The Seven Principles of Autarchy are seven general guiding ideas that were distilled from the reasonings about Philodemus of Gadara’s Herculaneum scroll On Property Management which were published in Society of Epicurus. They are guides to aid in memorization of key, useful points that can be gleaned from the scroll, following the Epicurean educational tradition of short, concise summaries of ideas, as well as conversation starters for students of philosophy who want to delve deeper into pragmatic aspects of the tradition–in this case, Epicurean economics. They are:
1. There is a natural measure of wealth (as opposed to the corrupt, cultural measure of wealth), which is tied to natural and necessary desires. Understanding this will provide us with serenity and indifference to profit and loss.
2. There is social wealth in addition to the wealth of things and possessions.
3. Philodemus plainly stated it: the philosopher does not toil. However, we must always remember that toil is evil, not productivity.
4. Association is important in labor. We must choose our company prudently.
5. Our revenue must more than meet our immediate needs: it must facilitate a life of leisure. Anything less is wage slavery.
6. It’s always prudent to cultivate multiple streams of income, among which deriving fees from teaching philosophy, rental property income and business ownership, which includes gainful employment of others, have special priority.
7. It’s also prudent to have fruitful possessions. The various forms of ownership of means of production is another way to independence that can potentially relieve us of toil.
The first principle is:
There is a natural measure of wealth (as opposed to the corrupt, cultural measure of wealth), which is tied to natural and necessary desires. Understanding this will provide us with serenity and indifference to profit and loss.
An Epicurean “Measure of Wealth” in Horace, Satires 1.1, by Sergio Yona
The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure;
but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.
– Principal Doctrine 15
[One] must [regard] wealth [beyond] what is natural [as of no more use than water] to a container that is full [to] overflowing.
We can look at the other people’s possessions [without envy] and experience [purer] pleasure than they can; for [we are free from cravings]. – Diogenes’ Wall, Fragment 108
[Expecting] that they will find the pleasant life [above all] in wealth, they embark on a frenzied quest for it; then, if they become wealthy, they are indignant at not finding what they expected. – Diogenes’ Wall, Fragment 124
Indeed, I think that the right management of wealth lies in this: in not feeling distressed about what one loses and in not trapping oneself on treadmills because of an obsessive zeal concerning the more and the less. – Philodemus of Gadara
Surely, Socrates always had the characteristic of impracticality. Besides, as regards his claim that five minae seem to him sufficient for the necessary and natural needs of men, that prosperity in life is something empty, and that he does not need anything more in addition to those, it is impracticable and conflicts with reason. – Philodemus, On Weath Management, Column IV