Stoics = Epicureans

Epicureanism, taken far enough, becomes Stoicism.  Stoicism, taken far enough, becomes Epicureanism.

People often use the term "epicurean" to refer to somebody who is only interested in short-term, material pleasures, like eating delicious food. But Epicurus was actually a brilliant philosopher - yes, he said that pleasure was the goal of human life, but he specified that there were higher and lower pleasures, and that the highest pleasure is the appreciation of wisdom. He also considered friendship to be a profound source of meaning. True happiness, he thought, could be attained if we learn not to desire transient things but instead focus on the deepest, highest, most meaningful joys. Once one understands epicureanism in its proper context, it's very similar to Stoicism.
 
On the other side of the coin, people often use "stoic" to mean some kind of macho, bad-ass, unfeeling, joyless, hard heart of stone. But if you take stoic philosophy seriously, it's not about constantly trying to prove to everyone what a manly emotionless jerk you are, hustling and slaving away at some Silicon Valley job or whatever. Fundamentally, it's a path to achieving happiness by becoming "indifferent" (adiaphora) to external consequences like wealth and reputation. A Buddhist monk is closer to being a stoic than a cold-blooded killer soldier. Happiness - contentment - is the goal. In this sense, Stoics are really not that different from Epicureans.
 
That said, there are some real, important differences between the two traditions, especially in terms of epistemology and ontology. The stoics tended to believe in a whole complex metaphysical cosmology involving the cyclic creation and destruction of the universe, whereas the epicureans were more nonchalant about the existence or non-existence of the supersensible. But perhaps even these differences can be resolved through a clever enough interpretation.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Capitalism is Ending

Liquefactionism

The Ego Is Not Selfish Enough