It can be said that Epicureanism is a form of Hedonism, but there are definitive differences.
For one, Epicureanism is a much more developed and complete philosophical system while Hedonism is really more of an umbrella term that can mean many different things at once. Epicureans believed that all things were made out of atoms, including the Gods, and that the faculty of reason was the supreme guiding light for human knowledge. Hedonism, being a blanket term, says nothing to the effect.
Epicureanism and Hedonism share in common the maxim that the purpose of life is to maximize pleasure. That is, one's own happiness should be the moral compass of their life. While Hedonism stops there, Epicureanism goes much more into detail about the nature of happiness and what, exactly, is happiness and how do you achieve it.
Epicureans believe in indulgence without excess. That is to say, that there is too much of a good thing, which can cause burnout and dissatisfaction. A common example in Epicureanism is alcohol. A small amount with your friends can lead to a good time. Too much causes a hangover. So Epicureans say that you shouldn't deny yourself the little pleasures of life, but you also shouldn't become addicted to them, either.
Many Epicureans noted that the supreme happiness is having good friends. That having good friends leads to contentment and stimulation. Material goods are nice, but they will not offer you companionship.
I had a science professor once who was asked about poisonous materials in man-made objects, and his scientific response resonated perfectly with the ethos of Epicureanism: "Everything in this world is a poison: pick your dose. You can drown in water." Water is an essential element to our survival, but too much can kill you. This is a core tenent of Epicureanism.
So Epicureanism is a more refined version of Hedonism. They are one in the same thing, but the Epicureans are much more exhaustive in their definitions as to what constitutes pleasure, and why it does.
· 1 decade ago