The Good Life – Words by É. Cassia Trop-Longinus



Platonic, Stoic, & Epicurean Philosophy

É. Cassia Trop-Longinus

John Cabot University

Roma, Italia


All copyright is the property of E Cassia Trop Longinus

Over the centuries, many philosophers have debated, while their thoughts and theories have come and gone. From the first philosopher, Thales of Miletus,[1] to the cynics, philosophy became a figure in transforming life. However, there are three philosophies that stand out among the rest. The illustrious Stoics, the eminent Epicureans, and of course, the legendary Plato.

The Epicureans and the Stoics were the rival schools for centuries in the Greek and Roman world. However, the aim of this paper is to point out the opposite.

At first glance, Stoicism and Epicureanism are two distinct and polarized philosophies. Since Stoicism took a lot of its ideas from Plato. So, one would automatically assume that Stoicism is closer to Platonic thought than the “hedonist” Epicureans. However, this essay is to prove that these two seemingly separate schools of thought are actually closer than one would think.

The “good life” and how to live the good life are defined in three different ways according to Plato, the Stoics, and the Epicureans.

First, Plato’s idea of the good life is not directly stated, but could be extracted from his works. For Plato, the debate on living well or thinking well (i.e. contemplation versus action), resides in his dialogues. In his writings, he states that striving for excellence brings about the good life. In doing so, one must forget all material pleasures and live in rational moderation, with emotions led by the mind. The only real pleasures are those of the mind.

In Philebus, the central question is pleasure versus knowledge. First, Plato must define what he means by “good.”

Socrates: Is the good perfect or imperfect?

Protarchus: The most perfect, Socrates, of all things.

Socrates: And is the good sufficient?

Protarchus: Yes, certainly, and in a degree surpassing all other things.

Socrates: And no one can deny that all percipient beings desire and hunt after good, and are eager to catch and have the good about them, and care not for the attainment of anything which [is] not accompanied by good.

Protarchus: That is undeniable.


The “good” for Plato is an idea.

During the beginning of this dialogue, Plato states what will be answered in the coming exchange between Socrates (Plato’s “mouth”), Protarchus, and Philebus. Later in the dialogue, Plato clarifies his thoughts in this section of Philebus:

Socrates: I remember to have heard long ago certain discussions about pleasure and wisdom, whether awake or in a dream I cannot tell; they were to the effect that neither the one nor the other of them was the good, but some third thing, which was different from them, and better than either. If this be clearly established, then pleasure will lose the victory, for the good will cease to be identified with her:-Am I not right?


Plato now brings in this third kind of life, which surpasses (in the view of the good) both the first: of pleasure, and the second: of the mind. Promptly, Plato has set the question into motion and proceeds to verify his argument on his third type of life; the ideal, or the good life. Plato continues, narrowing down his argument to his final stage.

Socrates: Reflect; would you not want wisdom and intelligence and forethought, and similar qualities? [W]ould you not at any rate want sight?

Protarchus: Why should I? Having pleasure I should have all things.

Socrates: Living thus, you would always throughout your life enjoy the greatest pleasures?

Protarchus: I should.

Socrates: But if you had neither mind, nor memory, nor knowledge, nor true opinion, you would in the first place be utterly ignorant of whether you were pleased or not, because you would be entirely devoid of intelligence.

Protarchus: Certainly.

Socrates: And similarly, if you had no memory you would not recollect that you had ever been pleased, nor would the slightest recollection of the pleasure which you feel at any moment remain with you; and if you had no true opinion you would not think that you were pleased when you were; and if you had no power of calculation you would not be able to calculate on future pleasure, and your life would be the life, not of a man, but of an oyster or pulmo marinus[2]*. Could this be otherwise?

Protarchus: No.


Plato, here, has stated his stance on the life of pleasure. Plato is an advocate for intellect. His ideal life is one of understanding the “forms” of the Universe, of contemplating. The mind is used for understanding this perfect world. So when he says, “[…] if you had neither mind, nor memory, nor knowledge, nor true opinion, […] you would be completely devoid of intelligence,” Plato is asserting the kind of life that would be totally opposite of his good life.

Now, Plato goes on to his view of the life purely of the mind.

Protarchus: And what is this life of mind?

Socrates: I want to know whether any one of us would consent to live, having wisdom and mind and knowledge and memory of all things, but having no sense of pleasure or pain, and wholly unaffected by these and the like feelings?

Protarchus: Neither life, Socrates, appears eligible to me, or is likely, as I should imagine, to be chosen by any one else.

Socrates: What would you say, Protarchus, to both of these in one, or to one that was made out of the union of the two?

Protarchus: Out of the union, that is, of pleasure with mind and wisdom?

Socrates: Yes, that is the life which I mean.

Protarchus: There can be no difference of opinion; not some but all would surely choose this third rather than either of the other two, and in addition to them.


Finishing, Plato has argued that this third type of life, the mixture of pleasure and intelligence, is truly the best and is the good life.

            No matter, even if Plato does find a relationship between the mind and pleasure, Plato still remains “idealist” in his belief that passions are a vice.

Passions are a lack of self-control that ultimately leads to the destruction of oneself. Self-control is key. Since the pleasures are purely intellectual, Plato sides with the good life being one of contemplation.

Similarly, the Stoics follow Plato by saying that passions are a vice that controls a person. A passion is thought of defiance to reason. For example, reason says to face danger sometime in our life, but fear (a passion) suggests the contrary. This example suggests that emotions can hardly be rational. There are no passions, and both philosophies are about self-control and power over the body’s illogical urges.

However, the one difference is in their living of good life. Seneca makes it clear, in his On the Private Life, that the good life is both contemplation and action. He writes:

So I live according to Nature if I devote myself wholly to her, if I marvel at her and worship her. Nature wished me to do both – to act and to be free for contemplation. I am doing both. Even contemplation involves action (Nature, Contemplation, and Action, 8).


For Seneca, the way to live is to contemplate reality and then to act.


A common misconception of the Stoics for most people is that the Stoics teach a rigorous doctrine disregarding all emotions and all the pleasures of life. So, how can the Stoics live a good life and be happy?

Happiness for the Stoics is the “smooth flow of life,” to go along and accept fate. However, it should not be inferred that a Stoic is “feelingless.” The wise do not completely lack passions; instead they have eupatheiai, or “good feelings.” A good example for expressing this idea is a Stoic in a relationship, whether friendly, family, or marital.

One of the most renowned Stoics, Epictetus, in his works, describes how “good feelings” are associated with one’s friends and family. Because of this reliance on relationships, the preservation of the Stoic’s relations are necessary for their προαίρεσις – their personal identity and true moral character (i.e. the real “inner” self). Therefore, his conduct towards others is essential for his own happiness.

In this argument, the Stoics show a clear diversion from Plato. Plato, on one side, thinks that the good life is reached by one’s own contemplation – solipsism. While the Stoics believe in communication. The truth is transmitted from one person to the other through language. Meaning, involvement and communication with others is essential to the foundations of Stoic philosophy; and in order to communicate, one must have relationships with others. In brief, the importance of friends is vital to the Stoics, but not Plato.

Furthermore, Epictetus holds that the Stoic should not be “[…] unfeeling like a statue, indeed [humans are] by nature affectionate, gentle, faithful, helpful, and loving, and so is and ought to be naturally drawn to fulfill all [their] social, familial, and civic roles as a healthy, mentally attuned human being.”[3]

Epictetus writes in his Discourses:

[…] each [person] passes his life in accordance with himself without grief, without fear, and without disturbance, at the same time maintaining with his companions both the natural and acquired relationships, those of son, father, brother, citizen, husband, wife, neighbor, fellow traveller […]. [4]


One is usually tempted to think that “happiness” is about getting what you want and not just controlling one’s desires-regardless if they are satisfied or not.

Since happiness is the acceptance of fate, the Stoic sage, or wise “man” (or woman), will usually rationalize things in light of her knowledge of how the world works.[5] There will be times, however, when such circumstances arise when it is logical to select a path that is contrary to her nature. For example, Stanford’s article on Stoicism uses the example of cutting off one’s hand to thwart a tyrant.[6] But these cases are not common. For the most part, her knowledge of people and nature will help her attain what she wants. But when conditions arise and she cannot attain what she originally selected, she will not care. Unlike common thought, this represents a very positive outlook of life.

Thus, the Stoic has no physical desires, but does have wishes and indeed – feelings, which include kindness, warmth, affection, and generosity.

Lastly, Epicurus is on the opposite end of the scale when it comes to “passions.”  His teachings taught that all humans by nature pursue a pleasant life and the best way to the good life is through moderate satisfaction.

In contrast to the Stoics and Plato, Epicurus believes that the good life is obtained through living well. In his Menoeceus, he writes:

For this reason, we declare that pleasure is the beginning and end of the happy life. We are endowed by nature to recognize pleasure as the first and familiar good. Every choice and avoidance we make is guided by pleasure as our standard for judging the goodness of everything.

In this section, two parts should be mentioned. One, “[w]e are endowed by nature…,” here, this section can be compared to the Stoics in the sense of nature. Nature is a fundamental part of Stoicism,[7] in the sense that nature is the major player in human life. In contrast to Plato’s idea that nature is simply a distraction from the truth, because it is a shadow of the ideal world: Forms.

The second notable segment is “[e]very choice and avoidance we make is guided by pleasure as our standard for judging the goodness of everything.” For many opposing philosophies, this is used as the base for their “hedonism” argument against Epicurus. If everything is purely for pleasure, Epicurean philosophy is labeled with self-indulgence, debauchery, and decadence. But Epicurus also adds:

Although pleasure is the greatest good, not every pleasure is worth choosing. We may instead avoid certain pleasures when, by doing so, we avoid greater pains. We may also choose to accept pain if, by doing so, it results in greater pleasure. So while every pleasure is naturally good, not every pleasure should be chosen.[8]


Here, the differences in pleasures are static and dynamic. Static pleasures include the fundamental friendship. Friendship is of the utmost importance: it contributes, more than anything, to the good and pleasant life. It also is the force that makes society possible.[9] This section also indicates that Epicurus believed that people who enjoyed the “familiar good” to the fullest were the wise ones; the “familiar good” being pleasure.

Apart from static pleasures, the dynamic are seen as negative aspects to life for Epicurus. Dynamic “pleasures” are pleasures that can be changed; they are not constant, unlike static pleasures. Dynamic pleasures include love. Love is a changing pleasure that can cause harm to one who indulges in it. Even marriage is viewed as a cautious endeavor. No pleasure is attached to wedlock in Epicurus’ work. Lucretius, later disparages any amorous infatuation, but certifies marriage in a warmer light.

And from pleasure, one can be happy. But one cannot be happy without being virtuous and one could not help but be happy if one possessed virtue. For example, in Epicurus’ Principle Doctrine 5, he writes:

It is impossible to live pleasantly without living prudently and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live prudently and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking (when, for instance, one is not able to live wisely, though he lives honorably and justly) it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life.[10]


The main argument here is that one must live “prudently and honorably and justly,” meaning if one lives that way, you will live pleasantly. These values are present in Plato, Stoicism, and Epicureanism as the ultimate cornerstones in the good life.

For Epicureans, happiness does not exist for it’s own sake. Caius Cassius Longinus, a “Liberator” in the assassination of Caesar, general, and accomplished Epicurean philosopher writes in a letter to Cicero:

I hope that people will understand that for all, cruelty exists in proportion to hatred, and goodness and clemency in proportion to love, and evil men most seek out and crave the things which accrue to good men. It’s hard to persuade people that ‘the good is desirable for its own sake’; but it’s both true and credible that pleasure and tranquility are obtained by virtue, justice, and the good. Epicurus himself, from whom all your Catii and Amafinii take their leave as poor interpreters of his words, says ‘there is no living pleasantly without living a good and just life (C. Cassius L. quoted in Ad Familiares, xv. 19).


Let’s say at the earliest stages of life, a man, who we will call Eustakhios, dedicates himself to the material life. He grows up going to horseraces, trips to the country, but avoids his studies and books. When he grows up, he has a lavish house, decorated in gold, marble, and silk; eats the most expensive and exotic delicacies; and only drinks the finest wine. One would automatically want to be him, surrounded by the luxurious riches! The other man, Ferreolus, also from his early childhood, has always taken his pleasure from otium[11] and his studies, not the pleasures like Eustakhios. He does not take part in material pleasures, only the basics – he lives in a humble house, eats plainly, and dresses in common clothes. He focuses solely on enlightening his mind. Is Eustakhios better off than Ferreolus, or is Ferreolus happier than Eustakhios?

Is the good and happy life one of pure physical or intellectual inclination?

What would life be without a mind or corporeal pleasures?

The good life is indeed one of mixture. As Plato points out in his interchange, one cannot be truly happy if life is completely devoted to material or intellectual pleasures.

For without mind – like Eustakhios – one could not be able to tell if he was truly happy with all the material pleasures in the world! However, Plato says he would not be able to recall if he enjoyed anything; but quite the contrary, of course, all humans have memory, but Eustakhios would not be able to express his pleasures in a mindful and intellectual way – he would know only the materials themselves. He would only have an awareness of the sensible, and only find happiness in these inanimate objects. One might even be able to call him intellectually dull and have no true friends, for they only see him for his money and gifts – not as a smart or responsive creature: his relationships would be meaningless (and one of the most important things in life is the love, support, and consistency of friendships). The objects would serve as the only reminder of his life; his friends would mourn the loss of the gifts and extravagant parties, not Eustakhios.

The objects would be his guide in life. He would only seek out material pleasures, moving from object to object, only achieving happiness by obtaining these items. There would be no intellectual thought or emotional guidance, but only seeking these materials. He could not be happy without buying and surrounding himself with the objects.

As for the humble, but brilliant Ferreolus, his life would not be much better, although marginally enhanced. He would have unbounded “wisdom, knowledge, and memory of all things,”[12] and he would have half of the happiness in life. Separated from all physical pleasures – such as parties, games, theatre – he would not be able to experience the entertaining aspects of being human: the other half of happiness. He would not even be able to tell if he was happy because he does not know the actual feeling, he would only understand the idea of happiness.

Since he only takes gratification from his books, meditation, and his studies, he could not experience the emotional attribute of being human. He would be the perfect example of what people perceive as a “Stoic” – completely separated from any feelings at all. Conversely: the Stoics were not feeling-less at all, in fact, they frowned upon complete separation from emotion, but they strived to get rid of the “bad feelings,” and replace it with eupatheiai.[13] Along with being emotionally reserved, he would not be able to perceive his own sense of pleasure or pain. He would not be able to form friendships because one needs emotions to set a companionship – so he would ultimately be alone (like Plato’s solipsism).

Neither of these lives seem like the good or happy life. Which is why one must live in a logical mixture of these two. One should indulge in pleasures, and one should follow a life of the mind. However, pleasures should be regulated to moderate and occasional dealings, while one remains intellectually involved in what is going on. This way, one can experience both the pleasures of material and mind and live the good life and a happy life.

Friendship is of the utmost importance to a happy life: it contributes, more than anything, to the good and pleasant life. Epicurus clarifies it as the force that makes society possible.[14]

For Epicurus, friendship begins with the expectation of mutual benefit. But with time, through continuous contact and understanding, the feelings grow to genuine affection – with no expectation – ending with the sheer pleasure of having a friend. This friendship gradually elevates into the very greatest joy and pleasure in life. As Epicurus writes in his Principle Doctrine 27:

Of all things that wisdom provides for living one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.


In this quote, the center of the Epicurean doctrine stands out: wisdom provides for the happiness of one’s life, the greatest being friendship.

Although the Stoics have been identified as the opposites of the Epicureans, they were not far off from Epicurus’ view. In regards to friendship, the Stoics show a clear diversion from Plato. Plato, on one side, thinks that the good life is reached by one’s own contemplation, in solitude.  Plato is solipsistic, while the Stoics give communication greater value. Communication is the way that the truth is transmitted from one person to the other through language and listening. As Epictetus writes: “We all have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”[15] This means that the involvement and communication with others is essential to the foundations of Stoic philosophy; and in order to communicate, one must have relationships with others. In brief, the importance of friends is vital to the Stoics.

The Stoic attitude is essentially positive: enjoy those who are with us while they are, but do not grieve when they go. The Stoics’ notion of love establishes that one must enjoy it while it is present. In regards to this, the goal of the Stoic philosophy is to learn how to control one’s emotions so you are never subject to painful emotions, which disrupt the inner harmony: one must remain positive, healthy, and maintain ‘rational’ feelings.

These feelings – rational emotions guided by logic– will prepare the Stoic to remain positive in the misfortunes of life.

But how can the Stoics make friendships and keep a working relationship?

Epictetus writes that tender affection is natural – it is not in our power not to feel attachment, or love. Epictetus says that fondness is a natural human emotion. Therefore, the Stoic is not supposed to be devoid of emotions, but should only ignore the over-intense emotional states.[16]

The Stoic can love others without allowing himself to be carried away by the intense emotions. Part of maintaining relationships involves easing the pain of others by providing emotional care and comfort. The Stoic who undertakes in comforting someone in sorrow sincerely wants the suffering to cease, but will not want it at all costs. They will not sacrifice their own happiness for the other’s corrupt and irrational feelings. In fact, by this logic, the Stoic does not sacrifice his own emotions in consoling. Thus, the Stoic shows sympathy, but does not feel sympathy, in order that his own soul is not subject bad feelings on account of mistaken judgment of another, brought about by an illogical judgment.

Also, Cicero writes in abundance on friendship and defines it as the greatest gift to man. In his Laelius: On Friendship, he writes:

All I, myself can do is to urge you to place friendship above every other human concern that can be imagined! Nothing else in the whole world to us so completely in harmony with nature, and nothing so utterly right, in prosperity and adversity alike.[17]


Cicero thought of himself as a follower of Plato’s philosophy and enjoyed Stoic philosophy. And in this passage, he expresses a quite Stoic thought: the harmony with nature. The founder of Stoicism, Zeno, had indicated that a good life was based on living in harmony with nature. Therefore, if friendship is in harmony with nature, friendship must be a necessary and natural occurrence that should be sought out between humans. Cicero continues by adding:

[…] how can life be ‘worth-living’ at all, […] unless it reposes on the mutual goodwill of friends? It is the most satisfying experience in the world to have someone you can speak to as freely as your own self about any and every subject upon earth.[18]


Friendship then adds to life, and according to Cicero, unites human hearts. And with no affection granted by friends, and kind feelings, life can hold no joy.[19]

Plato, on the other hand, in reversal, seems to have no interest in friendship. For him, the truth is sought out alone and understood alone. In fact, relationships would taint the truth of the soul as an external sense, which confuses the soul.

Whereas Plato does not encourage friendship as a way to the truth, he does consent to eros as an alternative method to find the truth. Eros, a form of love, is highly debated in Plato’s dialogues, especially in his Symposium.

In the Symposium, Plato concerns discusses the purpose and nature of love, and of course, the origin of what we call Platonic love. In this work, love is examined by a sequence of speeches: each speaker must deliver a speech in the praise of love. Socrates asserts that the highest form of love is to be a philosopher: a lover of wisdom. But Plato then discusses love in a way to define what it is.

According to mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, legs, and two faces, but they were too powerful and Zeus split them into two different beings; condemning them to spend their lives in search of this other half. And when these two halves meet, “[…] the pair are lost in amazement of love and friendship and intimacy and one will not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment […].”[20] Plato continues on:

[…] being slices of the original man, they hang about men and embrace them, and they are themselves the best of boys and youths, because they have the most manly nature. Some indeed assert that they are shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act thus from any want of shame, but because they are valiant and manly, and have a manly countenance, and they embrace that which is like them. And these when they grow up become our statesmen, and these only, which is a great proof of the truth of what I am saving. When they reach manhood they are loves of youth, and are not naturally inclined to marry or beget children, – if at all, they do so only in obedience to the law; but they are satisfied if they may be allowed to live with another unwedded; and such a nature is prone to love and ready to return love, always embracing that which is akin to them. And when one of them meets with his other half […][21], even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover’s intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment.[22]


In this quote, Plato quietly slips in his view of Forms, which are an ever-present theme.

He writes:

[…] yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover’s intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment.


In this section, the reader instantly picks up on his allusions. This “dark and doubtful” awareness of these “hazy desires,” suggests the knowledge of the immortal soul and the confusion of the body. While the body cannot make out what the desire is, the soul evidently tries to communicate this need, but the communication is vague, even though the want is apparent to both body and soul. This form of eros is promoted in Plato. Therefore, Plato is not completely against love, just a destructive form of love that is not intellectual: a damaging passion that leads one away from the truth. Nevertheless, this form of eros is the “pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete.”[23] The philosopher can love, because it is within our soul and nature, but it cannot be a passionate love, it must be intellectual.

Eros guides the way for “the one who lacks what he is looking for.” As stated in the Symposium there are two kinds of love: one has noble purpose and the second is of the body, rather than soul. The love of the mind – the “noble purpose” – is the guide to the truth. In a translation by Benjamin Jowett, Diotima said:

[…] for he who would proceed in due course should love first one fair form, and then many, and learn the [connection] of them; and from beautiful bodies he should proceed to beautiful minds, and the beauty of laws and institutions, until he perceives that all beauty is of one kindred; and from institutions he should go on to the sciences, until at last the vision is revealed to him of a single science of universal beauty, and then he will behold the everlasting nature which is the cause of all, and will be near the end. In the contemplation of that supreme being of love he will be purified of earthly leaven, and will behold beauty, not with the bodily eye, but with the eye of the mind, and will bring forth true creations of virtue and wisdom […][24]


Eros is a way to learn to see the beautiful, and in the end, one will perceive the idea of absolute beauty. One should not see beauty separately in different things, but as “absolute, simple, and everlasting, which without diminution and without increase, or any change, is imparted to the ever-growing [beauty] of all things.”[25] Diotima progresses:

He who from these ascending [steps towards the truth] under the influence of true love, begins to perceive that beauty, [and] is not far from the end. And [in] the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty […] [26]


These steps, ascending to the truth, may be climbed in solitude or under the guide of an elder philosopher (ergo the love of youth). The first step is recognizing “fair forms,” from the forms to “fair practices,” and from the practices to “fair notions,” then, finally, one can arrive at the notion of absolute beauty. Through eros, Diotima concludes:

[…] in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may.[27]


With eros – “that communion” – one can understand beauty in “the eye of the mind,” considering, as stated earlier, that love is virtuous and true and cannot be corrupted. One will be able to see the realities of beauty, and consequently, understand what beauty really is because in these passages, the beautiful symbolizes the Forms and therefore, the truth. The power of love is represented in the Symposium as running through all nature and all being and contributing to the attainment of the highest “vision:” truth.

Now, there remains this idea of the harmful love and our nature to love is reasonably similar to the Stoic idea of love. Love is a powerful force within all of us. Epictetus writes: “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”[28] Love is supposed to bring out the best of both people. This “harmful love” is the endangerment of the Stoic’s own feelings for another’s. The Stoic certainly does love, because it is human nature, and that means it is undoubtedly reasonable, but one should not risk your own happiness and love in the moment.

Epicureans also comment on this idea of harmful love. As stated before, the Epicureans seek out friendship and love in order to attain a good life. But, like Plato and the Stoics, there are limits. Lucretius states:

[…] that drop of Venus’ honey that first drips into our heart, to be followed by numbing heart-ache.[29]


This quote represents the vision that Lucretius has of love and to have caution with these dynamic passions.

As a conclusion: what is the aim of friendship? For Plato, it is a revelation of the truth, and the Stoics also agree with Plato: friendship is aimed at the revelation of truth through communication. However, the Stoics also find friendship to be an aim in itself; human feelings are natural, and therefore, are not bad passions, as well as for Epicurus, friendship is an aim within itself.

In conclusion, the idea of a lonely life – like Plato’s idea – seems to be quite sad, and go against the rather social philosophies of the Epicureans and the Stoics. Instead, friendships are indeed one of life’s greater things. From friends, one can learn the differences between these ideas; eventually understand what the truth is. Without this communication, one could not be able to understand the different views of truth – whether right or wrong.

Friendship is what contributes to the good life. Without friends, life would simply not be worth living.

Finally, the issue of death is defined in three distinctive terms in the Stoics, Epicureans, and Plato.

Plato believes in the eternal soul, which brings knowledge to the body upon entering it. But the body and the senses confuse the soul with unreliable and subjective contact with the world. As Plato describes: “[…] [the soul] strays and is confused and dizzy, as if it were drunk” (Phaedo, 79c). However, the soul must be reawakened, through consciousness. Yet, when it remains “itself” its straying comes to an end and it is able to understand the truth. In accordance with this idea, the soul is the intelligible being and the body is a perishable being (reflecting Plato’s dualism theory).

In Plato’s Phaedo, Plato asserts that not only is the soul immortal, but that it also is able to contemplate the truth after the separation from the body. In fact, Plato shows that death involves the continued existence of the soul. He declares that the soul, after a period of separation, then returns to another body. In the last line of Phaedo, Plato argues that the soul is immortal because it has life itself. It can be inferred that this argument applies to all living things, animals and plants (Phaedo, 70-71d), thus animating the body: “What is it that, when present in a body, makes it living? – A soul” (105c).

The Stoics distinguish three kinds of pneuma (“breath”), an air-like compound of two, fire and air, of the four elements. The lowest kind of pneuma accounts for the character of inanimate bodies (i.e. dirt); the middle, called natural pneuma, explains the functions of plant life. The third is the human soul. The third kind accounts for the use and reception of representations and impulses (movement), or desire. The soul is made distinctively for mental functions, like cognition, intellect, and desire.  Here, the soul is no longer in charge of bodily functions, but in command of mental and psychological responsibilities.[30]

For the Epicureans, the soul is made up of two parts: one irrational, and the other, rational. The rational part, animus, as called by Lucretius, is the origin of emotion, where beliefs and opinions are formed, and where inferences are made. The irrational, called anima, is responsible for impressions, and therefore, error.[31]

Epicurus is an atomist, the soul in his view, is ultimately composed of atoms. When the body dies, the soul – also made of atoms – disintegrates with it, while the atoms continue. As Lucretius, in The Nature of Things, writes, “[the soul] perishes with us, when death dissolves it…”[32]

No reincarnation, and no immortal soul.

Therefore, the fear of death should not be a concern, because death is the end of all emotion. William Ellery Leonard translates Lucretius:

Hence, where thou seest a man to grieve because / When dead he rots with body laid away, / Or perishes in flames or jaws of beasts, / Know well: he rings not true, and that beneath / Still works an unseen sting upon his heart, / However he deny that he believes. / His shall be aught of feeling after death.[33]


Concluding that death is nothing to fear, because that is the end of feeling, passions, desires – everything.

From the immortal soul in Plato, to the “material” soul in Epicurus, the ideas of what happens after one dies vary greatly in the mind of the philosopher.

In conclusion, in accordance with these three philosophers, death should not be feared because there is nothing to fear.

In conclusion, the Stoics and the Epicureans are not so different as one would have originally thought. In all the philosophies, whether the Stoics, Epicureans, or Plato, the good life leads to a pleasant life. In all philosophies, as explained earlier, promote virtue and justice in order to achieve the good life. Virtue, justice, and of course, the good, all lead to tranquility and a pleasant life, as stated earlier.

The common thought of Plato as the Stoic’s “father” of ideas may be true. But over the centuries, Stoicism evolved into a more complex school of thought. Eventually, this change would lead the Stoics to assume a closer connection with the Epicureans than to Plato.


[1] Russell, Bertrand (1945). The History of Western Philosophy. New York: Simon and Schuster

[2] Defined from Latin as “sea lungs,” referred to usually as a jellyfish.

[Pulmo (masc.): third declension: “a lung;” but with marinus: “a lung-like marine animal; a sea-lung, jellyfish.”] ( (


[3] Epictetus, The Discourses. Book 4.1.126. Book 3.21.9.

[4] Discourses. Book 2. 14. 7-8.

[6] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Stoicism.”

[8] Epicurus, Menoeceus 128-130

[9] See “Friendship & Relations” section


[11] The Roman form of “meditation,” however, this is a rough translation, and was much more than simple meditation.

[12] Plato, Philebus.

[Socrates: I want to know whether any one of us would consent to live, having wisdom and mind and knowledge and memory of all things, but having no sense of pleasure or pain, and wholly unaffected by these and the like feelings?]

[13] “Good feelings”

[14] See “Friendship & Relations” section

[15] “Epictetus,” Brainyquote, accessed 21 October 2013,

[16] Epictetus, Handbook of Epictetus, trans. Nicholas P. White (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983), 15.


[17] Cicero, On the Good Life, “Laelius: On Friendship,” p. 185.

[18] Ibid. p. 188.

[19] Ibid. p. 226.

[20] Plato, The Symposium, The Internet Classics Archive, accessed 21 October 2013,

[21] See quote above.

[22] –, The Symposium, The Internet Classics Archive, accessed 21 October 2013,

[23] Plato, The Symposium, The Internet Classics Archive, accessed 21 October 2013,

[24] –, The Symposium, trans. Benjamin Jowett.

[25] Plato, The Symposium, The Internet Classics Archive, accessed 21 October 2013,

[26] –, The Symposium, The Internet Classics Archive, accessed 21 October 2013,

[27] –, The Symposium, The Internet Classics Archive, accessed 21 October 2013,

[28] “Epictetus,” Brainyquote, accessed 21 October 2013,

[29] Lucretius, “De Rerum Natura,” Sensation & Sex

[30] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Theories of the Soul,” The Stoic Theory of Soul, accessed on 20 October, 2013.

[31] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Theories of the Soul,” 5.1 Epicurus’ Theory of Soul, accessed on 20 October, 2013.

[32] Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book I, 114.

[33] Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book III, “The Folly of the Fear of Death.”