A Comparison of Contemporary American Notions of Happiness to the Epicurean View

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People who are viewed as happy in our culture today are also seen as being rich, having a loving family, and a great occupation. Our society is attracted to material things, rather than spiritual ones. Can a person who does not have many possessions and an elevated social position still live a happy life? Epicurus believed that each one of us could achieve true happiness, and our only problem is that we stubbornly search for it in all the wrong places. Epicurus states that we only need three things to be happy besides the essentials needed for survival: friends, freedom, and an analyzed life. I will be comparing contemporary American notions of happiness to the Epicurean view.

In our contemporary American life we have the desire for things that we do not really need to make us happy. Our commercial world intends to sell us substitutes for the things we truly need in order to be happy. We replace our real needs with things like clothing, furniture, cars, nice houses, and many other unessential items. Many individuals place the blame for an unhappy lifestyle on their occupation, and search out alternatives such as material items. We are happy when we receive things fast, because of our lack of patience, and because we simply enjoy the hassle free lifestyle. Our technological advances have made many things easy for us and it brings us some joy. Examples include that we rather drive than walk, and eat from unhealthy fast food restaurants than cook a meal ourselves. We see advertisements everywhere selling us products to make us happy, however the happiness from sex, food, and excitement are pleasures that are short lived. If we took away all unnecessary items for survival from our society today, could we still be happy? ...

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...death, and the supernatural. Money cannot buy you analyzed thoughts about your life, or help you cope with the emotional effects of illness or death. Epicureans are looking for peace and freedom from fear and pain. Pleasure is how human beings can sense they are doing something right.

I believe that a simpler life in general would help people live a happier lifestyle. We must have the essential needs for survival; however the unnecessary materialistic items are not needed and cannot bring happiness. We all can benefit from living a more Epicurean life, and we should take their advice to focus on friendship, independence, and thinking rationally.


“Letter to Menoeceus,” http://www.epicurus.net/en/menoeceus.html

“Letter to Idomeneus,” http://www.epicurus.net/en/idomeneus.html

“Letter to Herodotus,” http://www.epicurus.net/en/herodotus.html

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