For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by peace and freedom from fear, the absence of pain, and by living a. Read The Essential Epicurus PDF - Letters, Principal Doctrines, Vatican Sayings, and Fragments by Epicurus Prometheus Books | Epicureanis. Keywords Epicurus Æ Happiness Æ Advice Æ Ascetic Æ Hedonism Æ .. but the resulting happiness of the members lacked an essential ingredient: the.

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Epicurus was an Hellenistic Greek philosopher, an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on. From Reprinted by permission. The Principal Doctrines of Epicurus. The four-fold cure for anxiety: Don't fear the gods; . The Essential Epicurus book. Read 35 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. Epicureanism is commonly regarded as the refined satisfactio.

The trichotomy thus seems able to accommodate desires not only for things seen as intrinsic goods, but also for instrumental goods as well. Some scholars — including Warren and Luper-Foy —criticize Epicurus on the grounds that an Epicurean would lack sufficient reason to continue to live, since he would have to avoid desires, attachments, and projects that might be cut short by death.

An Epicurean can have all sorts of desires and pro- jects, so long as he maintains those desires with the attitude that, if necessary, he can let them go.

He wants to continue living in order to keep working on it; the project furnishes him with ample opportunities for varying pleasure, maintaining his tranquility, and avoiding disturbance and boredom. But suppose he discovers that he has a terminal illness and will be unable to finish his book.

In this way, merely natural desires give a person reasons to continue living, though they do not provide any reason to fear death. He writes, It is difficult to see … that a desire can be strong enough to motivate an agent to act but be weak enough that the individual should remain entirely indifferent to its fulfillment.

Further, the problem for the Epicurean is that in order not to fear death at all, in order not to feel anxious at the thought that he might die and be prevented from obtaining some goal, it appears that there should be no desires held with sufficient strength that they are accompanied by anxiety about their fulfillment.

See also Rosenbaum , Rider desires and how we conceptualize them, in the context of our lives as a whole, that cause anxiety, not how strong or weak the desires are whatever that means.

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To use my earlier example, I could be strongly motivated to fin- ish my book insofar as I enjoy the time that I spend on it, and thus devote much of my free time to working on it but then, when it becomes clear I cannot finish it, I shrug my shoulders and move on.

Such a psychological atti- tude may be difficult to imagine or cultivate, but it is not obvious that it is impossible. Any claim about stages or goals a life must achieve seems arbitrary and unhelpful.

Why take these notions so seriously, to the extent that we consider our lives deficient if we fail to achieve what society tells us we must? Overall worries rightly, I think that this model is often rooted in subconscious ageism — we assume that older people have less value and possibility and can no longer fully enjoy life. As Epicurus points out, people falsely think that it is for a young man to live well but that all that is left for an old man is to die well Ep.

The doctrines differ in significant ways, of course, but they are simi- lar in that both explain how our lives contain many activities and things that — although we spend significant time and energy on them — are not indispensable in the final reckoning. The point of philosophical reflection, for both schools, is to illuminate the difference between what is necessary for happiness and what is not and to help us to realign our priorities accordingly.

Hav- ing internalized this way of thinking, such people suppose that death is a terri- ble misfortune, because it puts an end to their continued and theoretically un- limited accumulation of goods. Epicurus and Lucretius deploy several different strategies for bringing to light the dangerous errors they think are inherent in this model of evaluation, some better than others. Appetite-satisfactions and epi- sodes of pleasurable sensation kinetic pleasures can be counted, accumulated, compared, and maximized.

Once a person reaches the limit of pleasure, further striving to add more and more bursts of pleasure is unnecessary. I am sympathetic with the idea of identifying a qualitative limit to pleasure.

Unfortunately, as some scholars have pointed out, this response fails as a re- sponse to the Additive Model, because even Epicurean pleasure can be quanti- fied, if not in distinct episodes, then at least in terms of duration.

Ten years of pleasant living is still more than five months, which seems to be enough for the Additive Model to get a grip. The original source of this reading of the myth may be Gorgias a-4a.

Rider A second response that appears in Epicurean texts rests on the naturalism of ancient ethics. Lucre- tius makes this line of argument explicit, in the climax of his own discussion on death: Besides, what is this great and evil lust of life that drives us to be so greatly agitated amidst doubt and peril? There is an end fixed for the life of mortals [certa … finis vitae mortalibus], and death cannot be avoided, but die we must.

The Additive Model, however, posits a goal for human life the limitless accumula- tion of goods that we cannot achieve. This second response makes assumptions about the constraints on ethical theory that most ancient philosophers shared, but that we might question to- day. Ancient philosophers assumed that the goal of ethical theory is to tell us how to become the best humans we can be, taking human nature as given. Even when ancient ethicists recommend transcending certain aspects of humanity e.

The purpose of ethics in the ancient world was to make sense of human life as a whole and to uncover and refute notions and desires that are inconsis- tent with the necessary, natural truths of being human.

Today, however, rightly or wrongly, we are not as quick to agree that hu- man nature is or should be either immutable or normative. Most people think we can and should improve on nature, even human nature; therefore, it is not necessarily an objection if a theory posits goals that are inconsistent with the way that humans currently are.

Nature is both fallible and mutable, and we might improve upon it. We do not have to accept our natural status perhaps even our mortality. If your body is not al- ready withered with years and your limbs worn out and languid, yet everything remains the same, even if you shall go on to outlive all generations […] 3. Rider identical to the eternal blessedness of the gods SV 33; D. Thus, someone might desire to continue living, not to improve the quality of her pleasant state which is impossible , but rather to experience further variations upon it.

If that is true, Nature may be making the point that the range of variations has limits.

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For example, once you have seen the same movie five times, seeing it again is pointless — whatever value the variation has soon wears off with repetition.

The same reasoning applies to other kinds of variation. Therefore, since there are only so many ways to vary your experience, there is no point in extending life indefinitely. No matter how long you go on living, you will just be adding more of the same to the experiences you have already enjoyed.

Of course, as has rightly been pointed out, it would take considerable time to experience all possible variations. Would that give you reason to fear death and desire further life?

Some will find this reasoning compelling, but as with the previous re- sponses, it is not decisive. The proponent of the Additive Model might ask: Why not desire more of the same? If the point is to accumulate goods, it should not matter if the goods accumulated are qualitatively similar, as long as they con- tinue to provide pleasure.

The pleasures of life may lose their savor someday, but that does not mean it is not desirable to continue living until that day comes. That is the intuition behind the Additive Model. Here, however, the atti- tudes underlying the Additive Model begin to become clear.

As he vividly illus- trates, Nature has provided a banquet of pleasures for humans, yet they remain unsatisfied DRN 3. Ingratitude and dissatisfaction only spoil that chance. Both Epicurus and Lucretius suggest we should be grateful for our lives, but grateful to whom? Epicurean gods do not concern themselves with human affairs and are not responsible for the circumstances of our lives, in any event Ep.

Of course, the claim that those who desire more life are ungrateful is harder to make when the person dying is young and has had relatively little life to enjoy.

Remember, on the Epicurean position, the only relevant consideration when evaluating a life is its quality; quantity does not matter. Some Epicureans seem to have recognized this problem; in a brief passage in De Morte, Philodemus appears to suggest that, indeed, some time is needed be- fore a person can be counted blessed: But as things are, the greatest good is acquired by a man who has become wise and then in addition lived for a certain period of time.

His way of life has become stable and consistent and it is quite appropriate for him to proceed on his way forever, should that be possible.

Whenever Epicurus refers to the Additive Model as in Ep. Rider natural limits of desire, he is able to achieve satisfaction, tranquility, and happi- ness and does not need more.

At any point, one could imagine adding more pleasurable experiences or a longer duration of good liv- ing—since, ex hypothesi, a life with more good is always better. Satisfaction is impossible.

No matter when you die, you feel you are being deprived of further goods that you might have enjoyed.

Actually, it is worse than that—whenever your death occurs, you are actually being deprived of an infinite amount of goods. Death would always be a terrible misfortune, no matter when it occurred, and our mortal lives will always seem cursed, compared to the immortality we might or per- haps should have had. This result is highly counterintuitive, and for the Epicureans, it constitutes a reductio ad absurdum of the Additive Model.

In addition, it would, as Epicurus fears, make anyone who has internalized the Additive Model extremely afraid of death. Indeed, people might imagine an eternal afterlife, with judgmental gods that must be propitiated, as the only way of compensating for the apparent tra- gedy that has befallen all of us in being born mortal.

Perhaps a clever defender of the Additive Model could respond, by working out a version of the model that avoids the slippery slope to unlimited desire. Nevertheless, this consequence seems inherent in the basic intuitive model that drives much pre-philosophical thinking about death.

Lucretius, DRN 3. As Epicurus seeks to show, either option faces problems.

The Essential Epicurus

Epicurus thinks we should judge lives on how they are lived, not on how they turn out or how long they go on. We should enjoy the time we have, rather than worrying about nebulous, so- cially imposed goals or our running total of good experiences. In what circumstances should one fear it? Whom does death harm? For Epicurus, however, these are the wrong questions to ask.

On the con- trary, he would argue that we should examine our thoughts about death so that we might discover what they reveal about how we value life. In addition, many scholars consider the epic poem On the Nature of Things by Lucretius to present in one unified work the core arguments and theories in Epicurus's writings.

Epicureanism emphasizes the neutrality of gods on earth and that they do not interfere with the world we live in.

It also states that gods, matter and souls are all made from the same thing atoms. Souls are made from atoms, and gods possess souls, but their souls adhere to the bodies without escaping. In the case of humans we do have the same kind of souls, but the forces between our atoms do not possess the fortitude to hold the soul forever. Epicureanism is probably the first philosophical school which introduced the social contract, in that the laws established by this school of thought are based on mutual agreement, not divine decree.

Epicurus' school, called "The Garden," seems to have been a moderately ascetic community which rejected the political limelight of Athenian philosophy. They were fairly cosmopolitan by Athenian standards, including women and slaves, and were probably vegetarians. I appreciate the encourage- ment and care of my wife, Hana, who has always reassured me in my pursuits.

Our daughter, Kaede, has also been a wonderful source for the practising of Democritean cheerfulness. Analytica Posteriora De An. De Anima On the Soul N. Nicomachean Ethics Phys. Physics Athenaeus Deipn. Academica Academics De Fat. Diogenes of Oinoanda Dox. Epistula ad Herodotum Letter to Herodotus Ep. Epistula ad Menoeceum Letter to Menoeceus Ep. Epistula ad Pythoclem Letter to Pythocles K. Kyriai Doxai Principal Doctrines S.

Papyrus Herculaneum Philodemus De Oec. De Legibus On Laws Phaedr. Phaedrus Theat. Theaetetus Tim. Pliny the Elder N. Adversus Mathematicos P. He maintained that all speculation is worth- while in as much as it helps to turn human suffering into pleasure, and, in fact, into a very special sort of pleasure: the absence of pain. Epicurus thought that the diverse constituent conditions and their consequent pleasurable affections are valuable only if they dispel pain and help the living being to attain a balanced, healthy and, therefore, tranquil condition.

He pointed to the cradle and took infant behaviour as sufficient evidence to establish the cornerstone of his ethics, the thesis that every living being instinctively pursues pleasure and avoids pain. Although it seems far from evident what conclusions can be drawn from infant behaviour, Epicurus took the Cradle Argument to justify that humans are nat- urally motivated to pursue pleasure and to avoid pain and he built his normative theory around this idea, in accordance with the formal requirements of the ancient ethical traditions.

The Essential Epicurus: Letters, Principal Doctrines, Vatican Sayings, and Fragments by Epicurus

Consequently, most modern discussions of his ethics have revolved around the relationship between how the descriptive and norma- tive parts of his theory are compatible with each other, but there has been much less focus on the relationship between his conception of the psychological development of living beings and his ethics. The evidence is meagre and frag- mentary, but it is available, and I aim to bring it back to life in the following examination.

Hence in this book I piece together the evidence available on the Epicurean conception of the self. In the Letter to Menoeceus, an epitome of his ethics, he took such a devel- oped, desiring agent for granted, and he concentrated, in arguing for his nor- mative theory, on the classification of human desires.

This is where my investigation of the conception of self in his philosophy will start. This was a necessary implication since — as I will argue — Epicurus entertained a general sensationalist view according to which affections are not only the internal criteria for action, but are also the criteria of truth.

What people conceive through their affections, therefore, is strongly con- nected with the external world; thus, how people conceive of their own agency depends naturally on the origin of their affections in the environment. Observing their social networks and contemplating the causal connections of the perceived phenomena through their own naturally acquired pre-conceptual and conceptual set, people can expand their understanding, and with the help of self-reflective thinking can attribute to their own agency the pre-conception of the cause, forming the idea of their own responsibility.

We shall learn, for example, the function of memory in thinking, which I will also investigate fur- ther in the following chapters.

This digression is necessary in order to show how Epicurus built a philosophically tenable explanation of self-awareness, taking his cue from the phenomena, the foundation of his empiricist philosophy. In the later fragments of On Nature XXV, Epicurus turned to account for the possibility of responsible agency in the framework of his atomist physics, to show how the concept of a responsible agent was compatible with his atomism.

There is no scholarly agreement about whether he was successful, or indeed about how he set about doing this, or even what exactly he wished to achieve in this part of his work. These fragments have been at the forefront of debates concerning his philosophy of mind.

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The magnitude of pleasure reaches its limit in the removal of all pain. Sirs and Madams, When it comes to ethics, no one trumps Epicurus. Laursen, S. Clear your head of chatter, focus on your kinesthetic sixth sense, that is, being mindful of your body moving in space.

There never was an absolute justice, but only an agreement made in reciprocal association in whatever localities now and again from time to time, providing against the infliction or suffering of harm.

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