In the Letter to Monoeceus, Epicurus highlights certain directions, which can also be called the life lessons. Epicurus states that the pleasure and avoidance of sufferings are the main aims in the life of the person. The philosopher makes an argument, according to which the person, in order to calm the inner storm, must first get rid of the pain and suffering to be able to achieve a state of ataraxia (freedom from anxiety). In contradiction to the presented argument, one could suggest that it is a very selfish approach to the state of happiness and it only guarantees the reaching of the pleasure in the present time. However, Epicurus also states that human being is not forced to be alone and the communication is necessary for the life; he also emphasizes that considering the temporal features, such as the past, present and future is an irreplaceable element in the achievement of pleasure and happiness.
According to Epicurus, the main aim of the human life is the pleasure. Moreover, humans should seek the pleasure as long as they live and breathe in order to be able to satisfy their needs and feel happy. Epicurus interpreted the state of pleasure and comfort as the absence of suffering (in such a way, he defended the idea according to which the individual can and should be able to find satisfaction in himself/herself). These elements lead to a serene, devoid of physical suffering and trouble-free life; but, at the same time, pleasure shows the dependence of the individual on the items and needs of the outside world. In order to overcome this contradiction, Epicurus tried to reduce the number of threats to a minimum and to interpret them as a passive state of human life. In the Letter to Monoeceus, he claimed that “For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear, and, when once we have attained all this, the tempest of the soul is laid…” By such expression, he wanted to emphasize that the individual always seeks for the pleasure to fulfill the gaps that are caused by the pain. The desire to reduce the pain is the essence of the human’s nature. However, not all of the pleasures and desires are able to fight the negative emotions. When the human is in pain, it is absolutely illogical to seek for the satisfaction which can fight the negative state because such a pleasure leads to more painful situation. To support the presented claim, Epicurus makes a statement about the alcohol; when a person is in pain and drinks a lot of alcohol, then it will more likely bring only more pain to the person. Therefore, the wise person will try to avoid such actions at all costs.
In order to achieve a state “free from pain and fear…”, the person should get in the ‘emptiness.’ It is the state that is free from worry and fears and only in such a way the human will calm the storm of pain in the soul. Furthermore, the reaching of ataraxia helps the person to understand and recognize the necessary and unnecessary pleasures, as well as the types of harmful emotions that lead to the unnecessary pain. Epicurus also believed that sometimes a person must remain alone with himself/herself. According to his view, staying alone would help a person to achieve wisdom and calm the inner storm and emotions. When a man is alienated from everything, he achieves the inner peace and is able to calmly think about everything that happened, everything that is right and wrong. In other words, he begins to understand the feelings of joy and desire. Epicurus was convinced that young people, as well as old ones, should constantly philosophize in order to achieve the understanding of pleasure and pain. Epicurus found the source of the human happiness in the moral and physical health. He claimed that “a man who has a lot of fears and is always nervous and afraid of something cannot be happy.” It means that person must be free from physical sufferings and mental anxiety and only then the human is able to find the inner tranquility.
Despite all of the presented statements that support the argument of Epicurus, one could find his position as unreliable and wrong. The philosopher was the creator and follower of the hedonism, the philosophical direction which professes the pleasure, as the only aim of the human’s life. However, it is possible to consider that passive pleasure could distort the understanding of happiness. It is not enough for the human to just reach the inner tranquility or to calm down the emotional storm. Such an approach could be perceived as the simple waiting of the death that is also not frightful for the real hedonist. Moreover, it is a highly selfish to reach the state of the total peace of mind and to not care about the outside world. Such a state could transform the person into a creature with the basic instincts that seek for the fulfillment of the needs. The philosophy offered by Epicurus, by claiming about the complete the absence of pain and fear, denies the relationships between people. If the person is in the state of ataraxia, he/she is not able to provide care to the other people. It means that if the mother gets rid of her fears, then she will not care about her children the way she should because she calmed down her inner storm. Therefore, hedonistic approach to the happiness and pleasures propagates the selfish desire to be free from fears and to not care about the closest people. Moreover, calming of the inner storm in present time does not guarantee the total pleasure because it is more likely that the denial of the possibility will be affected by the basic rules of life. Thus, the ethical teachings of Epicurus apply only to human’s inner world.
However, the philosophy of Epicurus claims that if the person is unhappy and emotionally unstable, then such a person does not have the future and all people who are related to that person will also be unhappy. Epicurus’s views are not compatible with vulgar hedonism or asceticism. By recognizing the need to meet the natural desires (needs), Epicurus nevertheless raised the spiritual pleasure above the bodily happiness. Disagreeing with Cyrenaica, who claimed that man lives only in the present, he was considering the past and future pleasures as an important part of his doctrine. Classifying them, Epicurus took into account not only their necessity (or randomness), but the temporal characteristics (past – present – future). He argued that by choosing the pleasure and avoiding the suffering, it is necessary to consider not only the present but also the future (the consequences of the satisfied desires, the prospect of the achieving of a higher satisfaction), and to focus on the past (experience). He claimed that “It is better to endure some suffering in order to enjoy the greater comfort; it is helpful to refrain from certain pleasures in order not to suffer more severe suffering.” Epicurus is often called the preacher of the individualism and the cult of isolated, immersed in his personal feelings. The real happiness depends on the person’s independence, inner peace, and serenity; these are the characteristics of the internal state of the individual. However, the philosopher highlighted that each person has a need to communicate. The individual is not able to live in isolation and only think about his/her own feelings. Human is not destined for independence and needs to communicate with other people. Additionally, Epicurus concentrated his attention on the individual, the moral qualities, desires, and needs of the personality. He believed that the people should not strive to reach the wealth, power, and honors. All of these things lead to the suffering and mental anxiety that make the person feel miserable and unhappy. Epicurus was one of the few philosophers who actually lived according to his teachings. He tried, with his example, to teach people to live according to the moral principles and installations.
According to the discussion presented above, Epicurus claimed that “For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear, and, when once we have attained all this, the tempest of the soul is laid…” In other words, it means that in order to achieve the inner calmness, the person should get rid of fears and sufferings and aim at reaching the pleasure. One could make the suggestion that it is the highly selfish approach to the happiness and it ensures only the temporary pleasure. However, Epicurus states that without considering the past and future, there will be no chances to achieve the total happiness, the highest pleasure and to calm down the inner storm.