Epicurus and Aristotle Philosophical Views on Emotions Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

The study of emotions has attracted the attention of many philosophers and scholars in various fields. There has been an attempt to have a clear definition of the events that take place within the mind before one gets emotional. As Evans (56) notes, emotions involve the feelings developed when one is subjected to a given environment. Some of the greatest philosophers who dedicated their time to the study emotions include Epicurus and Aristotle.

The two philosophers studied emotions to determine some of the common causes of this mental state, and the events that take place in the mind before one becomes emotional. In this study, the researcher will analyze emotions in light of Epicurus, Stoicism, and Aristotle’s writings.

Epicurus View of Emotion

Epicurus analyzed emotions from the perspective of the presence or absence of suffering. As Rolls (57) notes, Epicurus argued that emotions would largely be considered as the presence of happiness or suffering. An individual who is experiencing any form of suffering would be sad. Sadness as emotion would be as a result of the absence of pleasure.

This philosopher argued that pleasure and suffering are two extremes that can never be experienced at the same time with equal measures. If an individual is exposed to factors that bring pleasure and suffering at the same time, one of the two will dominate the other.

The pleasure can be so great that it becomes easy to ignore the suffering. In such a case, an individual would remain happy even in the presence of suffering. Conversely, the pain can be so great that it becomes easier to ignore the presence of pleasure. In this case, an individual would be sad despite the presence of pleasure.

In society, the two extremes of emotion will always be presented to an individual at every stage in life. According to Epicurus, an individual would always find himself in the face of pleasure or pain. In some rare occasions, one may not have control over which of the two factors he or she would face. However, it is most of the occasions, one would have the capacity to choose between the two.

One may choose to suffer as a way of generating more pleasure in the future. For instance, when an individual is presented with an amount of money that is way beyond the current needs, he may choose to spend the money in leisure or invest it in business. At that particular moment, the choice of investing the money would bring suffering. That individual would be forced to dedicate his or her time and energy to the new project.

On the other hand, if an individual decides to spend the money, he would get pleasure. The pleasure would be spent in many ways depending on the way that an individual chooses to use the money.

However, the two individuals would be considered to view the emotional satisfaction of money from two different perspectives. While the inventor envisions a bigger pleasure in future when the investment becomes profitable, the other individual sees immediate pleasure as the most appropriate.

Although the definition of Epicurus of pleasure as an absence of suffering has been considered as an insight into the study of emotions, some contemporary scholars have rejected this reasoning, describing it shallow. Evans (90) says that there can be instances where one lacks any strong sense of happiness or sadness. For this reason, it would be improper to argue that at one moment in time, one must experience either of the two emotional feelings.

Stoicism’s Perspective of Emotions

Stoics are known to have conducted extensive research on emotions, and their works have been subject of study among various scholars who have researched in this field. According to this school of thought, emotions can be classified as either constructive or destructive. This school of thought holds that emotions can be considered constructive if it brings development or any form of benefit to society.

For instance, when one feels happy and motivated, that emotion will be constructive, because the activity that will be delegated to such an individual would be done excellently. On the other hand, emotions can be considered destructive if it can motivate violent reactions or any other destructive behavior. Most of the stoic analysis of emotions were based on their destructive nature.

According to Rolls (79), stoicism school of thought holds that destructive emotions are always as a result of judgment errors. This scholar elaborates on this by stating that some of the destructive emotions such as anger are always as a result of an error in judgment in the mind of an individual. The mind is a very powerful tool that always dictates our actions. In some cases, the mind would make some judgments over some issues that are not factual.

For instance, when a parent is convinced that one of his or her children is careless, any damage that takes place in the house will always be blamed on that particular child, and all the anger will be directed to it. Basing his reasoning on Stoicism, Evans (78) explains that emotions can always be controlled, especially if it is destructive.

Aristotle’s Perspective of Emotions

Aristotle is one of the greatest philosophers that ever lived. His philosophical works covered many areas, including emotional thoughts within the human mind. According to Aristotle, emotions are aroused by some of the activities that take place within the environment. Both positive and negative emotions are triggered by an individual’s experiences.

Happiness will always be a result of the positive experience that one has in the external or internal environment (Rolls 56). The external environment, in this case, refers to activities outside one’s body or mind. The internal environment is all the activities that take place in one’s mind or any part of the body. Depending on the experiences that one has with the environment, the emotion can be pleasant or painful.

Aristotle argued that it is our ethical responsibility to develop a positive response to our emotions. For instance, when one is faced with the emotions of fear, it would be his or her responsibility to develop courage. Similarly, when one is overwhelmed with desire, he or she should have the virtue of controlling such desires to avoid affecting the emotions of others negatively.


Emotion is always determined by one’s state of mind. Different scholars have tried to explain emotions in different ways to express different things. In his analysis of emotions, Epicurus argued that happiness is a sign of a lack of suffering. Stoicism school of thought classified emotions as either constructive or destructive. Aristotle argued that one should always be able to control his or her emotions to remain ethical.

Works Cited

Evans, Dylan. Emotion: The Science of Sentiment. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

Rolls, Edmund. Emotion Explained. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

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