The Concept Of The Happy Life; A Comparison In Epicurean And Stoic Philosophies

1170 words - 5 pages

Throughout history, the nature of the happy life has been described by numerous philosophers and their philosophies. Among those that have attempted this explanation are the Stoics, who were founded by Zeno, and Epicureans, established by Epicurus. Both agree that indulging desires in moderation is necessary for attaining happiness. As well, according to the Epicureans, the ultimate aim of life is to achieve tranquility of the soul, which is very similar to the condition of apathy the Stoics believed was ideal (Matson, 195). Though they existed concurrently, the similarities between the two philosophies ended there; the philosophical arguments presented by Stoicism and Epicureanism differ greatly in terms of religious beliefs, fatalistic existence, and how one might be able to live the happy life.While here is little mention of the religious aspect of a happy life in the Stoic and the Epicurean philosophies, minimal reference is based on the idea of conquering fear. The Stoics believed that the human soul is the ultimate expression of the Logos (The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Stoicism); alternatively, Epicureans believed true religion lies in contemplation (Mannion, 30). Though Epicurus did not accept the traditional view of God, he did not consider himself an atheist, and acknowledged the existence of gods (Matson, 198). The contemplation involved in Epicurus' true religion was the reflection on the lives of gods, comparable to the gods' deliberation regarding the lives of humans (Encarta Reference Library 2004: Epicureanism). He believed these gods existed, indifferent as to what we did with our lives, unlike the Stoics who saw God as "the World-Soul [who] directs everything for the best" (Matson, 192). Stoicism simply instructs us to live a life in harmony with nature, which translates to living harmoniously with the divine order of the universe, and leaving us with nothing to fear from God, who controls the direction of the cosmos (Mannion, 34). Epicureans, on the contrary, find it most beneficial to be free of the fears often rooted in religious convictions. One is the fear of death; people are uneasy about how they will be judged in the afterlife. This fear can be eased by the fact that the Epicurean philosophy dictates that there is not afterlife, therefore, worrying about it would be pointless. Mortality should be of no concern to the living because when we are dead, we will not be alive to experience the repercussions our actions. The second fear is that of the gods. However, since the gods are uninterested in the lives of humans, we have nothing to fear from them (Matson, 197). The religious implications of Epicureanism and Stoicism differ largely in the ideas they each present concerning the existence and purpose of a God, and the extinguishing of fear.Concerning free will and the idea of fatalism, the Stoics and the Epicureans have very contrasting views. According to the cyclical argument of existence presented by the...

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