Athens Philosophy Café in English
Our Philosophy Café is a monthly meeting to discuss some of the most challenging questions of philosophy at Lexi-Logos, a charming Language & Culture Center in Plaka, downtown Athens.
Wednesday Jan. 22, 2014 (8-9 pm):
Epicurus and the way to a good life
Although Epicurus led a simple and quiet life, his ideas were revolutionary and Epicureanism became one of the most important schools in the ancient world. One of his tenets was that “pleasure is the highest good.” A happy existence lies in a pleasurable life. Living in a hedonistic culture, this may sound trivial to us; but at the time Epicurus was living, it was a quite challenging statement. Happiness was not the outcome of an ethical life or the exercise of virtue, as Plato and Aristotle had taught; and a happy life was not a pious one, as it was assumed by religious authors. Pleasure and happiness go hand in hand.
So far so good, we may say, but what is pleasure? Moreover, isn't it better to search a life free from pain and suffering instead of looking for pleasurable moments? And what if the consequence of searching for pleasures is pain at the end? For example, if you enjoy a meal and eat too much, you will end up having an indigestion; isn't moderation then the best choice? On the other hand, are all sorts of pleasure similar? Can't we speak instead of “better” and “worse” pleasures, according for example to their duration, intensity or other properties? But, to tell the truth, is it not preferable the peace of mind that arises from the lack of cravings, in other words, is not desiring itself the main source of suffering?
In our next meeting we will address these topics discussing the ethical and anthropological theory of Epicurus. Unfortunately, much of his work was lost – or destroyed by supposedly pious hands. Nevertheless, some remaining fragments and the writings of his disciples can offer us an insight into his philosophical system. We will see that according to Epicurus the key is not indulging oneself in whatever appetite we happen to have, but in the wise “management” of pleasures. If pleasure is the highest good, a pleasurable existence supposes wisdom and the acquisition of some key virtues.
About the speaker
Marcos Breuer is a Doctor of Philosophy. He studied Philosophy at the University of Cordoba, Argentina, and obtained his master's degree with a work on Norbert Elias’ philosophy of culture. He did his PhD at the University of Dusseldorf, Germany; in his dissertation he discussed the sociological assumptions underlying the current debate between utilitarianism and contractualism. After a three-year stay in Rome, he moved to Athens in 2009 where he works as a freelance author. He has published two books and many articles in different languages on ethics, philosophy, and literary criticism. He is currently working on a book about the ethical debate on euthanasia. Marcos Breuer regularly organizes private workshops on philosophy and Spanish language & culture, and works as a consultant in the field of cultural event management.