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The Stoic. Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

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the stoic


Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius


Youshameyourself, my soul, youshameyourself, and youwillhave no furtheropportunitytorespectyourself; thelife of everymanis short and yoursisalmostfinishedwhileyou do notrespectyourselfbutallowyourhappinesstodependupon……others.

Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome


Stoicisminitially emerged as a reactionagainstthebeliefthatpleasureisalwaysgood and painisalwaysbadorevil.

We can define Stoicism as thephilosophythatcounselsself-control, detachment and acceptance of one´sfate as identifiedbytheobjective use of reason.

Stoicisan individual whoattempstoliveaccordingtoStoic doctrine.


Ratherthanpersuingpleasure and tryingtoavoidpain, theStoicsseekserenity (peace of mind) throughself discipline.

Stoicismassertsthatseekinganythingbutself control results in avoidableunhapiness, in Stoicview, happiness comes onlythroughdetachment of allexternals. Everythingis a matter of attitude. Thedisciplined, reasonableperson can behappyunderany and allconditions.


Stoicsbelievethatnothing can makeyouhappyorunhappywithoutyourconsent. Allunhappinessistheresult of badthinking, poorcharacter, and confusingwhatwe can control withwhatwecannot control.


One of themostearliest and persistenttheory of happinessis:

“Pursuepleasure (whateversuitsyou) and avoidpain (whatever causes yousuffering and discomfort). Thetechnicalnameforthiskind of philosophyishedonism.


Hedonismisthe general termforanyphilosophythatsayspleasure = good and pain = evil. Somehedonists stress thepursuit of pleasure, and othersemphasizeavoidingpain, for a stricthedonist, nothingthatprovidespleasure can bebad.

TheMeaning of LifeisPleasure

Aristippus (c.430-359 B.C.E.) lived in thetown of Cyreneonthecoast of North Africa in whatisnowLibya. Aristippuswas a clever and friendlyyoungman, fond of pleasures of allsorts.


He heardaboutSocrateswhileattendingtheOlimpicGameswith a friend and was so impressedthat he rushedto Athens tomeetSocrates. Aristippusquicklybecame a member of theclosest, mostinvolvedgroups of Socrates´ followers and didsometeachinghimself.

EventuallyAristippuscame home and opened a school of philosophy in Cyrene, his doctrine of unrefinedhedonismisknown as CyrenaicHedonism.

Aristippustaughtthatpleasureistheprinciple motive for living and thatpleasureisalwaysgood– regardless of itssource.


Theconsequence of suchviewisthatwhateverfeelsgoodisgood, lackinganyobjectivestandard of comparison, theCyrenaichedonistconcludesthatthe individual isthemeasure of thatwhichispleasure, thatitispleasure, of thatwhichispain, thatispain.

And sinceanypleasureisbydefinitiongood , itfollowsthat, I oughttobedoingwhatever I enjoydoing.


ThoughEpicurus (341-279 B.C.E.) wasborn in the Asia Minorcity of Samos, he wasanAtheniancitizenbecausehisfatherhad moved to Samos as anAtheniancolonist. When he waseighteenyearsold, Epicuruswentto Athens to complete a two-yearmilitaryservicerequired of Athenian Males.

TheMacedonianking of Greece, Alexander the Great, hadjustdied, and theAthenians, whohadresentedhis rule, revoltedagainsttheregent he hadimposedonthem.


Ittooklessthan a yearforthisrevolttobecrused, butEpicurusdrewanimportantlessonfromit: Politicalactivities and ambitions are pointless.

Epicurusremained in Athens for a long time and studiedwithfollowers of both Plato and Aristotle. He neveracceptedPlato´sphilosophy and cametorejectAristotle´s as well. He referredtohimself as self-taught and neveracknowledgedanyphilosophicalteacherormaster.

He sawhimself as a moral reformerwhohaddiscovered a brand new message, onethatcouldsaveothersfromunhappiness.


Vainistheword of a philosopherwhichdoesnothealanysuffering of man. Forjust as thereis no profit in medicine ifitdoesnotexpelthediseases of thebody, so thereis no profit in philosophyeitherifitdoesnotexpelthesuffereing of themind.


Epicuruscalledhisschool“The Garden”. A serene retreatfromthe social, political and evenphilosophicalturmoil of Athens, Epicurus´s Garden became as wellknownforgood living and pleasantsocializing as itwasforitsphilosophy.

One of theunusualfeatures of The Garden wasthatitwelcomedeveryone. Itwasone of theveryfew places in Greecewherewomenwereallowed and encouragedtointeractwithmen as equals. Epicurusmade no distinctionbasedon social status orrace.


He acceptedallwhocametolearn: prostitutes, housewifes, slaves, aristocrats. Hisfavoritepupilwashisownslave, Mysis.

In his time themereacceptance of allraces, sexes, and social classeswouldhavebeenenoughtobrandEpicurus as a dangerous and ungratefulrebel, regardless of hisphilosophical ideas, yet he wentbeyondtheoreticaltolerance, welcoming and encouragingallcomers, even in our time, suchanattitudeisoftenmetwithfear and criticismwhenitisputintopractice.