The Epicurean art of life relates the Meaning of our Life to the feelings. The way we feel is the rule by which we measure our happiness. Feeling good and having fun is the Epicurean mode of living happily while pleasure is the highest good in life. In other words, in the Epicurean model of life our perceptions of life, thoughts and decisions are valued in relation to the pleasant feelings they create. Everything we plan and decide aims at feeling good and everything else is but a means to safeguarding and increasing pleasure.
Certainly we cannot pursue all the pleasures we need and wish for. We are forced to make wise choices. This is the function of the rational thinking to affect. But, watch out. Reason is just a means of choosing which pleasures to pursue by taking into account our own competencies and shortcomings as well as the restrictions of the environment. Logic is unable to suggest needs and wishes of its own invention. It should strict itself in evaluating and decision making based on the needs and wants that our Nature reveals, through our senses, emotions, and character.
Pleasure is an innate good. It is the genetic perception as to what is good or bad in life. It serves as the Nature’s guide to living happily. By this guide animals, and babies live and by this the human species survived and flourished for millions of years, before logic developed 50,000 years ago. The birth of the rational thinking meant to intelligently choose amongst on the messages sent by our Nature and not to suppress or ignore them or create new ones under the influence of the society.
Epicurus attributes the sources of human unhappiness to the outright domination of the rational thinking over the feelings. This has been imposed on us under societal influences. They are based on false opinions and life perceptions that take as granted that there are higher goods than pleasure, such as success, wealth, power and fame, consumerism, faith, moral obligation, duty, virtue, rationality, social justice, patriotism and so on. However, for Epicurus these concepts may be worth pursuing only as a means to procuring or enhancing happiness but not for their own shake. He claims that they are artificial constructions of abstract thinking bearing no relation to the needs and wants of our nature.
The prevalent culture Epicurus argues unfortunately has been defined by the idealistic philosophies, which regard the thoughts of reason as the most valuable means of achieving well being. Hence, the prevalent perceptions distort, suppress and ignore our genetic perception of following pleasure and in its place they introduce other means that conform to the demands of the prevalent culture. But, feelings may be distorted, suppressed or ignored but they cannot be eliminated. They are stored in the synapses of our brain and react unconsciously by generating anxiety and psychopathological symptoms of. The realization of these reactions by our logic further aggravates them, leading frequently to panic attacks.
The Epicurean cure for the emotional disturbances is to reintroduce pleasure as the guide of our life. This is affected by recognizing and replacing the distressing old perceptions with new ones that are in line with our genetic perception of following pleasure. Such are the perceptions the Epicurean Philosophy suggests. They are, fear free, optimistic, joyful, based on the quest of natural pleasures. These perceptions are listed in a concise manner in the Principal doctrines.
Although it may seem easy to change our perceptions in practice it is hard to affect them. There are obstacles set both by ourselves and the environment. The first hurdle is to recognize the need to do so. Usually we are unable or unwilling to look into ourselves and spot any worrying signs, until psychopathological symptoms appear. Often, it is too late by then.
Recognizing the problem should be accompanied by a leap of Will to implement the changes. We need determination and discipline to make changes in our character and set a new way of life. It is not only the power of inertia that stands on our way but also the stubborn reactions of the environment that supports the old perceptions.
After recognizing the need to affect changes in our perceptions, and ensuring our willingness to implement them, we need an effective therapy, that is the proper perceptions that will cure the turmoil of the soul. The Epicurean Philosophy suggests such an enduring and natural cure:“Pleasure.” It states simply to do things for the pleasure they provide rather than for any other reason.
The pursue of pleasure is not to be left to chance or necessity. It has to be planned in advance by reason. We need a strategy to draw a life plan for an enduring happy life. To not look only to the current pleasures but to take providence for the ones to come. To not look for pleasures that cost much and are hard to procure. To not take heavy responsibilities that last long. To be content with what we have and look for pleasures which are within ease of reach, such as the necessary natural pleasures that take care of the needs of the body, soul, and intellect. To not evaluate pleasure by the quantity but the quality of it. To even endure pain for a while if we are to get greater pleasure in the future. To avoid pleasures that raise jealousy or contempt. To look for pleasures that involve participation in activities rather than material belongings. To develop our competencies in order to undertake joyful challenges that develop ourselves and extent our capacities. To enjoy the pleasure of self reliance and embrace the optimistic attitude to life. To avoid pessimistic thoughts that give rise to anxiety and fears.