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EPICURUS | The Philosophy Of Pleasure

EPICURUS | The Philosophy Of Pleasure


Pleasure is the first good. It is the beginning of every choice and every
aversion. It is the absence of pain in the body and
of troubles in the soul. Epicurus In the third century BC on the Greek island
of Samos, a man was born that would become the founder of one of the four main philosophical
schools of late antiquity. His name was Epicurus and he spent his life
studying what makes people happy and how to attain this. According to Epicurus, happiness is the main
goal in life. We can achieve this by pursuing pleasure and
avoiding pain, but also by taming our desires and enjoying the small things. Aside from a collection of fragments, the
majority of Epicurus’ works are lost. Fortunately, we can find many of his quotes
and ideas in the works of other authors, like Stobaeus, Philodemus, and Cicero. The reason why Epicurus focused on happiness
rather than virtue, is because he observed that humans are pleasure-seeking beings by
nature. Looking at small children we can see that
they’re always aimed at seeking pleasure for themselves. When they grow up, this pleasure-seeking often
becomes a bit more refined. We learn, for example, that it’s sometimes
necessary to undergo pain in order to gain pleasure. And even engaging in activities that may seem
altruistic is, ultimately, a way to gain pleasure; be it in the form of status, acceptance or
creating a better community from which we all benefit. The pursuit of pleasure in the Epicurean sense
is often misunderstood. While some people think that Epicurus was
pointing to indulging the senses like eating luxurious foods, participating in orgies and
being drunk and high all day, this is not what he meant. He recognized that overindulgence may be pleasurable
for a short time, but in the long run, it only causes pain; in such amounts that it
overshadows the pleasure derived from the activity in the first place. A night of heavy drinking, for example, can
be very enjoyable. But the hangover that follows often leaves
us in regret and it isn’t uncommon that this experience makes people vow to never
drink again. So, this form of overindulgence completely
misses the mark and wouldn’t have been recommended by Epicurus. So, what did he recommend? Epicurus distinguished different kinds of
pleasures and desires. Therefore, he created a system that tells
us what pleasures we should and shouldn’t pursue. An essential part of this system is a hierarchy
of desires. These are natural and necessary desires, natural
and non-necessary desires and vain desires. Living in agreement with nature is the starting
point when it comes to attaining happiness, pointing to our own human nature as well as
the nature around us. Therefore, Epicurus discouraged the pursuit
of unnatural pleasures, while going for natural pleasures instead. When we look closer at these distinctions
we’ll find out that natural and necessary desires are easy to satisfy, thus, finding
happiness in life is actually pretty easy. Such desires are things like food and shelter. Generally, humans have easy access to these
things as they are basic needs. Another characteristic of these desires is
that they have a natural limit. For example: after eating a certain amount
of food we’re satisfied. From this mechanism, Epicurus distinguished
two types of pleasure: ‘moving pleasure’ and ‘static pleasure’. Moving pleasure is the actual act of eating,
for example, and static pleasure is the contentment we feel when we’re satisfied. Eating a nice meal can be immensely pleasurable,
but according to Epicurus, the absence of ‘needs’ or ‘wants’ after one’s desires
have been satisfied is even better. That’s why he saw static pleasures as the
best pleasures. Epicurus also emphasized the importance of
socializing, believing that friendship is one of the main ingredients for happiness,
as opposed to romantic and sexual relationships that often go hand in hand with unhappiness,
looking at the jealousy, possessiveness, and boredom that many couples experience. He practiced what he preached: he was celibate
and lived, together with his followers, in a place called the Garden of Epicurus, enjoying
the simplicity of bread, weak wine and an occasional pot of cheese. I should add, however, that in the current
individualistic societies, friendship seems to be a lot harder to find. Natural and non-necessary desires are a bit
harder to satisfy. Examples of this are luxurious food, an expensive
car, and recreational travel. Even though we need food; we don’t need
luxurious food. Generally, a Ferrari isn’t necessary to
go from point A to point B, and we don’t need to travel abroad to enjoy ourselves or
find relaxation. Also, if we crave for luxurious foods but
satisfy our hunger with a simple meal of water and bread, is there any difference afterward
when our cravings are gone? Most likely, the contentment we feel, that
comes from the eradication of desire, is the same. Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote several passages
on Epicurus, often quoting him to support his own pleas. Epicurus recognized that our sense of poverty
and wealth depends on how we define it, as told by Seneca and I quote: “There is also this saying of Epicurus:
“If you shape your life according to nature, you will never be poor; if you do so according
to opinion, you will never be rich.” For nature’s wants are small; the demands
of opinion are boundless.” End quote. This brings us to the last type of desires:
the vain desires. Power, fame and extreme material and financial
wealth are difficult to obtain and also impossible to fully satisfy. As opposed to natural desires, vain desires
don’t have a natural limit. This means that even though we may have an
extraordinary amount of power; it will never be enough, we always want more and we make
huge sacrifices (including the murdering of fellow humans) to attain it. Epicurus saw these desires as unnatural and,
thus, based on opinion. In other words: they are what society makes
us think that we need. Especially in today’s society, we’re told
that we’re losers when we don’t make a certain amount of money, and the younger generations
grow up with the idea that pursuing status, fame, and riches is what life’s all about. This means that we’re conditioned to spend
our time and energy chasing something that’s not only unnatural but also doesn’t fulfill
us. I quote: “We call ‘vain pursuits’ the types of
life that do not tend towards happiness.” End quote. Furthermore, by slaving away on the plantation
of societal expectations, chasing what never satisfies, we close ourselves off from all
the enjoyment that is within our reach. Epicurus probably wouldn’t have been surprised
why the sales of antidepressants are skyrocketing these days: we simply don’t allow ourselves
to be happy. Epicurus believed that the happy life equals
an absence of anxiety and suffering. This isn’t just the pain that comes with
the constant wanting and craving for more, but also by the fear of death and God. Epicurus viewed these fears as irrational
and delivered rational explanations to explain his point. Firstly, the fear of God, which he explains
by proposing a thesis that stands strong among atheists to this day. I quote: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not
able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” End quote. Epicurus believed that there’s no afterlife,
no heaven or hell and that our universe consists of atoms and void. Because there’s is no punishment or reward
after we die, it’s kind of pointless to live well in this life, for the sole purpose
of enjoying the next. Secondly, there’s the fear of death. According to Epicurus, death means annihilation. It does not affect the living, otherwise,
they wouldn’t be alive. And when someone is dead; how can death affect
this person? When the body and the consciousness are gone;
how is it possible to be harmed? Or, from the standpoint of heaven and hell:
how is it possible to punish what isn’t there? Therefore, Epicurus argued that death isn’t
bad for neither the living nor the dead. So, we shouldn’t let the fear of death spoil
the possibility to be happy. It’s this life, today, that counts. Moreover, it’s important to remind ourselves
of the shortness of life and to realize that we might be missing out on pleasure. I quote: “We are born once and there can be no second
birth. For all eternity we shall no longer be. But you, although you are not master of tomorrow,
are postponing your happiness. We waste away our lives in delaying, and each
of us dies without having enjoyed leisure.” End quote. To wrap it up: Epicurus created a rational philosophy of
pleasure, that is strikingly ascetic, opposing to popular belief. Instead of the blatant consumerism of today,
he encourages us to be happy with little. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy
unnecessary pleasures from time to time. Even though Epicurus lived on water, bread,
and olives most of the time; occasionally he deeply enjoyed a slice of cheese. Of course, we all know that the more simple
we live, the more we enjoy luxury when we encounter it. The philosophy of Epicurus is quite compatible
with atheism, stating that the fear of God is pointless and that we shouldn’t worry
about death either. A Stoic would say that we must remember death
because the time to live virtuously is limited but an Epicurean would say that we shouldn’t
waste time and opportunities on vain pleasures and irrational fears so we can be happy. Living in current consumerist societies, we
might want to ask ourselves the following question: why suffer by the constant chase
of money, fame, and power, when living happily and content is so easily accessible? Thank you for watching.

36 comments on “EPICURUS | The Philosophy Of Pleasure

  1. I liked a lot of this video even that I dont agree with the atheist part 🙂. And saying this I'm not saying that religion is an answer but more like a kind of deism is the answer. Even you to explain this subject used part if theories like hermitism when you talk about god and let's know with questions that God inst a definition of good but part of something bigger. 👈🤗

  2. Νο no wonder the christians marked the ancient greeks as pagans and their various philosophies as heresy. Im willing to be that most of ancient work was burned in central square.

  3. We are taught to seek hedonistic pleasure and totally lose the true self in that search.
    No amount of external validation can fill the void of unfulfilment, only introspection can. Only by knowing can pleasure be joyful.

  4. Amazing video! It made me really think deeply about death. Thank you for an amazing video, man! You are always working hard on your videos and they are always of high quality. Keep it up 💪

  5. Na replace happines with satisfaction. Satisfaction is the aim.

    Edit: Nevermind. You explained happines at the end.

    Towards the end of the video you mentioned something like " There is no punishment or reward when we die" and " How is it possible to punish when it isnt there?".
    The conclusion would be: Punishment and reward occurs only while being alive.
    Few question arises: What are warlords and rulers doing? Is war and murder a necessary punishment on people? My mind is boggling me.

    Edit 2: Nevermind again. Immediately you said "Death is not bad. Neither for the living or the dead."

  6. I wouldn't buy a Ferrari just because it is a so called status symbol but because I want to rap it out on the highways… and enjoy the driving experience…😂and as Jordan Maxwell says if we are spirits..how can you burn and torture a spirit in the afterlife hell…if there is one.

  7. Wrong wrong wrong.. there is external pleasure. And pleasure you can generate from within. If you can act happy and generate happiness from within chasing external pleasure is a meaningless waste of time. As we cant control exernal factors. This whole video needs to be redone.

  8. Yes, so if tonados come somebody have to help me. If they die too then absolutely some others will have to help me. So I simply be happy for me and who care about those on the other side of the earth.

  9. I thought epicurean are pleasure seeking individuals while Stoics are pleasures shunning individual, however today i found out the true meaning of epicureanism. I have been prositalised to an epicurean

  10. I stay with the stoicism philosophy.. This one might make us live even more indifferent but If Epicurus denied a creator that doesn't make sense to me, life doesn't make sense without a creator, someone made atoms and void too. Trying to understand how God behaves it's impossible for us and maybe, after we die we're going to find out who is God, what is sin and what did really matter in this life for him but late for our knowledge. I don't believe in any God from any religion because they just make their own God and change some things from religion to religion, but I do believe in one creator, just that I don't know nothing about it. Also, people can't deny afterlife without die first. Maybe there is an afterlife that we can't detect on this state and death is the only gateway to discover.

  11. I'm a millennial. Before I learned about stoicism, my days are in constant worry and anxiety. I worry about what people thinks: my future: money. As a millennial, I got use to get what I want instantly like food and entertainment but those pleasures are only temporary self satisfaction which does not help me in the long run. After learning about stoicism, the darkness that is slowly eating me up suddenly cleared up and light showed up. Why do I need to worry about what people think: my future: money when I can focus what I can do right now at the present moment that I am in control. NOW

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