Eight Epicurean counsels

Epicureanism was never meant to be a dry academic philosophy. In fact, it is best kept away from academia, where, as usual with philosophy, long words render it dull, if not incomprehensible. Rather, it is a vital way of living that seeks to free men and women from a life of unhappiness, fear and anxiety. It is a philosophy for the practical-minded with common sense. While Epicureans have written scholarly works, they have always been most interested in explaining Epicureanism in a manner simple enough for anyone to understand and remember:

1) Don’t fear God.
2) Don’t worry about death.
3) Don’t fear pain.
4) Live simply.
5) Pursue pleasure wisely.
6) Make friends and be a good friend.
7) Be honest in your business and private life.
8) Avoid fame and political ambition.

I would add: think of others; be polite and considerate; try to see the other point of view; meet others half way, if possible. Take the smooth and pleasant road, as free from stress and conflict as possible. But don’t be put upon!


  1. We always struggle with number 8 here on this blog. For a modern audience, I would interpret Epicurus’ teachings to mean that seeking office is bound to cause stress and anxiety, which Epicurus sought to avoid as the best way of living a moral life. Even if you believe you are doing a public service, holding power is bound to come at a considerable cost to your personal wellbeing. But I don’t believe for a moment that simply having an opinion on the issues of the day is un Epicurean.

  2. Of course, I agree with your interpretation. I still remember a Philosophy academic, some 15 years ago, taking me to task online in the course of answering a student, who had posed this question about Epicureanism and politics. He didn’t bother to debate the subject with me directly, but mentioned the blog and my name. His interpretation was literal, un-nuanced and lacking context. But because I still respect academia it put me on the back foot, feeling defensive. But I still feel, like you, thst I am right. Politics affects us all, one way or another. It is part of human life, and if we bury pur heads in the sand and have neither views on politics nor a habit of voting, thenour quality of life will be very poor. No, Epicureanshave to be involved and fight, as best we may, the illiberalism and downright corrupt movement towards unashamed oligarchy.

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