Epicureanism is a humanist philosophical doctrine for human happiness. It requires us to make a firm resolution to live a happy life and to apply philosophical and empirical methods to the pursuit of happiness.

Its first tenets are contained in the Four Remedies:

Do not fear death
Do not fear the gods
What is good, is easy to attain
What is evil is easy to avoid

For non-believers, the first two negative statements may be translated as "Do not fear chance or blind luck, for it is pointless to battle that which we have no control over. It generates unnecessary suffering."

The latter two positive statements lead to Epicurean teachings on how we should evaluate our desires and discern which ones are unnecessary versus which ones are necessary, which ones carry pain when satisfied or ignored versus which ones don't. By this process of an analysed life, one learns to be content with the simple pleasures in life, those easiest to attain. The best things in life are free.

"The wealth required by nature is limited and easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity ... Do not spoil that which you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for." - Epicurus

The three goods are friendships, an analysed life, and autarchy which translates as autonomy or self-sufficiency. Epicurus taught that friends are the most important ingredient for happiness. Difficulties are much more easy to bear, and pleasures much more easily enjoyed, in wholesome association with our trusted friends. We should seek them often and blend our minds with them.

The process of living an analysed life leads to the cultivation of what philosophers called ataraxia: a state of satisfied serenity, content, and self-control. It translates as imperturbability. Its attainment signals philosophical maturity.

The serene grounds of the Epicurean Academy were known as the Garden. There, an egalitarian community evolved where men, women, and slaves discussed philosophical matters among equals. This was very progressive, and even scandalous, in those days. Epicurean Gardens flourished for over 700 years until the Christians destroyed all the philosophical schools and philosophy was banned.

We must not underestimate the influence of Epicureanism in contemporary political philosophy and in modern life. We ultimately owe the inclusion of the 'pursuit of happiness' in the Declaration of Independence to Thomas Jefferson, who was a disciple of Epicurus. In his letter to William Short, he said:

"As you said yourself, I too am an Epicurean ... I consider the genuine doctrines of Epicurus as containing every thing rational in moral philosophy"

For a vast resource of writings by Epicurean thinkers throughout history, visit:
http://www.epicurus.info/

The following is a series of videos detailing Epicurean philosophy by youtuber Lootra:
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEA3D3F7070776AD5

Tags: epicureanism, epicurus, happiness, philosophy

Views: 328

Replies to This Discussion

Thanks for the discussion Hiram. I like this philosophy - I am learning more about it.

Feel free to post individual youtube discussions by Lootra (the link I provided at the bottom) or pieces of the writings found on epicurus.info if you'd like to start new discussions on this board.  This would help everyone wanting to learn the specifics and details of Epicureanism, encourage asking questions and adding perspectives, etc.

For instance, the elaboration on the different types of desires, how they're necessary or unnecessary, discussions on the four remedies or the three goods, etc.  

Thanks Hiram for adding this post.   I am aware that I have taken some liberties in blending a philosophy, that was founded about 2300 years ago, with evolutionary psychology and biology.   But it is important to be aware of the roots.

Epicureanism has to be made relevant, and it's a scientific and empirical theory so that if the Christians hadn't destroyed the Gardens, today Epicureanism would have evolved into a full science and theory of happiness, with insights from neuroscience (atheist author Sam Harris is a neurologist who has studied the brain under the influence of meditation and has proposed a 'science of contemplation'), psychotherapy, the live foods and raw foods lifestyle and research on mood-boosting natural foods, and perhaps even psychedelics.

There are also many philosophers, Sartre and Buddha among them, who also contributed to a theory of happiness and philosophy that resonates with Epicureanism.

I think part of the role of contemporary Epicureanists is to connect all those dots, so there's nothing wrong with your insights, on the contrary, they should be encouraged so that a fresh and relevant modern school of Epicureanism can eventually emerge.

Good post.  I was an advocate of Epicurus since I learned about the Pax Romana in high school.  As I remember, the three great emperors of this unique century of peace were Hadrian, Antonius Pious and lastly the great Marcus Aurelius—all epicureans. 

Sadly, Marcus had a son by a prostitute named Commodus and the Epicurean rule came down with a crash.  This was the true beginning of the decline.  Commodus made Caligula look like Jimmy Carter.

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