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Cynics, Stoics, Epicureans, Neoplatonists, and Mystics

A comparison between the five and what each believe in.


  • True happiness is not found in external advantages (material luxury, political power, good health)
    • True happiness lies in not being dependent on such random/fleeting things
  • Happiness is within everyone’s reach
    • Once attained, it can never be lost
  • Health should not be a concern
    • Suffering and death should not disturb them
    • Should not let themselves be tormented by concern for other people’s woes



  • Believe that everyone was part of the same common sense
    • Each person was like a world in miniature
  • Universal rightness, or natural law
    • Natural law was based on timeless human/universal reason and did not alter with time/place
    • Governed all mankind
  • No conflict between “spirit” and “matter”
  • All natural processes (such as sickness/death) follow the unbreakable laws of nature
    • Man must accept his destiny
    • Nothing happens accidentally, everything happens through necessity
  • Accept the happy events of life



  • Aim of life was to attain the highest possible sensory enjoyment
    • Highest good is pleasure, greatest evil is pain
  • Aim of life is also to avoid pain in all forms
  • Pleasurable results of an action must always be weighed against its possible side effects
    • Pleasurable result in the short term must be weighed against the possibility of a greater, more lasting, or more intense pleasure in the long term
  • Pleasure does not necessarily mean sensual pleasure
    • Values such as friendship and the appreciation of art also count
  • Self-control, temperance, and serenity are required
    • Desire must be curbed and serenity will help us to endure pain when unavoidable
  • Four medicinal herbs
    • The gods are not to be feared
    • Death is nothing to worry about
    • Good is easy to attain
    • The fearful is easy to endure





  • World of Ideas and the Sensory World
  • Clear division between the soul and the body
    • Man is a dual creature: body consisting of earth and an immortal soul
  • World is a span between two poles
    • Divine light at one end (God or One) and absolute darkness (absence of light) at the other
    • Beam of light grows dimmer and is gradually extinguished
  • Soul is illuminated by the light from the One
    • Forms of nature have a faint glow of the One
  • Divine mystery in everything that exists
    • Closest to God in our own soul
    • Very rare moment, we can experience that we ourselves are that divine mystery
  • Rare occasions, there can be a fusion of soul with God called mystical experience




  • Possible to experience merging with God or the “cosmic spirit”
    • No gulf between God and Creation
  • “I” is not the true “I” since in short glimpses we can experience an identification with a greater “I”
  • You lose yourself to gain more
    • Come to a realization that you are something much bigger: the universe
    • Also, you are God
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