PracticalWisdom
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Epicurean Friendship

Friendship dances around the world bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness. Epicurus, Vatican Saying 52 There can be no doubt that Epicurus placed a very high value on friendships. Friends are one of the primary pillars of his ethical philosophy, coming up again and again in his surviving writings. He goes so far in Vatican Saying 78 as to call friendship an immortal good (while referring to wisdom as merely a mortal good). Due to the haphazard way that Epicurus’ surviving thoughts have been passed down to us, it isn’t clear what else he considered to be an immortal good. What is clear, however, is the multiple values of friendships. In the beginning, Epicurus teaches, friendships arise out of what they can gain for us; then their mutual benefits arise over time. He teaches that friends can be an insurance policy against misfortune.  Friends are those that, no matter what life throws at us, we can count on. While we make friends for selfish reasons, as friendship blossoms we encompass our friends, they become part of us: The sage does not feel a greater pain when he is tortured than when his friend is tortured, and would die on his friend's behalf; for if he betrays his friend then the rest of his life would be troubled and disturbed on account of his treachery. (Vatican Sayings 56-57) Our friends are an extension of ourselves, so we must seek out virtuous friends, their character is a reflection upon our character. A virtuous individual can be virtuous only to the extent that their friends are virtuous. Even as Epicurus advocates self-reliance, he makes clear that this can only be accomplished within a group of like-minded individuals. Epicurus believed that security in our person is a natural and necessary desire and without security we cannot be happy. He therefore argues that justice through a social contract and close friends were to be sought after as a buttress against the encroachment of others. At the root of Epicurus’ advocacy of friendship is safety. In Principal Doctrine 40, he states: All those who have the power to obtain the greatest confidence from their neighbors also live with each other most enjoyably in the most steadfast trust; and experiencing the strongest fellowship they do not lament as pitiful the untimely end of those who pass away. Epicurus’ school was in the garden of his home. A home that he shared with his friends in a communal living situation. There is some evidence that Epicurean communes were common in the years after Epicurus’ death, this may have been the default method that Epicureanism was propagated. Epicurus places friendships far above sexual relationships in importance. While our friends offer security and shared enjoyment of life, sexual relations were likely to lead to mental unrest. Arguing that marriage and children could lead to troubles and inconveniences, Epicurus urged his followers not to marry. However, marriage and relations between the sexes were quite different in Epicurus’ day. Modern relationships and even marriage has much in common with Epicurus’ conception of friendship, it is therefore impossible to guess if his thought on the matter would be different were he alive today. Of all the things that wisdom provides for the complete happiness of one's entire life, by far the greatest is friendship. (Epicurus, Principal Doctrine 27)
PracticalWisdom
© 2018 This site uses cookies for navigation and analytics only, no personal information is collected.

Epicurean Friendship

Friendship dances around the world bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness. Epicurus, Vatican Saying 52 There can be no doubt that Epicurus placed a very high value on friendships. Friends are one of the primary pillars of his ethical philosophy, coming up again and again in his surviving writings. He goes so far in Vatican Saying 78 as to call friendship an immortal good (while referring to wisdom as merely a mortal good). Due to the haphazard way that Epicurus’ surviving thoughts have been passed down to us, it isn’t clear what else he considered to be an immortal good. What is clear, however, is the multiple values of friendships. In the beginning, Epicurus teaches, friendships arise out of what they can gain for us; then their mutual benefits arise over time. He teaches that friends can be an insurance policy against misfortune.  Friends are those that, no matter what life throws at us, we can count on. While we make friends for selfish reasons, as friendship blossoms we encompass our friends, they become part of us: The sage does not feel a greater pain when he is tortured than when his friend is tortured, and would die on his friend's behalf; for if he betrays his friend then the rest of his life would be troubled and disturbed on account of his treachery. (Vatican Sayings 56-57) Our friends are an extension of ourselves, so we must seek out virtuous friends, their character is a reflection upon our character. A virtuous individual can be virtuous only to the extent that their friends are virtuous. Even as Epicurus advocates self-reliance, he makes clear that this can only be accomplished within a group of like-minded individuals. Epicurus believed that security in our person is a natural and necessary desire and without security we cannot be happy. He therefore argues that justice through a social contract and close friends were to be sought after as a buttress against the encroachment of others. At the root of Epicurus’ advocacy of friendship is safety. In Principal Doctrine 40, he states: All those who have the power to obtain the greatest confidence from their neighbors also live with each other most enjoyably in the most steadfast trust; and experiencing the strongest fellowship they do not lament as pitiful the untimely end of those who pass away. Epicurus’ school was in the garden of his home. A home that he shared with his friends in a communal living situation. There is some evidence that Epicurean communes were common in the years after Epicurus’ death, this may have been the default method that Epicureanism was propagated. Epicurus places friendships far above sexual relationships in importance. While our friends offer security and shared enjoyment of life, sexual relations were likely to lead to mental unrest. Arguing that marriage and children could lead to troubles and inconveniences, Epicurus urged his followers not to marry. However, marriage and relations between the sexes were quite different in Epicurus’ day. Modern relationships and even marriage has much in common with Epicurus’ conception of friendship, it is therefore impossible to guess if his thought on the matter would be different were he alive today. Of all the things that wisdom provides for the complete happiness of one's entire life, by far the greatest is friendship. (Epicurus, Principal Doctrine 27)