Epicurus , great Hellenistic Greek philosopher, author of the ethical philosophy of simple pleasure , friendship and retirement . He was the founder of the schools of philosophy that survived directly from the 4th century BC to the 4th century AD, mainly the philosophical school of Epicureanism , whose main objective was to achieve a life full of happiness and tranquility that was characterized by the absence of fear through friendship, freedom and an analyzed life. It belonged to an Athenian family from Gargetos in Samos. The different elements of his philosophy have managed to be echoed in variousthinkers and movements throughout Western intellectual history, including John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, and Thomas Jefferson.

  • When was born:  341 a. C.
  • Where he was born:  Samos, Greece
  • When he died:  270 BC C.
  • Where he died:  Athens, Greece

Who was Epicurus?

Hellenistic Greek philosopher who based his theory on the pursuit of happiness , pleasure and ethics . His goal was to achieve happiness and tranquility, avoiding pain and fear at all costs through a properly analyzed life.

  • Biography of Epicurus
  • Thought of Epicurus
  • Contributions
  • Happiness according to Epicurus
  • Works of Epicurus
  • Phrases

Biography of Epicurus

Epicurus was born in February 341 BC on the island of Samos in the Aegean Sea . His parents were Neocles and Chaerestrate , who were citizens of Athens, but had decided to emigrate to the Athenian settlement of Samos. As a child, he studied philosophy with the Platonic teacher and at age 18, he went to Athens to do his military service for two years. Meanwhile, his parents were forced to move from Samos to Colophon in Ionia after the death of Alexander the Great , where Epicurus joined his family. He dedicated himself to teaching for a couple of years in Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos, but apparently caused a riot and was forced to leave. He then founded a school at Lampsacus before returning to Athens in 306 BC. He founded The Garden in Athens, a school that served as the meeting place for his Epicurean school . It was the first of the ancient Greek philosophical schools to admit women . Friendship and freedom were emphasized as important ingredients of happiness , the school in many ways resembled a community of friends living together, although Epicurus also instituted a hierarchical system ranks among his followers, and made them swear on his basic principles. He never married and had no children. He suffered from kidney stones and finally died in 270 BC. C . at the age of 72, as a result of these stones and a case of dysentery .

Thought of Epicurus

His thinking was based mainly on his metaphysics which was materialistic , his epistemology which was grounded in empiricism and his hedonistic ethics . Epicurus’ philosophy was based primarily on the theory that the moral distinction between good and evil derives from what is good or pleasant, and what is bad or painful. Therefore, moral reasoning is a matter of calculating the benefits and costs in terms of pleasure and pain.. His main objective was actually the absence of pain and suffering because he thought that when a person did not suffer pain, he did not need pleasure and entered a state of perfect peace of mind, which is the ultimate goal of human life. Therefore, he emphasized minimizing harm and maximizing happiness for oneself and others.


Among his main contributions we mention the following:

  • He created the word ataraxia , which meant that reason was responsible for our happiness .
  • He founded the empiricist theory of knowledge through an atomistic physics in which he took inspiration from Leucippus and Democritus .
  • He said that men should reject any teaching based on fear and superstition, because there was no reason to be afraid of the gods.
  • He founded the ethics of Reciprocity or better known as the Golden Rule , which means “treating others as you would like to be treated”, possibly the basis of the modern concept of human rights .
  • He introduced into Greek thought the fundamental human egalitarianism that gave way to the admission of women and slaves to schools.
  • He introduced the idea of ​​a social contract since justice comes from a joint agreement not to harm each other. Theory that later gave rise to utilitarianism .

Happiness according to Epicurus

Epicurus believed that happiness was living in a state of continuous pleasure . These pleasures were natural and necessary (such as basic physical needs, eating, shelter, safety), natural and unnecessary (conversation and the arts), and unnatural and unnecessary (fame, political power, or prestige). I thought that the greatest obstacles to happiness were the fear of dying , the fear of the future and divine anger., which could be eliminated if nature was known. Happiness was something that could be achieved when natural needs were met and that was the absence of physical pain . He also thought that not all forms of pleasure led to happiness because sensual pleasures were not part of happiness.

Works of Epicurus

He wrote more than 300 manuscripts and 37 treatises on physics. His works were basically themes of love , justice and gods . Only three of his main cards have been saved, which are:

  • Letter to Herodotus that spoke about gnoseology and physics.
  • Letter to Pitocles , explaining cosmology, astronomy, and meteorology.
  • Letter to Meneceo , it was a purely ethical letter.


Some of the best phrases of Epicurus are:

  • The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.
  • It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely, well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely, well and justly without living a pleasant life.
  • Don’t spoil what you have by wanting what you don’t have; Remember that what you have now was once things you only wanted.
  • If God listened to the prayers of man, everyone would have perished quickly, because they always pray for the evil of others.
  • Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when I arrived, we no longer existed.

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