Sunday, December 27, 2015

All good questions.................

Epicurus grew up on another Aegean island, Samos, two hundred miles east of here, nearer to Anatolia, or Asia Minor.  He was born in 341 BCE, only eighty years after Plato, but was little influenced by him.  What Epicurus mainly had on his mind was the question of how to live the best possible life, especially considering that we only have one of them - Epicurus did not believe in an afterlife.  This seems like the most fundamental philosophical question, the question of all questions.  But students of the history of Western Philosophy are often disheartened to find that as the centuries went on that question began to take a backseat to philosophical questions that were considered more pressing, like Martin Heidegger's mindblower that used to make me laugh out loud with incomprehension.   "Why are there things that are rather than nothing?"  and the epistemological problem, "How do we know what is real?"  Epicurus certainly speculated about the nature of reality, but he dis so fundamentally in service of his ultimate question, "How does one make the most of one's life?"  Not a bad question.
      Epicurus's answer, after many years of deep thought, was that the best possible like one could life is a happy one, a life filled with pleasure.  At first look, this conclusion seems like a no-brainer, the sort of wisdom found on the side of a box of Celestial Seasonings tea.  But Epicurus knew this was only a starting point because it raised the more troublesome and perplexing questions of what constitutes a happy life, which pleasures are truly gratifying and enduring, and which are fleeting and lead to pain, plus the monumental questions of why and how we often thwart ourselves from attaining happiness.

-Daniel Klein,  Travels with Epicurus:  A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life

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