As a former Christian, I spent years indoctrinating myself with daily study of the Bible in search of what I perceived to be the ultimate truths of life. Although I have the fondest of memories of close and intimate friendships while active in the Christian community, I have reasoned my way from faith to reality. As I now regard the Bible as being merely the writings of humanity, its conflicting values and absurd assertions are too obvious to overlook or justify. Hence, I now focus my studies and reflections elsewhere.
Frankly, I am expanding my horizons by researching the writings of thinkers past and present. I spent about a year studying Neo-Confucianism, and gained much insight from the humanistic aspect of Chinese thinking. However, for the most part there is a mystical element to the Confucianist philosophy which I find inconceivable. Thus, my research as of late has lead me to investigate the writings of the Greek philosopers, and thus I came upon the writings of Epicurus.
As to Epicureanism:
As I only recently happened upon the writings of Epicurus, I have much to learn in terms of specifics with regards to his influence and effect. In time, I hope to commune with those more learned than myself as to the movement which evolved from the teachings of “The Garden Philosopher”.
Epicureanism appeals to me as a sensible approach to life based upon a reasonable way of thinking. The basic philosophy is that physical comfort and peace of mind are the ultimate ends of the human life. As one is not feasible without the other, Epicurus counseled temperance in all areas of life. Debauchery and overindulgence might give pleasure for the moment, but the physical toll of such actually hinder the ultimate end of comfort and tranquility.
Furthermore, Epicurus recognized that anxiety in general is an obstacle to genuine happiness. Based upon that premise he discouraged covetousness and greed, realizing that the yearning for an abundance of goods both burden and preoccupy the mind. Then again, since undue fears are a hindrance to a state of natural calm, he was highly critical of cultural myths which asserted claims of afterlife dealings with tempermental gods.
Truly, Epicureanism is a “here and now” philosophy, based upon sensory perceptive realities. When he proclaimed that “death is nothing to us”, he meant so in the most literal of all terminology. He maintained that since death was merely the cessation of life, that we should live our lives in tranquility, and at the same time do nothing that would prevent others from doing the same.
‘Simply live, and live simply’ is a maxim which would seem to well describe the Epicurean way.
As to Agnosticism:
Although Epicurus believed in the existence of gods, he is clear in that there is no involvement between the celestial world and our own. In fact, he argues against the possibility of the notion of an all benevolent, all loving god based upon the reality of evil in the world. Furthermore, he maintained that the gods were beings which were naturally composed of the mechanical motion of atoms, just as are all elements of the universe. Thus, his concept of deities is altogether remote from the stereotypical view of a transcendent yet personal god. In fact, the very notion of “an Almighty God” who directs the universe would have been a concept completely foreign to Epicurus’ way of thinking.
My thoughts are that just as all evidence indicates that humans are merely natural beings, that likewise there is no evidence to support any theories that there are actually supernatural beings of any sort. It seems to me than there is simply no evidence of the existence of any realm, region, or beings which transcend the natural. As to whether there are natural beings within the universe of which we are unaware, I am not so close minded as to be unwilling to entertain the thought. However; if such beings exist, then they are neither deities, nor are they likely aware of our existence. Hence, regardless of what may or may not exist on worlds elsewhere, there is simply no evidence of involvement in our lives or in our world from any such beings beyond.
As I have mentioned already, I am admittedly new to the teachings and writings of Epicureanism. Yet its sensible approach to life and its sound reasoning with regards to real world issues appeals to my way of thinking.
Peace of mind and physical comfort are what most folk naturally desire. And so the Epicurean way seems to me to be a most note worthy philosophy.