The importance of friendship: the fourth of five, very short, morning reflections on the philosophy of Epicurus for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

Talk 4—The importance of friendship

(Hear the talk for a limited period of time at this link. The piece starts 19 minutes 00 seconds into the programme and finishes three minutes later.)

In the 3rd century BCE, the Greek philosopher Epicurus developed a philosophy, the ultimate goal of which was a kind of peace of mind or tranquility that he called “ataraxia”. To achieve this he believed at least three common fears needed to be addressed and removed: fear of the gods, fear of an afterlife, and fear of death.

Over the past three weeks we’ve briefly considered them in turn. But once these fears had been, or were at least well on the way to being overcome, what still remained was the need for supportive, like-minded, free-thinking friends. Indeed, friendship was central to Epicurus’ thought and life and he once said that:

Of all the things that wisdom provides for the happiness of the whole person, by far the most important is the acquisition of friendship (LD, 27).

On another occasion he exclaimed that:

“Friendship dances around the world, summoning every one of us to awaken to the gospel of the happy life” (VC 52).

Epicurus saw that friends helped a person to gain at least two important things. The first was that they clearly helped making the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter and general protection, easier to get and maintain. The second was that they could help us continue to be fully awake to the benefits of the Epicurean gospel of the happy life, a life blessedly free from fear of the gods, an afterlife,  and death. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that he seems once to have said: 

Before you eat or drink anything, consider carefully who you eat or drink with rather than what you are to eat or drink: for feeding without a friend is the life of a lion or a wolf” (Seneca, Letters 19:10).

The first talk can be found at this link

The second talk can be found at this link 

The third talk can be found at this link

The fourth talk can be found at this link 

The fifth talk can be found at this link

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