Epicurus and the Pursuit of Ataraxia Essay

Submitted By miriamneizer333
Words: 1607
Pages: 7

The Good Life

Epicurus held the belief that as humans we seek the good, and in particular the good life. But unlike someone who might claim that the good life is the seeking and attainment of sensual pleasure and would mean that we should seek to maximize pleasure by feeling it more intensely, Epicurus' position was that we should seek pleasure as ataraxia. Ataraxia is a state of tranquility where pleasure is an absence of pain as a lack of anxiety “freedom from the disturbances of the psyche”(Ghisalberti, (Director), 2013). For Epicurus, people worry too much about things over which they have no control, and most especially in this regard, they worry about death. Epicurus seeks to describe a life to others in which pleasure as ataraxia is the goal. To produce a state of ‘ataraxia’ or ‘freedom of mind’ in the souls of its practitioners is not about eliminating doubt, but eliminating the cause of the mental distress people experience when doubts consume their minds. This cause contains a desire for the certainty of knowledge coupled with a belief that such knowledge is possible. In order to keep the body content and the mind free from fears, Epicurus advocated a 'four-part cure'; don’t fear God, don’t fear death, what is good is easy to get and what is terrible is easy to endure. Through the teachings of Epicurus We have come to an understanding that the ‘good life’ can only be achieved through the satisfaction that the body and the mind are at peace. "Don't fear god." The gods are happy and immortal, as the very concept of 'god' indicates. But in Epicurus' view, most people were in a state of confusion about the gods, believing them to be intensely concerned about what human beings were up to and putting a lot of effort to praise and give favour to their worshippers and punish their ‘sinners’. To suppose that the gods apply themselves or that they have any concerns at all with what humans are doing does not make sense. The most accurate, as well as the most agreeable, conception of the gods is to think of them, as the Greeks often did, “in a state of bliss, unconcerned about anything, without needs, invulnerable to any harm, and generally living an enviable life. So conceived, they are role models for Epicureans, who emulate the happiness of the gods, within the limits imposed by human nature” (Hutchinson, 1994). "Epicurus said that he was prepared to compete with Zeus in happiness, as long as he had a barley cake and some water."(Hutchinson, 1994). Surprisingly, Epicurus' approach to the gods fits in well even in our godless times. For Epicurus the gods were already in a state of bliss and therefore aren't bothered with human activities. We therefore have nothing to fear from them and should also expect nothing from them. And through this we are one step closer to understanding the complexity to attaining the good life. "Don't worry about death." While you are alive, you don't have to deal with being dead, but when you are dead you don't have to deal with it either, because you aren't there to deal with it. "Death is nothing to us," as Epicurus puts it, for "when we exist, death is not yet present, and when death is present, then we do not exist." (Hutchinson, 1994). Death is always irrelevant to us, even though it causes considerable anxiety to many people for much of their lives. Worrying about death can take over the actual experience of living, either because people expect to exist after their deaths and are consumed by trying to please and terrified of disobeying or displeasing their gods, who might punish them for their misdeeds, or are consumed with the terror and saddened of the idea of not existing after their deaths. But there are no gods which threaten us, and, even if there were, we would not be there to be punished. Our souls are are things that only exist in life and dissipate when we die. It is not sensible to be afraid of ceasing to exist, since you already know what it is like not to exist;