The Stoic Dichotomy of Control

How This Tenet Can Help You Live Your Most Virtuous Life


Epictetus perhaps more than any other Stoic of his time was fond of preaching the Stoic tenet of control. It is not surprising, therefore, that he explains that the most important task of an individual is to know what is and what is not within their control. As is stated in Discourses:

The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. — Epictetus. Discourses. II.5

Dichotomy of Control

This concept within Stoic philosophy is referred to as the Dichotomy of Control (“DOC”), the understanding of what is and what is not within our control, and it is one of the most important tenets of the philosophy.

While we do not have any direct writings from Epictetus, his student, Arrian, curated several texts based upon Epictetus’s lectures, which still survive today, one of them being The Enchiridion (or Handbook). DOC is so crucial to living a virtuous life that The Enchiridion’s very first entry is about it, with Arrian quoting Epictetus, saying:

There are things which are within our power, and there are things…



D.A. DiGerolamo
Stoicism — Philosophy as a Way of Life

Lessons in philosophy, self-development, leadership, and strategy. Socials: @stoicwithin / @dadigerolamo