From the conquests of Alejando Magno, Greece began its greatest cultural expansion in history. All the Greek ideal, knowledge and values were made known in other totally different regions and cultures. Stoics and Epicureans with difference
Before Alexander’s conquests, the Greeks concentrated on their city-states; all the philosophical thought of the time was developed in Greek territory, especially in Athens. But with the death of Alexander the Great (323. BC) (a fact that marked the historical stage known as the Hellenistic Period) and the division of the kingdom by the successors, the struggles begin that will eventually forge a new political system or State in which the influences of other cultures are noticed.
As expected, the new system brought with it some changes in the lives of Greek citizens; since as a result of the culture shock, they found themselves in a somewhat confused situation; because of course, they had to reinvent many of their values and reshape their religious beliefs.
It is in this context that the philosophers of Hellenism see the need to propose new moral values that allow individuals to live in the best possible way and find their way in the midst of the chaos that this mixture with other peoples could represent; which also had their values, beliefs and culture.
From the aforementioned, it is not surprising that philosophical thought and the most important philosophical schools of that time were focused mainly on ethical aspects; since society had changed and a new philosophy was needed to serve as a guide for citizens so that they could live in harmony within society.
Among the most interesting and perhaps best known philosophical proposals of that period, those of Epicureanism and Stoicism stand out . Two philosophical systems that had great influence on the ethical questions of society and that remained in force for a long time.
Between the Epicureans and the Stoics there are certain similarities, but without a doubt that what stands out between them are their differences.
Here we explain what the differences are between Stoics and Epicureans.
STOICS Stoics and Epicureans with difference
Stoicisms was founded by Zeno of Citio and owes its name to the place where its founder began to teach his philosophy ( Stoa – portico).
The Stoics were characterized by their materialism, their theodicy, and their rejection of passions and desires.
They were inspired by the cosmological philosophy of Heraclitus and posited that human beings and everything else are material bodies that derive from a Universal Reason (God-Zeus), which is also material. This Force or Reason, which in some cases was also related to Nature; it predisposed the human being to act virtuously, but still people had “freedom” (even though it was a deterministic philosophy) to indulge in vices.
The Stoics did not consider any action in itself as good or bad, for them everything depended on the intention with which that action was carried out.
They worked considerably with the logic part and they stand out because even though they were empiricists (they said that knowledge derives from perceptions); they also claimed that there are some innate ideas.
Among the Stoics who contributed the most to this philosophical system, Chrysippus should be mentioned, who was in charge of explaining what could have been one of the questions of that time: if Reason (God) determines everything, why does evil exist and the injustice? To this Chrysippus responds that for good to exist, evil must exist, just as for virtue to exist, vice must also exist.
It is important to clarify that the Stoic philosophy was deterministic, because according to them the only freedom that the human being (the wise men) had was to be aware that they had to submit to what Providence had prepared for them.
Another element to highlight among the Stoics is their ethics, which owes much to the contributions of Seneca (late Stoic). For Stoicism, the human being had to live according to the will of Nature-Reason (this is what they called living in a virtuous way). They did not understand Nature as something instinctive and wild, but as a universal nature that led to good.
The Stoics considered passions, fears, desires, and pleasure to be irrational; so they tried to avoid them and live life in complete apathy towards these issues.
Another interesting detail is that in Stoicism there were disciples and representatives who thought very differently. Thus, in some certain cases, somewhat extreme characteristics (such as apathy for all emotions) were not fully accepted.
Finally, the Stoics had as an ethical ideal that people love all the inhabitants of the world in the same way that they loved themselves.
The Epicurean school owes its name to its founder, Epicurus, who was born in Samos (342 BC).
Epicurus was very influenced by the philosophy of Democritus, hence he affirmed that everything is composed of atoms; even the soul. For this same reason, he argued that it made no sense to fear death, since death is simply the complete extinction of being.
Unlike the Stoics, there was no division among the Epicureans as to the practice of the philosophy they taught.
Epicurus installed his school, called the Garden; in which it allowed the entry of women and even slaves. The basic principle of his philosophy was pleasure (leading to happiness). It is important to mention that for Epicurus pleasure (hedoné) was nothing more than the absence of pain; in some cases his philosophy was misinterpreted and even confused with Cyrenaic hedonism, but in reality what Epicureanism recommended was that pleasures be chosen wisely.
Unlike the Stoics, Epicurus did not focus so much on the logic part; since his main interest was ethics. He argued that it was wise to choose pleasures taking into account what they might entail in the future. That is, if a momentary pleasure brought greater suffering in the future; the sensible thing to do was avoid it. Likewise, if a momentary suffering brought with it a greater pleasure in the future; it was well worth suffering.
Although Epicurus could not be considered an atheist, since he did not deny the existence of the gods; Yes, he was quite interested in people losing their fear of them, in the same way that he also wanted them to leave behind the fear of death.
He claimed that the gods had no interest in intervening in human affairs and that people’s sacrifices and superstitions were of no use. He also said that to achieve happiness, it was first necessary to achieve ataraxia (live without worries).
Epicurean ethical philosophy was self-centered, since it sought individual pleasure and well-being, however, Epicurus gave great importance to friendship and in practice stood out for being highly appreciated among his disciples.
For the Epicureans, unlike the Cyrenaics, moral suffering was worse than physical suffering; since they maintained that the body suffers the present evils, but the soul suffers even with the memories.
To achieve happiness, Epicurus proposed that preference be given to the pleasures of the soul over those of the body. However, he did not reject or condemn the latter.
In conclusion, the philosophy of Epicurus was centered especially in the practice, more than in the theoretical part.
His theory was empiricist, since it affirmed that all knowledge comes from the senses and that they must be trusted. He said that the source of errors was not in the senses, but the judgments that were made.
Epicureanism lasted for a long time, until the arrival of Christianity. It was a widely accepted philosophy and one that had many followers. Epicurus was characterized by his kindness and his openness regarding the fact of allowing women and slaves (something not very common) in his Garden.
Differences between Epicureans and Stoics
- The Epicureans owe their name to the founder of that school, Epicurus; while the Stoics owe their name to the place where Zeno of Citius began his teachings (Stoa = portico).
- The Stoics attach great importance to God in their philosophy, while the Epicureans said that there was no reason to fear the gods and death.
- The Epicureans had pleasure (absence of pain) and happiness as their ends, while the Stoics generally regarded pleasure and certain emotions as irrational and against nature.
- Epicurus was inspired by the theories of Democritus and Leucippus, while the Stoics were influenced by the philosophy of Heraclitus.
- For Epicurus, the human being is free (destiny does not exist), while for the Stoics everything is determined by Providence.