A surprising fact is that the ancient philosophy of Epicureanism can still offer some great answers for a few of the most pressing current problems in our societies. Epicureanism namely espouses a way of life where the accumulation of social status and material possessions are not seen as the central things in life. After all, the strive to achieve these things is a major cause of mental stress in modern western societies.
However, Epicureanism is not the only possible solution and it does not fit all people. Epicureanism is a personal life choice. It is typically chosen by people who are not really interested in fame and riches in the first place.
Epicureanism has always been chosen by a very select minority. Undoubtedly this will be the case also in the future. Those who strive for fame and power are always free to choose other philosophies that serve their personality better.
A demanding philosophy such as Epicureanism might just be a thing that one needs to learn about as a grown up adult. One can perhaps fully appreciate Epicureanism when one has the faculties and life-experience really to grasp the essence of this philosophy.
Even if one can really build a personal philosophy of life that is based on the teachings of Epicureanism, I think that one needs to be open to all other good ideas also. A truly rich philosophy of life can only be formed from fusion of different philosophies and ideas from different ages.
There are a lot of great ideas both in Stoicism and Epicureanism. My own current world-view is greatly in dept for both. However, much of my own thinking comes also from likes of Thomas Paine, Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper, and from people like Mark Twain, George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut.
A human clearly has a need to identify him- or herself to a certain larger group of humans. In the long run also Epicureanism can provide a basis for such group-identification. People who can gather under its banner do also share certain basic characteristics, to begin with. A true friend of Epicurus namely needs to be a person who does not see striving for material goods as the primary goal in life.
This feature alone would define a group of people that would have a common way of seeing the life in a similar way. This is true, even if they would live on different continents in very different societies. However, people who will take to themselves the task of learning what Epicureanism is all about will be self-selected from a group of people that have very many other similarities.
In the age of the Internet it is finally possible to form communities that do stretch across the oceans and continents. Participants can still act as if they would be in the same neighborhood. People can discuss and converse in real time with like-minded people. Even being the sole Epicurean in a country is not a problem anymore. One has the ability to keep contact with other like-minded people whenever one just wants.
It is hard to see that followers of Epicuranism would form any kind majority anywhere. To achieve this kind of status an ideology needs to be indoctrinated in the early childhood, as all major religions always are. The goal in Epicureanism is not to achieve power or status for the ideology, but to achieve a state of mental peace. If you are not interested in this kind of goal, you are free to forget Epicureanism, of course.
When Epicurus had established the ultimate goal for himself, he thought out a number of ways of how to achieve this goal. One of the main methods for reaching it was diminishing the normal human tendency to want and crave for thing things that we can not get easily. Again, if you are not comfortable with this kind of goal, you are free to find other philosophy that does suit you better.
One should not forget Epicureanism is a school of philosophy and not a religion in a modern sense of the word. The main difference between Epicureanism and religions that Epicureanism is not at all about limiting others peoples life choices. It is just about chancing oneself and one’s own life.
The Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are busy setting rules that are forced to the whole of the society, but I don’t see such rules arising from Epicureanism. Epicureanism has never been a compulsory thing as, for example, Christianity has been. It has always been a thing that is adopted after adult decision making process. All of the people who have chosen it have done it because themselves have seen it as personally beneficial.
In the center of Epicureanism there is idea of making people personally aware about the other choice to achieve happiness than striving for more material goods. The idea is that a person can curb his or her own desires instead of reaching for more and more. All too often people just end up realizing that this guest has not made them happier. Epicureanism is a life choice. It is always available to those whose social situation, life stance expectations it does fit.
(This piece completely refurbished on 25th of November, 2012)
Epicurus is in Facebook at:
A group dedicated to a bit deeper discussion on Epicureanism
is "The Garden of Epicurus" in Facebook at: