How do you live the good life and what is the single biggest thing causing you unhappiness? The answer may well lie in the ancient philosophy of Epicureanism. It’s a philosophy that’s often given a bad rap, but it might actually help you find happiness.
Who Was Epicurus And What Is Epicureanism?
Epicureanism is an ancient Greek philosophy, founded in the early 3rd century BC, by a man called Epicurus.
He believed that the way to live the good life was to seek modest, sustainable pleasure in the form of a tranquil mind through the freedom from fear, and the absence of bodily pain, through knowledge, friendship and by limiting desires.
A Life of Moderation Brings You Happiness
Epicureanism is often bunched together with hedonism, i.e. the pursuit of pleasure or sensual self-indulgence, but these are two separate philosophies.
Epicurus believed that moderation is important to living a happy, balanced life. However, hedonism is living a life out of balance.
Epicureanism says we should avoid pain by seeking pleasure, but not so much that the pleasure itself can cause pain.
For example, eating a delicious meal is great (pleasure) but if you eat too much you feel sick (pain). Or drinking alcohol feels great at the time (pleasure), but too much gives you a hangover the next day (pain).
Moderation in life is important.
Achieve a Tranquil Mind Through Freedom From Fear
Epicurus believed that unhappiness is caused by fear, and our single biggest fear is that of death. But the fear of death comes in two parts:
1) The Act of Dying
Epicurus’ way to overcome this was to explain the nature of death itself. He argued that if death is the end of sensation, then it cannot be physically painful. And if death is the end of consciousness, then it cannot be emotionally painful.
Therefore, what are we so worried about? Death is easy and painless and we have nothing to fear. It is simply foolish to let the fear of death cause pain while you are still alive.
2) The Gods
Epicurus was not a god fearing man. He came to the conclusion that if there are gods, and they really are so powerful, then why is there so much suffering in the world? Surely an all powerful god should be able to do something or would want to help us?
He believed that the gods are either not powerful enough to get rid of evil and won’t be able to save us when we die. Or they are powerful enough but they chose not to help us, and they’re therefore not really that kind, or don’t really care about us. We should stop trying to keep them happy and instead just live our lives.
Limit Your Desires and Find Friends
Epicurus believed that you should limit your desires, live the simple life, and withdraw from the busyness of the world to get away from it all.
He encouraged followers to avoid power, fame and politics for they disturb the tranquility of the mind. Instead of chasing possessions or power, we should instead seek friendships.
We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.
Key Learnings From Epicureanism
- Happiness is caused by the pursuit of pleasure, and the avoidance of pain.
- Too much pleasure can actually cause pain, so moderation in life is important.
- Limit your desires and stop asking for so much.
- Happiness is not found in things, but in friendships.
- Our biggest fear in life is the fear of death, and if we can overcome our fear of death, then we can be truly happy.
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