A short, smart guide to living the good life through the teachings of Epicurus.
As long as there has been human life, we’ve searched for what it means to be happy. More than two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Epicurus came to his own conclusion: all we really want in life is pleasure. Though today we tend to associate the word “Epicurean” with indulgence in the form of food and wine, the philosophy of Epicurus was about a life well lived even in the hardest of times. As John Sellars shows in this concise, approachable guide, the ideal life envisioned by Epicurus and his followers was a life much more concerned with mental pleasures and the avoidance of pain. Their goal, in short, was a life of tranquility or contentment.
In The Pocket Epicurean Sellars walks us through the history of Epicureanism, starting with the private garden on the edge of ancient Athens where Epicurus and his students lived in the fourth century BC, and where women were as welcome as men. Sellars then moves on to ancient Rome, where Epicurean influence flourished thanks to the poet Lucretius and his cohort. Throughout the book, Sellars draws on the ideas of Epicurus to offer a constructive way of thinking about the pleasures of friendship and our place in the world.
About the Author
John Sellars is a reader in philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, a visiting research fellow at King’s College London, and a member of Wolfson College, Oxford. He is the author of The Art of Living: The Stoics on the Nature and Function of Philosophy, Stoicism, Hellenistic Philosophy, Marcus Aurelius and The Pocket Stoic, the last also published by the University of Chicago Press.
"This engaging book certainly lives up to its title, being small enough to fit into a jacket pocket and slim enough not to weigh you down. Sellars goes through those areas of Epicureanism most appropriate for a modern non-specialist audience and interprets the ancient wisdom through the eyes of modern life. Epicureanism was misrepresented and misunderstood even in antiquity, and this little book is a worthwhile corrective to the false notions which continue to attach to the word ‘Epicurean.'"
— Journal of Classics Teaching
"I recommend Sellars’s book to anyone who wants a short, plainly stated introduction to Epicurus’s primarily ethical thought. . . . For someone with this desire, I know of no book more suitable than Sellars’s The Pocket Epicurean."
“Lucid and scholarly.”
— Independent, on the UK Edition
“Sellars expertly expounds Epicurean ideas. . . . and he knows the Greek and Latin Epicurean texts thoroughly.”
— Guardian, on the UK Edition
“Not only an excellent introduction to the history of Epicurean philosophy, but also a helpful guide to facing the manifold anxieties of modern life.”
— The Idler, on the UK edition
“In this brief and eloquent book, Sellars takes us through the basic arguments of Epicureanism with wonderful clarity, distilling the essence of an ancient philosophy that speaks with increasing urgency to our troubled times. It is an exemplary guide, and I recommend it enthusiastically to readers of all ages and all walks of life.”
— David Konstan, New York University
"By the end of the volume, one has a good sense both of the importance of Epicureanism in the Hellenistic and Roman eras, its primary goals, and the ways in which one could still effectively apply Epicurean ideas to one’s own modus vivendi."
— Bryn Mawr Classical Review