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Promoting the Study of the Philosophy of Epicurus

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A Response To: “How Would Epicurus Account For Depression?”

Recently in the Epicurean Philosophy Facebook book the question was asked: “How would Epicurus account for depression?”  Before I give my answer, however, it first has to be said that depression for biological/chemical reasons i primarily a medical question. Putting the medical cases aside, what I want to emphasize in answer to the question “How would Epicurus account for depression?” is this:

An ancient Epicurean looking at today might well say, “Why the heck SHOULDN’T so many people be depressed?”

  • Everywhere you look people are raised from childhood to believe that they are puppets of gods who created them and determined their fate and play with them like cats toy with mice. Why WOULDN’T people who are taught that nonsense be depressed – they would be crazy NOT to be!

  • Everywhere you look people are raised from childhood to believe that when they die they will be tormented in hell for disobeying the gods if they do not follow all sorts of ridiculous rules to get into an eternity of harp-playing and slavish devotions to angels with wings. Why WOULDN’T people who are taught that nonsense be depressed – they would be crazy NOT to be!

  • Everywhere you look people are raised from childhood to believe that the the goal of life is to be “virtuous,” and that seeking to live happily is an impossible and irrational goal because happy living has no rational limit and someone else might always be happier than they are. Why WOULDN’T people who are taught that nonsense be depressed – they would be crazy NOT to be!

  • Everywhere you look people are raised from childhood to believe that avoiding pain is the most important thing in life and the best that anyone can hope for. They are even taught that Epicurus taught that the mere absence of pain without any other description of that existence is the goal of life. Why WOULDN’T people who are taught that nonsense be depressed – they would be crazy NOT to be!

  • Everywhere you look people are raised from childhood to believe that virtue or “being good” is its own reward, and that we have to accept their rules and be “good” according to their standard regardless of how it works in our own lives. Why WOULDN’T people who are taught that nonsense be depressed – they would be crazy NOT to be!

  • Everywhere you look people are raised from childhood to believe that “other people” are more important than they are, and that whatever other people want is good, and whatever they want themselves is bad, just because other people want it, and that the most important rule in life is to give in and get along with other people, no matter who they might be. Why WOULDN’T people who are taught that nonsense be depressed – they would be crazy NOT to be!

  • Everywhere you look people are raised from childhood to believe that riches and power are bad in themselves, or that riches and power are good in themselves, but that no matter which of those two alternatives they accept the choice should never be judged by whether the choice has the practical effect of making them happy in their own circumstances. Why WOULDN’T people who are taught that nonsense be depressed – they would be crazy NOT to be!

  • Everywhere you look people are raised from childhood to believe that pleasure – every pleasure – is intrinsically evil, and a bad thing in itself. Why WOULDN’T people who are taught that nonsense be depressed – they would be crazy NOT to be!

We could go on until we reached at least forty examples, but this should suffice. An ancient Epicurean taking all this in might well further say:

Thank “God” people today ARE depressed, because that shows that as hard as religion and the academic establishment have tried, those who are depressed have still retained at least enough sanity to see how much is so very wrong, and to see how sad it is that their children are corrupted so soon after birth and deprived of the life of happiness that Nature made available to them!

We can teach “coping skills” a/k/a “stoicism” or attack the problem at its root by teaching children from a young age the truth about life and the goal of living, and encouraging them along the path of life with continued study of Epicurean philosophy.