Philosophy In Seconds

39. Epicureanism & its Criteria [SER]


Epicurus is a renowned Greek philosopher, who studied under a Platonic teacher, however he vehemently rejected the idea that everything that is physical is a poor and inadequate reflection of the spiritual manifestations — in the spirit world. Au contraire, Epicurus advocated that everything is composed of an almost indefinite amount of particles — indistinguishable to the human eye, thereby believing that the gods were composed of these minuscule particles.

This gist of Epicurus’ belief, is closely reminiscent to the field of “physics”. De facto, Epicurus’ physics essentially mirrors his philosophical beliefs. Given that he argues everything is composed of matter, once we die, so will our “soul”. Therefore, there is no such thing as the “afterlife” he postulates; and thus no reason to be afraid of the gods, once one dies. He even argues that the gods are in such a felicitous state, they are oblivious to humans’ existence. It is therefore useless for us to sate the gods. Their only purpose is to show human beings, how one needs to live a “happy life” — dubbed ataraxia. This is done with the absence of distress — whether this be physical, mental or emotional.

Yet, this caused this venerable philosopher to raise the question, how can one live a truly happy and fulfilling life, without being self-indulgent (since the aftermath is never favorable). To answer this daunting question, he created Epicureanism, which follows the following criteria:

  1. Luxuries such as appetizing smells or tasteful meat should only be appreciated when available, however they should not be sought out due to an intrinsic desire they might ignite.
  2. Education is imperative, yet should not become a prime focus. Epicurus believed that one needs to understand the nature of the universe well — so as to find one’s personal ataraxia — yet being too educationally focused is simply useless and can even become distracting. Furthermore, he argued that debates aren’t favorable either, as they spark unnecessary tension and controversy.
  3. By eliminating the idea of the gods’ omnipresence, we both rid ourselves of this perpetual dread of human experience. This is because, like so, one follows what he both truly believes and feels, as opposed to what he deems the gods will …
  4. Social conventions, as well as societal criteria give rise to expectations well beyond our reach of control, which should be averted at all costs.
  5. To obey the constitution should be compulsory, as it precludes an individual fearing being harmed or punished. Simultaneously, fearing the government would also be objectionable.
  6. Both virtue and righteousness should only be pursued if they incite pleasure. If they do not, they should be abandoned.
  7. Lastly, what Epicurus possibly considered to be the crucial criteria to achieving ataraxia is being healthy, and surrounded by cronies. The phileo one feels for a friend is essential to leading a prosperous and enjoyable life. That is, until the final stage of ataraxia is reached, where one is so in tune and in peace with his environment that no criteria are needed.

I hereby impart the reader with a Four-Part cure as a conclusory note:

“Don’t fear god,

Don’t worry about death;

What is good is easy to get, and

What is terrible is easy to endure” — Epicurus

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