In a dissatisfied world, looking back to ancient wisdom can shed light on fresh solutions.
For years, many of us have upheld the Stoic concept of ‘no pain, no gain’. But in a time when we are burdened by the fear of failure and outsize ambitions, perhaps we should stop skirting around the edges of our problems via punishing exercise regimes, productivity apps and early morning starts.
According to the pleasure-centric philosophy of Epicureanism, life can be good without great sacrifice, and temptation isn’t always the enemy. The riches of the sensory world are there to be enjoyed, so long as your pursuit of pleasure doesn’t later bring you pain. Friendships ripen in restaurants. If the hangover is worth the fantastic night beforehand, go right ahead. Does your job bring you little satisfaction? Think it over. Are you a parent? Don’t sacrifice your own interests by catering to your child’s every whim. Are you unhappy in your relationship? Cut your losses - if you can do without, so much the better. If not, the time to find something better is now.
No honest philosopher can give you a formula for being happy. But philosophy can point the way to strategies for tackling the things that threaten our happiness. In The Pleasure Principle, Professor Catherine Wilson presents a framework for living not only comfortably and happily, but in a responsible and meaningful way.