our behaviors, it’s not enough to know what we shouldn’t be doing. We need to know what we’re aiming for!

I’ve been interested in training dogs since I was a little girl, and one of the key things in changing a dog’s behavior is to simply teach the dog what you specifically want it to do. This avoids a lot of confusion from the dog not knowing exactly which behavior it should be doing, and therefore grasping at straws (if dogs had thumbs) and floundering to try any behavior. (You told me I shouldn’t poop on the couch, so I pooped on the rug instead. Oops.)

Enter: the discipline of action. This is the part of Stoicism where they say “Do this!” The direction this discipline goes might also be surprising.

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The Discipline of Desire: Quit Counting on Telekinesis

Today we venture into the three fields of Stoic study, or topoi.

There are three areas of study in which a student of philosophy must be trained. The first is desire and aversion, so that the student will always obtain what he desires and will never fall into what he would prefer to avoid. The second is the impulse to act and not to act, and general appropriate behavior; so that the student may act in an orderly manner after careful thought, and not carelessly. The third is concerned with freedom from deception and hasty judgement, and in general, whatever is related to assent.

(Epictetus, Discourses 3.2)

  1. Desire (and aversion) – so we can always get what we want and avoid what we don’t want
  2. Impulse to Act (and not act) – so we can behave appropriately after thinking through the situation carefully
  3. Accurate judgement (and deception) – so we can learn what things we should give our assent to

The Stoics saw these fields as necessary in order to create and life a happy life. Let’s take a look at what each field is exactly. In an effort to avoid a lengthy post, we’ll break each area up separately, starting with Desire.

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