Tag Archives: Epicurus

Aristotle was Right, Almost (Part 2)

Continuing from my last post, Aristotle offers a very unique road to happiness that could be considered part Epicureanism and part Stoicism.

Aristotle realizes that luck regarding one’s parents and society has a large impact on whether one attains happiness since proper preparation (including education) for life is so important.

Beyond preparation, Aristotle understands that one needs friends to find some meaning in life as well as the appreciation of others.  He understands the need for some wealth as well as pleasure in one’s daily life; after all, we all live in the real world and must satisfy certain human needs.  In addition, he values social skills enough to note that those with emotional anxieties and those that lack social skills may never find happiness.

Aristotle teaches that each individual is responsible for attaining the virtues, which are found through practice and through interactions with others.  The activities undertaken to secure the virtues are vitally important to finding happiness.  In a sense, Aristotle was very pragmatic.  He understands those needs necessary just to be able to begin to lead a virtuous life (the needs reflected in Maslow’s hierarchy) – a nurturing family and just society, friendships, wealth, and honor, but he is quick to note that an excess of any of these needs is harmful to one’s happiness.  He realizes that greed, gluttony, and arrogance are very harmful to finding happiness.

For Aristotle, living a life of virtuous activity (once the virtues are acquired) is happiness.  To Aristotle, happiness is not a state of mind as much as it is a way of life.

Thus, Aristotle reflects the teachings of Epicurus as well as the Stoics.  Aristotle’s teachings present the proper roads of the Journey as well as the Adventure.  Aristotle’s philosophy will get us from birth to the threshold of happiness.

More to come!

Aristotle was Right, Almost (Part 1)

Several posts ago I mentioned that the Epicurean philosophy explains very accurately the Journey segment of the road to happiness.  This philosophy centers on the removal of pain and anxiety in one’s daily life.  The Journey, if lived properly, does just what the Epicureans propose: removal of pain and anxiety in everyday life.  The Journey begins with preparation by one’s family and society (nurture, safety, eduction, food, shelter) followed by activities that lead to flow experiences.  These flow experiences help to distance oneself from the drudgery of everyday life by providing a sense of belonging and self-esteem.  These activities, along with the preparation, help to satisfy the first four needs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  However, this philosophy falls short in helping to satisfy the final need of Maslow – self-actualization (or the completion of one’s call or summons).

Several posts ago I also mentioned that the Stoic philosophy explains very accurately the Adventure segment of the road to happiness.  This philosophy centers on the exercise of the virtues as necessary and sufficient for attaining happiness.  The virtues (specifically wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice) aid in satisfying Maslow’s self-actualization need of recognizing one’s call, the courage to accept the call, the tools to resist the many temptations that will be encountered, and the willingness to provide one’s gifts (or calling) to others.  This philosophy helps to satisfy the final need of Maslow’s hierarchy; however, it does little to explain how to satisfy the first four needs.  In other words, the Stoic philosophy does little to explain the Journey and how you acquire the virtues needed for the Adventure.

One philosopher manages to recognize the necessity of both the Journey and the Adventure – Aristotle.  His thinking spans both the Epicurean and Stoic philosophies without diminishing the benefits of each.

More to come!

 

The Journey – Artists and Philosophers (Part 2)

So Epicurus was right – up to a point.  His philosophy gets us to the “good life,” which is not a bad place to be.  Family, community, and the undertaking of “involvement” and “exposure” activities to achieve flow experiences, will alleviate the pain and anxiety of the everyday world.  The four painters mentioned earlier, Epicurus, and Maslow, are in agreement regarding how best to satisfy the first four Maslow needs.  However, there is still a fifth Maslow need, and a further segment of the road to happiness – the Adventure.

Epicurus does not recognize this fifth Maslow need – self-actualization, nor does he recognize the Adventure.

However, another philosophical school does recognize the adventure – The Stoics.

We now turn to this school to understand the Adventure with a series of three painters.

The Journey – Artists and Philosophers (Part 1)

Let me summarize the previous four posts:

1) Van Gogh – First Maslow need satisfied with food and warmth provided by family.

2) Brueghel the Elder – Second Maslow need satisfied with safety provided by community.

3) Renoir – Third Maslow need satisfied with a sense of belonging and flow experiences achieved with friends.

4) Rembrandt – Forth Maslow need satisfied with a sense of self-esteem and further flow experiences expressed by family and friends.

These four paintings, all with the dining table as the center of action, depict the satisfaction of the first four needs of Maslow.  But what do the philosopher say?

In my previous posts I mentioned the Epicurus was right up to a point.

Epicurus agreed with the other ancient philosophers that the aim of life is happiness; however, he defined happiness as tranquility and freedom from pain and anxiety – the “good life.” In psychological terms, the Epicurean state of happiness is the satisfaction of Maslow’s first four needs of his hierarchy (achieved through a loving family, just society, and flow experiences).  Remember, it is the flow experiences that distance oneself from the worries of the everyday world; however, you can’t approach these experiences without first having satisfied the basic needs of food and safety.

The above paragraph is very remarkable: 1) we have a great philosopher, Epicurus, whose philosophy closely matches that of modern psychology regarding the necessity of a loving family, a just society, and flow experiences to lead one to a state free of pain and anxiety, 2) the same philosophy matching the first four of five levels of needs satisfaction of modern psychology driving human behavior, and 3) that a life free from pain and anxiety is one that avoids excessive greed, fame, and power, those things that will never lead to tranquility and happiness.

In summary, we can go so far as to say that the end of the Journey, the “good life,” is the aim of Epicureanism. Or, to put it another way, the Journey segment of the road to happiness is philosophically one of Epicureanism. It is the best approach ethically for completing the Journey. Seek out flow experiences and you will have friendships, family love, financial comfort, and a sense of self-esteem. Not a bad life, in fact, a “good life.” But, not happiness. You also need the Adventure!

Epicurus was Right, Partially (Part 3)

I finished my last post with the following:

Epicurus agreed with the other ancient philosophers that the aim of life is happiness; however, he defined happiness as tranquility and freedom from pain and anxiety – the “good life.”  To Epicurus, the freedom from pain and anxiety of the “good life” is a state free of any further needs or desires, and as such, happiness. In psychological terms, the Epicurean state of happiness is the satisfaction of Maslow’s first four needs of his hierarchy (achieved through a loving family, just society, and flow experiences).

The above paragraph is very remarkable: 1) we have a great philosopher, Epicurus, whose philosophy closely matches that of modern psychology regarding the necessity of a loving family, a just society, and flow experiences to lead one to a state free of pain and anxiety, 2) the same philosophy matching the first four of five levels of needs satisfaction of modern psychology driving human behavior, and 3) that a life free from pain and anxiety is one that avoids excessive greed, fame, and power, those things that will never lead to tranquility and happiness.

In summary, we can go so far as to say that the end of the Journey, the “good life,” is the aim of Epicureanism.  Or, to put it another way, the Journey segment of the road to happiness is philosophically one of Epicureanism.  It is the best approach ethically for completing the Journey.  Seek out flow experiences and you will have friendships, family love, financial comfort, and a sense of self-esteem.  Not a bad life, in fact, a “good life.”  But, not happiness.  You also need the Adventure!

Epicurus was Right, Partially (Part 2)

In my previous post, I talked about the Journey segment of the road to happiness being from birth to the “good life.”  Reaching the “good life” entails satisfying the first four of Maslow’s needs: Physiological Need, Safety Need, Belongingness Need, and Self-Esteem Need.  Ave these first four needs satisfied means that one has a life of friends, family love, financial comfort, and self-esteem or the appreciation of others.  This is the “good life.”

This is also the aim of life as expressed by Epicurus.  He believed that the aim of life is happiness and that happiness is a life free of pain and anxiety in which one can live a moderate or simple life with friends and loved ones in financial comfort enjoying the pleasures of such a life.  Excess desires much be avoided.  Epicurus believed that the desire for great wealth, fame, and power are empty desires and the main sources of pain and anxiety in civilized life. Thus, maximizing flow experiences (discussed in my previous post), which contribute to friendships, financial comfort, and self-esteem and recognition, all leading to tranquility, is the foundation of Epicurean happiness.

In summary: Epicurus agreed with the other ancient philosophers that the aim of life is happiness; however, he defined happiness as tranquility and freedom from pain and anxiety – the “good life.” To Epicurus, the freedom from pain and anxiety of the “good life” is a state free of any further needs or desires, and as such, happiness. In psychological terms, the Epicurean state of happiness is the satisfaction of Maslow’s first four needs of his hierarchy (achieved through a loving family, just society, and flow experiences).

The conclusion in my next post!

 

Epicurus was Right, Partially (Part 1)

I would like to talk about Epicurus and his impact on finding our road to happiness.

In my book, and throughout this website, I have talked about how the road to happiness is divided into the Journey and the Adventure.  Let me focus now on the Journey.

The Journey is that segment of life from birth up to and including the “good life.”  This segment stats with nurturing by one’s family, safety proved by a just society, and engagement in activities, initiated by the individual.  These activities lead to friendships, familial love, and a sense of belongingness with co-workers, neighbors, and those around us.  These same activities can lead to financial comfort and a sense of self-esteem and appreciation by our peers.

The catalyst needed for individuals to search for activities to join and participate in is the need for flow.  Flow experiences are those activities that distance ourselves from the worries of the everyday world.  These can include: reading, sports, simple conversation, the arts, volunteering, our jobs, creative endeavors, and leadership positions.

The need for flow experiences and their resulting satisfaction of our desire for belongingness, financial comfort, and self-esteem are well-respected scientific fact.  The nurturing provided by our families and the safety (including education) provided by a just society prepare us for the activities that we will need to satisfy our internal desire for flow experiences.

In addition, the great religions also recognize that we are all subject to the realities of the world around us: each of us needs help from our families and the community around us to be prepared to undertake those activities that will satisfy our need for friendships, familial love, and self-esteem.

Those of us that are fortunate to have the proper upbringing and just society allowing for the pursuit of activities that lead to friendships, financial comfort, and self-esteem or the appreciation of others, will attain the “good life.”  This is the end of the Journey segment of the road to happiness.

So what about Epicurus?  What does he have to say?  Stay tuned for the next post!