Which road should you take? To be happy with what you have and to enjoy life, or to make change despite of all action being futile?
Hiram explains why you should not postpone your happiness, how to apply Epicurean philosophy to your life right now, the difference between Epicureanism and Stoicism, how to cultivate tranquility (ataraxia) in your life, hedonic calculus, the need for co-operatives (such as Las Indias) and much, much more.
When I say ‘hedonism’, what do you think? Do you imagine sensual pleasure such as Joanna Wilińska’s exploration of control versus freedom? The kind of self-indulgence that was banned in the Victorian era? Or that shared by Nigel Van Wieck’s realist paintings of America?
Perhaps it’s none of these, in which case you are wiser than I was before reading Hiram Crespo’s Tending the Epicurean Garden (UK). The meaning of ‘hedonism’ has become skewed over two millennia, and along with it Epicurus, an Ancient Greek philosopher best known for his pursuit of pleasure.
Pursuit of pleasure? Sounds wonderful. Google’s definition of an Epicurean reads, ‘a person devoted to sensual enjoyment, especially that derived from fine food and drink’. I’m an Epicurean!, I conclude. But it’s not quite so simple.
2,000 years ago on 300 scrolls Epicurus, an Ancient Greek philosopher from the island of Samos wrote his teachings of philosophy. One should pursue pleasure and happiness, he said, and years later Thomas Jefferson, the American Founding Father took that principle and put it in the Declaration of Independence: Americans have a right to pursue happiness.
Hiram Crespo, founder of The Society of Friends of Epicurus explains in this episode of Shakers & Doers that the philosopher’s words have long been misunderstood. Hedonist pleasure and happiness were not, in Epicurus’ eyes, about giving in to desire as we see in the tales of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (UK) by D. H. Lawrence, but about ataraxia: tranquility. Pleasure is defined in terms of not having perturbances. There is happiness to be found in not having pain.
Listen to the podcast with Hiram Crespo
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Show Notes from Shakers & Doers: Hiram Crespo
- Hiram on Twitter @hclasalle
- Hiram’s Blog: The Autarkist
- The Society of Friends of Epicurus
- Yerba Mate tea
[3:20] Why you should not postpone your happiness
[4:00] How to apply Epicurean philosophy to your life [develop congenial relationships]
[6:30] The ideal day of Epicurus
[8:00] The difference between Epicurean and Stoic philosophy
[12:00] How to cultivate Ataraxia or tranquility
[13:30] The Shallows by Nicholas Carr
[17:00] Hiram’s favourite mediums of reading
[20:00] Why you should share your intellectual pursuits with friends
[22:00] Hedonic calculus
[34:30] Las Indias, the co-operative
Image – Bangkok, a city where anything goes. Taken from the top floor of the Millennium Hilton hotel in February 2016 where I was celebrating my Mum’s 65th birthday.