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Thread: Epicureanism vs. Stoicism

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    Default Epicureanism vs. Stoicism

    Epicurus vs. Zeno...


    The Epicureanism school of philosophy was named for its founder, Epicurus (341–270 BCE). Epicurus was not an atheist; he believed that there were gods, long-lived beings of such distant refinement that human lives could mean nothing to them.

    Human happiness must be found, therefore, in this life. To achieve it, Epicurus recommended withdrawal from public life (Plato would have been horrified; Aristotle, more so), from sexual involvement, from desire for fame or for
    material objects. In such a condition of disciplined withdrawal, ataraxia, one might maximum pleasure and minimum pain. Epicurus’s elevated doctrines appealed to idealistic, cultivated men and women of a world ruled by frantically competitive tyrants. many Epicureans settled for a less ascetic version of the master’s doctrine, cultivating lives of refined intellectual and sensual pleasure and avoiding politics as far as possible.


    Stoicism arose as a critical response to Epicureanism—and to Skepticism, another contemporary philosophical movement. Zeno (320?–250? BCE) was the founder of Stoicism. Zeno and his followers were committed primarily to finding useful answers to the everyday moral problems of ordinary people.

    Instead of the elite Epicurean ataraxia, the Stoics proposed the ideal of apatheia, freedom from suffering or passion achieved by discipline; in its social consequences, it was anything but “apathy.” The Stoics insisted on duty to one’s community and fellow men and work. Zeno declared that all who recognize the spark of divine, natural reason within themselves must acknowledge the sway of natural virtue that everywhere obeys the dictates of universal. justice. If enough people ever do so, then the human race may be able to advance to the government of a worldwide city-state, a cosmopolis ruled by natural law.



    Source credit: Robert Hilary Kane, Ph.D.
    Professor of Philosophy, The University of Texas at Austin

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    Some of the farmers of the Constitution had an affinity for Stoicism because of its emphasis on civic virtue and commitment to civic engagement.

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