Why Epicurus is ESTP

What is important to understand when inquiring into the type of Epicurus is that one cannot simply conclude that he had a preference for sensing over intuition just because of his championing of pleasure and sensual enjoyment. In Western philosophy, the British empiricists similarly held the senses in high regard as a source of information, yet in terms of type they were mostly NTs. Likewise, though the Scottish philosopher David Hume denied the possibility of individuals who were entirely rational – famously stating that reason is but a slave to the passions – Hume was nevertheless an NT himself. Similarly, the early Buddhist philosophy of ancient India relied heavily on personal insight and insight into the nature of reality; the Buddha told his followers to accept nothing on good faith that they were not able to ground in their own concrete personal experience, yet in terms of type most of these classical Indian philosophers were intuitives as well. In short, we cannot look so much at Epicurus’ conclusions as we must look at his methods and his manner of presenting himself when determining his type.

Bearing that in mind, the cognitive themes that appear to have been prevalent in Epicurus’ mental activities are individual freedom and self-determination and self-sufficiency. Likewise, his psychological approach to the problem with which he dealt appears characterised by a level-headed realism and pragmatism. By realism we allude to the fact that Epicurus was one of the few philosophers who did not practice philosophy for philosophy’s sake. Shying away from reflection for reflection’s sake, Epicurus avoided one of the chief weaknesses of having a preference for intuition, namely that of overreflection.

No, to Epicurus the pursuit of philosophy was only valuable in so far as it pointed the way to concrete, practical advice for how to live one’s life. Keeping in mind that what was then called ‘philosophy’ encompassed a much broader field than ‘philosophy’ does today, one could say that  had Epicurus lived today, he may equally well have been a self-help expert and not a philosopher.

True, Epicurus had a primitive cosmology that explained to his followers why snow, hail, lightning and rainbows were not divine magic, but in fact just natural phenomena. But unlike other Greek cosmologists, Epicurus did not delve into cosmology as an end in itself: The cosmology of Epicurus has a concrete application, namely to tell his followers not to fear the gods, but to focus on their own lives, in the here and now.

Also, unlike most other Greek philosophers, who either avoided or attacked the mob, Epicurus was sought-out to disseminate and distribute his philosophy onto others; even to people with no interest in philosophy whatsoever. He was, in other words, uncannily good at promoting his thought to others, and especially so when compared to other philosophers of both modern and ancient times.

In presenting his philosophy to others, Epicurus was not coy about the worth that he accorded to his own message. In letters intended to persuade others to follow his philosophy, he sold his message thus:

“Exercise [my philosophy] day and night [and] then never … will you despair, for you will live as a god among men.”

“I, who devote my continuous energy to [my philosophy] and who reap the [rewards of an] enjoyable life like this – I have prepared for you [a] manual [that outlines my] doctrines as a whole.”

And although Epicurus was a philosopher, he was no ivory-tower intellectual who would lose himself in abstractions, but a worldly man for whom reflection had value in so far as it is grounded in factual reality and yields a practical application:

“In [our] study we must not conform to … arbitrary laws, but follow … the facts. … Life has no need of unreason and false opinion; our one goal is untroubled existence.”

“We must observe each fact … and further separate from it all the [other] facts presented along with it, the occurrence of which from various causes is not contradicted by facts within our experience.”

“It is the privilege of the mature student to make a ready use of his conceptions by referring every one of them to elementary facts.”

“It is impossible to gather up the results of continuous diligent study of the entirety of things, unless we can embrace in short formulas and hold in mind all that might have been accurately expressed even to the minutest detail.”

In the last quote above we have bolded the phrase ‘short formulas’ because it is an ESTP trademark to distill their wisdom down to concise advice for achieving one’s goals in life. Modern cases in point are Stephen Covey (author of ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’) and Dale Carnegie (author of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’). Indeed, Epicurus is also known for his ‘Four-part-cure’ – the Tetrapharmakos which is commonly described as a ‘recipe for leading the happiest possible life’…:

“Don’t fear god,
Don’t worry about death;
What is good is easy to get, and
What is terrible is easy to endure.”

… and which might easily have been titled ‘4 Habits of Highly Happy People.’