Biography of Epicurus
Feelosofi – Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher who lived in the fourth century BC, is known as the founder of the Epicurean school of philosophy. Born on the island of Samos, Epicurus later opened a philosophical school in Athens known as the “Gardens,” where he taught his philosophical teachings. Epicurus’ biography reflects a view of life that focuses on the pursuit of happiness and favor through the reduction of desires and simple living.
Although often considered a hedonist, Epicurus emphasized that true happiness can be achieved through self-mastery and deep friendship. His thinking is documented in collections of letters and fragments of his writings, such as the “Letter to Menoeceus,” which provide insight into Epicurean ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. Epicurus also developed teachings related to atomic physics, which states that everything is formed by atoms and natural laws that can be explained rationally. His thinking played an important role in the history of philosophy, providing the basis for a worldview that pursues wisdom and happiness through a deep understanding of the nature of nature and the values of friendship.
Ataraxia, a very important concept in Epicurus’ philosophy, refers to inner calm or a peaceful state of the soul. Epicurus believed that achieving ataraxia was the main key to true happiness. To achieve ataraxia, individuals need to control and understand their desires and distance themselves from negative emotions that can disturb their peace of mind.
Ataraxia is not simply a state of indifference but rather a form of balance achieved through a deep understanding of natural desires and simple pleasures. In Epicurus’ view, ataraxia is not an end in itself but a means to achieve a life that is meaningful and free from anxiety. Through the practice of self-control, reflection, and simple living, individuals can achieve the lasting happiness and peace of mind that are characteristic of Epicurean philosophy.
Aponia, a central concept in the teachings of Epicurus, describes the state of being free from physical pain or discomfort. Epicurus viewed aphonia as an important element in achieving true happiness. This understanding does not merely teach the avoidance of unpleasant sensations but rather emphasizes the importance of living simply and achieving pleasures that are not extreme.
In this context, aphonia is not a thoughtless avoidance of all forms of discomfort but a wise approach to life that emphasizes balance and wisdom in the pursuit of pleasure. Epicurus believed that by achieving aphonia, individuals could enjoy a life full of meaning and free from physical burdens that hindered mental well-being. By embracing the principles of aphonia, Epicurus’ philosophy teaches a way of life that respects human physical and psychic needs, leading to a state of holistic well-being that characterizes the Epicurean outlook on life.
Moderate hedonism, as a central principle in Epicurus’ philosophy, describes the view that true happiness can be achieved through a wise and balanced pursuit of pleasure. Epicurus did not advocate hedonism in the extreme sense of merely pursuing sensory pleasures without moral consideration or reason. Instead, this concept emphasizes pleasure that is simple, sustainable, and free from long-term pain or suffering.
Moderate hedonism teaches reducing excessive desires and living simply as a way to achieve a happy life. Epicurus saw that the balance between pleasure and wisdom was the key to avoiding the gaps and suffering that might arise from uncontrolled desires. Thus, in an Epicurean context, moderate hedonism is not a call to pursue unlimited pleasure but rather a call to live wisely, understand true values, and pursue sustainable and deep happiness.
Friendship as the Key to Happiness
In Epicurus’ philosophy, friendship is seen as the central element that opens the door to true happiness. Epicurus understood that meaningful social relationships, especially in the form of friendship, have an important role in creating a fulfilling and meaningful life. For him, friendship is not only a true friend but also a form of emotional and intellectual support that can overcome life’s difficulties.
Deep and trusting friendship, according to Epicurus, is capable of providing soul security and invaluable joy. In this context, friendship is considered a protection against loneliness and the human tendency to feel isolated. Epicurus argued that through friendly relationships, individuals can share happiness, overcome sadness, and provide support to each other on life’s journey. Thus, friendship, in Epicurus’ thinking, is not just a complement to life but an essential key to achieving true happiness.
Management of Fear of Death
In the philosophical teachings of Epicurus, the management of worries about death is the basis for achieving sustainable happiness. Epicurus argued that fear of death is often a source of unnecessary anxiety because death is not essentially a perceptible experience. This philosophy encourages individuals to understand death as a condition that is not relevant to their current lives, so that attention can be focused on meaningful life experiences.
By understanding that death does not cause suffering, Epicurus taught that humans can control their fear of the end of life and, instead, appreciate the moments of happiness in this world. This thinking encourages individuals to live life more wisely, reduce anxiety, and appreciate the values of life without being overshadowed by unnecessary worries about death. Thus, the management of worries about death in Epicurus’ view is not an attempt to ignore the reality of death but rather to be free from the burden of anxiety that can hinder the achievement of true happiness.
Materialism and Atomic Physics
Epicurus’ philosophy includes two key concepts that provide the basis for his view of the universe: materialism and atomic physics. In the context of materialism, Epicurus believes that everything that exists is formed by real matter, rejecting the concept of non-material entities or existence. This view curbs supernatural interpretations and offers a rational understanding of natural phenomena.
On the other hand, Epicurus’ concept of atomic physics states that the universe consists of atoms, insoluble elementary particles that move in a vacuum. His theory of atoms provides the basis for scientific thinking that relies on observation and reason. By uniting materialism and atomic physics, Epicurus created a philosophical basis that explained the existence and nature of nature systematically and rationally. This view not only reflects scientific trends but also provides a conceptual basis for a deep understanding of the nature of the universe that continues to develop to this day.
Free Thought and Rationality
Free thinking and rationality became central pillars in Epicurus’ philosophy, creating the intellectual foundation for his worldview. Epicurus encouraged individuals to adopt freethinking, that is, the ability to be independent from unreasonable dogma or authority. This view encourages intellectual freedom, which allows humans to explore knowledge in an open and critical way.
In addition, rationality, according to Epicurus, is the main tool for understanding the world and making wise decisions. Rational thinking involves the use of reason to carefully assess and investigate facts. In this view, Epicurus emphasized that wisdom can only be achieved through free and rational thought. Therefore, to achieve true happiness, individuals are expected to develop the capacity for free thinking and use rationality as the main guide in living everyday life. This thinking provides a strong philosophical foundation for the development of science and a culture of free thought that continues to inspire subsequent generations.
Political Avoidance and Peace of Mind
The avoidance of political affairs and the pursuit of peace of mind are central principles in Epicurus’ philosophy. Epicurus viewed excessive involvement in politics as a potential source of anxiety and emotional instability. On the contrary, he taught the importance of staying away from political conflicts that could disturb inner peace. This choice is not a form of apathy but rather a strategy to maintain stability of mind and focus on achieving personal happiness.
In his view, peace of mind is achieved through a simple life away from external distractions that can damage the inner state. By emphasizing the avoidance of politics, Epicurus taught that true happiness can be realized more effectively through personal reflection, deep friendships, and appreciation for simple blessings. This thinking creates a framework that emphasizes personal wisdom and serenity as the essential foundations for achieving a meaningful life.
Works of Epicurus
Unfortunately, most of Epicurus’ works have not survived into modern times. However, several fragments and letters have been discovered and are the main source of understanding Epicurus’ thought. However, no complete list of works can be presented, and most of our knowledge of his philosophy comes from quotations and references in the writings of other philosophers, especially Diogenes Laërtius in his “Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers,” written in the 19th century. 3rd A.D. Most of Epicurus’ written works are lost, and we depend on his intellectual legacy through written remains and quotations in the works of ancient philosophers and historians.
Through concepts such as ataraxia (inner calm), aphonia (absence of pain), and moderate hedonism, Epicurus offers a view of happiness that is not only personal but also respects ethics and rationality. Friendship, in his view, is not just an addition to life but an essential element that provides support and joy. Free thinking and rationality are the means to achieve a deep understanding of life and the universe.
Epicurus also advised managing worry about death wisely, viewing it as a natural part of existence that is not worth fearing. Avoidance of politics and a focus on peace of mind complement this outlook, creating a philosophical foundation for a meaningful and fulfilling life. Even though only some of his works have survived, the legacy of Epicurus’ thought continues to provide inspiration for formulating a balanced and meaningful view of life.
What was the main focus in Epicurus’ teachings?
The main focus in Epicurus’ teachings is to achieve true happiness through the practice of simple living, self-mastery, and the reduction of desires. His views emphasized the importance of ataraxia (inner calm) and aphonia (absence of pain) as keys to achieving a fulfilling life.
Did Epicurus really advocate hedonism?
Although Epicurus is often associated with hedonism, his concept is different from hedonism which is simply the pursuit of unlimited pleasure. Epicurus preached a moderate hedonism that emphasized simple, sustainable pleasure, and freedom from long-term suffering. For him, true happiness can be achieved through self-mastery and a deep understanding of desires.
Why did Epicurus emphasize friendship in his teachings?
Epicurus considered friendship a key element in achieving happiness. Deep and meaningful friendship relationships are believed to provide emotional and spiritual support, help individuals overcome life’s difficulties, and enrich life experiences. In his view, friendship is not just a complement to life, but an essential key to achieving true happiness.
- Epicurus: An Introduction – John M. Rist (1972)
- Epicurus and His Philosophy – Norman Wentworth DeWitt (1954)
- Epicurus: His Continuing Influence and Contemporary Relevance – Philip Mitsis dan Christos Evangeliou (2019)
- Epicurus on Freedom – Tim O’Keefe (2005)
- The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism – James Warren (2009)
- Epicurus and the Epicurean Tradition – Jeffrey Fish dan Kirk R. Sanders (2011)
- The Birth of Hedonism: The Cyrenaic Philosophers and Pleasure as a Way of Life – Kurt Lampe (2014)
- Epicurus: His Philosophy of Pleasure and Happiness – George K. Strodach (1952)