Epicurus and Genuine Happiness

Like Troy, one of my perennial interests has been the topic of happiness. One thing I run into, given this interest, are analyses of happiness. This could mean types of happiness, parts of happiness, or both. The analyses I find are often not particularly detailed, in terms at least of the direct written accounts, yet they are still potentially quite interesting.

Epicurus’ analysis of happiness is one my mind returns to periodically. Do you know of Epicurus? In case not, he is the founder of one of the major schools of Greek philosophy, the Epicurean school. We’ve lost most written accounts of his teachings, but we do have, among other things, a vague sketch of his account of happiness.

Epicurus taught that the most genuine and most complete form of happiness consisted in these two components: freedom of the body from pain, and freedom of the mind from distress. I don’t think this is merely an absence of such pain and distress. I think there is a way that it feels if you experience such freedom, and that according to Epicurus, this state of being is completely and utterly satisfying. I also think this is so very different from how happiness is usually represented and imagined, and very different from what we usually, consciously pursue or seek. It’s certainly very different from what the messages we encounter try to tell us to pursue, or try to psychologically manipulate us into pursuing.

Freedom from bodily pain, freedom from mental distress. Could this be the most genuine and complete form of happiness?

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3 thoughts on “Epicurus and Genuine Happiness

  1. As I go thru life I find different styles of philosophy fit better with different ages. I started out a Skeptic. Then I transitioned into a Stoic. Now, as I get older, I am more of an Epicurean with just a touch of Hedonism. Tho that strain of skepticism never really went away.

    1. That’s very interesting Fred. It reminds me of what I’ve been old is an old Chinese saying: People are Confucians in good times, Buddhists in bad times, and Daoists in old age.

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