How To Be An Epicurean Book Summary By Catherine Wilson

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How to Be an Epicurean offers readers a thought-provoking exploration of the ancient philosophy of Epicureanism and its relevance in the modern world.

Written by renowned philosopher and author Massimo Pigliucci, this book provides a comprehensive overview of Epicureanism—explaining not just what it is, but also why it matters.

It's an engaging read that shows how Epicureanism can be used to help us make sense of our lives today -- to live meaningful lives informed by morality and enjoy pleasure without excess.

That's why this book may just prove to be the definitive guide for understanding this philosophy and applying its wisdom in meaningful ways.

How To Be An Epicurean Book

Book Name: How to Be an Epicurean (The Ancient Art of Living Well)

Author(s): Catherine Wilson

Rating: 4.4/5

Reading Time: 23 Minutes

Categories: Philosophy

Author Bio

Catherine Wilson is a highly accomplished philosopher who has vouched her expertise around the world, from the United States to Canada and Europe.

Currently, she is Visiting Presidential Professor of philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

She certainly has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Epicureanism — she has even written multiple books on the topic including A Very Short Introduction to Epicureanism.

Additionally, Wilson has studied other renowned philosophers such as Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and René Descartes and wrote corresponding works on their contributions.

In short, Catherine Wilson is uniquely qualified to be the author of How to Be an Epicurean - an invaluable resource for those seeking insight into this fascinating philosophical movement.

What Epicureanism Teaches Us About Pleasure, Pain, And Life: An Overview


We all ask ourselves at some point in our lives, ‘What should I be striving for?’ Should we just keep chasing that promotion or the bigger house? Or is there something more important we should dedicate ourselves to?

The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was here to enlighten us.

He believed that the secret of life was not that complicated – it’s to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

But surprisingly enough, his simple maxim contains plenty of complexity, so he had even more teachings about physics and death.

By understanding Epicureanism today, we can discover what an ancient philosophical school of thought still has to offer us in the modern age.

Through this, we can gain insight into subjects like what Darwinism and Epicureanism have in common; what happens to the soul after we die; and how Epicureanism differs from Stoicism – two different schools of thought originating from Greece.

Epicureanism: Much More Than Pleasure – A Theory Of Everything

The ancient Greek philosophy of Epicureanism is not just about pleasure – it’s an interesting and complex theory of everything.

In fact, Epicurus, its most influential followers, such as the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius wrote extensively about nature, physics, history, love, death, religion and much more.

Their teachings are still highly relevant today.

Epicurus founded his school of philosophy in Athens in the third century BCE with a grove outside the city walls.

Unfortunately many of his writings were lost when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE.

However Lucretius’ epic poem On the Nature of Things is still widely read today and contains valuable insights into Epicurean thought.

The influence of Epicureanism cannot be denied with several American Founding Fathers being followers as well as philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Stuart Mill, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Marx all drawing on this branch of ancient Greek philosophy.

It also has an intriguing place in Ancient scientific thought with its postulation on atoms being surprisingly accurate for that time period.

In conclusion Epicureanism isn’t just about pleasure but an empirical study into every facet life has to offer and should not be overlooked or underestimated due to its hedonistic reputation as it contains a valuable insight into human behavior as well as science today.

The Epicurean Theory Of Natural Selection: How Chance Configurations Of Atoms Can Lead To Consciousness And An Appreciation For Life

The ancient Epicureans believed that, long ago, atoms happened to form many animals – far more than exist today.

They held the view that it was the creatures with the most beneficial features – like speed or intelligence – that managed to survive and ultimately prevail in nature.

This conception of natural selection and evolution pushed back against the idea of divine creation which was widely accepted for centuries.

In this way, Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection had a direct parallel with Lucretius’ doctrines – though just as Darwin’s theories were ridiculed initially, so were those of Lucretius.

Nowadays however we understand how accurate their visions were!

Regarding consciousness specifically, Epicureanism is no less remarkable in its modern outlook.

Though they attributed a special type of atom called ‘soul atoms’ as being responsible, a scientific perspective suggests there must exist some observable material configuration that generates our conscious experience – rather than a ghostly non-physical force inhabiting us invisibly.

Epicureanism fundamentally stands against supernatural forces or phenomena.

Thus they may have sounded far-fetched at the time but today’s understanding of natural selection and consciousness render its tenets surprisingly modern!

Seeking Pleasure And Avoiding Pain With Prudence And Morality: An Epicurean Guide To Life

Avoiding Pain

Epicurean ethics involve seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, but one must be prudent when making decisions.

Rather than making rash decisions or hedonistic ones, Epicurus advises us to carefully consider the long-term consequences of our current actions.

This is what it means to act prudently in order to maximize our pleasures and minimize any potential pain.

For example, getting treatment from a dentist might cause some discomfort in the moment, but its effects can help to avoid greater pain such as an untreated cavity later on.

However, should you buy an insurance policy protecting you against pipes bursting if the risk of that happening is almost zero? The Epicurean answer could be yes if it both minimizes your anxiety over the risk and makes you feel good knowing you are protected.

Ultimately, Epicurean ethics is about more than just seeking pleasure – morality matters too.

It’s not just about doing whatever we desire because it may make us happy; instead, we must also act according to moral conventions.

We should strive for kindness and build human-made laws that prevent a descent into chaos while allowing us to continue living pleasurable lives.

Embrace Passion And Love – Recognize The Inevitability Of Pain And Death In Life

The Epicureans thought that some pains in life are unavoidable, including those that can come with love and death.

For example, having uncertainty about whether or not someone loves you back can be agonizing, while the inevitability of death can cause sorrow.

But they didn’t believe we should shy away from these feelings, as they’re just a natural part of life – like an illness or disease.

Epicurus himself did not get married, but there were no restrictions on women joining his philosophical school.

It was the only ancient school where women were allowed to take part, and were treated as equals – demonstrating how modern-thinking their views were for the time!

He also had an accepting viewpoint of homosexuality when it comes to relationships between people of the same gender.

Banning such relationships causes pain which he believed to be avoidable; his view was that any relationship conducted morally would bring no harm to anyone else.

When it came to death, he maintained that it’s bad – but something to accept rather than fear or rail against.

Human life has a limit, akin to everything else in nature – animate or inanimate – so when we reach this point we should embrace it as part of fate rather than reject it with sorrow.

Epicureanism does not have a cosmic justice system after death either; instead, though emphasizing living a good and moral life on Earth while one still can!

This again reiterates the fundamental point that some pains are inevitable in our lifetime, including those related with love and death.

The Distinction Between Nature And Convention At The Heart Of Epicureanism

At the center of Epicureanism is a clear distinction between what is natural and what is a convention.

Natural things exist and persist as they are, no matter what power or forces are acting upon them.

This can be seen in qualities such as heaviness, hotness and liquidness which we ascribe to rocks, fire, and water respectively; none of these can be changed.

On the other hand, conventions are changeable – they can differ from one time period to another, depending on the context.

For example, whether or not someone is enslaved or free; or rich or poor – these are all based on conventions that may be changed if circumstances require it.

This applies to objects like clocks and driving licenses, as well as concepts like royalty or money; their contextual meaning determines their function and value.

Human rights can also be considered a convention according to this understanding – if rights were natural then there would be no need of debating about them.

Even history itself relies on conventions: We only know about past events through our own interpretation – mediated by subjective human testimony – with limited perception due to our senses.

All this together shows how fascinatingly complex but essential this distinction between nature and convention is within Epicurean thought.

The Limits Of Knowing: Embracing An Empirical Approach To Understand The World Around Us

Empirical Approach

Epicurean Atomism tells us that it is impossible to know what’s really going on in the world – we only see the blur caused by millions of tiny atoms coming together and forming larger things, plus our own individual senses as well as past experiences.

That said, we still cannot be sure of almost anything with 100% certainty.

Yet, a way of getting closer to the truth is by empiricism – gathering data from our various senses and then making a judgment based on what has been presented.

For example, if you witness your neighbor’s house burning down, it’s reasonable to assume that the event actually happened and move forward.

Similarly, if somebody else mentions the incident, simply evaluate whether they could likely have knowledge into this matter or are they trying to deceive you? Only through evidence can one arrive at an adequate conclusion.

At times even science can prove incorrect – such as when researchers misinformed people about margarine being healthier than butter in 1980s due to lack of studies or data.

In this sense, encouraging skepticism is reasonable; but it is always good practice to adhere to scientific conventions unless there new findings arrive which are far more valid than their predecessors.

This brings us back to climate change – although irrefutable proof does not exist for certain concepts in this domain either, taking actions based upon whatever facts are available is necessary for mitigating potential risks and moral dilemmas.

In some cases ignorance might be bliss but in this specific situation it may entail terrible consequences – which means one should make sure they try their best possible effort so as not make a mistake which will put lives in danger at its worst case scenario.

Epicureanism Reveals The Miraculousness Of Life And How We Can Find Meaning In The Everyday

If you’re looking for a philosophy that will bring you pleasure and meaning, Epicureanism may be just the thing.

It values emotion as something natural that should be embraced, rather than something to be suppressed as the Stoics believe.

This means that living a pleasurable life isn’t selfish, it’s necessary for a meaningful life.

The key is to understand what “meaningful” really means in this context; it’s about using our unique brains to plan for the long term, act on abstract concepts and live according to what makes us feel fulfilled, not necessarily striving for material success or awards.

No matter if your awards cabinet is empty – true human nature lies in things like enjoying what we do and loving thoseclose to us.

And above all, remember that on an universal scale none of us are significant enoughthat our lives would have divine purpose; but this is part of what makes our existence amazing – that those tiny, imperceptible atoms have randomly come together so we can think andfeel!

Wrap Up

The Epicurean philosophy is all about living life to the fullest and making sure you are pursuing maximum pleasure while avoiding pain.

It also emphasizes on acting righteously and prudently.

There is no belief in supernatural forces or an afterlife in Epicureanism, however that doesn’t mean it is a miserable way of life – far from it actually.

As you take a look over how to be an Epicurean, we can leave you with one final summary: Epicureanism is all about making the most of your current life and taking advantage of all its joys!

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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