How Can I Be Happy?: The Different School of Thoughts of Stoicism and Epicureanism

How Can I Be Happy?: The Different School of Thoughts of Stoicism and Epicureanism

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The study of ethics has for many years divided the philosophy community into competing schools of thought. Two of these schools, Stoicism and Epicureanism, have wrestled with the specific question “How can I be happy?” While the answer may appear obvious at first, the two schools have developed competing theories of happiness that prove it is not such an easy question to answer. The Stoics argue that the way to a happy life is through pursuing virtue. In comparison, the Epicureans argue that a happy life is one free of pain. To clarify, neither school is declaring specific actions right or wrong; rather each is prescribing their own way of life in which happiness can be obtained (Sharples 82). In this paper, I will argue that the Stoic School succeeds because it accounts for the human desire to purse certain virtues without regard to pleasure or pain which is essential to happiness.
For the Stoics, what is necessary to live a happy life does not derive itself from physical pleasure or mental peace, rather virtue (Sharples 100). When one acts virtuously, they act in accordance with their human nature, following the guidance of their reason. For the Stoics, this guidance from reason leads us to certain things which give us pleasure such as wisdom or even other virtues we may feel. This life of virtue in accordance with reason is completely sufficient for living a happy life and in no way is it affected by an action’s consequence. The Stoics stress the importance of reasonable action in pursuance of a specific outcome without giving worth to the specific outcome itself (Sharples 107). If a man follows his reason to obtain an outcome, the outcome in question plays no role in the assignment of happiness, only the use of his reason. Ext...

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...ific actions that foster happiness. For the Epicureans, it is essential to remove pain from the body and limit mental anxiety in order to maintain happiness. For the Stoic, the pursuance of virtue ultimately gives rise to happiness. In my opinion, the Stoic argument overcomes the argument of the Epicureans and is successful in prescribing a way of life that is conducive to happiness. The Stoic school differentiates between virtues and feelings, making it desirable to humans. Human reason tells us that it is desirable to attain certain virtues, some of which may not be the most physically pleasing. The Epicurean would be forced to say that virtues such as leadership and service would not lead to happiness if the pain outweighs the pleasure. The fact that humans have desires to pursue virtues that may cost pain, is proof enough of their superior school of thought.

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