Epicurus was a great philosopher that founded the Epicurean belief. He was born in 341 B.C. and met his demise in 270 B.C. He was an advocate for seeking out carnal desires; however, he also knew the significance of experiencing pain in life. Without suffering, people would indefinitely take everything for granted. Epicurus had a following of people that he taught to live modestly, within their means, in communities filled with individuals that had pleasant demeanors. His philosophy presented valid options for dealing with emotional distress and the many difficulties associated with life. He concluded that happiness is equivalent to the “absence of pain”. The people that are without friends are not better off, according to Epicurus. Friendship is one of the many great joys that make life worth living. He believed that happiness is a state of mind. (Bergsma) Epicureanism is a philosophy that deals with the belief that fear is both unnecessary and irrational. Greeks were afraid of the gods and this idea teaches that one should not live in fear. Fate is determined by the individual. If one plans out his or her life in the most virtuous way possible, they will lead fulfilling lives. Nothing should deserve cruelty. The fear of death was also a driving force behind this belief. (Strenger) Epicureanism Vs. Stoicism
Epicureanism was founded in the third century B.C. in a time wherein the citizens of Greece were constantly searching for answers. This philosophy was able to provide a way that people could find happiness. It took on religious proportions. The followers of this belief lived in their own small town. This community had a school wherein the ideals of Epicureanism were taught. The founder of the school was made to lead model life and was actually worshipped as if he was a god. Epicurus gave very detailed instructions on how to live this lifestyle in the way that he did. He warned against overindulging in luxurious things. Material items were not to have all of one’s attention. He wanted people to be able to experience true happiness, which would not require fortune or the things that could come with it. (Bergsma) There are hedonistic characteristics that can be found in Epicureanism. Hedonism is defined as the pursuit of pleasure. Things, people, or experiences that can cause an individual pleasure or pain are what define morals. An individual lives his or her life based on what causes them joy and the things that cause great displeasure. The afterlife is not considered a factor. The dead are just
Epicureanism Vs. Stoicism
that: dead. The dead cannot experience pain or pleasure. It makes it simple to believe that death should not be cause for fear. (Glannon) When the body is sustained by simple joys and when the mind is void of fear, life becomes fulfilling. There are four primary truths found in Epicureanism:
1. “Don’t fear the gods.
2. Don’t worry about death.
3. What is good is easy to get.
4. What is terrible is easy to endure.” (Bergsma)
Epicurus believed that the gods did not concern themselves with the affairs of humans. One has to give themselves order and a moral code to live by because no one else was going to give it to them. The gods did not listen to prayer, Epicurus argued, and it was pointless to expect things to change without any action from the particular individual. (Bergsma) Fear of death is a major cause of depression. Epicurus eliminated the need for this fear. He stated, “[Death] is relevant to neither the living nor the dead, since it does not affect the former and the latter do not exist.” (Bergsma) Epicureanism Vs. Stoicism
Both Epicurus and Lucretius believed that an individual is a combination of a soul and a body. It is separate from the concept of dualism, wherein the body is viewed as being material and the soul is immaterial. In Epicureanism, both the body and the soul are believed to be substantial. Anything material can be corrupted. This argument makes both the soul and body mortal. “Death is defined as the separation and dissolution of soul-atoms from the body as they return to the vast reservoir of atomic material in the universe.” Epicurus argues that once the soul has exited the body, it does not hold any power, which means that it would not be able to have feelings. Pain and pleasure are derivatives of the fusion of soul and body. Once this fusion has ceased, a person will not be able to feel anything. (Glannon) Lucretius, Epicurus’ disciple, believed that the periods of time before an individual is born and after he or she dies are equivalent. In this “mirror-image” point-of-view, it is completely irrational to focus on what happens after death because you cannot feel pleasure or pain before life; likewise, after it. This argument reiterates the idea that one should not fear death. (Glannon)
Epicureanism Vs. Stoicism
Epicurus believed that people generally do not have their priorities in order. This is why he maintains that everyone is unhappy. Basic needs such as water, food, shelter, and protection are easily attainable and can provide pleasure if they are satisfied. Of course, fulfilling these needs will free everyone from pain as well. Epicurus urges everyone to remember that although things like food and water are necessary to live, it is unnecessary to purchase expensive foods (I.e. lobster or steak) or expensive bottled water (i.e. Evian or Fiji) when it is not necessary to do so. He also teaches that is unnecessary to lust for fame or riches. Wealth and excess is not significant to your happiness or health and therefore, should not be a high priority in life. If one places great emphasis on going beyond his or her means, it would create more problems and stress than it would provide pleasure. (Bergsma) Epicurus teaches that pain is only temporary. If one were to think about past pleasure and happiness, it will overcome whatever pain he or she is feeling. The mind will believe that it is not in pain any longer, which is plausible. (Bergsma)
Epicureanism Vs. Stoicism
Living life without being hindered by irrational fear is also an idea that Sigmund Freud believed in. Freud was always challenging his patients to let go of the part of their superego that is not fully developed. The ego continues to cling to its childlike state. Searching for friendship and love are important factors in facilitating growth. (Strenger) Around the same time that the Epicureanism belief was gaining popularity, Stoicism was also becoming more widespread. Virtue is defined as behavior showing high moral standards. Stoics believe that having virtue is the most significant trait to possess in order to lead a fulfilled life. One must not be controlled by their feelings and desires. Stoicism has three main characteristics:
1. Disconnecting yourself from your emotions.
2. Refraining from expressing your feelings.
3. Having control over your emotions. (Wagstaff)
Logics, ethics, and metaphysics are also key principles in Stoicism. Logic deals with one’s objective judgment at a specific moment in time. Ethics deals with selfless actions. Metaphysics deals with willingly coming to terms with Epicureanism Vs. Stoicism
outside occurrences. Truth, justice, temperance, and fortitude are the four virtues that Stoics put value in. (Robertson) Stoicism was used as a method of becoming fully immersed in life. It is considered to be extremely difficult. Apathy is not easily achieved, especially it a part of human nature to form emotional connections with other people, animals, and even inanimate objects. Stoics believe that people often mistake finding importance in things as being emotionally attached to them. One does not have to release all of their worries; however, the goal is to be able to not concern yourself with irrational troubles. Henry David Thoreau stated, “The mind can be profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things.” The brain is sacred and it is reproachable to not treat it as such. (Furtak) Believers must not partake in activities that will cause them to stray from their virtuous path. Any negative influences must be carefully avoided. Purifying oneself allows us to grow closer to God, according to Thoreau. Likewise, Stoics believe that you must relinquish power to the best parts of our souls. The pieces of the soul that are benevolent in nature should be made dominant. (Furtak) Epicureanism Vs. Stoicism
Epicureanism, to me, is a completely understandable concept. It reminds me of the Chinese philosophy, The Tao. In the Tao, it speaks of disconnecting yourself from your thoughts to ultimately achieve enlightenment. Likewise, Epicureanism is about getting rid of all of your irrational fears, doubts, and worries. It makes sense to me. Without worry or fear, there could be no pain. Nagging thoughts and lingering feelings could ultimately be our downfall. Isn’t a depressed person just someone that is consumed in their own thoughts? Stoicism is similar in that it wants you to separate yourself from your emotions. The idea is about being virtuous and true. I believe that it is a bit less attainable due to the fact that you cannot have emotional attachment to anything or anyone. Humans are emotional by nature. I feel that it would be extremely difficult to go through life without friends or family that you can share your experiences with. Epicureanism values friendships.