Stoicism and Epicureanism

2002 Words9 Pages
With their philosophical roots grounded in ancient Greece, Stoicism and Epicureanism had contrary yet significant impacts on Roman society. These two philosophies differed in many of their basic theories. Stoics attempted to reach a moral level where they had freedom from passion, while Epicureans strove for pleasure and avoided all types of pain. Stoics like the Epicureans, emphasized ethics as the main field of knowledge, but they also developed theories of logic and natural science to support their ethical doctrines.
Epicurus, the founder of Epicureanism, saw death as a total extinction with no afterlife to ensue, he regarded the universe as infinite and eternal and as consisting only of space and atoms; where the soul or mind is constructed of indestructible parts that can never be destroyed. He sought to free humanity from the fear of death and of the gods, which he considered the main cause of unhappiness.
Lucretius, a famous Epicurean poet, took a stand against the superstitions and fears that the Romans had toward the state religion. He claimed that religion and the fear of gods was what caused unhappiness. Lucretius wrote a story where the Greek princess Iphigeneia was killed by her father Agamemnon, with the hope that he could win the favor of the gods by sacrificing his own daughter. In this case 'religion stood with all that power for wickedness . . .too many times /religion mothers crime and wickedness'; (Lucretius 452). The Romans at that time saw themselves as 'laying foully groveling on earth, weighed down /by grim religion looming from the skies, threatening mortal men';(Lucretius 451). Epicureanism offered some Roman people something that they could seek in order to escape the fears of the gods and religion in general.
Epicurean's physics was atomistic; meaning that the entire universe merely consisted of atoms and the space or void in which the atoms floated, collided, and whirled about. Lucretius wrote that 'not all bodily matter is tightly packed /by nature's law, for there's a void in things. By void I mean vacant and empty space, /something you cannot touch'; (Lucretius 456). For if the universe were comprised of only matter, then nothing would ever move, because it is the nature of matter to remain immobile until acted upon by an outside force. Without the open space, or void, nothing could have been made or brought to life. Epicur...

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...nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with your present activity according to nature, and with heroic truth in every word and sound which you utter, you will live happy'; (Aurelius 514). This perfectly describes the Stoic lifestyle; do what you have to do without any expectations or fears of what is to come, and do it with integrity, then life is happiness.
The Stoic and Epicurean philosophies both made major impacts on all of Greek and Roman thought, although they were very different. Epicureans solely endeavored to obtain pleasure. They also believed that the world was filled solely of atoms and the void in which they are surrounded. They thought that life ended after death, with no afterlife or god to fear. Stoics on the contrary were indifferent to all types of pleasure, often putting themselves in danger for their beliefs. Stoics lived according to nature claiming that it was in conformity with the divine order of the universe. Epicurean philosophy defined the time in which it was created, where life was thought only to be full of pleasure without any fear punishment in any life after death, while Stoic philosophy went against the normal desires of humans to seek pleasure.
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