Epicurean Ethics

Topics: Anxiety, Soul, Epicureanism Pages: 12 (5105 words) Published: October 17, 2012
Epicurean Ethics
What defines a good life? Epicurus believes that to achieve the best possible life, one must have a tranquil mind, be free from any bodily or physical pain, and always have pleasure as the primary goal in life. His philosophy was the center of the Hellenistic period and his strong emphasis on the importance of attaining pleasure and having it be the driving force of all actions in life was often viewed by skeptics as egoistic and selfish. Upon understanding the brief and general philosophy of how to live a good life from an Epicurean’s viewpoint, I too thought that his philosophy centered around the self, how to achieve pleasure for the self, how to avoid pain to protect the self, all of which did seem very egoistic. However, throughout reading some of his theories and ideas, analyzing them, as well as reading other philosophers’ interpretations, I was able to see how this can be misunderstood if not given careful thought. This common misconception of his philosophy was widely misunderstood because although his philosophy centered around gaining pleasure for the self and avoiding pain, it also focused on not acting upon greed when on the search of pleasure, and only satisfying needs that are natural and absolutely necessary for the survival of an individual, rather than on the kind of pleasure that is achieved by eating luxurious foods, drinking fancy wines, having a high social status and indulging in materialistic things. Aside from having pleasure as the primary goal in life, Epicurus focused a good deal on how to avoid pain as well. In fact, Epicurus defines and measures pleasure not by how much happiness it may bring to the soul and body, but by the absence of pain which is the only way to achieve pleasure. He categorizes pleasure into three different parts which will be discussed later in this paper, as well as how one can have a peaceful and tranquil mind. To achieve the state of mind that Epicurus believes will bring pleasure to an individual’s life, one must eliminate all fears and anxieties over the unknown such as the power of God and how much of one’s life is dependent on the higher being. To ease these frightening thoughts and anxieties, Epicurus believed it was necessary to explain all of the unknown factors of the supernatural such as the fact that Gods have no interest in human affairs and live in their own society. He also thought that much of the stress and anxiety came from not knowing what happens to the body and the soul after death. Being a naturalist, he thought it was best to explain his theory in scientific terms that are more clear and concise rather than something that was mythical and could have been made up. Although he used the atomist theory to inspire his own, he made significant changes to it explaining exactly what does happen to the soul and the body and how there should be nothing to fear and be anxious over. Epicurus was a naturalist and adapted the concept of the atomist theory to his own beliefs. As briefly stated before, he believed that fear and anxiety comes from not knowing the unknown, such as supernatural occurrences, the concept of God, and life after death. Therefore, by explaining how the divine and all powerful works and advising one not to fear the Gods, as well as using the atomist theory to come up with his own theory so that one knows exactly what will happen to the body and soul after death, he believes that there would be much less anxiety and fear in the mind of an Epicurean. According to the atomist theory, the universe is composed of only two things which are infinite shapes and sizes of atoms, and an infinite void. The atoms of which our universe is composed of are infinite in number, unchangeable, and are unable to be cut or divided. It also states that our senses originate from atoms being cut off by objects Epicurus however, believed that our senses originate from our judgments and perceptions of these atoms...
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