Epicureanism is generally misunderstood as hedonistic and extravagant living. However, the pleasure Epicurus refers to is the tranquility that’s gained through living a simple life. The goal of his philosophy was to liberate people from worry and to achieve peacefulness in mind, body and spirit. Epicurus created cooperative and collaborative communities by demonstrating his doctrines through actual practice. He was benevolent, modest, and loved his country.
Epicurus was the most prolific writer in ancient times and influenced some of the greatest minds in history including: Francis Bacon, Jeremy Bentham, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Michel Foucault, Thomas Hobbes, John Stuart Mill, Galileo, Isaac Newton and Thomas Jefferson. In fact, the core philosophy of Epicurus is a cornerstone of the Declaration of Independence: everyone is created equal and everyone has the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Although Epicurus grew up in poverty, he was determined to make a difference for the greatest good. The emotional and financial support he received from his family allowed him to finish his studies and develop his passions. He eventually started a school and was the first Greek philosopher to admit women and slaves. This radical form of human equality was unheard of and created significant conflict within the social structure of Greek civilization.
As one of the first humanists, Epicurus practiced a human-centered approach to solving problems like injustice and inequity. He believed that self-realization (knowledge of self and others) can be achieved through reason. His reciprocal “do unto others” code of ethics is also the earliest known in ancient Greece.
Ingredients for a Happy Life:
- Friends: Acquire prudent friends and eat with them as often as possible
- Freedom: Live a life devoid of financial difficulty
- Analyzed Life: Think and reflect on our needs and wants
Epicurus created a place known as The Garden. The Garden was a sanctuary where people from all walks of life collaborated for the purpose of making positive changes in their communities. Those entering The Garden passed a through gate with the following inscription:
Stranger, please do not depart. Our highest good here is a simple life. The caretaker is a kind host and welcomes you with food and drink. The Garden doesn’t whet appetites; it quenches them.
In the words of Epicurus, “We wish you joy!”