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Letter on happiness (EASY READING. The great classics of philosophy revisited for an easier interpretation.)

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"No one is too young or too old to know what happiness is." This is how the way to happiness begins according to Epicurus, the famous founder of one of the most important schools of thought of the Hellenistic and Roman age. Happiness, which individuals yearn so much for, becomes something really easy to get. In this "Letter on happiness" Epicurus reflects on the real meani "No one is too young or too old to know what happiness is." This is how the way to happiness begins according to Epicurus, the famous founder of one of the most important schools of thought of the Hellenistic and Roman age. Happiness, which individuals yearn so much for, becomes something really easy to get. In this "Letter on happiness" Epicurus reflects on the real meaning of happiness and then reveals you how you can achieve it . You can read and read to it again, with a smile on your face ! ☺ Translated by Alessandra Bottacin


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"No one is too young or too old to know what happiness is." This is how the way to happiness begins according to Epicurus, the famous founder of one of the most important schools of thought of the Hellenistic and Roman age. Happiness, which individuals yearn so much for, becomes something really easy to get. In this "Letter on happiness" Epicurus reflects on the real meani "No one is too young or too old to know what happiness is." This is how the way to happiness begins according to Epicurus, the famous founder of one of the most important schools of thought of the Hellenistic and Roman age. Happiness, which individuals yearn so much for, becomes something really easy to get. In this "Letter on happiness" Epicurus reflects on the real meaning of happiness and then reveals you how you can achieve it . You can read and read to it again, with a smile on your face ! ☺ Translated by Alessandra Bottacin

30 review for Letter on happiness (EASY READING. The great classics of philosophy revisited for an easier interpretation.)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Let me begin by asserting that the equation Epicureanism = Hedonism is absurdly false. I'll elaborate on this below. Like the works of all of the philosophers who actually initiated and developed Stoicism (lately much on my mind), very little of Epicurus' (c. 342-270 BCE) prolific writings have come down to us. The editor of this volume, George K. Strodach, claims to have translated everything that remains which is not unintelligibly fragmentary. If true, we have only 3 letters (essays), a collec Let me begin by asserting that the equation Epicureanism = Hedonism is absurdly false. I'll elaborate on this below. Like the works of all of the philosophers who actually initiated and developed Stoicism (lately much on my mind), very little of Epicurus' (c. 342-270 BCE) prolific writings have come down to us. The editor of this volume, George K. Strodach, claims to have translated everything that remains which is not unintelligibly fragmentary. If true, we have only 3 letters (essays), a collection of sayings and aphorisms called Leading Doctrines, and another incomplete collection of such aphorisms now called the Vatican Sayings. According to Strodach, Epicurus wrote in a deliberately dry and nonliterary Greek, using technical philosophical terms in an extremely idiosyncratic manner. To supplement the paucity of sources and the uninviting prose of Epicurus, Strodach also brings parallel passages from the great Latin philosophical poem De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) composed by one of Epicurus' greatest followers, Titus Lucretius Carus (94-55 BCE).(*) Strodach also translates excerpts of that portion of Diogenes Laertius' 2nd century CE compilation Lives of the Philosophers which concerned Epicurus. Along with useful endnotes, Strodach adds a decent 90 page essay on Epicurean philosophy and its antecedents, where he quickly reveals himself to be a committed materialist who particularly admires Democritus' thought and reproaches Epicurus for modifying for the worse his predecessor's system... Like the founders of Stoicism, and unlike Epictetus, Epicurus begins with physics and metaphysics.(**) One can incompletely summarize his position as a very pure materialism - philosophical materialism, not the "materialism" associated with modern life. In the universe there is only uncreated and indestructible atomic matter in its eternal motions, collisions, adhesions and subsequent dissolutions placed in empty space. Both are infinite in spatial and temporal extent. The only true existents are atomic matter and empty space - all else are more or less temporary manifestations of those two. There is no divine creator or guide. There is a soul, but at death it dissipates into its constituent atoms, so there is no Afterlife, no Heaven, no Hell, and so, as Lucretius explains at length, there is no need to fear death. This concentrates the mind mightily on the here and now. So, how to live this life in such a universe? Not as an automaton. Such a rigidly mechanistic and deterministic metaphysics leaves little room for freedom and responsibility, so Epicurus introduced the curious notion of an atomic "swerve" which the "soul" atoms can carry out. It's not clear to me how either freedom or moral responsibility are recovered by this ploy, but I do recognize a deus ex machina when I see one... Nonetheless, free will and moral responsibility are part of Epicurus' system (as opposed to that of his godfather in physics and metaphysics, Democritus). Forewarned by reading John M. Cooper's Pursuits of Wisdom, I knew that the commonly parroted view of Epicurus' thought was wrong, but now that I have read the sources which survive I see that he wasn't merely misunderstood, he was deliberately slandered by Christian theologians (and others) in every manner available to them. It is no wonder that the theists abhorred him - from his follower Lucretius: I shall account for how men's minds oftentimes hang fearfully in the balance at the sight of what comes to pass on earth and in the sky. Their spirits are demeaned by the dread of the gods and crushed drooping to the dust because their ignorance of natural causes forces them to ascribe all to divine rule and to concede the reign of gods. The Epicureans wanted to replace divine causes with naturalistic causes, to replace religious superstition with causal chains of natural events, to replace superstitious fear with an understanding much like that of our contemporary scientific community's. Moreover, Epicurus wrote repeatedly that ordinary religion was not just mistaken, it was destructive of mankind's happiness. As Lucretius wrote, "True religion is rather the power to contemplate nature with a mind set at peace." Although Epicurus' book On the Gods was lost (Diogenes Laertius informs us of its existence in his lengthy essay on Epicurus), it is clear from the bits and pieces that remain that the existence of gods is not denied at all by the Epicureans; but the gods' interest in meddling in the affairs of man and nature is denied, for the gods are complete unto themselves and have no concern for us whatsoever. They could not have an effect on man or nature even if they wanted to. The role of the gods in Epicurus' system was to serve as exemplars of the highest form of happiness - ataraxia - a unique state (though it shares certain qualities with satori) which includes serenity, detachment, unadulterated happiness and freedom from irrational fears and anxieties of all sorts as attributes. This happiness has absolutely nothing at all to do with our senses, except insofar as the absence of pain is implied, and therefore Epicureanism has nothing in common with hedonism.(***) It is impossible to misunderstand this from his writings; I speculate that Epicurus was the object of character assassination because his view of the gods was so contrary to that of the Christians and the mystic neo-Platonists that they had to do away with him in any manner available. Diogenes Laertius affirms that other, non-Christian philosophers forged compromising letters they attributed to Epicurus and spread other lies (he even names some names). Stoics and Skeptics attacked versions of "Epicureanism" which had little or nothing to do with his writings. I now see Epicureanism as a quietistic humanism whose core is understanding natural causes in a mechanistic universe, thereby obviating the necessity of gods and relieving irrational fears and anxieties, and withdrawal within oneself to this remarkable state of ataraxia. The books which explain how to attain this state and how to live with the rest of humanity when one is in this state are gone... Note: I read the original 1963 version of this book, entitled The Philosophy of Epicurus. Penguin has changed the title and added a forward from a "popular" author for reasons which seem obvious if not quite laudable. (*) These dates are controversial. One knows almost nothing about Lucretius beyond that which can be deduced from De rerum natura. (**) His Letter to Herodotus is primarily occupied with the physical and metaphysical setting of his philosophy, where also some arguments are provided for these positions. Passages of De rerum natura which deliver an interesting combination of argument and persuasive imagery give further grounds for thought. (***) Diogenes Laertius writes of Epicurus' modest, even ascetic lifestyle. Rating http://leopard.booklikes.com/post/854...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Shyam

    Epicurean (n) Ἐπικούρειος ˌɛpɪkjʊ(ə)ˈriːən 1. A disciple or student of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. ✓ 2. A person devoted to sensual enjoyment, especially that derived from fine food and drink. ✗ (See Cyrenaic ) __________ "Thus when I say that pleasure is the goal of living I do not mean the pleasures of libertines or the pleasures inherent in positive enjoyment, as is supposed by certain persons who are ignorant of our doctrine or who are not in agreement with it or who interpret it perversel Epicurean (n) Ἐπικούρειος ˌɛpɪkjʊ(ə)ˈriːən 1. A disciple or student of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. ✓ 2. A person devoted to sensual enjoyment, especially that derived from fine food and drink. ✗ (See Cyrenaic ) __________ "Thus when I say that pleasure is the goal of living I do not mean the pleasures of libertines or the pleasures inherent in positive enjoyment, as is supposed by certain persons who are ignorant of our doctrine or who are not in agreement with it or who interpret it perversely. I mean, on the contrary, the pleasure that consists in freedom from bodily pain and mental agitation. The pleasant life is not the product of one drinking party after another or of sexual intercourse with women and boys or of the sea food and other delicacies afforded by a luxurious table. On the contrary, it is the result of sober thinking—namely, investigation of the reasons for every act of choice and aversion and elimination of those false ideas about the gods and death which are the chief source of mental disturbances." —Letter to Menoeceus "Think about these and related matters day and night, by yourself and in company with someone like yourself. If you do, you will never experience anxiety, waking or sleeping, but you will live like a god among men. For a human being who lives in the midst of immortal blessings is in no way like mortal man!" —Letter to Meneoceus "But those who have not fully committed themselves emotionally to these matters cannot properly view them as they are, nor have they grasped the purpose and the need for studying them." —Letter to Pythocles __________ When you arrive at Epicurus' Gardens, and see what is written there: Here, guest, will you be well entertained: here pleasure is the highest good— —Seneca, Letter 21.9 __________ It is a great shame that rival philosophical schools heard the term pleasure and immediately interpreted the word as sensual delight, forever corrupting Epicurus' philosophy and the term Epicurean, and misleading anyone not caring to examine the philosophy for themselves. Epicurus' ethical hedonism is laid out in the Letter to Menoeceus, Leading Doctrines, and the Vatican Collection of Aphorisms. There is much to be gained by applying certain aspects to one's own life, and are a great complement to Seneca's Letters, Cicero's Philosophical Works, and Montaigne's advocation for the cultivation of the self. __________ As well as his system of ethics, Epicurus expanded on contemporary atomist theories, forwarding the notion that all matter is composed of indivisible atoms, and proposing the notion of Atomic Swerve, to allow for free-will. These theories are interesting to read, ". . . yet the question of the best way to live remained Epicurus' fundamental consideration. His theories about the composition of matter, causation, perception, truth, and knowledge, are all in service of this ultimate concern." Epicurus advocated an understanding of science, and believed that only through the study of Natural Philosophy could certain fears and delusions regarding the gods be eliminated; one could achieve mental peace by understanding the fundamental workings of the world in which we live, and therefore be freed from the false belief that the gods were behind all, intervening when and according to their wishes and whims. "It is impossible to get rid of our anxieties about essentials if we do not understand the nature of the universe and are apprehensive about some of the theological accounts. Hence it is impossible to enjoy our pleasures unadulterated without natural science." —Leading Doctrines, 12 "With the Epicureans it was never science for the sake of science but always science for the sake of human happiness." __________ Epicurus' extant works are sadly not very numerous. They consist of three letters, and two collections of aphorisms: • Letter to Herodotus • Letter to Pythocles • Letter to Menoeceus • Leading Doctrines • Vatican Collection of Aphorisms* This Penguin edition presents all the above works, (~50pp.), with parallel passages from Lucretius' epic poem On the Nature of Things (accompanied with lucid commentary from the translator) presented after each letter. Also included is an excerpt from Diogenes Laërtius' Life of Epicurus, as well as an extensive seven-part introduction (77pp.[!]), and detailed notes. The translation is excellent, and all in all, a great copy of Epicurus' writings. *This edition contains 33 of the 81 aphorisms in the Vatican Collection. A large amount overlap with the Leading Doctrines, but some do not. Complete collections can easily be found online (eg. Here and here). __________ These splendid sayings of Epicurus also serve another purpose which makes me even more willing to mention them. They prove to those people who take refuge in him for base motives, thinking to find cover for their faults, that they need to live honourably no matter where they go. When you arrive at Epicurus' Gardens, and see what is written there: Here, guest, will you be well entertained: here pleasure is the highest good— then the keeper of that house will be ready to receive you and, being hospitable and kind, will serve you a plate of porridge and a generous goblet of water and say to you, "Is this not a fine welcome?" "These gardens," he will say, "do not stimulate appetite; they appease it. They do not give drinks that make one thirstier, but quench thirst with its natural remedy, which comes free of charge. This is the pleasure in which I have lived to old age." I am speaking to you now of those desires that are not alleviated by soothing speech, desires that must be given something to put an end to them. For about those superfluous desires that can be put off, rebuked, or suppressed, I remind you only of this: such pleasure is natural but not necessary. You do not owe it anything: anything you do devote to it is voluntary. The belly does not listen to instructions: it merely demands and solicits. Still, it is not a troublesome creditor. You can put it off with very little, if you just give it what you owe rather than what you can. —Seneca, Letter 21.9-11 __________ But now I must make an end; and as has become my custom, I must pay for my letter. This will be done, but not on my own charge. I am still plundering Epicurus, in whose work I today found this saying: "You should become a slave to philosophy, that you may attain true liberty." —Seneca, Letter 8.7 __________ "Sex has never benefitted any man, and it's a marvel if it hasn't injured him!" —Epicurus, Leading Doctrines, 51

  3. 4 out of 5

    Xander

    This book was rather a disappointment. It contains about 280 pages, of which 15 pages are forewords, 80 pages are introduction (which is rather informative, to be honest) and 60 pages or so notes and bibliography. Usually I don't state things so precise - pedantic isn't my style - but a simple arithmetical operation (i.e. addition) leads to the conclusion that the real work spans 125 pages. Next, this 'real work' is comprised of some fragments of Diogenes Laertius' description of Epicurus as a p This book was rather a disappointment. It contains about 280 pages, of which 15 pages are forewords, 80 pages are introduction (which is rather informative, to be honest) and 60 pages or so notes and bibliography. Usually I don't state things so precise - pedantic isn't my style - but a simple arithmetical operation (i.e. addition) leads to the conclusion that the real work spans 125 pages. Next, this 'real work' is comprised of some fragments of Diogenes Laertius' description of Epicurus as a person and his works, three letters of Epicurus to others (of which at least two are questionable in origin), a summary of his doctrines (originating from Laertius' descriptions) and a lost piece of fragments that was dug up from the Vatican archives in the nineteenth century. Of these 'works' the letters comprise the biggest part of the book, but about half of the letters is comprised of parallel passages in later Epicurean Lucretius' De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). Why? The editor claims these passages of Lucretius are included to contrast styles - both works deal essentially with the same topics, but where Epicurus writes in a dry and unimaginative prose, Lucretius writes in a splendid poetic fashion. That's all well, but it effectually means that one buys a book on Epicurus for a standard prize, which then contains only about 50 pages or so on Epicurus - and 230+ pages (!) not on him. It makes the book rather a disappointment. But the disappointment has another dimension. After reading the introduction, one knows already what's in store - there's no added value whatsoever in reading the original passages. The splendid introduction has already explained all there is to know about Epicureanism - it's development from both Democritus' atomism and the Cyrenaic hedonism running rampant in Athens at the time; the crucial additions which Epicurus made to amend the problems of atomistic materialisml; and the intricate relationship between physics, epistemology, ethics and religion. In short, Epicurus claims everything in the universe consists of matter in motion and empy space. All processes, including human sensation, perception and idea formation have to be explained in mechanistic terms. In such a universe everything is caused by the coming together and falling apart of atoms in atomic configurations, so there is no room for creative gods. Due to the atomic swerve - a random movement of atoms which allows for soul-atoms to be non-determined - there is room for free will, according to Epicurus. This physical nature of the universe means that sensation and perception have to be explained in mechanistic terms as well. Objects give off flows of atomic films, which constitute certain qualities. These films hit our sensual apparatus and are there transformed into ideal (perceptual) representations in the mind. This has implications for Epicurus' theory of knowledge: our senses simply relay clear and distinct information, this sense data is literally 'true' and all there is. Falsity consists in us imposing our own expectations and beliefs on the raw sense data that streams into our perception - we are distorting true information and subsequently conclude that our senses perceive us (à la Parmenides and Plato). This makes Epicurus an empiricist avant la lettre (one immediately sees the inspiration Locke, Berkeley and Hume drew from this theory of knowledge). There is another implication: it seems that mechanistic explanations explain not only the workings of sense experience, but - more importantly - the interaction of soul and body. Our soul consists of atoms as well, and gathers knowledge through experience, meaning that, in ultimo, our soul is materialistic as well. According to Epicurus, our soul consists of the most perfect, spherical atoms. But anything material is only temporary, so when we die, our soul disintegrates just like our physical body. And this means there's no afterlife. And this connects Epicurus' atomistic materialism intimately with his ethics and his religious stance. According to him, since body and soul are materialistic, they perish after death. And this means that we only experience things - most importantly pleasure and pain - when alive. And this means that death does not affect us in any way. So our fear of death, as well as our fear of an afterlife, is nonsensical. Add to this the non-existence of contemporary Greek gods - who created the universe and punish us after death, both being impossible in an Epicurean universe - and there is no fear of hell either. And the realization of the uselessness of our fear of death, afterlife and divine punishment is the first step on the path to leading a good life. It is a negative step, in the sense that it cuts away senseless superstition and myth from our lives. The next step is the positive aspect: live life according to the pleasure-principle - pleasure is good, pain is bad - 'good' and 'bad' being both psychological and moral terms here. We should strive to avoid pain and experience pleasure. And it's here that the common perception of Epicurus flies off the road. Most people associate Epicurus with a hedonistic lifestyle, but the truth is, he was rather much more nuanced than this. For starters, Epicurus includes time as a factor in his ethics - which means that short-term pleasure can cause long-term pain (eating, drinking, having sex, etc. etc.), while short-term pain can cause long-term happiness (undergoing surgery, abstaining from pleasures, etc. etc.). And this leaves 'reason' as a determining factor to decide which action is best, for me, in the current situation I'm in. Epicurus' ethics is highly relativistic - in terms of person, time and place - as well as highly ascetic. The most important thing to realize in life is the worthlessness of aiming at wealth, honour or even a decent social life - a truly happy person tames his desires, cultivates his needs to the bare minimum and only socializes with a couple of intimate friends. This is not what most people associate with Epicurus, but this is how the man actually lived his life. It is reported he lived off water and bread, and the most extravagant thing he ever asked for was some type of Greek cheese, which he could then munch on on special occassions. He also reportedly swore off sex and lived for study and contemplation. Above his garden, there supposedly hung a sign which said: "Have you not been well entertained? This garden does not whet your appetite, but quenches it" - which illustrates most beautifully Epicurus' ethics (nevermind what later thinkers made of it). And in a sense, it's only logical that he reached this conclusion. If you truly believe the world is fully deterministic and only comprised of matter in motion through empty space, all passions are caused mechanically as well. And this means that they are nothing but atoms in motion, so resistable. At least, if you subscribe to his notion of free will - and this is the problematic part in Epicurus' ethics (as far as I can tell). He claims the atomic swerve introduces a certain random motion of atoms in an otherwise determined universe, but how is this helping him 'producing' free will in our soul? Our soul is nothing but configurations of spherical atoms, which are either determined through natural laws or determined through random events taking place. Either way our soul is determined. (This reminds one of the modern debate on free will, in which certain people, some very learned like Sir Roger Penrose, claim that quantum indeterminacy at the sub-atomic level leads to human brains being not determined by natural laws. But in this case our brains would be determined by random quantum fluctuations, meaning that what we feel, want and do is nothing but randomness - not free will.) Anyway, I already went to far in my anachronistic explanations of Epicurus' mechanistic explanations. Of course the Greeks in the second century B.C. had a totally different lens (or rather: lenses) with which to view the world. It's just, Epicurus ethics are rather plain and uninformative; his physics is totally obsolete; his epistemology has been clarified and expanded by much better thinkers and (!) writers like Locke, Berkely and Hume; and his views on religion, being nothing but superstition and myth, are time capsules of Athens during second century B.C. To conclude: the book itself is a big let-down, the writing of Epicurs offer nothing spectacular, and the ideas are only interesting from a historical perspective. I can't recommend this book to anyone. I'd like to make a last remark, though. Epicurus tried to explain everything in terms of matter in motion through empty space, and offered a multiplicity of explanations for natural phenomena. In this he cleary fought against Plato and his followers, who'd fled into an imaginary world of Forms and thought this explained everything. The problem for Epicurus was the intimate connection between his view on nature and theory of knowledge on the one hand, and ethics and religion on the other hand. For millennia, the name of Epicurus (as well as Lucretius) would sound the alarm of unbelief (and rightly so) in monasteries and universities all over Europe. It is only in the Renaissance that original works were translated and opened up to European scholars; and it was only in the seventeenth century (starting with Gassendi) that the atomistic materialism of Epicurus started to replace Aristotle's framework as the metaphysic of the world. Ever since, we (still) think of the universe, and everything in it, in terms of material particles in motion, and this worldview has led to so much progress - on all accounts - that it is hard to grasp why the Greeks didn't take this route... ------------- I'd like to add a second 'final' remark. Epicurus (and more so Lucretius) is often seen as an atheist and materialist, in the sense that Karl Marx is often viewed by religious people. Or a more modern thinker like Richard Dawkins. This is, frankly, untrue. Epicurus states that there are gods, just not the contemporary Greek gods. The contemporary religion was the story of anthropomophic gods, who created the world and each other, but also were having sex with family members and spouses of other divinities, required human sacrifices (sometimes literally), and were continuously fighting each other to death. This is delusional, according to Epicurus. He sees all of this as wishful thinking, and destructive of human happiness. We are projecting our own fears of death and the afterlife and creating these gods - as some sort of therapeutic alleviation (a Freudian avant la lettre?!). Epicurus claims gods exist, just not in the conception that humans normally think of them. They exist in interstellar space; are perfect and hence not active (since action is a move towards a better state, i.e. a recognition of imperfection); are eternally occupied with contemplating on themselves as perfect beings (à la Aristotle); and are in no way concerned with nor receptive to human desires and feelings. When judging such historically situated claims, it is always hard to distinguish between an author's true feelings and his pampering to contemporary feelings, in order to avoid bad things happining to him/her. In this particular case, it is hard to determine what would have happened had Epicurus claimed he was an atheist - Socrates had earlier been killed due to unbelief and stirring up youth - and Epicurus' times were much more of a turmoil. But I think words of a historical figure should be interpreted as genuine first, and be doubted if valid reasons emerge. I can't find genuine reasons to doubt Epicurus was not an atheist, so I'd conclude he wasn't.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Borum

    I needed some help in figuring out what Lucretius or Epicurus was trying to convey in De Rerum Natura, so I started reading 'The Art of Happiness'. I was surprised to find out that some ideas that I believed to belong to Epicurus may have been misinterpreted. (Of course, I might be wrong in my interpretation of THIS book as well...) I started reading Lucretius after reading the Swerve by Greenblatt and now I'm trying to get a firmer grasp on it through the discussion in our group and this book o I needed some help in figuring out what Lucretius or Epicurus was trying to convey in De Rerum Natura, so I started reading 'The Art of Happiness'. I was surprised to find out that some ideas that I believed to belong to Epicurus may have been misinterpreted. (Of course, I might be wrong in my interpretation of THIS book as well...) I started reading Lucretius after reading the Swerve by Greenblatt and now I'm trying to get a firmer grasp on it through the discussion in our group and this book on Epicurus' Art of Happiness. It seems that he tried to overlook some faults in the physical and etymological theories in order to focus on the ethical impact of atomism. The book has a bit too much commentary and I don't recommend reading this before reading Lucretius but it might be of some help. As Epicurus' own writings are scant, it IS more of Strodach's book, but it offered me a chance to see the prose translation of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura (which is just as beautiful as the verse translation) and made me realize how extremely dry and bland Epicurus' style of composition is in comparison. Before, I was a bit doubtful about the efficiency of Lucretius's poetic format in presenting a scientific theory but after reading this, I fully appreciate it. :-) Kudos to Luc. Though it did help me understand some less clear points of epicurism and provided some background knowledge and I liked the Vatican collection of epicureanist aphorisms, I didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Lucretius version of epicureanism.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Linh Bui

    A pretty good read, though the language is so hard to comprehend (I know this is philosophy). He has good view of life and the fact that he focuses on the 'now' moment rather than looking toward the future or grieving for the past. What matters is the present and we have to live to its fullest. Another book I had to read but it was a good read! A pretty good read, though the language is so hard to comprehend (I know this is philosophy). He has good view of life and the fact that he focuses on the 'now' moment rather than looking toward the future or grieving for the past. What matters is the present and we have to live to its fullest. Another book I had to read but it was a good read!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Brennan

    I think I could have done with a little more Epicurus in this and less pulling in from Lucretius and commentary but it was a quick distillation otherwise. The introduction does a great job of providing context, but as a result the translators cometary throughout felt repetitive rather than expanding.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tg

    There is a lot of narrative and speculation by the author of the book, but I find Epicurus and Lucretius's observations about the good life to be profound and noble. Seneca quotes Epicurus all the time in his Stoic Epistles. "Wealth may procure for one the pleasures of eating and drinking, but it cannot provide freedom from Sorrow or cheerfulness of Spirit" Epicurus There is a lot of narrative and speculation by the author of the book, but I find Epicurus and Lucretius's observations about the good life to be profound and noble. Seneca quotes Epicurus all the time in his Stoic Epistles. "Wealth may procure for one the pleasures of eating and drinking, but it cannot provide freedom from Sorrow or cheerfulness of Spirit" Epicurus

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fábio Rachid

    A very short book where Epicurus lays down his philosophy in a very simple and clear way to one of his students. It is Epicurus' definition of happiness, which means a body without suffering and a mind without perturbation, and how to achieve it, by looking for pleasure (not purely in the material, sensorial way), which is what leads you to have a sane mind and body. So he differs from hedonism, since banquets, drinking and search for sex, which are a sensorial pleasure, should not be actively so A very short book where Epicurus lays down his philosophy in a very simple and clear way to one of his students. It is Epicurus' definition of happiness, which means a body without suffering and a mind without perturbation, and how to achieve it, by looking for pleasure (not purely in the material, sensorial way), which is what leads you to have a sane mind and body. So he differs from hedonism, since banquets, drinking and search for sex, which are a sensorial pleasure, should not be actively sought, choosing instead to live in a more simplistic way, so as to understand that a man does not need much to achieve happiness. The search of pleasure should be to rid oneself of basic needs, which would prepare one to an incertain, and sometimes negative, future. Also, by living like that, good moments would be even better savoured. Putting it simply, you should be used to having water, because, in the future, you may not be able to enjoy having juice. And, of course, if you have the chance to drink juice, you'd enjoy it even more after weeks of water. Yet, he does not deny the importance of pain, which should be taken if will lead to a greater pleasure in the future. So, putting it simply, instead of avoiding physical exercising because it's painful now, understand that it will pay off in the future. In summary: - Happiness is both having a body without suffering and an undisturbed mind; - Moderately seek pleasure that helps you achieve that; deny active search just for sensorial pleasures such as banquets, drinking and etc.; - Learn to live with less, for the future is uncertain and bountiful moments will be enjoyed more intensely; - Do not run away from pain if it will lead to an even greater pleasure in the future. A short, simple, yet important reminder to reflect upon what happiness means, upon what our choices may lead to and an appraisal of a more simple and plentiful life.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Percy

    I found this book quite perplexing. I expected a hedonistic discussion of the life of reading, conversation, and communal living. Instead, I was learning about atomic theory and the atomic "swerve" (a way to explain randomness in the universe and the subsequent collision of atoms), the logic of the sun, moon,stars, and weather, and the need to be ever-vigilant to ignore the popular gods and to rely on empirical evidence rather than determinism (fate) and mythology to comprehend the otherwise unk I found this book quite perplexing. I expected a hedonistic discussion of the life of reading, conversation, and communal living. Instead, I was learning about atomic theory and the atomic "swerve" (a way to explain randomness in the universe and the subsequent collision of atoms), the logic of the sun, moon,stars, and weather, and the need to be ever-vigilant to ignore the popular gods and to rely on empirical evidence rather than determinism (fate) and mythology to comprehend the otherwise unknown. The letters to Herodotus and Pythocles were all about such concepts, with only the letter to Menoeceus even touching upon the concept of happiness. I was surprised by the depth of the logos of Epicurean thought, and the loftiness of its ideals when compared to Stoic philosophy. Physics was originally known as natural philosophy, and out Epicurus' understanding of the universe (based on the ideas of others and not just his own, of course), led to an anti-religious philosophy. Yet God is not absent in Epicurean thought. In the "Leading Doctrines" (pp. 174-5), Epicurus explains: 10. If the things that produce the debauchee's pleasures dissolved the mind's fears regarding the heavenly bodies, death, and pain and also told us how to limit our desires, we would never have any reason to find fault with such people, because they would be glutting themselves with every sort of pleasure and never suffer any physical or mental pain, which is the real evil. 11. We would have no need for natural science unless we were worried by apprehensiveness regarding the heavenly bodies, by anxiety about the meaning of death, and also by our failure to understand the limitations of pain and desire. 12. It is impossible to get rid of our anxieties about essentials if we do not understand the nature of the universe and are apprehensive about some of the theological accounts. Hence it is impossible to enjoy our pleasures unadulterated without natural science. Moral acts involve deliberate "choices" of possible concrete pleasures and "aversions", e.e., the deliberate avoidance of prospective pain. An act is moral if in the long run, all things considered, it produces in the agent a surplus of pleasure over pain; otherwise it is immoral. Our choices, desires, and aversions play a prominent role in Stoic philosophy, too. So too, are our impressions, and Epicurus outlines his theology thus: The gods do indeed exist, since our knowledge of them is a matter of clear and distinct perception. However, Epicurus warned against anthropomorphising the gods or Gods, and that the gods did not control nature. Rather, their role was ethical, and the gods were abstract (p. 41): psychological projections of what every good Epicurean wanted himself to be... Thus a relapse into "the old-time religion" of a god-controlled universe has very serious consequences: It cuts the worshipper off from the gods' images - that is, alienates him from the divine communion - and it plunges the naive believer once more into the ancient fears that Epicurus seeks to allay: namely, that the gods will avenge themselves on wicked men by causing natural disasters, political upheavals, and finally the torments of death and hell. For the Roman poet, Lucretius: True religion is rather the power to contemplate nature with a mind set at peace. Nevertheless, Epicurus was keen to attack other philosophies and religions, so it is not surprising that he got some of his own back! When I was schooled in snippets of Greek philosophy, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were the godhead "gang of three" (see De Bono), and the Presocratics and others were treated as the great pretenders. Yet Epicurus, too, was asking those two great questions: How to live and what to believe (see Murray in my previous article), and his atomic theory addressed the second question in order to address the first. God exists, but, like the atomic swerve, free will exists otherwise there would be no need for ethics, for our behaviour would be pre-determined. According to Strodach's Introduction, the Epicurean materialism (which was morphed or "garbled" into "eat, drink, and be merry") was "so unpalatable" to the ancient and medieval worlds that Epicurus' atomic theory was lost until the 17th Century (uncovered by "the Jesuit priest Pierre Gassendi, a contemporary of Descartes", see p. 76). And so I find myself in agreement with Daniel Klein (see Foreword): For a moment, the twenty-first-century mind might recoil at the idea of a self-anointed pundit proclaiming to his students - and to us - exactly how to live. But I, for one, read on for the simple reason that I suspect Epicurus may, in fact, have gotten it right.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    This is a great little introduction to a fascinating branch of ancient philosophy. The book is a bit deceptive, as this is really just a reprint of a book from 1963 (The Philosophy of Epicurus : Letters, Doctrines, and Parallel Passages from Lucretius by George K. Strodach) with a little preface by Daniel Klein tacked onto it. I'm used to Dover Thrift Editions and Everyman's Library issuing disguised reprints of old translations, but it seems that Penguin is getting in the business too. This tit This is a great little introduction to a fascinating branch of ancient philosophy. The book is a bit deceptive, as this is really just a reprint of a book from 1963 (The Philosophy of Epicurus : Letters, Doctrines, and Parallel Passages from Lucretius by George K. Strodach) with a little preface by Daniel Klein tacked onto it. I'm used to Dover Thrift Editions and Everyman's Library issuing disguised reprints of old translations, but it seems that Penguin is getting in the business too. This title is better than your average Everyman reprint for several reasons though: the translation is clear and serviceable, it is followed by a lengthy section of endnotes that clarify and elucidate the text, and it is preceded by a lengthy introduction which provides an overview of Epicurus and Epicurean philosophy. None of this has been revised or updated in any way, so there are frequent references to the cold war, communism, and some dated ideas about sexuality and relationships. Some of these are actually pretty funny. My favorite gem is a note on page 195 that earnestly references UFOs as a modern example of something unknown which begets multi-cause explanations. There is also a great 5-page diatribe in the introduction called "A sermon by a modern Epicurean on the evils of religion." These alone make this volume worth reading. The clear translations, helpful notes, and useful collection of passages from Lucretius make this a great way to get acquainted with ancient Epicurean philosophy. The biggest concern, of course, is that there have been over 5 decades of scholarship on Epicurus since this volume was published, so some of his analysis may turn out to be falsified by later scholarship. But for the relative neophyte, this may be a good place to start.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Bennett

    Epicurus is oft-maligned for his hedonism, but the Art of Happiness reverses this view. Rather than modern philosophers who only view philosophy as a thought-process, ancient writers like Epicurus developed the whole person. The Art of Happiness contains excerpts from all of Epicurus' extant writings, from ethics to metaphysics and back. Epicurus was a thoughtful and deep writer, and the translation here is excellent. He cultivates a personal life of gratitude and self-control, and encourages th Epicurus is oft-maligned for his hedonism, but the Art of Happiness reverses this view. Rather than modern philosophers who only view philosophy as a thought-process, ancient writers like Epicurus developed the whole person. The Art of Happiness contains excerpts from all of Epicurus' extant writings, from ethics to metaphysics and back. Epicurus was a thoughtful and deep writer, and the translation here is excellent. He cultivates a personal life of gratitude and self-control, and encourages the reader to do the same. This excellent translation provides every reader with an easy-to-read version of a sometimes-obscure Greek author. Deep thinkers only!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alok

    10 Stars, Favorite! "Of all this the beginning and the greatest good is wisdom. Therefore wisdom is a more precious thing even than philosophy; from it spring all the other virtues, for it teaches that we cannot live pleasantly without living wisely, honorably, and justly; nor live wisely, honorably, and justly without living pleasantly. For the virtues have grown into one with a pleasant life, and a pleasant life is inseparable from them." This was delightful and full of wise aphorisms. And I fel 10 Stars, Favorite! "Of all this the beginning and the greatest good is wisdom. Therefore wisdom is a more precious thing even than philosophy; from it spring all the other virtues, for it teaches that we cannot live pleasantly without living wisely, honorably, and justly; nor live wisely, honorably, and justly without living pleasantly. For the virtues have grown into one with a pleasant life, and a pleasant life is inseparable from them." This was delightful and full of wise aphorisms. And I felt pangs of sadness as I finished this little letter, I wished more of Epicurus's writing was preserved and we could take a lasting glimpse at the splendor of his wisdom. Unlike so many misguided hedonistic people who indulge in sensory pleasure and call themselves "Epicureans", Epicurean himself did not identify pleasure as mere sensual indulgence. In his own words: "When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or willful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of revelry, not sexual lust, not the enjoyment of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul." I've been on a lot of Stoic forums and how the Epicureans are put against the Stoics as if both are opponents of each other. But I've seen Epicurus's thought frequently mentioned in Seneca's writings. And even if they'd their differences a lot of Stoic and Epicurean thinking match. The love of philosophy, the disregard for age in studying it, the indifference to death, the stoics's focus on virtue and the Epicreans's focus on the goodness of it and much more. One of the surprising things were Epicurus's belief in God, for I've read the famous "Is God willing to prevent evil but not able?..." being attributed to Epicurus. Yet it didn't match his thinking in this. I'll need to explore more Epicureanism. I used to think utilitarianism is the best version of the hedonistic thought, but now I feel it might be Epicurean school. But more importantly I wonder if it's even just to call Epicureanism as one of the Hedonistic ones? I'd conclude this after reading the two three other works I've to read on this. Something larger. This and the Principal Doctrines were too small. "Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not." Damn I really did highlight the whole thing.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael A

    I see I am the first review here. The thing that bugs me about original philosophy texts -- well, this is a translation, but it has to do -- is that they are often too esoteric and abstruse to really understand. Epicurus is one of many who is not so easy to understand, though I guess it could be a lot worse (ever try reading Hegel?). To illustrate this confusion, let me offer you some of the things I learned from reading this book. For starters, did you know that sensation results from the collisi I see I am the first review here. The thing that bugs me about original philosophy texts -- well, this is a translation, but it has to do -- is that they are often too esoteric and abstruse to really understand. Epicurus is one of many who is not so easy to understand, though I guess it could be a lot worse (ever try reading Hegel?). To illustrate this confusion, let me offer you some of the things I learned from reading this book. For starters, did you know that sensation results from the collision of the atoms in the universe? Did you know that atoms naturally fall in a downward, parallel kind of direction, but sometimes they swerve out of line so we have consciousness and free will? Did you know that we can accept that gods exist because we can sense them enter our brain in dreams through atomic films? Did you know we can use our daily sense experiences to make grand theories about cosmic bodies? That is, since we know a fire eventually burns out from lack of fuel, we can safely say that an eclipse is simply a process of the star not having an internal fire? In this way, analogies through common sense can be used to justify absurd scientific claims -- they just have to make sense in our daily sensory life. Of course, a lot of this is outdated and it makes for terrible science as it we know it today, but just as big of a problem is that Epicurus doesn't write very well either. Given those faults, does his work have any value to me as I try to live my own life? It does in a way. His focus on living a life free from irrational religious beliefs does strike a chord for me. That said, I wonder why he even needs to posit the existence of a deity if said deity is just supposed to be floating in the sky in a state of undisturbed bliss. I also appreciate his historical importance in the development of a scientific method. Lastly, I generally agree with him when he wants people to live a tranquil life not overly concerned with the outside world or death. Basically, I don't mind the general outline of his philosophy. It's how he tries to fill in details and explain it all that are odd. Having read him in this volume, it hasn't left a terribly big impact on me in the grand scheme of things. The reason I give this volume four stars is for the introduction. It's wonderful -- far more helpful and informative than reading Epicurus has been. The translator/compiler did such a great job that I don't even have much of a desire to read Lucretius. Anything I wanted to know of Epicurus's theory has been explained here along with lucid commentary to help readers think about the implications of the ideas. I wish more philosophy books came with introductory sections this helpful! Read this (especially the introduction) before tackling Epicurus head on.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    An enlightening collection of writings by Epicurus, with some related passages from Lucretius’s ‘De Rerum Natura’., showing how Epicurus’s ideas are a classical antecedent to Existentialism and remain fresh after more than 2300 years. This edition’s excellent introduction and notes enhance the study of his still relevant approach to life. [Thanks, Cathy!]

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ivan Probst

    By taking what Epicurus has written himself (or so we think), and Lucretius versions, the author manages to build a solid summary of Epicureanism. The book is directed to novices more than advanced persons, and offers a simple way to dig into this ideal of happiness, without much background in philosophy. If all of it is true I don’t know, as philosophy is always open to personal interpretation. But I feel much of what is said is simply stated facts and a run through what makes the basics of Epic By taking what Epicurus has written himself (or so we think), and Lucretius versions, the author manages to build a solid summary of Epicureanism. The book is directed to novices more than advanced persons, and offers a simple way to dig into this ideal of happiness, without much background in philosophy. If all of it is true I don’t know, as philosophy is always open to personal interpretation. But I feel much of what is said is simply stated facts and a run through what makes the basics of Epicureanism. It then lets you then evaluate your own position within this set of values, and this is great.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jason Williams

    This book is an excellent example of early Greek philosophy that attempts to explain the world through natural observations. Without properly developed scientific methods and lacking any scientific instruments, the conclusions and explanations lean heavily on pseudoscience. A saving grace is that Epicurus does not appear to be dogmatic and would likely change his viewpoint with sufficient evidence. I would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys skepticism and all of its various forms.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gaetano Venezia

    "We are born once. We cannot be born a second time, and throughout eternity we shall of necessity no longer exist. You have no power over the morrow, and yet you put off your pleasure. Life is ruined by procrastination, and every one of us dies deep in his affairs." "Nothing is sufficient for the person who finds sufficiency too little." "We are born once. We cannot be born a second time, and throughout eternity we shall of necessity no longer exist. You have no power over the morrow, and yet you put off your pleasure. Life is ruined by procrastination, and every one of us dies deep in his affairs." "Nothing is sufficient for the person who finds sufficiency too little."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mauricio Garcia

    Can't say I disagree with anything as presented by Epicurus. Succinct and practical advice on how to lead a life of contentment, that is as relevant today as ever. ...So how again is this supposed to have anything to do with hedonism??? Can't say I disagree with anything as presented by Epicurus. Succinct and practical advice on how to lead a life of contentment, that is as relevant today as ever. ...So how again is this supposed to have anything to do with hedonism???

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mr Siegal

    Nice Wee Book This is a nice wee book to get a little taste of Epicureanism. It appears to focus more on a way of doing things rather than obtaining truth or something similar. For half an hours read, I believe it is well worth the read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Evan Micheals

    I am liking the interpretations of modern scholars, rather than the originals... I will persist with my on going reading into Stoicism.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Werevrock

    It is called "art of happiness" but it talks more about the metaphysics and outdated scientific understand of Epicureanism than the actual epicurean way of living. It is called "art of happiness" but it talks more about the metaphysics and outdated scientific understand of Epicureanism than the actual epicurean way of living.

  22. 5 out of 5

    John Naylor

    A book of two halves. The first half involves the introduction and the philosophy of Epicurus. The introduction was informative about the life and times that he lived in. It was possibly a little too long as a description with a varying degree of detail amongst the various aspects. The philosophy chapters were written by an author who absolutely loves run-on sentences. There were times when it was hard to follow due to this. It made parts of the text near enough incomprehensible. The rest of the A book of two halves. The first half involves the introduction and the philosophy of Epicurus. The introduction was informative about the life and times that he lived in. It was possibly a little too long as a description with a varying degree of detail amongst the various aspects. The philosophy chapters were written by an author who absolutely loves run-on sentences. There were times when it was hard to follow due to this. It made parts of the text near enough incomprehensible. The rest of the book is the translated doctrines, sayings and letters of Epicurus. Along with his will. This was the better part of the book. I will note that his words were easier to understand than those written over 2000 years later that started the book. I feel that this is a good addition to anyone's collection who wants to know more about Epicurus or ancient Greek philosophy. It is a good starting point for that. There are thoughts and ideas that you can research further that this will lead you to. I don't feel that any reviewer should tell you that any part of a book is skippable but I was close to declaring that here. It is a book of two halves. I recommend it based on the second half only.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    Having recently completed Lucretius' "De Rerum Natura," which posits and poetically elucidates several components of Epicurean philosophy, I wanted to hear it right from the horse's mouth which this volume affords. Where Lucretius was writing in beautiful verse in the 1st century BCE, Epicurus was writing in very blunt and ascetic fashion towards the end of the 3rd century BCE. Doing so is quite difficult, however, as the majority of Epicurus' writings have been lost. The bulk of information to b Having recently completed Lucretius' "De Rerum Natura," which posits and poetically elucidates several components of Epicurean philosophy, I wanted to hear it right from the horse's mouth which this volume affords. Where Lucretius was writing in beautiful verse in the 1st century BCE, Epicurus was writing in very blunt and ascetic fashion towards the end of the 3rd century BCE. Doing so is quite difficult, however, as the majority of Epicurus' writings have been lost. The bulk of information to be had comes by way of Diogenes Laërtius in his "Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers," which not only contains a great amount of material to refute the published opinions of Epicurus' enemies and rivals, but also contains three lengthy letters (though there is some doubt about their authenticity) from Epicurus himself. In each of these letters to Herodotus and Pythocles he gives a thorough summation of his views of nature, natural occurrences, the cosmos, and his atomic theory. The third letter, to Menoeceus, is focused more on individual morality. Following these letters are collections of Epicurean doctrines and aphorisms which exist mainly in fragment form. However they are clear, concise, and representative of the material previously mentioned albeit in soundbite form. While it is true that rarely does the "common" usage of a philosophical term match the genuine philosophy, this disparity is nowhere more evident than in the popular conception of "epicurean, or epicureanism," and genuine Epicurean philosophy. Frequently this is equated to hedonism and even gluttony, what this volume and the life of its author make clear is just how misinformed and deliberately misleading this appellation is. There is much to enjoy here and the huge introduction (60+ pages) from George Strodach is highly informative as well, if perhaps a little overly-opinionated.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Seleena

    This was written a loooong time ago and has been translated so expect some wordiness, but overall full of inspirational quotes about the truth of the universe and it's phenomena. Great if you need a quick reset on your ideologies or are curious about other beliefs. This was written a loooong time ago and has been translated so expect some wordiness, but overall full of inspirational quotes about the truth of the universe and it's phenomena. Great if you need a quick reset on your ideologies or are curious about other beliefs.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mr Shahabi

    Outdated and over-rated.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael Neal

    The information itself is good, but as a read this book was not that enjoyable.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elliott Bignell

    Epicurus seems to have been a prolific writer whose work has mainly been lost, but whose philosophy was preserved by the school which followed him. This work comprises three lengthy letters which have survived in his own hand, along with the later interpretations and interpolations of Lucretius and the introduction and commentary of the modern translator. It has less directly to do with happiness than one might imagine, and consists of a startling mixture of ideas advanced before their time, thu Epicurus seems to have been a prolific writer whose work has mainly been lost, but whose philosophy was preserved by the school which followed him. This work comprises three lengthy letters which have survived in his own hand, along with the later interpretations and interpolations of Lucretius and the introduction and commentary of the modern translator. It has less directly to do with happiness than one might imagine, and consists of a startling mixture of ideas advanced before their time, thus eerily familiar, and jarring dissonances with the modern mind. Epicurus himself seems to have been following in the footsteps of Democritus, and his philosophy can be understood under atomism. According to the commentaries, he found himself in the midst of a culture war between his naturalistic philosophy and the idealism of the Platonists, also the supersitions concerning active, anthropomorphic gods, and this explains a certain dogmatism in his assertions: This was the middle of a an ongoing fight for the soul of a society. One sees a foreshadowing of empiricism and scientific naturalism in his writing, but the conception of falsification had not emerged in the ancient world, so there is also an excess of faith in his hypotheses. Mostly this model of the world emerges by the application of pure reason to dogmatic presumptions, and if this process can in principle explain what we see in nature it is considered to have been explained. Conjecture and refutation is not applied. Epicurus offers a fatalistic, almost Eastern conception of human being. Its naturalism frees us from the superstitions of religion, as the gods remain distant like Newton's master clockmaker and do not concern themselves with punishing sinners or rewarding the virtuous. The only virtue is "pleasure", which I interpret loosely as the freedom from privations, compulsions and dependencies, leading Epicurus to have led a rather ascetic life. The only life we have is the one we now live, and it should be lived in comfort, but comfort means to be content with simplicity, because the addiction to rich foods or the pursuit of political power lead us into compulsions and addictions. There is much to admire here, even if it leads him to eschew public life and service. As we are merely a temporary accumulation of atoms falling through space, free only in that the atoms "swerve" arbitrarily - a shameful ad hoc rationalisation - to render our choices undetermined, there is no self after death breaks up that pattern of atomic relations. Death, therefore, is nothing to us, and no more an inconvenience than was the state of not yet having been born. Live now, therefore! Like all the ancients in my experience, Epicurus is a clear voice and quite easy to follow, while Lucretius' rich prose is outright pleasurable to read. The Greeks' world was not ours, and the modern mind rails at some of this dogmatism in the service of a long-overturned Weltanschauung, but there are fascinating elements of our modern selves to be seen here. This was an important voice, and played an important part in shaping that Greek world of the mind.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maciej Sitko

    Around 85% of the book is actually written either by George K. Strodach adorned by passages of Lucretius. Thus, to call it "by Epicurus" is a little bit of an unfair stretch. The introduction itself is 70 pages long in which there is too much author's opinion and unrelated excerpt content. Sections and passages from introduction repeat themselves often later in the book. I have the irresistible word coming into mind. The word is "filler". Epicurus' content is three letters, a short description of Around 85% of the book is actually written either by George K. Strodach adorned by passages of Lucretius. Thus, to call it "by Epicurus" is a little bit of an unfair stretch. The introduction itself is 70 pages long in which there is too much author's opinion and unrelated excerpt content. Sections and passages from introduction repeat themselves often later in the book. I have the irresistible word coming into mind. The word is "filler". Epicurus' content is three letters, a short description of leading doctrines and a very short section of Vatican aphorisms. When it comes to Epicurus himself, his writing is very dry and uninteresting. His writing style is even worse that Aristotle's. It is not an easy read, but the doctrines and Epicurean way of life is definitely worth it. My interest in Epicurus was provoked by many references in the works of a Stoic Epictetus. It seems that Stoics had beef with Epicureans. Nevertheless, all criticism from Epictetus' side seems to be misplaced. Stoics seemed to put Epicureans in a bad light as a matter of personal issues and hedonism they described seems completely ungrounded and artificial. Epicurus and Epicureans were actually quite ascetic, and Hedonism they represent is pleasure of the mind coming from a very minimalistic way of life rather than excess in the pleasures of the body. I presume main issue Stoics had with Epicurus was his semi-atheistic approach and such was the true reason of this conflict - religion. Epicurus' take on religion truly exceeds his times. It is surprisingly Spinosian pantheism with elements of atheist, materialistic disbelief. Regarding free will, Epicurus came to the same conclusions as compatibilists over a thousand years later. If I were to frame Epicureanism in a term, it would be Rational Empiricism with strong reliance on scientific method, entirely rejecting any active God intervention in the universe.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wouter

    The introduction of the translator actually pulled me through the rest of the book (the letters of Epicurus himself as they are a bit hard to get into at first). The nature part provides a base layer for us people who are "afraid of the solar system and the gods" so that we can rest assured some things are explained - but not too much in detail. Epicurus simply aims to attain a peace of mind. The rest of physics and mathematics are completely useless to us, according to him. This principle remin The introduction of the translator actually pulled me through the rest of the book (the letters of Epicurus himself as they are a bit hard to get into at first). The nature part provides a base layer for us people who are "afraid of the solar system and the gods" so that we can rest assured some things are explained - but not too much in detail. Epicurus simply aims to attain a peace of mind. The rest of physics and mathematics are completely useless to us, according to him. This principle reminds me of Alain de Botton's status fear lemma: we cope with entropy by imagining gods as an explanation of the chaos happening around us (it must have been fate that brought me to read this book!). The part about happiness looks like plain hedonism but isn't that easily distilled into one word. We seek to avoid suffering: mentally and physically. That sounds like buddhism. Don't just give in to lust as it might have even worse repercussions: make an educated decision. One of the more entertaining Greek parts of philosophy to read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Orlane

    This book was really interesting and short at the same time. Even though the quality of language is really high, this book was less complicated than I thought it would be. So in the end I understood the message and the philisophy theory behind this. And that's what matters. This book was really interesting and short at the same time. Even though the quality of language is really high, this book was less complicated than I thought it would be. So in the end I understood the message and the philisophy theory behind this. And that's what matters.

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