Epicurus (341-270 BC)

was a Greek philosopher born on the island of Sámos of an Athenian family, and privately educated by his father, a schoolteacher, and by various philosophers. At the age of 18 he went to Athens to perform military service. After a brief stay he joined (322) his father in Colophon, where he began teaching.

Epicurus founded a philosophical school in Mitilíni on the island of Lésvos about 311, and two or three years later he became head of a school in Lampsacus (now Lâpseki, Turkey). Returning to Athens in 306, he settled there permanently and taught his doctrines to a devoted body of followers. Because instruction took place in the garden of Epicurus's home, his followers were known as "philosophers of the garden."

Both women and men frequented his garden, and this occasioned much gossip about the alleged activities there. Students from all over Greece and Asia Minor flocked to Epicurus's school, attracted as much by his charm as by his intellect.

Epicurus was a prolific author. According to the account of his life by the 3rd-century AD historian and biographer Diogenes Laërtius, he left 300 manuscripts, including 37 treatises on physics and numerous works on love, justice, the gods, and other subjects. Of his writings, only three letters and a number of short fragments survive, preserved in Diogenes Laërtius's biography. The principal additional sources of information about the doctrines of Epicurus are the works of the Roman writers Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch, and Lucretius, whose poem De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) delineates the Epicurean philosophy.

Also see the Sovran Maxims: Index

Source: http://www.epicureans.org
Epicurus was a big proponent of Hedonism. Hedonism is the ethical theory that the main drive of humanity is to seek happiness. Actions, behaviors and beliefs can all be traced to or boiled down to individual happiness.

This theory is very self-centric, and Epicurus felt that morals were based on a person's own beliefs. "Give me bread and watered down wine, the simplest of pleasures are the easiest to obtain and the least likely to be taken away. The simplest pleasures are the healthiest."

Epicurus therefore felt that everyone who seeks true happiness as their goal will attempt to live a long life of simplicity and tranquility.

As an example, most people want to buy a nice house and a decent car in the United States. To achieve these goals, one must work very hard. Does the superficial wealth gained by this work counterbalance the effort taken to achieve the material things? Epicurus thought not, that the end result was overall happiness.

By working hard to achieve happiness, one will become happy. Peace is another byproduct of this process. Fighting brings pain instead of pleasure (to most people), and therefore most people will want to surround themselves with friends and make as few enemies as possible. Making and keeping these friends requires that one be truthful, respectful, compassionate and empathetic.

Epicurus' view of morality, ethics and happiness is shared by most of the world's religions in a philosophic sense. Most religions require a life of simplicity and nonviolence, and these two core values were shared by those modeled by Jesus and Buddha.

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