Fundamentals Of Epicurean Philosophy

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Nature: What Kind of Universe Do We Live In? Was the universe created by a god or by forces that are supernatural or random? Epicurus taught:

N1. Nothing comes from nothing and nothing goes to nothing.

Therefore the universe as a whole has existed eternally.

EP 1. Matter is uncreateable.

EP 2. Matter is indestructible.

Therefore the universe was not created at any single point in time, neither by a god nor by any other single event.

N2. Everything in the universe is composed of combinations of elementary matter and void.

Therefore nothing else exists - no Religious "heaven" or "hell," no Spiritual or other dimension, no Platonic "ideals," no Aristotelian "essences." Nothing exists except elementary matter, void, and their combinations.

EP 3. The universe consists of solid bodies and void.
EP 4. Solid bodies are either compounds or simple.

N3. The amount of elementary matter and void in the universe is unlimited in extent.

Therefore the universe as a whole is unlimited in extent.

Therefore the universe as a whole has no center and no edge.

Therefore the earth is not uniquely positioned at the center of the universe.

EP 5. The multitude of atoms is infinite.

EP 6. The void is infinite in extent.

N4. The elementary matter is always in motion.

Therefore the universe is constantly changing.

EP 7. The atoms are always in motion.

N5. The elementary matter moves through the void at a uniform speed, but vibrates in compounds due to collisions.

Therefore the change in the universe is not chaotic, but subject to laws of motion.

EP 8. The speed of atomic motion is uniform.

EP 9. Motion is linear in space, vibratory in compounds.

N6. The elementary matter is capable of swerving from its path at no fixed place or time.

Therefore not everything in the universe is predetermined from the beginning of time.

Lucretius Book 2 - I'd have you know that while these particles come mostly down, straight down of their own weight through void, at times- no one knows when or where - they swerve a little, not much, but just enough for us to say they change direction. Were this not the case, all things would fall straight down, like drops of rain, through utter void, no birth-shock would emerge out of collision, nothing be created. ... If cause forever follows after cause In infinite, undeviating sequence and a new motion always has to come out of an old one, by fixed law; if atoms do not, by swerving, cause new moves which break the laws of fate; if cause forever follows, in infinite sequence, cause - where would we get this free will that we have, wrested from fate, by which we go ahead, each one of us, wherever our pleasures urge? Don't we also swerve at no fixed time or place, but as our purpose directs us? There's no doubt each man's will initiates action, and this prompting stirs our limbs to movement. When the gates fly open, no racehorse breaks as quickly as he wants to, for the whole body of matter must be aroused, inspired to follow what the mind desires. So, you can see, motion begins with will of heart or mind, and from that will moves on through all the framework.

N7. The elementary matter has varying weights, shapes, and sizes, but the number of these variations not infinite, only innumerable.

Therefore the properties of elementary matter and the combinations formed by elementary matter and void are not unlimited, but limited by the properties of the elementary matter and its combinations.

EP 11. Atoms are characterized by three qualities: weight, shape and size.

EP 12. The number of the different shapes is not infinite, merely innumerable.

N8. Combinations of elementary matter and void are not by nature eternal but are created and destroyed.

Therefore while the universe as a whole is eternal, the combinations of elementary matter and void are not eternal.

N9. To the extent that "perfect" combinations of elementary matter and void exist, such perfect things (including perfect beings) neither cause nor receive trouble, because causing and receiving trouble are characteristics only of things which are weak.

Therefore to the extent that any life forms, or any combinations of elementary matter and void, have developed the capacity to live without end, they neither cause change to us nor or are they changed by any actions we may take.

PD 1. The blessed and immortal nature knows no trouble itself nor causes trouble to any other, so that it is never constrained by anger or favour. For all such things exist only in the weak.

N10. Nature never creates only a single instance of any kind of thing.

Therefore life exists throughout the universe, as the Earth cannot possibly be the only place where life exists.

Lucretius Book 2 - "Furthermore, adding up all the sum, you'll never find one single thing completely different from all the rest, alone, apart, unique, sole product, single specimen of its kind. Look at the animals: is this not true of mountain-ranging species, and of men, of the silent schools of fish, of flying things? Likewise you must admit that earth, sun, moon, ocean, and all the rest, are not unique, but beyond reckoning or estimate.

N11. In the Universe as a whole, every thing has its match and counterpart. This principle of uniform distribution is known as "isonomia."

Therefore, for example, there are as many "immortal" beings as "mortal" beings in the universe.

Therefore, for example, if the causes which bring about destruction of bodies are beyond count, the causes which bring about the coming together of bodies are also beyond count.

Cicero's On the Nature of the Gods - Moreover there is the supremely potent principle of infinity, which claims the closest and most careful study; we must understand that it has in the sum of things everything has its exact match and counterpart. This property is termed by Epicurus isonomia, or the principle of uniform distribution. From this principle it follows that if the whole number of mortals be so many, there must exist no less a number of immortals, and if the causes of destruction are beyond count, the causes of conservation also are bound to be infinite.

Knowledge: How Do We Decide Anything? How do we know the difference between true and false? What is truth? Can we know anything at all? Epicurus taught:

K1. Knowledge Of Things That Are Relevant To Us Is Attainable If We Pursue That Knowledge In Ways Consistent With The Nature of The Universe

Therefore we must not pursue knowledge in ways that are contrary to the facts of nature, and of these erroneous methods of pursuing nature there are three primary errors:

It is an error to think that knowledge must be based on "forms" or "models" or "ideals" that are held to exist in another reality. This error leads to the belief that the things we experience around us originate from and are to be understood according to those nonexistent "forms." (Plato and others)

It is an error to think that knowledge must be based on "essences" that are held to exist as a part within the things we experience around us, This error leads to the belief that the things we experience around us originate and are to be understood according to these nonexistent "essences." (Aristotle and others)

It is an error to think that knowledge must be based on divine revelation or by reference to "gods" or "prime movers" who create all things according to their divine will. This error leads to the belief that the things around us originated and are to be understood according to religion. (Judaism, Christianity, and others)

Therefore we must pursue knowledge by studying the facts of nature, which means that we must remember that we ourselves, as well as the subject of our knowledge, and our means of considering that knowledge, derive from (1) the eternal properties of the elementary matter, and (2) the temporary qualities of the bodies that are formed by the combinations of elementary matter and void.

Therefore our pursuit of knowledge must be based only on the faculties of observation that Nature has brought into existence through the movement of the elementary matter and the bodies that they form.

K2. The Faculties of Observation Provided By Nature Are The Tools By Which We Measure Truth. These are collectively referred to as the Epicurean "Canon of Truth."

The Faculty of Seeing is an inborn capacity which allows us "to see," producing something that we call "a sight." An example of the field in which this faculty operates is that of "seeing the sun." The faculty of sight reports to our minds exactly what it perceives without error or added opinion. But when we speak of "the act of seeing" we are generally including also the thing seen, or "a sight." It is important to keep in mind the difference between "the faculty of seeing" and "a sight." What our mind concludes about the significance of what it perceives as seen -- that is, about its total effect on ourselves, about the nature of the object, and about the conditions of observation which exist when we perceive any particular "sight" -- is an evaluative process that is subject to error. The necessity of considering these factors does not negate the value of the faculty of sight, but requires that we work to understand each experience of seeing so as to accurately understand its significance.

The Faculty of Hearing is an inborn capacity which allows us "to hear," producing something that we call "a sound." An example of the field in which this faculty operates is that of "hearing a song." The faculty of hearing reports to our minds exactly what it perceives without error or added opinion. But when we speak of "the act of hearing" we are generally including also the thing heard, or "a sound." It is important to keep in mind the difference between "the faculty of hearing" and "a sound." What our mind concludes about the significance of what it perceives as heard -- that is, about its total effect on ourselves, about the nature of the object, and about the conditions of observation which exist when we perceive any particular "sound" -- is an evaluative process that is subject to error. The necessity of considering these factors does not negate the value of the faculty of hearing, but requires that we work to understand each experience of hearing so as to accurately understand its significance.

The Faculty of Touching is an inborn capacity which allows us "to touch," producing something that we call "a touch." An example of the field in which this faculty operates is that of "touching a statue." The faculty of touch reports to our minds exactly what it perceives without error or added opinion. But when we speak of "the act of touching" we are generally including also the thing touched, or "a touch." It is important to keep in mind the difference between "the faculty of touching" and "a touch." What our mind concludes about the significance of what it perceives as touched -- that is, about its total effect on ourselves, about the nature of the object, and about the conditions of observation which exist when we perceive any particular "touch" -- is an evaluative process that is subject to error. The necessity of considering these factors does not negate the value of the faculty of touch, but requires that we work to understand each experience of touching so as to accurately understand its significance.

The Faculty of Tasting is an inborn capacity which allows us "to taste," producing something that we call "a taste." An example of the field in which this faculty operates is that of "tasting a fig." The faculty of taste reports to our minds exactly what it perceives without error or added opinion. But when we speak of "the act of tasting" we are generally including also the thing seen, or "a taste." It is important to keep in mind the difference between "the faculty of tasting" and "a taste." What our mind concludes about the significance of what it perceives as tasted -- that is, about its total effect on ourselves, about the nature of the object, and about the conditions of observation which exist when we perceive any particular "taste" -- is an evaluative process that is subject to error. The necessity of considering these factors does not negate the value of the faculty of tasting, but requires that we work to understand each experience of tasting so as to accurately understand its significance.

The Faculty of Smelling is an inborn capacity which allows us "to smell," producing something that we call "an odor" or "a smell." An example of the field in which this faculty operates is that of "smelling a flower." The faculty of smelling reports to our minds exactly what it perceives without error or added opinion. But when we speak of "the act of smelling" we are generally including also the thing smelled, or "a smell." It is important to keep in mind the difference between "the faculty of smelling" and "a smell." What our mind concludes about the significance of what it perceives as smelled -- that is, about its total effect on ourselves, about the nature of the object, and about the conditions of observation which exist when we perceive any particular "smell" -- is an evaluative process that is subject to error. The necessity of considering these factors does not negate the value of the faculty of smell, but requires that we work to understand each experience of smelling so as to accurately understand its significance.

The Faculty of Anticipations is an inborn capacity which allows us "to anticipate" an abstract relationship, producing something that we call "an anticipation." An example of the field in which this faculty operates is that of "classifying justice." The faculty of anticipation reports to our minds exactly what it perceives without error or added opinion. But when we speak of "the act of anticipating" we are generally including also the abstraction perceived, or "an anticipation." It is important to keep in mind the difference between "the faculty of anticipations" and "an anticipation." What our mind concludes about the significance of what it perceives as anticipated -- that is, about its total effect on ourselves, about the nature of the abstract relationship, and about the conditions of observation which exist when we perceive any particular "anticipation" -- is an evaluative process that is subject to error. The necessity of considering these factors does not negate the value of the faculty of anticipation, but requires that we work to understand each experience of anticipating so as to accurately understand its significance.

The Faculty of "Feelings" or "Passions" is a collective name given in Epicurean Philosophy to the Faculty of Pleasure and Pain - the inborn capacity which allows us to experience Pleasure and Pain. This faculty operates in conjunction with each of the other faculties listed above, and concerns not only physical objects but also mental thoughts. This faculty operates in all fields of perception and conception of which men are capable, from the most simple experience of tasting or touching to the most complicated experience of mental consideration of the most complicated or exalted emotions and abstractions. This is the only faculty given to living beings by Nature for the direct experience of anything - from the most simple to the most complex - as desirable or undesirable. It is because the Faculty of Pleasure is our only natural faculty for experiencing that which is desirable in life that Lucretius refers to "Divine Pleasure, Guide of Life." But the great mistake of many philosophers is to condemn pleasure and extol pain. This mistake occurs even though no one rejects, dislikes or avoids pleasure in itself, simply because it is pleasure. This mistake occurs because those who do not pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Another reason for this mistake is that people fail to understand that mental pleasure and pain is often much more important in life and intense than physical pleasure and pain. It is therefore very important to keep in mind that the Faculty of Pleasure and Pain must be considered and employed wisely, using using the same framework as the other faculties:

The "Faculty of Pleasure" allows us "to experience as pleasing," producing something that we call "a pleasure." The faculty of pleasure reports to our minds exactly what it perceives without error or added opinion. But when we speak of "the act of experiencing pleasure" we are generally including also the thing perceived as pleasing, or "a pleasure." It is important to keep in mind the difference between "the faculty of pleasure" and "a pleasure." What our mind concludes about the significance of what it perceives as pleasing -- that is, about its total effect on ourselves, about the nature of whatever we find to be pleasing, and about the conditions of observation which exist when we perceive any particular "pleasure" -- is an evaluative process that is subject to error. The necessity of considering these factors does not negate the value of the faculty of Pleasure, but requires that we work to understand each experience of pleasure so as to accurately understand its significance.

The "Faculty of Pain" allows us "to experience as painful," producing something that we call "a pain." The faculty of pain reports to our minds exactly what it perceives without error or added opinion. But when we speak of "the act of experiencing pain" we are generally including also the thing perceived as painful, or "a pain." It is important to keep in mind the difference between "the faculty of experiencing pain" and "a pain." What our mind concludes about the significance of what it perceives as painful -- that is, about its total effect on ourselves, about the nature of whatever we find to be painful, and about the conditions of observation which exist when we perceive any particular "pain" -- is an evaluative process that is subject to error. The necessity of considering these factors does not negate the value of the faculty of Pain, but requires that we work to understand each experience of pain so as to accurately understand its significance.

K3. We Must Apply The Proper Standard of "Certainty" In Applying the Canon of Truth.

Therefore we do not seek to understand everything equally well, nor do we expect to understand that which is not possible for us to understand. We seek only to have firm convictions about those things which are necessary for our peace of mind.

Letter to Pythocles: In the first place, remember that, like everything else, knowledge of celestial phenomena, whether taken along with other things or in isolation, has no other end in view than peace of mind and firm convictions. We do not seek to wrest by force what is impossible, nor to understand all matters equally well, nor make our treatment always as clear as when we discuss human life or explain the principles of physics in general—for instance, that the whole of being consists of bodies and intangible nature, or that the ultimate elements of things are indivisible, or any other proposition which admits only one explanation of the phenomena to be possible.

K4. "Reason" and "logic" are not faculties of observation. Properly understood, "reason" and "logic" are only the names we give to the important process of accurately comparing, contrasting, analogizing, and evaluating the data obtained by our faculties of observation.

Therefore there is an important but subordinate role for "reason" and "logic" in classifying conclusions about what is "true" and "false."

PD 16. In but few things chance hinders a wise man, but the greatest and most important matters reason has ordained and throughout the whole period of life does and will ordain.

Diogenes Laertius - Biography of Epicurus: Every sensation, he says, is devoid of reason and incapable of memory; for neither is it self-caused nor, regarded as having an external cause, can it add anything thereto or take anything therefrom. Nor is there anything which can refute sensations or convict them of error: one sensation cannot convict another and kindred sensation, for they are equally valid; nor can one sensation refute another which is not kindred but heterogeneous, for the objects which the two senses judge are not the same; nor again can reason refute them, for reason is wholly dependent on sensation; nor can one sense refute another, since we pay equal heed to all. And the reality of separate perceptions guarantees the truth of our senses. But seeing and hearing are just as real as feeling pain. Hence it is from plain facts that we must start when we draw inferences about the unknown. For all our notions are derived from perceptions, either by actual contact or by analogy, or resemblance, or composition, with some slight aid from reasoning.

CIcero's On Ends: Logic, on which your [Stoic} school lays such stress, he [Epicurus] held to be of no effect either as a guide to conduct or as an aid to thought. Natural Philosophy he deemed all-important. This science explains to us the meaning of terms, the nature of predication, and the law of consistency and contradiction; secondly, a thorough knowledge of the facts of nature relieves us of the burden of superstition, frees us from fear of death, and shields us against the disturbing effects of ignorance, which is often in itself a cause of terrifying apprehensions; lastly, to learn what nature's real requirements are improves the moral character also. Besides, it is only by firmly grasping a well-established scientific system, observing the Rule or Canon that has fallen as it were from heaven so that all men may know it—only by making that Canon the test of all our judgments, that we can hope always to stand fast in our belief, unshaken by the eloquence of any man. On the other hand, without a full understanding of the world of nature it is impossible to maintain the truth of our sense-perceptions. Further, every mental presentation has its origin in sensation: so that no certain knowledge will be possible, unless all sensations are true, as the theory of Epicurus teaches that they are. Those who deny the validity of sensation and say that nothing can be perceived, having excluded the evidence of the senses, are unable even to expound their own argument. Besides, by abolishing knowledge and science they abolish all possibility of rational life and action. Thus Natural Philosophy supplies courage to face the fear of death; resolution to resist the terrors of religion; peace of mind, for it removes all ignorance of the mysteries of nature; self-control, for it explains the nature of the desires and distinguishes their different kinds; and, as I showed just now, the Canon or Criterion of Knowledge, which Epicurus also established, gives a method of discerning truth from falsehood.

Therefore the assertions of reason must constantly be tested against the data obtained from our faculties of observations:

Assertions of "reason" and "logic" should be concluded to be "true" when clear available evidence supports the conclusion, and no clear evidence contradicts the conclusion.

Assertions of "reason" and "logic" should be concluded to be "false" when clear available evidence contradicts the conclusion, and no clear evidence supports the conclusion.

Assertions of "reason" and "logic" which are not based on data from our faculties of observation, or on which the data from our faculties of observations is unclear, must not be considered "true," but considered "speculative" at best, and we must "wait" for additional evidence before concluding that the assertion is either true or false.

Ethics: How Should We Live? What is the goal of living? How should we pursue that goal? Epicurus taught:

E1. Men need not be concerned about "gods" - supernatural beings do not exist, and any higher beings which are "perfect" are not concerned with men.

Therefore it is false to believe that gods favor and reward their friends and disfavor and punish their enemies.

Therefore it is foolish to ask the gods to do things for us that we can do for ourselves.

PD 1. The blessed and immortal nature knows no trouble itself nor causes trouble to any other, so that it is never constrained by anger or favour. For all such things exist only in the weak.

E2. Men cease to exist at death and thereafter experience no sensations whatsoever.

Therefore there is no reward or punishment after death

Therefore all the pleasure that we want to experience must be experienced in life.

PD 2. Death is nothing to us, for that which is dissolved is without sensation; and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us.

E3. Pleasurable living is the ultimate goal of life set by nature. The highest degree of pleasurable living possible to us (the "limit of pleasure") is attained by filling our experience with pleasures and expelling all pains. But men who lack knowledge of the nature of the universe are troubled by fear of supernatural forces, and men who are not independent of other men fear their enemies. Men by nature are troubled by these concerns, so they must study of nature and pursue independence. It is not possible to live to the limit of pleasure unless we study nature and attain the power to live safely and apart from our enemies.

Therefore knowledge is indispensable for happy living, but knowledge is not an end in itself.

PD 11. If we were not troubled by our suspicions of the phenomena of the sky and about death, fearing that it concerns us, and also by our failure to grasp the limits of pains and desires, we should have no need of natural science.

PD 12. A man cannot dispel his fear about the most important matters if he does not know what is the nature of the universe but suspects the truth of some mythical story. So that without natural science it is not possible to attain our pleasures unalloyed.

PD13. There is no profit in securing protection in relation to men, if things above and things beneath the earth and indeed all in the boundless universe remain matters of suspicion.

PD 14. The most unalloyed source of protection from men, which is secured to some extent by a certain force of expulsion, is in fact the immunity which results from a quiet life and the retirement from the world.

E4. The pursuit of pleasure as the guide of life does not lead is not endless and is not in vain, because there is no goal higher than seeking the limit of mental and physical pleasure possible to you as an individual. You can experience that goal by filling your experience with pleasures and expelling all pains. Even if you are not able to expel every pain, pleasurable living is possible to most men because pain that is strong is generally short, and pain that is long is generally mild.

Therefore pleasurable living is the goal of life.

Therefore the escape from pain is not the goal of life, because the only means of total escape from pain is death, and the experience of pleasure, which is the goal of life, is only possible to the living.

PD 3. The limit of quantity in pleasures is the removal of all that is painful. Wherever pleasure is present, as long as it is there, there is neither pain of body nor of mind, nor of both at once.

PD 4. Pain does not last continuously in the flesh, but the acutest pain is there for a very short time, and even that which just exceeds the pleasure in the flesh does not continue for many days at once. But chronic illnesses permit a predominance of pleasure over pain in the flesh.

E5. It is possible for us to attain the limit of pleasure (the maximum pleasure possible to us) if we pursue pleasure intelligently.

Therefore we must not think that we can increase our limit of pleasure past the limit which we experience when we are living most pleasurably and also experiencingas little pain as possible

PD 18. The pleasure in the flesh is not increased, when once the pain due to want is removed, but is only varied: and the limit as regards pleasure in the mind is begotten by the reasoned understanding of these very pleasures and of the emotions akin to them, which used to cause the greatest fear to the mind.

Therefore we must not regret that we cannot live forever, because the limit of pleasure is not measured by the time available to us, but by our capacity to live as pleasurably as possible while also experiencing as little pain as possible, and the mind is capable of understanding this and eliminating the fear of death and regret that we are not immortal.

PD 19. Infinite time contains no greater pleasure than limited time, if one measures by reason the limits of pleasure.

PD 20. The flesh perceives the limits of pleasure as unlimited, and unlimited time is required to supply it. But the mind, having attained a reasoned understanding of the ultimate good of the flesh and its limits and having dissipated the fears concerning the time to come, supplies us with the complete life, and we have no further need of infinite time: but neither does the mind shun pleasure, nor, when circumstances begin to bring about the departure from life, does it approach its end as though it fell short in any way of the best life.

Therefore we must learn also that it is not necessary to compete with others in seeking pleasure, as it is easy to live a complete life without comparing ourselves with other men.

PD 21. He who has learned the limits of life knows that that which removes the pain due to want and makes the whole of life complete is easy to obtain, so that there is no need of actions which involve competition.

Therefore we must also learn to analyze our desires so as to pursue those which bring the most pleasure with the least accompanying pain.

PD 29. Among desires some are natural (and necessary, some natural) but not necessary, and others neither natural nor necessary, but due to idle imagination.

PD 30. Wherever in the case of desires which are physical, but do not lead to a sense of pain, if they are not fulfilled, the effort is intense, such pleasures are due to idle imagination, and it is not owing to their own nature that they fail to be dispelled, but owing to the empty imaginings of the man.

Therefore we must learn that it is as great an error to live too simply as it is to live too extravagantly, as the goal of life is pleasant living, and different circumstances will require and allow different levels of simplicity and luxury.

VS. 63. Frugality too has a limit, and the man who disregards it is like him who errs through excess.

E6. In pursuing pleasure we must remember that no pleasure is bad in itself, but some pleasures frequently bring more pain than the pleasure justifies.

Therefore in ALL actions we choose to pursue we must ask: "What will be the result if I pursue this and what will be the result if I do not?"

PD 8. No pleasure is a bad thing in itself: but the means which produce some pleasures bring with them disturbances many times greater than the pleasures.

Therefore we must remember that it is not the faculty of pleasure that is to blame when some men pursue actions we consider to be evil, it is the unintelligent or malicious mind of the individual that employs the faculty of pleasure in a way likely to bring more pain to him than pleasure.

PD 10. If the things that produce the pleasures of profligates could dispel the fears of the mind about the phenomena of the sky and death and its pains, and also teach the limits of desires (and of pains), we should never have cause to blame them: for they would be filling themselves full with pleasures from every source and never have pain of body or mind, which is the evil of life.

E7. In pursuing pleasure we must remember that no single pleasure can be pursued to the point where it consumes our lives, because if it did so there would never be any room for any other pleasures.

Therefore do not seek to pursue one pleasure to the exclusion of all others.

PD 9. If every pleasure could be intensified so that it lasted and influenced the whole organism or the most essential parts of our nature, pleasures would never differ from one another.

PD 15. The wealth demanded by nature is both limited and easily procured; that demanded by idle imaginings stretches on to infinity.

E8. Protecting yourself from other men is something that is naturally to be desired, and any action necessary to achieve this is justifiable. But fame and power frequently do not achieve this result for us, and those who pursue fame and power frequently do so in vain.

Therefore pursuit of fame and power can be justified in particular circumstances, but frequently the results do not justify the effort.

PD 6. To secure protection from men anything is a natural good by which you may be able to attain this end.

PD 7. Some men wished to become famous and conspicuous, thinking that they would thus win for themselves safety from other men. Wherefore if the life of such men is safe, they have obtained the good which nature craves; but if it is not safe, they do not possess that for which they strove at first by the instinct of nature.

E9. "Virtue" is not the goal of life, but simply the name we give to the necessary tools by which pleasurable living can be attained. It is not possible to live pleasurably without these tools, nor is it possible to employ these tools properly without living pleasurably.

Therefore it is essential to see that "virtue" is an empty word when divorced from the goal of pleasurable living, as other philosophers attempt to do.

PD 5. It is not possible to live pleasantly without living prudently and honorably and justly, [nor again to live a life of prudence, honor, and Justice] without living pleasantly. And the man who does not possess the pleasant life, is not living prudently and honorably and justly, [and the man who does not possess the virtuous life], cannot possibly live pleasantly.

E10. The only way to dismiss supersition and other fears from life is to live intelligently, and therefore confidently, and this requires that we study nature and employ the faculties of observation given us by Nature (the Epicurean Canon of Truth).

Therefore we must always keep our minds clearly focused on the goal of pleasurable living.

PD 22. We must consider both the real purpose and all the evidence of direct perception, to which we always refer the conclusions of opinion; otherwise, all will be full of doubt and confusion.

Therefore we must never allow ourselves to repress our faculties of observation, including our faculties of anticipations and our faculty of pain and pleasure, because if we abandon these we have no ability to judge what is true and what is false.

PD 23. If you fight against all sensations, you will have no standard by which to judge even those of them which you say are false.

PD 24. If you reject any single sensation and fail to distinguish between the conclusion of opinion as to the appearance awaiting confirmation and that which is actually given by the sensation or feeling, or each intuitive apprehension of the mind, you will confound all other sensations as well with the same groundless opinion, so that you will reject every standard of judgment. And if among the mental images created by your opinion you affirm both that which awaits confirmation and that which does not, you will not escape error, since you will have preserved the whole cause of doubt in every judgment between what is right and what is wrong.

PD 25. If on each occasion, instead of referring your actions to the end of nature, you turn to some other nearer standard when you are making a choice or an avoidance, your actions will not be consistent with your principles.

E11. It is possible for men to live wisely and pursue pleasure intelligently, for men are free agents and their actions are not wholly determined by outside forces.

Therefore we should reject both those who teach determinist views that men are nothing more than pawns of outside forces, and those who teach that men are playthings of chance.

Letter to Menoceus: Fate, which some introduce as sovereign over all things, he scorns, affirming rather that some things happen of necessity, others by chance, others through our own agency. For he sees that necessity destroys responsibility and that chance is inconstant; whereas our own actions are autonomous, and it is to them that praise and blame naturally attach. It were better, indeed, to accept the legends of the gods than to bow beneath that yoke of destiny which the natural philosophers have imposed. The one holds out some faint hope that we may escape if we honor the gods, while the necessity of the naturalists is deaf to all entreaties. Nor does he hold chance to be a god, as the world in general does, for in the acts of a god there is no disorder; nor to be a cause, though an uncertain one, for he believes that no good or evil is dispensed by chance to men so as to make life blessed, though it supplies the starting-point of great good and great evil. He believes that the misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool. It is better, in short, that what is well judged in action should not owe its successful issue to the aid of chance.

E12. If we live wisely we will see that our most important tool of happiness and security is friendship.

Therefore we will cultivate and protect our friends.

PD 27. Of all the things which wisdom acquires to produce the blessedness of the complete life, far the greatest is the possession of friendship.

PD 28. The same conviction which has given us confidence that there is nothing terrible that lasts forever or even for long, has also seen the protection of friendship most fully completed in the limited evils of this life.

E13. As with any other virtue, "Justice" is not the goal of life, but justice is essential to happy living because the just man is the most free from trouble, and the unjust is the most full of trouble.

Therefore we should seek arrangement with other men that are just.

PD 17. The just man is most free from trouble, the unjust most full of trouble.

E14. The ONLY true foundation of Justice is mutually advantageous agreement among intelligent beings to neither do or receive harm from each other.

Therefore we should pursue agreements with other men that are mutually advantageous.

PD 31. The justice which arises from nature is a pledge of mutual advantage to restrain men from harming one another and save them from being harmed.

E15. There is no such thing as absolute or universal justice or injustice.

Therefore what some men label "injustice" is never evil in and of itself, no matter how intensely we may dislike the activity. The penalty of injustice is only the pain that it brings to the men who are unjust.

PD 32. For all living things which have not been able to make compacts not to harm one another or be harmed, nothing ever is either just or unjust; and likewise too for all tribes of men which have been unable or unwilling to make compacts not to harm or be harmed.

PD 33. Justice never is anything in itself, but in the dealings of men with one another in any place whatever and at any time it is a kind of compact not to harm or be harmed.

PD 34. Injustice is not an evil in itself, but only in consequence of the fear which attaches to the apprehension of being unable to escape those appointed to punish such actions.

PD 35. It is not possible for one who acts in secret contravention of the terms of the compact not to harm or be harmed, to be confident that he will escape detection, even if at present he escapes a thousand times. For up to the time of death it cannot be certain that he will indeed escape.

E16. Because justice is founded on mutually advantageous agreements, relationships which change over time so as to no longer be mutually advantageous are no longer to be considered just.

Therefore human relationships must constantly be reexamined and reconstituted to fit circumstances in order for them to be labeled "just" or "unjust."

PD 36. In its general aspect justice is the same for all, for it is a kind of mutual advantage in the dealings of men with one another: but with reference to the individual peculiarities of a country or any other circumstances the same thing does not turn out to be just for all.

PD 37. Among actions which are sanctioned as just by law, that which is proved on examination to be of advantage in the requirements of men's dealings with one another, has the guarantee of justice, whether it is the same for all or not. But if a man makes a law and it does not turn out to lead to advantage in men's dealings with each other, then it no longer has the essential nature of justice. And even if the advantage in the matter of justice shifts from one side to the other, but for a while accords with the general concept, it is nonetheless just for that period in the eyes of those who do not confound themselves with empty sounds but look to the actual facts.

PD 38. Where, provided the circumstances have not been altered, actions which were considered just, have been shown not to accord with the general concept in actual practice, then they are not just. But where, when circumstances have changed, the same actions which were sanctioned as just no longer lead to advantage, there they were just at the time when they were of advantage for the dealings of fellow-citizens with one another, but subsequently they are no longer just, when no longer of advantage.

E17. The man who pursues happy living most intelligently will live among friends, and he will refrain from mixing with, and expel from his life, all those who are not his friends, or who are his enemies.

Therefore happy living requires us to constantly examine our circumstances and take action to pursue friendly relationships and separate ourselves from unfriendly relationships.

PD 39. The man who has best ordered the element of disquiet arising from external circumstances has made those things that he could akin to himself and the rest at least not alien; but with all to which he could not do even this, he has refrained from mixing, and has expelled from his life all which it was of advantage to treat thus.

PD 40. As many as possess the power to procure complete immunity from their neighbours, these also live most pleasantly with one another, since they have the most certain pledge of security, and after they have enjoyed the fullest intimacy, they do not lament the previous departure of a dead friend, as though he were to be pitied.

Restatement of the Epicurean Worldview In narrative form:

At a time when human life - before the eye of all - lay foully prostrate upon the Earth, crushed down under the weight of Religion, which showed its head from the quarters of heaven with hideous aspect, glowering down upon men, it was a man of Hellas who was the first to venture to lift up his mortal eyes, and stand up to Religion, face to face.

Lucretius Book I

This man could not be discouraged by stories of gods, nor by thunderbolts, nor by the threatening roar of heaven. These served only to spur him on, filling him with courage and the desire to be the first among men to burst the bars holding fast the gates of Nature.

Lucretius Book I

Thus the living force of his soul won the day. On he passed, far beyond the flaming walls of the world, traversing the immeasurable universe through mind and spirit.

Lucretius Book I

And from there, he returned again to us - a conqueror - to relate those things that can be, and those that can not, and to tell us on what principle each thing has its powers defined, its boundary-mark set deep.

Lucretius Book I

By his victory, the terror of religion is trampled underfoot, and we, in turn, are lifted to the stars.

Lucretius Book I

This man of Hellas then saw that mortals had attained those things which their needs required, that their lives had been established in safety, and that they abounded in wealth and honor and fame, and were proud of the good names of their children.

Lucretius Book VI

Yet he also saw that not one, for all that, had a heart that was less anguished, but all lived with tortured minds, without respite, and raging with complaints.

Lucretius Book VI

And then he understood that it was the vessel - a false view of life - that wrought the disease, corrupting and tainting all that was gathered within it, and he saw that this vessel was so leaky and full of holes that it could never be filled.

Lucretius Book VI

So with words of truth he purged the heart of man, setting limits to desires and fears, explaining the truth about the highest good toward which we all should strive, and pointing out the path whereby we may work toward that goal on a straight course.

Lucretius Book VI

He explained the nature of evil in mortal affairs, and how these evils come to pass by chance, or by force of Nature, rather than by the will of the gods.

Lucretius Book VI

And he showed from what gates we must march forth to combat each one, proving to us that it is mostly in vain that men toss their hearts in gloomy billows of care.

Lucretius Book VI

For just as children tremble and fear everything in the dark, so do we - even in the light - dread things that are not a bit more to be feared than the imagination of children.

Lucretius Book VI

These terrors and darknesses of mind must be dispelled, but not by gleaming shafts of daylight. Terrors such as these can only be scattered by study of the laws of Nature.

Lucretius Book VI

And so he taught us to grasp the principles of things above, the principles by which the sun and moon go on their courses, and the forces by which every thing on Earth proceeds.

Lucretius Book I

And he taught that above all we must find out by keen reasoning the nature of the soul and of the mind, and the nature of those things that frighten us when we are under the influence of disease, or buried in sleep, or when we seem to see or hear those who are long dead, and whose bones the Earth holds in its embrace.

Lucretius Book I

And he taught us that unless, at the very first, we have confidence in our senses as to those things which are clear and apparent to us, there will be nothing to which we can appeal when we seek to prove, by reasoning of the mind, anything about those things which are hidden.

Lucretius Book I

Thus the wise man will hold firmly to that which is true, and he will not be a mere skeptic.

Diogenes Laertius, Book X

Yet there are some men who will claim that nothing at all can be known. As for these, they know not whether even their own claim can be known, since they admit that they know nothing.

Lucretius, Book IV

We therefore decline to argue with men who place their head where their feet should be. And yet, even if we granted their claim that they know nothing, we would still ask these questions:

Lucretius, Book IV

Since they have never yet seen any truth in any thing, how do they know what "knowing" and "not knowing" are? What is it that has produced in them this knowledge of the true and the false? What is it that has proved to them the difference between the doubtful and the certain?

Lucretius, Book IV

That which is able to refute the false must by nature be provable with a higher certainty to be true. And what can fairly be accounted of higher certainty than sensation?

Lucretius, Book IV

Can reasoning alone contradict the senses, when reasoning itself is wholly founded on the senses? If the senses are not true, all reasoning is rendered false as well.

Lucretius, Book IV

So if by reasoning you are unable to explain why a thing close at hand appears square, but at a distance appears round, it is far better for you to state that you do not know the reason, rather than to let slip from your grasp your confidence in sensing those things that are clear.

Lucretius, Book IV

For if you lose your confidence in your senses, you will ruin the groundwork and foundation on which all of your life and existence rest.

Lucretius, Book IV

Not only would reason collapse, but life itself would fall to the ground, were you to lose confidence in your senses and fail to use them to shun those pitfalls in life which must be avoided.

Lucretius, Book IV

Just as when you erect a building, if your ruler is crooked, your square is untrue, and your level is sloped, then your construction will be faulty, without symmetry, and leaning, with its parts disposed to fall - all ruined by the first erroneous measurements.

Lucretius, Book IV

So too will all your efforts at reasoning about things be distorted and false if the sensations on which your reasoning is based are unreliable.

Lucretius, Book IV

Therefore, as we reason, we must grasp firmly the ideas which we attach to words, so that we may thereafter be able to refer to those words with confidence, and not leave everything uncertain, or go on explaining to infinity with words devoid of meaning.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

Thus while we direct our greatest and highest interests by reason throughout our whole life, we do not rely either on dialectical reason or logic as our ultimate Canon of Truth.

Epicurus Doctrine 16, Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus, Diogenes Laertius

Instead, the faculties which constitute our Canon of Truth are our senses, our preconceptions, and our feelings of pleasure and pain, for it is by means of these that test those things which are true, and we determine which are obscure and need confirmation.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

For only when those things which are clear to us are understood is it time to consider those things which are obscure.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

Now, apply your mind, for a new question struggles earnestly to gain your ears, a new aspect of things is about to display itself.

Lucretius, Book II

Do not be dismayed by the novelty of my words: weigh these matters with keen judgment, and if they seem to you to be true, embrace them, or if they be false, gird yourself to battle them.

Lucretius Book II

Just as dogs discover by smell the lair of a wild beast that is covered over with leaves, you, by yourself alone, must learn to see one thing after another, and find your way into dark corners to draw forth the truth.

Lucretius Book I

Think carefully on these things, and then, one step after another, the true path will grow clear. Not even the darkest night will rob you of the road, for each step will light the torch for the next.

Lucretius Book I

So we begin the study of Nature with this first observation: nothing is created out of that which does not exist. For if it were, everything would be created out of everything, with no need of seeds.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

But if this were so, men might be born out of the sea, fish out of the earth, and birds might burst forth out of the sky. Nor would the same fruits keep constant to trees, but would change; any tree might bear any fruit.

Lucretius Book I

But in fact we see that this is not so, because things are all produced from fixed seeds, each thing is born and goes forth into the borders of light composed of its own combination of elements; and for this reason all things cannot be gotten out of all things, because in particular things resides a distinct power.

Lucretius Book I

And from these distinct powers of particular elements, all kinds of herbage and corn and joyous trees even now spring in plenty out of the earth, each after its own fashion, and all preserve their distinctive differences according to a fixed law of nature.

Lucretius Book V

Again, why do we see the rose put forth in spring, corn in the season of heat, vines yielding at the call of autumn? If things came from nothing, they would rise up suddenly at uncertain periods and unsuitable times of the year, nor would time be required for the growth of things if they could increase out of nothing.

Lucretius Book I

Little babies would at once grow into men, and trees in a moment would rise and spring out of the ground. But we see that none of these events ever come to pass, since all things grow step by step as is natural.

Lucretius Book I

We must also observe that in course of time Nature dissolves every thing back into its first bodies, but does not totally annihilate anything.

Lucretius Book I

For if that which disappears were totally destroyed, all things would have long since perished, since that into which they were dissolved would not exist.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

If the elements were themselves mortal, things in a moment would be snatched away to destruction from before our eyes; since no force would be needed to produce disruption among its parts and undo their fastenings.

Lucretius Book I

But in fact, all things consist of an imperishable elements, and nature allows the destruction of nothing to be seen until a force is encountered sufficient to dash things to pieces by a blow, or to pierce through the void places within them and break them up.

Lucretius Book I

If time, through age, utterly destroys all things, eating up all their matter, out of what does Venus bring back into the light of life the race of living things, each after its kind? Out of what does Earth give them nourishment, furnishing each one with food?

Lucretius Book I

Out of what do the fountains and rivers keep full the sea? Out of what does ether feed the stars? For infinite time gone by would have eaten up all things if they were formed of mortal bodies.

Lucretius Book I

Now if those bodies of which the sum of things is composed have existed for an infinite period of time, they no doubt have imperishable bodies, and cannot therefore return to nothing.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

And so in its elements the universe always was such as it is now, and always will be the same. There is nothing new into which the universe can change, for there is nothing new outside the universe which could come into it and bring about change.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

It is also true that everything in the universe is composed of bodies and space. As to bodies, the sense experience of all men perceives their existence. As to imperceptible space, we must reason from that to which the senses do testify.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

And if that which we call space did not exist, bodies would have nowhere to be, and nothing through which to move. But we see that bodies do exist, and that they do move, so we know that space exists.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

Besides bodies and space, nothing can even be thought of, either by conception or by analogy, so nothing can exist other than those things which are properties or qualities of bodies and space.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

A property of a thing is that which can in no case be separated without utter destruction accompanying the severance, such as the weight of a stone, the heat of fire, or the fluidity of water.

Lucretius Book I

A quality of a thing is a relationship such as slavery or liberty, poverty or riches, and war or peace - which may come and go while the nature of the thing remains unharmed.

Lucretius Book I

Besides properties and qualities of bodies and space, no third nature can be considered to exist, neither can any third nature be perceived by our senses or grasped by the reasoning mind.

Lucretius Book I

But some men say that there exist, in another reality, a third nature which they call patterns, from which all things have been constructed by a divine creator.

Plato Timaeus 29

But no third nature can exist, only combinations of bodies and space. Such things as "Helen taken by Paris," or "Troy subdued in war," are not patterns which exist forever, but events in the lives of those who lived long ago, and these have now been irrevocably swept away by time.

Lucretius Book I

As we turn our attention to the sum total of all the bodies and space that exist, we conclude that the universe as a whole is boundless.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

For that which is bounded has an extreme point, and the extreme point is seen against something else. So because the universe as a whole has no extreme point, it has no limit, and as it has no limit, it must be boundless.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

And in this boundless universe there are limitless numbers of worlds, some of which are like our own, and among such worlds there are living creatures and plants such as we see in this world.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

For in the sum of all that exists there is no one thing which is begotten by itself alone, sole instance of its kind, but a thing always belongs to some class of which there are many others.

Lucretius Book I

And if there is so great a store of seeds that the whole can never be counted, and if the same force and nature abide in them as we see here in our own world, then we must admit that in other parts of space there are other Earths, other kinds of wild beasts, and other races of men.

Lucretius Book II

And there are also "gods," and the knowledge of them is manifest; but these "gods" are not such as the multitude believe, because men do not steadfastly maintain the notions they form respecting them.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

It is not the man who denies the gods worshiped by the multitude who is impious, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them. For the beliefs of the multitude about the gods are not true preconceptions, but false assumptions.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

And among these false assumptions are the view that the gods cause evil to happen to the wicked and blessings to happen to the good, and that the gods favor and take pleasure in some men and reject others.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

So we must understand that when we see in the sky revolutions and eclipses, and risings and settings, these take place without the command of any being who enjoys immortality and perfect bliss.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

For troubles and anxieties, and feelings of anger and partiality, do not accord with divinity, but imply weakness and fear and dependence upon one's neighbors.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

Thus we must always hold fast to the majesty which attaches to such notions as bliss and immortality, lest we generate opinions inconsistent with this majesty.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

For such error and inconsistency will produce the worst disturbances in our minds. Hence where we find phenomena invariably recurring, this recurrence must be ascribed to the original interception and conglomeration of atoms whereby the world was formed.

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus

So let the regularity of the orbits be explained in the same way as ordinary incidents within our own experience. The divine nature must not on any account be used to explain this, but must be kept free from all tasks and in perfect bliss.

Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles

Unless this is done, the study of celestial phenomena will be in vain, as indeed it has been in vain for those who have fallen into the folly of supposing that these events can happen only in one way, and who reject all other possible explanations.

Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles

For in this way many men are carried into the realm of the unintelligible, and are unable to take a comprehensive view of those facts which are clues to the rest.

Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles

To assign a single cause for these effects which we see in the sky, when the facts suggest several causes, is madness and a strange inconsistency.

Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles

Yet this is done by some, who assign meaningless causes for the movement of stars whenever they persist in saddling the divinity with burdensome tasks.

Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles

To lay down as assured a single explanation of these phenomena is worthy only of those who seek to dazzle the multitude with marvels.

Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles

Such are those men who, straying widely from true reason, are famous for obscurity, more among the frivolous than among those earnest men who seek the truth.

Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles

For fools admire things which they perceive to be concealed under involved language, and they believe those things which tickle the ear and are varnished over with finely sounding phrases.

Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles

Some men who oppose us assert that Nature cannot without the providence of the gods vary the seasons of the year, bring forth crops, or do all those other things which Divine Pleasure, the Guide of Life, prompts men and other living things to do, escorting us in person, and enticing us by her guidance, so that neither mankind nor any race of living things may come to an end.

Lucretius Book II

Likewise there are those who seek to foretell the weather from the behavior of certain animals, which is mere coincidence.

Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles

For animals offer no necessary reason why a storm should be produced, and no divine being sits aloft, observing when these animals go out, and afterwards fulfilling the signs which they have given.

Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles

Such folly as this would not occur to the most ordinary being of the slightest enlightenment, much less to a divinity who enjoys perfect blissfulness.

Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles

But do not be afraid that, in following true reason, you are entering on unholy ground, or treading the path of sin.

Lucretius Book I

For on the contrary it is Religion that has given birth to the most sinful and unholy deeds. So great are the evil deeds which religion can prompt!

Lucretius Book I

And so those men are wrong who claim that fear of the gods is necessary to keep men from doing evil.

Diogenes of Oinoanda

For wrong-doers, who do not fear the penalty of law, are likewise not afraid either of true gods, or of the gods of Plato and Socrates, otherwise they would not do wrong.

Diogenes of Oinoanda

And so we see that those nations which are the most superstitious [Jews and Egyptians] are often the vilest of peoples.

Diogenes of Oinoanda

So be aware that the priests, by means of terrorizing threats, will seek to cause you to fall away from true reason.

Lucretius Book I

How many dreams they lay out for you, to upset the calculations of your life, and confound all your future plans with fear!

Lucretius Book I

These tales are spun for a reason. The priests know that men, so long as they fear everlasting pain after death, have no means of resisting the threats of religion.

Lucretius Book I

Therefore you must come to understand that death is nothing to us, for good and evil require the capacity for sensation, and death is the end of all sensation.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

A correct understanding that death is nothing to us allows us to enjoy life, not by adding to life a limitless time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

For life has no terrors for him who has thoroughly understood that there are no terrors in ceasing to live.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

Foolish then is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain him when it comes, but because it pains him to think of it now. But it makes no sense to fear that which can cause no pain when it is present.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

Death, therefore, which some say is the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are alive, death has not yet come, and, when death has come, we no longer exist.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

And so while we live, let neither the young be slow to seek wisdom, nor the old weary in the search of it. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness has not yet come, or that it is now no more.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

But some men argue that happiness is not the goal of life, and that there is some particular final and ultimate good, an End to which all other things are means, while not itself a means to anything else.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

But we that it is Pleasure which is our first and kindred good, the alpha and omega of a blessed life, and that all Pleasure is good.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

And so the "greatest good" is that which brings about unsurpassable joy, such as the bare escape from some dreadful calamity.

Fragment from Plutarch

And this is the nature of 'the good,' if one apprehends it rightly, and stands by his finding, and does not go on walking round and round, harping uselessly on the meaning of 'good.'

Fragment from Plutarch

And by this we mean that pleasurable living is the ultimate end prescribed by Nature. If you do not on every occasion refer each of your actions to this end, but instead of this you turn to some other end, your actions will not be consistent with your goal.

Epicurus' Principal Doctrine 25

For we see that every animal, as soon as it is born, seeks for pleasure, and delights in pleasure, while it recoils from pain, and so far as possible avoids it. This every young animal does as long as it remains unperverted, at the prompting of Nature's own unbiased and honest verdict.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

It is pleasure that fills the sea with ships and the lands with corn, and by pleasure is every kind of living thing conceived, rising up to behold the light of the sun.

Lucretius Book I

And in the pleasure of spring the birds take flight, the wild herds bound over green pastures and swim the rapid rivers, each in turn following the charms of pleasure with desire leading them on to continue their races.

Lucretius Book I

The proof that pleasure is our guide of life is more luminous than daylight itself. Our evidence is derived entirely from Nature's sources, and rests firmly for confirmation on the unbiased and unimpeachable evidence of the senses.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

Lisping babies, even dumb animals, prompted by Nature's teaching, can almost find the voice to proclaim to us that there is no welfare but pleasure, no hardship but pain, and their judgment in these matters is neither sophistic nor biased.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

Thus there is no necessity for argument or discussion to prove that pleasure is desirable and pain is to be avoided. These facts are perceived by the senses, in the same way that we perceive that fire is hot, snow is white, and honey is sweet.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

If we were to strip a man of all sensation, nothing would remain of his life. It therefore follows that Nature herself, through these faculties of sensation, is the judge of that which is in accord with or contrary to nature.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

And what faculty does Nature grant for perception and judgment of that which is to be desired and avoided besides pleasure and pain?

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

None of this needs to be proved by elaborate argument: it is enough merely to draw attention to it.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

For there is a difference between formal syllogistic proof of a thing and a mere notice or reminder. Syllogistic reasoning is appropriate for abstract and hidden matters, but mere observation is all that is necessary to establish facts which are obvious and evident.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

Nevertheless, some men use syllogistic reasoning to argue that pleasurable living is not the goal of life. They argue that "the good" is something with a certain limit beyond which nothing is higher, but that pleasure cannot be the good because it has no limit.

Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Book X

To these men we say that pleasure does have a limit, for a man's life is like a vessel, and a man's limit of pleasure is reached when his vessel is filled with pleasure, and all pain which accompanies that pleasure is removed.

Principal Doctrines 3, 18, 19, 20, Lucretius Book VI

For when the pain of want is removed, bodily pleasure does not increase, and only varies.

Epicurus' Principal Doctrine 18

Mental pleasure also has a limit, and this limit is reached when we reflect on the limits of the bodily pleasures, and the limits on the fears that cause the mind the greatest alarms.

Epicurus' Principal Doctrine 18

For although the body itself knows no limits to the time required to fulfill its pleasures, the mind, intellectually grasping the goal and the limits of the flesh is capable of banishing all terror of the future, and of procuring a life that is complete in the knowledge that we have no need of unlimited time.

Epicurus' Principal Doctrine 20

This is because the mind can grasp that if we measure the limits of pleasure through reason, unlimited time can afford no purer pleasure than limited time.

Principal Doctrines 3, 18, 19, 20

But it is impossible for someone to dispel the pain of fear about the most important matters in life if he does not understand the nature of the universe, and if he gives credence to myths.

Vatican Saying 49

So for those who do not study nature, there can be no enjoyment of pure pleasure.

Vatican Saying 49

Other men argue that pleasure cannot be "the good" because the pleasant life is more desirable when Virtue is added.

Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Book X

These men say that if the addition of Virtue is better, then pleasure is not the good; for the good cannot become more desirable by the addition of anything to it.

Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Book X

But those who place the Good in Virtue are beguiled by the glamour of a name, and do not understand the true demands of Nature. If they will simply listen to Epicurus, they will be delivered from the grossest error.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

These men speak grandly about the transcendent beauty of the virtues; but were they not productive of pleasure, who would deem them either praiseworthy or desirable?

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

We esteem the art of medicine not for its interest as a science, but for its conduciveness to health; the art of navigation is commended for its practical and not its scientific value, because it conveys the rules for sailing a ship with success.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

So also Wisdom, which must be considered as the art of living, if it effected no result would not be desired. But as it is, wisdom is desired, because it is the artificer that procures and produces pleasure.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

We must therefore act to pursue those things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

If the point at issue here involved only the means of obtaining happiness, and our enemies wanted to say "the virtues" - which would actually be true - we would simply agree without more ado.

Diogenes of Oinoanda

But the issue is not "what is the means of happiness," but "what is happiness itself and what is the ultimate goal of our nature."

Diogenes of Oinoanda

To this we say both now and always, shouting out loudly to all Greeks and non-Greeks, that Pleasure is the end of the best way of life, while the virtues, which are messed about by our enemies and transferred from the place of the means to that of the end, are in no way the end in themselves, but the means to the end.

Diogenes of Oinoanda

But a great error has arisen among men in the mistaken idea of condemning pleasure and praising pain.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

For no one rejects, dislikes or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires pain itself, because it is pain, but because they see that circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure some great pleasure.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

For example, who among us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise except to obtain some advantage?

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy pleasures that have no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resulting pleasure?

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of the pleasure of the moment that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to follow.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

Equal blame belongs to those who fail in their undertakings through weakness of will, which is the same as saying that they shrink from toil and pain.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

But in a free hour, when our power of choice is unlimited, and nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

In certain emergencies, or owing to the claims of ordinary life, it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be postponed and annoyances accepted.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

The wise man always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects some pleasures to secure other and greater pleasures, and he endures some pain to avoid other and worse pains.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

And so question each of your desires, and ask: “What will happen to me if that which this desire seeks is achieved, and what if it is not?”

Vatican Saying 71

All pleasure is good, because it is naturally pleasing to us, but not all pleasure should be chosen. And in the same way all pain is evil, and yet not all pain is to be shunned.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

It is by measuring one against another, and by looking at the conveniences and inconveniences, that all these matters must be judged.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal, who indulges in an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts, revelry, sexual lust, and the delicacies of a luxurious table, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or willful misrepresentation.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

Instead, we say that a pleasant life is produced by those thoughts and actions which we choose and avoid after we reason soberly, and after we banish those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

And we also say that mental pleasures and pains can be much more intense than those of the body; since the body can feel only what is present to it at the moment, whereas the mind is also aware of the past and of the future.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

Thus intense mental pleasure or distress contributes more to our happiness or misery than a bodily pleasure or pain of equal duration.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

This being the theory of Pleasure that we hold, why need we be afraid of not being able to reconcile it with the glorious exploits of our ancestors? We confidently assert that if they had a motive for the dangers that they braved in battle, that motive was not a love of virtue in and for itself.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

For when our ancestors braved great dangers before the eyes of their armies, they earned for themselves both the safety of their fellow citizens as well as honor and esteem, the strongest guarantees of security in life.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

And so we must act for ourselves to determine what to choose and avoid, and therefore the wise man scorns Fate, which some introduce as sovereign over all things.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

The wise man affirms that some things happen by necessity, others happen by chance, and others happen through our own agency.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

For the wise man sees that necessity destroys responsibility, and that chance is inconstant, but our own actions are autonomous, and it is to our own actions that praise and blame naturally attach.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

It would be better to accept the legends of the gods than to bow beneath the yoke of destiny which determinist philosophers have imposed.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

The legends of the gods at least hold out some faint hope that we may escape punishment, if we honor them, but the necessity of the determinist philosophers is deaf to all entreaties.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

Necessity is an evil; but there is no necessity for continuing to live with necessity, and if life is unendurable, we may serenely quit life's theater when the play has ceased to please us.

Vatican Saying 9, Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

On the other hand, the man who has many good reasons for ending his own life is of very small account.

Vatican Saying 38

And this is because life is desirable, and those who say that it would be better never to have been born are the most foolish. For such men could easily depart from life if they truly believed what they were saying.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

As for us, we say that even as men choose of food not merely and simply the larger portion, but the more pleasant, so the wise seek to enjoy the time which is most pleasant, and not merely that which is longest.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

And we also say that the wise man does not hold Fortune to be a god, as the world in general does, for in the action of a god there is no disorder.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

The misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool, and it is better that what we judge to be good action not owe its success to the aid of chance.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

And that is why we regard independence of outward things to be a great good, not so that we in all cases will have little, but so that we will be content with little if we do not have much.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

This is because we are honestly persuaded that we have the sweetest enjoyment of luxury when we are least in need of it.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

To habituate oneself to a simple and inexpensive diet supplies all that is needed for health, and enables a man to meet the necessary requirements of life without shrinking.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

This places us in a better condition to enjoy those times when we approach luxury, and renders us fearless of fortune.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

But there is also a limit in simple living, and he who fails to understand this falls into an error as great as that of the man who gives way to extravagance.

Vatican Saying 63

And likewise, to those men who say that emotion is to be avoided or repressed as a danger to the good life, we say that the wise man feels his emotions more deeply than do other men, and this is no hindrance to his wisdom.

Diogenes Laertius, Book X

As we decide what it is we should choose and avoid, we must avoid the error of those men who spend their whole lives furnishing for themselves the things they think are proper to life, without realizing that each man at birth was poured a mortal brew to drink.

Vatican Saying 30

For every man passes out of life as if he had just been born, and the same span of time is both the beginning and the end of his greatest good.

Vatican Saying 60, 42

So remember that you have been born once and cannot be born a second time, and for all eternity you shall no longer exist.

Vatican Saying 44

You are not in control of tomorrow, so do not postpone your happiness, and waste your life by delaying, for each one of us dies without enjoying excess time.

Vatican Saying 14

But we should be grateful to Nature, because she has made the necessities of life easy to acquire, and she has made those things that are difficult to acquire unnecessary.

Usener Fragment 469

When misfortune comes, we should find solace in the happy memory of what has been, and in the knowledge that what has been cannot be undone. For the man who forgets his past blessings on that day becomes old.

Vatican Saying 19, 55

Remember also that of all the means which wisdom acquires to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship.

Epicurus' Principal Doctrine 27

For friendship dances around the world, bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness.

Vatican Saying 52

So at one and the same time we must philosophize, laugh, and manage our household and other business, while never ceasing to proclaim the words of true philosophy.

Vatican Saying 41

And as we proclaim this true philosophy, it is preferable to seem to speak in oracles that are of advantage to all men, even though no men understand us, rather than conform to popular opinion and thereby gain the constant praise that comes from the many.

Vatican Saying 29

So we must free ourselves from the prison of public education and politics, and hoist our sail and flee that which passes as culture.

Vatican Saying 58, Usener Fragment to Pythocles

For the soul neither rids itself of disturbance, nor gains a worthwhile joy, through possession of great wealth, nor by the honor and admiration bestowed by the crowd, nor through any of the other things sought by unlimited desire.

Vatican Saying 81

The study of nature does not create men who are fond of boasting and chattering, or who show off the culture that impresses the many, but rather men who are strong and self-sufficient, and who take pride in their own personal qualities, not in those that depend on external circumstances.

Vatican Saying 45

And the greatest fruit of this self-sufficiency is freedom.

Vatican Saying 77

But in contrast to freedom, some men say that there is a single true law which applies universally to all men, and is unchanging and everlasting, and that this single law summons all to duty by its commands and averts all from wrong-doing by its prohibitions.

Cicero, The Republic

These men say that it is a sin to try to alter or repeal this law, and there should not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law for all nations and all times.

Cicero, The Republic

To these men of a single law, we say that there never was such a thing as absolute justice, but only agreements made in mutual dealings among particular men, at various times and places, to provide against infliction or suffering of harm.

Epicurus' Principal Doctrine 33

And while we also say that justice is the same for all, as it is something found mutually beneficial in the dealings of men, justice differs in how it applies to particular places and circumstances, and the same thing is not necessarily just for everyone.

Epicurus' Principal Doctrine 36

Whether a law is just depends on whether it is mutually advantageous, and this varies according to circumstances. A law ceases to be just when it is no longer advantageous for the mutual dealings of the citizens involved.

Epicurus' Principal Doctrine 37

Thus the man who best knows how to meet external threats makes into one family all the creatures he can; and those he can not, he at any rate does not treat as aliens.

Epicurus' Principal Doctrine 39

Where he finds even this impossible, he avoids all dealings, and, so far as is advantageous, excludes them from his life.

Epicurus' Principal Doctrine 39

Yet some men indulge, without limit, their avarice, ambition, and love of power, to the extent that they must be restrained, rather than reformed. Therefore any means of obtaining protection from other men is a natural good.

Epicurus' Principal Doctrine 6

Those who possess the power to defend themselves against threats by their neighbors, being thus in possession of the surest guarantee of security, live the most pleasant life with one another.

Epicurus' Principal Doctrine 40

And so let us remember that the most excellent and desirable life consists of living in the continuous enjoyment of numerous and vivid pleasures, of both body and mind, undisturbed either by the presence or by the prospect of pain.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

To achieve this, we must possess a strength of mind that is proof against all fear of death or of pain. We must know that death means complete unconsciousness. And we must know that pain is generally light, if long, and short, if strong.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

And we must have no dread of any supernatural power; nor must we ever allow the pleasures of the past to fade away, but we must constantly renew their enjoyment in our recollection.

Torquatus, from Cicero's On Ends

Keep in mind all these things you have been taught, and you will escape far away from myth. Devote yourself to the study of first principles of Nature, and of infinity, and of the standards of choice and avoidance, and of the feelings of pleasure and pain, and of the highest goal for which we choose between them.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

For if you exercise yourself in these precepts, day and night, both by yourself, and with one who is like-minded, then never will you be disturbed. You will live as a god among men, for men lose all semblance of mortality when they live in the midst of immortal blessings.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus

And then, when we do reach the end of our lives, we will say that we have anticipated you, Fortune, and entrenched ourselves against all your secret attacks.

Vatican Saying 47

And we will not give ourselves up as captives, to you or to any other circumstance, but when it is time for us to go, spitting contempt on life and on those who vainly cling to it, we will leave life - crying aloud in a glorious song of triumph - that we have lived well.

Vatican Saying 47

———References———

Epicurus' Elementary Principles of Nature A list of teachings on Nature on which Epicurean philosophy was built.

EP 1. Matter is uncreateable.

EP 2. Matter is indestructible.

EP 3. The universe consists of solid bodies and void.

EP 4. Solid bodies are either compounds or simple.

EP 5. The multitude of atoms is infinite.

EP 6. The void is infinite in extent.

EP 7. The atoms are always in motion.

EP 8. The speed of atomic motion is uniform.

EP 9. Motion is linear in space, vibratory in compounds.

EP 10. Atoms are capable of swerving slightly at any point in space or time.

EP 11. Atoms are characterized by three qualities: weight, shape and size.

EP 12. The number of the different shapes is not infinite, merely innumerable.

General Note:

Note: This list is as summarized by Norman DeWitt from the Letter to Herodotus and Lucretius' "On The Nature of Things"

Epicurus' Principal Doctrines A list of teachings about the goal of life and how to achieve it.

PD 1. The blessed and immortal nature knows no trouble itself nor causes trouble to any other, so that it is never constrained by anger or favour. For all such things exist only in the weak.

PD 2. Death is nothing to us, for that which is dissolved is without sensation; and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us.

PD 3. The limit of quantity in pleasures is the removal of all that is painful. Wherever pleasure is present, as long as it is there, there is neither pain of body nor of mind, nor of both at once.

PD 4. Pain does not last continuously in the flesh, but the acutest pain is there for a very short time, and even that which just exceeds the pleasure in the flesh does not continue for many days at once. But chronic illnesses permit a predominance of pleasure over pain in the flesh.

PD 5. It is not possible to live pleasantly without living prudently and honorably and justly, [nor again to live a life of prudence, honor, and Justice] without living pleasantly. And the man who does not possess the pleasant life, is not living prudently and honorably and justly, [and the man who does not possess the virtuous life], cannot possibly live pleasantly.

PD 6. To secure protection from men anything is a natural good by which you may be able to attain this end.

PD 7. Some men wished to become famous and conspicuous, thinking that they would thus win for themselves safety from other men. Wherefore if the life of such men is safe, they have obtained the good which nature craves; but if it is not safe, they do not possess that for which they strove at first by the instinct of nature.

PD 8. No pleasure is a bad thing in itself: but the means which produce some pleasures bring with them disturbances many times greater than the pleasures.

PD 9. If every pleasure could be intensified so that it lasted and influenced the whole organism or the most essential parts of our nature, pleasures would never differ from one another.

PD 10. If the things that produce the pleasures of profligates could dispel the fears of the mind about the phenomena of the sky and death and its pains, and also teach the limits of desires (and of pains), we should never have cause to blame them: for they would be filling themselves full with pleasures from every source and never have pain of body or mind, which is the evil of life.

PD 11. If we were not troubled by our suspicions of the phenomena of the sky and about death, fearing that it concerns us, and also by our failure to grasp the limits of pains and desires, we should have no need of natural science.

PD 12. A man cannot dispel his fear about the most important matters if he does not know what is the nature of the universe but suspects the truth of some mythical story. So that without natural science it is not possible to attain our pleasures unalloyed.

PD13. There is no profit in securing protection in relation to men, if things above and things beneath the earth and indeed all in the boundless universe remain matters of suspicion.

PD 14. The most unalloyed source of protection from men, which is secured to some extent by a certain force of expulsion, is in fact the immunity which results from a quiet life and the retirement from the world.

PD 15. The wealth demanded by nature is both limited and easily procured; that demanded by idle imaginings stretches on to infinity.

PD 16. In but few things chance hinders a wise man, but the greatest and most important matters reason has ordained and throughout the whole period of life does and will ordain.

PD 17. The just man is most free from trouble, the unjust most full of trouble.

PD 18. The pleasure in the flesh is not increased, when once the pain due to want is removed, but is only varied: and the limit as regards pleasure in the mind is begotten by the reasoned understanding of these very pleasures and of the emotions akin to them, which used to cause the greatest fear to the mind.

PD 19. Infinite time contains no greater pleasure than limited time, if one measures by reason the limits of pleasure.

PD 20. The flesh perceives the limits of pleasure as unlimited, and unlimited time is required to supply it. But the mind, having attained a reasoned understanding of the ultimate good of the flesh and its limits and having dissipated the fears concerning the time to come, supplies us with the complete life, and we have no further need of infinite time: but neither does the mind shun pleasure, nor, when circumstances begin to bring about the departure from life, does it approach its end as though it fell short in any way of the best life.

PD 21. He who has learned the limits of life knows that that which removes the pain due to want and makes the whole of life complete is easy to obtain, so that there is no need of actions which involve competition.

PD 22. We must consider both the real purpose and all the evidence of direct perception, to which we always refer the conclusions of opinion; otherwise, all will be full of doubt and confusion.

PD 23. If you fight against all sensations, you will have no standard by which to judge even those of them which you say are false.

PD 24. If you reject any single sensation and fail to distinguish between the conclusion of opinion as to the appearance awaiting confirmation and that which is actually given by the sensation or feeling, or each intuitive apprehension of the mind, you will confound all other sensations as well with the same groundless opinion, so that you will reject every standard of judgment. And if among the mental images created by your opinion you affirm both that which awaits confirmation and that which does not, you will not escape error, since you will have preserved the whole cause of doubt in every judgment between what is right and what is wrong.

PD 25. If on each occasion, instead of referring your actions to the end of nature, you turn to some other nearer standard when you are making a choice or an avoidance, your actions will not be consistent with your principles.

PD 26. Of desires, all that do not lead to a sense of pain, if they are not satisfied, are not necessary, but involve a craving which is easily dispelled, when the object is hard to procure or they seem likely to produce harm.

PD 27. Of all the things which wisdom acquires to produce the blessedness of the complete life, far the greatest is the possession of friendship.

PD 28. The same conviction which has given us confidence that there is nothing terrible that lasts forever or even for long, has also seen the protection of friendship most fully completed in the limited evils of this life.

PD 29. Among desires some are natural (and necessary, some natural) but not necessary, and others neither natural nor necessary, but due to idle imagination.

PD 30. Wherever in the case of desires which are physical, but do not lead to a sense of pain, if they are not fulfilled, the effort is intense, such pleasures are due to idle imagination, and it is not owing to their own nature that they fail to be dispelled, but owing to the empty imaginings of the man.

PD 31. The justice which arises from nature is a pledge of mutual advantage to restrain men from harming one another and save them from being harmed.

PD 32. For all living things which have not been able to make compacts not to harm one another or be harmed, nothing ever is either just or unjust; and likewise too for all tribes of men which have been unable or unwilling to make compacts not to harm or be harmed.

PD 33. Justice never is anything in itself, but in the dealings of men with one another in any place whatever and at any time it is a kind of compact not to harm or be harmed.

PD 34. Injustice is not an evil in itself, but only in consequence of the fear which attaches to the apprehension of being unable to escape those appointed to punish such actions.

PD 35. It is not possible for one who acts in secret contravention of the terms of the compact not to harm or be harmed, to be confident that he will escape detection, even if at present he escapes a thousand times. For up to the time of death it cannot be certain that he will indeed escape.

PD 36. In its general aspect justice is the same for all, for it is a kind of mutual advantage in the dealings of men with one another: but with reference to the individual peculiarities of a country or any other circumstances the same thing does not turn out to be just for all.

PD 37. Among actions which are sanctioned as just by law, that which is proved on examination to be of advantage in the requirements of men's dealings with one another, has the guarantee of justice, whether it is the same for all or not. But if a man makes a law and it does not turn out to lead to advantage in men's dealings with each other, then it no longer has the essential nature of justice. And even if the advantage in the matter of justice shifts from one side to the other, but for a while accords with the general concept, it is nonetheless just for that period in the eyes of those who do not confound themselves with empty sounds but look to the actual facts.

PD 38. Where, provided the circumstances have not been altered, actions which were considered just, have been shown not to accord with the general concept in actual practice, then they are not just. But where, when circumstances have changed, the same actions which were sanctioned as just no longer lead to advantage, there they were just at the time when they were of advantage for the dealings of fellow-citizens with one another, but subsequently they are no longer just, when no longer of advantage.

PD 39. The man who has best ordered the element of disquiet arising from external circumstances has made those things that he could akin to himself and the rest at least not alien; but with all to which he could not do even this, he has refrained from mixing, and has expelled from his life all which it was of advantage to treat thus.

PD 40. As many as possess the power to procure complete immunity from their neighbours, these also live most pleasantly with one another, since they have the most certain pledge of security, and after they have enjoyed the fullest intimacy, they do not lament the previous departure of a dead friend, as though he were to be pitied.

General Note

Note: This list is generally as translated by Cyril Bailey (see notes in each PD)

Epicurus' Sayings From The "Vatican List" A list of sayings compiled by an unknown author and discovered in the Vatican Library.

VS. 1. A blessed and indestructible being has no trouble himself and brings no trouble upon any other being; so he is free from anger and partiality, for all such things imply weakness.

VS. 2. Death is nothing to us; for that which has been dissolved into its elements experiences no sensations, and that which has no sensation is nothing to us.

VS. 3. Continuous bodily pain does not last long; instead, pain, if extreme, is present a very short time, and even that degree of pain which slightly exceeds bodily pleasure does not last for many days at once. Diseases of long duration allow an excess of bodily pleasure over pain.

VS. 4. All bodily suffering is easy to disregard: for that which causes acute pain has short duration, and that which endures long in the flesh causes but mild pain.

VS. 5. It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance, the man is not able to live wisely, though he lives honorably and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life.

VS. 6. It is impossible for a man who secretly violates the terms of the agreement not to harm or be harmed to feel confident that he will remain undiscovered, even if he has already escaped ten thousand times; for until his death he is never sure that he will not be detected. (see Principle Doctrine 35)

VS. 7. It is hard for an evil-doer to escape detection, but to be confident that he will continue to escape detection indefinitely is impossible.

VS. 8. The wealth required by Nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity. (see Principle Doctrine 15)

VS. 9. Necessity is an evil, but there is no necessity to live under the control of necessity.

VS. 10. Remember that you are mortal and have a limited time to live and have devoted yourself to discussions on Nature for all time and eternity and have seen “things that are now and are to come and have been.”

VS. 11. For most men rest is stagnation and activity is madness.

VS. 12. The just man is most free from disturbance, while the unjust is full of the utmost disturbance. (see Principle Doctrine 17)

VS. 13. Among the things held to be just by law, whatever is proved to be of advantage in men's dealings has the stamp of justice, whether or not it be the same for all; but if a man makes a law and it does not prove to be mutually advantageous, then this is no longer just. And if what is mutually advantageous varies and only for a time corresponds to our concept of justice, nevertheless for that time it is just for those who do not trouble themselves about empty words, but look simply at the facts. (see Principle Doctrine 37)

VS. 14. We are born once and cannot be born twice, but for all time must be no more. But you, who are not master of tomorrow, postpone your happiness. Life is wasted in procrastination and each one of us dies without allowing himself leisure.

VS. 15. We value our characters as something peculiar to ourselves, whether they are good and we are esteemed by men or not, so ought we value the characters of others, if they are well-disposed to us.

VS. 16. No one when he sees evil deliberately chooses it, but is enticed by it as being good in comparison with a greater evil and so pursues it.

VS. 17. It is not the young man who should be thought happy, but the old man who has lived a good life. For the young man at the height of his powers is unstable and is carried this way and that by fortune, like a headlong stream. But the old man has come to anchor in old age as though in port, and the good things for which before he hardly hoped he has brought into safe harbor in his grateful recollections.

VS. 18. Remove sight, association, and contact, and the passion of love is at an end.

VS. 19. Forgetting the good that has been, he has become old this very day.

VS. 20. Of our desires some are natural and necessary, others are natural but not necessary; and others are neither natural nor necessary, but are due to groundless opinion. (see Principle Doctrine 29)

VS. 21. We must not violate nature, but obey her; and we shall obey her if we fulfil those desires that are necessary, and also those that are natural but bring no harm to us, but we must sternly reject those that are harmful.

VS. 22. Unlimited time and limited time afford an equal amount of pleasure, if we measure the limits of that pleasure by reason. (see Principle Doctrine 19)

VS. 23. All friendship is desirable in itself, though it starts from the need of help.

VS. 24. Dreams have no divine character nor any prophetic force, but they originate from the influx of images.

VS. 25. Poverty, when measured by the natural purpose of life, is great wealth, but unlimited wealth is great poverty.

VS. 26. You must understand that whether the discourse be long or short it tends to the same end.

VS. 27. In all other occupations the fruit comes painfully after completion, but in philosophy pleasure goes hand in hand with knowledge; for enjoyment does not follow comprehension, but comprehension and enjoyment are simultaneous.

VS. 28. We must not approve either those who are always ready for friendship, or those who hang back, but for friendship’s sake we must run risks.

VS. 29. In investigating nature I would prefer to speak openly and like an oracle to give answers serviceable to all mankind, even though no one should understand me, rather than to conform to popular opinions and so win the praise freely scattered by the mob.

VS. 30. Some men throughout their lives spend their time gathering together the means of life, for they do not see that the draught swallowed by all of us at birth is a draught of death.

VS. 31. Against all else it is possible to provide security, but as against death all of us mortals alike dwell in an unfortified city.

VS. 32. The veneration of the wise man is a great blessing to those who venerate him.

VS. 33. The flesh cries out to be saved from hunger, thirst, and cold. For if a man possess this safety and hope to possess it, he might rival even Zeus in happiness.

VS. 34. It is not so much our friends' help that helps us as it is the confidence of their help.

VS. 35. We should not spoil what we have by desiring what we do not have, but remember that what we have too was the gift of fortune.

VS. 36. Epicurus' life when compared to other men's in respect of gentleness and self-sufficiency might be thought a mere legend.

VS. 37. Nature is weak toward evil, not toward good: because it is saved by pleasures, but destroyed by pains.

VS. 38. He is a little man in all respects who has many good reasons for quitting life.

VS. 39. He is no friend who is continually asking for help, nor he who never associates help with friendship. For the former barters kindly feeling for a practical return and the latter destroys the hope of good in the future.

VS. 40. The man who says that all things come to pass by necessity cannot criticize one who denies that all things come to pass by necessity: for he admits that this too happens of necessity.

VS. 41. We must laugh and philosophize at the same time and do our household duties and employ our other faculties, and never cease proclaiming the sayings of the true philosophy.

VS. 42. The same span of time embraces both the beginning and the end of the greatest good.i

VS. 43. The love of money, if unjustly gained, is impious, and, if justly gained, is shameful; for it is unseemly to be parsimonious even with justice on one's side.

VS. 44. The wise man when he has accommodated himself to straits knows better how to give than to receive, so great is the treasure of self-sufficiency which he has discovered.

VS. 45. The study of nature does not make men productive of boasting or bragging nor apt to display that culture which is the object of rivalry with the many, but high-spirited and self-sufficient, taking pride in the good things of their own minds and not of their circumstances.

VS. 46. Let us utterly drive from us our bad habits as if they were evil men who have long done us great harm.

VS. 47. I have anticipated thee, Fortune, and entrenched myself against all thy secret attacks. And I will not give myself up as captive to thee or to any other circumstance; but when it is time for me to go, spitting contempt on life and on those who vainly cling to it, I will leave life crying aloud a glorious triumph-song that I have lived well.

VS. 48. We must try to make the end of the journey better than the beginning, as long as we are journeying; but when we come to the end, we must be happy and content.

VS. 49. It is impossible for someone to dispel his fears about the most important matters if he does not know the Nature of the universe but still gives some credence to myths. So without the study of Nature there is no enjoyment of pure pleasure. (see Principle Doctrine 12)

VS. 50. No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves. (see Principle Doctrine 8 )

VS. 51. You tell me that the stimulus of the flesh makes you too prone to the pleasures of love. Provided that you do not break the laws or good customs and do not distress any of your neighbors or do harm to your body or squander your pittance, you may indulge your inclination as you please. Yet it is impossible not to come up against one or other of these barriers, for the pleasures of love never profited a man and he is lucky if they do him no harm.

VS. 52. Friendship dances around the world bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness.

VS. 53. We must envy no one, for the good do not deserve envy and the bad, the more they prosper, the more they injure themselves.

VS. 54. We must not pretend to study philosophy, but study it in reality, for it is not the appearance of health that we need, but real health.

VS. 55. We must heal our misfortunes by the grateful recollection of what has been and by the recognition that it is impossible to undo that which has been done.

VS. 56. The wise man feels no more pain when being tortured himself than when his friend tortured.ii

VS. 57. On occasion a man will die for his friend, for if he betrays his friend, his whole life will be confounded by distrust and completely upset.iii

VS. 58. We must free ourselves from the prison of public education and politics.

VS. 59. It is not the stomach that is insatiable, as is generally said, but the false opinion that the stomach needs an unlimited amount to fill it.

VS. 60. Every man passes out of life as though he had just been born.

VS. 61. Most beautiful too is the sight of those near and dear to us, when our original kinship makes us of one mind; for such sight is great incitement to this end.

VS. 62. Now if parents are justly angry with their children, it is certainly useless to fight against it and not to ask for pardon; but if their anger is unjust and irrational, it is quite ridiculous to add fuel to their irrational passion by nursing one's own indignation, and not to attempt to turn aside their wrath in other ways by gentleness.

VS. 63. Frugality too has a limit, and the man who disregards it is like him who errs through excess.

VS. 64. Praise from others must come unasked, and we must concern ourselves with the healing of our own lives.

VS. 65. It is vain to ask of the gods what a man is capable of supplying for himself.

VS. 66. Let us show our feeling for our lost friends not by lamentation but by meditation.

VS. 67. A free life cannot acquire many possessions, because this is not easy to do without servility to mobs or monarchs, yet it possesses all things in unfailing abundance; and if by chance it obtains many possessions, it is easy to distribute them so as to win the gratitude of neighbors.

VS. 68. Nothing is sufficient for him to whom what is sufficient seems too little.

VS. 69. The ungrateful greed of the soul makes the creature everlastingly desire varieties of in its lifestyle.

VS. 70. Let nothing be done in your life which will cause you fear if it becomes known to your neighbor.

VS. 71. Every desire must be confronted by this question: what will happen to me if the object of my desire is accomplished and what if it is not?

VS. 72. There is no advantage to obtaining protection from other men so long as we are alarmed by events above or below the earth or in general by whatever happens in the boundless universe.

VS. 73. The occurrence of certain bodily pains assists us in guarding against others like them.

VS. 74. In a philosophical discussion he who is defeated gains more, since he learns more.

VS. 75. The saying, 'look to the end of a long life,' shows ungratefulness for past good fortune.

VS. 76. You are in your old age just such as I urge you to be, and you have seen the difference between studying philosophy for oneself and proclaiming it to Greece at large; I rejoice with you.

VS. 77. The greatest fruit of self-sufficiency is freedom.

VS. 78. The noble soul occupies itself with wisdom and friendship; of these the one is a mortal good, the other immortal.

VS. 79. The man who is serene causes no disturbance to himself or to another.

VS. 80. The first measure of security is to watch over one's youth and to guard against what makes havoc of all by means of maddening desires.

VS. 81. The disturbance of the soul cannot be ended nor true joy created either by the possession of the greatest wealth or by honor and respect in the eyes of the mob or by anything else that is associated with or caused by unlimited desire.

General Note

Note: This list is generally as translated by Cyril Bailey (see notes in each VS)

Epicurus' Sayings About The Wise Man A list of sayings contained in the biography of Epicurus by Diogenes Laertius.

WM1. Injuries are done among men either because of hatred, envy, or contempt, all which the wise man overcomes by reason.

WM2. When once a man has attained wisdom he no longer has any contrary tendency to it, nor does he willingly pretend that he has. He will be more deeply moved by feelings than others, but this will not prove to be an obstacle to wisdom.

WM3. A man cannot become wise in every kind of physical constitution, or in every nation.

WM4. Even if the wise man were to be put to torture, he would still be happy.

WM5. The wise man shows gratitude, and constantly speaks well of his friends whether they are present or absent.

WM6. The wise man will not groan and howl when he is put to the torture.

WM7. The wise man will not have intercourse with any woman whom the laws forbid, as Diogenes says, in his epitome of the Ethical Maxims of Epicurus.

WM8. The wise man will not punish his servants, but will rather pity them and forgive any that are deserving.

WM9. The Epicureans do not think that the wise man will fall in love, or be anxious about his burial, for they hold that love is not a passion inspired by the gods, as Diogenes says in his twelfth book.

WM10. The Epicureans assert that the wise man will not make elegant speeches.

WM11. Sexual intercourse, the Epicureans say, has never done a man good, and he is lucky if it has not harmed him.

WM12. The wise man will marry and have children, as Epicurus says in treatises On Problems and On Nature, but only in accord with the circumstances of his life.

WM13. The wise man will never indulge in drunkenness, says Epicurus, in his Banquet,

WM14. The wise man will not entangle himself in affairs of state, as Epicurus says in his first book on Lives.

WM15. The wise man will not become a tyrant.

WM16. The wise man will not live like a Cynic, as he says in his second book on Lives, nor become a beggar.

WM17. Even if the wise man should lose his eyesight, he will not end his whole life, as he says in the same book.

WM18. The wise man will not be subject to grief, as Diogenes says, in the fifth book of his Select Opinions.

WM19. The wise man will not object to go to the courts of law.

WM20. The wise man will leave books and memorials of himself behind him, but he will not be fond of frequenting assemblies.

WM21. The wise man will take care of his property, and provide for the future.

WM22. The wise man will be fond of the countryside.

WM23. The wise man will resist fortune.

WM24. The wise man will not mourn the death of his friends.

WM25. The wise man will show a regard for his reputation to such an extent as to avoid being despised.

WM26. The wise man will find more pleasure than other men in public spectacles.

WM27. The wise man will erect statues of others, but he will be indifferent as to raising one for himself.

WM28. The wise man is the only person who can converse correctly about music and poetry, but he will not himself compose poems.

WM29. One wise man is not wiser than another.

WM30. The wise man will also, if he is in need, earn money, but only by his wisdom.

WM31. The wise man will appease an absolute ruler when occasion requires.

WM32. The wise man will rejoice at another’s misfortune, but only for his correction.

WM33. The wise man gather together a school, but never so as to become a leader of crowds.

WM34. The wise man will give lectures in public, but it will be against his inclination and never unless asked.

WM35. The wise man will teach things that are definite, rather than doubtful musings.

WM36. The wise man be the same whether asleep or awake.

WM37. The wise man will be willing even to die for a friend.

WM38. The wise man holds that all faults are not of equal gravity.

WM39. The wise man holds that health is a blessing to some, but a matter of indifference to others.

WM40. The wise man holds that courage is a quality that does not come by nature, but by a consideration of what is to one’s advantage.

WM41. The wise man holds that friendship is first brought about due to practical need, just as we sow the earth for crops, but it is formed and maintained by means of a community of life among those who find mutual pleasure in it.

WM42. The wise man holds that there are two types of happiness – complete happiness, such as belongs to a god, which admits of no increase, and lesser happiness, which can be increased or decreased.

General Note

Note: This list is based on the translation of Cyril Bailey

Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus A letter by Epicurus on basic principles of Nature

An outline of the system is required by which we may remember the whole.

For those who are unable, Herodotus, to work in detail through all that I have written about nature, or to peruse the larger books which I have composed, I have already prepared at sufficient length an epitome of the whole system, that they may keep adequately in mind at least the most general principles in each department, in order that as occasion arises they may be able to assist themselves on the most important points, in so far as they undertake the study of nature.

But those also who have made considerable progress in the survey of the main principles ought to bear in mind the scheme of the whole system set forth in its essentials.

For we have frequent need of the general view, but not so often of the detailed exposition. Indeed it is necessary to go back on the main principles, and constantly to fix in one’s memory enough to give one the most essential comprehension of the truth.

And in fact the accurate knowledge of details will be fully discovered, if the general principles in the various departments are thoroughly grasped and borne in mind; for even in the case of one fully initiated the most essential feature in all accurate knowledge is the capacity to make a rapid use of observation and mental apprehension, and this can be done if everything is summed up in elementary principles and formulae.

For it is not possible for anyone to abbreviate the complete course through the whole system, if he cannot embrace in his own mind by means of short formulae all that might be set out with accuracy in detail.

Wherefore since the method I have described is valuable to all those who are accustomed to the investigation of nature, I who urge upon others the constant occupation in the investigation of nature, and find my own peace chiefly in a life so occupied, have composed for you another epitome on these lines, summing up the first principles of the whole doctrine.

We must clearly define words according to our sensations.

First of all, Herodotus, we must grasp the ideas attached to words, in order that we may be able to refer to them and so to judge the inferences of opinion or problems of investigation or reflection, so that we may not either leave everything uncertain and go on explaining to infinity or use words devoid of meaning.

For this purpose it is essential that the first mental image associated with each word should be regarded, and that there should be no need of explanation, if we are really to have a standard to which to refer a problem of investigation or reflection or a mental inference.

And besides we must keep all our investigations in accord with our sensations, and in particular with the immediate apprehensions whether of the mind or of any one of the instruments of judgment, and likewise in accord with the feelings existing in us, in order that we may have indications whereby we may judge both the problem of sense perception and the unseen.

Having made these points clear, we must now consider things imperceptible to the senses.

The elementary principles of physics allow us to see that the universe operates on natural principles.

First of all, that nothing is created out of that which does not exist: for if it were, everything would be created out of everything with no need of seeds.

And again, if that which disappears were destroyed into that which did not exist, all things would have perished, since that into which they were dissolved would not exist.

Furthermore, the universe always was such as it is now, and always will be the same.

For there is nothing into which it changes: for outside the universe there is nothing which could come into it and bring about the change.

Moreover, the universe is bodies and space: for that bodies exist, sense itself witnesses in the experience of all men, and in accordance with the evidence of sense we must of necessity judge of the imperceptible by reasoning, as I have already said.

And if there were not that which we term void and place and intangible existence, bodies would have nowhere to exist and nothing through which to move, as they are seen to move.

And besides these two, nothing can even be thought of either by conception or on the analogy of things conceivable such as could be grasped as whole existences and not spoken of as the accidents or properties of such existences.

Furthermore, among bodies some are compounds, and others those of which compounds are formed.

And these latter are indivisible and unalterable (if, that is, all things are not to be destroyed into the non-existent, but something permanent is to remain behind at the dissolution of compounds): they are completely solid in nature, and can by no means be dissolved in any part.

So it must needs be that the first beginnings are indivisible corporeal existences.

Moreover, the universe is boundless.

For that which is bounded has an extreme point: and the extreme point is seen against something else.

So that as it has no extreme point, it has no limit; and as it has no limit, it must be boundless and not bounded.

Furthermore, the infinite is boundless both in the number of the bodies and in the extent of the void.

For if on the one hand the void were boundless, and the bodies limited in number, the bodies could not stay anywhere, but would be carried about and scattered through the infinite void, not having other bodies to support them and keep them in place by means of collisions.

But if, on the other hand, the void were limited, the infinite bodies would not have room wherein to take their place.

Besides this the indivisible and solid bodies, out of which too the compounds are created and into which they are dissolved, have an incomprehensible number of varieties in shape: for it is not possible that such great varieties of things should arise from the same atomic shapes, if they are limited in number.

And so in each shape the atoms are quite infinite in number, but their differences of shape are not quite infinite, but only incomprehensible in number.

And the atoms move continuously for all time, some of them falling straight down, others swerving, and others recoiling from their collisions.

And of the latter, some are borne on, separating to a long distance from one another, while others again recoil and recoil, whenever they chance to be checked by the interlacing with others, or else shut in by atoms interlaced around them.

For on the one hand the nature of the void which separates each atom by itself brings this about, as it is not able to afford resistance, and on the other hand the hardness which belongs to the atoms makes them recoil after collision to as great a distance as the interlacing permits separation after the collision.

And these motions have no beginning, since the atoms and the void are the cause.

These brief sayings, if all these points are borne in mind, afford a sufficient outline for our understanding of the nature of existing things.

The universe is boundless and contains a boundless number of worlds.

Furthermore, there are infinite worlds both like and unlike this world of ours.

For the atoms being infinite in number, as was proved already, are borne on far out into space.

For those atoms, which are of such nature that a world could be created out of them or made by them, have not been used up either on one world or on a limited number of worlds, nor again on all the worlds which are alike, or on those which are different from these.

So that there nowhere exists an obstacle to the infinite number of the worlds.

The movement of elementary material through space leads to images which, when received by our senses, are our means of knowledge.

Moreover, there are images like in shape to the solid bodies, far surpassing perceptible things in their subtlety of texture.

For it is not impossible that such emanations should be formed in that which surrounds the objects, nor that there should be opportunities for the formation of such hollow and thin frames, nor that there should be effluences which preserve the respective position and order which they had before in the solid bodies: these images we call idols.

Next, nothing among perceptible things contradicts the belief that the images have unsurpassable fineness of texture.

And for this reason they have also unsurpassable speed of motion, since the movement of all their atoms is uniform, and besides nothing or very few things hinder their emission by collisions, whereas a body composed of many or infinite atoms is at once hindered by collisions.

Besides this, nothing contradicts the belief that the creation of the idols takes place as quick as thought.

For the flow of atoms from the surface of bodies is continuous, yet it cannot be detected by any lessening in the size of the object because of the constant filling up of what is lost.

The flow of images preserves for a long time the position and order of the atoms in the solid body, though it is occasionally confused.

Moreover, compound idols are quickly formed in the air around, because it is not necessary for their substance to be filled in deep inside: and besides there are certain other methods in which existences of this sort are produced.

For not one of these beliefs is contradicted by our sensations, if one looks to see in what way sensation will bring us the clear visions from external objects, and in what way again the corresponding sequences of qualities and movements.

Now we must suppose too that it is when something enters us from external objects that we not only see but think of their shapes.

For external objects could not make on us an impression of the nature of their own colour and shape by means of the air which lies between us and them, nor again by means of the rays or effluences of any sort which pass from us to them — nearly so well as if models, similar in color and shape, leave the objects and enter according to their respective size either into our sight or into our mind; moving along swiftly, and so by this means reproducing the image of a single continuous thing and preserving the corresponding sequence of qualities and movements from the original object as the result of their uniform contact with us, kept up by the vibration of the atoms deep in the interior of the concrete body.

And every image which we obtain by an act of apprehension on the part of the mind or of the sense-organs, whether of shape or of properties, this image is the shape or the properties of the concrete object, and is produced by the constant repetition of the image or the impression it has left.

Error arises when we fail to process and understand these images correctly.

Now falsehood and error always lie in the addition of opinion with regard to what is waiting to be confirmed or not contradicted, and then is not confirmed or is contradicted.

For the similarity between the things which exist, which we call real and the images received as a likeness of things and produced either in sleep or through some other acts of apprehension on the part of the mind or the other instruments of judgment, could never be, unless there were some effluences of this nature actually brought into contact with our senses.

And error would not exist unless another kind of movement too were produced inside ourselves, closely linked to the apprehension of images, but differing from it; and it is owing to this, supposing it is not confirmed, or is contradicted, that falsehood arises; but if it is confirmed or not contradicted, it is true.

Therefore we must do our best to keep this doctrine in mind, in order that on the one hand the standards of judgment dependent on the clear visions may not be undermined, and on the other error may not be as firmly established as truth and so throw all into confusion.

Moreover, hearing, too, results when a current is carried off from the object speaking or sounding or making a noise, or causing in any other way a sensation of hearing.

Now this current is split up into particles, each like the whole, which at the same time preserve a correspondence of qualities with one another and a unity of character which stretches right back to the object which emitted the sound: this unity it is which in most cases produces comprehension in the recipient, or, if not, merely makes manifest the presence of the external object.

For without the transference from the object of some correspondence of qualities, comprehension of this nature could not result.

We must not then suppose that the actual air is molded into shape by the voice which is emitted or by other similar sounds — for it will be very far from being so acted upon by it — but that the blow which takes place inside us, when we emit our voice, causes at once a squeezing out of certain particles, which produce a stream of breath, of such a character as to afford us the sensation of hearing.

Furthermore, we must suppose that smell too, just like hearing, could never bring about any sensation, unless there were certain particles carried off from the object of suitable size to stir this sense-organ, some of them in a manner disorderly and alien to it, others in a regular manner and akin in nature.

Although we cannot see the elemental material itself, the qualities of the things we see around us derive from the basic properties of these elemental materials.

Moreover, we must suppose that the atoms do not possess any of the qualities belonging to perceptible things, except shape, weight, and size, and all that necessarily goes with shape.

For every quality changes; but the atoms do not change at all, since there must needs be something which remains solid and indissoluble at the dissolution of compounds, which can cause changes; not changes into the nonexistent or from the non-existent, but changes effected by the shifting of position of some particles, and by the addition or departure of others.

For this reason it is essential that the bodies which shift their position should be imperishable and should not possess the nature of what changes, but parts and configuration of their own.

For thus much must needs remain constant. For even in things perceptible to us which change their shape by the withdrawal of matter it is seen that shape remains to them, whereas the qualities do not remain in the changing object, in the way in which shape is left behind, but are lost from the entire body.

Now these particles which are left behind are sufficient to cause the differences in compound bodies, since it is essential that some things should be left behind and not be destroyed into the non-existent.

Moreover, we must not either suppose that every size exists among the atoms, in order that the evidence of phenomena may not contradict us, but we must suppose that there are some variations of size.

For if this be the case, we can give a better account of what occurs in our feelings and sensations.

But the existence of atoms of every size is not required to explain the differences of qualities in things, and at the same time some atoms would be bound to come within our ken and be visible; but this is never seen to be the case, nor is it possible to imagine how an atom could become visible.

The elementary materials are not infinitely small, but have a minimum size on which their eternal properties are based.

Besides this we must not suppose that in a limited body there can be infinite parts or parts of every degree of smallness.

Therefore, we must not only do away with division into smaller and smaller parts to infinity, in order that we may not make all things weak, and so in the composition of aggregate bodies be compelled to crush and squander the things that exist into the non-existent, but we must not either suppose that in limited bodies there is a possibility of continuing to infinity in passing even to smaller and smaller parts.

For if once one says that there are infinite parts in a body or parts of any degree of smallness, it is not possible to conceive how this should be, and indeed how could the body any longer be limited in size?

(For it is obvious that these infinite particles must be of some size or other; and however small they may be, the size of the body too would be infinite.)

And again, since the limited body has an extreme point, which is distinguishable, even though not perceptible by itself, you cannot conceive that the succeeding point to it is not similar in character, or that if you go on in this way from one point to another, it should be possible for you to proceed to infinity marking such points in your mind.

We must notice also that the least thing in sensation is neither exactly like that which admits of progression from one part to another, nor again is it in every respect wholly unlike it, but it has a certain affinity with such bodies, yet cannot be divided into parts.

But when on the analogy of this resemblance we think to divide off parts of it, one on the one side and another on the other, it must needs be that another point like the first meets our view.

And we look at these points in succession starting from the first, not within the limits of the same point nor in contact part with part, but yet by means of their own proper characteristics measuring the size of bodies, more in a greater body and fewer in a smaller.

Now we must suppose that the least part in the atom too bears the same relation to the whole; for though in smallness it is obvious that it exceeds that which is seen by sensation, yet it has the same relations.

For indeed we have already declared on the ground of its relation to sensible bodies that the atom has size, only we placed it far below them in smallness.

Further, we must consider these least indivisible points as boundary-marks, providing in themselves as primary units the measure of size for the atoms, both for the smaller and the greater, in our contemplation of these unseen bodies by means of thought.

For the affinity which the least parts of the atom have to the homogeneous parts of sensible things is sufficient to justify our conclusion to this extent: but that they should ever come together as bodies with motion is quite impossible.

In the universe as a whole there is no "up" or "down," and the elementary particles move at equal speed; it is collisions which gives us the appearance of slowness and quickness.

[Furthermore, in the infinite we must not speak of “up” or “down,” as though with reference to an absolute highest or lowest — and indeed we must say that, though it is possible to proceed to infinity in the direction above our heads from wherever we take our stand, the absolute highest point will never appear to us — nor yet can that which passes beneath the point thought of to infinity be at the same time both up and down in reference to the same thing: for it is impossible to think this.

So that it is possible to consider as one single motion that which is thought of as the upward motion to infinity and as another the downward motion, even though that which passes from us into the regions above our heads arrives countless times at the feet of beings above and that which passes downwards from us at the head of beings below; for none the less the whole motions are thought of as opposed, the one to the other, to infinity.]

Moreover, the atoms must move with equal speed, when they are borne onwards through the void, nothing colliding with them.

For neither will the heavy move more quickly than the small and light, when, that is, nothing meets them: nor again the small more quickly than the great, having their whole course uniform, when nothing collides with them either: nor is the motion upwards or sideways owing to blows quicker, nor again that downwards owing to their own weight.

For as long as either of the two motions prevails, so long will it have a course as quick as thought, until something checks it either from outside or from its own weight counteracting the force of that which dealt the blow.

Moreover, their passage through the void, when it takes place without meeting any bodies which might collide, accomplishes every comprehensible distance in an inconceivably short time.

For it is collision and its absence which take the outward appearance of slowness and quickness.

Moreover, it will be said that in compound bodies too one atom is faster than another, though as a matter of fact all are equal in speed: this will be said because even in the least period of continuous time all the atoms in aggregate bodies move towards one place, even though in moments of time perceptible only by thought they do not move towards one place but are constantly jostling one against another, until the continuity of their movement comes under the ken of sensation.

For the addition of opinion with regard to the unseen, that the moments perceptible only by thought will also contain continuity of motion, is not true in such cases; for we must remember that it is what we observe with the senses or grasp with the mind by an apprehension that is true.

Nor must it either be supposed that in moments perceptible only by thought the moving body too passes to the several places to which its component atoms move (for this too is unthinkable, and in that case, when it arrives all together in a sensible period of time from any point that may be in the infinite void, it would not be taking its departure from the place from which we apprehend its motion); for the motion of the whole body will be the outward expression of its internal collisions, even though up to the limits of perception we suppose the speed of its motion not to be retarded by collision. It is of advantage to grasp this first principle as well.

The soul is also composed of elementary material, moving with few collisions, and possesses the quality of sensation when it is enclosed by the body.

Next, referring always to the sensations and the feelings, for in this way you will obtain the most trustworthy ground of belief, you must consider that the soul is a body of fine particles distributed throughout the whole structure, and most resembling wind with a certain admixture of heat, and in some respects like to one of these and in some to the other.

There is also the part which is many degrees more advanced even than these in fineness of composition, and for this reason is more capable of feeling in harmony with the rest of the structure as well. Now all this is made manifest by the activities of the soul and the feelings and the readiness of its movements and its processes of thought and by what we lose at the moment of death.

Further, you must grasp that the soul possesses the chief cause of sensation: yet it could not have acquired sensation, unless it were in some way enclosed by the rest of the structure.

And this in its turn having afforded the soul this cause of sensation acquires itself too a share in this contingent capacity from the soul.

Yet it does not acquire all the capacities which the soul possesses: and therefore when the soul is released from the body, the body no longer has sensation.

For it never possessed this power in itself, but used to afford opportunity for it to another existence, brought into being at the same time with itself: and this existence, owing to the power now consummated within itself as a result of motion, used spontaneously to produce for itself the capacity of sensation and then to communicate it to the body as well, in virtue of its contact and correspondence of movement, as I have already said.

Therefore, so long as the soul remains in the body, even though some other part of the body be lost, it will never lose sensation; nay more, whatever portions of the soul may perish too, when that which enclosed it is removed either in whole or in part, if the soul continues to exist at all, it will retain sensation.

On the other hand the rest of the structure, though it continues to exist either as a whole or in part, does not retain sensation, if it has once lost that sum of atoms, however small it be, which together goes to produce the nature of the soul.

Moreover, if the whole structure is dissolved, the soul is dispersed and no longer has the same powers nor performs its movements, so that it does not possess sensation either.

For it is impossible to imagine it with sensation, if it is not in this organism and cannot effect these movements, when what encloses and surrounds it is no longer the same as the surroundings in which it now exists and performs these movements.

Furthermore, we must clearly comprehend as well, that the incorporeal in the general acceptation of the term is applied to that which could be thought of as such as an independent existence.

Now it is impossible to conceive the incorporeal as a separate existence, except the void: and the void can neither act nor be acted upon, but only provides opportunity of motion through itself to bodies.

So that those who say that the soul is incorporeal are talking idly.

For it would not be able to act or be acted on in any respect, if it were of this nature.

But as it is, both these occurrences are clearly distinguished in respect of the soul.

Now if one refers all these reasonings about the soul to the standards of feeling and sensation and remembers what was said at the outset, he will see that they are sufficiently embraced in these general formulae to enable him to work out with certainty on this basis the details of the system as well.

All emergent properties of bodies of matter arise from the properties of the elementary material which combines to form them, not from internal essences (as taught by Aristotle) or from external forms (as taught by Plato).

Moreover, as regards shape and colour and size and weight and all other things that are predicated of body, as though they were concomitant properties either of all things or of things visible or recognizable through the sensation of these qualities, we must not suppose that they are either independent existences (for it is impossible to imagine that), nor that they absolutely do not exist, nor that they are some other kind of incorporeal existence accompanying body, nor that they are material parts of body: rather we should suppose that the whole body in its totality owes its own permanent existence to all these, yet not in the sense that it is composed of properties brought together to form it (as when, for instance, a larger structure is put together out of the parts which compose it, whether the first units of size or other parts smaller than itself, whatever it is), but only, as I say, that it owes its own permanent existence to all of them.

All these properties have their own peculiar means of being perceived and distinguished, provided always that the aggregate body goes along with them and is never wrested from them, but in virtue of its comprehension as an aggregate of qualities acquires the predicate of body.

Furthermore, there often happen to bodies and yet do not permanently accompany them accidents, of which we must suppose neither that they do not exist at all nor that they have the nature of a whole body, nor that they can be classed among unseen things nor as incorporeal.

So that when according to the most general usage we employ this name, we make it clear that accidents have neither the nature of the whole, which we comprehend in its aggregate and call body, nor that of the qualities which permanently accompany it, without which a given body cannot be conceived.

But as the result of certain acts of apprehension, provided the aggregate body goes along with them, they might each be given this name, but only on occasions when each one of them is seen to occur, since accidents are not permanent accompaniments.

And we must not banish this clear vision from the realm of existence, because it does not possess the nature of the whole to which it is joined nor that of the permanent accompaniments, nor must we suppose that such contingencies exist independently (for this is inconceivable both with regard to them and to the permanent properties), but, just as it appears in sensation, we must think of them all as accidents occurring to bodies, and that not as permanent accompaniments, or again as having in themselves a place in the ranks of material existence; rather they are seen to be just what our actual sensation shows their proper character to be.

Time is a quality perceived by our senses, and not a function of internal essences or external forms.

Moreover, you must firmly grasp this point as well; we must not look for time, as we do for all other things which we look for in an object, by referring them to the general conceptions which we perceive in our own minds, but we must take the direct intuition, in accordance with which we speak of “a long time” or “a short time,” and examine it, applying our intuition to time as we do to other things.

Neither must we search for expressions as likely to be better, but employ just those which are in common use about it.

Nor again must we predicate of time anything else as having the same essential nature as this special perception, as some people do, but we must turn our thoughts particularly to that only with which we associate this peculiar perception and by which we measure it.

For indeed this requires no demonstration, but only reflection, to show that it is with days and nights and their divisions that we associate it and likewise also with internal feelings or absence of feeling, and with movements and states of rest; in connection with these last again we think of this very perception as a peculiar kind of accident, and in virtue of this we call it time.

The universe is full of worlds similar, but not identical, to that which we see here, and life exists on such worlds throughout the universe.

And in addition to what we have already said we must believe that worlds, and indeed every limited compound body which continuously exhibits a similar appearance to the things we see, were created from the infinite, and that all such things, greater and less alike, were separated off from individual agglomerations of matter; and that all are again dissolved, some more quickly, some more slowly, some suffering from one set of causes, others from another.

And further we must believe that these worlds were neither created all of necessity with one configuration nor yet with every kind of shape.

Furthermore, we must believe that in all worlds there are living creatures and plants and other things we see in this world; for indeed no one could prove that in a world of one kind there might or might not have been included the kinds of seeds from which living things and plants and all the rest of the things we see are composed, and that in a world of another kind they could not have been.

Language, like human nature itself, has evolved through dispersed trial and error, not by central divine control.

Moreover, we must suppose that human nature too was taught and constrained to do many things of every kind merely by circumstances; and that later on reasoning elaborated what had been suggested by nature and made further inventions, in some matters quickly, in others slowly, at some epochs and times making great advances, and lesser again at others.

And so names too were not at first deliberately given to things, but men’s natures according to their different nationalities had their own peculiar feelings and received their peculiar impressions, and so each in their own way emitted air formed into shape by each of these feelings and impressions, according to the differences made in the different nations by the places of their abode as well.

And then later on by common consent in each nationality special names were deliberately given in order to make their meanings less ambiguous to one another and more briefly demonstrated.

And sometimes those who were acquainted with them brought in things hitherto unknown and introduced sounds for them, on some occasions being naturally constrained to utter them, and on others choosing them by reasoning in accordance with the prevailing mode of formation, and thus making their meaning clear.

The movement of the stars and planets is natural and not caused by gods.

Furthermore, the motions of the heavenly bodies and their turnings and eclipses and risings and settings, and kindred phenomena to these, must not be thought to be due to any being who controls and ordains or has ordained them and at the same time enjoys perfect bliss together with immortality (for trouble and care and anger and kindness are not consistent with a life of blessedness, but these things come to pass where there is weakness and fear and dependence on neighbors).

Nor again must we believe that they, which are but fire agglomerated in a mass, possess blessedness, and voluntarily take upon themselves these movements.

But we must preserve their full majestic significance in all expressions which we apply to such conceptions, in order that there may not arise out of them opinions contrary to this notion of majesty. Otherwise this very contradiction will cause the greatest disturbance in men’s souls.

Therefore we must believe that it is due to the original inclusion of matter in such agglomerations during the birth-process of the world that this law of regular succession is also brought about.

The study of nature is necessary for our happiness, not because we must know the exact truth about everything in the universe, but because we must have confidence that we are not at the mercy of supernatural beings which control the universe.

Furthermore, we must believe that to discover accurately the cause of the most essential facts is the function of the science of nature, and that blessedness for us in the knowledge of celestial phenomena lies in this and in the understanding of the nature of the existences seen in these celestial phenomena, and of all else that is akin to the exact knowledge requisite for our happiness: in knowing too that what occurs in several ways or is capable of being otherwise has no place here but that nothing which suggests doubt or alarm can be included at all in that which is naturally immortal and blessed.

Now this we can ascertain by our mind is absolutely the case.

But what falls within the investigation of risings and settings and turnings and eclipses, and all that is akin to this, is no longer of any value for the happiness which knowledge brings, but persons who have perceived all this, but yet do not know what are the natures of these things and what are the essential causes, are still in fear, just as if they did not know these things at all: indeed, their fear may be even greater, since the wonder which arises out of the observation of these things cannot discover any solution or realize the regulation of the essentials.

And for this very reason, even if we discover several causes for turnings and settings and risings and eclipses and the like, as has been the case already in our investigation of detail, we must not suppose that our inquiry into these things has not reached sufficient accuracy to contribute to our peace of mind and happiness.

So we must carefully consider in how many ways a similar phenomenon is produced on earth, when we reason about the causes of celestial phenomena and all that is imperceptible to the senses; and we must despise those persons who do not recognize either what exists or comes into being in one way only, or that which may occur in several ways in the case of things which can only be seen by us from a distance, and further are not aware under what conditions it is impossible to have peace of mind.

If, therefore, we think that a phenomenon probably occurs in some such particular way, and that in circumstances under which it is equally possible for us to be at peace, when we realize that it may occur in several ways, we shall be just as little disturbed as if we know that it occurs in some particular way.

And besides all these matters in general we must grasp this point, that the principal disturbance in the minds of men arises because they think that these celestial bodies are blessed and immortal, and yet have wills and actions and motives inconsistent with these attributes; and because they are always expecting or imagining some everlasting misery, such as is depicted in legends, or even fear the loss of feeling in death as though it would concern them themselves; and, again, because they are brought to this pass not by reasoned opinion, but rather by some irrational presentiment, and therefore, as they do not know the limits of pain, they suffer a disturbance equally great or even more extensive than if they had reached this belief by opinion.

But peace of mind is being delivered from all this, and having a constant memory of the general and most essential principles.

Wherefore we must pay attention to internal feelings and to external sensations in general and in particular, according as the subject is general or particular, and to every immediate intuition in accordance with each of the standards of judgment.

For if we pay attention to these, we shall rightly trace the causes whence arose our mental disturbance and fear, and, by learning the true causes of celestial phenomena and all other occurrences that come to pass from time to time, we shall free ourselves from all which produces the utmost fear in other men.

Happy living is possible for those who study the principles set forth here.

Here, Herodotus, is my treatise on the chief points concerning the nature of the general principles, abridged so that my account would be easy to grasp with accuracy.

I think that, even if one were unable to proceed to all the detailed particulars of the system, he would from this obtain an unrivaled strength compared with other men.

For indeed he will clear up for himself many of the detailed points by reference to our general system, and these very principles, if he stores them in his mind, will constantly aid him.

For such is their character that even those who are at present engaged in working out the details to a considerable degree, or even completely, will be able to carry out the greater part of their investigations into the nature of the whole by conducting their analysis in reference to such a survey as this.

And as for all who are not fully among those on the way to being perfected, some of them can from this summary obtain a hasty view of the most important matters without oral instruction so as to secure peace of mind.

——— General Notes:

Section headings in red are not part of the original text. This translation is by Cyril Bailey.

Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles A letter by Epicurus on how man relates to the Cosmos

The purpose of this letter is to explain that the phenomena we see in the sky is not supernatural, but arises from natural causes.

CLEON brought me a letter from you in which you continue to express a kindly feeling towards me, which is a just return for my interest in you, and you attempt with some success to recall the arguments which lead to a life of blessedness.

You ask me to send you a brief argument about the phenomena of the sky in a short sketch, that you may easily recall it to mind.

For you say that what I have written in my other works is hard to remember, even though, as you state, you constantly have them in your hands I was glad to receive your request and felt constrained to answer it by pleasant expectations for the future.

Therefore, as I have finished all my other writings I now intend to accomplish your request, feeling that these arguments will be of value to many other persons as well, and especially to those who have but recently tasted the genuine inquiry into nature, and also to those who are involved too deeply in the business of some regular occupation.

Therefore lay good hold on it, keep it in mind, and go through it all keenly, together with the rest which I sent in the small epitome to Herodotus.

First remember that the purpose of all knowledge is to secure confidence in our happiness.

First of all then we must not suppose that any other object is to be gained from the knowledge of the phenomena of the sky, whether they are dealt with in connection with other doctrines or independently, than peace of mind and a sure confidence, just as in all other branches of study.

Remember also that our goal is not to set forth unprovable theories, but to grasp understandable natural explanations for what we see, so we shall not fear that gods are behind it.

We must not try to force an impossible explanation, nor employ a method of inquiry like our reasoning either about the modes of life or with respect to the solution of other physical problems: witness such propositions as that ‘the universe consists of bodies and the intangible,’ or that ‘the elements are indivisible,' and all such statements in circumstances where there is only one explanation which harmonizes with phenomena.

For this is not so with the things above us: they admit of more than one cause of coming into being and more than one account of their nature which harmonizes with our sensations.

For we must not conduct scientific investigation by means of empty assumptions and arbitrary principles, but follow the lead of phenomena: for our life has not now any place for irrational belief and groundless imaginings, but we must live free from trouble.

And remember that it is not possible, or necessary, to prove things in the sky with certainty, so our goal is simply to show that any of several scientifically reasonable causes may explain what we see in the sky, so we may have confidence that these are not caused by gods.

Now all goes on without disturbance as far as regards each of those things which may be explained in several ways so as to harmonize with what we perceive, when one admits, as we are bound to do, probable theories about them.

But when one accepts one theory and rejects another, which harmonizes as well with the phenomenon, it is obvious that he altogether leaves the path of scientific inquiry and has recourse to myth.

Now we can obtain indications of what happens above from some of the phenomena on earth: for we can observe how they come to pass, though we cannot observe the phenomena in the sky: for they may be produced in several ways.

Yet we must never desert the appearance of each of these phenomena, and further, as regards what is associated with it, must distinguish those things whose production in several ways is not contradicted by phenomena on earth.

We can consider every organized section that we can see in the sky to be a "world," and we can presume that things occur there as they do here based on the evidence of what we see here.

A world is a circumscribed portion of sky, containing heavenly bodies and an earth and all the heavenly phenomena, whose dissolution will cause all within it to fall into confusion: it is a piece cut off from the infinite and ends in a boundary either rare or dense, either revolving or stationary: its outline may be spherical or three-cornered, or any kind of shape.

For all such conditions are possible, seeing that no phenomenon is evidence against this in our world, in which it is not possible to perceive an ending.

There are an infinite number of these worlds, and they form from the whirling and coming together of particles for a time.

And that such worlds are infinite in number we can be sure, and also that such a world may come into being both inside another world and in an interworld, by which we mean a space between worlds; it will be in a place with much void, and not in a large empty space quite void, as some say: this occurs when seeds of the right kind have rushed in from a single world or interworld, or from several: little by little they make junctions and articulations, and cause changes of position to another place, as it may happen, and produce irrigations of the appropriate matter until the period of completion and stability, which lasts as long as the underlying foundations are capable of receiving additions.

For it is not merely necessary for a gathering of atoms to take place, nor indeed for a whirl and nothing more to be set in motion, as is supposed, by necessity, in an empty space in which it is possible for a world to come into being, nor can the world go on increasing until it collides with another world, as one of the so-called physical philosophers says, for this is a contradiction of phenomena.

Sun and moon and the other stars were not created by themselves and subsequently taken in by the world, but were fashioned in it from the first and gradually grew in size by the aggregations and whirlings of bodies of minute parts, either windy or fiery or both, for this is what our sensation suggests.

Due to our limited power of observation, all we can conclude about the possibile causes of the things we see is that those causes must comply with what we see, and how we see it, and comparing those observations to how things at a distance appear here on Earth.

The size of sun (and moon) and the other stars is for us what it appears to be; and in reality it is either (slightly) greater than what we see or slightly less or the same size: for so too fires on earth when looked at from a distance seem to the senses.

And every objection at this point will easily be dissipated, if we pay attention to the clear vision, as I show in my books about nature.

The risings and settings of the sun, moon, and other heavenly bodies may be due to kindling and extinction, the composition of the surrounding matter at the places of rising and setting being such as to lead to these results: for nothing in phenomena is against it.

Or again, the effect in question might be produced by their appearance over the top of the earth, and again the interposition of the earth in front of them: for once more nothing in phenomena is against it.

Their motions may not impossibly be due to the revolution of the whole heaven, or else it may remain stationary, and they may revolve owing to the natural impulse towards the east, which was produced at the beginning of the world . . . . . by an excessive heat owing to a spreading of the fire which is always moving on to the regions nearest in succession.

The tropics of sun and moon may be caused owing to an obliquity of the whole heaven, which is constrained into this position in the successive seasons; or equally well by an outward impulsion of a current of air, or because the appropriate material successively catches fire, as the former fails; or again, from the beginning this particular form of revolution may have been assigned to these stars, so that they move in a kind of spiral.

For all these and kindred explanations are not at variance with any clear-seen facts, if one always clings in such departments of inquiry to the possible and can refer each point to what is in agreement with phenomena without fearing the slavish artifices of the astronomers.

The wanings of the moon and its subsequent waxings might be due to the revolution of its own body, or equally well to successive conformations of the atmosphere, or again to the interposition of other bodies; they may be accounted for in all the ways in which phenomena on earth invite us to such explanations of these phases; provided only one does not become enamoured of the method of the single cause and groundlessly put the others out of court, without having considered what it is possible for a man to observe and what is not, and desiring therefore to observe what is impossible.

Next the moon may have her light from herself or from the sun, for on earth too we see many things shining with their own, and many with reflected light.

In our consideration of multiple possible causes is that we must allow only those hypotheses which are consistent with the evidence we have. We must not allow speculation with theories that are inconsistent with our facts, and thereby allow ourselves to fall prey to the error of thinking that we have a certain idea of a single cause for these phenomena.

Nor is any celestial phenomenon against these explanations, if one always remembers the method of manifold causes and investigates hypotheses and explanations consistent with them, and does not look to inconsistent notions and emphasize them without cause and so fall back in different ways on different occasions on the method of the single cause.

The impression of a face in the moon may be due to the variation of its parts or to interposition or to any one of many causes which might be observed, all in harmony with phenomena, for in the case of all celestial phenomena this process of investigation must never be abandoned - for if one is in opposition to clear-seen facts, he can never have his part in true peace of mind.

The eclipse of sun and moon may take place both owing to their extinction, as we see this effect is produced on earth, or again by the interposition of some other bodies, either the earth or some unseen body or something else of this sort.

And in this way we must consider together the causes that suit with one another and realize that it is not impossible that some should coincide at the same time.

Next the regularity of the periods of the heavenly bodies must be understood in the same way as such regularity is seen in some of the events that happen on earth.

And in our consideration of multiple possible causes we must never consider the actions of gods as a possible cause, because the nature of gods as perfect means that they are never involved in burdensome activities nor do they depart from their state of perfection.

And do not let the divine nature be introduced at any point into these considerations, but let it be preserved free from burdensome duties and in entire blessedness.

For if this principle is not observed, the whole discussion of causes in celestial phenomena is in vain, as it has already been for certain persons who have not clung to the method of possible explanations, but have fallen back on the useless course of thinking that things could only happen in one way, and of rejecting all other ways in harmony with what is possible, being driven thus to what is inconceivable and being unable to compare earthly phenomena, which we must accept as indications.

The limits of our perceptions prevent us from concluding, in many cases, that there is only one cause of what we see.

The successive changes in the length of nights and days may be due to the fact that the sun’s movements above the earth become fast and then slow again because he passes across regions of unequal length or because he traverses some regions more quickly or more slowly, (or again to the quicker or slower gathering of the fires that make the sun), as we observe occurs with some things on earth, with which we must be in harmony in speaking of celestial phenomena.

But those who assume one cause fight against the evidence of phenomena and fail to ask whether it is possible for men to make such observations.

Signs of the weather may occur owing to the coincidence of occasions, as happens with animals we can all see on earth, and also through alterations and changes in the atmosphere, for both these are in accordance with phenomena.

But under what circumstances the cause is produced by this or that, we cannot perceive.

Clouds may be produced and formed both by the condensation of the atmosphere owing to compression by winds and by the interlacing of atoms clinging to one another and suitable for producing this result, and again by the gathering of streams from earth and the waters: and there are several other ways in which the formation of such things may not impossibly be brought about.

And from them again rain may be produced if they are squeezed in one part or changed in another, or again by a downward current of wind moving through the atmosphere from appropriate places, a more violent shower being produced from certain conglomerations of atoms suited to create such downfalls.

Thunder may be produced by the rushing about of wind in the hollows of the clouds, as happens in vessels on earth, or by the reverberation of fire filled with wind inside them, or by the rending and tearing of clouds, or by the friction and bursting of clouds when they have been congealed into a form like ice: phenomena demand that we should say that this department of celestial events, just like them all, may be caused in several ways.

And lightnings too are produced in several ways: for both owing to the friction and collision of clouds a conformation of atoms which produces fire slips out and gives birth to the lightning, and owing to wind bodies which give rise to this flash are dashed from the clouds: or compression may be the cause, when clouds are squeezed either by one another or by the wind.

Or again it may be that the light scattered abroad from the heavenly bodies is taken in by the clouds, and then is driven together by the movement of the clouds and wind, and falls out through the clouds; or else light composed of most subtle particles may filter through the clouds, whereby the clouds may be set on fire by the flame and thunder produced by the movement of the fire.

Or the wind may be fired owing to the strain of motion and its violent rotation, or clouds may be rent by wind and atoms fall out which produce fire and cause the appearance of lightning.

And several other methods may easily be observed, if one clings always to phenomena and can compare what is akin to these things.

Lightning precedes thunder in such a conformation of the clouds, either because at the moment when the wind dashes in, the formation of atoms which gives rise to lightning is driven out, but afterwards the wind whirls about and produces the reverberation; or because they both dash out at the same moment, but lightning moves at a higher speed towards us, and thunder comes after, as in the case of some things seen at a distance and producing blows.

Thunderbolts may occur because there are frequent gatherings of wind, which whirls about and is fanned into a fierce flame, and then a portion of it breaks off and rushes violently on the places beneath, the breaking taking place because the regions approached are successively denser owing to the condensation of clouds, or as the result of the actual outburst of the whirling fire, in the same way that thunder may be produced, when the fire becomes too great and is too violently fanned by wind and so breaks through the cloud, because it cannot retreat to the next regions owing to the constant condensation of clouds one on the other; and thunderbolts may be produced in other ways too.

The only cause that must be excluded from consideration at all time is supersitition - that the gods cause the things that we see, and superstition is easily overcome if one follows the lead of the observations we are discussing here.

Only superstition must be excluded, as it will, if one successfully follows the lead of seen phenomena to gain indications about the invisible.

Cyclones may be produced either by the driving down of a cloud into the regions below in the form of a pillar, because it is pushed by the wind gathered inside it and is driven on by the violence of the wind, while at the same time the wind outside impels it sideways; or by wind forming into circular motion, while mist is simultaneously thrust down from above; or when a great rush of wind takes place and cannot pass through sideways owing to the surrounding condensation of the atmosphere.

And when the spout is let down on to the land, whirlwinds are produced in all the various ways in which their creation may occur owing to the movement of the wind, but if it reaches the sea it produces waterspouts.

Earthquakes may be brought about both because wind is caught up in the earth, so that the earth is dislocated in small masses and is continually shaken, and that causes it to sway.

This wind it either takes into itself from outside, or else because masses of ground fall in into cavernous places in the earth and fan into wind the air that is imprisoned in them.

And again, earthquakes may be brought about by the actual spreading of the movement which results from the fall of many such masses of ground and the return shock, when the first motion comes into collision with more densely packed bodies of earth.

There are also many other ways in which these motions of the earth may be caused.

The winds may be produced when from time to time some alien matter is continually and gradually forcing its way in, or owing to the gathering of a vast quantity of water.

The other winds arise when a few (currents of air) fall into many hollow spaces, and cause a spreading of wind.

Hail is produced both by a powerful congelation, when certain windy bodies form together from all sides and split up: also by a more moderate congelation of watery bodies and their simultaneous division, which causes at one and the same time their coagulation and separation, so that they cling together as they freeze in their separate parts as well as in their whole masses.

Their circular shape may possibly arise because the comers melt off all round or because at their conformation bodies, whether watery or windy, come together evenly from all directions part by part, as is alleged.

Snow may be produced when fine particles of rain are poured out of the clouds owing to the existence of pores of suitable shape and the strong and constant compression by winds of clouds of the right kind; and then the water is congealed in its descent owing to some conformation of excessive coldness in the clouds in the lower regions.

Or else owing to congelation in clouds of uniform thinness an exudation of this kind might arise from watery clouds lying side by side and rubbing against one another: for they produce hail by causing coagulation, a process most frequent in the atmosphere. Or else, owing to the friction of congealed clouds, these nuclei of snow may find occasion to break off. And there are many other ways in which snow may be produced.

Dew may be produced both when such particles as are productive of this kind of moisture issue from the atmosphere and meet one another, and also when particles rise from moist regions or regions containing water, in which dew is most naturally produced, and then meet together and cause moisture to be produced, and afterwards fall back on the ground below, as (is) frequently (seen) to be the case in phenomena on earth as well.

(And frost is produced by a change) in the dew-particles, when such particles as we have described undergo a definite kind of congelation owing to the neighborhood of a cold atmosphere.

Ice is caused both by the squeezing out from the water of particles of round formation and the driving together of the triangular and acute-angled particles which exist already in the water, and again by the addition from without of particles of this kind, which when driven together produce a congelation in the water, by squeezing out a certain number of the round particles.

The rainbow is caused by light shining from the sun on to watery atmosphere: or else by a peculiar union of light and air, which can produce the special qualities of these colours whether all together or separately; from it as it reflects back again the neighbouring regions of the air can take the tint which we see, by means of the shining of the light on to its various parts.

The appearance of its round shape is caused because it is perceived by our sight at equal distance from all its points, or else because the atoms in the air or those in the clouds which are derived from the same air, are pressed together in this manner, and so the combination spreads out in a round shape.

A halo round the moon is caused either when air is carried towards the moon from all sides, or when the air checks the effluences carried from the moon so equably that it forms them into this cloudy ring all round without any gaps or differences, or else when it checks the air round the moon uniformly on all sides so as to make that which encircles it round and thick in texture.

This comes to pass in different parts either because some current outside forces the air or because heat blocks the passages in such a way as to produce this effect.

Comets occur either when fire is collected together in certain regions at certain intervals of time in the upper air because some gathering of matter takes place, or when at certain intervals the heaven above us has some peculiar movement, so that stars of this nature are revealed, or when they themselves at certain seasons start to move on account of some gathering of matter and come into the regions within our ken and appear visible.

And their disappearance occurs owing to the opposite causes to these.

Some stars ‘revolve in their place’(as Homer says), which comes to pass not only because this part of the world is stationary and round it the rest revolves, as some say, but also because a whirl of air is formed in a ring round it, which prevents their moving about as do the other stars: or else it is because there is not a succession of appropriate fuel for them, but only in this place in which they are seen fixed.

And there are many other ways in which this may be brought about, if one is able to infer what is in agreement with phenomena.

That some of the stars should wander in their course, if indeed it is the case that their movements are such, while others do not move in this manner, may be due to the reason that from the first as they moved in their circles they were so constrained by necessity that some of them move along the same regular orbit, and others along one which is associated with certain irregularities: or it may be that among the regions to which they are carried in some places there are regular tracts of air which urge them on successively in the same direction and provide flame for them regularly, while in other places the tracts are irregular, so that the aberrations which we observe result.

It is madness - the worst kind of error - to conclude that there is only one possible cause for a thing when the evidence supports the possibility of several different causes, but this kind of madness is exactly what supersitious men engage in when they conclude that the gods cause these phenomena.

But to assign a single cause for these occurrences, when phenomena demand several explanations, is madness, and is quite wrongly practiced by persons who are partisans of the foolish notions of astrology, by which they give futile explanations of the causes of certain occurrences, and all the time do not by any means free the divine nature from the burden of responsibilities.

That some stars should be seen to be left behind by others is caused because though they move round in the same orbit they are carried along more slowly, and also because they really move in the opposite direction though they are dragged back by the same revolution: also because some are carried round through a greater space and some through a lesser, though all perform the same revolution. But to give a single explanation of these occurrences is only suitable to those who wish to make a show to the many.

What are called falling stars may be produced in part by the rubbing of star against star, and by the falling out of the fragments wherever an outburst of wind occurs, as we explained in the case of lightning-flashes: or else by the meeting of atoms productive of fire, when a gathering of kindred material occurs to cause this, and a movement in the direction of the impulse which results from the original meeting; or else by a gathering of wind in certain dense and misty formations, and its ignition as it whirls round, and then its bursting out of what encloses it and its rush towards the spot to which the impulse of its flight tends.

And there are other ways in which this result may be brought about, quite free from superstition.

And it is also madness to conclude that the action of animals are signs given us by the gods about approaching bad weather, as neither an animal nor a god are so stupid as to be seized by the idea of engaging in such foolishness.

The signs of the weather which are given by certain animals result from mere coincidence of occasion.

For the animals do not exert any compulsion for winter to come to an end, nor is there some divine nature which sits and watches the outgoings of these animals and then fulfills the signs they give.

For not even the lowest animal, although ‘a small thing gives the greater pleasure,’ would be seized by such foolishness, much less one who was possessed of perfect happiness.

So if you will remember the general rule of thought as to multiple causes, whereby you strictly follow the available evidence, but no further than it will carry you, and if you remember also the nature of the infinite and eternal universe, you will never be troubled by superstition. From these basic points you can reason out the details for yourself, and thereby have confidence in your ability to live happily, but those who fail to grasp these points will not be able to do so.

All these things, Pythocles, you must bear in mind; for thus you will escape in most things from superstition and will be enabled to understand what is akin to them.

And most of all give yourself up to the study of the beginnings and of infinity and of the things akin to them, and also of the criteria of truth and of the feelings, and of the purpose for which we reason out these things.

For these points when they are thoroughly studied will most easily enable you to understand the causes of the details.

But those who have not thoroughly taken these things to heart could not rightly study them in themselves, nor have they made their own the reason for observing them.

——— General Notes:

Section headings in red are not part of the original text. This translation is by Cyril Bailey.

Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus A letter by Epicurus' on how men should live.

Happy living is the goal of life, and philosophy is necessary for happy living.

Let no one when young delay to study philosophy, nor when he is old grow weary of his study.

For no one can come too early or too late to secure the health of his soul.

And the man who says that the age for philosophy has either not yet come or has gone by is like the man who says that the age for happiness is not yet come to him, or has passed away.

Wherefore both when young and old a man must study philosophy, that as he grows old he may be young in blessings through the grateful recollection of what has been, and that in youth he may be old as well, since he will know no fear of what is to come.

We must then meditate on the things that make our happiness, seeing that when that is with us we have all, but when it is absent we do all to win it.

Beliefs which are necessary for happy living: (1) The gods exist, but the gods are not like men commonly believe.

The things which I used unceasingly to commend to you, these do and practice, considering them to be the first principles of the good life.

First of all believe that god is a being immortal and blessed, even as the common idea of a god is engraved on men’s minds, and do not assign to him anything alien to his immortality or ill-suited to his blessedness: but believe about him everything that can uphold his blessedness and immortality.

For gods there are, since the knowledge of them is by clear vision.

But they are not such as the many believe them to be: for indeed they do not consistently represent them as they believe them to be.

And the impious man is not he who popularly denies the gods of the many, but he who attaches to the gods the beliefs of the many.

For the statements of the many about the gods are not conceptions derived from sensation, but false suppositions, according to which the greatest misfortunes befall the wicked and the greatest blessings (the good) by the gift of the gods.

For men being accustomed always to their own virtues welcome those like themselves, but regard all that is not of their nature as alien.

(2) The soul dies with the body, but those who are dead experience nothing.

Become accustomed to the belief that death is nothing to us.

For all good and evil consists in sensation, but death is deprivation of sensation.

And therefore a right understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not because it adds to it an infinite span of time, but because it takes away the craving for immortality.

For there is nothing terrible in life for the man who has truly comprehended that there is nothing terrible in not living.

So that the man speaks but idly who says that he fears death not because it will be painful when it comes, but because it is painful in anticipation.

For that which gives no trouble when it comes is but an empty pain in anticipation. So death, the most terrifying of ills, is nothing to us, since so long as we exist, death is not with us; but when death comes, then we do not exist.

It does not then concern either the living or the dead, since for the former it is not, and the latter are no more.

But the many at one moment shun death as the greatest of evils, at another (yearn for it) as a respite from the (evils) in life.

(But the wise man neither seeks to escape life) nor fears the cessation of life, for neither does life offend him nor does the absence of life seem to be any evil.

And just as with food he does not seek simply the larger share and nothing else, but rather the most pleasant, so he seeks to enjoy not the longest period of time, but the most pleasant.

And he who counsels the young man to live well, but the old man to make a good end, is foolish, not merely because of the desirability of life, but also because it is the same training which teaches to live well and to die well.

Yet much worse still is the man who says it is good not to be born but ‘once born make haste to pass the gates of Death’.

For if he says this from conviction why does he not pass away out of life?

For it is open to him to do so, if he had firmly made up his mind to this.

But if he speaks in jest, his words are idle among men who cannot receive them.

We should neither be overconfident about the future nor despair about it.

We must then bear in mind that the future is neither ours, nor yet wholly not ours, so that we may not altogether expect it as sure to come, nor abandon hope of it, as if it will certainly not come.

All actions in life are to be targeted toward living intelligently to attain a life of happiness.

We must consider that of desires some are natural, others vain, and of the natural some are necessary and others merely natural; and of the necessary some are necessary for happiness, others for the repose of the body, and others for very life.

The right understanding of these facts enables us to refer all choice and avoidance to the health of the body and (the soul’s) freedom from disturbance, since this is the aim of the life of blessedness.

For it is to obtain this end that we always act, namely, to avoid pain and fear.

And when this is once secured for us, all the tempest of the soul is dispersed, since the living creature has not to wander as though in search of something that is missing, and to look for some other thing by which he can fulfil the good of the soul and the good of the body.

For it is then that we have need of pleasure, when we feel pain owing to the absence of pleasure; (but when we do not feel pain), we no longer need pleasure.

And for this cause we call pleasure the beginning and end of the blessed life.

For we recognize pleasure as the first good innate in us, and from pleasure we begin every act of choice and avoidance, and to pleasure we return again, using the feeling as the standard by which we judge every good.

And since pleasure is the first good and natural to us, for this very reason we do not choose every pleasure, but sometimes we pass over many pleasures, when greater discomfort accrues to us as the result of them: and similarly we think many pains better than pleasures, since a greater pleasure comes to us when we have endured pains for a long time.

Every pleasure then because of its natural kinship to us is good, yet not every pleasure is to be chosen: even as every pain also is an evil, yet not all are always of a nature to be avoided.

Yet by a scale of comparison and by the consideration of advantages and disadvantages we must form our judgment on all these matters.

For the good on certain occasions we treat as bad, and conversely the bad as good.

And again independence of desire we think a great good — not that we may at all times enjoy but a few things, but that, if we do not possess many, we may enjoy the few in the genuine persuasion that those have the sweetest enjoy luxury pleasure in luxury who least need it, and that all that is natural is easy to be obtained, but that which is superfluous is hard.

And so plain savours bring us a pleasure equalto a luxurious diet, when all the pain due to want is removed; and bread and water produce the highest pleasure, when one who needs them puts them to his lips.

To grow accustomed therefore to simple and not luxurious diet gives us health to the full, and makes a man alert for the needful employments of life, and when after long intervals we approach luxuries disposes us better towards them, and fits us to be fearless of fortune.

When, therefore, we maintain that pleasure is the end, we do not mean the pleasures of profligates and those that consist in sensuality, as is supposed by some who are either ignorant or disagree with us or do not understand, but freedom from pain in the body and from trouble in the mind.

For it is not continuous drinkings and revelings, nor the satisfaction of lusts, nor the enjoyment of fish and other luxuries of the wealthy table, which produce a pleasant life, but sober reasoning, searching out the motives for all choice and avoidance, and banishing mere opinions, to which are due the greatest disturbance of the spirit.

The greatest tool for achieving happiness is prudence, because all actions are judged to be virtuous or not by whether the action succeeds in bringing us happiness

Of all this the beginning and the greatest good is prudence.

Wherefore prudence is a more precious thing even than philosophy: for from prudence are sprung all the other virtues, and it teaches us that it is not possible to live pleasantly without living prudently and honourably and justly, (nor, again, to live a life of prudence, honour, and justice) without living pleasantly.

For the virtues are by nature bound up with the pleasant life, and the pleasant life is inseparable from them.

The characteristics of the highest man: one who understands the gods, who understands how to pursue pleasure wisely, and who disdains "fate" and "chance" and understands that he is himself largely in control of his life.

For indeed who, think you, is a better man than he who holds reverent opinions concerning the gods, and is at all times free from fear of death, and has reasoned out the end ordained by nature?

He understands that the limit of good things is easy to fulfil and easy to attain, whereas the course of ills is either short in time or slight in pain; he laughs at (destiny), whom some have introduced as the mistress of all things.

(He thinks that with us lies the chief power in determining events, some of which happen by necessity) and some by chance, and some are within our control; for while necessity cannot be called to account, he sees that chance is inconstant, but that which is in our control is subject to no master, and to it are naturally attached praise and blame.

For, indeed, it were better to follow the myths about the gods than to become a slave to the destiny of the natural philosophers: for the former suggests a hope of placating the gods by worship, whereas the latter involves a necessity which knows no placation.

As to chance, he does not regard it as a god as most men do (for in a god’s acts there is no disorder), nor as an uncertain cause (of all things) for he does not believe that good and evil are given by chance to man for the framing of a blessed life, but that opportunities for great good and great evil are afforded by it.

He therefore thinks it better to be unfortunate in reasonable action than to prosper in unreason.

For it is better in a man’s actions that what is well chosen (should fail, rather than that what is ill chosen) should be successful owing to chance.

Those who study and apply the principles discussed here can live as gods among men.

Meditate therefore on these things and things akin to them night and day by yourself; and with a companion like to yourself, and never shall you be disturbed waking or asleep, but you shall live like a god among men.

For a man who lives among immortal blessings is not like unto a mortal being.

——— General Notes:

Section headings in red are not part of the original text. This translation is by Cyril Bailey.

Lucretius' On The Nature of Things A summary of Epicurean philosophy in verse.

———Book I———

Humanity has long been oppressed under the grim weight of religion. Epicurus was the first man with the force of mind to discover the truth of the way things really are, showing us the limits, boundaries, and benchmarks set by nature. In so doing he broke religion’s oppressive hold over the minds of men, raising us equal to the heavens.

It is religion that is the true mother of wickedness in the world.

Religion oppresses men by causing them to fear punishment by the gods both in this life and in eternal hell hereafter.

The remedy to the terrors of the spirit manufactured by religion is to study and uncover the true nature of the universe, for this will allow us to see that those threats are not real.

The true nature of the soul is not obvious to us, so if we are to free ourselves from religious fears we must study nature. We must also see that religion is not correct when it asserts that we have eternal souls which will be punished or rewarded by gods after death.

Our starting point in this study of nature is this primary observation: nothing ever comes from nothing. We observe that neither gods nor any other forces are able to create any thing from nothing.

Once we see that nothing comes from nothing, we can see that all things come into being in accord with the nature of their elemental material, and that all things occur without any intervention from any gods.

Our method for proving that nothing comes from nothing is the same method we use to address all questions. We must look at the evidence around us and draw deductive conclusions based on the evidence nature provides to us through our senses.

We must also test conclusions by looking to see that the opposite conclusion is not supported by the evidence nature provides.

Nature determines qualities of all things, and the limits and boundaries of what is possible to them, including how all things come into being, grow, and pass away.

Nature also contains life-giving particles which, under certain conditions, are capable of springing to life.

Our second primary observation is this: all things pass away and change back into the essential material from which they are made, but nothing is ever absolutely destroyed to nothing.

If things passed away to nothing, in the eternity of time past all things would have passed away, and nothing would be left in the universe.

But we see that the universe survives, and has not all passed away, and therefore we conclude that the basic material of the universe is indestructible.

Do not doubt that elementary material is indestructible simply because it is too small to see. You cannot see the air or odors either, and yet you know they exist.

Nature’s work is done by elementary particles so small that they are unseen. In addition to these particles, however, there is also empty space, or "void.”

We know that void exists because otherwise movement would be impossible; but we see that things do move, so we know void exists.

We conclude that everything in nature is made up of matter and void. Nothing exists in the universe except matter and void.

Because the elementary material of the universe is eternal, the universe is itself eternal. This does not mean that the current form of the universe is eternal, because the elementary material constantly changes position, but the elementary material from which the universe is made is itself eternal.

There is a limit to the divisibility of the elementary material. The smallest elementary materials are indivisible and eternal

All things are not made from a single substance, but from many distinct elementary materials. Fools often admire the things their blindness sees in hidden meanings, and they follow men such as Heraclitus, who argued that all things are made from a single substance – fire.

Errors about the nature of things arise because philosophers teach that the senses cannot be trusted, but all arguments against the reliability of the senses are madness. This is because such arguments are self-contradictory – they argue against the senses by using the senses, and those who use the senses must accept that they are trustworthy.

Just as a limited number of letters in the alphabet form all words by being arranged differently, the elementary materials of the universe form all things by combining in different ways.

There is a limit to divisibility. There is an absolute smallest.

Our goal is to free the mind from the restrictions imposed by religion. Although it may seem grim to conclude that life ends at death, we will rim the cup with honey so that take the medicine that may seem bitter, but which brings healing.

The universe is infinite in extent, and has no boundaries no matter how far you travel in any direction.

Matter and space are equally infinite.

The universe has no center.

These basic lessons lead to all the rest that follows. Applying our method to all questions will lead to a series of answers which each, in turn, illuminates the next.

———Book II———

Wisdom brings great pleasure, including the pleasure of appreciating the dangers from which wisdom protects you

Nature has established that our highest goal is that the mind enjoy delight, and that the body be free of pain.

Nature has established that neither our bodies nor our minds require great wealth, or power over others.

Wealth, power, and the like are no guarantee of happiness – only reason has power over the fear of death and other irrational fears

Ultimately only applying reason to the study of Nature can cure our childish fears

Our next lesson is that the basic material of the universe is in constant motion

The atoms do not move to please us, nor do they move “perfectly” as if their motions were established by a god

The movement of the atoms is in accord with their nature, but in addition to the movement caused by their interaction with each other, it is also in the nature of certain atoms to swerve unpredictably, and from this atomic swerve comes our free will

There is a force resident within certain atoms that leads them to swerve

The atoms have a finite number of shapes

The atoms are finite in number of shapes, but the atoms are infinite in number

There is an eternal deadlock between destruction and rebirth

Let a man call upon the gods in jest if he like, but let him not be polluted by religion to think that the gods control the universe

Atoms cannot combine in all possible ways, but only according to their nature.

Atoms have no color.

Sentient life is made of non-sentient particles.

The key aspect of sentient life is the arrangement of the particles.

But while the arrangement of the material makes the key difference, consciousness does not derive from RANDOM combinations of matter

Men can laugh without being made of laughing particles; men can be wise without being made of wise particles.

Sentient things are made of particles which do not themselves have sensation.

The universe is wonderful but do not be shocked by it; in all things welcome the truth; strike down the false.

Ours is not the only world; there are many others in the universe, and other races of men, as there has been infinite time and space for all natural combinations of things.

And there is never in nature only one single thing of a kind.

Nature has no tyrants (gods) over her.

———Book III———

Epicurus discovered and has shown to us immortal truths, which we should apply to our own lives as he did to his.

Most importantly, the fear of hell must be shown to be groundless, as it pollutes life and makes happiness impossible.

The fear of hell is dispelled by the study of nature.

Mind is a part of man’s makeup just like hands, feet, and eyes.

Mind and spirit are, like everything else, material in nature.

Mind is made up of diminutive particles.

Mind is made up of small particles but also of a fourth, unnamed element.

This fourth element is lord of all, and rules body and mind.

Reason can dispel our primitive elements and allow us to live lives worthy of the gods.

This fourth element of spirit is inseparable from the body.

Mind is more powerful than spirit.

Mind and body are born and age together.

Mind can be diseased just as the body can.

The truth meets falsehood head-on and cuts off its retreat as well, so it is doubly victor.

Mind perishes with the body.

Even if spirit possesses an immortal quality, it keeps no memory of a prior life, so we are essentially new creations.

The spirit lives throughout the body while the body lives, and dies with it.

Spirits do not make bodies for themselves and crawl into them

If spirit were immortal and kept its identify we would see beasts perform like scholars.

It is comical to think that spirits might stand in lines holding tickets to enter the bodies of living things.

Trees cannot root in the sky; there is an everlasting fixed assignment set for being and growth.

It is nonsense to think that mortal and immortal can unite in an immortal pact.

Death is nothing to us, and has no more relevance to us than did the time before we were born

Just as we have no concern about the eternity of time before our birth, we should have no concern about the eternity of time after our death.

Even if the mind or spirit has sensation after death, that is nothing to us, as our essence derives from our union with out body, and any such existence has no meaning to us.

If tough luck lies ahead for any man, he must be there to experience it, but since death removes our consciousness we have no need to fear it.

Death is no worse than eternal sleep.

Take leave of life as if you are leaving a banquet.

Think of the eternity of time before our birth as a mirror of the eternity of time after death and you will realize that this is not grim, and is a rest more free from care than any sleep.

The terrors that supposedly exist in Hell really exist here – in the minds of fools.

Remember that the greatest men in the history of the world have also died, just as you will.

Half their time men spend in sleep; the other half wandering around aimslessly, sleeping with their eyes wide open

Men seem to feel a burden on their souls, and they waste their lives away, not realizing that the issue for them to understand is not how they spend an hour, but how they will spend eternity.

All men must die, and none can escape; you must reconcile yourself to this law of nature.

———Book IV———

Epicurus’ teachings bring release from religious fear, and though the limitations of life may seem bitter, it is the best medicine for the soul to realize the natural limits of life.

We now turn to discussing “images” (visions), to show that they do not result from seeing ghosts of those who are dead.

Illusions do not show that eyesight is fallible; it is the task of reason to process the information they provide.

There are many examples of visual illusions, but we fool ourselves; misjudgments are not the fault of the senses but of our processing the information the senses provide

The man who argues that nothing can be known confesses that he himself is ignorant.

The ultimate validity of the senses cannot be refuted, because any attempted refutation depends for its proof on the senses.

If you cannot explain a seeming contradiction, it is better to accept an incorrect theory than to give up those conclusions that you have already had sufficient facts to verify to be true.

Do not reason based on erroneous observations of the facts of reality, or else your conclusions will be erroneous also.

Reason is dormant while we sleep, so things seen in dreams cannot be trusted.

Eyes were not made to see; nor ankle-bones for walking.

Nature did not make eyes for seeing; what is born creates the use.

Sleep annuls sensation.

Avoid the danger inherent in allowing passionate love to overcome your common sense

Delight comes in a purer form to those who are reasonable in the way they indulge their senses

It is easier to avoid the snares of love than to escape once you are entangled.

Romantic love is strongest when based not on passion but on habit, growing stronger over time, like rain wearing away stone

———Book V———

Epicurus appears to us now as god-like, given the immortal wisdom he left to us.

If the reason is unpurified, we wage an internal war against ourselves.

All the world is mortal too, and just as it once came together into its present form, it will one day pass away.

Wonderment at the stars in heaven breeds confusion, as fools think that the stars are moved by the gods, and this leads them to invoke a bitter lordship of religion over themselves.

Everything that has a body does not have a mind – the element of mind and spirit exists only in connection with living animals.

The gods did not change their immortal ways to create the world for men.

The gods did not live in darkness and grief before they created the world.

It would be of no harm to us if we had never been born.

Nature had to provide the model for creation – how could the gods themselves have created the universe without a model?

Too much is wrong with the world for it to have been created by an all-powerful god.

Our world is very young, or else we would have a much longer knowledge of human history.

Our world was formed by the natural actions of the basic material of the universe.

Speculations as to the stars are necessarily only theories, since we lack ability to verify the true facts by direct closeup evaluation.

The size of the sun is an example of the limits of our ability to determine the truth of things in heaven – certain facts observable here on earth (primarily that all things except light appear to grow less distinct when further away) lead us to conclude that the sun is not significantly larger than it appears to us in the sky.

Another point we lack the ability to verify is whether the Moon shines with its own light, or reflects light from sun.

Centaurs and such things as half-men, half-animals never existed, and never can exist, because seeds combine only according to their nature.

Language developed naturally over time as men learned to communicate with each other.

Men fell under religion because they had visions of gods in dreams and saw things in the world and sky that they did not understand, so they assumed the gods must be responsible.

Populations die if they disarm.

Men developed music by imitating the birds.

We toil in vain because we fail to remember the limits of possessiveness and the brevity of our time to enjoy pleasure.

———Book VI———

Civilization first flowered in Athens, and Athens brought to us a man – Epicurus – who discovered and brought to us the complete truth, and as a result his glory makes him seem to us almost divine

Epicurus diagnosed the problem that corrupts men’s lives, and cleansed our hearts by words of truth, showing us (1) the error of greeds and fears, (2) the highest good that Nature has ordained for men, (3) the natural evils that confront the lives of men, and that they can be defeated once we learn the proper way to deal with them, and (4) that most of the anxieties we face are imaginary, no worse than the imaginings of children.

Even those who otherwise understand the laws of Nature may wonder how certain things can happen, especially in the sky, and this wonder leads to confusion and to regress to superstitious religious awe

Stop having thoughts unworthy of the gods, because this will harm you – not because the gods will care, but because you will fear that you are at the mercy of the gods and this will cause you great anxiety.

We see that lightning is not caused by the gods because it does not occur with any consistency to punish the enemies of the gods or to accomplish anything.

Snow, wind, hail and the light are understandable if you keep in mind the basic properties of the elements involved.

Many natural phenomena cannot be isolated to a single cause due to lack of information, so consider all reasonable possibilities that are not eliminated by the evidence.

——— General Notes:

Section headings in red are not part of the original text. The translation to be added here will be by Cyril Bailey.

Diogenes Laertius' Biography of Epicurus The biography which is our primary source of information about Epicurus.

Birth and early years of Epicurus.

EPICURUS, son of Neocles and Chaerestrata, was an Athenian of the deme of Gargettus, and the family of the Philaidae, as Metrodorus says in his work on Nobility of Birth. Heraclides in his epitome of Sotion and others say that the Athenians having colonized Samos, Epicurus was brought up there. In his eighteenth year, as they say, he came to Athens, when Xenocrates was at the Academy and Aristotle was living in Chalcis. After the death of Alexander of Macedon, when the Athenians were driven out of Samos by Perdiccas, he went to join his father in Colophon. Having stayed there some time and gathered disciples he returned again to Athens in the archonship of Anaxicrates. For a while he joined with others in the study of philosophy, but later taught independently, when he had founded the school called after him. He tells us himself that he first made acquaintance with philosophy at the age of fourteen. Apollodorus the Epicurean in the first book of his Life of Epicurus says that he took to philosophy because he despised the teachers of literature, since they were not able to explain to him the passage about Chaos in Hesiod. Hermippus says that Epicurus was at one time a schoolmaster and then after he met with the writings of Democritus, he took eagerly to philosophy. And this is why Timon says about him: Last and most shameless of the scientists, infant school teacher from Samos, the most stubborn of all living beings.

His three brothers, Neocles, Chaeredemus, and Aristobulus, joined him in studying philosophy at his suggestion, according to Philodemus the Epicurean in the tenth book of his Comparison of Philosophies. Also a slave called Mys, as Muronianus says in his chapters on historical coincidences.

Diotimus the Stoic, who is ill-disposed to Epicurus, has calumniated him most bitterly by producing fifty lewd letters as Epicurus’ work; so has the writer who has assigned to Epicurus the collection of ‘billets-doux’ which were attributed to Chrysippus, and also Posidonius the Stoic and his followers, as well as Nicolaus and Sotion in the twelve books of the ‘Arguments of Diocles’ which are named after the Epicurean celebration of The Twentieth; also Dionysius of Halicarnassus. For they say that he used to go round from house to house with his mother reading out the purification prayers, and assisted his father in elementary teaching for a miserable pittance. They add that one of his brothers prostituted himself and kept company with Leontion, the hetaera. Also that he took Democritus’ atomic theory and Aristippus’ theory of pleasure and taught them as his own. Further, that he was not an Athenian born, as Timocrates says, and Herodotus too in his book The Youth of Epicurus. He is also said to have used degrading flattery towards Mithres, the steward of Lysimachus, calling him in his letters both ‘Saviour’ and ‘My lord.’ Idomeneus too and Herodotus and Timo crates, who divulged his secrets, he is said to have praised and flattered all the same. And in his letters he wrote to Leontion, ‘Lord and Saviour, my dearest Leontion, what a hurrahing you drew from us, as we read aloud your dear letter,’ and to Themista, Leonteus’ wife, "If you two don’t come to me, I am capable of arriving with a hop, skip and jump, wherever you and Themista summon me.’ And to Pythocles, who was young and beautiful, he writes, ‘I will sit down and wait for your lovely and godlike appearance.’ And again in writing to Themista he calls her (by a most flattering name), as Theodorus says in the fourth book of his attack on Epicurus. They say that he wrote to many other women of pleasure and particularly to Leontion, with whom Metrodorus was also in love; and that in the treatise On the End of Life he wrote, ‘I know not how I can conceive the good, if I withdraw the pleasures of taste and withdraw the pleasures of love and those of hearing and sight.’

Again in the letter to Pythocles they say he wrote ‘Blest youth, set sail in your bark and flee from every form of culture.’

Epictetus moreover calls him a filthy talker and abuses him roundly. And even Timocrates, who was the brother of Metrodorus and a disciple of Epicurus, after he had abandoned the school, wrote in a book with the title Pleasant Things that Epicurus used to vomit twice a day owing to his luxurious living, and that he himself was scarcely able to escape from his philosophical disquisitions during the night and from the community of the initiates. He adds that Epicurus was profoundly ignorant of philosophy, and still more so of practical life, that his body was miserably weak, so that for many years he was unable to rise from his portable couch. Further, that he spent no less than a mina a day on his food, as Epicurus writes himself in the letter to Leontion and in the letters to the philosophers in Mytilene. Moreover, there were other women who lived with him and Metrodorus, named Mammarion and Hedeia and Erotion and Nicidion. He adds that in the thirty-seven books On Nature he repeats himself for the most part and attacks many other philosophers in them, but Nausiphanes most of all, saying in his own words, ‘Away with them all, for Nausiphanes, like many another slave, was in travail with that wordy braggart, sophistic.’ He says that Epicurus himself in his letters about Nausiphanes said, ‘This drove him to such a state of fury that he abused me and ironically called me “Master.”’

He used to call Nausiphanes ‘The mollusk,’ ‘The illiterate,’ ‘The cheat,’ ‘The harlot.’ The followers of Plato he called ‘Flatterers of Dionysus,’ and Plato himself ‘The golden man,’ and Aristotle ‘The debauchee,' saying that he devoured his inheritance and then enlisted and sold drugs. Protagoras he called ‘Porter’ or ‘Copier of Democritus,’ saying that he taught in the village schools. Heraclitus he called ‘The Muddler,’ Democritus [he called] Lerocritus (‘judge of nonsense’), Antidorus he called Sannidorus (‘Maniac’), the Cynics [he called] ‘Enemies of Hellas,’ the Logicians [he called] ‘The destroyers,’ and Pyrrho [he called] ‘The uneducated fool.’

But these calumniators are all mad. For Epicurus has witnesses enough and to spare to his unsurpassed kindness to all men. There is his country which honoured him with bronze statues, his friends so numerous that they could not even be reckoned by entire cities, and his disciples who all remained bound forever by the charm of his teaching, except Metrodorus, son of Stratoniceus, who went over to Carneades, overweighted perhaps by Epicurus’ excessive goodness. There is also the permanent continuance of the school after almost all the others had come to an end, and that though it had a countless succession of heads from among the disciples. There is again his grateful devotion to his parents, his generosity to his brothers, and his gentleness towards his servants, of whom the most notable was Mys, already mentioned, as is proved by his will and the part they took in his philosophical discussions. In short, there is his benevolence to all.

Of his reverence towards the gods and his love of his country it would be impossible to speak adequately. But from excess of modesty he would not take any part in politics. Yet although Greece was at that time in great straits, he continued to live there, and only once or twice made a voyage to Ionia and the neighborhood to see his friends. But they came to him from all quarters, and took up their abode with him in the garden, as Apollodorus says [who adds that he bought it for eighty minae. Diocles in the third book of his Course in Philosophy confirms this], living a most frugal and simple life. Indeed, he says, they were satisfied with half a pint of wine, and for the most part drank water. He adds that Epicurus did not recommend them to put their belongings into a common stock, as did Pythagoras, who said that ‘Friends have all in common.’ For to do so implied distrust: and distrust could not go with friendship. Epicurus himself says in his letters that he was content with nothing but water and a bit of bread.

‘Send me,’ he says, ‘some preserved cheese, that when I like I may have a feast.’ Such was the man who taught that the end is pleasure. Athenaeus sings his praise in an epigram: Men toil at mean pursuits, for love of gain, Insatiate they welcome war and strife; Their idle fancies lead on endless paths, But nature's wealth is set in narrow bounds. This truth the prudent son of Neocles Learnt from the Muses or Apollo’s shrine.

The truth of this we shall know better as we go on from his own words and teaching.

Diocles says that of the earlier philosophers he showed most sympathy with Anaxagoras, though on certain points he opposed him, and with Arclielaus, the master of Socrates. And, he adds, he used to practice his disciples in getting his writings by heart. Apollodorus in his Chronicles asserts that he listened to the teaching of Nausiphanes and Praxiphanes. Epicurus himself denies this in his letter to Eurylochus, and says he was his own teacher. And indeed both Epicurus and Hermarchus deny that there ever was such a philosopher as Leucippus, whom Apollodorus the Epicurean and others say was the master of Democritus. Demetrius of Magnesia says that he was also a follower of Xenocrates.

He uses current diction to expound his theory, but Aristophanes the grammarian censures it as being too peculiar. But he was clear in expression, Just as in his book On Rhetoric he insists on clearness above everything. In his letters he used to say ‘Prosper’ or ‘Live well,’ instead of the conventional introduction ‘Be happy.’

Ariston in his Life of Epicurus says that he borrowed The Canon from the Tripod of Nausiphanes, whose pupil he says he was, as well as being a disciple of Pamphilus the Platonist in Samos. He states that Epicurus began philosophy at the age of twelve, and was at the head of his School at thirty-two.

He was born, says Apollodorus in the Chronicles, in the third year of the 109th Olympiad in the archonship of Sosigenes on the seventh day of the month Gamelion, seven years after the death of Plato. When he was thirty-two he started his school, first for five years at Mitylene and Lampsacus, and then he migrated to Athens. There he died in the second year of the 127th Olympiad in the archonship of Pytharatus, at the age of seventy-two. Hermarchus of Mitylene, son of Agemortus, succeeded to the headship of the school. Epicurus died of a stone in the bladder, as Hermarchus also says in his letters, after an illness of fourteen days. Hermippus tells us that as he was dying he got into a bronze bath filled with hot water, and asked for a cup of unmixed wine, which he gulped down. Then, having adjured his friends to remember his teaching, he expired. I have composed the following epigram on him: ‘Farewell, remember my sayings.’ Thus spake at his death Epicurus, These the last words as he died spake he aloud to his friends. Then in a hot bath he laid him, a goblet of wine he demanded, Quaffed it, and soon the cold air quaffed he of Hades below.’

Such was Epicurus’ life and such his death. His will was as follows:

The Will of Epicurus.

I hereby leave all my possessions to Amynomachus, son of Philocrates, of the deme of Bate, and Timocrates, son of Demetrius, of the deme of Potamos, according to the form of gift to each registered in the Metroum, on condition that they make over the garden and all that goes with it to Hermarchus, son of Ageniortus, of Mitylene, and to those who study philosophy with him and to those whom Hermarchus may leave as his successors in the school, for them to live there in the pursuit of philosophy. And to those who hereafter follow my philosophy I assign the right to live in the garden, that they may assist Amynomachus and Timocrates to maintain it to the best of their power, and to their heirs, in whatever way may give the securest possession, that they too may preserve the garden, and after them those to whom the disciples of my school may hand it on.

The house in Melite, Amynomachus and Timocrates shall assign for a dwelling to Hermarchus and to those who study philosophy with him, as long as Hermarchus shall live.

The income of the property left by me to Amynomachus and Timocrates shall be divided by them as far as possible, with the advice of Hermarchus, for the offerings in honor of my father and mother and brothers, and for the customary celebration of my birthday every year on the tenth of Gamelion, and likewise for the assembly of my disciples which takes place on the twentieth of each month, having been established in recollection of myself and Metrodorus. Let them also keep the day of my brothers in Poseideon and the day of Polyaenus in Metageitmon, as I have done myself.

Amynomachus and Timocrates shall take care of Epicurus, the son of Metrodorus, and of the son of Polyaenus, provided they devote themselves to philosophy and live with Hermarchus. Likewise they shall take care of Metrodorus’ daughter, and when she comes of age shall give her in marriage to one of his disciples whom Hermarchus shall choose, provided she is well-behaved and obedient to Hermarchus. Amynomachus and Timocrates shall set aside for the maintenance of these children such sum out of the revenues of my estate as shall seem good to them each year in consultation with Hermarchus.

They shall give Hermarchus authority with themselves over the income, in order that everything may be done in consultation with the man who has grown old with me in the study of philosophy and has been left by me head of the school. The dowry for the girl, when she comes of age, shall be apportioned by Amynomachus and Timocrates, who shall take a suitable sum from the capital with the approval of Hermarchus. They shall also take care of Nicanor, as I have done, to show that those who have studied with me and have met my needs from their own resources and shown me every mark of friendship and elected to grow old with me in the study of philosophy, may not lack for anything that is necessary, as far as lies in my power.

They are to give all the books that belong to me to Hermarchus. And if any mortal chance befall Hermarchus before Metrodorus’ children come of age, Amynomachus and Timocrates shall as far as possible provide all that is necessary from the income of my estate, if the children are well-behaved. They shall carefully carry out all my other arrangements, so that each may be fulfilled as far as possible. Of my slaves I set free Mys, Nicias and Lycon, and I also set Phaedrium free.

The Letter to Idomeneus on the last day of his life.

When he was on the point of death he wrote the following letter to Idomeneus: ‘On this truly happy day of my life, as I am at the point of death, I write this to you. The disease in my bladder and stomach are pursuing their course, lacking nothing of their natural severity: but against all this is the joy in my heart at the recollection of my conversations with you. Do you, as I might expect from your devotion from boyhood to me and to philosophy, take good care of the children of Metrodorus.’ Such then was his will.

The Followers of Epicurus

He had many disciples, but among the most distinguished was first Metrodorus, son of Athenaeus (or Timocrates) and Sande, of Lampsacus. From the time when he first came to know Epicurus he never left him, except when he went to his native city for six months, and then he came back. He was a good man in all respects, as Epicurus too bears witness in prologues to his writings and in the third book of his Timocrates. Such was his character: his sister Batis he married to Idomeneus, and had for his own mistress Leontion the Athenian hetaera. He was imperturbable in the face of trouble and of death, as Epicurus says in the first book of his Metrodorus. They say that he died at the age of fifty-two, seven years before Epicurus, and of this Epicurus gives evidence, since in the will already quoted he makes provision for the care of his children, implying that he had already died. [He had also as a disciple Timocrates, Metrodorus’ brother, who has been mentioned already, an aimless person.] Metrodorus’ writings were as follows:

Three books Against the Physicians. About Sensations. To Timocrates. Concerning Magnanimity. About Epicurus’ Ill Health. Against the Logicians. Nine books Against the Sophists. Concerning the Path To Wisdom. Concerning Change. Concerning Wealth. Against Democritus. Concerning Nobility of Birth.

There was also Polyaenus, son of Athenodorus, of Lampsacus, a modest and friendly man, as Philodemus and his followers say.

Also Hermarchus, Epicurus’ successor, son of Agemortus, of Mytilene, the son of a poor father, and at first a student of rhetoric. His best books are said to be these twenty-two essays in the form of letters On Empedocles. On Science. Against Plato. Against Aristotle. He was a good man and died of paralysis.

Likewise there was Leontius of Lampsacus and his wife Themista, to whom Epicurus addressed one of his letters.

Also Colotes and Idomeneus, both of Lampsacus. They too were distinguished, as was also Polystratus who succeeded Hermarchus; then followed Dionysius and after him Basilides. Apollodorus the ‘King of the Garden’ was also famous, and wrote over four hundred volumes. There were also the two Ptolemies of Alexandria, the Black and the White, Zeno of Sidon, a pupil of Apollodorus, a prolific writer, Demetrius called the Laconian, Diogenes of Tarsus who wrote Selected Lessons, Orion, and others whom the genuine Epicureans call Sophists.

There were three other Epicuruses, the son of Leonteus and Themista, another, who was a Magnesian, while the fourth was a drill-sergeant.

The Writings of Epicurus

Epicurus was a very prolific writer, and exceeded all others in the bulk of his works, of which there are more than three hundred rolls. There is not in them one single citation from another author - it is all Epicurus’ own words. Chrysippus tried to rival him in the amount of his writings, as Carneades tells us, calling him the parasite who fed on Epicurus’ books. ‘Whenever Epicurus wrote anything, Chrysippus felt bound in rivalry to write the equivalent; and this is why he often repeats himself and says whatever occurs to him, and has left a great deal uncorrected in his hurry; moreover, he has so many quotations that his books are filled with them and nothing else, a characteristic which one may observe also in the writings of Zeno and Aristotle. Such are the numerous and important works of Epicurus, of which the best are the following: 1. On Nature, thirty-seven books, 2. On Atoms And Void, 3. On Love, 4. Epitome of the books Against the Physicists, 5. Against the Megarians, 6. Problems, 7. Principal Doctrines, 8. On Choice and Avoidance, 9. On the End, 10. On the Criterion, or The Canon, 11. Chaeredemus, 12. On the Gods, 13. On Religion, 14. Hegesianax, 15. On Lives, four books, 16. On Just Action, 17. Neocles, addressed to Themista, 18. Symposium, 19. Eurylochus, addressed to Metrodorus, 20. On Vision, 21. On the Corner in the Atom, 22. On Touch, 23. On Fate, 24. On Internal Sensations, maxims addressed to Timocrates, 25. Prognostic, 26. The Protreptic, 27. On Images, 28. On Perception, 29. Aristobulus, 30. On Music, 31. On Justice And The Other Virtues, 32. On Gifts and Gratitude, 33. Polymedes, 34. Timocrates, three books, 35. Metrodorus, five books, 36. Antidorus, two books, 37. On Disease, maxims addressed to Mithras, 38. Callistolas, 39. On Royal Power, 40. Anaximenes, 41. Letters.

The Doctrines of Epicurus

I will now endeavour to expound the doctrines which he sets forth in these works and will put before you three of his letters, in which he has abridged his whole philosophy. I will also give you the Principal Doctrines, and a selection from his sayings which seem most worthy of mention. You will thus be able to understand Epicurus from every point of view and could form a judgment on him. The first letter he writes to Herodotus (and it deals with Physics; the second is to Pythocles), and it deals with Celestial Phenomena; the third is to Menoeceus, and contains the moral teaching. We must begin with the first letter, but I will first speak briefly about the divisions of his philosophy.

It is divided into three parts, the Canonicon (or Procedure), the Physics and the Ethics. The Canonicon gives the method of approach to the system, and is contained in the work called The Canon. The Physics contains all the investigation into nature, and is contained in the thirty-seven books On Nature and in an abridged form in the letters. The Ethics deals with choice and avoidance, and is contained in the books On Lives and the letters and the book on The End. The Epicureans usually group the Canonicon with the Physics and state that it deals with the criterion of truth and the fundamental principles and contains the elements of the system. The Physics deals with creation and dissolution and with nature; the Ethics with things to be chosen or avoided, with the conduct of life and its purpose.

Logic they reject as misleading. For they say it is sufficient for physicists to be guided by what things say of themselves. Thus in The Canon Epicurus says that the tests of truth are the sensations and concepts and the feelings; the Epicureans add to these the intuitive apprehensions of the mind. And this he says himself too in the summary addressed to Herodotus and in the Principal Doctrines. For, he says, all sensation is irrational and does not admit of memory; for it is not set in motion by itself, nor when it is set in motion by something else, can it add to it or take from it. Nor is there anything which can refute the sensations. For a similar sensation cannot refute a similar because it is equivalent in validity, nor a dissimilar a dissimilar, for the objects of which they are the criteria are not the same; nor again can reason, for all reason is dependent upon sensations; nor can one sensation refute another, for we attend to them all alike. Again, the fact of apperception confirms the truth of the sensations. And seeing and hearing are as much facts as feeling pain. From this it follows that as regards the imperceptible we must draw inferences from phenomena. For all thoughts have their origin in sensations by means of coincidence and analogy and similarity and combination, reasoning too contributing something. And the visions of the insane and those in dreams are true, for they cause movement, and that which does not exist cannot cause movement.

The concept they speak of as an apprehension or right opinion or thought or general idea stored within the mind, that is to say a recollection of what has often been presented from without, as for instance ‘Such and such a thing is a man,’ for the moment the word ‘man’ is spoken, immediately by means of the concept his form too is thought of, as the senses give us the information. Therefore the first signification of every name is immediate and clear evidence. And we could not look for the object of our search, unless we have first known it. For instance, we ask, ‘Is that standing yonder a horse or a cow?’ To do this we must know by means of a concept the shape of horse and of cow. Otherwise we could not have named them, unless we previously knew their appearance by means of a concept. So the concepts are clear and immediate evidence. Further, the decision of opinion depends on some previous clear and immediate evidence, to which we refer when we express it: for instance, ‘How do we know whether this is a man?’ Opinion they also call supposition, and say that it may be true or false: if it is confirmed or not contradicted, it is true ; if it is not confirmed or is contradicted, it is false. For this reason was introduced the notion of the problem awaiting confirmation: for example, waiting to come near the tower and see how it looks to the near view.

The internal sensations they say are two, pleasure and pain, which occur to every living creature, and the one is akin to nature and the other alien: by means of these two choice and avoidance are determined. Of investigations some concern actual things, others mere words. This is a brief summary of the division of their philosophy and their views on the criterion of truth.

Now we must proceed to the letter.

The Letter to Herodotus (see elsewhere in this outline)

Such was his letter on Physics: then follows his letter on Celestial Things.

The Letter to Pythocles (see elsewhere in this outline)

Such was his teaching on things celestial.

As regards the principles of living and the grounds on which we ought to choose some things and avoid others, he writes the following letter.

But before considering it let us explain what he and his followers think about the wise man.

The Sayings About the Wise Man (see elsewhere in this outline)

Brief Comments On Faults, Health, Courage, Friendship, and Happiness

They hold that faults are not all of equal gravity, that health is a blessing to some, but indifferent to others, that courage does not come by nature, but by a calculation of advantage. That friendship too has practical needs as its motive: one must indeed lay its foundations (for we sow the ground too for the sake of crops), but it is formed and maintained by means of community of life among those who have reached the fullness of pleasure. They say also that there are two ideas of happiness, complete happiness, such as belongs to a god, which admits of no increase, and the happiness which is concerned with the addition and subtraction of pleasures. Now we must proceed to the letter.

The Letter to Menoeceus (see elsewhere in this outline)

Concluding comments on Epicurus' views of prophecy, the nature of pleasure, and virtue.

In several works he rejects all kinds of prophecy, and specially in the Shorter Summary. He says, ‘Prophecy does not exist, and even if it did exist, things that come to pass must be counted nothing to us.’ So much for his theory of morals, which he has discussed more fully elsewhere.

Epicurus differs from the Cyrenaics about pleasure. For they do not admit static pleasure, but only that which consists in motion. But Epicurus admits both kinds both in the soul and in the body, as he says in the work on Choice and Avoidance and in the book on The Ends of Life and in the first book On Lives and in the letter to his friends in Mytilene. Similarly, Diogenes in the 17th book of Miscellanies and Metrodorus in the Timocrates speak thus: ‘Pleasure can be thought of both as consisting in motion and as static.’ And Epicurus in the work on Choice speaks as follows: ‘Freedom from trouble in the mind and from pain in the body are static pleasures, but Joy and exultation are considered as active pleasures involving motion. '

A further difference from the Cyrenaics: they thought that bodily pains were worse than those of the soul, and pointed out that offenses are visited by bodily punishment. But Epicurus held that the pains of the soul are worse, for the flesh is only troubled for the moment, but the soul for past, present, and future. In the same way the pleasures of the soul are greater. As proof that pleasure is the end, he points out that all living creatures as soon as they are born take delight in pleasure, but resist pain by a natural impulse apart from reason. Therefore we avoid pain by instinct, just as Heracles, when he is being devoured by the shirt of Nessus, cries aloud, With tears and groans: the rocks re-echoed far From Locris' mountain peaks, Euboea’s hills.

He says that virtue is preferred for the sake of pleasure, and not for its own sake, just as the doctor's art is employed for the sake of health. So Diogenes says too in the 20th book of Miscellanies, and he adds that education is a ‘way of life. ' Epicurus says also that virtue alone is inseparable from pleasure, but that other things may be separated, such as things to eat.

Come, then, let us put the crown, as it were, to the whole work and to the life of our philosopher, in setting out his Principal Doctrines, and closing the whole work with them, thus using as our conclusion the starting-point of happiness.

Principal Doctrines (see elsewhere in this outline)

Cicero's On Ends A narrative on key aspects of Epicurean philosophy.

Pleasurable living is the goal of life. Epicurus held that this is established by observation that all young animals pursue pleasure and avoid pain, and that these matters are so clear to us that no logical argument is needed to prove them.

IX. First of all then, said he, I will proceed in the manner which is sanctioned by the founder of this school: I will lay down what that is which is the subject of our inquiry, and what its character is: not that I imagine that you do not know, but in order that my discourse may proceed in a systematic and orderly manner.

We are inquiring, then, what is the end,—what is the extreme point of good, which, in the opinion of all philosophers, ought to be such that everything can be referred to it, but that it itself can be referred to nothing.

This Epicurus places in pleasure, which he argues is the chief good, and that pain is the chief evil; and he proceeds to prove his assertion thus.

He says that every animal the moment that it is born seeks for pleasure, and rejoices in it as the chief good; and rejects pain as the chief evil, and wards it off from itself as far as it can; and that it acts in this manner, without having been corrupted by anything, under the promptings of nature herself, who forms this uncorrupt and upright judgment.

Therefore, he affirms that there is no need of argument or of discussion as to why pleasure is to be sought for, and pain to be avoided.

This he thinks a matter of sense, just as much as that fire is hot, snow white, honey sweet; none of which propositions he thinks require to be confirmed by laboriously sought reasons, but that it is sufficient merely to state them.

For that there is a difference between arguments and conclusions arrived at by ratiocination, and ordinary observations and statements:—by the first, secret and obscure principles are explained; by the second, matters which are plain and easy are brought to decision.

For since, if you take away sense from a man, there is nothing left to him, it follows of necessity that what is contrary to nature, or what agrees with it, must be left to nature herself to decide.

Now what does she perceive, or what does she determine on as her guide to seek or to avoid anything, except pleasure and pain?

But there are some of our school who seek to carry out this doctrine with more acuteness, and who will not allow that it is sufficient that it should be decided by sense what is good and what is bad, but who assert that these points can be ascertained by intellect and reason also, and that pleasure is to be sought for on its own account, and that pain also is to be avoided for the same reason.

Therefore, they say that this notion is implanted in our minds naturally and instinctively, as it were; so that we feel that the one is to be sought for, and the other to be avoided. Others, however, (and this is my own opinion too,) assert that, as many reasons are alleged by many philosophers why pleasure ought not to be reckoned among goods, nor pain among evils, we ought not to rely too much on the goodness of our cause, but that we should use arguments, and discuss the point with precision, and argue, by the help of carefully collected reasons, about pleasure and about pain.

The error of praising pain and condemning pleasure arises because people do not pursue pleasure intelligently.

X. But that you may come to an accurate perception of the source whence all this error originated of those people who attack pleasure and extol pain, I will unfold the whole matter; and I will lay before you the very statements which have been made by that discoverer of the truth, and architect, as it were, of a happy life.

For no one either despises, or hates, or avoids pleasure itself merely because it is pleasure, but because great pains overtake those men who do not understand how to pursue pleasure in a reasonable manner.

Nor is there any one who loves, or pursues, or wishes to acquire pain because it is pain, but because sometimes such occasions arise that a man attains to some great pleasure through labour and pain.

For, to descend to trifles, who of us ever undertakes any laborious exertion of body except in order to gain some advantage by so doing? and who is there who could fairly blame a man who should wish to be in that state of pleasure which no annoyance can interrupt, or one who shuns that pain by which no subsequent pleasure is procured?

But we do accuse those men, and think them entirely worthy of the greatest hatred, who, being made effeminate and corrupted by the allurements of present pleasure, are so blinded by passion that they do not foresee what pains and annoyances they will hereafter be subject to; and who are equally guilty with those who, through weakness of mind, that is to say, from eagerness to avoid labour and pain, desert their duty.

The wise man chooses all his actions so as to produce the greatest and most lasting pleasure.

And the distinction between these things is quick and easy. For at a time when we are free, when the option of choice is in our own power, and when there is nothing to prevent our being able to do whatever we choose, then every pleasure may be enjoyed, and every pain repelled.

But on particular occasions it will often happen, owing either to the obligations of duty or the necessities of business, that pleasures must be declined and annoyances must not be shirked.

Therefore the wise man holds to this principle of choice in those matters, that he rejects some pleasures, so as, by the rejection, to obtain others which are greater, and encounters some pains, so as by that means to escape others which are more formidable.

This principle of action justifies and explains why we sometimes choose even the most dangerous of physical dangers.

Now, as these are my sentiments, what reason can I have for fearing that I may not be able to accommodate our Torquati to them—men whose examples you just now quoted from memory, with a kind and friendly feeling towards us?

However, you have not bribed me by praising my ancestors, nor made me less prompt in replying to you. But I should like to know from you how you interpret their actions?

Do you think that they attacked the enemy with such feelings, or that they were so severe to their children and to their own blood as to have no thought of their own advantage, or of what might be useful to themselves?

But even wild beasts do not do that, and do not rush about and cause confusion in such a way that we cannot understand what is the object of their motions.

And do you think that such illustrious men performed such great actions without a reason? What their reason was I will examine presently; in the meantime I will lay down this rule,—If there was any reason which instigated them to do those things which are undoubtedly splendid exploits, then virtue by herself was not the sole cause of their conduct.

One man tore a chain from off his enemy, and at the same time he defended himself from being slain; but he encountered great danger.

Yes, but it was before the eyes of the whole army.

What did he get by that?

Glory, and the affection of his countrymen, which are the surest bulwarks to enable a man to pass his life without fear. He put his son to death by the hand of the executioner.

If he did so without any reason, then I should be sorry to be descended from so inhuman and merciless a man.

But if his object was to establish military discipline and obedience to command, at the price of his own anguish, and at a time of a most formidable war to restrain his army by the fear of punishment, then he was providing for the safety of his fellow-citizens, which he was well aware embraced his own.

And this principle is one of extensive application. For the very point respecting which your whole school, and yourself most especially, who are such a diligent investigator of ancient instances, are in the habit of vaunting yourself and using high-flown language, namely, the mention of brave and illustrious men, and the extolling of their actions, as proceeding not from any regard to advantage, but from pure principles of honour and a love of glory, is entirely upset, when once that rule in the choice of things is established which I mentioned just now,—namely, that pleasures are passed over for the sake of obtaining other greater pleasures, or that pains are encountered with a view to escape greater pains.

XI. But, however, for the present we have said enough about the illustrious and glorious actions of celebrated men; for there will be, hereafter, a very appropriate place for discussing the tendency of all the virtues to procure pleasure.

By pleasure we mean both physical and mental pleasure.

But, at present, I will explain what pleasure itself is, and what its character is; so as to do away with all the mistakes of ignorant people, and in order that it may be clearly understood how dignified, and temperate, and virtuous that system is, which is often accounted voluptuous, effeminate, and delicate.

For we are not at present pursuing that pleasure alone which moves nature itself by a certain sweetness, and which is perceived by the senses with a certain pleasurable feeling; but we consider that the greatest of all pleasures which is felt when all pain is removed.

For since, when we are free from pain, we rejoice in that very freedom itself, and in the absence of all annoyance,—but everything which is a cause of our rejoicing is pleasure, just as everything that gives us offence is pain,—accordingly, the absence of all pain is rightly denominated pleasure.

For, as when hunger and thirst are driven away by meat and drink, the very removal of the annoyance brings with it the attainment of pleasure, so, in every case, the removal of pain produces the succession of pleasure.

And therefore Epicurus would not admit that there was any intermediate state between pleasure and pain; for he insisted that that very state which seems to some people the intermediate one, when a man is free from every sort of pain, is not only pleasure, but the highest sort of pleasure.

For whoever feels how he is affected must inevitably be either in a state of pleasure or in a state of pain.

But Epicurus thinks that the highest pleasure consists in an absence of all pains; so that pleasure may afterwards be varied, and may be of different kinds, but cannot be increased or amplified.

The Stoics were wrong to condemn pleasure on the grounds that it is only active and physical, because they ignored that pleasure also comes from mental contemplation.

And even at Athens, as I have heard my father say, when he was jesting in a good-humoured and facetious way upon the Stoics, there is a statue in the Ceramicus of Chrysippus, sitting down with his hand stretched out; and this attitude of the hand intimates that he is amusing himself with this brief question, “Does your hand, while in that condition in which it is at present, want anything?”—Nothing at all.

But if pleasure were a good, would it want it? I suppose so. Pleasure, then, is not a good.

And my father used to say that even a statue would not say this if it could speak.

For the conclusion was drawn as against the Stoics with sufficient acuteness, but it did not concern Epicurus.

For if that were the only pleasure which tickled the senses, as it were, if I may say so, and which overflowed and penetrated them with a certain agreeable feeling, then even a hand could not be content with freedom from pain without some pleasing motion of pleasure.

But if the highest pleasure is, as Epicurus asserts, to be free from pain, then, O Chrysippus, the first admission was correctly made to you, that the hand, when it was in that condition, was in want of nothing; but the second admission was not equally correct, that if pleasure were a good it would wish for it.

For it would not wish for it for this reason, inasmuch as whatever is free from pain is in pleasure.

Compare the nature and life of the happiest man of pleasure with the most miserable man, and you will see that pleasurable living is the object of life.

XII. But that pleasure is the boundary of all good things may be easily seen from this consideration.

Let us imagine a person enjoying pleasures great, numerous, and perpetual, both of mind and body, with no pain either interrupting him at present or impending over him; what condition can we call superior to or more desirable than this?

For it is inevitable that there must be in a man who is in this condition a firmness of mind which fears neither death nor pain, because death is void of all sensation; and pain, if it is of long duration, is a trifle, while if severe it is usually of brief duration; so that its brevity is a consolation if it is violent, and its trifling nature if it is enduring.

And when there is added to these circumstances that such a man has no fear of the deity of the gods, and does not suffer past pleasures to be entirely lost, but delights himself with the continued recollection of them, what can be added to this which will be any improvement to it?

Imagine, on the other hand, any one worn out with the greatest pains of mind and body which can possibly befal a man, without any hope being held out to him that they will hereafter be lighter, when, besides, he has no pleasure whatever either present or expected; what can be spoken of or imagined more miserable than this?

But if a life entirely filled with pains is above all things to be avoided, then certainly that is the greatest of evils to live in pain.

And akin to this sentiment is the other, that it is the most extreme good to live with pleasure.

For our mind has no other point where it can stop as at a boundary; and all fears and distresses are referable to pain: nor is there anything whatever besides, which of its own intrinsic nature can make us anxious or grieve us.

Moreover, the beginnings of desiring and avoiding, and indeed altogether of everything which we do, take their rise either in pleasure or pain.

And as this is the case, it is plain that everything which is right and laudable has reference to this one object of living with pleasure.

And since that is the highest, or extreme, or greatest good, which the Greeks call telos, because it is referred to nothing else itself, but everything is referred to it, we must confess that the highest good is to live agreeably.

The error of believing that the goal of life is to live virtuously.

XIII. And those who place this in virtue alone, and, being caught by the splendour of a name, do not understand what nature requires, will be delivered from the greatest blunder imaginable if they will listen to Epicurus.

For unless those excellent and beautiful virtues which your school talks about produced pleasure, who would think them either praiseworthy or desirable?

For as we esteem the skill of physicians not for the sake of the art itself, but from our desire for good health,—and as the skill of the pilot, who has the knowledge how to navigate a vessel well, is praised with reference to its utility, and not to his ability,—so wisdom, which should be considered the art of living, would not be sought after if it effected nothing; but at present it is sought after because it is, as it were, the efficient cause of pleasure, which is a legitimate object of desire and acquisition.

And now you understand what pleasure I mean, so that what I say may not be brought into odium from my using an unpopular word.

For as the chief annoyances to human life proceed from ignorance of what things are good and what bad, and as by reason of that mistake men are often deprived of the greatest pleasures, and tortured by the most bitter grief of mind, we have need to exercise wisdom, which, by removing groundless alarms and vain desires, and by banishing the rashness of all erroneous opinions, offers herself to us as the surest guide to pleasure.

For it is wisdom alone which expels sorrow from our minds, and prevents our shuddering with fear: she is the instructress who enables us to live in tranquillity, by extinguishing in us all vehemence of desire.

For desires are insatiable, and ruin not only individuals but entire families, and often overturn the whole state. From desires arise hatred, dissensions, quarrels, seditions, wars.

Nor is it only out of doors that these passions vent themselves, nor is it only against others that they run with blind violence; but they are often shut up, as it were, in the mind, and throw that into confusion with their disagreements.

Only the wise man can live the happiest life possible, and it is for that reason only that wisdom is valued.

And the consequence of this is, to make life thoroughly wretched; so that the wise man is the only one who, having cut away all vanity and error, and removed it from him, can live contented within the boundaries of nature, without melancholy and without fear.

For what diversion can be either more useful or more adapted for human life than that which Epicurus employed?

For he laid it down that there were three kinds of desires; the first, such as were natural and necessary; the second, such as were natural but not necessary; the third, such as were neither natural nor necessary.

And these are all such, that those which are necessary are satisfied without much trouble or expense: even those which are natural and not necessary, do not require a great deal, because nature itself makes the riches, which are sufficient to content it, easy of acquisition and of limited quantity: but as for vain desires, it is impossible to find any limit to, or any moderation in them.

XIV. But if we see that the whole life of man is thrown into disorder by error and ignorance; and that wisdom is the only thing which can relieve us from the sway of the passions and the fear of danger, and which can teach us to bear the injuries of fortune itself with moderation, and which shows us all the ways which lead to tranquillity and peace; what reason is there that we should hesitate to say that wisdom is to be sought for the sake of pleasure, and that folly is to be avoided on account of its annoyances?

And on the same principle we shall say that even temperance is not to be sought for its own sake, but because it brings peace to the mind, and soothes and tranquillizes them by what I may call a kind of concord.

For temperance is that which warns us to follow reason in desiring or avoiding anything.

Nor is it sufficient to decide what ought to be done, and what ought not; but we must adhere to what has been decided.

But many men, because they are enfeebled and subdued the moment pleasure comes in sight, and so are unable to keep and adhere to the determination they have formed, give themselves up to be bound hand and foot by their lusts, and do not foresee what will happen to them; and in that way, on account of some pleasure which is trivial and unnecessary, and which might be procured in some other manner, and which they could dispense with without annoyance, incur terrible diseases, and injuries, and disgrace, and are often even involved in the penalties of the legal tribunals of their country.

But these men who wish to enjoy pleasure in such a way that no grief shall ever overtake them in consequence, and who retain their judgment so as never to be overcome by pleasure as to do what they feel ought not to be done; these men, I say, obtain the greatest pleasure by passing pleasure by.

They often even endure pain, in order to avoid encountering greater pain hereafter by their shunning it at present.

From which consideration it is perceived that intemperance is not to be avoided for its own sake; and that temperance is to be sought for, not because it avoids pleasures, but because it attains to greater ones.

Only the courageous, patient, diligent, watchful, and industrious man can live the happiest life possible, and it is for that reason only that these virtues are valued.

XV. The same principle will be found to hold good with respect to courage.

For the discharge of labours and the endurance of pain are neither of them intrinsically tempting; nor is patience, nor diligence, nor watchfulness, nor industry which is so much extolled, nor even courage itself: but we cultivate these habits in order that we may live without care and fear, and may be able, as far as is in our power, to release our minds and bodies from annoyance.

For as the whole condition of tranquil life is thrown into confusion by the fear of death, and as it is a miserable thing to yield to pain and to bear it with a humble and imbecile mind; and as on account of that weakness of mind many men have ruined their parents, many men their friends, some their country, and very many indeed have utterly undone themselves; so a vigorous and lofty mind is free from all care and pain, since it despises death, which only places those who encounter it in the same condition as that in which they were before they were born; and it is so prepared for pain that it recollects that the very greatest are terminated by death, and that slight pains have many intervals of rest, and that we can master moderate ones, so as to bear them if they are tolerable, and if not, we can depart with equanimity out of life, just as out of a theatre, when it no longer pleases us.

By all which considerations it is understood that cowardice and idleness are not blamed, and that courage and patience are not praised, for their own sakes; but that the one line of conduct is rejected as the parent of pain, and the other desired as the author of pleasure.

Only the just man can live the happiest life possible, and it is for that reason only that justice is valued.

XVI. Justice remains to be mentioned, that I may not omit any virtue whatever; but nearly the same things may be said respecting that.

For, as I have already shown that wisdom, temperance, and fortitude are connected with pleasure in such a way that they cannot possibly be separated or divided from it, so also we must consider that it is the case with justice.

Which not only never injures any one; but on the contrary always nourishes something which tranquillizes the mind, partly by its own power and nature, and partly by the hopes that nothing will be wanting of those things which a nature not depraved may fairly derive.

Since rashness and lust and idleness always torture the mind, always make it anxious, and are of a turbulent character, so too, wherever injustice settles in any man's mind, it is turbulent from the mere fact of its existence and presence there; and if it forms any plan, although it executes it ever so secretly, still it never believes that what has been done will be concealed for ever.

For generally, when wicked men do anything, first of all suspicion overtakes their actions; then the common conversation and report of men; then the prosecutor and the judge; and many even, as was the case when you were consul, have given information against themselves.

But if any men appear to themselves to be sufficiently fenced round and protected from the consciousness of men, still they dread the knowledge of the Gods, and think that those very anxieties by which their minds are eaten up night and day, are inflicted upon them by the immortal Gods for the sake of punishment.

And how is it possible that wicked actions can ever have as much influence towards alleviating the annoyances of life, as they must have towards increasing them from the consciousness of our actions, and also from the punishments inflicted by the laws and the hatred of the citizens?

And yet, in some people, there is no moderation in their passion for money and for honour and for command, or in their lusts and greediness and other desires, which acquisitions, however wickedly made, do not at all diminish, but rather inflame, so that it seems we ought rather to restrain such men than to think that we can teach them better.

Therefore sound wisdom invites sensible men to justice, equity, and good faith. And unjust actions are not advantageous even to that man who has no abilities or resources; inasmuch as he cannot easily do what he endeavours to do, nor obtain his objects if he does succeed in his endeavours.

And the gifts of fortune and of genius are better suited to liberality; and those who practise this virtue gain themselves goodwill, and affection, which is the most powerful of all things to enable a man to live with tranquillity; especially when he has absolutely no motive at all for doing wrong.

For those desires which proceed from nature are easily satisfied without any injustice; but those which are vain ought not to be complied with. For they desire nothing which is really desirable; and there is more disadvantage in the mere fact of injustice than there is advantage in what is acquired by the injustice. Therefore a person would not be right who should pronounce even justice intrinsically desirable for its own sake; but because it brings the greatest amount of what is agreeable. For to be loved and to be dear to others is agreeable because it makes life safer, and pleasure more abundant. Therefore we think dishonesty should be avoided, not only on account of those disadvantages which befal the wicked, but even much more because it never permits the man in whose mind it abides to breathe freely, and never lets him rest.

In short, all virtues are praisable and desirable only because they secure pleasurable living.

But if the praise of those identical virtues in which the discourse of all other philosophers so especially exults, cannot find any end unless it be directed towards pleasure, and if pleasure be the only thing which calls and allures us to itself by its own nature; then it cannot be doubtful that that is the highest and greatest of all goods, and that to live happily is nothing else except to live with pleasure.

The pleasures of the mind may be more intense than the pleasures of the body, but the body and mind are inseparable and thus all pleasures are connected with the body.

XVII. And I will now explain in a few words the things which are inseparably connected with this sure and solid opinion.

There is no mistake with respect to the ends themselves of good and evil, that is to say, with respect to pleasure and pain; but men err in these points when they do not know what they are caused by.

But we admit that the pleasures and pains of the mind are caused by the pleasures and pains of the body.

Therefore I grant what you were saying just now, that if any philosophers of our school think differently (and I see that many men do so, but they are ignorant people) they must be convicted of error.

But although pleasure of mind brings us joy, and pain causes us grief, it is still true that each of these feelings originates in the body, and is referred to the body; and it does not follow on that account that both the pleasures and pains of the mind are not much more important than those of the body. For with the body we are unable to feel anything which is not actually existent and present; but with our mind we feel things past and things to come.

For although when we are suffering bodily pain, we are equally in pain in our minds, still a very great addition may be made to that if we believe that any endless and boundless evil is impending over us.

And we may transfer this assertion to pleasure, so that that will be greater if we have no such fear.

This now is entirely evident, that the very greatest pleasure or annoyance of the mind contributes more to making life happy or miserable than either of these feelings can do if it is in the body for an equal length of time.

It is a pleasure to remove pain, but the removal of a pleasure does not necessarily lead to pain, because our minds have a ready store of past pleasures to reflect on.

But we do not agree that, if pleasure be taken away, grief follows immediately, unless by chance it happens that pain has succeeded and taken the place of pleasure; but, on the other hand, we affirm that men do rejoice at getting rid of pain even if no pleasure which can affect the senses succeeds.

And from this it may be understood how great a pleasure it is not to be in pain.

But as we are roused by those good things which we are in expectation of, so we rejoice at those which we recollect.

But foolish men are tortured by the recollection of past evils; wise men are delighted by the memory of past good things, which are thus renewed by the agreeable recollection.

But there is a feeling implanted in us by which we bury adversity as it were in a perpetual oblivion, but dwell with pleasure and delight on the recollection of good fortune. But when with eager and attentive minds we dwell on what is past, the consequence is, that melancholy ensues, if the past has been unprosperous; but joy, if it has been fortunate.

The characteristics of the wise man who follows this plan of living happily.

XVIII. Oh what a splendid, and manifest, and simple, and plain way of living well!

For as certainly nothing could be better for man than to be free from all pain and annoyance, and to enjoy the greatest pleasures of both mind and body, do you not see how nothing is omitted which can aid life, so as to enable men more easily to arrive at that chief good which is their object!

Epicurus cries out—the very man whom you pronounce to be too devoted to pleasure—that man cannot live agreeably, unless he lives honourably, justly, and wisely; and that, if he lives wisely, honourably, and justly, it is impossible that he should not live agreeably.

For a city in sedition cannot be happy, nor can a house in which the masters are quarrelling.

So that a mind which disagrees and quarrels with itself, cannot taste any portion of clear and unrestrained pleasure.

And a man who is always giving in to pursuits and plans which are inconsistent with and contrary to one another, can never know any quiet or tranquillity.

The characteristics of the unhappy man who does not follow pleasure wisely.

But if the pleasure of life is hindered by the graver diseases of the body, how much more must it be so by those of the mind?

But the diseases of the mind are boundless and vain desires of riches, or glory, or domination, or even of lustful pleasures.

Besides these there are melancholy, annoyance, sorrow, which eat up and destroy with anxiety the minds of those men who do not understand that the mind ought not to grieve about anything which is unconnected with some present or future pain of body.

Nor is there any fool who does not suffer under some one of these diseases.

Therefore there is no fool who is not miserable. Besides these things there is death, which is always hanging over us as his rock is over Tantalus; and superstition, a feeling which prevents any one who is imbued with it from ever enjoying tranquillity.

Besides, such men as they do not recollect their past good fortune, do not enjoy what is present, but do nothing but expect what is to come; and as that cannot be certain, they wear themselves out with grief and apprehension, and are tormented most especially when they find out, after it is too late, that they have devoted themselves to the pursuit of money, or authority, or power, or glory, to no purpose.

For they have acquired no pleasures, by the hope of enjoying which it was that they were inflamed to undertake so many great labours.

There are others, of little and narrow minds, either always despairing of everything, or else malcontent, envious, ill-tempered, churlish, calumnious, and morose; others devoted to amatory pleasures, others petulant, others audacious, wanton, intemperate, or idle, never continuing in the same opinion; on which account there is never any interruption to the annoyances to which their life is exposed.

The Stoics are foolish in their characterization of virtue as the only good, and their divorce of virtue from pleasure.

Therefore, there is no fool who is happy, and no wise man who is not.

And we put this much more forcibly and truly than the Stoics: for they assert that there is no good whatever but some imaginary shadow which they call virtue, a name showy rather than substantial; and they insist upon it, that virtue relying on this principle of honour stands in need of no pleasure, and is content with its own resources as adequate to secure a happy life.

XIX. However, these assertions may be to a certain extent made not only without our objecting to them, but even with our concurrence and agreement.

Here is the true reason the virtuous man is happy:

For in this way the wise man is represented by Epicurus as always happy.

He has limited desires; he disregards death; he has a true opinion concerning the immortal Gods without any fear; he does not hesitate, if it is better for him, to depart from life.

Being prepared in this manner, and armed with these principles, he is always in the enjoyment of pleasure; nor is there any period when he does not feel more pleasure than pain.

For he remembers the past with gratitude, and he enjoys the present so as to notice how important and how delightful the joys which it supplies are; nor does he depend on future good, but he waits for that and enjoys the present; and is as far removed as possible from those vices which I have enumerated; and when he compares the life of fools to his own he feels great pleasure.

And pain, if any does attack him, has never such power that the wise man has not more to rejoice at than to be grieved at.

Fortune has but little power over the wise man.

But Epicurus does admirably in saying that fortune has but little power over the wise man, and that the greatest and most important events of such a man's life are managed by his own wisdom and prudence; and that greater pleasure cannot be derived from an eternity of life than such a man enjoys from this life which we see to be limited.

The philosophers of Logic and Dialectic, who ignore pleasure and the study of nature are of no help in living happily.

But in your dialectics he thought that there was no power which could contribute either to enable men to live better, or argue more conveniently.

To natural philosophy he attributed a great deal of importance.

For by the one science it is only the meaning of words and the character of a speech, and the way in which arguments follow from or are inconsistent with one another, that can be seen; but if the nature of all things is known, we are by that knowledge relieved from superstition, released from the fear of death, exempted from being perplexed by our ignorance of things, from which ignorance horrible fears often arise.

Lastly, we shall be improved in our morals when we have learnt what nature requires.

Moreover, if we have an accurate knowledge of things, preserving that rule which has fallen from heaven as it were for the knowledge of all things, by which all our judgments of things are to be regulated, we shall never abandon our opinions because of being overcome by any one's eloquence.

For unless the nature of things is thoroughly known, we shall have no means by which we can defend the judgments formed by our senses.

Moreover, whatever we discern by our intellect, all arises from the senses.

And if our senses are all correct, as the theory of Epicurus affirms, then something may be discerned and understood accurately; but as to those men who deny the power of the senses, and say that nothing can be known by them, those very men, if the senses are discarded, will be unable to explain that very point which they are arguing about.

Besides, if all knowledge and science is put out of the question, then there is an end also of all settled principles of living and of doing anything.

Thus, by means of natural philosophy, courage is desired to withstand the fear of death, and constancy to put aside the claims engendered by superstition; and by removing ignorance of all secret things, tranquillity of mind is produced; and by explaining the nature of desires and their different kinds, we get moderation: and (as I just now explained) by means of this rule of knowledge, and of the judgment which is established and corrected by it, the power of distinguishing truth from falsehood is put into man's hands.

Friendship is essential for living happily.

XX. There remains a topic necessary above all others to this discussion, that of friendship, namely: which you, if pleasure is the chief good, affirm to have no existence at all.

Concerning which Epicurus speaks thus: "That of all the things which wisdom has collected to enable man to live happily, nothing is more important, more influential, or more delightful than friendship."

Nor did he prove this assertion by words only, but still more by his life, and conduct, and actions.

And how important a thing it is, the fables of the ancients abundantly intimate, in which, many and varied as they are, and traced back to the remotest antiquity, scarcely three pairs of friends are found, even if you begin as far back as Theseus, and come down to Orestes.

But in one single house, and that a small one, what great crowds of friends did Epicurus collect, and how strong was the bond of affection that held them together!

And this is the case even now among the Epicureans.

However, let us return to our subject: it is not necessary for us to be discussing men.

I see, then, that the philosophers of our school have treated the question of friendship in three ways.

Some, as they denied that those pleasures which concerned our friends were to be sought with as much eagerness for their own sake, as we display in seeking our own, (by pressing which topic some people think that the stability of friendship is endangered,) maintain that doctrine resolutely, and, as I think, easily explain it.

For, as in the case of the virtues which I have already mentioned, so too they deny that friendship can ever be separated from pleasure.

For, as a life which is solitary and destitute of friends is full of treachery and alarm, reason itself warns us to form friendships.

And when such are formed, then our minds are strengthened, and cannot be drawn away from the hope of attaining pleasure.

And as hatred, envy, and contempt are all opposed to pleasures, so friendships are not only the most faithful favourers, but also are the efficient causes of pleasures to one's friends as well as to oneself; and men not only enjoy those pleasures at the moment, but are also roused by hopes of subsequent and future time.

And as we cannot possibly maintain a lasting and continued happiness of life without friendship, nor maintain friendship itself unless we love our friends and ourselves equally, therefore this very effect is produced in friendship, and friendship is combined with pleasure.

For we rejoice in the joy of our friends as much as we do in our own, and we are equally grieved at their sorrows.

Wherefore the wise man will feel towards his friend as he does towards himself, and whatever labour he would encounter with a view to his own pleasure, he will encounter also for the sake of that of his friend.

And all that has been said of the virtues as to the way in which they are invariably combined with pleasure, should also be said of friendship.

For admirably does Epicurus say, in almost these exact words: “The same science has strengthened the mind so that it should not fear any eternal or long lasting evil, inasmuch as in this very period of human life, it has clearly seen that the surest bulwark against evil is that of friendship.”

There are, however, some Epicureans who are rather intimidated by the reproaches of your school, but still men of sufficient acuteness, and they are afraid lest, if we think that friendship is only to be sought after with a view to our own pleasure, all friendships should, as it were, appear to be crippled.

Therefore they admit that the first meetings, and unions, and desires to establish intimacy, do arise from a desire of pleasure; but, they say, that when progressive habit has engendered familiarity, then such great affection is ripened, that friends are loved by one another for their own sake, even without any idea of advantage intermingling with such love.

In truth, if we are in the habit of feeling affection for places, and temples, and cities, and gymnasia, and the Campus Martius, and for dogs, and horses, and sports, in consequence of our habit of exercising ourselves, and hunting, and so on, how much more easily and reasonably may such a feeling be produced in us by our intimacy with men!

But some people say that there is a sort of agreement entered into by wise men not to love their friends less than themselves; which we both imagine to be possible, and indeed see to be often the case; and it is evident that nothing can be found having any influence on living agreeably, which is better suited to it than such a union.

From all which considerations it may be inferred, not only that the principle of friendship is not hindered by our placing the chief good in pleasure, but that without such a principle it is quite impossible that any friendship should be established.

The philosophy of Epicurus is more clear and plain than the sun itself in establishing that pleasurable living is the goal of life, and how to achieve it.

XXI. Wherefore, if the things which I have been saying are clearer and plainer than the sun itself; if all that I have said is derived from the fountain of nature; if the whole of my discourse forces assent to itself by its accordance with the senses, that is to say, with the most incorruptible and honest of all witnesses; if infant children, and even brute beasts, declare almost in words, under the teaching and guidance of nature, that nothing is prosperous but pleasure, nothing hateful but pain—a matter as to which their decision is neither erroneous nor corrupt—ought we not to feel the greatest gratitude to that man who, having heard this voice of nature, as I may call it, has embraced it with such firmness and steadiness, that he has led all sensible men into the path of a peaceful, tranquil, and happy life?

And as for his appearing to you to be a man of but little learning, the reason of that is, that he thought no learning deserving of the name except such as assisted in the attainment of a happy life.

Was he a man to waste his time in reading poets, as Triarius and I do at your instigation? men in whose works there is no solid utility, but only a childish sort of amusement; or to devote himself, like Plato, to music, geometry, arithmetic, and astronomy? studies which, starting from erroneous principles, cannot possibly be true; and which, if they were true, would constitute nothing to our living more agreeably, that is to say, better.

Should he, then, pursue such occupations as those, and abandon the task of laying down principles of living, laborious, but, at the same time, useful as they are?

Epicurus, then, was not destitute of learning; but those persons are ignorant who think that those studies which it is discreditable for boys not to have learnt, are to be continued till old age.

——— General Notes:

Section headings in red are not part of the original text. This translation is from “The Academic Questions, Treatise De Finibus, and Tusculan Disputations Of M. T. Cicero With A Sketch of the Greek Philosophers Mentioned by Cicero. Literally Translated by C. D. Yonge, B.A., London: George Bell and Sons, York Street, Covent Garden, Printed by William Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street and Charing Cross, 1875.

Cicero's On the Nature of the Gods A narrative on key aspects of Epicurean concepts of divinity.

The views of Plato and his followers about the nature of gods, and another dimension of "forms," were incorrect.

After this, Velleius, with the confidence peculiar to his sect, dreading nothing so much as to seem to doubt of anything, began as if he had just then descended from the council of the Gods, and Epicurus’ intervals of worlds.

“Do not attend,” said he, “to these idle and imaginary tales; nor to the operator and builder of the World, the God of Plato’s Timćus; nor to the old prophetic dame, the [Greek word for “Fate”] of the Stoics, which the Latins call Providence; nor to that round, that burning, revolving deity, the World, endowed with sense and understanding; the prodigies and wonders, not of inquisitive philosophers, but of dreamers!”

“For with what eyes of the mind was your Plato able to see that workhouse of such stupendous toil, in which he makes the world to be modeled and built by God? What materials, what tools, what bars, what machines, what servants, were employed in so vast a work? How could the air, fire, water, and earth pay obedience and submit to the will of the architect? From whence arose those five forms, of which the rest were composed, so aptly contributing to frame the mind and produce the senses? It is tedious to go through all, as they are of such a sort that they look more like things to be desired than to be discovered.”

“But, what is more remarkable, he gives us a world which has been not only created, but, if I may so say, in a manner formed with hands, and yet he says it is eternal. Do you conceive him to have the least skill in natural philosophy who is capable of thinking anything to be everlasting that had a beginning? For what can possibly ever have been put together which cannot be dissolved again? Or what is there that had a beginning which will not have an end? If your Providence, Lucilius, is the same as Plato’s God, I ask you, as before, who were the assistants, what were the engines, what was the plan and preparation of the whole work? If it is not the same, then why did she make the world mortal, and not everlasting, like Plato’s God?”

“But I would demand of you both, why these world-builders started up so suddenly, and lay dormant for so many ages? For we are not to conclude that, if there was no world, there were therefore no ages. I do not now speak of such ages as are finished by a certain number of days and nights in annual courses. For I acknowledge that those could not be without the revolution of the world, as there was a certain eternity from infinite time, not measured by any circumscription of seasons. But how that was in space we cannot understand, because we cannot possibly have even the slightest idea of time before time was. I desire, therefore, to know, Balbus, why this Providence of yours was idle for such an immense space of time? Did she avoid labor? But that could have no effect on the Deity; nor could there be any labor, since all Nature, air, fire, earth, and water would obey the divine essence. What was it that incited the Deity to act the part of an ćdile, to illuminate and decorate the world? If it was in order that God might be the better accommodated in his habitation, then he must have been dwelling an infinite length of time before in darkness as in a dungeon. But do we imagine that he was afterward delighted with that variety with which we see the heaven and earth adorned? What entertainment could that be to the Deity? If it was any, he would not have been without it so long.”

“Or were these things made, as you almost assert, by God for the sake of men? Was it for the wise? If so, then this great design was adopted for the sake of a very small number. Or for the sake of fools? First of all, there was no reason why God should consult the advantage of the wicked; and, further, what could be his object in doing so, since all fools are, without doubt, the most miserable of men, chiefly because they are fools? For what can we pronounce more deplorable than folly? Besides, there are many inconveniences in life which the wise can learn to think lightly of by dwelling rather on the advantages which they receive; but which fools are unable to avoid when they are coming, or to bear when they are come.”

“They who affirm the world to be an animated and intelligent being have by no means discovered the Nature of the mind, nor are able to conceive in what form that essence can exist; but of that I shall speak more hereafter. At present I must express my surprise at the weakness of those who endeavor to make it out to be not only animated and immortal, but likewise happy, and round, because Plato says that is the most beautiful form; whereas I think a cylinder, a square, a cone, or a pyramid more beautiful.”

“But what life do they attribute to that round Deity? Truly, it is a being whirled about with a celerity to which nothing can be even conceived by the imagination as equal. Nor can I imagine how a settled mind and happy life can consist in such motion, the least degree of which would be troublesome to us. Why, therefore, should it not be considered troublesome also to the Deity? For the earth itself, as it is part of the world, is part also of the Deity. We see vast tracts of land barren and uninhabitable – some, because they are scorched by the too near approach of the sun; others, because they are bound up with frost and snow, through the great distance which the sun is from them. Therefore, if the world is a Deity, as these are parts of the world, some of the Deity’s limbs must be said to be scorched, and some frozen.”

The views of other early philosophers were equally incorrect.

“These are your doctrines, Lucilius. But what those of others are I will endeavor to ascertain by tracing them back from the earliest of ancient philosophers. Thales, the Milesian, who first inquired after such subjects, asserted water to be the origin of things, and that God was that mind which formed all things from water. If the Gods can exist without corporeal sense, and if there can be a mind without a body, why did he annex a mind to water?”

“It was Anaximander’s opinion that the Gods were born; that after a great length of time they died; and that there are innumerable worlds. But what conception can we possibly have of a Deity who is not eternal?”

“Anaximenes, after him, taught that the air is God, and that he was generated, and that he is immense, infinite, and always in motion; as if air, which has no form, could possibly be God; for the Deity must necessarily be not only of some form or other, but of the most beautiful form. Besides, is not everything that had a beginning subject to mortality?”

“Anaxagoras, who received his learning from Anaximenes, was the first who affirmed the system and disposition of all things to be contrived and perfected by the power and reason of an infinite mind. In that infinity, he did not perceive that there could be no conjunction of sense and motion, nor any sense in the least degree, where Nature herself could feel no impulse. If he would have this mind to be a sort of animal, then there must be some more internal principle from whence that animal should receive its appellation. But what can be more internal than the mind? Let it, therefore, be clothed with an external body. But this is not agreeable to his doctrine, as we are utterly unable to conceive how a pure simple mind can exist without any substance annexed to it.”

“Alcmćon of Crotona, in attributing a divinity to the sun, the moon, and the rest of the stars, and also to the mind, did not perceive that he was ascribing immortality to mortal beings.”

“Pythagoras, who supposed the Deity to be one soul, mixing with and pervading all Nature, from which our souls are taken, did not consider that the Deity himself must, in consequence of this doctrine, be maimed and torn with the rending every human soul from it; nor that, when the human mind is afflicted (as is the case in many instances), that part of the Deity must likewise be afflicted, which cannot be. If the human mind were a Deity, how could it be ignorant of any thing? Besides, how could that Deity, if it is nothing but soul, be mixed with, or infused into, the world?”

“Then Xenophanes, who said that everything in the world which had any existence, with the addition of intellect, was God, is as liable to exception as the rest, especially in relation to the infinity of it, in which there can be nothing sentient, nothing composite.”

“Parmenides formed a conceit to himself of something circular like a crown. (He names it Stephane.) It is an orb of constant light and heat around the heavens; this he calls God; in which there is no room to imagine any divine form or sense. And he uttered many other absurdities on the same subject; for he ascribed a divinity to war, to discord, to lust, and other passions of the same kind, which are destroyed by disease, or sleep, or oblivion, or age. The same honor he gives to the stars; but I shall forbear making any objections to his system here, having already done it in another place.”

“Empedocles, who erred in many things, is most grossly mistaken in his notion of the Gods. He lays down four Natures as divine, from which he thinks that all things were made. Yet it is evident that they have a beginning, that they decay, and that they are void of all sense.”

“Protagoras did not seem to have any idea of the real Nature of the Gods; for he acknowledged that he was altogether ignorant whether there are or are not any, or what they are.”

“What shall I say of Democritus, who classes our images of objects, and their orbs, in the number of the Gods; as he does that principle through which those images appear and have their influence? He deifies likewise our knowledge and understanding. Is he not involved in a very great error? And because nothing continues always in the same state, he denies that anything is everlasting. Does he not thereby entirely destroy the Deity, and make it impossible to form any opinion of him?”

“Diogenes of Apollonia looks upon the air to be a Deity. But what sense can the air have? Or what divine form can be attributed to it?”

“It would be tedious to show the uncertainty of Plato’s opinion. In his Timćus, he denies the propriety of asserting that there is one great father or creator of the world, and in his book of Laws, he thinks we ought not to make too strict an inquiry into the Nature of the Deity. And as for his statement when he asserts that God is a being without any body — what the Greeks call incorporeal – it is certainly quite unintelligible how that theory can possibly be true; for such a God must then necessarily be destitute of sense, prudence, and pleasure; all which things are comprehended in our notion of the Gods. He likewise asserts in his Timćus, and in his Laws, that the world, the heavens, the stars, the mind, and those Gods which are delivered down to us from our ancestors, constitute the Deity. These opinions, taken separately, are apparently false; and, together, are directly inconsistent with each other.”

“Xenophon has committed almost the same mistakes, but in fewer words. In those sayings which he has related of Socrates, he introduces him disputing the lawfulness of inquiring into the form of the Deity, and makes him assert the sun and the mind to be Deities. He represents him likewise as affirming the being of one God only, and at another time of many; which are errors of almost the same kind which I before took notice of in Plato.”

“Antisthenes, in his book called the Natural Philosopher, says that there are many national and one natural Deity; but by this saying he destroys the power and Nature of the Gods.”

“Speusippus is not much less in the wrong; who, following his uncle Plato, says that a certain incorporeal power governs everything; by which he endeavors to root out of our minds the knowledge of the Gods.”

The views of Aristotle about the nature of gods, and the existence of "essences,"are also wrong.

“Aristotle, in his third book of Philosophy, confounds many things together, as the rest have done; but he does not differ from his master Plato. At one time he attributes all divinity to the mind, at another he asserts that the world is God. Soon afterward he makes some other essence preside over the world, and gives it those faculties by which, with certain revolutions, he may govern and preserve the motion of it. Then he asserts the heat of the firmament to be God; not perceiving the firmament to be part of the world, which in another place he had described as God. How can that divine sense of the firmament be preserved in so rapid a motion? And where do the multitude of Gods dwell, if heaven itself is a Deity? But when this philosopher says that God is without a body, he makes him an irrational and insensible being. Besides, how can the world move itself, if it lacks a body? Or how, if it is in perpetual self-motion, can it be easy and happy?”

“Xenocrates, his fellow-pupil, does not appear much wiser on this head, for in his books concerning the Nature of the Gods no divine form is described; but he says the number of them is eight. Five are moving planets; the sixth is contained in all the fixed stars; which, dispersed, are so many several members, but, considered together, are one single Deity; the seventh is the sun; and the eighth the moon. But in what sense they can possibly be happy is not easy to be understood.”

“From the same school of Plato, Heraclides of Pontus stuffed his books with puerile tales. Sometimes he thinks the world a Deity, at other times the mind. He attributes divinity likewise to the wandering stars. He deprives the Deity of sense, and makes his form mutable; and, in the same book again, he makes earth and heaven Deities.”

“The unsteadiness of Theophrastus is equally intolerable. At one time he attributes a divine prerogative to the mind; at another, to the firmament; at another, to the stars and celestial constellations.”

“Nor is his disciple Strato, who is called the naturalist, any more worthy to be regarded; for he thinks that the divine power is diffused through Nature, which is the cause of birth, increase, and diminution, but that it has no sense nor form.”

The views of the Stoics that god is nature, or the world itself, or reason, are also wrong.

“Zeno (to come to your sect, Balbus) thinks the law of Nature to be the divinity, and that it has the power to force us to what is right, and to restrain us from what is wrong. How this law can be an animated being I cannot conceive; but that God is so we would certainly maintain. The same person says, in another place, that the sky is God. But can we possibly conceive that God is a being insensible, deaf to our prayers, our wishes, and our vows, and wholly unconnected with us? In other books, he thinks there is a certain rational essence pervading all Nature, indued with divine efficacy. He attributes the same power to the stars, to the years, to the months, and to the seasons. In his interpretation of Hesiod’s Theogony, he entirely destroys the established notions of the Gods; for he excludes Jupiter, Juno, and Vesta, and those esteemed divine, from the number of them; but his doctrine is that these are names which by some kind of allusion are given to mute and inanimate beings. The sentiments of his disciple Aristo are not less erroneous. He thought it impossible to conceive the form of the Deity, and asserts that the Gods are destitute of sense; and he is entirely dubious whether the Deity is an animated being or not.”

“Cleanthes, who next comes under my notice, a disciple of Zeno at the same time with Aristo, in one place says that the world is God. In another, he attributes divinity to the mind and spirit of universal Nature. Then he asserts that the most remote, the highest, the all-surrounding, the all-enclosing and embracing heat, which is called the sky, is most certainly the Deity. In the books he wrote against pleasure, in which he seems to be raving, he imagines the Gods to have a certain form and shape; then he ascribes all divinity to the stars; and, lastly, he thinks nothing more divine than reason. So that this God, whom we know mentally and in the speculations of our minds, from which traces we receive our impression, has at last actually no visible form at all.”

“Persćus, another disciple of Zeno, says that they who have made discoveries advantageous to the life of man should be esteemed as Gods. The very things, he says, which are healthful and beneficial have derived their names from those of the Gods. He therefore thinks it not sufficient to call them the discoveries of Gods, but he urges that they themselves should be deemed divine. What can be more absurd than to ascribe divine honors to sordid and deformed things? Or to place among the Gods men who are dead and mixed with the dust, to whose memory all the respect that could be paid would be but mourning for their loss?”

“Chrysippus, who is looked upon as the most subtle interpreter of the dreams of the Stoics, has mustered up a numerous band of unknown Gods; and so unknown that we are not able to form any idea about them, though our mind seems capable of framing any image to itself in its thoughts. For he says that the divine power is placed in reason, and in the spirit and mind of universal Nature; that the world, with a universal effusion of its spirit, is God. He also says that the superior part of that spirit, which is the mind and reason, is the great principle of Nature, containing and preserving the chain of all things; that the divinity is the power of fate, and the necessity of future events. He deifies fire also, and what I before called the ethereal spirit, and those elements which naturally proceed from it — water, earth, and air. He attributes divinity to the sun, moon, stars, and universal space, the grand container of all things, and to those men likewise who have obtained immortality. He maintains the sky to be what men call Jupiter; the air, which pervades the sea, to be Neptune; and the earth, Ceres. In like manner he goes through the names of the other Deities. He says that Jupiter is that immutable and eternal law which guides and directs us in our manners; and this he calls fatal necessity, the everlasting verity of future events. But none of these are of such a Nature as to seem to carry any indication of divine virtue in them. These are the doctrines contained in his first book of the Nature of the Gods. In the second, he endeavors to accommodate the fables of Orpheus, Musćus, Hesiod, and Homer to what he has advanced in the first, in order that the most ancient poets, who never dreamed of these things, may seem to have been Stoics.”

“Diogenes the Babylonian was a follower of the doctrine of Chrysippus; and in that book which he wrote, entitled “A Treatise concerning Minerva,” he separates the account of Jupiter’s bringing-forth, and the birth of that virgin, from the fabulous, and reduces it to a natural construction.”

The opinions of the poets about the gods are also wrong.

“Thus far have I been rather exposing the dreams of dotards than giving the opinions of philosophers. Not much more absurd than these are the fables of the poets, who owe all their power of doing harm to the sweetness of their language. They have represented the Gods as enraged with anger and inflamed with lust, and have brought before our eyes their wars, battles, combats, wounds; their hatreds, dissensions, discords, births, deaths, complaints, and lamentations; their indulgences in all kinds of intemperance; their adulteries; their chains; their amours with mortals, and their mortals begotten by immortals. To these idle and ridiculous flights of the poets we may add the prodigious stories invented by the Magi, and by the Egyptians also, which were of the same Nature, together with the extravagant notions of the multitude at all times, who, from total ignorance of the truth, are always fluctuating in uncertainty.”

Compare Epicurus to these incorrect idea, and you will find that Epicurus placed the belief in gods on the most sound basis possible: the anticipations given men by nature that gods exist, are immortal, and are happy.

“Now, whoever reflects on the rashness and absurdity of these tenets must inevitably entertain the highest respect and veneration for Epicurus, and perhaps even rank him in the number of those beings who are the subject of this dispute. For Epicurus alone first founded the idea of the existence of the Gods on the impression which Nature herself hath made on the minds of all men. For what nation, what people are there, who have not, without any learning, a natural idea, or prenotion, of a Deity? Epicurus calls this anticipation; that is, an antecedent conception of the fact in the mind, without which nothing can be understood, inquired after, or discoursed on. This is the force and advantage of the reasoning we receive from that celestial volume of Epicurus concerning The Rule and Judgment of Things.”

“Here, then, you see the foundation of this question clearly laid. Since it is the constant and universal opinion of mankind, independent of education, custom, or law, that there are Gods, it must necessarily follow that this knowledge is implanted in our minds, or, rather, innate in us. That opinion respecting which there is a general agreement in universal Nature must infallibly be true. Therefore it must be allowed that there are Gods; for in this we have the concurrence, not only of almost all philosophers, but likewise of the ignorant and illiterate. It must be also confessed that the point is established that we have naturally this idea, as I said before, or prenotion, of the existence of the Gods. As new things require new names, so that prenotion was called anticipation by Epicurus; an appellation never used before. On the same principle of reasoning, we think that the Gods are happy and immortal. This is because that same Nature which has assured us that there are Gods has likewise imprinted in our minds the knowledge of their immortality and felicity. And, that being so, what Epicurus hath declared in these words is true: “That which is eternally happy cannot be burdened with any labor itself, nor can it impose any labor on another; nor can it be influenced by resentment or favor: because things which are liable to such feelings must be weak and frail.” We have said enough to prove that we should worship the Gods with piety, and without superstition, if that were the only question.”

Our proper attitude toward the gods.

“For the superior and excellent Nature of the Gods requires a pious adoration from men, because it is possessed of immortality and the most exalted felicity. This is because whatever excels has a right to veneration. But on the other hand all fear of the power and anger of the Gods should be banished, for we must understand that anger and affection are inconsistent with the Nature of a happy and immortal being. These apprehensions being removed, no dread of the superior powers remains. To confirm this opinion, our curiosity leads us to inquire into the form and life and action of the intellect and spirit of the Deity.”

The form and lifestyle of the gods.

With regard to his form, we are directed partly by Nature and partly by reason. All men are told by Nature that none but a human form can be ascribed to the Gods; for under what other image did it ever appear to any one either sleeping or waking? And, even without reference to our first notions of the gods, reason itself declares the same. For as it is easy to conceive that the most excellent Nature, either because of its happiness or immortality, should be the most beautiful, what composition of limbs, what conformation of lineaments, what form, what aspect, can be more beautiful than the human?”

“Your sect, Lucilius (not like my friend Cotta, who sometimes says one thing and sometimes another), when they represent the divine art and workmanship in the human body, are used to describe how very completely each member is formed, not only for convenience, but also for beauty. Therefore, if the human form excels that of all other animal beings, as God himself is an animated being, he must surely be of that form which is the most beautiful.”

“In addition, the Gods are granted to be perfectly happy; and nobody can be happy without virtue, nor can virtue exist where reason is not; and reason can reside in none but the human form. The Gods, therefore, must be acknowledged to be of human form. Yet that form is not body, but something like body; nor does it contain any blood, but something like blood. These distinctions were more acutely devised and more artfully expressed by Epicurus than any common capacity can comprehend. Yet, as I will depend on your understanding, I shall be more brief on the subject than otherwise I should be.”

“Epicurus, who not only discovered and understood the occult and almost hidden secrets of Nature, but explained them with ease, teaches that the power and Nature of the Gods is not to be discerned by the senses, but by the mind. Nor are the Gods to be considered as bodies of any solidity, or reducible to number, like those things which, because of their firmness, he calls .... images, perceived by similitude and transition. As infinite kinds of those images result from innumerable individuals, and center in the Gods, our minds and understanding are directed towards and fixed with the greatest delight on them, in order to comprehend what that happy and eternal essence is.”

“Surely the mighty power of the Infinite Being is most worthy our great and earnest contemplation; the Nature of which we must necessarily understand to be such that everything in it is made to correspond completely to some other answering part. This is called by Epicurus isonomia that is to say, an equal distribution or even disposition of things. From hence he draws this inference, that, as there is such a vast multitude of mortals, there cannot be a less number of immortals. Further, if those which perish are innumerable, those which are preserved ought also to be countless. Your sect, Balbus, frequently ask us how the Gods live, and how they pass their time? Their life is the most happy, and the most abounding with all kinds of blessings, which can be conceived. They do nothing. They are embarrassed with no business; nor do they perform any work. They rejoice in the possession of their own wisdom and virtue. They are satisfied that they shall ever enjoy the fullness of eternal pleasures.”

“Such a Deity may properly be called happy; but yours is a most laborious God. For let us suppose the world a Deity — what can be a more uneasy state than, without the least cessation, to be whirled about the axle-tree of heaven with a surprising celerity? But nothing can be happy that is not at ease. Or let us suppose a Deity residing in the world, who directs and governs it, who preserves the courses of the stars, the changes of the seasons, and the vicissitudes and orders of things, surveying the earth and the sea, and accommodating them to the advantage and necessities of man. Truly this Deity is embarrassed with a very troublesome and laborious office. We make a happy life to consist in a tranquility of mind, a perfect freedom from care, and an exemption from all employment. The philosopher from whom we received all our knowledge has taught us that the world was made by Nature; that there was no occasion for a workhouse to frame it in; and that, though you deny the possibility of such a work without divine skill, it is so easy to her, that she has made, does make, and will make innumerable worlds.

“But, because you do not conceive that Nature is able to produce such effects without some rational aid, you are forced, like the tragic poets, when you cannot wind up your argument in any other way, to have recourse to a Deity. You would not seek the assistance of such a Deity if you could view that vast and unbounded magnitude of the universe in all its parts. There the mind, extending and spreading itself, travels so far and wide that it can find no end, no extremity to stop at. In this immensity of breadth, length, and height, a most boundless company of innumerable atoms are fluttering about. Those atoms, notwithstanding the interposition of a void space, meet and cohere, and continue clinging to one another. By this union these modifications and forms of things arise, which, in your opinions, could not possibly be made without the help of bellows and anvils. Thus you have imposed on us an eternal master, whom we must dread day and night. For who can be free from fear of a Deity who foresees, regards, and takes notice of everything; one who thinks all things his own; a curious, ever-busy God?”

“Hence first arose your [fate], as you call it, your fatal necessity; so that, whatever happens, you affirm that it flows from an eternal chain and continuance of causes. Of what value is this philosophy, which, like old women and illiterate men, attributes everything to fate? Then follows your [divination], in Latin called divinatio, divination; which, if we would listen to you, would plunge us into such superstition that we should fall down and worship your inspectors into sacrifices, your augurs, your soothsayers, your prophets, and your fortune-tellers.”

“Epicurus has freed us from these terrors and restored us to liberty, and we have no dread of those beings whom we have reason to think entirely free from all trouble themselves, and who do not impose any on others. We pay our adoration, indeed, with piety and reverence to that essence which is above all excellence and perfection.”

“But I fear my zeal for this doctrine has made me too prolix. However, I could not easily leave so eminent and important a subject unfinished, though I must confess I should rather endeavor to hear than speak so long.”

——— General Notes:

Section headings in red are not part of the original text. This translation is from “Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations; Also, Treatises on The Nature of The Gods, and On The Commonwealth, literally translated, chiefly by C. D. Yonge, New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, Franklin Square 1890.

Diogenes of Oinoanda's Inscription A presentation of Epicurean philosophy inscribed on a stone wall in Asia Minor (excerpts).

“These medicines we have put [fully] to the test; for we have dispelled the fears [that grip] us without justification, and, as for pains, those that are groundless we have completely excised, while those that are natural we have reduced to an absolute minimum, making their magnitude minute.”

“Having already reached the sunset of my life (being almost on the verge of departure from the world on account of old age), I wanted, before being overtaken by death, to compose a [fine] anthem [to celebrate the] fullness [of pleasure] and so to help now those who are well-constituted.”

“I shall discuss folly shortly, the virtues and pleasure now. If, gentlemen, the point at issue between these people and us involved inquiry into ‘what is the means of happiness?’ and they wanted to say ‘the virtues’ (which would actually be true), it would be unnecessary to take any other step than to agree with them about this, without more ado. But since, as I say, the issue is not ‘what is the means of happiness?’ but ‘what is happiness and what is the ultimate goal of our nature?’, I say both now and always, shouting out loudly to all Greeks and non-Greeks, that pleasure is the end of the best mode of life, while the virtues, which are inopportunely messed about by these people (being transferred from the place of the means to that of the end), are in no way an end, but the means to the end. Let us therefore now state that this is true, making it our starting-point.”

——— General Notes:

These are excerpts from the translation of Martin Ferguson Smith; the best source for the full text of the Inscription is http://www.english.enoanda.cat/the_inscription.html

Philodemus ' On Methods of Inference A presentation of Epicurean theories of knowledge.

"Furthermore, the Stoics often invent peculiar and impossible arguments according to the construction of opinion. They seize upon the mythical inventions of some (poets, etc.); while at the same time they disbelieve those (poets) who, they think, have altered some of the myths used by the Stoics, yet who agree (with the Stoics) regarding other myths. In this way they try to strengthen their own belief. But he who has established a test of controversies by the method of analogy differs (from the Stoics) in the highest degree."

"The construction of inferences is not established by contraposition of the argument “in so far as this is such,” but by appearances which give the necessary evidence. Indeed, even if one does not know how mental perception will be judged, he thinks that inferences from signs should be constructed if they are verified by observation and do not conflict with present appearances, which are called the criteria of the unperceived: namely, perception, anticipations, mental perceptions, and feelings. One ought not to stop with the apparent, but from the apparent make inferences about the unperceived; nor mistrust the facts proved through apparent objects according to analogy, but trust them just as one trusts the facts from which the inference is made."

——— General Notes:

These are excerpts from the translation of by Phillip and Estelle De Lacy. Published 1941, by the American Philological Association. The best source for the full text is "Philodemus - On Methods of Inference. A Study In Ancient Empiricism" http://archive.org/stream/philodemusonmeth00phil#page/n5/mode/2up

Key Epicurean Passages From Other Sources Key Epicurean passages from other ancient sources helpful in understanding Epicurus' views.

On Pleasure In General And the "Highest Pleasure":

——— General Note: Some modern interpreters, resting largely on statements made by Cicero, argue that Epicurus equated the highest pleasure in life with "painlessless," a position that appears in conflict with his professed emphasis on "pleasure" and clarity in presentation of his ideas. Cicero argued that Epicurean references to the "highest pleasure" were inconsistent and nonsensical, but modern interpreters use Cicero's argument for a different purpose. Rather than pointing to the apparent inconsistency, some modern interpreters argue that Epicurus was truly an ascetic in the Stoic sense. In other words, these interpreters argue that Epicurus did not in fact place "pleasure" at the focus of his philosophy, but instead that he taught "absence of pain" - in the Stoic fashion of suppression of feeling - as the true goal of life. This view directly contradicts VS. 63: Frugality too has a limit, and the man who disregards it is like him who errs through excess. Further, those who argue this position cannot explain why Cicero himself - who originated the argument - did not argue the same conclusion. Nor did the ancient Stoics make this claim - and they were the best position to know how their own philosophy related to Epicurus. Rather than claiming Epicurus as a philosophic kin, the ancient Stoics denounced Epicurus violently.

Nonetheless, modern commentators contend that they understand Epicurus better than Cicero and the ancient Stoics, and that Epicurus should be seen as preaching asceticism as the goal of life. The following passages are included here in opposition to this view. Although these passages are frequently hostile to Epicurus, they are consistent in pointing out that Epicurus held pleasure to include the active pleasures normally understood by ordinary people. This view is made clear in a passage repeatedly cited by ancient reporters, to the effect that Epicurus held: “For I at least do not even know what I should conceive the good to be, if I eliminate the pleasures of taste, and eliminate the pleasures of sex, and eliminate the pleasures of listening, and eliminate the pleasant motions caused in our vision by a visible form."

Freed from the incorrect view that Epicurus was an ascetic, it is possible to give full meaning to a clear analogy cited by Lucretius. At the beginning of Book VI, Lucretius recites that a life lived on Epicurean principles is like a leaky vessel that has been repaired and can now be filled to the rim with pleasure. Under this model, the "highest pleasure" is as indicated in Principal Doctrine 3, which refers to the "limit of the quantity of pleasure." The "highest pleasure" is not a paradox, but a straightforward statement of quantity: that the highest possible quantity with any vessel of any size is reached when that vessel is filled with a pouring of ordinary pleasures to the limit that the vessel can hold. Rather than a being mystical attainment as some imply it to be, this means simply that all space within the given vessel is filled with pleasures, and all pain has been excluded. And as additional support for this conclusion we see that this analogy is in fact the very accusation hurled against Epicurus by Cicero, who wrote that Epicurus taught "that nothing was preferable to a life of tranquility crammed full of pleasures." In sum, the following passages provide evidence against the prevailing modern interpretation of Epicurean pleasure. For a list of authorities who have led the way in rejecting the stoic-ascetic interpretation, and who point the way to a proper understanding of the Epicurean view of pleasure, see http://newepicurean.com/foundations-2/the-full-cup-fullness-of-pleasure-model/

Cicero, In defense of Publius Sestius, 10.23: “He {Publius Clodius} praised those most who are said to be above all others the teachers and eulogists of pleasure {the Epicureans}. … He added that these same men were quite right in saying that the wise do everything for their own interests; that no sane man should engage in public affairs; that nothing was preferable to a life of tranquility crammed full of pleasures. But those who said that men should aim at an honorable position, should consult the public interest, should think of duty throughout life not of self-interest, should face danger for their country, receive wounds, welcome death – these he called visionaries and madmen.” Note: Here is a link to Perseus where the Latin and translation of this can be compared. The Latin is: “nihil esse praestabilius otiosa vita, plena et conferta voluptatibus.” See also here for word translations.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.17.55: “According to your {Epicurean} school, it is right to try to get money even at some risk; for money procures many very delightful pleasures.”

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 3, p. 1088C: Epicurus has imposed a limit on pleasures that applies to all of them alike: the removal of all pain. For he believes that our nature adds to pleasure only up to the point where pain is abolished and does not allow it any further increase in magnitude (although the pleasure, when the state of painlessness is reached, admits of certain unessential variations). But to proceed to this point, accompanied by desire, is our stint of pleasure, and the journey is indeed short and quick. Hence it is that becoming aware of the poverty here they transfer their final good from the body, as from an unproductive piece of land, to the soul, persuaded that there they will find pastures and meadows lush with pleasures.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 7, p. 1091A: Not only is the basis that they assume for the pleasurable life untrustworthy and insecure, it is quite trivial and paltry as well, inasmuch as their “thing delighted” – their good – is an escape from ills, and they say that they can conceive of no other, and indeed that our nature has no place at all in which to put its good except the place left when its evil is expelled. … Epicurus too makes a similar statement to the effect that the good is a thing that arises out of your very escape from evil and from your memory and reflection and gratitude that this has happened to you. His words are these: “That which produces a jubilation unsurpassed is the nature of good, if you apply your mind rightly and then stand firm and do not stroll about {a jibe at the Peripatetics}, prating meaninglessly about the good.”

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, XII p. 546E: Not only Aristippus and his followers, but also Epicurus and his welcomed kinetic pleasure; I will mention what follows, to avoid speaking of the “storms” {of passion} and the “delicacies” which Epicurus often cites, and the “stimuli” which he mentions in his On the End-Goal. For he says “For I at least do not even know what I should conceive the good to be, if I eliminate the pleasures of taste, and eliminate the pleasures of sex, and eliminate the pleasures of listening, and eliminate the pleasant motions caused in our vision by a visible form."

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.18.41: Why do we shirk the question, Epicurus, and why do we not confess that we mean by pleasure what you habitually say it is, when you have thrown off all sense of shame? Are these your words or not? For instance, in that book which embraces all your teaching (for I shall now play the part of translator, so no one may think I am inventing) you say this: “For my part I find no meaning which I can attach to what is termed good, if I take away from it the pleasures obtained by taste, if I take away the pleasures which come from listening to music, if I take away too the charm derived by the eyes from the sight of figures in movement, or other pleasures by any of the senses in the whole man. Nor indeed is it possible to make such a statement as this – that it is joy of the mind which is alone to be reckoned as a good; for I understand by a mind in a state of joy, that it is so, when it has the hope of all the pleasures I have named – that is to say the hope that nature will be free to enjoy them without any blending of pain.” And this much he says in the words I have quoted, so that anyone you please may realize what Epicurus understands by pleasure.

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.20.46: For he has not only used the term pleasure, but stated clearly what he meant by it. “Taste,” he says, “and embraces and spectacles and music and the shapes of objects fitted to give a pleasant impression to the eyes.”

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.3.7 (Torquatus to Cicero): “Does not Epicurus recognize pleasure in your sense?” (Cicero): “Not always,” said I, “now and then, I admit, he recognizes it only too fully, for he solemnly avows that he cannot even understand what good there can be or where it can be found, apart form that which is derived from food and drink, the delight of the ears, and the grosser forms of gratification. Do I misrepresent his words?” Ibid., II.7.20: In a number of passages where he is commending that real pleasure which all of us call by the same name, he goes so far as to say that he cannot even imagine any Good that is not connected with pleasure of the kind intended by Aristippus. Such is the language that he uses in the lecture dealing solely with the topic of the Chief Good. II.8.23: Men of taste and refinement, with first-rate chefs… the accompaniment of dramatic performances and their usual sequel – these are pleasures without which Epicurus, as he loudly proclaims, does not know what Good is. II.10.29: But fancy his failing to see how strong a proof it is that the sort of pleasure, without which he declares he has no idea at all what Good means (and he defines it in detail as the pleasure of the palate, of the ears, and subjoins the other kinds of pleasure, which cannot be specified without an apology). I.10.30: the kinetic sort of pleasure … he extols it so much that he tells us he is incapable even of imagining what other good there can be. II.20:64: … Nor did he forgo those other indulgences in the absence of which Epicurus declares that he cannot understand what good is.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad: The truth of the position that pleasure is the ultimate good will most readily appear from the following illustration. Let us imagine a man living in the continuous enjoyment of numerous and vivid pleasures alike of body and of mind, undisturbed either by the presence or by the prospect of pain: what possible state of existence could we describe as being more excellent or more desirable? One so situated must possess in the first place a strength of mind that is proof against all fear of death or of pain; he will know that death means complete unconsciousness, and that pain is generally light if long and short if strong, so that its intensity is compensated by brief duration and its continuance by diminishing severity. Let such a man moreover have no dread of any supernatural power; let him never suffer the pleasures of the past to fade away, but constantly renew their enjoyment in recollection, and his lot will be one which will not admit of further improvement.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 4, p. 1089D: It is this, I believe, that has driven them, seeing for themselves the absurdities to which they were reduced, to take refuge in the “painlessness” and the “stable condition of the flesh,” supposing that the pleasurable life is found in thinking of this state as about to occur in people or as being achieved; for the “stable and settled condition of the flesh,” and the “trustworthy expectation” of this condition contain, they say, the highest and the most assured delight for men who are able to reflect. Now to begin with, observe their conduct here, how they keep decanting this “pleasure” or “painlessness” or “stable condition” of theirs back and forth, from body to mind and then once more from mind to body.

Saint Augustine, Against the Academicians, III.7.16, t. I, p. 281B [p. 53F Venice edition, 1719]: {Attributed to Cicero} “If Zeno or Chrysippus were asked who the wise man is, he’ll reply that the wise man is the one whom he himself has described. In return, Epicurus or another adversary will deny this and maintain instead that the wise man is the one most skilled at catching pleasures. And so the fight is on! The whole Porch is in an uproar! Zeno is shouting that man is naturally apt for nothing but virtue, which attracts mind to itself by its own grandeur without offering any extrinsic advantage and rewarded as a kind of enticement; Epicurus’ ‘pleasure’ is common only among brute animals, and to push man – and the wise man! – into an association with them is abominable. Epicurus, like Bacchus, has called together a drunken mob from his Gardens to aid him against this onslaught! The mob is searching for someone to tear to pieces with their long fingernails and savage fangs in their Bacchic fury. Elevating the name of pleasure as agreeableness and calm, with popular support, Epicurus passionately insists that without pleasure nobody could seem happy.

Varro, On Philosophy, by way of Saint Augustine, City of God, XIX.1: “There are four things that men naturally seek, without a master and without the support of any instruction, without effort and without any art of living … naturally, they seek pleasure, which is an agreeable activity of physical perception, or repose, the state in which the individual suffers no bodily discomfort, or both of these (which Epicurus calls by the single name of pleasure), or taking everything together, the primary wants of nature…”

Alexander of Aphrodisia, On the Soul, II.19 f. 154r: The Epicureans held that what is first congenial to us, without qualification, is pleasure. But they say that as we get older, this pleasure articulates itself in many ways.

Lucian, The Double Indictment, 21 (Epicurus portrayed as speaking): “{Suppose that Dionysius, the Apostate} ran away to Pleasure of his own free will, cutting the meshes of [Stoic] logic as if they were bonds, because he had the spirit of a human being, not of a dolt, and thought pain painful, as indeed it is, and pleasure pleasant…” Stoa: Do you consider pain bad? Epicurus: Yes. Stoa: And pleasure good? Epicurus: Certainly so!

Plotinus, Dissertations, 30 (Aeneids, II.9), 15: For there are two schools of thought about attaining the [ethical] end. One which puts forward the pleasure of the body as the end, and another which chooses nobility and virtue … Epicurus, who abolishes providence, exhorts to pursue all that remains: pleasure and its enjoyment

Antiochus of Ascalon, by way of Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies II.21 p. 178.46: Epicurus also says that the removal of pain is pleasure; and says that that is to be preferred, which first attracts from itself to itself, being, that is, wholly in motion

St. Augustine, Confessions, VI.16: I argued in those days with my friends Alypius and Nebridius concerning the limits of good and evil. Determining, in my judgment, that Epicurus should have won the garland, had I not verily believed that there remained a life for the soul after the body was dead, and the fruits of our deservings, which Epicurus would not believe. And so I put the question: suppose we were to be immortal, and were to live in perpetual enjoyment of bodily pleasures, and that without fear of losing – why should we not then be fully happy, and wherefore should we seek for any other thing?

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, XII p. 546F: And Epicurus says, “The principle and the root of all good is the pleasure of the stomach; even wisdom and culture must be referred to this.”

Metrodorus, Letter to his Brother Timocrates, fr. 13 [p. 51 Duen.], by way of Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 16, p. 1098D: {We are not called to save the nation or get crowned by it for wisdom; what is called for, my dear Timocrates, is to eat and to drink wine, gratifying the belly without harming it.} … It made me both happy and confident to have learned from Epicurus how to gratify the belly properly. … {The belly, Timocrates, my man of wisdom, is the region that contains the highest end.}

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 30, p. 1125A: For it is the men who look with contempt on all these things as old wives’ tales, and think that our good is to be found in the belly and the other passages by which pleasure makes her entry… Ibid., 2, p. 1108C: …by those who keep shouting that the good is to be found in the belly…

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 17, p. 1098D: Indeed these people, you might say, describing a circle with the belly as center and radius, circumscribe within it the whole area of pleasure…

Cicero, Against Lucius Calpurnius Piso, 27.66: It is his habit in all his discussions to attach higher value to the pleasures of the belly than to the delights of the eye and the ear.

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 92.6: The second kind of pleasure is simply animalistic. We are but adding the irrational to the rational, the dishonorable to the honorable. A pleasant physical sensation affects this life of ours; why therefore, do you hesitate to say that all is well with a man just because all is well with his appetite? And do you rate, I will not say among heroes, but among men, the person whose Supreme Good is a matter of flavors and colors and sounds? {cf. U67}

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, XII p. 546E: {Aristippus and his followers were not alone} in welcoming kinetic pleasure … Epicurus and his followers did the same. And not to enter on account of his “tempests” and his “transportations,” all of which Epicurus cites many times, also the “titillations” and “stimulations” …

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 5, p. 1090B: {the future, like the weather, is always uncertain} so the mind that has stowed the ultimate good in a body that is in a stable condition and in expectations for the body cannot continue to the end without fear and the prospect of tempestuous weather

Alciphron, Letters, III.55.8 (Autocletus to Hetoemaristus {“Gatecrasher” to “Prompt-to-breakfast”}): Zenocrates the Epicurean took the harp-girls in his arms, gazing upon them from half-closed eyes with a languishing and melting look, and saying that this was “tranquility of the flesh” and “the full intensity of pleasure.”

Cf. Zeno the Epicurean (Zeno of Sidon), by way of Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.17.38: “Blessed is he who has the enjoyment of present pleasure and the assurance that he would have enjoyment either throughout life or for a great part of life without the intervention of pain, or should pain come, that it would be short-lived if extreme, but if prolonged it would still allow more that was pleasant than evil.”

Antiochus of Ascalon, by way of Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies II.21 p. 178.43: For of those that are ruled by pleasure are the Cyrenaics and Epicurus; for these expressly said that to live pleasantly was the chief end, and that pleasure was the only perfect good. Epicurus also says that the removal of pain is pleasure.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.7.7: Epicurus thinks that the highest good is in the pleasure of the mind. Aristippus holds that it is in the pleasure of the body.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.38: [Epicurus says, in effect:] “Let us serve pleasure, then, in whatever way we can, for in a short time we will be nothing whatsoever. Let us suffer no day, therefore, no point of time to flow by for us without pleasure, lest, since we ourselves are at sometime to perish, the very fact that we live may perish.” Although he does not say this in so many words, however, he teaches this is fact.

Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.53: Epicurus rightly surmised that we should beware of food which we want to enjoy and which we pursue, but find disagreeable once we get it. All rich, heavy food is like this, and when people are carried away by wanting it, they land in expense, illness, glut, or worry. For this reason we should guard against excess even of simple things, and in all cases we must examine what happens as a result of enjoyment or possession, how big a thing it is, and whether it relieves any trouble of body or soul. Otherwise, in every case, tension, such as life engenders, will arise from gratification. We must not go beyond the bounds, but keep within the boundary and measure that applies to such things.

Plutarch, On Peace of Mind, 2 p. 465F (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, 29.79): For this reason not even Epicurus believes that men who are eager for honor and glory should lead an inactive life, but that they should fulfill their natures by engaging in politics and entering public life, on the ground that, because of their natural dispositions, they are more likely to be disturbed and harmed by inactivity if they do not obtain what they desire.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 4, p. 1089A: Whether the other set {i.e., the Epicureans, in contrast with the Cyrenaics} who hold that the superiority of the Sage lies above all in this: vividly remembering and keeping intact in himself the sights and feelings and movements associated with pleasure – are thus recommending a practice unworthy of the name of wisdom by allowing the slops of pleasure to remain in the soul of the Sage as in the house of a spendthrift, let us not say.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.27.88: Isn’t pleasure more desirable the longer it lasts? On what ground then does Epicurus speak of a deity (for so he always does) as happy and immortal? Take away his everlasting life, and Jove is no happier than Epicurus. Each of them enjoys the Chief Good, that is to say, pleasure. Wherein then is he inferior to a god, except that a god lives forever?

———About This Outline———

This outline was prepared by Cassius Amicus on 10/16/15 6:51p . The latest version can always be found at http://newepicurean.com/fundamentals/