Epicureanism

 

Epicureanism Summary: (from Wikipedia)

A system of philosophy founded around 307 BC based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. Epicureanism was originally a challenge to Platonism. Later its main opponent became Stoicism. The epic poem De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius presented in one unified work the core arguments and theories of Epicureanism. The greatest good was (is) to seek modest, sustainable pleasure in the form of a state of ataraxia (tranquility and freedom from fear) and aponia (the absence of bodily pain) through knowledge of the workings of the world, and limiting desires.

The absence of pain and fear constitutes the greatest pleasure, and its advocacy of a simple life, make it very different from "hedonism" as colloquially understood. Epicureanism flourished in the Late Hellenistic era and during the Roman era, and many Epicurean communities resembling communes were established with perhaps 400,000 members, In Athens, Epicurus bought a property for his school called "Garden", later the name of Epicurus' school. Epicurus emphasized friendship as an important ingredient of happiness, and the school seems to have been a moderately ascetic community which rejected the political limelight of Athenian philosophy. They were fairly cosmopolitan by Athenian standards, including women and slaves.

 The school's popularity grew and it became, along with StoicismPlatonismPeripateticism, and Pyrrhonism, one of the dominant schools of Hellenistic philosophy, lasting strongly through the later Roman Empire. The rise of Christianity eventually led to the demise of Epicureanism, and their communes were converted into monasteries.

Epicureanism argued that pleasure was the chief good in life. Hence, Epicurus advocated living in such a way as to derive the greatest amount of pleasure possible during one's lifetime, yet doing so moderately in order to avoid the suffering incurred by overindulgence in such pleasure. Emphasis was placed on pleasures of the mind rather than on physical pleasures. Unnecessary and, especially, artificially produced desires were to be suppressed. Further, Epicurus sought to eliminate the fear of the gods and of death, seeing those two fears as chief causes of strife in life. Justice was deemed good because it was seen as mutually beneficial.

Main Points:

The greatest good was is to seek modest, sustainable pleasure in the form of a state of ataraxia (tranquility and freedom from fear) and aponia (the absence of pain) through knowledge of the workings of the world, and limiting desires.

Friendship as an important ingredient of happiness

A moderately ascetic community which rejected the political limelight of Athenian philosophy.

They were fairly cosmopolitan, including women and slaves by Athenian standards.

Emphasis was placed on pleasures of the mind rather than on physical pleasures. Unnecessary and especially artificially produced desires were to be suppressed.

They defined justice as an agreement made by people not to harm each other. The point of living in a society with laws and punishments is to be protected from harm so that one is free to pursue happiness.

No one is inherently of higher value or meant to dominate another. all our social relations are a matter of how we perceive each other, of customs and traditions.

 A formation of a community of friends outside the traditional political state. This community of virtuous friends would focus on internal affairs and justice.

The Gods do not interfere with human lives or the rest of the universe.

Epicurus is said to have viewed the Gods as idealized forms of the best human life.                                                

Epicurus Quotes:

Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.

Pleasure is the beginning and the end of living happily.

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.

The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.

A free life cannot acquire many possessions, because this is not easy to do without servility to mobs or monarchs.

The man least dependent upon the morrow goes to meet the morrow most cheerfully.

The greater the difficulty, the more the glory in surmounting it.

"When we say ... that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice or willful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not by a succession of drinking bouts and of revelry, not by sexual lust, nor the enjoyment of delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul.— Epicurus, 

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