On Epicurus’s philosophy of life

The following are some noteworthy quotes from Epicurus (341 – 270 BC), an ancient philosopher who insisted that a noble life consisted of philosophical inquiry, intimate friendship, and the affirmation of moderate pleasure. Epicurus founded a small commune just outside of Athens; it was here that he and his friends sought to become lovers of wisdom.

Of a life governed by moderate pleasures,

So when we say that pleasure is the goal [the ultimate aim of life] we do not mean the pleasures of the profligate or the pleasures of consumption, as some believe, either from ignorance and disagreement or from deliberate misinterpretation, but rather the lack of pain in the body and disturbance in the soul [i.e., tranquillity or freedom from mental disturbance]. For it is not drinking bouts and continuous partying and enjoying boys and women, or consuming fish and the other dainties of an extravagant table, which produce the pleasant life, but sober calculation which searches out the reasons for every choice and avoidance and drives out the opinions which are the source of the greatest turmoil for men’s souls.

Of the mood of philosophy,

One must philosophize and at the same time laugh and take care of one’s household and use the rest of our personal goods, and never stop proclaiming the utterances of correct philosophy.

Of the need for a “room of one’s own,”

The purest security is that which comes from a quiet life and withdrawal from the many, although a certain degree of security from other men does come by means of the power to repel [attacks] and by means of prosperity.

Of the importance of friendship in a truly blessed life,

Let us share our friends’ suffering not with laments but with thoughtful concern.

Of the things which wisdom provides for the blessedness of one’s whole life, by far the greatest is the possession of friendship.

Friendships dance around the world announcing to all of us that we must wake up to blessedness.

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