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Epicurus letter to Menoeceus   



We must remember that the future is neither wholly ours nor wholly not
ours, so that neither must we count upon it as quite certain to come
nor despair of it as quite certain not to come.
We must also reflect that of desires some are natural, others are
groundless; and that of the natural some are necessary as well as
natural, and some natural only. And of the necessary desires some are
necessary if we are to be happy, some if the body is to be rid of
uneasiness, some if we are even to live. He who has a clear and
certain understanding of these things will direct every preference and
aversion toward securing health of body and tranquillity of mind,
seeing that this is the sum and end of a happy life. For the end of
all our actions is to be free from pain and fear, and, when once we
have attained all this, the tempest of the soul is laid; seeing that
the living creature has no need to go in search of something that is
lacking, nor to look anything else by which the good of the soul and
of the body will be fulfilled. When we are pained pleasure, then, and
then only, do we feel the need of pleasure. For this reason we call
pleasure the alpha and omega of a happy life. Pleasure is our first
and kindred good. It is the starting-point of every choice and of
every aversion, and to it we come back, inasmuch as we make feeling
the rule by which to judge of every good thing. And since pleasure is
our first and native good, for that reason we do not choose every
pleasure whatever, but often pass over many pleasures when a greater
annoyance ensues from them. And often we consider pains superior to
pleasures when submission to the pains for a long time brings us as a
consequence a greater pleasure. While therefore all pleasure because
it is naturally akin to us is good, not all pleasure is worthy of
choice, just as all pain is an evil and yet not all pain is to be
shunned. It is, however, by measuring one against another, and by
looking at the conveniences and inconveniences, teat all these matters
must be judged. Sometimes we treat the good as an evil, and the evil,
on the contrary, as a good. Again, we regard. independence of outward
things as a great good, not so as in all cases to use little, but so
as to be contented with little if we have not much, being honestly
persuaded that they have the sweetest enjoyment of luxury who stand
least in need of it, and that whatever is natural is easily procured
and only the vain and worthless hard to win. Plain fare gives as much
pleasure as a costly diet, when one the pain of want has been removed,
while bread an water confer the highest possible pleasure when they
are brought to hungry lips. To habituate one's se therefore, to simple
and inexpensive diet supplies al that is needful for health, and
enables a person to meet the necessary requirements of life without
shrinking and it places us in a better condition when we approach at
intervals a costly fare and renders us fearless of fortune.
When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean
the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we
are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or willful
misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body
and of trouble in the soul. It is not an unbroken succession of
drinking-bouts and of merrymaking, not sexual love, not the enjoyment
of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a
pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of
every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which
the greatest disturbances take possession of the soul. Of all this the
d is prudence. For this reason prudence is a more precious thing even
than the other virtues, for ad a life of pleasure which is not also a
life of prudence, honor, and justice; nor lead a life of prudence,
honor, and justice, which is not also a life of pleasure. For the
virtues have grown into one with a pleasant life, and a pleasant life
is inseparable from them.

Who, then, is superior in your judgment to such a person? He holds a
holy belief concerning the gods, and is altogether free from the fear

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