Epicurean Stability (eustatheia): A Philosophical Approach of Stress Management

Published: dic 31, 2022
Epicurus Epicurean philosophy homeostasis stress management eustatheia eudaimonia pursuit of happiness brain function biological psychology cognitive psychotherapy
Christos Yapijakis
George P. Chrousos

Epicurus used an empirical and sensualistic approach to knowledge, creating a consistent, naturalistic, pragmatic and consequentialistic philosophy. The scientific observations of the last centuries have confirmed the basic principles of Epicurean physics, as well the psychotherapeutic approach of Epicurean ethics, which fits human nature. We know from the work “On Frank Criticism” of Epicurean philosopher Philodemus of Gadara, that the teaching methodology of Epicureans included psychoeducational counseling through therapeutic criticism based on friendly freedom of speech and aiming at τῆς ψυχῆς θεραπείαν (psychotherapy) and at knowledge of maintaining mental health and well-being. The Epicureans called εὐστάθεια (eustatheia, “stability”) the psychosomatic balance (τὸ τῆς σαρκὸς καὶ ψυχῆς εὐσταθὲς κατάστημα), which today we call homeostasis (ὁμοιόστασις), and considered it the basis of true happiness. They recognized empirically the stress that disturbed psychosomatic homeostasis as an agitation of the psyche or a painful feeling of the body and used a number of mental and affective techniques (including the tetrapharmakos) to manage stress at its onset, so that it does not evolve into the particularly troublesome conditions of anxiety and/or depression, which may become chronic psychosomatic disorders with significant social consequences. The article discusses the relation of the main ethical teachings of Epicurus with the biological basis of human brain functions and with the management of stress by cognitive and behavioral psychotherapy.

Article Details
  • Section
  • Articles
Download data is not yet available.
Ameriks, Karl, and Desmond M. Clarke. Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Bailey, Cyril. “Philodemus – F. Sbordone: Philodemi adversus [Sophistas]. Pp. xv+ 183. Naples: L. Loffredo, 1947. Paper. L. 550.” The Classical Review 62, no. 3-4 (1948): 133-134. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0009840X00091666.
Chrousos, George P. “Stress and Disorders of the Stress System.” Nature Reviews Endocrinology 5 (2009): 374-381. doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/nrendo.2009.106.
Chrousos, George P. “Systems Biology and the Stress Response: From Pythagoras and the Epicureans to Modern Medicine.” European Journal of Clinical Investigation 42, s. 1 (2012): 1-3.
Cipolla, Carlo M. The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity. New York: Doubleday, 2021.
Critchley, Simon. The Book of Dead Philosophers. New York: Vintage Publications, 2009.
Diogenes Laertius. Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Translated by Robert D. Hicks. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1925.
Euler, Sasha S. “Psychological Universals in the Study of Happiness: From Social Psychology to Epicurean Philosophy.” Science Religion and Culture 6, no. 1 (2019). doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.17582/journal.src/2019.
Gigante, Marcello. Philodemus in Italy: The Books from Herculaneum. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1995.
Hammerstaedt, Jürgen, Pierre-Marie Morel, and Refik Güremen, eds. Diogenes of Oenoanda: Epicureanism and Philosophical Debates. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2017.
Konstan, David, Diskin Clay, Clarence E. Glad, Johan C. Thom, and James Ware, eds. Philodemus: On Frank Criticism. Atlanta, GA: Schlars Press, 1998.
Kullenberg, Christopher, and Gustaf Nelhans. “The Happiness Turn? Mapping the Emergence of ‘Happiness Studies’ using Cited References.” Scientometrics 103 (2015): 615-630.
Lucretius. De rerum natura. Translated by William Henry Denham Rouse. Revised with new text, introduction, notes, and index by Martin Ferguson Smith. London: Heinemann, 1975.
Massie, Pascal. “Ataraxia: Tranquility at the End.” In A Companion to Ancient Philosophy, edited by Sean D. Kirkland, and Eric Sanday, 383-408. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2018.
McMahon, Darrin M. The Pursuit of Happiness: A History from the Greeks to the Present. New York: Penguin Books, 2007.
Nicolaides, Nicolas C., Elli E. Kyratzi, Agaristi Lamprokostopoulou, George P. Chrousos, and Evangelia Charmandari. “Stress, the Stress System and the Role of Glucocorticoids.” Neuroimmunomodulation 22, no. 1-2 (2015): 6-19. doi: https://doi.org/10.1159/000362736.
Pearce, James M.S. “Early Contribution of Alexandria Medical School to the Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology of the Nervous System.” Revue Neurologique 175, no. 3 (2019): 119-125. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neurol.2018.04.011.
Plutarch. Plutarch’s Morals. Translated by William W. Goodwin. Cambridge, MA: Press John Wilson and Son, 1874.
Porphyrius. Ad Marcellam. Translated by Walter Pötscher. Leiden: Brill, 1969.
Strenger, Carlo. “Mild Epicureanism: Notes toward the Definition of a Therapeutic Attitude.” American Journal of Psychotherapy 62, no. 2 (2008): 1-17.
Strenger, Carlo. “Paring down Life to the Essentials: An Epicurean Psychodynamics of Midlife Changes.” Psychoanalytic Psychology 26, no. 3 (2009): 246-258. doi: https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.2008.62.2.195.
Wegner, Daniel M. “How to Think, Say, or Do Precisely the Worst Thing for Any Occasion.” Science 325, no. 5936 (2009): 48-50. doi: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1167346.
Yalom, Irvin D. Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008.
Yapijakis, Christos. “Hippocrates of Kos, the Father of Clinical Medicine, and Asclepiades of Bithynia, the Father of Molecular Medicine.” In Vivo 23, no. 4 (2009): 507-514.
Yapijakis, Christos. “Ancestral Concepts of Human Genetics and Molecular Medicine in Epicurean Philosophy.” In History of Human Genetics, edited by Heike I. Petermann, Peter S. Harper, and Susanne Doetz, 41-57. Cham: Springer, 2017. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-51783-4_3.
Yapijakis, Christos. “Genetics and Ancient Greek Philosophers: From Myth to Science.” In Hybrid and Extraordinary Beings: Deviations from “Normality” in Ancient Greek Mythology and Modern Medicine, edited by Panagiotis N. Soucacos, Ariadne Gartziou-Tatti, and Minas Paschopoulos, 269-279. Athens: Konstadaras Medical Publications, 2017.
Yapijakis, Christos. “Ethical Teachings of Epicurus Based on Human Nature in the Light of Biological Psychology.” Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy 2, no. 3 (2018): 83-88. doi: https://doi.org/10.5840/wcp232018231356.
Yapijakis, Christos, ed. Epicurean Philosophy. An Introduction from the “Garden of Athens.” Athens: Stavrodromi Publications, 2022.
Yapijakis, Christos, Evangelos Protopapadakis, and George P. Chrousos. “Philosophical Management of Stress based on Science and Epicurean Pragmatism: A Pilot Study.” Conatus – Journal of Philosophy 7, no. 2 (2022): 229-242. doi: https://doi.org/10.12681/cjp.28077.
Most read articles by the same author(s)