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Why Study Epicurus?

◊ 1 ◊ If you want to live the life that is the best possible to you, you need to know what the “best possible” life is. It is often taught that the best life is the “noble” life, or the “good” life, without much explanation of what “noble” or “good” mean. Epicurus taught that the best life is not defined by “nobility” or “goodness” but by “happiness.”

◊ 2 ◊ If you want to live happily, you need to know what “living happily” means. Epicurus taught that Nature furnishes through the faculty of pleasure and pain our only reliable guides for how to live. Epicurus provides a framework for the study our natural faculties (also including the five senses and what Epicurus called the “preconceptions”) so that we can learn how to successfully follow those guides.

◊ 3 ◊ If you want to be successful in living happily, you must also know what “living happily” does NOT mean. There are many competing theories about how to live life, but most fall into one of two types: (1) religion or (2) conceptual abstracts. Epicurus taught that both of these types are wrong and harmful to the goal of happy living.

◊ 4 ◊ If you want to understand how the world got to where it is today in our views of the goal of life and happy living, you must understand Epicurus and the alternative he offered to the world 2000 years ago. Almost everything you are taught today in school or church or the workplace about “good” and “evil” are very similar to the views that existed among the majority of people in ancient Greece. Epicurus rejected those views and developed his own philosophy, taking the best scientific knowledge that existed in his day, using that knowledge to observe Nature, and reaching conclusions that exploded the foundations of the morality of his day. Although his school was eventually suppressed by the establishment of his day, Epicurus' views continued to survive to inspire leading thinkers in every generation since his day.

◊ 5 ◊ If you want to understand the founding of the United States, you should know that Thomas Jefferson stated that “I too am an Epicurean” and studied Epicurean philosophy through the original Greek and Latin texts. So if you want to know what Jefferson was thinking when he wrote that all men are endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” you should study how these issues were addressed in Epicurean philosophy.

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