Stoics and Epicureans date from the Hellenistic period, but the debate between
these two modes of thought continues today. For the Stoics, the goal of human life was to align
one's nature with the rational order of all things by cultivating pure reason. Through the practice
of dialectic, they aimed for ethical righteousness and self-control. In sad or turbulent times,
stoical endurance has appealed to many people as a way of coping.
The Epicureans also valued moderation, but they were suspicious of overly sophisticated intellectual
debate, relying more on sense impressions to establish truth. Concluding that life is simple and its
truths easy to perceive, they sought a life of minimum pain and maximum pleasure by rejecting external
pursuits in favor of lasting inner values, like wisdom, honor, and peace of mind.
Western Carolina University
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