Cicero on Epicureanism

Cicero’s “On Ends”, his narrative on key aspects of Epicurean philosophy: – Pleasurable living is the goal of life. Epicurus held that this is established by observation that all young animals pursue pleasure and avoid pain, and that these matters are so clear to us that no logical argument is needed to prove them. – …

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Epicurus and the pleasant life

From the Vatican documents on Epicureanism VS. 5. It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance, the man is not able to live wisely, …

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A world of ever-increasing complexity

There was an article in The Guardian Weekly  in early January pointing out that our lives are more scrambled and complicated than they have ever been.  The writer, John Harris, called modernity “a mess: multiple user accounts, endless password filling in, smartphone contracts, computer and internet problems that so few of us really understand” and …

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The roots of fascism

In her book called Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 1951, Hannah Arendt wrote the following about Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Franco: “In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached a point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true….The totalitarian mass leaders …

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Just basic good manners: No. 1 of 2 posts on healthcare

A letter arrived from a doctor telling me it was time to make an appointment for a check-up.  The problem was that the last time I saw the doctor he told me “come back in five years time” . That was exactly a year before. But when I called I was told to hang on….and …

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The basics of Epicureanism

From time to time I re-post information about the ideas behind Epicureanism.  With our world in turmoil this seems a good moment to do it again: 1.  The principal objective of life is happiness or pleasure. Happiness is peace of mind and body. It is tranquillity or undisturbedness (ataraxia), the quiet of a mind free …

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Epicurean therapy for anger (last part) – see other two parts below

Philodemus, writing about therapies for anger, explains that the furious and the chronically angry can not advance in philosophy. A commitment to themselves, to their ataraxia, and to cognitive therapy is necessary live a pleasant life. One of the treatments used by Philodemus and other philosophers was called “seeing before the eyes”. In this technique, …

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Philodemus on irrational anger (second part)

Chronic Anger and Rage Yesterday I dealt with the Epicurean idea of justified anger. The next two forms of anger are pathological and represent a loss of reason, that is, they are irrational (even if sometimes they have natural beginnings). The second type of anger is chronic or addictive anger. This is not natural, but …

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Epicureanism: Philodemus on anger (first part)

This is rather long, but I thought some actual Epicurean teachings might be a change. (I have split it into three postings for the sake of digestability). Phildemus was an Epicurean who wrote, among other things, about anger. There was a huge contrast between the Stoic and Epicurean schools. Stoics idealized apathy (or lack of …

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Epicurus and Politics: why I think he was wrong – a reply

On July 31st I posted a notice about my short paper called “Epicurus and politics: why I think he was wrong”. Regular reader Owen Bell, a student of History and Politics at Exeter University, England, has written back in reply. I think what he has to say is thoughtful and well-informed and deserves to be …

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The importance of Lucretius

Epicurus was a very serious person and his work, now lost, may have been hard going. He was fortunate that Lucretius was later able to explain Epicureanism in an accessible way. His six volumes of poetry now rank as outstanding pieces of literature in Latin. You might have the greatest idea ever thought up, but …

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Epicureans were not popular with the establishment in ancient times

One of the main things that distinguished the Stoics from the Epicureans was that the Stoics embraced public service and politics with enthusiasm and the Epicureans certainly did not. The extrovert Stoics were out there socializing, networking, competing for honor and advancement on the one hand; the introvert and cerebral Epicureans, were content to be …

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Epicureans and free-riding

On a Yahoo discussion site I came across a contributor, claiming to be a follower of Epicurus, advocating the idea that Epicureans should “free-ride” on the hard work and success of the billionaires like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, who could afford to let Epicureans live a life of leisure, and suggesting that the poor …

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Montaigne: words from an Epicurean

“The main obstacles to happiness are, firstly, desire for recognition, rank, wealth, power and sex.  Second is fear of death.  Third is the fear of hell fire threatened by organised religion.”  Michel de Montaigne (1533—1592). Montaigne was a fascinating man.  He espoused most of the views of Epicurus and did not like organised religion, but …

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Opting out of public life

Epicurus was political insofar as he saw that it was in the best interest of society that people carry out agreements that promote fellowship and common sense cooperation. This implied a contractual form of government.  But Epicurus and his followers disapproved of advocacy for social change. They saw political struggle as creating unnecessary stress, and …

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What this blog is about

Websites about Epicureanism seem to proliferate, most of them saying the same  things, with little new.  The problem with Epicureanism in particular is that so many of the ancient writings were either lost or were deliberately destroyed by early Christians, but this does not deter people from regurgitating the fragments left ad nauseam.   But to …

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