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Philosophical Theories of Happiness and Friendship

Epicurus’s theory of achieving happiness

Epicurus’s theory of happiness equates happiness with pleasure, arguing that pleasure is a starting point and the ultimate goal for living a happy life (Epicurus et al., p. 127). He posits that life can be pleasurable if individuals’ minds are free from fears and their bodies contented with natural satisfactions. According to Epicurus, people can achieve happiness by accepting the four basic truths defined in his theory. He asserts that the truths individuals should follow to achieve happiness in life are not to fear the gods, not worry about death and that what is good is easy to get or what is terrible is easy to endure (Binmore., p.17). Epicurus believed that individuals should be self-sufficient in their lives to achieve happiness. His philosophy was to achieve tranquillity through ataraxia, which meant attaining peace and being free from fear and aponia by finding a way to be absent from the pain individuals face in their daily lives. According to Epicurus, the most pleasant life that would lead to happiness is a life where individuals can abstain from unnecessary desires and achieve ataraxia by being content with simple things (Binmore., p.20). At the same time, to live a happy life, one needs to choose the pleasure of meaningful conversation with their friends over the need to pursue other physical pleasures like drinks, food, and sex (Binmore., p.21). He asserts that while trying to achieve pleasure, individuals need to be moderate in their actions so as to avoid the suffering that could occur due to overindulging.

Objections to Epicurus’s Point of View

Epicurus views pleasure as the chief good, which he places over virtue. In his theory, virtue is overlooked as a means of achieving happiness. According to Epicurus, if one achieves ataraxia and aponia, then he will find happiness in life. This should be done by abstaining from unnecessary desires and by being content with simple things. However, Aristotle views happiness differently. He notes that individuals should acquire happiness not by abstaining from unnecessary desires but by achieving different things in life. For example, Aristotle argues that one would achieve happiness if he acquires wealth and other human life enrichments like health, knowledge, and friends (Mitrouchev., p.4). Epicurus would view this differently as the urge to look for wealth, and other enrichment would negatively impact ataraxia.

From an individual point of view, while Epicurious seems to differ from Aristotle on some aspects of happiness, they both agree that happiness is the ultimate goal. Aristotle objects to Epicurus’s point of view because, unlike Epicurus, he does not completely argue that pleasure is good. I also hold the opinion that pleasure sometimes might not lead to ultimate happiness. While one could have pleasure at a particular time, actions might lead to negative consequences afterward. My objections are stronger than Epicurus’s position because the process of finding happiness is more important than viewing happiness as the ultimate goal and engaging in any unlawful acts to achieve that happiness.

Suggested Modifications to Improve Epicurus’s Theory

Epicurus’s theory has a few limitations beginning with how he views pleasure as being entirely good and desirable for happiness. While trying to achieve happiness, for example, in terms of wealth or health, individuals might have to make sacrifices that might not be pleasurable at the moment but would eventually lead to happiness. In this case, Epicurus should first see the achievement of happiness first as a process and later as the ultimate goal. Pleasure as the highest good cannot be valued for its own sake. While trying to achieve ataraxia and aponia, Epicurus theory needs to identify best practices that would ensure that individuals don’t make wrong choices that would lead to short-term happiness. This could include defining virtues or morals and rules that would guide individuals in making the right decision. This would ensure that individuals who strive to achieve happiness as the end goal do not look back and regret their actions. Such behavior would affect the achievement they have made and affect their level of happiness.

Aristotle’s Theory of Friendship

Aristotle posits that that friendship is usually made of men who are good and alike in virtues. He asserts that friends who are alike will wish well for each other and that they are good in themselves (cooper, 112). Aristotle believed that no single individual would choose to live a life without friends even when that individual had attained all the goods in the world. According to Aristotle, the goods in life can only be satisfied with friendships. According to Aristotle, friends must have goodwill and bear good wishes for each other for the sake of their usefulness, pleasantness, and goodness. He asserts that for an individual to become a friend, he must have three virtues, namely temperament, courage, and generosity. The individual needs to be aware of his virtues and be confident in them. The more virtuous an individual is, the more they are likely to excel in creating and maintaining friendships. If individuals fall short of value, they are less likely to excel in friendship. Aristotle views friendship as altruistic, where individuals must be ready to make the best choice which will result in the true good of their friends, and each individual must be aware that the same is expected of them. He identifies three types of friendship as a friendship that is noble, a friendship that is pleasant, and a useful friendship. Aristotle points out that even if we can feel goodwill for an individual, one cannot yet say that that individual is a friend unless the goodwill is reciprocated.

A Critique of Aristotle’s Notion of Friendship from Kant’s Point of View

Kant argues that friendship comes from the general love of human beings to promote the happiness of others. Kant points out that one cannot be used that an individual’s effort can be made for the benefit of friendship. He, therefore, notes that friendship is just but an idea because it cannot be drawn from experiences between two individuals but from an understanding. He sees true friendship as something that cannot be achieved but one that can only be approximated. As put by Kant, this idealization of friendship matches Aristotle’s explanation of friendship. Where Aristotle did not define whether true friendship can be achieved, Kant clearly states that even if friendship entails wishing good for each other, no one is assured that it will be reciprocated. Kant argues that people tend to hold the greater part of disposition even when they engage in social intercourse and companionship. This is similar to Aristotle’s “friendship that is useful.” In this friendship type, both philosophers have the same point of view as they assert that individuals might withdraw reciprocity by taking distance to their own and not letting their personal interests dominate.

A Critique of Aristotle’s and Kant’s theory of friendship from Hobbes point of view

Both Aristotle and Kant view friendship as something that needs to be reciprocated between people who wish good for each other. However, while Hobbes agrees to this, he finds out that friendship does not have to be based on this alone. He identifies human needs drive people towards making genuine friendships and that an individual will value others, not for the sake of their friendship but their own benefit. Hobbes would disagree with Aristotle and Kant on friendship because he believed that friendship does not have to exist between good men alone. He finds out that when conspirators are deprived of certain things, they cooperate with one another and share similar desires (Slomp., p.191). When one looks at the three philosophers’ argument of friendship, one can draw important lessons. From Hobbes’s perspective, I would agree that people who might not see eye to eye might come together and establish relationships in order to fight a common enemy. However, I disagree that this would be a genuine friendship. I am more agreeable to Aristotle’s definition of friendship as it leans more on virtues which one could use to make comparisons and decide whether one can make a good friend. Aristotle’s theory is superior to contact if one looks at the practical ways in which we make friendships. When interacting with others, I always look for people with the same values, beliefs, and virtues. This helps in creating a better and long-lasting friendship with other people.

Works Cited

Binmore, Ken. “Epicurus.” Crooked Thinking or Straight Talk?. Springer, Cham, 2020. 1-26.

Cooper, John M. “17. Aristotle on Friendship.” In Essays on Aristotle’s ethics, pp. 301-340. University of California Press, 1980. 112

Epicurus, Lloyd P., and Brad Gerson. “The Epicurus Reader Selected Writings and Testimonia.” (1994). 127

Mitrouchev, Ivan. “Back to Aristotle? Explorations of objective happiness.” HAL Working Papers hal-02915805 (2020). 4-36

Slomp, Gabriella. “As Thick as Thieves: Exploring Thomas Hobbes’ Critique of Ancient Friendship and its Contemporary Relevance.” Political Studies 67.1 (2019): 191-206.


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