PTypes - Personality Types
PTypes Common False Values Core Vices

Basic False Judgments of the Character Types

"The essence of good and evil consists in the condition of our character. And externals are the means by which our character finds its particular good and evil. It finds its good by not attaching value to the means. Correct judgements about externals make our character good, as perverse or distorted ones make it bad" (Epictetus, Discourses, I.29.1-3; trans. Dobbin).





Conscientious control lack of control Obsessive-Compulsive
Sensitive acceptance rejection Avoidant
Vigilant autonomy being subordinated Paranoid
Dramatic attention being ignored Histrionic
Aggressive power lack of power Sadistic
Idiosyncratic non-conformity conformity Schizotypal
Inventive recognition obscurity Compensatory Narcissistic
Solitary solitude intimacy Schizoid
Leisurely freedom to do as one pleases compulsory activity Passive-Aggressive
Serious hard work ease Depressive
Self-Sacrificing being needed being unappreciated Masochistic
Devoted being taken care of having to act independently Dependent
Self-Confident superiority inferiority Narcissistic
Adventurous challenge lack of challenge Antisocial
Mercurial relationship being alone Borderline
Exuberant pleasure, emotional intensity pain Cyclothymic

"'Consciousness of our errors is the first step to salvation'. This remark of Epicurus' is to me a very good one. For a person who is not aware that he is doing anything wrong has no desire to be put right. You have to catch yourself doing it before you can reform" (Seneca, quoted in Robertson, pg. 171).

If we are in the habit of making false value-judgments of particular externals, as with those listed by personality type, above, we should learn to bear the things falsely valued as bad, and forbear the things falsely valued as good. "Bear and Forbear" - Epictetus

The Stoic account of why people behave badly

"Passion is the source of unhappiness, wrong-doing and the flaws of character which issue in wrong-doing" (Long commentary, 419).

The following is from a paper by Keith H. Seddon, "Living in Society," which is part of Dr. Seddon's Stoic Foundation Correspondence Course, and is included in the book, Stoic Serenity: A Practical Course on Finding Inner Peace. Quotations from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius were added.

"For the Stoics, the fact that people behave badly has a strikingly obvious explanation: they have 'no knowledge of good and bad' (2.1). Difficult people simply do not see things the way the Stoic does. Rather, they value indifferent things and feel threatened when the indifferent things in which they are interested are themselves threatened [...] The harm they cause is in fact self-inflicted, and results from their having not been shown that the good for human beings consists in developing and exercising a virtuous character..."

"People pursue what they believe will benefit them. Their capacity to judge what is truly beneficial may be, as the Stoics think, flawed, but all the same says Marcus [Aurelius], they have the right to 'strive after what they regard as suitable and beneficial' (6.27):

How cruel it is not to allow men to strive after the things which appear to them to be suitable to their nature and profitable! And yet in a manner thou dost not allow them to do this, when thou art vexed because they do wrong. For they are certainly moved towards things because they suppose them to be suitable to their nature and profitable to them.- But it is not so.- Teach them then, and show them without being angry.

"Our becoming upset at the actions of others, Marcus suggests, denies them the right to do as they see fit. This idea is expanded upon in 7.26 where Marcus talks in terms of a 'conception of good and evil.'

When a man has done thee any wrong, immediately consider with what opinion about good or evil he has done wrong. For when thou hast seen this, thou wilt pity him, and wilt neither wonder nor be angry. For either thou thyself thinkest the same thing to be good that he does or another thing of the same kind. It is thy duty then to pardon him. But if thou dost not think such things to be good or evil, thou wilt more readily be well disposed to him who is in error.

"Clearly, those aiming to perfect their characters as Stoics hold a very different view of what is truly good and bad (as we saw in Paper 1), and it is perfectly obvious why bad people do bad things; from their own perspective what they do is good, since they benefit from what they do, or at least they think they do. Seeing that this is the case, not only can we understand why people do bad things, we begin to anticipate what they are likely to actually do. If we attempt to answer Marcus' question, 'What ideas does this person hold on human goods and ills?' (8.14) we may even be able to second-guess someone's actions.

Whatever man thou meetest with, immediately say to thyself: What opinions has this man about good and bad? For if with respect to pleasure and pain and the causes of each, and with respect to fame and ignominy, death and life, he has such and such opinions, it will seem nothing wonderful or strange to me, if he does such and such things; and I shall bear in mind that he is compelled to do so.

"If we do this well, what they do 'will not seem extraordinary or strange', indeed, what they do can be regarded as inevitable, given their beliefs, to the extent that those beliefs 'constrain' the agent to act as they do. But in trying to understand other people, we must not loose sight of trying to understand ourselves [10.37]:

Accustom thyself as much as possible on the occasion of anything being done by any person to inquire with thyself, For what object is this man doing this? But begin with thyself, and examine thyself first.

"In 10.37 Marcus reminds us to examine ourselves before we examine others. With respect to our own actions it is imperative that we ask of ourselves, 'What is my aim in performing this action?'"

Epictetus (2008). Discourses and Selected Writings. Trans. Robert Dobbin. New York: Penguin Classics.

Long, A. A., Sedley, D. N. (1987). The Hellenistic Philosophers: vol. 1. translations of the principle sources with philosophical commentary. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Donald Robertson (2010). The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy. London: Karnac.

Keith Seddon. "Living in Society." A paper of the Stoic Foundation Correspondence Course.

Keith Seddon (2007).Stoic Serenity: A Practical Course on Finding Inner Peace. United Kingdom:

Stoic Psychotherapy

Stoic Practice

Home - Summary - Correspondence - Stoic Psychotherapy - Stoic Practice - Personality Disorders
Search - Sign Guestbook - View Guestbook - Index
Copyright © 1998-2010 Dave Kelly

Creative Commons License
This article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. (See Copyrights for details.)


Key to the Stoic Philosophy of Epictetus