2008 Happiness in the Garden of Epicurus



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Epicurus was a philosopher who lived in Greece in the 3rd century B.C. Like his contemporaries, he was much concerned with the question of how to live a good life. In his view the Chief Good is to decrease pain and increase pleasure. Though Epicurus is reputed for advocating the pursuit of refined sensorial pleasures, he recognized the need for deferring gratification or enduring pain. He advised his followers to lead a modest and contemplative life in friendly communities. His advice can be characterized as ‘serene hedonism’. This paper explains that position and considers its applicability for the present day. It concludes that Epicureanism was quite accurate in describing the conditions of happiness and that he offered valuable guidelines in dealing with hardship and difficult emotional content. His ideas that happiness is the same as the absence of pain and that one should withdraw from society are less fortunate. It made him assume that happiness automatically follows if one is in the right state of mind, and that there is no need to actively seek interaction with the environment for the betterment of the circumstances of life. However, Epicurus’ advice might have been a good option for his contemporaries given the societal turmoil in his times.

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