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Friday, January 08, 2021

Why Epicureanism, not Stoicism, is the philosophy we need now | Ideas - New Statesman

This article is part of the Agora series, a collaboration between the New Statesman and Aaron James Wendland, senior research fellow in philosophy at Massey College, Toronto. He tweets @aj_wendland.

Philosophers have warned against pleasure since Plato, but Epicurean principles can be the basis of a humane politics aimed at security for all, according to Catherine Wilson, visiting presidential professor in philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate School.

Roman Epicurus bust
Photo: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

What ideas come to mind when you hear the word “Epicurean”? Probably: wine snob, gourmet cooking, foppish, superficial, idle, frivolous, decadent, selfish and, of course, pleasure-seeking. Pleasure – and the Epicurean philosophy in which it plays a central role – is a fixed star of philosophical disapproval. All the greats, from Plato to our modern theorists of well-being, not to mention the Fathers of the Early Church, warned, and still warn, against it.

Back then, the attacks on pleasure focused on the superiority of humans to other animals and on our special competencies, obligations and responsibilities. Pleasure is what the dumb, irrational animals pursue: eating, mating, loafing. We humans are made for higher, more difficult and sometimes more painful things, as the Stoics, the ancient opponents of the Epicureans, insisted: fortitude in adversity, self-control, intellectual labour, logical inferences, the contemplation of spiritual and immaterial entities. Today, the uneasiness about pleasure also reflects an aversion to consumerism and to the empty promises of advertisers who induce us to believe that this or that product or activity is the key to fun-filled days and restful sleep.

The use of reason, self-control and frugality are worthwhile aims and worth philosophising over...

What would an Epicurean world look like? It wouldn’t be based, as our world is, on the value of the speed and efficiency of output – the transformation of raw materials into consumer products and consumer products into rubbish, at whatever human cost. It would be focused on enhancing another form of utility, the creation of good experiences and the minimisation of pain. 

Read more... 

Recommended Reading

How to Be an Epicurean:
The Ancient Art of Living Well

Source: New Statesman