|Epicurus Greek Philosopher 341-270 BCE|
One of the things I like about Epicurus is his idea he promotes that "death is nothing to us." Beyond the fact that there is no reason to believe in an afterlife the Epicurean just recognizes that when you are dead you no longer experience. And so fear of death seems particularly absurd. This cuts pretty deeply against existentialism which seems to revel in our dread of death, something that attends us every day of our lives. Of course fear of death is probably genetically ingrained into us, but if we can achieve a certain freedom from it then there are some real benefits. This approach focuses one on one's own life as an embodied being interacting with the world through the senses and via our responses of pleasure and pain. Some followers of Epicurus thought that this meant focusing on the now. Although true in a way, this idea needs modification. For Epicurus mental pleasure is the best, and this pleasure is directed to the future and past as well as the present. So it is rich and complex. A key pleasure is enjoying past pleasures in memory. Another is anticipation of future pleasures. These can easily however be combined with pleasures of the moment as when one enjoys a smell not only for now but for the pleasant memories it evokes. (This seems to contradict the idea that only simple pleasures are wanted. In fact, there is a kind of complexity wanted.)
So an Epicurean, in the traditional sense of the word is someone who seeks a pervasive experience of comfort and safety connected with the basic pleasure of life and richly textured by memory and anticipation (this is much like Dewey).
Another aspect of the pleasures of the Epicurean life is the importance of friendship. There is much discussion in the scholarly literature over whether Epicurus saw friends as merely useful for gaining pleasure and safety or whether he valued friends in themselves. Whereas Aristotle saw man as a political animal Epicurus sees him as an animal for whom the appropriate richness of experience is impossible without friendship. The pleasures of friendship, basically of shared pleasure, add another dimension to the complexity of pleasure. So what I am saying is that an aesthetics of everyday life should probably follow Epicurus in emphasizing the rich complexity of aesthetic experience in the ways just discussed.