5 Reasons Stoicism is Better than Epicureanism

Epicureanism is a philosophy first started by the Greek philosopher Epicurus. It believes that ultimately pleasure is the highest good and that all life should be geared to pleasure. It mainly focuses on creating a mindset that gets rid of all pain which will free the mind to experience the ultimate pleasure called Ataraxia, a form of superb tranquility. The Epicureans did believe virtue was important but only as a means to securing one from the pains of guilt.

1. Epicureans usually had a few friends, didn’t intend to have kids because losing a child would be terrible, and lived in small communes. Stoicism believed having kids was fine and that if you ever did lose them, Stoic exercises would prepare you for the day. Stoicism also did not isolate its people into small communes. Stoicism believed that practicing a life geared towards virtue would free one of negative passions and allow them to deal with just about any obstacle and so Stoics weren’t afraid to participate in the greater society.

2. Epicureanism believed that virtue was a means to happiness. Stoicism believed that virtue was the end/goal and if you pursued it like it was the end goal, then you’d find happiness. Seems like splitting hairs doesn’t it? Well, not really. The Epicureans were only using virtue as a vehicle to not feel guilty so that they could be happy. Stoics didn’t care about guilt or feeling good. They cared about practicing virtue for virtue’s sake. And only then can you reap virtue’s rewards.

3. Epicureanism saying to practice virtue just so its practitioners can sleep at night is hardly a good philosophy. What if someone came along and did a few bad things, felt guilty at first, but then didn’t care after a while and got the pleasure they wanted? Stoicism doesn’t use virtue that way. It’s not about feeling guilty or happy or remorseful. In fact, Stoicism would rather you cut out the remorse in your life and do what’s good regardless of how you feel about it. Epicureanism is too bogged down in how you feel about doing virtue and not just getting the virtue done.

4. Epicureanism doesn’t even really prepare you for a life of happiness. Think about it. Epicureanism wants you to hide in a commune somewhere with a few friends and care less about the world around you. Your life is actually very fragile because if you don’t participate in the world, the world can go crazy and destroy your precious commune. Stoics were all the time trying to prevent the world from going crazy.

5. Finally, Stoics already allow for pleasure as a preferred indifferent. That means in Stoicism you’re allowed to pursue pleasure so long as it doesn’t come into conflict with virtue. The Epicureans were smart in that they didn’t just pursue pleasure but avoided pain. But the problem is their philosophy still didn’t prepare them sufficiently for the pain that will always come creeping in no matter how many ways they try to prepare themselves for it. Stoicism knows you’ll feel pain and sometimes it’s best to just let it happen and then let it pass. Virtue is its own reward. Don’t let the pain be the problem. Let it be part of the solution.

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The Story of the Stoic Father (Fiction)

Hello, I’m Jeff Whitman. I’m a university professor, who teaches Global Studies in Denver, Colorado.  My wife Victoria is professor who teaches Gender Studies for an online university.  We both have been lifelong liberal progressives and have been involved in several social movements together in our early college days.  We actually met at Occupy Wall Street in Zuccoti Park.  When Victoria and I decided to have kids we promised each other we’d raise them with a liberal attitude towards life and would give them plenty of resources to learn and remain open minded to new ideas.

Years after Victoria and I had kids, I became interested in Stoicism and became a Stoic.  I decided to apply Stoicism to my life and try to live as hard as I could to put virtue first in all of my goals.  My wife thinks I’m funny for being so dogmatic.  She’s one of those people who like to have a smorgasbord of ethics.  She likes utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics but won’t settle for any particular ethical system and just uses what she likes given the situation.  That kind of attitude can drive me crazy sometimes but it is what it is and I accept it.

Our youngest child is Vicky.  She is in 8th grade and is doing well in school.  She is really bright and is actually quite familiar with the works of Friedrich Nietzsche.  She’s decided she’s a nihilist.  In her mind, there are no real values and no morality.  She still acts on her moral sentimental instincts and is definitely a good kid but she thinks there’s no way to rationally justify her views.  She laughs at anyone who believes in principles and values.

Frank is just starting high school and he’s doing all right.  He’s a B student, kind of like me in high school.  He spends a lot of time at the library alone and considers himself an Epicurean.  I often discuss a lot of different issues with him because he’s always wondering what a Stoic would do and it gives him some ideas on how he can approach the problem from an Epicurean point of view.

Our eldest child is Britney and she’s a senior in high school and she’s already scored high enough in ACTs and SATs to go free-ride to any major American university of her choosing.  She’s thinking about Princeton, which is pretty damn cool.  She’s into computer programming and tells me all the time about programming languages.  I’m often zoning out because programming is so dreadfully boring to me.  She considers herself a Skeptic.  No, not a scientific skeptic, although she is one of those.  But she considers herself an ancient Greek Skeptic.  She often laughs at me and considers my ethical viewpoints to be no more real than optical illusions.

With the different viewpoints my children express and even my wife, it makes for interesting discussion around the dinner table.  We don’t always have to agree on every single thing but we do agree on the important issues like when it’s time to go to bed and turn off the TV.  I’m pretty happy with our family because we are good people despite our different outlooks on life.  I never would’ve thought I’d have a nihilist daughter and I would’ve never thought about a nihilist being such a good person.

I think the main reason why we do so well as a family is because my wife is sort of a control freak.  Sometimes when she’s laying down the law of the house, I can’t help but to jokingly think of her as a fascist.  But I never say it out-loud because she’s only doing what she thinks is good for the well-being of everyone.  She’s pretty much the glue that holds the family together.  If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know if anything would get done.

Why don’t I assert myself as the family man and drill Stoicism into everyone’s heads?  For one, it’s never that easy.  Tyrants always create opposition.  For two, I can only do what’s in my own control, I can’t do what’s not in my control, like attempting to control my family’s belief systems and values.  The Stoics taught us long ago that we should try to use reason and Socratic dialogue to persuade others to our beliefs.

I’ve learned a lot from this experience and I hope you can too.  I’m just one person among many trying to do what I think is best for everyone.  I hope my experiences can teach you how to be a truly good person even if your philosophies are disagreeable to mine.

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Why was the cooking competition so terrible to watch between a Platonist, a Stoic, and an Epicurean?

The Epicurean made a really good chicken Marsala but she started dividing it up into its constituent atoms since she reasoned that everything really was atoms and the void. She spent the rest of the competition just slicing and dicing, trying to get to the indivisible atoms.

The Stoic had the job of making BBQ chicken wings. This seemed manageable at first but the Stoic couldn‘t do it because it wasn’t in his power. He judged the bbq chicken wings as a preferred indifferent. But since it wasn’t in his power, he couldn’t make it. But he was very virtuous though.

The Platonist was making crab salad but every time she was done making it, she’d take it back to her table and try to perfect it until it was the Form of crab salad. Eventually she just threw it away and served the judges her recipe, which she said represented the true form of crab salad not a cheap imitation.

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