Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher who founded a school of philosophy now called Epicureanism. The core idea of Epicureanism is to seek modest pleasures in order to attain a state of tranquillity, freedom from fear (“ataraxia”) and absence from bodily pain (“aponia”).
As Epicurus himself said:
Just as medicine confers no benefit if it does not drive away physical illness, so philosophy is useless if it does not drive away the suffering of the mind.
In the words of Alain de Botton, “The task of Epicurean philosophy was to help us interpret our indistinct pulses of distress and desire and thereby save us from mistaken schemes for happiness.”
Below are the three essential components for happiness (according to Epicurus) and what he had to say on them.
1. Friendship: Of all the things that wisdom provides us to help one live one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship. Before you eat or drink anything, consider carefully who you eat or drink with rather than what you eat or drink; for feeding without a friend is the life of a lion or a wolf.
2. Freedom: We must free ourselves from the prison of everyday affairs and politics. The reason for that is we trade a lot of our freedom in exchange for rewards. We have to be cautious about that. How can we be happy, if we are not truly free?
3. Thought: There are few better remedies for anxiety than thought. In writing a problem down or airing it in conversation, we let its essential aspects emerge. For instance, by careful examination, one can discover that there is nothing to worry about death. There is nothing dreadful in life for the man who has truly comprehended that there is nothing terrible in not living.
Wealth and other pleasures are important, but not essential. If we have good friends, lack of fortunes would not make us unhappy. And if we don’t have good friends, money would not make us happy.