Views of Wealth – Epicurus

January 7, 2010 at 10:52 pm Leave a comment

After meeting Saul Djanogly, I decided to start a long-term (ie slow) research project into ancient ideas of wealth. I started by looking at Epicurus, the Greek philosopher from the 4th century B.C. Here are a few of his thoughts:

She who is not satisfied with little, is satisfied with nothing.

Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth. And the greatest fruit of self-sufficiency is freedom.

Nothing is sufficient for the person to whom the sufficient is too little.

A life of freedom cannot acquire many possessions, since to accomplish this requires satisfying the crowd or the powerful; but a life of freedom possesses everything in unfailing supply. If somehow such a life does happen to acquire many possessions, it will also know how to distribute these  to win others’  good will.

Great abundance is heaped up as a result of brutalising labour, but a miserable life is the result.

A person is made unhappy either by fear or by endless and vain desire . The person who curbs these can attain for herself the blessed gift of reason.

Many people, fearing poverty, are driven, through their fear, to adopt practices that will bring on greater fear.

The possession of the greatest riches does not resolve the anxiety of the soul or give birth to remarkable joy – nor does the greatest fame, nor all other things arising from unlimited desires.

Many people who acquire wealth do not find relief from dissatisfaction but an exchange of their present dissatisfaction for an even greater one.

Happiness and blessedness do not belong to abundance of riches or high status or power, but to freedom from pain and gentleness of feeling and a state of mind that sets limits that are in accordance with nature.

It is better for you to be free of fear and lying on a bed of straw than to own a couch of gold and an overflowing table and yet have no peace of mind.

The thankless greed of the soul makes the creature forever hungry for refinements in its mode of living.

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Reflections on an age of anxiety.


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