September 27, 2010

Epicurus: The Pleasurable Life

Today the word epicure means "someone who takes particular pleasure in fine food and drink", and there are recipe websites with variations on the name. We tend to think of an epicurian as something of a hedonist, a self-indulgent pursuer of pleasure. But the actual Epicurus, the Greek philosopher of the 3rd century BCE, would likely be appalled at the use to which his name has been put. As he wrote
It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly.
Of all the means which wisdom acquires to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship.
Last week I read a post on Epicurian aesthetics on my philosopher friend Tom Leddy's blog and a light went on in my brain: oh my, I must be an Epicurian. Epicurus emphasized that the highest good was a life free of pain and worry, and having pleasures that are natural and necessary, therefore simple:
The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.
Granting that my understanding of philosophy is minimal, I still felt a rush of excitement in reading about Epicurus; here was an approach to life that echoed what I have been coming to understand as the meaning of my own: a deep pleasure in the simple things around me––garden and nature––and in the aesthetic pleasures of art making, reading and writing, cooking, watching movies; the joys of friendship, online and in person; the paying attention to small things.


  1. Wonderfully put, Altoon, I agree! And thank for more cauliflower recipes. I've been enjoying that Marcella Hazan one since her book came out many years ago. The Indian one sounds delicious. I was curious if you had any more info. on your baby birds? I'll write when I have time about 2 nests I saw mature. Mother birds are incredible!

  2. thanks for the comment, Gail; how nice that you agree. As for the baby birds, I saw an empty nest a couple days after the last photo I shot of them, and heard birdsong nearby, so I assume they fledged successfully.

  3. The Osprey have also left Orient. But, the crows are still talking.