Stoics vs. Epicureans
Difference between Stoics and Epicureans: – From the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greece started began its greatest cultural expansion in history. All the ideal, knowledge and Greek values were made known in other regions and cultures totally different.
Before the conquests of Alexander, the Greeks concentrated in their city-states; all the philosophical thought of the time was developed in Greek territory, mainly in Athens. But with the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC) (a fact that marked the historical period known as the Hellenistic Period) and the division of the kingdom by the successors, begin the struggles that will eventually end up forging a new political system or State in which the influences of other cultures are noted.
As is to be expected, the new system brought with it some changes in the lives of the Greek citizens; as a result of cultural shock, they found themselves in a somewhat confused situation; because as is to be supposed, they had to reinvent many of their values and mold their religious beliefs again.
It is in this context in which 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 amid the chaos that could represent that mixture with other peoples; which also had their values, beliefs and culture.
From the above, it is not surprising that philosophical thought and the most important philosophical schools of that time were centered mainly on ethical aspects; since the society had changed and it needed a new philosophy that would guide the citizens so that they could live in harmony within the society.
Among the most interesting and perhaps best known philosophical proposals of the period, Epicureanism and stoicism stand out. Two philosophical systems that had great influence on the ethical issues of society, which remained in force for a long time. There are certain similarities between the Epicureans and the Stoics, but the differences between them are clear.
Difference between Stoics and Epicureans
Here are the differences between Stoics and Epicureans.
Stoicism was founded by Zenon de Citio and owes that 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 argued 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; predisposed the human being to act virtuously, but still people had “freedom” (even though it was a deterministic philosophy) to lean on the vices.
The Stoics did not consider any action in itself as good or bad, for them all depended on the intensity with which that action was effected. They worked considerably with the part of the logic and they emphasize because although they were empiricists (they said that the knowledge derives from the perceptions); also affirmed that there are some innate ideas.
Among the Stoics who contributed most to this philosophical system we must mention Chrysippus, who was in charge of explaining what might have been one of the questions of that time, if Reason (God) determines everything why there is evil and the injustice? To this Chrysippus responds that for there to be good there must be evil, as well as for virtue to exist, there must also be vice.
It is important to clarify that the Stoic philosophy was deterministic, because according to them the only freedom that the human being (the sages) had was to be aware that they had to submit to what Providence had prepared for them.
Another element to emphasize among the Stoics is its 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 virtuously). They did not understand Nature as instinctive and wild, but as a unirversal nature that led to good.
The Stoics felt that passions, fears, desires, and pleasure were irrational; so they tried to avoid them and live life in complete apathy to these issues. Another interesting detail is that in Stoicism there were disciples and representatives who thought very differently. Thus, in some cases certain, somewhat extreme features (such as apathy for all emotions) were not fully accepted. Finally, the Stoics had as an ethical ideal that people should 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 very reason he argued that it made no sense to fear death, for this is simply the complete extinction of being. Unlike the Stoics, among the Epicureans there was no division as to the practice of the philosophy they taught.
Epicurus installed his school, called the Garden; which allowed women and even slaves to enter. The basic principle of his philosophy was pleasure (which led to happiness). It is important to mention that for Epicurus the pleasure (hedoné) was no more than the absence of pain; in some cases its philosophy was misinterpreted and even confused with the cirenaico hedonism, but in fact what Epicurean recommended was that the chosen ones were chosen with prudence.
Unlike the Stoics, Epicurus did not focus so much on the part of logic; since his main interest was ethics. He argued that it was wise to choose pleasures by taking into account what they might bring in the future. That is, if a momentary pleasure brought greater suffering in the future; the sensible thing was to avoid it. Likewise, if momentary suffering brought with it a greater pleasure in the future; well worth suffering.
Although Epicurus could not be considered atheist, since it did not deny the existence of the gods; he was rather interested in people losing their fear of them, just as he also sought to leave behind the fear of death. He affirmed that the gods had no interest in intervening in human affairs and that the sacrifices and superstitions of the people were of no avail. He also said that in order to achieve happiness, it was necessary first to ataraxia (to live without worries).
The epicurean ethical philosophy was egocentric, since it looked for the pleasure and individual well-being; nevertheless, Epicuro gave great importance to the friendship and in practice stood out for being highly prized among his disciples.
For the Epicureans, unlike the Cyrenians, 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 should be given to the pleasures of the soul rather than to those of the body. However, he did not reject or condemn the latter.
In conclusion, the philosophy of Epicurus was focused especially on the practice, rather than on the theoretical part.
His theory was empiricist, since it affirmed that all knowledge comes from the senses and that in them is to be trusted. He said that the source of the errors was not in the senses, but the judgments that were formulated.
Epicureanism lasted for a long time, until the arrival of Christianity. It was a widely accepted philosophy that had many followers. Epicurus was characterized by his kindness and his openness to the fact of allowing women and slaves (something not very common) in his Garden.
Differences between Stoics and Epicureans
- 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 with his teachings (Stoa = portico).
- The Stoics give much importance to God in their philosophy, while the Epicureans said that there was no reason to fear the gods and death.
- The Epicureans were for pleasure (absence of pain) and happiness, while the Stoics generally regarded pleasure and certain emotions as irrational and against nature.
- Epicurus was inspired by the theories of Democritus and Leucipo, whereas the Stoics were influenced by the philosophy of Heraclitus.
- For Epicurus, the human being is free (there is no destiny), whereas for the Stoics everything is determined by Providence.