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The Good Life

By | December 2005
Page 1 of 3
Since the beginning of time, the quest of the human race has been to discover how to live the "good life". Hellenistic philosophers struggled with this question, but it was the Stoics who best answered it. Other schools at this time, the Cynics and the Epicureans, encouraged extremes of limitation and withdrawal, while the Stoics felt that living a life of rationality according to the divine word was how one reached eudaimonia, or "flourishing." There are fundamental similarities between the schools, but the Stoic philosophy was easily separated as the practical way to eudaimonia. The Cynics promoted a drastic approach to a virtuous life, which was the complete rejection of worldly values and possessions. The Cynics considered "flourishing" as living the simple life so that the soul could be set free. As shown by the famous cynic, Diogenes, who lived in a discarded clay jar for years, this often involved the complete withdrawal from civilization. In a story that best describes the mind-set of a Cynic, Alexander the Great found Diogenes in his clay jar and asked if it was true that he had no desire for worldly possessions. Diogenes replied simply, "I only want one thingÂ…get out of my light." The reply to move out the sunlight is a classic example Cynicism. Diogenes only wants that of the sun, a symbol of nature, and refuses any other possession. This abandonment of possessions and society allowed for a concentrated life of philosophy and no room for pleasure. Wisdom and happiness came from pursuing the proper style of life, a life filled only with necessities. The Cynics promised tranquility through this renunciation of worldly things. Through the extremes of a simple life, the Cynics defined eudaimonia. The Epicureans, opposite of the Cynics, proclaimed that ataraxia, or undisturbed pleasure, was the purpose of life. Epicurus, founder of the Epicurean school, taught, "We cannot live pleasurably without living prudently, gracefully, and justly; and we...

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