Random Thoughts 91

Epicureanism

This is a system of philosophy founded around 307 BC based on the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. Those who followed his teachings were called Epicureans. Today the word Epicurean is used to describe a person devoted to sensual enjoyment, especially that derived from fine food and drink. Actually the philosophy was more sophisticated than that.


Epicurus believed that the greatest good was to seek modest, sustainable pleasure in the form of a state of ataraxia (tranquility and freedom from fear) and aponia (the absence of bodily pain) through knowledge of the workings of the world and limiting desires. The combination of these two states constitutes happiness in its highest form. Correspondingly, Epicurus and his followers shunned politics because it could lead to frustrations and ambitions which can directly conflict with the Epicurean pursuit for peace of mind and virtues.[1]


I was reminded of Epicureans because today in the midst of this horrible pandemic there are still many people who ignore the warnings of health and medical experts to fight the spread of the infection by abstaining from going out and enjoying food and drink especially with others. It appears that Epicureans are largely responsible for the spread of the Covid-19 infection.


It’s a pity because as explained above in the excerpt from Wikipedia, the two goals for sustaining pleasure were achieving tranquility, and freedom from fear, and avoiding bodily pain through knowledge of the workings of the world and limiting desires. [my emphasis] If those who now irresponsibly go out for food and drink, especially in groups, considered the consequences of their actions, which invariably lead to fear and painful suffering resulting from becoming infected, then perhaps they would limit their desires, at least until the dangers of the pandemic have passed.


I have nothing against responsible Epicureans who are able to forego the pleasures of enjoying fine food and drink in social situations, and indeed, in my past I could have been considered to be an Epicurean because I, too, once greatly enjoyed fine food and drink! But as for those individuals who aspire to be Epicureans in this time of contagion, I do not have any respect and on the contrary am critical of their behavior.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicureanism

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