This blog is a means for me to document my thoughts regarding the teachings of the Ancient Greek Philosopher named Epicurus. I am admittedly new to his teachings, yet for the most part his ideology is consistent with views that I assumed some years ago regarding Nature and living beings. Although I do not concur with everything that Epicurus believed, I find myself in agreement with the better part of his teachings. Ironically, the subject matter which Epicurus taught which is regarded most controversial to other schools of thought, is the very topic with which he and I share common philosophical ground. As this topic is the very basis for his entire philosophy, it seems to me that it would be virtually impossible for one to be in any way indentified as an “Epicurean” without sharing this common view. Specifically, I refer to his teaching that “pleasure is the beginning and the goal of a happy life”.
This ideology is maligned by many as being selfish and self centered. I deny that the philosophy that “pleasure is the beginning and the goal of a happy life” is selfish in and of itself. And towards the end of explaining and demonstrating that such a philosophy is by no means “selfish” I will offer many a case and write many an article by way of this blog. In fairness to Epicurus, who is dead and gone and thus unable to speak for himself, I will utilize his own words as much as possible so as to more accurately present his actual thoughts on how this philosophy should be applied. Allowing Epicurus to speak for himself is a major goal of mine in this regard, for I am finding that there is a tendency among many of his critics to misrepresent his meaning on the matter by prosposing scenarios of possible social ills that his ideology might lend itself to, without consulting his various statements and writings for the clarifications manifested therein.
Now, as to the notion that such a philosophy is self centered, I concur completely. And I affirm such with no shame or regret. The fact is that every living being is indeed self centered in thought and action. Epicurus recognized that reality, offered nature as his case in point, then utilized that self evident reality as the basis for his entire philosophy. For the reality is that Nature herself confirms each and every moment of the day that “pleasure is the beginning and the goal of a happy life” by the actions of all living beings within. Does not a baby cry when hungry? And to what end? Does not a dog seek shade in the heat of a Summer day? And to what end? Does not the baby cry in order to seek comfort. Does not the dog seek shade for the same reason?
The fact is that all living beings are self centered BY NATURE, and thus to deny such or to act contrary to such is to defy Nature herself. In the words of Epicurus: “We must not resist nature but obey her”.
And so it is that Epicurus chose to accept the reality of what he observed in Nature, and to formulate an operative philosophy accordingly. In this regard, the strength and practicality of his ideology is that his is not an original doctrine. Rather, the fundamental basis for his philosopny is as old as Nature herself, authorized by Nature herself, and since it is so readily exemplified by the representative nature of all living beings; then his basic ideology IS Nature herself.
And so, with Nature as the basis for his ideology, Epicurus unhesitantly affirmed:
“We must, therefore, pursue the things that make for happiness, seeing that when happiness is present, we have everything, but when it is absent, we do everything to possess it”
And furthermore he encourages us to:
“refer every choice and avoidance to the health of the body or the calm of the soul, since this is the goal of a happy life”
Can any of us deny a natural tendency to seek comfort (“health of the body”) and peace of mind (“calm of the soul”)? Has not nature made ALL LIVING BEINGS this very way? This being the case, how then can anyone deny that we are by nature “self centered”?
There are many who stress virtue as the ultimate end and goal of our being. The schools of thought so inclined have oftentimes dismissed Epicureanism as being a stumbling block to that effort. Yet, I maintain, and intend to discuss by way of this blog, that virtue and our self centered nature are by no means exlusive of each other nor are they contradictory to each other. Rather, I sincerely believe that when we accept the reality of our self centered nature, and assess each and every choice that we make by seeking ultimate comfort and peace of mind as the end to each such decision that we make, that the consequential result is that we lead virtuous lives.
And thus an Epicurean is virtuous, not for the sake of virtue itself, but rather as a result of seeking comfort and peace of mind as the ultimate end of our existence.
These and similar topics will be the focus of this my blog, for I am an Epicurean thinker.