Epicurean vs Stoic Moral Theory

Epicurean vs Stoic Moral Theory

Epicureanism moral theory is based upon achieving a life where pleasure is considered the greatest good. Pleasure is sought after and achieved through the removal of physical pain and mental worries. It is common in Epicureanism to avoid pain by trying to eliminate any non-natural desires. For example, in our modern world the presidency of the United States is arguably one of the most sought after and politically powerful positions in the world. But with the power comes great responsibility and accountability to the people for whom you serve, then with this untimely comes great anxiety and stress.

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Epicureans believed stress, anxiety and mental worries to be forms of pain and suffering that only took one farther away from pleasure. It was for this reason why Epicureans believed in living a more moderate lifestyle free of distractions from the path to happiness. The Epicurean path to happiness relied on desires that freed the body from pain. By providing ourselves with shelter, food, and water we could provide ourselves with all the basic necessities that are required for life. Obtaining the most basics necessities can provide one with the same satisfaction as the luxurious ones.

For example, eating a meal that costs a thousand dollars at a fancy restaurant can be just as rewarding as a meal that costs one dollar at some “hole-in-the-wall” because the basic need of nourishment has been met. Epicureanism believed that a path that withdrew us from public life and surrounded us with like minded friends would provide us lifelong pleasures and remove ourselves from undesirable pains. The highest pleasure can be obtained by knowledge, friendship and moderate lifestyles.

If one has a healthy body they can use reason and intellect to obtain knowledge and in the end a peaceful soul and pleasure. Stoicism is different from Epicureanism because Stoics believed in an emotional detachment from the external world. Stoics held emotions arose from false judgments; a Sage was a person who was considered wise and would not have such emotions. Stoics put great importance on developing the self perception or inner character. They believed that no act is evil in itself, but it was the intent by the person which is bad.

A person was defined by the way they behaved not in what they said. They believed that we need to realize that we cannot change the world, only how we view the world. They believed that by “living according to nature” one would travel down a virtues path that would allow one to achieve self satisfaction or happiness. Stoics would try to live a virtuous life according to their reasoning away from emotions. Unlike Epicureans who would stay away from wealth and luxuries, the Stoics would use their wealth obtain from life for virtuous deeds. It was virtue which Stoics held high.


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