In the battle of philosophical ideas, it’s easy to pit Stoicism vs Epicureanism. But the similarities are just as important as the differences.
Both schools of thought believe in pursuing a life that is in harmony with nature and time. That means these two philosophies both encourage people to be mindful of their actions, live in the present moment, cultivate equanimity (even towards things that can’t be changed), and accept what they cannot control.
What is stoicism?
Stoicism is a school of philosophy that thrived from approximately 300 BC to 200 AD (though similar philosophies and beliefs existed prior to and after that period). The term “Stoic” comes from the stoa, or porch, where students of Stoicism used to gather.
As a philosophical school, one of the main goals of Stoicism was to attain freedom from passion and fear. According to one ancient author: “…the chief good is a rational life, and the chief evil is death. The wise man will wish to die when he is weary of life when he has lived his life and achieved his purposes; for there is no greater evil than death, nor any pain that can be compared with it.”
What do stoics believe?
Stoicism is a philosophy about the dichotomy between things we can control and those we can’t. Stoics believe that we must focus on the things that are under our control, and not worry about external forces.
This philosophy holds that virtue is the only good, everything else is “indifferent” (meaning it’s neither good nor bad), and no external thing or circumstance can ultimately affect one’s character. Stoic philosophers recommend then, trying to be indifferent to all non-essential elements in life, including pain.
Stoic philosophers believe that the only evil is fear, which leads to irrational behavior. A stoic is supposed to be free from fear and not be bothered by things that are outside of his personal control, like whether or not he is going to die today. So a stoic will study what they can control, and then focus on what happens in their life. They then take action towards the things they can control, and they accept the rest.
What is Epicureanism?
Unlike Stoicism, the exact founding date of Epicureanism is unknown. Though one ancient author only traces its roots back to Zeno, the founder of Stoicism. Epicurus himself was born in 341 BC.
Epicureanism is stated in its founding document as a philosophy that teaches people to seek “pleasure and freedom from pain.” In contrast to Stoicism, Epicureanism sees the goal of life as living a pleasurable life, one filled with friends, sensual pleasures (like eating) and material comfort. According to one ancient author: “They [the Epicureans] advocate withdrawing from the world. The said [Epicurean] Zeno opposed the disturbance of the community, and proposed that we should not mix ourselves up with the affairs of this life, nor engage in business, but live quiet lives on our own, each acting for himself.”
What do Epicureans believe?
Epicureanism is actually an umbrella term for a number of philosophies that were founded by Epicurus. Some of these may have been called “neo-Platonism” or “Pyrrhonism.” Today, the most well-known strain of thought within this school is Epicurean Hedonism.
Epicureans believe that pleasure (and not wisdom) is the most important thing in life. One of the best ways to attain pleasure is to avoid pain, and the best way to do that is to live an easy life free from the hassles of life: “We must therefore not [crave] for anything that is absent, for so we shall be less likely to miss it. Nor should we set our hearts on anything, for how seldom we can win our desires! But of all things let us beware of disappointing ourselves.”
They also believe that a person should not believe in supernatural forces or divine beings. They should live their life as if they were the only person in the world. In fact, Epicureans believe that it’s better to be trapped in a cave and not know whether snow or rain is falling outside than to have knowledge of the heavens above.
Stoicism vs Epicureanism: What are the differences?
Stoicism and Epicureanism can be a battle of philosophies, they share similarities which we will cover below but let’s look at their differences.
The main difference between the philosophies is that Epicureans value pleasure and tranquillity while stoics value virtue and wisdom.
A stoic will try to live a life free from distraction, pain, and fear by thinking about things they have no control over. An epicurean on the other hand focuses on having a good time through friendship, food, wine and other material pleasures of life.
The stoic is not worried about life and death but trying to make his life have more meaning, while the Epicurean is living a short and easy life.
The stoic does everything for himself and the Epicurean does nothing for himself. The stoic has no fear of death, while the Epicurean struggles with being alone in the world. The stoic does not care what happens after he dies. While the Epicurean worries that he may not be remembered after death.
The stoic believes that everything is in our control, while the Epicurean believes that there is nothing that can be controlled. The Epicurean cares only about material things and pleasure while the stoic care about spiritual things and virtue.
The Epicurean will live an easy life with lots of free time while the stoic is usually busy achieving virtue. The stoic has many friends, the Epicurean has none.
Stoicism vs Epicureanism: What are the similarities?
Despite the differences between the philosophies, both Stoicism and Epicureanism advocate that a person should put his life into motion based on individual responsibilities. It’s up to each person to determine what he can control and what he can’t and then to take action towards what is in his control.
Both philosophers teach acceptance of all actions. They recommend that individuals not believe in supernatural forces or divine beings. Both philosophies teach that there is no true evil. They both encourage people to pursue wisdom, even though it’s subjective and oftentimes leaders prey on other’s ignorance. Both philosophies champion the pursuit of knowledge, though they also both stress the importance of being self-sufficient and loving oneself before others.
Which philosophy is better?
Before we can determine which philosophy is better, we should first ask, what is it that makes a philosophy good or bad? Is it best to pursue wisdom or pleasure? Is pursuing virtue worth the trouble of trying to control what you can and accepting the rest? Are physical pleasures fleeting, while mental pleasures last forever? Are you ultimately alone in the world, or does a divine being listen to your prayers and wishes? Are things in this world just as they are, or are things here because of a higher. Or are things just matter in motion?
It’s difficult to say which philosophy is better. They have different values, but both teach us how to live a life full of meaning. They also teach us about acceptance, trying to do the best that we can, and living a life that we’re proud of.
Epicureanism definitely makes you feel like you’re not alone in the world. Stoicism makes you feel like you’re dependent on yourself and others. Which philosophy is better is up to each individual person to decide.
Adopting parts of both Stoicism vs Epicureanism is a great idea.
Both philosophies are thought to be good, but more importantly, they teach us how to live and be wise. There is no perfect way of living a life of meaning and virtue. We should try to make our own path through life, but it’s okay to use the paths that others have made before us.
Every day we can choose to be an Epicurean or a Stoic, taking what we find useful from both philosophies. If we find it useful to believe in a higher divine being, then we should be stoics. If we prefer to live a life of pleasure and joy, then we should come to the Epicurean path.
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How to practice the modern stoic life in 10 easy steps:
Taking up the practice of the stoic philosophy is easier than it seems. Let’s look at how we can go about applying the philosophy to our lives.
Step 1: Relax.
The first step is to stop and take a step back from every day’s stressful events and situations. It can seem a bit odd to do, to stand back and think, but we are living in a fast-paced world, filled with responsibilities that take up our time and energy. When we let our worries and stress take over, we are not being stoic. We are merely running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Step 2: Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Like it or not, we’re all going to die sooner or later. We are going to have to face our own mortality at some point in time. We have no control over when this happens and so we should remember that as stoic, accepting things that happen can actually be beneficial to us and those around us. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the small things in life, whether that be a paper cut, a spilled coffee or an argument with your partner. These are the things we should learn to let go of.
Step 3: Don’t react to everything life throws at us.
The stoics say that if we allow ourselves to react emotionally and negatively to every single situation in life, we are less likely to be successful in life. All of our actions are a reaction to something or someone. When we are stressed, we react in a negative way towards those around us.
We become angry, upset and defensive. Stoicism tells us that when these things happen, we should not give in to them. When life throws at us a difficult situation that we cannot control, we should not give in to stress. Instead, the stoics tell us to accept the situation as it is and do our best with what is in our control at the time. We do not have control over the entire universe, so we shouldn’t dwell on things we have no control over.
Step 4: Learn to let go.
Stoicism teaches us that things in life are not always fair and that there are going to be times when we’re just going to have to let go of something that happened and move on with our lives. We do not have to accept everything that happens as it is, nor do we have to react with anger or frustration. Learning how to let go and move on is a very important step in the stoic life and if we can master this, we will be much more successful than those who allow themselves to get caught up in the small things of life.
Step 5: Change your perspective.
For many people in today’s world, there is such a pressure on them to meet other people’s expectations and goals. Many people are under the false impression that there is more to life than what is right in front of them. Many people have lost sight of the fact that they are living a life of their own, free from outside influences and expectations. The stoics stress upon us to remember that we are living a life of our own design and that we should be happy with this fact.
Step 6: Think positively.
The Stoics teach us that it’s important to think positively and to have faith in ourselves. Not all things are going to go our way, but if we have hope in our ability to live a better life, we will be much happier. We should always remember that while there is going to be a lot of pain and suffering in life, there is also going to be joy and happiness. In the balance of these two forces, stoicism teaches us that we can live a good life that is worth living no matter what happens.
Step 7: Don’t be afraid to be different.
The Stoics tell us that we should never feel bad for being different from other people. We can turn our worries and fears into a source of motivation that helps us to become better people in this world. When we trust ourselves and our thoughts, we can put them into action no matter what people think of us or how they react to our ideas. We should never feel constrained by the opinions and expectations of others.
Step 8: Learn to live with uncertainty.
As stoics, we accept that we can never really know what the future is going to bring. We should not be so afraid of the uncertainty that we become illogical in our thinking and this prevents us from doing things that are helpful for us. We can learn to cope with life’s uncertainties by learning to take a step back from everything and then making a decision on what is best for us. When we learn to do this, we will be much happier.
Step 9: Become self-sufficient.
In the stoic philosophy, we should try and become self-sufficient so as to not rely on others for help and support. There are plenty of things in life that are out of our hands and so it is impossible for us to rely on someone else in order to make it through the week or month. We should rely on ourselves and make the most of what we have to achieve our goals in life.
Step 10: Be strong.
In the face of adversity, we should not succumb to pain, fear or stress. We should remember that those things are not part of the inner self and do not define us as human beings. We should be strong in our ability to live a stoic life and fight through any difficulties we may encounter. If we can do this, then nothing can stop us from living a good life.
The stoics were able to live contented and happy lives despite the fact that they were living in a world of hardship and torture. They had managed to build themselves up to be strong and confident adults who knew how to live their own lives without being bogged down by external pressures or expectations. Stoicism taught them that struggle is no longer essential because it ultimately leads to success and happiness.
Stoicism vs Epicureanism: Summary and conclusion
Epicurus and the ancient Stoics had a lot in common because they both shared a desire to help people live better lives. Whether we are interested in understanding Epicurean philosophy or want to learn how to live a better life, this website is full of information on the topic. If you’re interested in reading more about stoicism, you can find out more about it here.
When comparing the two philosophies together, I find it interesting that both epicureans and stoics are looking to take a step back from the troubles of life. Epicureans believe that the best thing we can do is to forget about what is going on in our lives and instead focus on living a life with meaning and purpose. Stoics believe that we have to live a stoic existence, where we are able to leave behind our troubles and focus on ourselves. Both philosophies agree that we should do this in order to live a better life.
So which philosophy is best? It’s hard to say which one is the best, as they are both backed up by strong philosophy and rational ideas. However, I have found these steps to be powerful ways to make a positive difference in anything that we want to improve about our lives:
Be kind and patient with everyone you meet. Love your children and never mistreat them. Don’t let fear rule your life. Live in the present moment and don’t worry about the future. Learn to say ‘no‘ and don’t take on more than you can handle. Accept whatever happens to you with humility.
These are just some of the important principles that we need to learn in order to live a better life in a world that is full of hardships and tragedies. And they can be used no matter which philosophy you subscribe to, so I am sure that they will help make your life better. In the end, it’s all about just trying to make the most of what life gives us and helping others as much as we can.