October 6, 2011
I can't say I know a lot about the man or his philosophy but what I do know of his ideas, they do seem to coincide in many ways with my ideas of what a life should be. The idea of the pursuit of pleasure as a cornerstone to his philosophy is in many ways counter intuitive. It has been misinterpreted over the centuries as simply the fulfilment of desire and as a consequence over indulgence, rather than as its rational mastery. Epicurus believed that the highest pleasure was freedom from suffering. It can be said, therefore, that adopting a quiet life and avoiding extreme temptations is one path to happiness. A new book written by Stephen Greenblatt entitled "The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began" attributes much to the philosophy of Epicurus. The book has been reviewed by Luke Slattery in not particularly favourable terms in the final edition of The Australian Literary Review (5 October 2011).
The idea that "the gods" do not control, nor are in any way interested in controlling, our lives - from this we can conclude that had he lived today he would happily embrace atheism.
It would seem that many of Epicurus' ideas could be beneficially adopted today. Perhaps sustainability is most important but also the idea that we should live our lives in a way that makes it legitimate for each of us to pursue happiness. That means that individuals need to respect others' rights, something that seldom occurs today.
There is an irony here in that the modern concept of an Epicurean is that of one devoted to the enjoyment of good food whereas Epicurus, whilst not rejecting the luxuries, was content with a simple fare of barley bread and water for his sustenance.
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