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Epicurean Quotations

The Greek philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BCE) founded the school of philosophy called Epicureanism. Only a few fragments and letters of Epicurus' 300 written works remain. Much of what is known about Epicurean philosophy comes from later followers and commentators.

He taught that by deep thinking (philosophy) one should aim for a happy, tranquil life of peace - one without fear and pain - a self-sufficient life among friends.


A man cannot enjoy full happiness, untroubled by turmoil, in a debilitated state.

As far as death is concerned, humans live in a city without walls. - Cf. Epicurus

As for the bad, the more they prosper, the more they injure themselves. - Epicurus, the Vatican Selection

Beauty and virtue and the like are to be honored, if they give pleasure; but if they do not give pleasure, we must bid them farewell. - Epicurus fragment

Enjoy good health in truth. - Epicurus, abr.

He has become an old man on the day on which he forgot his past blessings. - Epicurus, The Vatican Sayings

He who fails to heed this limit falls into an error. - Epicurus, the Vatican Selection

He who says either that the time for philosophy has not yet come is like someone who says that the time for happiness has not yet come. - Epicurus

Human pain and suffering can help you pursue the things that make for happiness.

It is well nigh impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. - With Epicurus

Let no one weary of the study of philosophy when old. - Epicurus

Let us banish evil men who have done us long and grievous harm. - With Epicurus, Vatican Selection

Live in obscurity. - Epicurus

Many men when they have acquired riches have not found the escape from their ills but only a change to greater ills. - Epicurus fragment

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little. - Epicurus

Pleasure is the beginning and the end of living happily. - Epicurus, in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers

That we have suffered certain bodily pains aids us in guarding against their like. - Epicurus, the Vatican Selection

The art of living well and the art of dying well are one. - Epicurus

The greater the difficulty, the more the glory in surmounting it. - Epicurus

The greatest fruit of justice is serenity. - Epicurus fragment

The honour paid to a wise man is a great good for those who honour him. - Epicurus, the Vatican Selection

The man who has attained the natural end of the human race will be equally good, even though no one is present. - Epicurus fragment

The man who says that all events are necessitated has no ground for critising the man who says that not all events are necessitated. For according to him this is itself a necessitated event. - Epicurus Letters, Principal Doctrines, and Vatican Sayings

The misfortune of the wise can be better than the prosperity of the fool. - Mod. Epicurus

To acquire many possessions is not easy without servility to mobs or monarchs. - With Epicurus

To enjoy life better, try to live in obscurity.

We think highly of frugality not that we may always keep to a cheap and simple diet . . . - Epicurus fragment

Tim O'Keefe

Tim O'Keefe (2010) says:

Epicureanism was one of the major philosophical systems . . . in the Hellenistic world; Epicurean communities flourished for hundreds of years after Epicurus' death; and the rediscovery of Epicurus' philosophy helped shape the scientific revolution. (p 7)

For almost all Greek philosophers of the time, the fundamental questions of ethics were (i) what is the highest good and (ii) how do you attain it. (p 107)

Epicurean hedonism turns out to be the pursuit of tranquillity, attained primarily by shedding the vain and empty desires that lead to anxiety and by leading a moderately ascetic life (p 107)

That reason best fulfils the purpose inherent in our nature, and that the happiest life is acting in ways that are rational - Epicurus would reject all this argument. (Cf. p 112)

The pain of getting an abscessed tooth drilled is bad but worth undergoing. (p 114)

Aristotle would attack the whole procedure of looking at infants to find out what people ultimately desire. After all, infants are immature [and] limited, with a limited range of desires, and . . . adults strive for a much wider range of things than merely their own pleasure. (p 115)

While corpses are free from pain and anxiety, there is a large difference between being unconscious and being tranquil. Corpses do not take delight in being free from fear, while we can. (p 121)

Epicurus' thinking on pleasure takes as its starting-point Plato's discussion of pleasure and pain in the Philebus. According to Socrates, pain is the perceived disruption to or dissolution of an organism's natural, healthy state. Pleasure is the perceived process of restoration of the organism toward its natural, healthy state. (p 122 The beer a friend is offering me now will bring me pleasure, and that pleasure is good. But because I have a job interview an hour hence, I should not choose this pleasure, as it would be more than outweighed by the pains caused by my not receiving the job and feeling great self-loathing. (p 122)

Vain and empty desires have no natural limit. Indeed, they tend to increase . . . and are thus very difficult to satisfy. (p 125)

Having just the basic desires, living simply and fulfilling them, and facing the future serenely. Would it not get stale? Epicurus would probably reply that such a life would be boring to many people, but that is because they are corrupt. (p 127)

In order to attain happiness, . . . practical wisdom regarding the consequences of our actions and the limits of our desires is not enough. . . . And if you are ignorant about the nature of the universe, you . . . need natural science to understand the true causes of natural phenomena. (p 133)

Epicurus says that the process of learning philosophy is pleasant. (p 134)

Epicureans can make a very strong case for the importance of friendship and of treating your friends well. (p 154)


Epicurean quotations, Epicurus philosophy, Literature  

Bailey, Cyril, tr. Epicurus: The Extant Remains. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926. ⍽▢⍽ Extant writings.

DeWitt, Norman Wentworth. Epicurus and His Philosophy. Cleveland, OH: The World Publishing Company, 1967.

Lang, A. A. and D. N. Sedley. The Hellenistic Philosophers. Volume 1: Translations of the Principal Sources with Philosophical Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. ⍽▢⍽ Epicureanism is dealt with from p. 25 to p. 158.

Oates, Whitney Jennings. The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers: The Complete Extant Writings of Epicurus.New York: Random House, 1940. ⍽▢⍽ With fragments.

O'Keefe, Tim. Epicureanism. Durham: Acumen Publishing, 2010.

Roskam, Geert. Live Unnoticed: On the Vicissitudes of an Epicurean Doctrine. Leiden: Brill, 2007.

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