EPICUREANISM: The philosophy of Epicurus (342-270 B.C.), more particularly his ethics. The term is also applied loosely to any hedonistic tendency in morals. Building upon the materialistic metaphysics of Democritus, and the hedonistic teachings of Aristippus, Epicurus reached the view that happiness, or pleasure, is the chief good and the only possible end of rational action. In popular thought Epicureanism has received a crude interpretation not justified by the teachings of its founder. According to Epicurus, pleasure, though desirable, is not always to be chosen, for it may lead to pain greater than itself. It is not the pleasure of the moment, therefore, that we are to follow (the view of the Cyrenaics), but pleasure in a larger sense, including the pleasures of the mind, as well as those of sense. The chief good, then, becomes a happy life as a whole, the substance of which, in the view of Epicurus, is a healthy body and a tranquil mind. He held that some desires are unnatural, others unnecessary. These are to be controlled. He is reported to have said, "If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches, but take away from his desires."
With Epicurus the cardinal virtue is the insight necessary to regulate the desires and thus secure an ultimate preponderance of pleasure over pain. From this virtue all others follow. On the whole, his teaching is hardly less rigorous than that of the Stoics, who expressly made virtue the end of conduct. A virtuous life, Epicurus holds, is the condition of a happy life; if one is consistently virtuous, his life can be only one of happiness. He taught a prudential justice. The just man spares himself the annoyance to which an unjust man is subjected by his fellows. Fear of the gods and fear of death Epicurus considered superstitions disturbing to a happy life, because, as happy and imperishable creatures, the gods have nothing to do with the affairs of this world. Unlike other philosophers of his time Epicurus believed in the freedom of the will. Epicureanism was long popular in Rome and was one of the four philosophical schools endowed by Marcus Aurelius. Through his De natura rerum Lucretius became the chief literary representative of Epicurean philosophy. The teachings of Epicurus, revived by Pierre Gassendi (q.v.) became extremely popular in the time of the English deists and the French encyclopedists.
Bibliography: P. von Gizycki, Ueber das Leben und Moralphilosophie des Epikurus, Berlin, 1879; E. Pfleiderer, Eudämonismus und Egoismus, Leipsic, 1880; W. Wallace, Epicureanism, London, 1880; W. L. Courtney, Studies in Philosophy, ib. 1882; T. C. Baring, The Scheme of Epicurus, ib. 1884; F. W. Newman, Epicureanism, in Miscellanies, vol. iv., ib. 1891; P. Cassel, Epikuros der Philosoph, Berlin, 1892; E. Zeller, Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics, London, 1892; H. O. Newland, Epicureanism, ib. 1900; J. Masson, Lucretius, Epicurean and Poet, ib., 1908; and the general works by A. W. Benz, (Greek Philosophers, ib. 1882), B. Erdmann (Hist. of Philosophy, ib. 1893), and W. Windelband (Hist. of Ancient Philosophy, ib. 1900). Additional literature is indicated in J. M. Baldwin, Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology, iii. 1, pp. 192-194, 351-352, New York, 1905.