Epicurus and Happiness

Favorite quotations, etc.
sky
Posts: 727
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am
Contact:

Epicurus and Happiness

Post by sky » Sun May 08, 2016 10:13 am

Epicurus makes the following claims about human happiness:

Happiness is Pleasure; all things are to be done for the sake of the pleasant feelings associated with them.
False beliefs produce unnecessary pain; among them, that the gods will punish us and that death is something to be feared.
There are necessary and unnecessary desires. Necessary desires, like desiring to be free from bodily pain, help in producing happiness, whereas unnecessary desires, like desiring a bigger car or a more luxurious meal, typically produce unhappiness.
The aim is not the positive pursuit of pleasure but rather the absence of pain, a neutral state he calls “ataraxia,” which is freedom from all worry, often translated simply as “inner tranquility.”
This state of ataraxia can be achieved through philosophical contemplation rather than through pursuit of crass physical pleasures.
Happiness is not a private affair: it can be more readily achieved in a society where like-minded individuals band together to help inspire one another’s pursuit of happiness.

http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/his ... /epicurus/

sky
Posts: 727
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am
Contact:

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by sky » Sun May 08, 2016 10:21 am

Letter to Menoeceus

In this letter, Epicurus summarizes his ethical doctrines:

Epicurus to Menoeceus, greetings:

Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. 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 towards attaining it.

Those things which without ceasing I have declared unto you, do them, and exercise yourself in them, holding them to be the elements of right life. First believe that God is a living being immortal and blessed, according to the notion of a god indicated by the common sense of mankind; and so believing, you shall not affirm of him anything that is foreign to his immortality or that is repugnant to his blessedness. Believe about him whatever may uphold both his blessedness and his immortality. For there are gods, and the knowledge of them is manifest; but they are not such as the multitude believe, seeing that men do not steadfastly maintain the notions they form respecting them. Not the man who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them is truly impious. For the utterances of the multitude about the gods are not true preconceptions but false assumptions; hence it is that the greatest evils happen to the wicked and the greatest blessings happen to the good from the hand of the gods, seeing that they are always favorable to their own good qualities and take pleasure in men like themselves, but reject as alien whatever is not of their kind.

Accustom yourself to believing that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply the capacity for sensation, and death is the privation of all sentience; therefore a correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life a limitless time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. For life has no terrors for him who has thoroughly understood that there are no terrors for him in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer.

But in the world, at one time men shun death as the greatest of all evils, and at another time choose it as a respite from the evils in life. The wise man does not deprecate life nor does he fear the cessation of life. The thought of life is no offense to him, nor is the cessation of life regarded as an evil. And even as men choose of food not merely and simply the larger portion, but the more pleasant, so the wise seek to enjoy the time which is most pleasant and not merely that which is longest. And he who admonishes the young to live well and the old to make a good end speaks foolishly, not merely because of the desirability of life, but because the same exercise at once teaches to live well and to die well. Much worse is he who says that it were good not to be born, but when once one is born to pass quickly through the gates of Hades. For if he truly believes this, why does he not depart from life? It would be easy for him to do so once he were firmly convinced. If he speaks only in jest, his words are foolishness as those who hear him do not believe.

We must remember that the future is neither wholly ours nor wholly not ours, so that neither must we count upon it as quite certain to come nor despair of it as quite certain not to come.

We must also reflect that of desires some are natural, others are groundless; and that of the natural some are necessary as well as natural, and some natural only. And of the necessary desires some are necessary if we are to be happy, some if the body is to be rid of uneasiness, some if we are even to live. He who has a clear and certain understanding of these things will direct every preference and aversion toward securing health of body and tranquillity of mind, seeing that this is the sum and end of a blessed life. For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear, and, when once we have attained all this, the tempest of the soul is laid; seeing that the living creature has no need to go in search of something that is lacking, nor to look for anything else by which the good of the soul and of the body will be fulfilled. When we are pained because of the absence of pleasure, then, and then only, do we feel the need of pleasure. Wherefore we call pleasure the alpha and omega of a blessed life. Pleasure is our first and kindred good. It is the starting-point of every choice and of every aversion, and to it we come back, inasmuch as we make feeling the rule by which to judge of every good thing.

And since pleasure is our first and native good, for that reason we do not choose every pleasure whatsoever, but will often pass over many pleasures when a greater annoyance ensues from them. And often we consider pains superior to pleasures when submission to the pains for a long time brings us as a consequence a greater pleasure. While therefore all pleasure because it is naturally akin to us is good, not all pleasure is should be chosen, just as all pain is an evil and yet not all pain is to be shunned. It is, however, by measuring one against another, and by looking at the conveniences and inconveniences, that all these matters must be judged. Sometimes we treat the good as an evil, and the evil, on the contrary, as a good.

Again, we regard independence of outward things as a great good, not so as in all cases to use little, but so as to be contented with little if we have not much, being honestly persuaded that they have the sweetest enjoyment of luxury who stand least in need of it, and that whatever is natural is easily procured and only the vain and worthless hard to win. Plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet, when once the pain of want has been removed, while bread and water confer the highest possible pleasure when they are brought to hungry lips. To habituate one's self, therefore, to simple and inexpensive diet supplies all that is needful for health, and enables a man to meet the necessary requirements of life without shrinking, and it places us in a better condition when we approach at intervals a costly fare and renders us fearless of fortune.

When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or willful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of revelry, not sexual lust, not the enjoyment of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul. Of all this the beginning and the greatest good is wisdom. Therefore wisdom is a more precious thing even than philosophy ; from it spring all the other virtues, for it teaches that we cannot live pleasantly without living wisely, honorably, and justly; nor live wisely, honorably, and justly without living pleasantly. For the virtues have grown into one with a pleasant life, and a pleasant life is inseparable from them.

Who, then, is superior in your judgment to such a man? He holds a holy belief concerning the gods, and is altogether free from the fear of death. He has diligently considered the end fixed by nature, and understands how easily the limit of good things can be reached and attained, and how either the duration or the intensity of evils is but slight. Fate, which some introduce as sovereign over all things, he scorns, affirming rather that some things happen of necessity, others by chance, others through our own agency. For he sees that necessity destroys responsibility and that chance is inconstant; whereas our own actions are autonomous, and it is to them that praise and blame naturally attach. It were better, indeed, to accept the legends of the gods than to bow beneath that yoke of destiny which the natural philosophers have imposed. The one holds out some faint hope that we may escape if we honor the gods, while the necessity of the naturalists is deaf to all entreaties. Nor does he hold chance to be a god, as the world in general does, for in the acts of a god there is no disorder; nor to be a cause, though an uncertain one, for he believes that no good or evil is dispensed by chance to men so as to make life blessed, though it supplies the starting-point of great good and great evil. He believes that the misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool. It is better, in short, that what is well judged in action should not owe its successful issue to the aid of chance.

Exercise yourself in these and related precepts day and night, both by yourself and with one who is like-minded; then never, either in waking or in dream, will you be disturbed, but will live as a god among men. For man loses all semblance of mortality by living in the midst of immortal blessings.

BeyondtheWrap
Posts: 544
Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 3:38 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by BeyondtheWrap » Sun May 08, 2016 11:16 am

Epicurus was one of my favorite philosophers back when I was exploring philosophy, specifically during my high school days. Near the beginning of that time I made the choice to be happy by not letting things bother me. Like many philosophers I considered happiness to be a state of contentment, not necessarily jubilation. I was interested in Stoicism as well; these two philosophies seemed very similar in those aspects.

Looking back, however, I don't think I can really say that studying philosophy is what created my happiness. It seems more to me that I sought out philosophical systems justifying the way I already thought. So my philosophy was really just a set of defense mechanisms included in my natural personality.

sky
Posts: 727
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am
Contact:

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by sky » Sun May 08, 2016 3:34 pm


enigmaT120
Posts: 907
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2015 2:14 pm
Location: Falls City, OR

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by enigmaT120 » Mon May 09, 2016 10:59 am

I always thought it was funny how, only by observing their respective lifestyles, it might not be possible to tell a Stoic and an Epicure apart.

sky
Posts: 727
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am
Contact:

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by sky » Mon May 09, 2016 12:24 pm


steveo73
Posts: 1125
Joined: Sat Jul 06, 2013 6:52 pm

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by steveo73 » Tue May 10, 2016 5:06 am

Epicurus is my favourite philosopher. I love the stoics but Epicurus is to me just a little more aligned to how I think I should live my life.

sky
Posts: 727
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am
Contact:

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by sky » Mon May 16, 2016 7:28 pm


BeyondtheWrap
Posts: 544
Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 3:38 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by BeyondtheWrap » Mon May 16, 2016 9:42 pm

Beat me to it! I thought of this thread when I saw that comic today.

Papers of Indenture
Posts: 143
Joined: Sun Sep 01, 2013 11:40 am
Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by Papers of Indenture » Tue May 17, 2016 9:01 am

The best book on Epicurus and Epicureanism i've come across:

http://www.amazon.com/Epicurus-Philosop ... 474&sr=1-1

The NewEpicurean.com website is pretty good too. That's where I found out about the DeWitt book.

sky
Posts: 727
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am
Contact:

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by sky » Tue May 17, 2016 11:43 am

Tetrapharmakos, the Four Part Remedy

The Tetrapharmakos (τετραφάρμακος) "four-part remedy" is a summary of the first four of the Κύριαι Δόξαι (Kuriai Doxai, the forty Epicurean Principal Doctrines given by Diogenes Laertius in his Life of Epicurus).

The term "tetrapharmakos" originally meant a compound of four drugs (wax, tallow, pitch and resin). The word was used metaphorically by Roman-era Epicureans to refer to the four remedies for healing the soul.

1. Don't Fear the Gods

Epicurus argued that the gods are distant, concerned about their own affairs, and do not care about the affairs of men. Calamities such as fire, lightning, earthquakes, accidents and storms were natual phenomena, not divine retribution. This teaching relieved people of superstitious belief that frequent prayers and sacrifices to the gods were necessary to avoid calamities.

2. Don't Worry About Death

Epicurus taught that there is no afterlife. The spirit and soul are part of the body, and are physical material made of atoms. When the body dies, the soul dies with it. "Death means nothing to us...when we exist, death is not yet present, and when death is present, then we do not exist." Fear of death is the greatest anxiety of all for most humans. This anxiety about death impedes the quality and happiness of one's life by the theory of afterlife: worrying about whether one's deeds and actions in life will deliver a judgment of eternity of pain or an eternity of pleasure. Epicurus taught that the after-death experience was similar to one's condition prior to conception and birth: a state of nonexistance. This teaching reduces the fear of death and the state of one's afterlife.

3. What is Good is Easy to Get

The things that humans naturally need, such as sustenance and shelter, can be acquired by anyone with minimal effort, regardless of wealth. Those things which are more difficult to acquire are often not needed and in many cases are damaging to one's efforts to achieve happiness. By reducing one's desires to a minimum of needs, one can maximize the satisfaction and happiness in one's life. When all of one's limited needs are fulfilled, and there are no unsatisfied desires, then one has reached the state of satisfaction with the minimum of effort. This teaching reduces the fear of being destitute.

4. What is Terrible is Easy to Endure

The Epicureans understood that in nature, illness and pain are not suffered for very long, for pain and suffering is either "brief or chronic ... either mild or intense, but discomfort that is both chronic and intense is very unusual; so there is no need to be concerned about the prospect of suffering." One may overcome mild pain though mentally focusing on what is good and pleasant around one. Epicurus taught that to remain happy during periods of intense pain, one may recollect happier times with friends and trust that the pain will be temporary. This teaching reduces the fear that people have regarding disease and prolonged suffering.

By applying the teachings of Tetrapharmakos, one can relieve much of the anxiety that afflicts the human soul. The Tetrapharmakos provides a base of confidence that one can achieve happiness in life despite death, calamity, poverty or pain. With this confidence, one can move forward in life choosing behavior and activities that promote one's happiness.

Papers of Indenture
Posts: 143
Joined: Sun Sep 01, 2013 11:40 am
Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by Papers of Indenture » Fri May 20, 2016 10:37 pm

"The study of nature does not create men who are fond of boasting and chattering, or who show off the culture that impresses the many, but rather men who are strong and self-sufficient, and who take pride in their own personal qualities, not in those that depend on external circumstances.

And the greatest fruit of this self-sufficiency is freedom."

-Epicurus

sky
Posts: 727
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am
Contact:

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by sky » Tue May 24, 2016 9:00 am

The Garden, Anonymity and Friendship

In the Garden, students pursued the course of spiritual and mental perfection. Since Epicurus had outlawed myths, superstitions, and religious rituals the spiritual perfection sought by all students was conformity to the tenets of Epicurus with his emphasis on achieving peace of mind. The school was a training ground in learning restraint and seeking the truth which freed the mind from fear and worry. Always the aim was the same, to find happiness (eudaemonia) through the static pleasure of mental quietude (ataraxia).

Seneca wrote: "Go to the Garden and read the motto carved there: 'Stranger, Here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure.' The caretaker of that abode, a kindly host, will be ready for you; he will welcome you with barley-meal and serve you water also in abundance, with these words: 'Have you not been well entertained?' 'This Garden,' he says, 'does not whet your appetite; it quenches it.'"

Educational studies at the Garden must have been conducted in a relaxed, non-competitive, leisurely pace. Coercion, threats, or intimidation were antithetical to Epicurian philosophy which believed man has free will and must determine the conduct of his own life without supernatural intervention. Students cultivated serenity of spirit in an atmosphere of leisure; under the tutelage of communal friends.

The Garden was a sanctuary from the activity of the city of Athens. Epicurus and his students physically and mentally removed themselves from the active affairs of the city. It is apparent that Epicurus mandated his followers to avoid most of the business, political, social and religious activities of Athenian life.

Epicurus counseled: "Live in anonymity, live in obscurity, live unknown, live unnoticed" (lathe biosas). The purest source of attaining security from men, which at times must be established by banishing life's disturbing elements, is secured by the quiet life and withdrawal from the mob. We must free ourselves from the prison of business affairs and politics. We must state the best way a man will reach the aim of a good life, and how no person would want to hold public office. The scramble for public acclaim, the quest for riches and power threaten the security of an individual and attack his peace of mind.

Epicureans turned their backs on the life of the metropolis to live in quiet serenity in the Garden. The philospher believed that only in a congenial community of friends, living abstemiously, and devoting time to reflection and philosophical discussion could a student develop spiritual perfection, that is, eudaemonia via ataraxia (happiness through peace of mind).

The Epicurean fellowship looked upon friendship as the means by which members of the school could grow in philosophical maturity. Recognizing that only an exceptional man like Epicurus could arrive at the realization of truth on his own, the membership strove together to find the true path. By sharing social, emotional and intellectual experiences, the students grew in their understanding of the philosophy, as well as perfecting their self-realization. The relationship shared by the members of the school proved their fidelity to one another and their total commitment to the Epicurean way of life.

Epicurus and his followers lived in a brotherhood reminiscient of medievel monasticism. The Garden was not an institution filled with the chants and liturgy of a religious society, but the members did break bread as a community of scholars working in joy to perfect their potential for happiness. The purpose of the quiet, private school in the Garden was to free the mind of the pernicious influence of a corrupt and jaded society. The Garden accepted female scholars as well as slaves, as the first educational institution to open its doors to all people. It is likely that a number of other Epicurean garden philosophy schools were established throughout the Mediterranean area.

Friends came from all parts of the world to live and study at the Garden. The Garden was not a school where students worked toward academic degree or certificate, rather the result of their academic endeavors was the intangible reward of truth. Evaluation for achievement of the cleansing derived from the words of truth was based on the student's own assessment of his progress. Each student was free to use his own mind; he had the choice of accepting and living in conformity to the group creed, or he could reject part of the Epicurean system. Epicurus expected friends wishing to receive the reward of ataraxia to follow his teachings, however he believed in freedom of choice and recognized that not all men would wish to follow the route to happiness that he prescribed. He also suggested that men follow their own natural dispositions.

A student would stay as long as he or she needed guidance in the search for self-discovery, self-realization, integration of personality, or when one was satisfied with the process of living on a level to bring personal fulfillment and happiness. How does one know when selfhood has been reached? Epicurus said that one knows when he is able to relate to others and to himself on a level that provides complete peace of mind. The ideal is to live like the gods, who enjoy perfect peace and contentment and never let human affairs disturb them.

In his Letter to Menoeceus, Epicurus wrote: "Contemplate these and similar precepts day and night, both alone and with a friend, and you will never be disturbed while awake or asleep. You will live like a god among men, for a man who lives in the midst of immortal blessings loses all semblance of mortality."

Condensed from "Happiness Through Tranquility, The School of Epicurus", Richard W. Hibler, 1984

sky
Posts: 727
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am
Contact:

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by sky » Fri May 27, 2016 7:41 pm

THE ELEMENTAL MESSAGE OF THE INSCRIPTION

I, Diogenes of Oinoanda, a friend of Athens, hereby inscribe for you, on this wall, my summary of Natural Philosophy.

Most men suffer from false notions about the nature of things, and they fail to listen to their body even though it brings a just accusation. For the body accuses the soul of dragging it to pursue things which are not necessary, even though the Natural desires of the body are small, and easy to obtain. These men do not understand that, while the soul can live well by sharing in the Natural enjoyments of the body, many of the desires of the soul are both extravagant and difficult to obtain. These desires are not only of no benefit to our nature, but actually are dangerous to us.

In my life, I have observed many men in this predicament. I have mourned for their behavior, and wept over their wasted lives. I have therefore composed this inscription, because I consider it a part of wisdom for a good man to give benevolent assistance, to the utmost of his ability, to those men who are capable of receiving it.

In my own case, I have now reached the sunset of my life, and I am on the verge of departing from it due to old age. But before I die, it is my desire to compose for you this anthem to celebrate the fullness of happiness, and to help those who are benevolent and capable of receiving its message.

Vain fears of death, and of the gods, grip the majority of men. Such men fail to see that true pleasure does not come from the approval of the crowd, or from perfumes, or ointments, but from the study of nature. And so I write to refute those who say that the study of nature is of no benefit to us. Even though I am not engaging in public affairs, the inscription on this wall will serve as my testimony to you, that what truly benefits our nature — freedom from disturbance — is identical for one and all.

If only a few people were gripped by vain desires, and by false fears of death and of the gods, I would address them individually, and do all in my power to give them my best advice. But as I have said, a great multitude of people suffer from the same disease, as if in a plague. Great numbers suffer from false notions about the nature of things, and the number who suffer is increasing. In mutual emulation, many men catch this disease from one another like sheep. In addition to my fellow-citizens who are in this predicament, I desire to help future generations, for they too, though unborn, belong to us, as do any foreigners who may happen to come here.

The inscription on this wall has been set up to reach a large number of people, and I will use it to advertise publicly the medicines that bring salvation. These medicines we Epicureans have fully tested, for we ourselves have dispelled the fears that grip other men without justification. We have completely cut away those pains that are groundless, and those pains that are natural we have reduced to an absolute minimum.

But I must warn you against other philosophers, especially those, like the Socratics, who tell you that studying natural science, and investigating celestial phenomena, is a waste of time. I must warn you also against those who are ashamed to make that argument explicitly, but who use other means of telling you the same thing. When such philosophers argue that it is not possible for us to be certain of anything, and that the nature of things is impossible to apprehend, what else are they saying than that there is no need to pursue the study of natural science? After all, what man will choose to seek something that he believes he can never find?

I warn you also against Aristotle, and those who hold the views of his Peripatetic School. These men say that nothing is scientifically knowable, because all things are continually in “flux,” and this flux is so rapid that all things evade our ability to apprehend them. We Epicureans, on the other hand, acknowledge that all things are in motion, but we deny that this motion is so rapid as to prevent our senses from being able to grasp the true nature of things. Indeed, the Aristotelian position is absurd. Who could ever say that some things are now white, and some are black, but that, at another time, things are neither white nor black, if they did not in fact first have certain knowledge of the nature of both “white” and “black?”

It is our Epicurean position that Nature is composed of first bodies, called “elements,” which have existed, and will exist, eternally, without beginning or end. These elements are indestructible, and possess unchanging properties, and from them all things in the universe are generated. Since neither god nor man can destroy these elements, we conclude that they have always been, and always will be, indestructible forever, and the elements and their properties will always remain beyond the reach of what some men call “Fate,” or “Necessity.” For if these elements could be destroyed in accord with “Fate”, all things would have long ago perished, since an infinite amount of time has already passed before we were born.

We Epicureans also maintain that the things that we see are real. For this point I will use as my witness the evidence that we see when we look in mirrors. When we look in a mirror, we would not see ourselves if there were not a continual stream of elements, flowing from us to the mirror and returning back to us. The image that we observe in the mirror is proof that particles stream steadily from all things, retaining the shape of the object from which they were emitted.

These images flow from all objects, and, because they impinge on our eyes, we are able to see external realities, and to have those impressions enter our minds. Once seen, our minds are rendered susceptible to receiving similar images. Even when the original object is no longer present, our minds are prepared to receive images of similar objects in the future.

This flow of images continues even when we are asleep. When we sleep, our senses are, as it were, paralyzed and extinguished. The mind, however, which still stirs, is unable to test what it receives against the evidence of the senses, and thus, in dreams, it conceives a false opinion about these images. At such times, the mind is mistaken, and thinks it is apprehending true realities. Errors arise in dreams because our senses sleep when our bodies sleep, and our senses provide our only rule and standard, by which we must always judge what is true and what is false.

Now let us also discuss the movements of the stars and planets in the sky. Let me first emphasize, however, that we must treat things that are far away from us much differently than those things which we can examine closely. When we investigate phenomena that we cannot examine closely, it frequently occurs that the evidence supports several different explanations for that phenomena. Where the evidence supports more than one possibility, it is reckless and wrong to pronounce that only a single possibility is correct. The disposition to grasp at one among several possibilities, when the proof is insufficient, and when several possibilities may be true according to the evidence, is characteristic of a fortune-teller, or a priest, or a fool, and not the path of a wise man. Where evidence is not sufficient to be sure of our choice, we must wait for additional evidence before judging. Until then we should say only, as the case may be, that more than one explanation is possible, or that one explanation is more plausible than another.

The important point to take from the study of physics is that the universe did not arise at random from chaos, nor was it created, or is it controlled, by any gods. But do not take from this that we Epicureans are impious, or that we fail to have sympathy for those who have false opinions about the gods. Men who experience false visions, but who are unable to understand how they are produced, are understandably apprehensive, and they convince themselves that these visions were created by the gods. Such men vehemently denounce even the most pious men as atheists. As we proceed, it will become evident to you that it is not the Epicureans, who deny the true gods, but those who hold false opinions about the gods. For we Epicureans are not like those philosophers who categorically assert that the gods do not exist, and who attack those who hold otherwise. Nor are we like Protagoras of Abdera, who said that he did not know whether gods exist, for that is the same as saying that he knew that they do not exist. Nor do we agree with Homer, who portrayed the gods as adulterers, and as angry with those who are prosperous. In contrast, we hold that the statues of the gods should be made genial and smiling, so that we may smile back at them, rather than be afraid of them.

Let us reverence the gods, and observe the customs of our fathers, but let us not impute to the gods any concepts that are not worthy of divinity. For example, it is false to believe that the gods, who are perfect, created this world because they had need of a city, or needed fellow-citizens. Nor did the gods create the world because they needed a place to live. To those who say such naive things, we ask in turn: “Where were the gods living beforehand?”

Those men who hold that this world was created uniquely by the gods, as a place for the gods to live, of course have no answer to this question. By their view, the gods were destitute and roaming about at random for an infinite time before the creation of this world, like an unfortunate man, without a country, who had neither city nor fellow citizens! It is absurd to argue that a divine nature created the world for the sake of the world itself, and it is even more absurd to argue that the gods created men for the gods’ own sake. There are too many things wrong, with both the world and with men, for them to have been created by gods!

Let us now turn our attention from gods to men.

Many men pursue philosophy for the sake of wealth and power, with the aim of procuring these either from private individuals, or from kings, who deem philosophy to be a great and precious possession.

Well, it is not in order to gain wealth or power that we Epicureans pursue philosophy! We pursue philosophy so that we may enjoy happiness through attainment of the goal craved by Nature.

We shall now explain to you the identity of this goal set by Nature, and we will explain how it can not be obtained by wealth, nor by political office, nor by fame, nor by a life of luxury and sumptuous banquets, nor by the pleasures of choice love-affairs. Only through philosophy can we secure Nature’s goal. Thus we shall set the whole question before you, here, on this wall. We have erected it in public, not for ourselves, but for you, citizens, so that you might have it in an easily accessible form.

But know this also: We Epicureans bring these truths, not to all men whatsoever, but only to those men who are benevolent and capable of receiving this wisdom. This includes those who are called “foreigners,” though they are not really so, for the compass of the world gives all people a single country and home. But it does not include all people whatsoever, and I am not pressuring any of you to testify thoughtlessly and unreflectively. I do not wish you to say, “this is true,” if you do not agree with us. For I do not speak with certainty on any matter, not even on matters concerning the gods, without providing you evidence, and the proper reasoning to support what I say.

And so I address each of you! Even if you are indifferent and listless, do not be like passers-by in your approach to this inscription! Do not consult it in a patchy fashion, and fail to take the time to understand the overall system!

Here is the point at issue between the other philosophers and the Epicureans. If we were both inquiring into, “what is the means of happiness?” and the other philosophers wanted to say, “the virtues,” (which would actually be true), it would not be necessary for us to take any other step than to agree with them.

But the issue is not, “what is the means of happiness?” The issue is, “what is happiness?” Or, in other words, “What is the ultimate goal of our nature?”

I say both now, and always, shouting out loudly, to all Greeks and non-Greeks, that pleasure is the highest end of life!

The virtues, which are turned upside down by other philosophers, who transfer the virtues from “the means” to “the end”, are in no way the end in themselves! The virtues are not ends in themselves, but only the means to the end that Nature has set for us!

This we affirm to be true in the strongest possible terms, and we take it as our starting point for how men should live.

From here, let us suppose that someone asks a naive question. “Who do these virtues benefit?” “Or, for whose benefit should man live virtuously?” The obvious answer is, “man himself.” The virtues do not make provision for the birds flying past, enabling them to fly well, nor do they assist any other animal. The virtues do not desert the man in which they have been born, and in which they live. Rather, it is for the sake of the man that the virtues exist, and it is for the sake of man that the virtues exert their actions.

I must now address an error that many of you hold; an error that exposes the ignorance of your philosophy even more than your devotion to your false ideas, rather than to Nature. For you reason falsely when you contend that all causes must precede their effects. Because you think that all causes must come before the effects that result from them, you argue that pleasure cannot be the cause for living virtuously. But you are wrong, and Nature shows us that it is not true that all causes precede their effects. The truth is that some causes precede their effects, others coincide with their effects, and still others follow their effects.

First, consider surgery, which is a cause that precedes its effect, the saving of a life. In this case, extreme pain must first be endured, but then pleasure quickly follows.

Second, consider food, water, and love-making, as these are causes that coincide with their effects. We do not first eat food, or drink wine, or make love, and then, later, experience pleasure only afterward. Instead, the action brings about the resulting pleasure for us immediately, with no need to wait for the pleasure to arrive in the future.

Third, consider the expectation of a brave man that he will win praise after his death, as this is an example of a cause which follows its effect. Such men experience pleasure now because they know there will be a favorable memory of them after they have gone. In such cases the pleasure occurs now, but the cause of the pleasure occurs later.

Many men are ignorant of these facts, and they hold that virtue is a result to be desired on its own, and is caused by living in a certain way. These men do not understand that virtues are not results, but causes. Virtues are causes which coincide with their effects, for virtues are born at the same time as the pleasure of happy living which they bring.

[Those of you who do not understand the philosophy of Epicurus, or those who choose to misrepresent it, go completely astray when you fail to understand that pleasure is the end of life. For Epicurus did not hold back from teaching that if a lifestyle of debauchery were sufficient to bring about a happy life, we would have no reason to blame those who engage in debauchery. This is a dangerous teaching for those who refuse to understand it, or for those who misuse the teaching to indulge in the pleasures of the moment.]

But where the danger is great, so also is the fruit. We must turn aside fallacious arguments, and see that they are insidious, and insulting, and contrived, by means of games with words and technical ambiguities, to lead unwary men astray. [For the truth is that pleasure is the beginning and end of living happily, and pleasure is the first good that is innate within us. To this view of pleasure as our starting point, and as our goal, we refer every question of what to choose and what to avoid. And to this same goal of pleasurable living we again and again return, because whether a thing brings happiness is the rule by which we judge every good. But although pleasure is the first and a natural good, for this same reason we do not choose every pleasure whatsoever, but at many times we pass over certain pleasures, when difficulty is likely to ensue from choosing them. Likewise, we think that certain pains are better than some pleasures, when a greater pleasure will follow them, even if we first endure pain for time. Every pleasure is therefore by its own nature a good, but it does not follow that every pleasure is worthy of being chosen, just as every pain is an evil, and yet every pain must not be avoided. Nature requires that we resolve all these matters by measuring and reasoning whether the ultimate result is suitable or unsuitable to bringing about a happy life. For at times we may determine that what appears to be good is in fact an evil, and at other times we may determine that what appears to be evil is in fact a good.]

Let us now discuss how life is made pleasant in both mind and body.

In regard to state of mind, we must remember that when an emotion which disturbs the soul is removed, pleasure enters in and takes its place, [for just as nothing can exist in a single place except matter or void, there is no third or neutral state between pleasure and pain where one or the other is not present.]

What are the most disturbing of emotions? Fear of the gods, fear of death, and fear of pain, and also desire which exceeds the limits fixed by nature. These disturbing emotions are the root of all evil, and unless we defeat them, a multitude of evils will grow within, and consume us.

[Just as some men fear the gods, other men, even men as great as Democritus, fear that their lives are controlled by “Necessity,” or “Fate,” or “Fortune.”]

To those who adopt Democritus’ theory, and assert that, because the atoms collide with one another, they have no freedom of movement, and that consequently all motions are determined by necessity, we Epicureans have a ready answer, and we ask in reply. “Do you not know that there is actually a free movement in the atoms, which Democritus failed to discover, but which Epicurus brought to light — a swerving movement, as he proves from the phenomena we see around us?” The most important thing to remember is this: if Fate is held to exist, then all warnings and censures are useless, and not even the wicked can be justly punished, since they are not responsible for their sins.

And it is also error to argue that, absent the restraint that comes when evil men fear the gods, or fate, wickedness would have no limit. This is wrong because wrong-doers are manifestly not afraid of the gods, or of the penalty of law, or else they would not do wrong. Those men who are wise, and choose not to do wrong, are not wise because they fear the gods, but because they think wisely, even in matters concerning pain and death. Indeed it is true that, without exception, men who do wrong do so either on account of fear, or because of the lure of pleasure.

On the other hand, men who are not wise are righteous, insofar as they are, only on account of the laws and penalties hanging over them. Only a few men among hundreds are conscientious because they fear the gods rather than the laws. Not even these few are steadfast in acting righteously, for even these are not soundly persuaded about the will of the gods. Clear proof of the complete inability of religion to prevent wrong-doing is provided by the example of the Jews and the Egyptians. These nations, while being among the most religious and superstitious of men, are also the most vile.

So what kind of gods or religion will cause men to act righteously? Men are not righteous on account of the real gods, nor on account of Plato’s and Socrates’ judges in Hades. We are thus left with this inescapable conclusion. Why would not evil men, who disregard the laws, disregard and scorn fables even more?

Thus we see that in regard to righteousness, our Epicurean doctrines do no harm, nor do the religions that teach fear of the gods do any good. On the contrary, false religions do harm, whereas our doctrines not only do no harm, but also help. For our doctrines remove disturbances from the mind, while the other philosophies add to those disturbances.

As we close, do not believe for a moment that all men can achieve wisdom. Not all men desire to achieve wisdom, and not all men are able to seek it out. But for those men for whom wisdom is possible, and who do seek it, such men may truly live as gods. For men of wisdom, all things can be full of justice and mutual love. For men of wisdom, there will one day be no need of fortifications, or of laws, or of all the other things we contrive on account of fear of one another. Such men will be capable of deriving all their necessities from agriculture, without need of slaves, for indeed the wise man shall tend his own plants, and divert his own rivers, and watch over his own crops.

Fear of the gods; fear of death; fear of pain; fear of slavery to those desires which are neither natural nor necessary. The day will come when none of these shall interrupt the continuity of our friendships, and of our happiness, in the study of philosophy. In that day, wise men will tend the Earth, in a life close to Nature; our agriculture will provide for our needs, and we, and those who are our friends, will live as gods among men.

And Thus Ends the Inscription of Diogenes of Oineanda.

This presentation of the Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda has been a project of New Epicurean.com, August, 2013. It has been based on the translations of Martin Ferguson Smith an C. W. Chilton rendered into modern American English, and organized for audio presentation. The student of Epicurus should consult the original translations for comparison, and also consult the ultimate authority, the inscription in its original Greek.

For further information about this presentation, please visit NewEpicurean.com.

Peace and Safety!

BoredRider
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2016 2:01 pm

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by BoredRider » Tue Sep 13, 2016 4:17 am

My all-time favourite line, from Epicurus:

"If you wish to make Pythocles wealthy, don't give him more money; rather, reduce his desires."

User avatar
BRUTE
Posts: 2522
Joined: Sat Dec 26, 2015 5:20 pm

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by BRUTE » Tue Sep 13, 2016 11:54 am

good first post

User avatar
Dragline
Posts: 4449
Joined: Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:50 am

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by Dragline » Tue Sep 13, 2016 12:52 pm

+1

User avatar
BRUTE
Posts: 2522
Joined: Sat Dec 26, 2015 5:20 pm

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by BRUTE » Tue Sep 13, 2016 1:09 pm

in fact, brute has been thinking about this. not in the context of Epicurus, but..

is there a heuristic for telling if improving conditions or reducing desires has the higher RoI?

edit: wow, brute just spent 30 minutes trying to remember the word heuristic.
Last edited by BRUTE on Tue Sep 13, 2016 2:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
jennypenny
Posts: 5296
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:20 pm
Location: Stepford USA

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by jennypenny » Tue Sep 13, 2016 1:14 pm

Agreed.

The problem is that once a person reduces their desires to the point where they have all that they need or want, many seem to end up in that malaise described in the Wheaton Scale thread and elsewhere. "I have all I want / Is that all there is?"

Finding meaningful (non arbitrary) engagement with minimal consumption feels like the Holy Grail around here sometimes.

User avatar
GandK
Posts: 1902
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:00 pm

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by GandK » Tue Sep 13, 2016 2:42 pm

jennypenny wrote:The problem is that once a person reduces their desires to the point where they have all that they need or want, many seem to end up in that malaise described in the Wheaton Scale thread and elsewhere. "I have all I want / Is that all there is?"

Finding meaningful (non arbitrary) engagement with minimal consumption feels like the Holy Grail around here sometimes.
I don't understand what you're saying, but I'm not sure what's tripping me up, so I'm not sure what questions to ask. Please expound?

7Wannabe5
Posts: 2755
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Sep 13, 2016 3:13 pm

``It matters little,'' she said, softly. ``To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.''

``What Idol has displaced you?'' he rejoined.

``A golden one.''

``This is the even-handed dealing of the world!'' he said. ``There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!''

``You fear the world too much,'' she answered, gently.

User avatar
BRUTE
Posts: 2522
Joined: Sat Dec 26, 2015 5:20 pm

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by BRUTE » Tue Sep 13, 2016 3:23 pm

Arthur wrote:Boredom is just the reverse side of fascination: both depend on being outside rather than inside a situation, and one leads to the other.

User avatar
jennypenny
Posts: 5296
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:20 pm
Location: Stepford USA

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by jennypenny » Tue Sep 13, 2016 4:05 pm

GandK wrote:
jennypenny wrote:The problem is that once a person reduces their desires to the point where they have all that they need or want, many seem to end up in that malaise described in the Wheaton Scale thread and elsewhere. "I have all I want / Is that all there is?"

Finding meaningful (non arbitrary) engagement with minimal consumption feels like the Holy Grail around here sometimes.
I don't understand what you're saying, but I'm not sure what's tripping me up, so I'm not sure what questions to ask. Please expound?
For the most part, needs and wants are the reason people get out of bed in the morning. Once a person decides to give up most of those desires and finds themselves with everything they need, what are they left with? I'm not saying that people should work or Epicurus was wrong. All I'm saying is that modern society provides structure and a reward system that is ingrained early on, and once a person eschews that structure and gives up those desires, they then have to develop their own structure and find their own meaning. It's not always easy to do in a way that doesn't feel arbitrary. 'Busywork', even if it's self-inflicted, is still just busywork.

Sorry. I'm not sure this is any better. I'm struggling to find a way to express what I mean.

sky
Posts: 727
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am
Contact:

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by sky » Tue Sep 13, 2016 4:32 pm

21. Simplify Your Life!

Most people will benefit from reducing the complexity of their lives. Simplification frees up the most valuable commodity which a person can have: time. However, simplification and elimination of things is not a goal in itself. Simplification and minimalism have value to the extent that they improve one's life through reducing stress related to maintenance of things and by freeing up the time it takes to maintain them. It is also a frugal way to avoid unnecessary expenses. The goal of simplification and minimalism is to achieve a level of tranquility that is not disturbed by responsibilities and the maintenance of the things one owns.

Once a person reaches a minimalist state of tranquility and is enjoying the free time that simplification provides, one should seek to add behaviors and actions which increase happiness to one's life. One may choose actions and behaviors that maximize positive effects while minimizing responsibilities and negative effects.

As one learns which things truly add value and happiness to one's life, one can choose those beneficial behaviors which have a minimal impact on one's financial resources. One can focus one's time on a select group of friends that one knows are rational, kind, caring and without the overhead of drama, anger or deceit. One can spend time researching a subject which one is passionate about. One can create art, build furniture or perform music. One can express themselves through writing. Simplification of one's life can lead to a flowering of expression that is made possible by reducing one's responsibilities and maximizing free time.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 2755
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Epicurus and Happiness

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Sep 13, 2016 5:13 pm

jennypenny said: All I'm saying is that modern society provides structure and a reward system that is ingrained early on, and once a person eschews that structure and gives up those desires, they then have to develop their own structure and find their own meaning. It's not always easy to do in a way that doesn't feel arbitrary. 'Busywork', even if it's self-inflicted, is still just busywork.
Right, but there are so many interesting, creative work projects you could assign yourself, I don't know why you would ever have to resort to busywork. For instance, wouldn't it be cool to build a dry stone wall all by yourself? Other ideas:

1) Start and keep a list of all the varieties and species of plants and animals you ever see and identify.
2) Write the lyrics for a country music song.
3) Make a dollhouse that is a perfect miniature version of the house you lived in when you were 8.
4) Learn how to tap dance.
5) Reinvent something approximating the cookie using only ingredients you grew yourself.
6) Learn how to cobble.
7) Figure out how to make a lens out of gelatin,
8) Have sex in a snow fort.
9) Plan and plant a flower garden that will be entirely hot pink and orange.
10) Read the 20 best-selling books published in the year 1902.

Post Reply