“Stoics and Epicureans” – Of Wolves and Ravens – Western Philosophy

Happy Tyr’s Day


In Hellenistic Western philosophy, there is also a form a dualism that is a creation of two schools of thought – Stoicism, and Epicureanism. Breaking them both down:

Stoicism:  Nature is rational; man cannot escape the forces of nature but can uniquely follow its laws; A life lived this way leads to virtue; Wisdom is the core of virtue from which spring the cardinal virtues; Passion is irrational and thus strong feelings should be avoided; pleasure is not good or evil and only acceptable if it does not interfere with one’s quest for rational virtue; Poverty, illness, and death are not evil; Duty is the motivation for pursuit of virtue.

Source: https://www.thoughtco.com/stoics-and-moral-philosophy-4068536

Epicureanism: This is a little more complicated.  One person, I read listed eight epicurean councils: 1) Don’t fear God.2) Don’t worry about death. 3) Don’t fear pain. 4) Live simply. 5) Pursue pleasure wisely. 6) Make friends and be a good friend. 7) Be honest in your business and private life. 8) Avoid fame and political ambition. He also listed ten values of which the first five deal with ourselves and the second five deal; with our relationships to others: Prudence, Self-management, Self-sufficiency, Serenity, Simplicity, Friendliness, Honesty, Generosity, Cheerfulness, Gentle-ness

Source: https://churchofepicurus.wordpress.com/basic-principles-for-the-modern-epicurean/

I suppose the main difference I see is the fact that Stoicism is pretty straightforward, but Epicureanism seems to be a little more freeform – ‘chaotic’ if you will. It would explain while on one site about Epicureanism there was a list of 40 tenents.  The difference between the two basically comes down to the goal of Stoicism being happy through overcoming and enduring hardship, wherein Epicureanism happiness is found in training one’s desires.  I can see one major difference in that Stoics accepted the fate of circumstances and tried to be wise by enduring it where Epicureanism seems more at odds with the idea of fate. Some things can be avoided if one trains one’s desires. Both sides had the basic same goal – wisdom.  To be a person content with themselves.

Source: https://academyofideas.com/2014/03/stoicism-vs-epicureanism/

To the Wolves and Ravens:

“Feed the Wolves, but Listen to the Ravens first.”

Needs (Geri):

The fact there is a debate in Western philosophy probably indicates the need for moral philosophy. How one conducts ones’ self toward self and others is has a great bearing on what we need.  Needs are real and both schools acknowledge this. One side, however, seeks to endure while the other side seeks to live in such a way that they are dealt with beforehand.

For myself, it seems that need is more of a looking at life and seeing what is needed for survival.  This breaks down into obvious needs and personal needs.  Food, water and shelter from the elements when needed. Stoics would endure a lack of these needs while Epicureans would seek to avoid the lack in the first place. Other needs are more specific to the individual.  I think what I find is that I mix this whole debate in a blender and come out with something that is a mix between the two when it comes to needs.

Wants (Freki):

Passion and desire resulting from it, Stoics would decry, I would say that without passion there is little motivation to pursue much of anything, including virtue. I balance things, which is more in line with Eastern Philosophy.  We are all self-motivated which stems both from rational need and passionate desire.

Reason (Huginn):

From a rational point of view, it is reasonable to look at any philosophy and eat the meat and spit out the bones.  I can see from the Stoics that virtue is a good thing and agree with that, I, however, reject the notion of fate as it leads to a lot of evil in my opinion.  I can see the Epicurean point of working to avoid evils like poverty and illness, but I can see the Stoic point of sometimes endurance is needed.

Wisdom (Muninn):

I see wisdom in both philosophies, but their means are different in achieving the state of self-contentment or being the sage as they would call it.  I see the best example of my own blending of the two is the fact that the Nine Noble Virtues seems to borrow from both but each virtue might be seen as a blending of both schools of thought.

Courage, Discipline, Perseverance, Indstriousnesss are more Stoic; Truth, Self-Reliance, Hospitality, and Fidelity more Epicurean.  Both in their own way strive for Honor. Some of my other underlying philosophies borrow from both.  Minimalism is Stoic, lIbertarianism more Epicurean but both have elements of both.


I guess it all reflects that I am kind of eclectic when it comes to philosophy.  That said My philosophy of “Feeding the Wolves but Listening to the Ravens first” has remained constant now for almost a year and I find many philosophies simply get too focused on my way of thinkingto me on a small group of ideas. There is more to life than reason or getting what you want, but together, the many dualisms of my philosophy come together and form something very coherent to me at least.  I borrow from many viewpoints to get a fuller view of the world and how to live life.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.


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