These famous and insightful quotes by Epicurus are still relevant today and touch on important concepts such as gratitude, seeking your pleasure in life, avoiding unnecessary worry and happiness.
Who was Epicurus?
Epicurus (341-270 BCE) was a Greek philosopher, sage and founder of the ‘Epicureanism’ school of philosophy.
What did Epicurus believe?
There is a famous Epicurean motto; “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
To go back a few steps though, Epicurus believed in atomism, naturalism and a disbelief in miracles.
In simpler terms, Epicurus’s philosophy revolved around the idea that humans are made up of atoms and that the world is governed by natural laws, rather than miracles or acts of God.
Epicurus believed that the goal of life was to achieve ataraxia (a state of tranquillity), and that the purpose of life was to seek and maximize pleasure and avoid or minimize pain.
For Epicurus, ‘pleasure’ was not the same as hedonism, and was not intended to be ‘immoral’ pleasures.
Hedonism focuses on the immediate gratification of desires, while Epicurus believed that we should instead look forward to a long-term state of serenity and tranquillity.
Epicurus argued that we could find pleasure in the absence of pain as well as through living a life filled with pleasures such as friendship, conversation, and company of others.
Pain, in this philosophical instance, refers to ‘unnecessary’ pain caused by worry about things outside of our control, and not causing harm to other humans or allowing them to cause us harm.
Why Are Quotes by Epicurus Still Interesting Today?
Epicurus’ philosophy is still relevant in modern times.
Many of his teachings revolved around the idea that humans should strive to lead happy lives, with moderation in all things. Epicurus believed that if people were free from fear and practiced gratitude, then they would be happier.
He also taught that friendship and virtue are more valuable than material wealth. Interesting words to contemplate further.
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for”. Epicurus
“Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.” Epicurus
“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” Epicurus
“He who has peace of mind disturbs neither himself nor another.” Epicurus
“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” Epicurus
“The fool’s life is empty of gratitude and full of fears; its course lies wholly toward the future.” Epicurus
“It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us, as the confidence of their help.” Epicurus
“Never say that I have taken it, only that I have given it back.” Epicurus
“Empty is the argument of the philosopher which does not relieve any human suffering.” Epicurus
“He who is not satisfied with a little is satisfied with nothing.” Epicurus
“The misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool.” Epicurus
“Misfortune seldom intrudes upon the wise man; his greatest and highest interests are directed by reason throughout the course of life.” Epicurus
“Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul.” Epicurus
“The time when most of you should withdraw into yourself is when you are forced to be in a crowd.” Epicurus
“It is better for you to be free of fear lying upon a pallet, than to have a golden couch and a rich table and be full of trouble.” Epicurus
“The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.” Epicurus
Epicurus Quotes on Happiness
“It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.” Epicurus
“Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship.” Epicurus
“Happiness is man’s greatest aim in life. Tranquillity and rationality are the cornerstones of happiness.” Epicurus
“We must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed toward attaining it.” Epicurus
“If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.” Epicurus
Epicurus Quotes on God
Epicurus taught that while God (and gods) do exist, they are not interested, nor do they intervene in human affairs.
Instead, the philosophy believes that humans should conduct themselves morally for their own benefit of not feeling shame, guilt, anxiety – which therefore prevents them from the ultimate aim of happiness in life:
“If God listened to the prayers of men, all men would quickly have perished: for they are forever praying for evil against one another.” Epicurus
“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.” Epicurus
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” Epicurus
Epicurus Quotes on Death
Epicurus believed that human beings have no afterlife, and that death is the end of our existence (body and soul). Death is therefore not to be feared, and to attain a state of peace and tranquillity in life we should avoid unnecessary desires for immortality:
“Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.” Epicurus
“The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.” Epicurus
“It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we men live in a city without walls.” Epicurus
“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.” Epicurus
“Don’t fear the gods,
Don’t worry about death.
What is good is easy to get, and
What is terrible is easy to endure.” Epicurus
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