Epicurus lived between 341 BC and 270 BC He agreed with other philosophers that happiness was our final human pursuit, but suggested something very different than what others had proposed in terms of how this might look in our taking of decisions and behaviors . Many philosophers of the time and later said that experiencing pleasure and happiness meant allowing yourself to indulge in things to excess. Instead, Epicurus, thought that pleasure can be found in the simplest things in life.
The lifestyle following Epicureanism
To experience tranquility, Epicurus suggested that we could seek knowledge of how the world works and limit our desires. For him, pleasure had to be obtained through such things as:
- Living a virtuous life
- Living a temperate life
- Moderation in all things
- Refrain from bodily desires
The term temperate, as in living a temperate life, means a mild or modest style. So while he suggested that we are motivated to seek pleasure, Epicurus had a very different idea of what that looked like in everyday life. He called it “serene hedonism.”
The term hedonism in philosophy refers to the notion that pleasure is humanity’s most important pursuit and the source of all that is good. People considered hedonists are those that make the work of his life experience maximum pleasure. Their decisions and behaviors are motivated by the desire to experience pleasure.
The secret to happiness
Epicurus had thoughts about pleasure, desires, lifestyle, and much more when it came to achieving happiness. There are three states that Epicurus considers to constitute happiness: tranquility, freedom from fear, and the absence of bodily pain.
This would be the combination of factors that would ultimately allow people to experience happiness at the highest level. Although it may seem impossible to achieve or sustain, there are people who follow Epicurean beliefs and seek to experience this level of happiness in their lives.
There is a factor that Epicurus suggested has the power to destroy pleasure, which is anxiety about our future. Although he suggested that this has more to do with not being afraid of gods or death, the idea that we would be afraid of anything in our future was seen as an obstacle to our experience of pleasure, tranquility, and happiness.
Pleasure and pain
Epicurus identified two types of pleasure (moving and static) and described two areas of pleasure and pain: physical and mental. Pleasure in motion refers to being actively in the process of satisfying a desire. An example of this could be eating food when you are hungry. At those times we are taking action toward our intended pleasure goal. The other type of pleasure , static pleasure, refers to the experience we have once our wish is fulfilled. To use the example of eating food when we are hungry, static pleasure would be what we feel once we eat. The satisfaction of feeling full, and no longer in need (hungry), would be a static pleasure.
Physical pleasures and pains had to do with the present. Mental pains and pleasures have to do with the past and the future. Examples of this could include positive memories of past events or experiences that bring us feelings of joy or pleasure or, conversely, unpleasant memories from our past that bring us pain. As we look to the future, we can feel hopeful or fearful, experiencing pleasure or pain for what is to come.
Other aspects to consider
Epicurus also took into account desires, which could be natural and necessary (for example food and shelter), not necessary (such as luxury goods), or empty and empty (such as wealth and fame). It is the basic and necessary ones that can help us find happiness.
Regarding friendship, Epicurus made clear its importance in people’s lives to find pleasure and happiness . He was betting on the feeling of security that friendships provide and that individualistic life is far from adequate to be happy.