Epicurus is a founder of a philosophical thought known as Epicureanism. The need of human beings to live a happy and tranquil life was the reason as to way Epicurus was able to develop his philosophies. According to Epicurus, for people to live a happy life, they must be free from fear, and must not experience any aspects of pain. According to him, evil brings out pain, while good brings out pleasure (Keefe, 2010). Epicurus further denotes that death signifies the end of an individual’s soul and body, and therefore there is no need of fearing it. He further goes on to state that, there is no life after death, and the gods cannot punish human beings after they are dead.
This is because the universe is eternal, infinite, and is composed of atoms which move freely around the empty place. This paper analyzes the teachings of Epicurus, by looking at his concept of ataraxia (Keefe, 2010). This paper identifies how Epicurus defines pleasure, and happiness in a person. On this basis, this paper expands Epicurus explanation of happiness. It explains in detail how pleasure comes out as a result of doing good, and pain as a result of doing evil. This paper further identifies specific desires that human beings have, and the view of Epicurus concerning these desires. It also identifies the virtues that Epicurus thought an individual needs in order to live a good life, and his religious views. This paper has a conclusion which is a summary of the major points found in the text.
Pleasure and Happiness:
Epicurus denotes that happiness is the supreme good and it comes as a result of maximizing all aspects of pleasure. Epicurus further goes on to identify two types of pleasures; namely dynamic and static pleasures. Dynamic pleasure comes from the food that people eat and drink. Static pleasure comes as a result of having a stable mental, physical and emotional stability. According to Epicurus, pleasure comes as a result of eliminating all the needs and wants of an individual.
At this stage, there is no pain, or frustration that an individual suffers from. Epicurus further denotes that in order to identify the differences between good and evil, it is important to look if pain and pleasure exists (Keefe, 2010). Pain exists if there is fear of uncertainty, or retribution from spiritual beings and people. Death is uncertain to many people. On this note, Epicurus teaches that pleasure comes as a result of freedom from the fear of death.
On this basis therefore, a person becomes happy, because he does not suffer any pain, and is in a state of ataraxia. According to Epicurus, this is the only form of true happiness. When a person is at the state of ataraxia, he or she does not fear death, or punishment from spiritual beings. At this state, an individual does not concern himself with disruptive politics, or dishonest people. The person surrounds himself with trustworthy friends, and he or she is affectionate, and a virtuous person.
Epicurus further goes on to state that when an individual is at the state of ataraxia, then he does not overindulge in any affairs of mankind that includes love, wine, and religion (Keefe, 2010). If a person does this, then he or she will suffer pain. Epicurus further goes on to explain that there exist mental and physical pains and pleasures. The mental aspect of pain and pleasure arises when an individual ponders over the past and the future. For instance, when a person regrets of his past mistakes, and is not sure of what will happen in the future, then he or she suffers mental pain. On the other hand, physical pain occurs only in the present. For instance, lack of food or water.
The Desires of mankind and Epicurus view on how to live a pleasant life:
In his letter to Menoeceus, Epicurus identifies three types of desires. They are (Keefe, 2010);
Necessary and natural desires.
Natural and unnecessary desires.
Unnecessary and unnatural desires.
Epicurus denotes that mankind must satisfy natural and necessary desires, failure to do so will amount to pain on an individual (Keefe, 2010). These desires include the need for health, shelter, food and security. Epicurus denotes that eliminating these desires is impossible, because they are necessary to sustain life. And according to his opinion, happiness starts by satisfying these necessary and natural desires. On unnecessary and natural desires, Epicurus identifies desires such as luxurious foods, expensive clothes, or even good houses.
According to Epicurus, man does not need a luxurious food to survive; he only needs food (Keefe, 2010). He denotes that depending on such kind of items for survival is a sure way of achieving pain, leading to unhappiness. In his own opinion, Epicurus denotes that if a person can afford to have these substances, then it is good to enjoy them. But to guard against pain, he must not rely on these luxurious items for survival. Unnecessary and unnatural desires refer to the desire to accumulate too much wealth, power, fame and other trappings of prestige and status.
According to Epicurus, an individual does not gain any satisfaction by fulfilling these desires (Keefe, 2010). For example, when he acquires power, the same individual will want to gain more power. This to him is unacceptable, because it will eventually lead to unhappiness. On this note therefore, for an individual to achieve a status of happiness, he must eliminate these desires. By doing this, he will achieve a sense of mental stability which is a key element an individual needs to achieve pleasure, and hence happiness.
Epicurus religious views:
In his letter to Menoeceus, Epicurus denotes that the universe consists of space and matter, and is divisible into atoms. According to him, the universe is eternal, and it is impossible to destroy or create it. On this basis therefore, Epicurus beliefs that there was no creation and nature does not have any purpose. Basing on this background therefore, Epicurus denotes that there is no life after death, and an individual’s soul and body is composed of atoms. On this note, when a person dies, his or her body disintegrates, thus there is no punishment or reward after death. On this note, people should not fear of the uncertainties of the afterlife, because there is none. According to him, gods were there, but they were also made of atoms. They lived in a vacuum, free of contact with humans. In his own opinion, the gods were happy with their lives, and there was no need of appeasing them through prayers, and sacrifices. To him, religion was a means of instilling fear amongst people, leading to pain, and unhappiness (Keefe, 2010). On this basis, it is important to avoid religion in order to lead a happy and pleasurable life.
In conclusion, it is correct to denote that reducing the desires of an individual is the only way of achieving pleasure, and happiness. This is because; the pursuit of an individual’s desire can cause pain, and especially if the desire is unnecessary, and unnatural. For instance the pursuit of power, will lead to emergence of sycophants. These people will mislead the leader, and this might cause pain to him. Pursuit of more wealth will attract thieves and burglars, and might result to the death of the rich person, or unstable mental condition arising from constant worries on how to protect their wealth. On this basis therefore, an individual’s way of life is to seek pleasure, happiness and peace of the mind. To Epicurus, the greatest pleasure that man should seek is that of friendship, mind and contentment.