“As you say of yourself, I TOO AM AN EPICUREAN. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us. Epictetus, indeed, has given us what was good of the Stoics; all beyond, of their dogmas, being hypocrisy and grimace. Their great crime was in their calumnies of Epicurus and misrepresentations of his doctrines…” [Benjamin Franklin, from a letter to William Short dated October 31, 1819
Had Epicurus enabled a hook, in the hedonism he taught, by which politicians could gain control over their subjects, we might have nobody in our time claiming America as a Xian nation. Constantine may then have noted the firm natural basis upon which hedonism stands, and seized that hook to build his empire in the city named after himself.
Hedonism offers no such hook and, so, stands condemned by the institution he originated, whose overzealous wielding of their hook begat the Dark Age. One eye on the competition, the other on the prize, acting as both government and religion, that cockeyed institution set out to conquer the world and condemned all it could not absorb. As the doctrinal source for America’s founding, hedonism still poses a threat that Xians seek to depose.
The goal sought by hedonists under Epicurus’ tutelage was ataraxia, or eudemonia, expressed in the achievement of prosperity, happiness, and contentment in the ultimate balancing acts required to gain and maintain stability in life. From that same letter:
“But the greatest of all the reformers of the depraved religion of His own country was Jesus of Nazareth. Abstracting what is really His from the rubbish in which he is buried, easily distinguished by its lustre from the dross of His biographers, and as separable from that as the diamond from the dunghill, we have the outlines of a system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man; outlines which it is lamentable He did not live to fill up. Epictetus and Epicurus give laws for governing ourselves, Jesus a supplement of the duties and charities we owe to others The establishment of the innocent and genuine character of this benevolent Moralist, and the rescuing it from the imputation of imposture which has resulted from [misconstructions of his words by his pretended votaries] artificial systems*, invented by ultra-Christian sects, unauthorized by a single word ever uttered by Him, is a most desirable object, and one to which Priestley has successfully devoted his labors and learning. It would in time, it is to be hoped, effect a quiet euthanasia of the heresies of bigotry and fanaticism which have so long triumphed over human reason, and so generally and deeply afflicted mankind…”
While by some (questionable) accounts, Franklin considered himself a true Xian, the foregoing extraction makes plain his disgust at Christianity as a basis of faith. He felt so strongly about it that he bought bibles to cut and paste into what we now know as the Jefferson Bible after the “dunghill” had been removed, although I fear he missed the worst of it.
Due mainly to the intrusion of faith-based organizations into American political processes, and the use of faith-based processes as a hook for greedy and power-hungry corporate billionaire rentiers to steal our government out from under our noses, the resultant, often noted high stress levels serve notice that things no longer work the way they ought. That difficulty gets blamed onto every cause that can be contrived while we get kept too busy and distracted to search for it ourselves. Pill pushers lament the absence of balance in our lives while they extol the virtues of their products with nary a nod toward hedonism, Nature’s way to stress-free living if taken as directed.
Hedonism? Are you kidding me? The answer is no, if we can learn how to understand and apply Epicurus’ message of more than 2000 years ago. Rather than condemn it on someone else’s word, or argue philosophical points that miss the message, we ought to learn to understand it and adapt what science has learned about the human body and nervous system in our own time. I have produced a couple of ebooks with that aim in mind:
The Utopia Experiment Be aware that some people view this one as pornography. I feel that they tell more about themselves than about the story, as sexual activity is absent. Dirty minds find dirt in a room pristine, who ne’er have swept their own place clean. [Lloyd]
1 This piece began, remember, with a quote wherein Jefferson pronounced himself an ‘Epicurean.’ It is well known, however, that his deism had earned him the title ‘Atheist’ among Xians.
.Excerpts from http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mtj.mtjbib023640