The pursuit of happiness is a lifelong process. Following the Epicurean philosophy for happiness can help you seek comfort, pleasure, and happiness in the simplest of ways.
Most people find happiness by earning money, eating good food, or spending time with friends. However, most of us don’t have any clear idea about what will actually make us happy. The Epicurean philosophy can help us understand what makes us happy and what we can do to experience happiness and pleasure in life.
Epicurus of Samos is an ancient Greek philosopher who lived from 341-270 BCE. He was a sage who established Epicureanism, a school of philosophy known in Athens known as “the Garden.” According to Britannica, Epicureanism “means devotion to pleasure, comfort, and high living, with a certain nicety of style.”
Epicurus had his own unique beliefs and philosophy about the notion of happiness. He believed that the supreme human pursuit is happiness and it greatly influences our behavior and decisions. Unlike other philosophers who claimed that happiness and pleasure can only be attained through indulgence and excess, Epicurus believed happiness can be actually derived from the simplest of things.
“According to Epicurus, reason teaches that pleasure is good and pain bad, and that pleasure and pain are the ultimate measures of good and bad,” explains psychiatrist, philosopher, and writer Neel Burton, M.D. He adds “Epicurus agrees with Aristotle that happiness is an end-in-itself and the highest good of human living. However, he identifies happiness with the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain rather than with the pure exercise of reason.”
The Epicurean philosophy
According to Epicurus, the things we run after on a daily basis are very different from the things that actually make us happy. His philosophy shows that looking for pleasures to experience tranquillity, ataraxia (freedom from fear) and aponia (absence from bodily pain) is the “greatest good.” It is believed that a combination of all of these can lead to happiness.
Many philosophers believe that Epicureanism is basically a variation of Hedonism even though it is conceptually very different. The Epicurean philosophy for happiness focuses on the absence of pain as the path towards happiness and advocates living a simple life. “To experience tranquility, Epicurus suggested that we could seek knowledge of how the world works and limit our desires,” explains professional counselor and mental health experts Jodi Clarke, LPC/MHSP.
The Greek philosopher Epicurus believed that true happiness and pleasure can only be experienced through:
- A temperate life
- A virtuous life
- Abstinence from bodily desires
Living a temperate life refers to having self-restraint and taking steps to enjoy a modest and mild life. Although our goal is to seek pleasure and happiness, Epicurus believed that indulgence was not the way to attain happiness.
In fact, studies have found that mild Epicureanism can actually help us develop a therapeutic attitude. A 2008 study by Carlo Strenger at the Department of Psychology, Tel Aviv University, found that “Mild Epicureanism means to soften attachments to all belief systems, even therapeutic theories, to lower their potential inhibition of personal growth.” The research paper concluded that “mild Epicureanism is consistent with most therapeutic approaches, and allows addressing clients’ belief without interfering with their right to make up their own minds.”
Factors for happiness
According to Epicurean philosophy, there are 3 basic states which lead to happiness. These are:
- Freedom from fear (ataraxia)
- Absence of bodily pain (aponia)
Jodi Clarke, MA, LPC/MHSP writes “It is this combination of factors that would, ultimately, allow people to experience happiness at the highest level.” Even though following the epicurean way for happiness may appear difficult to accomplish or sustain, numerous individuals across the world follow the Epicurean philosophy and enjoy this type of happiness.