Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of Epicurus (c. 340 — c. 270 BC), founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, (following the atomic theories of Democritus). His materialism led him to a sceptical view of superstition and disbelief in divine intervention. (He accepted the possibility that Gods might exist, but didn’t see any evidence that they interfered.)
Epicurus believed that the greatest good was to seek modest pleasures in order to attain a state of tranquility and freedom from fear (ataraxia) as well as absence of bodily pain (aponia) through knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of our desires. The combination of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest form.
Although Epicureanism was classified by the philosophers as a form of Hedonism — insofar as it declares pleasure as the sole intrinsic good — its conception of absence of pain as the greatest pleasure and its advocacy of a simple life make it quite different from “hedonism” as it is commonly understood today.
For Epicurus, the highest pleasure (tranquility and freedom from fear) was obtained by knowledge, friendship, and living a virtuous and temperate life. He lauded the enjoyment of simple pleasures and condemned excess in all appetites.
- 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.
- The blessed and immortal is himself free from trouble nor does he cause trouble for anyone else; therefore he is not constrained either by anger or favour.
- Death, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come; and, when death is come, we are not.