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Living for Pleasure

An Epicurean Guide to Life

Emily A. Austin

Publication Date - November 2022

ISBN: 9780197558324

320 pages
5 x 7 inches

In Stock


If we all want happiness and pleasure so much, then why are we so bad at getting it?

Pleasure feels amazing! Anxiety, however, does not. The Ancient Greek Philosopher Epicurus rolled these two strikingly intuitive claims into a simple formula for happiness and well-being--pursue pleasure without causing yourself anxiety. But wait, is that even possible? Can humans achieve lasting pleasure without suffering anxiety about failure and loss? Epicurus thinks we can, at least once we learn to pursue pleasure thoughtfully.

In Living for Pleasure, philosopher Emily Austin offers a lively, jargon-free tour of Epicurean strategies for diminishing anxiety, achieving satisfaction, and relishing joys. Epicurean science was famously far ahead of its time, and Austin shows that so was its ethics and psychology. Epicureanism can help us make and keep good friends, prepare for suffering, combat imposter syndrome, build trust, recognize personal limitations, value truth, cultivate healthy attitudes towards money and success, manage political anxiety, develop gratitude, savor food, and face death.

Readers will walk away knowing more about an important school of philosophy, but moreover understanding how to get what they want in life--happiness--without the anxiety of striving for it.


  • Writing is clear, jargon-free, and playful to reflect the Epicurean belief that philosophy should be accessible to all, relevant to life, and fun
  • Draws attention to Stoicism's chief rival at a time when neo-Stoicism has found many followers
  • Addresses numerous contemporary concerns, both large and small

About the Author(s)

Emily A. Austin is Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University. She earned her Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, specializing in Ancient Greek Philosophy.


"The clarity and concision of Austin's prose means that she covers many more of the details of Epicurean thought in her 24 short chapters. Anyone seduced by the recent fashion for Stoicism should read her book to see why their biggest contemporary rival offers a better model for living." -- Julian Baggini, The Guardian

"Austin shows us, vividly and directly, how Epicurean ideas can apply to areas of everyday life and how they can help us uncover—and deal with—deep-seated problems that stand in the way of living a balanced, thoughtful, and enjoyable life. She does a stellar job of showing us, incisively and sympathetically, that Epicurus gives us a philosophy to live by and that we can actually live by it." -- Julia Annas, Regents Professor Emerita, University of Arizona

"Austin provides an accessible and intellectually rigorous overview of Epicureanism that remains refreshingly forthright about the limits of Epicurus's advice and keeps an appropriately light tone... The result is an excellent primer on Epicureanism." -- Publishers Weekly

"Simply the best guide to living as an Epicurean. Austin's discussion is grounded in a thorough understanding of Epicurean philosophy, but it's written in a humorous and accessible style, and she does an outstanding job of applying Epicureanism to the problems facing people today." -- Timothy S. O'Keefe, author of Epicureanism

"Wise, witty, and above all a pleasure to read, Austin's study of Epicureanism is excellent medicine for the many illnesses and anxieties of the 21st century. Read it and be refreshed." -- Clancy Martin, Professor of Philosophy, University of Missouri-Kansas City

"Living for Pleasure is a terrific introduction to Epicureanism, especially its practical side. If offers a clear and accessible guide through some difficult ideas, all with a deft personal touch and a convincing case for the value of this philosophy for us today. Who knew Epicurus could help us navigate social media?" -- Richard Bett, author of How to Keep an Open Mind: An Ancient Guide to Thinking Like a Skeptic

"Examining the tenets of Epicureanism in fine detail, Austin provides the audience with her insightful interpretations throughout and offers a kindred spirit to all readers who seek the finer things in life." -- Booklist

Table of Contents

    Chapter 1: Maybe We're Doing It Wrong
    Chapter 2: Epicureanism, The Original Cast
    Chapter 3: Happiness, Theirs and Ours
    Chapter 4: Why Hedonism?
    Chapter 5: What do you want?
    Chapter 6: The Fourfold Remedy
    Chapter 7: Why Can't We Be Friends?
    Chapter 8: Let Me Be Frank
    Chapter 9: Why Be Just?
    Chapter 10: Imposter Syndrome
    Chapter 11: Living Unnoticed: Politics and Power
    Chapter 12: Living Unnoticed: The Tyranny of the 'Like'
    Chapter 13: Wealth and What it Costs
    Chapter 14: Ambition, Work, and Success
    Chapter 15: Greed for Life
    Chapter 16: Misfortune and Resilience
    Chapter 17: Of Sex, Love, and Harmless Pleasure
    Chapter 18: Building the Tranquil Child
    Chapter 19: Drugs and Other Short Cuts
    Chapter 20: Foodies, Dinner Parties, and Wine Snobs
    Chapter 21: Science and Anxiety
    Chapter 22: That Old Time Religion
    Chapter 23: Experiencing Death
    Chapter 24: Pandemics and Other Comforting Horrors
    Chapter 25: On Practicing Epicureanism