Epicureanism as a Way of Life

Those who know me know that I have long been intrigued by the Hellenistic philosophies of Stoicism and Epicureanism.  In the last two years I have been drawn away from Stoicism and have developed a deep attachment to the teachings of Epicurus.

I’ve always enjoyed the way that the Buddhists numbered everything…the three practices, the four noble truths, the eightfold path, etc…

In my notebook I’ve been attempting to do something similar for Epicureanism.  Since it has been so long since I posted anything here, I thought I would share them.

(keep in mind that I invented none of these, I simply drew them from disparate sources, I would have kept source links had I known that I would share them)

Ten Epicurean Values

1-5 have to do with ourselves)

1) Prudence
2) Self-management
3) Self-sufficiency
4) Serenity
5) Simplicity

6-10 have to do with our relationship with others)

6) Friendliness
7) Honesty
8) Generosity
9) Cheerfulness
10) Gentleness

Eight Epicurean Counsels

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.

The Epicurean Paradox

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Four Part Cure

Don’t fear god,
Don’t worry about death;
What is good is easy to get, and
What is terrible is easy to endure.

Types of Desires

  1.  Natural and necessary (always OK)
  2. Natural but unnecessary (OK if no greater harm is caused)
  3. Unnatural and unnecessary (Never OK)

 The Three Goods

  1. Friendship
  2. Analysed Life
  3. Autarchy

Principal Doctrines

1A blessed and eternal being has no trouble itself and brings no trouble upon any other being; hence it is exempt from movements of anger and favour, for every such movement implies weakness.

2Death is nothing to us; for the body, when it has been resolved into its elements, has no feeling, and that which has no feeling is nothing to us.

3The magnitude of pleasures is limited by the removal of all pain. Wherever there is pleasure, so long as it is present, there is no pain either of body or of mind or both.

4Continuous pain does not last long in the flesh, and pain, if extreme, is present a very short time, and even that degree of pain which barely outweighs pleasure in the flesh does not occur for many days together. Illnesses of long duration even permit of an excess of pleasure over pain in the flesh.

5It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance, the man does not live wisely, though he lives well and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life.

6As far as concerns protection from other men, any means of procuring this was a natural good.

7Some men sought to become famous and renowned, thinking that thus they would make themselves secure against their fellow-men. If, then, the life of such persons really was secure, they attained natural good; if, however, it was insecure, they have not attained the end which by nature’s own promptings they originally sought.

8No pleasure is in itself evil, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail annoyances many times greater than the pleasures themselves.

9If all pleasure had been capable of accumulation, if this had gone on not only in time, but all over the frame or, at any rate, the principal parts of man’s nature, there would not have been any difference between one pleasure and another as, in fact, there now is.

10If the objects which are productive of pleasures to profligate persons really freed them from fears of the mind—the fears, I mean, inspired by celestial and atmospheric phenomena, the fear of death, the fear of pain—if, further, they taught them to limit their desires, we should not have any reason to censure such persons, for they would then be filled with pleasure to overflowing on all sides and would be exempt from all pain, whether of body or mind, that is, from all evil.

11If we had never been molested by alarms at celestial and atmospheric phenomena, nor by the misgiving that death somehow affects us, nor by neglect of the proper limits of pains and desires, we should have had no need to study natural science.

12It would be impossible to banish fear on matters of the highest importance if a man did not know the nature of the whole universe but lived in dread of what the legends tell us. Hence, without the study of nature there was no enjoyment of unmixed pleasures.

13There would be no advantage in providing security against our fellow-men so long as we were alarmed by occurrences over our heads or beneath the earth, or in general by whatever happens in the infinite void.

14When tolerable security against our fellow-men is attained, then on a basis of power arises most genuine bliss, to wit, the security of a private life withdrawn from the multitude.

15Nature’s wealth has its bounds and is easy to procure, but the wealth of vain fancies recedes to an infinite distance.

16Fortune but slightly crosses the wise man’s path; his greatest and highest interests are directed by reason throughout the course of life.

17The just man enjoys the greatest peace of mind, the unjust is full of the utmost disquietude.

18Pleasure in the flesh admits no increase when once the pain of want has been removed; after that it only admits of variation. The limit of pleasure in the mind is obtained by calculating the pleasures themselves and the contrary pains, which cause the mind the greatest alarms.

19Infinite time and finite time hold an equal amount of pleasure, if we measure the limits of that pleasure by reason.

20The flesh assumes the limits of pleasure to be infinite, and only infinite time would satisfy it. But the mind, grasping in thought what the end and limit of the flesh is, and banishing the terrors of futurity, procures a complete and perfect life and has no longer any need of infinite time. Nevertheless, it does not shun pleasure, and even in the hour of death, when ushered out of existence by circumstances, the mind does not fail to enjoy the best life.

21He who understands the limits of life knows how easy it is to procure enough to remove the pain of want and make the whole of life complete and perfect. Hence he has no longer any need of things which are not to be won save by conflict and struggle.

22We must take into account as the end all that really exists and all clear evidence of sense to which we refer our opinions; for otherwise everything will be full of uncertainty and confusion.

23If you fight against all your sensations you will have no standard to which to refer, and thus no means of judging even those sensations which you pronounce false.

24If you reject absolutely any single sensation without stopping to discriminate between that which is matter of opinion and awaits further confirmation and that which is already present, whether in sensation or in feeling or in any mental apprehension, you will throw into confusion even the rest of your sensations by your groundless belief, so as to reject the truth altogether. If you hastily affirm as true all that awaits confirmation in ideas based on opinion, as well as that which does not, you will not escape error, as you will be taking sides in every question involving truth and error.

25If you do not on every separate occasion refer each of your actions to the chief end of nature, but if instead of this in the act of choice or avoidance you swerve aside to some other end, your acts will not be consistent with your theories.

26Some desires lead to no pain when they remain ungratified. All such desires are unnecessary, and the longing is easily got rid of when the thing desired is difficult to procure or when the desires seem likely to produce harm.

27Of all the means which are procured by wisdom to insure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is the acquisition of friends.

28The same conviction, which inspires confidence that nothing we have to fear is eternal or even of long duration, also enables us to see that even in our limited life nothing enhances our security so much as friendship.

29Of our desires, some are natural and necessary; others are natural, but not necessary; others, again, are neither natural nor necessary, but are due to groundless opinion.

30Some natural desires, again, entail no pain when not gratified, though the objects are vehemently pursued. These desires also are due to groundless opinion, and when they are not got rid of, it is not because of their own nature, but because of the man’s groundless opinion.

31Natural justice is a contract of expediency, to prevent one man from harming or being harmed by another.

32Those animals which were incapable of making compacts with one another, to the end that they might neither inflict nor suffer harm, are without either justice or injustice. Similarly those tribes which either could not or would not form mutual covenants to the same end are in the like case.

33There never was an absolute justice, but only a convention made in mutual intercourse, in whatever region, from time to time, providing against the infliction or suffering of harm.

34Injustice is not in itself an evil, but only in its consequence, viz., the terror which is excited by apprehension that those appointed to punish such offences will discover the injustice.

35It is impossible for the man who secretly violates any article of the social compact to feel confident that he will remain undiscovered, even if he has already escaped ten thousand times; for until his death he is never sure he will not be detected.

36Taken generally, justice is the same for all, but in its application to particular cases of territory or the like, it varies under different circumstances.

37Whatever in conventional law is attested to be expedient in the needs arising out of mutual intercourse is by its nature just, whether the same for all or not, and in case any law is made and does not prove suitable to the expediency of mutual intercourse, then this is no longer just. And should the expediency which is expressed by the law vary and only for a time correspond with the notion of justice, nevertheless, for the time being, it was just, so long as we do not trouble ourselves about empty terms but look broadly at facts.

38Where without any change in circumstances the conventional laws when judged by their consequences were seen not to correspond with the notion of justice, such laws were not really just; but wherever the laws have ceased to be expedient in consequence of a change in circumstances, in that case the laws were for the time being just, when they were expedient for the mutual intercourse of the citizens, and ceased subsequently to be just when they ceased to be expedient.

39He who best insured safety from external foes made into one nation all the folk capable of uniting together, and those incapable of such union he assuredly did not treat as aliens; if there were any whom he could not even on such terms incorporate, he excluded them from intercourse whenever this suited with his own interests.

40Those who could best insure the confidence that they would be safe from their neighbours, being thus in possession of the surest guarantee, passed the most agreeable life in each other’s society, and their enjoyment of the fullest intimacy was such that, if one of them died before his time, the survivors did not lament his death as if it called for pity.

Vatican Sayings

1(PD 1)A blessed and indestructible being has no trouble himself and brings no trouble upon any other being; so he is free from anger and partiality, for all such things imply weakness.

2(PD 2)Death is nothing to us; for that which has been dissolved into its elements experiences no sensations, and that which has no sensation is nothing to us.

3(PD 4)Continuous bodily pain does not last long; instead, pain, if extreme, is present a very short time, and even that degree of pain which slightly exceeds bodily pleasure does not last for many days at once. Diseases of long duration allow an excess of bodily pleasure over pain.

4Every pain is easy to disregard; for that which is intense is of brief duration, and those bodily pains that last long are mild.

5(PD 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, though he lives honorably and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life.

6(PD 35)It is impossible for a man who secretly violates the terms of the agreement not to harm or be harmed to feel confident that he will remain undiscovered, even if he has already escaped ten thousand times; for until his death he is never sure that he will not be detected.

7For an aggressor to be undetected is difficult; and for him to be confident that his concealment will continue is impossible.

8(PD 15)The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.

9Necessity is an evil; but there is no necessity for continuing to live with necessity.

10Remember that you are mortal and have a limited time to live and have devoted yourself to discussions on nature for all time and eternity and have seen “things that are now and are to me come and have been.”

11Most men are insensible when they rest, and mad when they act.

12(PD 17) The just man is most free from disturbance, while the unjust is full of the utmost disturbance.

13(PD 37) Among the things held to be just by law, whatever is proved to be of advantage in men’s dealings has the stamp of justice, whether or not it be the same for all; but if a man makes a law and it does not prove to be mutually advantageous, then this is no longer just. And if what is mutually advantageous varies and only for a time corresponds to our concept of justice, nevertheless for that time it is just for those who do not trouble themselves about empty words, but look simply at the facts.

14We have been born once and cannot be born a second time; for all eternity we shall no longer exist. But you, although you are not in control of tomorrow, are postponing your happiness. Life is wasted by delaying, and each one of us dies without enjoying leisure.

15We place a high value on our characters as if they were our own possessions whether or not we are virtuous and praised by other men. So, too, we must regard the characters of those around us if they are our friends.

16No one chooses a thing seeing that it is evil; but being lured by it when it appears good in comparison to a greater evil, he is caught.

17We should not view the young man as happy, but rather the old man whose life has been fortunate. The young man at the height of his powers is often befuddled by chance and driven from his course; but the old man has dropped anchor in old age as in a harbor, since he secures in sure and thankful memory goods for which he was once scarcely confident of.

18If sight, association, and intercourse are removed, the passion of love is ended.

19He has become an old man on the day on which he forgot his past blessings.

20(PD 29) Of our desires some are natural and necessary, others are natural but not necessary; and others are neither natural nor necessary, but are due to groundless opinion.

21We must not force Nature but persuade her. We shall persuade her if we satisfy the necessary desires and also those bodily desires that do not harm us while sternly rejecting those that are harmful.

22(PD 19) Unlimited time and limited time afford an equal amount of pleasure, if we measure the limits of that pleasure by reason.

23Every friendship in itself is to be desired; but the initial cause of friendship is from its advantages.

24Dreams have neither a divine nature nor a prophetic power, but they are the result of images that impact on us.

25Poverty, if measured by the natural end, is great wealth; but wealth, if not limited, is great poverty.

26One must presume that long and short arguments contribute to the same end.

27The benefits of other activities come only to those who have already become, with great difficulty, complete masters of such pursuits, but in the study of philosophy pleasure accompanies growing knowledge; for pleasure does not follow learning; rather, learning and pleasure advance side by side.

28Those who are overly eager to make friends are not to be approved; nor yet should you approve those who avoid friendship, for risks must be run for its sake.

29To speak frankly as I study nature I would prefer to speak in oracles that which is of advantage to all men even though it be understood by none, rather than to conform to popular opinion and thus gain the constant praise that comes from the many.

30Some men spend their whole life furnishing for themselves the things proper to life without realizing that at our birth each of us was poured a mortal brew to drink.

31It is possible to provide security against other things, but as far as death is concerned, we men all live in a city without walls.

32The honor paid to a wise man is itself a great good for those who honor him.

33The cry of the flesh is not to be hungry, thirsty, or cold; for he who is free of these and is confident of remain so might vie even with Zeus for happiness.

34We do not so much need the assistance of our friends as we do the confidence of their assistance in need.

35Don’t spoil what you have by desiring what you don’t have; but remember that what you now have was once among the things only hoped for.

36Epicurus’s life when compared to that of other men with respect to gentleness and self-sufficiency might be thought a mere legend.

37When confronted by evil nature is weak, but not when faced with good; for pleasures make it secure but pains ruin it.

38He is of very small account for whom there are many good reasons for ending his life.

39Neither he who is always seeking material aid from his friends nor he who never considers such aid is a true friend; for one engages in petty trade, taking a favor instead of gratitude, and the other deprives himself of hope for the future.

40He who asserts that everything happens by necessity can hardly find fault with one who denies that everything happens by necessity; by his own theory this very argument is voiced by necessity.

41At one and the same time we must philosophize, laugh, and manage our household and other business, while never ceasing to proclaim the words of true philosophy.

42The same time produces both the beginning of the greatest good and the dissolution of the evil.

43The love of money, if unjustly gained, is impious, and, if justly, shameful; for it is inappropriate to be miserly even with justice on one’s side.

44The wise man who has become accustomed to necessities knows better how to share with others than how to take from them, so great a treasure of self-sufficiency has he found.

45The 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.

46Let us completely rid ourselves of our bad habits as if they were evil men who have done us long and grievous harm.

47I have anticipated you, Fortune, and entrenched myself against all your secret attacks. And we will not give ourselves up as captives to you or to any other circumstance; but when it is time for us to go, spitting contempt on life and on those who here vainly cling to it, we will leave life crying aloud in a glorious triumph-song that we have lived well.

48While we are on the road, we must try to make what is before us better than what is past; when we come to the road’s end, we feel a smooth contentment.

49(PD 12) It is impossible for someone to dispel his fears about the most important matters if he doesn’t know the nature of the universe but still gives some credence to myths. So without the study of nature there is no enjoyment of pure pleasure.

50(PD 8) No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves.

51[addressing a young man] I understand from you that your natural disposition is too much inclined toward sexual passion. Follow your inclination as you will, provided only that you neither violate the laws, disturb well-established customs, harm any one of your neighbors, injure your own body, nor waste your possessions. That you be not checked by one or more of these provisos is impossible; for a man never gets any good from sexual passion, and he is fortunate if he does not receive harm.

52Friendship dances around the world bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness.

53We must envy no one; for the good do not deserve envy and as for the bad, the more they prosper, the more they ruin it for themselves.

54It is not the pretense but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the semblance of health but rather true health.

55We should find solace for misfortune in the happy memory of what has been and in the knowledge that what has been cannot be undone.

56–57The wise man feels no more pain when being tortured himself than when his friend tortured, and will die for him; for if he betrays his friend, his whole life will be confounded by distrust and completely upset.

58We must free ourselves from the prison of public education and politics.

59What cannot be satisfied is not a man’s stomach, as most men think, but rather the false opinion that the stomach requires unlimited filling.

60Every man passes out of life as if he had just been born.

61Most beautiful is the sight of those close to us, when our original contact makes us of one mind or produces a great incitement to this end.

62If the anger of parents against their children is justified, it is quite pointless for the children to resist it and to fail to ask forgiveness. If the anger is not justified but is unreasonable, it is folly for an irrational child to appeal to someone deaf to appeals and not to try to turn it aside in other directions by a display of good will.

63There is also a limit in simple living, and he who fails to understand this falls into an error as great as that of the man who gives way to extravagance.

64We should welcome praise from others if it comes unsought, but we should be concerned with healing ourselves.

65It is pointless for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.

66We show our feeling for our friends’ suffering, not with laments, but with thoughtful concern.

67Since the attainment of great wealth can scarcely be accomplished without slavery to crowds or to politicians, a free life cannot obtain much wealth; but such a life already possesses everything in unfailing supply. Should such a life happen to achieve great wealth, this too it can share so as to gain the good will of one’s neighbors.

68Nothing is enough to someone for whom what is enough is little.

69The thankless nature of the soul makes the creature endlessly greedy for variations in its lifestyle.

70Do nothing in your life that will cause you to fear if it is discovered by your neighbor.

71Question each of your desires: “What will happen to me if that which this desire seeks is achieved, and what if it is not?”

72(PD 13) There is no advantage to obtaining protection from other men so long as we are alarmed by events above or below the earth or in general by whatever happens in the boundless universe.

73That we have suffered certain bodily pains aids us in preventing others like them.

74In a philosophical dispute, he gains most who is defeated, since he learns the most.

75The saying, “look to the end of a long life,” shows small thanks for past good fortune.

76As you grow old you are such as I urge you to be, and you have recognized the difference between studying philosophy for yourself and studying it for Greece. I rejoice with you.

77Freedom is the greatest fruit of self-sufficiency.

78The noble man is chiefly concerned with wisdom and friendship; of these, the former is a mortal good, the latter an immortal one.

79He who is calm disturbs neither himself nor another.

80The first step towards salvation is to attend to one’s youth and guard against that which defiles everything through maddening desires.

81The soul neither rids itself of disturbance nor gains a worthwhile joy through the possession of greatest wealth, nor by the honor and admiration bestowed by the crowd, or through any of the other things sought by unlimited desire.


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