Knowledge to be applied in our lives: Epicurus.

like most of the philosophies of Epicurus’ age, they aimed at securing tranquility for the individual. Epicurus is a great example for the universal applicability of Epicureanism as he himself was poor and suffered from ill health throughout most of his life yet still managed to live a life of great bravery and fortitude.

Pleasure:

Epicurus’ pleasure was not quite our modern day definition of pleasure or hedonism. Epicurus himself lived a very minimalistic life eating no more than bread and olives with the occasional slice of cheese, as Epicurus exclaims ‘the greatest good of all is prudence’. Similar to buddhism, Epicurus somewhat renounces the material world in an attempt to flee from the constraints of culture. amongst the prohibitions Epicurus noted an involvement in political life, sexual pursuits and marriage as difficult when attempting to pursue a life of peace. Essentially, for Epicurus his notion of pleasure was cynical, he didn’t believe in consumerist happiness and renounced a lot of what Aristotle or the stoics might have thought of when conceptualising the good life. Epicurus’ philosophy is a one of peace.

Friendship:

Above all however, Epicurus thought that the safest of social pleasures was in fact friendship. Having renounced most of his surroundings he recognised that one was not able to live without friends. This is what I believe we can learn from Epicurus, as he calls for a interconnectivity or a brotherhood of man that seems to be crucial to us as social beings. Although we may not agree with the austerity and asceticism that runs through Epicurus’ work, we can all agree that our social relationships dictate much of our lives and really ensuring these are meaningful to us is a mission worth working towards. But why is it so important?

Friends are their to comfort you in both joy and sadness. They can help you gain perspective when your life has gone astray.

Friends are integral for developing social skills, if we didn’t have friends we would never have been able to act out different personalities, styles and modes of behaviour that help us develop as young people. In the best cases, friends can act as a self-critical group that strengthen your sense of morality.

Making friends can break down social barriers. Making friends with someone of different skin colour, religion or sex is useful for us when expanding our circle of tolerance.

More selfishly, friends can help us with our health and longevity. Studies have shown that old people with friends generally live happier and healthier lives.

Conversations, fraternity, sorority and friendship are what we need if we are to unpack complex problems. Debates we seen on youtube or conversations we see on TV news could be greatly improved if we attempted to conduct our speech in the spirit of friendship.

Knowledge to be applied in our lives(Why pleasure is not enough): Civilization and its discontents(Freud, S. 1930).

Freud in Civilization and its discontents¬†is pessimistic of the human condition in essence. His account of society is that most people follow the simple programme of the pleasure principle as a means for deriving meaning in life. Further, in Freuds view the ‘intention that man should be ‘happy has no part in the plan of creation’ but merely is an ‘episodic phenomenon’ that requires the universe to be tailored to your needs. However, Freud does not discount pleasure as something futile but recognises that the satisfaction of the ‘drives’ can be rewarding all the while understanding that such an ephemeral phenomenon like pleasure cannot be the sole basis for a meaningful and happy existence. Equally, looking at the state of western, consumer capitalism, there is no surprise such an agenda for meaning has been pushed. Namely, Coca Cola’s ‘choose happiness’ or Johnnie Walkers ‘Joy will take you further campaign’ have both played a part in the collective distortion that pleasure does simply equal happiness.

What this clears up is that pleasure is a fleeting, ephemeral form of joy that we can distinguish from happiness. However, once we admit this, many more possibilities arise that are not as closely related to the pleasure principle. Freud even offers a useful example of engaging in creative and intellectual pursuits, this is primarily because it is an endeavour that is stretched out over much time that cannot be achieved instantaneously and thus delays the gratification of pleasure. This is certainly a wiser pursuit than hedonism.

Yet, the reason why I have taken an interest in Freuds civilization and its discontents is not due to his own thesis’ on what makes for a good life but because of his excellent point made about the current state of wellbeing for many in the developed world. There is seemingly a great rise in living conditions and abundance(see: OurWorldInData), yet modernity seems to be malnourished when it comes to what accounts for a good life. This is not to say that many aspects of medical and technological progress have not improved our lives, they definitely have, but rather that there are crucial aspects of the past in which the developed world is lacking. Namely, Hegel states in the phenomenology of spirit that each epoch has had wise and important insights into the nature of experience. My goal is to recover these aspects of the past to inform individuals on how certain aspects of culture, thought and phenomenology certain communities in history fostered, can be useful tools of knowledge to live better in the present. Future posts will be aimed at addressing this through thought, art and film, as well as music.