The Aesthetic Life

The Epicureans

Posted in Uncategorized by jonflynn on September 8, 2009

So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed toward attaining it.

– Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

According to Epicurus, a good life is one of pleasure, where one followed a form of rational self interest. To get around the typical problems of egoism, he developed a complex set of ideas on what true pleasure was. He defined pleasure as the absence of pain. To achieve this, Epicurus advised a moderate life of seeking wisdom and having no attachments. Wisdom is knowing that all things are temporary, and to lament their loss is foolish.

Epicureans yearn for freedom. Freedom cannot be found in trying to control the external world. Trying to change anything other than our reaction to it is futile. Thus, the only freedom we can have is control of our own actions and thoughts. We are made slaves by our desires and by our fears. Virtue is learning to control those, as that is the way to attain true pleasure.

Controlling our desires is necessary to achieve a pleasant life. They can be separated into three categories. The first is natural desires, which can be further subdivided into the necessary and unnecessary. Necessary desires, like food, water, and shelter, are easy to attain. Unnecessary desires, like sex, are usually only pleasant for a while, and in the end yields more pain than pleasure. The last category of pleasures are the unnatural. These are groundless desires, and should be ignored. If one only attempts to satisfy the natural and necessary desires, then life will be easy and pleasant. Everything else is in vain.

Our fears can also control us. Wisdom is knowing that there is truly nothing to be afraid of. Wisdom can even make us fearless of death. In death, the cessation of thinking, we will perceive nothing and care not that we are dead. Thus, fearing death is illogical. Fearing loss is also illogical. No longer having what we did not once have will simply be a return to normality. Everything is temporary. Thus, expecting anything else is foolish.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: