I looked for you happiness for the Stoics and the Epicureans

A centuries intervals, both Greek schools of philosophy seem to answer:

Epicurus to Stoics: « The wise […] makes fun of fate, some of which (the Stoics) are the absolute master of things. «  Epicurus, extracted from the Letter to Menoeceus.

Cicero the Epicureans: « Pleasure (Epicureans) to something odious, infamous »

I looked for you happiness the Stoics and the Epicureans

At first glance, one might nevertheless confuse the two philosophies as they have in common. They offer us indeed to happiness by ataraxia (no mind disorders), including renouncing our drive for power, fame or wealth. They also want universal, accepting the slave as notable. They claim all a return to nature, to simple things.

But the paths they took to achieve happiness are very different. This reflects a worldview of their own: if the Stoic believes in fate, the Epicurean deny totally. These two opposing views of the world will lead to happiness recipes that have nothing to do.

Happiness among the Epicureans

A bit of Epicurus can not hurt

A little history of Epicureanism

Like most ancient philosophies, Epicurean finds its deep roots in the Greek of the third century BC, in the Garden master Epicurus native of Athens and contemporary of the Stoic school. The Epicureanism mark the centuries, through the Roman Empire, with Lucretius , the author of De Rerum Natura (the nature of things).

Other common course have shaped Greece, and through it, our Western culture: we must and do not forget the Platonic Academy (student of Socrates) and the Lyceum of Aristotle, whose Christianity in particular will claim. His parents will clean up the ancient philosophies by removing traces of « incompatible », first and foremost, those of the epicurean. Do so today remain the master Epicurus only three letters, the famous letter to Menoeceus, which we read at the end of articles, excerpts.

Some Epicurean philosophism

The atomism

If founding father there was no doubt that it was Leucippus (fifth century BC), the inventor of atomism, the doctrine that the world consists of atoms (etymologically indivisible particles)! This vision seems natural today, but was, at the time of Leucippus , truly revolutionary! Leucippe anticipated and with over two millennia ahead:

  • the atom (discovered by Thompson in 1897);
  • the movement of these atoms (discovered by Brown in 1827, Einstein spoke of the movement « Brownian » in 1905);
  • the randomness of the motion of atoms (called Clinamen by Epicureans ), which allows the atoms to meet; this randomness was confirmed by quantum physics (from Max Planck around 1900), including Schrödinger whose equation that bears his name and which aims to describe the trajectory of an electron, called on probabilities and Heisenberg (uncertainty principle);
  • assembling atoms in complex structures (called « molecules » by Avogadro in 1811); the forces that allow atoms to assemble (electrochemical and nuclear) have also been highlighted in the twentieth century;
  • assembling molecules body more and more complex (e.g., DNA discovered in 1953 by James Watson and Francis Crick );
  • that the properties of material objects are related to the nature of the constituent atoms; in the nineteenth century, in fact, Maxwell put such evidence that magnetism is related to the nature of certain atoms.

An atomic philosophy

This physical was later adopted by Democritus and finally Epicurus . This original design of the world derives entirely Epicurean philosophy: if the random exists, then nothing is written in advance and destiny does not exist. That will oppose the two schools, the art Stoics are fiercely attached to fate: since nothing is written in advance, men can act on the world.

The gods are not denied. But they are pushed in back-worlds, far away from human concerns they could not care less. They are also materials (made of atoms). Exit therefore the fear of God, guilt and other devices which are widely used clergies worldwide to discipline the crowds.

the Tetrapharmakos

Atomism led Epicurus to offer the Trépharmakos (quad cure for the mind), a recipe for happiness by the serenity of the mind:

  • The gods are not to fear (because they are made of atoms, do not act on the world and have that make us other small humans);
  • Death is not to be feared (because when we are no longer there; Epicurus denied immortality);
  • One can achieve happiness (when we realized the first two points), thanks to a simple and frugal life by simply desires necessary and natural (eat, drink and sleep); Indeed, the race unnatural pleasures (eating Iphones for example) is endless; the acquisition of the Iphone (n) briefly calms the pain, but it is followed very quickly, as in an addict, for even greater suffering (when the Iphone (n + 1) is on the shelves). It is a perpetual lack a permanent dissatisfaction, exhausting spiral that prevents live. We must escape this addiction like the plague and settle for his garden.
  • We can remove pain (by Ataraxie).

Happiness the Stoics

Some Seneca also does good

That meet our Stoic friends?

A little history of Stoicism

The School of Athens, founded by Zeno (himself a pupil of Crates the Cynic) in the fourth century BC, had the directors Cleanthes and Chrysippus . From this ancient Stoicism remains no writing, apart from some elements reported by Cicero (first century) and Diogenes Laertius (third century), historian doxographe (who wrote the dogma). The posterior stoicism is more documented thanks to these masters were:

  • Epictetus (first century), a Greek slave author Interviews and Manual (etymologically: a book that fits in the hand (for self master of thought));
  • Seneca (first century), the tutor of Nero (the tyrannical emperor), which left many Letters to Lucilius . ;
  • and the emperor Marcus Aurelius (second century), author of Thoughts for myself.

As we see, the stoicism does not bother the social strata, since the masters alike are among slaves, as with the Emperors.

It is also seen Stoicism was born of cynicism whose life rule would respect nature: Crates took example on dogs (hence the cynical term); he washed and not making love in public, considering that this natural act had nothing shameful. Respect for nature is also a line of force of the Stoic philosophy.

A bit of Stoic philosophy

« The day the body has been dominated by pleasure, it will also be dominated by pain. » Seneca

The God of the Stoics

Contrary to the views of the Epicureans , the world, according to the Stoics , is completely determined; there is no chance, and nothing happens without reason (as, much later, in Descartes , Leibniz ( « nihil est sine ratione »), Voltaire and his God-watchmaker , Laplace or Einstein ( « God does not play dice « ) and Bogdanov brothers (the end of chance.) the cosmos is like a well oiled clock where each gear has a specific function and can not be inter-changed with another part of the clock. Everything is harmonious set, made necessary by a law of nature (or God) which sets, for example, the movement of the stars, but also the events of everyday life that are written in advance. God is both this fate, nature the universe or Jupiter. This is a pantheistic (God is everywhere), which will also be that of Spinoza.

God is impersonal (nothing to do so with the Christian God). It far exceeds men (both in space and time) for which it is inaccessible: science does not allow the man to see the beauty and harmony of the world; in any way she gives him access to God. Kurt Gödel the twentieth century show indeed that man can never know everything ( incompleteness theorem ).

The man has a divine plot

The man, however, this distinction of having a deity of land: judgment, which depends only on him and, as such, deserves the adjective « divine ». Homo is « sapiens » He knows that the world is governed by a superior force to the will’s control. It is all that is left to man the opportunity to see his impotence.

Must we give up? Should we go with the current of a raging river instead of struggling in vain to reach a bank? The Stoics offer the image of an animal attached to the wagon owner that leads to the slaughter or meadow: the animal has two choices:

  1. gently accompany the cart, in the joy and comfort of a calm pace;
  2. fight with all these forces, choked trying to spread back.

The Stoics assert the superiority of the first choice, since in both cases, the beast will follow the cart to its final destination; but in the first case, the trip will be without needless suffering.

« Do not try to make the events happen as you want, but wants the events as they arrive, and the course of your life will be happy.  » Epictetus

Descartes is somewhat stoic when it affirms: « Better to change his desires that the world order. » Discourse on Method

The secret of happiness Stoic : find and accept his place in the universe

In short, the good life is to identify the right options (those that avoid unnecessary suffering) and accept his fate (including illness or death) to avoid adding unnecessary pain. This conception of life already announced amor fati (love of his fate) Nietzsche. The only freedom we have is the value judgment.

« This is our obligation: support our mortal condition and not troubled by things that it is not our power to avoid. It’s a realm that we are born: obey God, that’s freedom.  » Seneca

To achieve happiness, you must:

  • first , know the nature to find its place ( « Know thyself! » Socrates );
  • Secondly accept this position, however painful it.

Unfortunately this is the only recipe at our disposal to achieve ataraxia (no disturbance of the mind). All that is excessive should be disposed of: fun, resulting in a real upheaval of the mind and consequently away from wisdom. We must prefer the joy, which is actually a well-controlled pleasure. Anything that does not depend on us must be accepted: colon cancer, taxes, the judgment of the boss, the death of a relative. It is no use rebelling against what concerns the destiny; Fight lead to add pain to pain and therefore to punish a second time.

Must therefore :

  • banish expectancy (source of pain and impotence);
  • not to regret the past (which brings us back to old injuries);
  • live here and now.

Of course, such principles can not be accepted by Christians who, unlike the Stoics are in:

  • the total expectation (a glorious life after death);
  • and thus in procrastination because the Christian rule his life according to the judgment which will take place tomorrow and loses his life to win his death.

Stoic death

The death is only a passage from one state to another: the question of a disciple « So I am gone? « Epictetus replies, » you no longer will be what you are, but another thing the Universe has just as much need. In this sense we are immortal.

Returning to the Epicureans

The Epicureans also see in happiness the ultimate goal of life. But it is not the same happiness. Unlike Seneca, Epictetus and Cicero others, they do not give pleasure; but it is a very specific definition of fun. Let us discard immediately misunderstanding

« So when we ensure that pleasure is the end of a happy life, we must not imagine that we hear about these sorts of pleasures that are in the enjoyment of love, or in luxury and excess of good food, as some ignorant people have insinuated, as well as the enemies of our sect, which have imposed on this material, malignant interpretation they gave our opinion. « Excerpt from the letter to Menoeceus where Epicurus seems to meet Cicero.

It is not the pleasures procured orgies in Roman or even gargantuan meal or wine would flow freely. It is not not more than a race to the satisfaction of desires and Epicurus would not have bought the latest cell fashionable (an unnecessary need). For this purchase equipment have calmed only for a moment his painful thirst for technology, quickly renewed when a new model is marketed. This infernal mechanism is endless and promises to its author eternal life of suffering. We must find another form of pleasure, stable, immobile.

And then, finally, he joined the Stoics:

An extract of the letter to Menoeceus (happiness as Epicurus)

Keep the pain and seek pleasure the repose of the soul

The health of the body, the tranquility of the soul, are the perfection of happy life. For all our acts are intended to spread fear and suffering. When we did it, the storm of the soul calms down, the man who no longer need to go to the things that it lacks, or look for something else to improve the welfare of the soul and body « .

Be satisfied with what one has

« So Meditate, dear Menoeceus and neglect nothing of all that can lead you to happiness; happy is he who has set in this quiet! he no longer wishes to do, since he is satisfied with what he has; and he could not even rise to the level of excellence it must make every effort to achieve it. [..] « Epicurus, extracted from the Letter to Menoeceus.

The pleasure as the goal of life

« Is it not true that the purpose of all our actions is to escape the pain and anxiety, and when we arrived at this term, so the mind is freed from all that could the keep in turmoil, the man believed to be the last period of his happiness, there is nothing more that can satisfy his mind and contribute to its health. The flight of pleasure gives birth pain, and pain raises pleasure; that is why we call this same pleasure the source and the end of a blessed life, because it is the first that nature inspires us from the moment of our birth; that it is through him that we avoid things that we choose others, and finally all our movements end in him; so it’s to his rescue that we owe discern all kinds of goods. Epicurus, extracted from the Letter to Menoeceus.

A simple pleasure

« Frugality is a well that one can not estimate too; it is not fault it always keep regularly, but his habit is excellent, so that having more things in the same abundance, we we spent little, but not mediocrity seem strange to us; also does it burn strongly in his mind that it is enjoying a magnificent full pleasure than to meet without profusion. « Epicurus, extracted from the Letter to Menoeceus.

A peaceful mind is the recipe for happiness

« This pleasure, which is the center of our happiness, is nothing else than having mind without agitation, and the body is free of pain; drunkenness, excess meat, the criminal trade in women, delicacy drinks and all that good seasons tables, have nothing that leads to a good life: there is that frugality and peace of mind that can make this happy effect; is this calm that facilitates us clarification of things that need to fix our choice, or those that we must flee; and it is through him that discards opinions that disturb the arrangement of this mobile of our lives. Epicurus, extracted from the Letter to Menoeceus.

In conclusion

Both schools retain happiness as the goal of life. This happiness to be tantamount to rest the mind becomes quiet. They refuse the pursuit of wealth or power. The Stoics are ready for it to accept fate, illness, death (suicide in the case of Seneca) without rebelling. Epicureans refuse fate and therefore have a more proactive approach by seeking at all costs to avoid pain. They seek a sober pleasure (natural and necessary needs) in the rest of the mind.

Everyone can choose his path.

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