Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs

341 – 270 BCE

Western Buddha

Author of 300 lost books, a huge influence on western philosophy through Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Karl Marx, David Hume, and inspiration for Thomas Jefferson’s “all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” Epicurus blended the wisdom of pleasure with the pleasure of wisdom (Durant) and fostered equality and freedom welcoming into his school without prejudice slaves, different races, women, and courtesans. “Unsurpassably kind” to everyone, with many parallels to Lao Tzu, Epicurus taught that the purpose of philosophy is to free us from fear and suffering, to guide us to happiness.

Eras

Sources

Maxims

On Nature

Unlisted Sources

Fragments, Vatican Collection

On Goals

Principle Doctrines

Quotes by Epicurus (28 quotes)

“The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 52. Cultivating the Changeless

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“We cannot enjoy full happiness, untroubled by suffering unless we realize the nature of things.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

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“Against other things it is possible to obtain security, but when it comes to death we human beings all live in an unwalled city.”

from On Nature

Themes: Death and Dying

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“There is nothing terrible in life for the man who has truly comprehended that there is nothing terrible in not living.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 50. Claws and Swords

Themes: Fear

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“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 35. The Power of Goodness

Themes: Friendship

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“The fool’s life is empty of gratitude and full of fears.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 15. Inscrutability

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“Vain is the word of a philosopher which does not heal any human suffering. Just as there is no profit in medicine if it does not cure a disease of the body, to there is no profit in philosophy if it does not cure suffering of the mind.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 67. Three Treasures

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“When happiness is present, we have everything; but when it is absent, we do everything to possess it.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 72. Helpful Fear

Themes: Happiness

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“He who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 75. Greed

Themes: Greed Wealth

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“I have never wished to cater to the crowd; for what I know they do not approve, and what they approve I do not know.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 41. Distilled Life

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“Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist”

from On Nature

Chapters: 39. Oneness

Themes: Immortality

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“Don’t spoil what you have by desiring what you don’t. Remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 9. Know When to Stop

Themes: Desire Hope

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“Of all the things that wisdom provides for the happiness of the whole life, by far the most important is friendship... the chief concerns of the right-minded person are wisdom and friendship of which the former is a mortal benefit, the latter an immortal one.”

from Maxims

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“Live unobtrusively.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 70. Inscrutable

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“Everything natural is easily procured, and only the useless is costly.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

Themes: Simplicity Wealth

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“The gods are not to be feared; death cannot be felt; the good can be won; all that we dread can be conquered.”

from On Nature

Chapters: 15. Inscrutability

Themes: God Fear

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“If suffering is slight, disregard it; if great, it won’t last long.”

from On Nature

Themes: Health Suffering

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“Death is nothing to us; for that which is dissolved is devoid of sensation, and that which is devoid of sensation is nothing to us.”

from Maxims

Themes: Death and Dying

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“The wise man is but little favored by fortune; but his reason procures him the greatest and most valuable goods, and these he does enjoy, and will enjoy the whole of his life.”

from Maxims

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“The happiest men are they who have arrived at the point of having nothing to fear.”

from Maxims

Themes: Happiness Fear

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“Guest, thou shalt be happy here, for here happiness is esteemed the highest good.”

Themes: Virtue

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“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot, or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are both able and willing. I they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can, but will not, then they are not benevolent If they are neither able nor willing, then they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, how does it exist?”

from Maxims

Themes: God Evil

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“If unjustly gained, the love of money is impious; and if justly, shameful. It is unseemly to be merely parsimonious even with justice on one's side.”

Themes: Money

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“Because this is not easy to do without servility to mobs or monarchs, a free life cannot acquire many possessions—yet it possesses all things in unfailing abundance.”

from Fragments, Vatican Collection

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“Nothing is sufficient to someone for whom little is not enough.”

Themes: Less is More

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“There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

from Principle Doctrines

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“God either wants to take away evil from the world and cannot; or he can, and does not want to; or he neither can nor will; or, lastly, he both wants to and can... if he is willing to remove evil and cannot, he is not omnipotent; if he can but will not, that is meanness; if he is neither able nor willing, he is both mean and powerless; if both able and willing, how does evil come to be on earth?”

Themes: Evil

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“We hold the greatest pleasure to be that which is perceived when all pain is removed... And when we no longer feel pain, we no longer need pleasure.”

from On Goals

Themes: Pleasure

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Quotes about Epicurus (8 quotes)

“Epicurus himself—whose genius outshone the race of men and dimmed them all as the stars are dimmed by the rising of the fiery sun—died. And will you kick and protest against your sentence?”

Lucretius 99 – 55 BCE via R.E. Latham
(Titus Carus)
from De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)

Themes: Complaint

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“Epicurus maintained that the soul is composed of parts, in the same manner as bodies.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE via Naves
from Philosophical Letters (1730)

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“Epicurus never advocated hedonism, believing that we should aim to free ourselves from bodily pain and mental anguish not through 'drinking and revels' but 'sober reasoning.' He was an ascetic... His standard diet was water and bread... and he was a strict celibate who believed sex should be avoided because it led to unhappy feelings such as jealousy”

Roman Krznaric 1
Practical, popular, modern philosopher

from Carpe Diem Regained (2017)

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“Epicurus divides the needs of mankind into three classes and the division made by this great professor of happiness is a true and a fine one.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE
from Essays

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“Vulgar hedonists took in vain, and brought into disrepute, the name of Epicurus, and for this offence were chided by the austere Epicurean poet, Lucretius.”

Arnold Toynbee 1889 – 1975 CE
from A Study of History

Themes: Pleasure

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“The teachings of Epicurus are upright and holy and, if you consider them closely, austere.”

Seneca ˈsɛnɪkə 4 BCE – 65 CE
(Lucius Annaeus)

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“I too am an Epicurean. I consider the genuine (not imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us.”

Thomas Jefferson 1743 – 1826 CE
from Letter (1819)

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“I experience the character of Epicurus quite differently... Such happiness could be invented only by a man who was suffering continually.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

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