- , EPICUREAN, EPICURISMAn epicure is a person who cultivates refined tastes, especially in food and wine; epicurean pertains to good eating and drinking. These words derive from Epicurus (c. 341-c.270 B.C.), who was probably born on the island of Samos. He spent a few years in the military and then taught at Mytilene and Lampsacus. His philosophy was that pleasure was the natural aim and highest good, but pleasure had to consist of right living to lead to tranqillity of mind and body.Epicurus went to Athens in 306 B.C. with a group of disciples and began a school that was in reality a way of life. His school, known as Ho Kepos (the garden), fostered atheism, permitted no marriages, children, or participation in public life. His followers became known as the "philosophers of the garden." Epicurus was a moral man, and his standards were just as high for his students, but the public was unconvinced. In a letter to Menoeceus, he wrote: "When we maintain that pleasure is an end, we do not mean the pleasure of profligates and those that consist in sensuality . . . but freedom from pain in the body and from trouble in the mind. For it is not continuous drinkings, nor the satisfaction of lusts . . . but sober reasoning, searching out the motives for all choice and avoidance."The many detractors of Epicurus maintained that high living and all the sensual gratification that accompanies it was actually his goal; they came to the conclusion that epicurism was merely an excuse for hedonism. Although the dictionary says that an epicure derives happiness from refined sensual pleasures, many people believe that the word sexual should be substituted for sensual. Maybe. But this influential Greek philosopher once wrote: "But while every pleasure is in itself good, not all pleasures are to be chosen, since certain pleasures are produced by means which entail annoyances many times greater. . . . Moreover... it is not possible to live pleasantly without living wisely and well and righteously."
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.