Epicurus principal doctrines
could not or would not form mutual covenants to the same end are in
33. There never was an absolute justice, but only an agreement made in
reciprocal association in whatever localities now and again from time
to time, providing against the infliction or suffering of harm.
34. Injustice is not in itself an evil, but only in its consequence,
viz. the terror which is excited by apprehension that those appointed
to punish such offenses will discover the injustice.
35. It is impossible for the person who secretly violates any article
of the social compact to feel confident that he will remain
undiscovered, even if he has already escaped ten thousand times; for
right on to the end of his life he is never sure he will not be
36. Taken generally, justice is the same for all, to wit, something
found useful in mutual association; but in its application to
particular cases of locality or conditions of whatever kind, it varies
under different circumstances.
37. Among the things accounted just by conventional law, whatever in
the needs of mutual association is attested to be useful, is thereby
stamped as just, whether or not it be the same for all; and in case
any law is made and does not prove suitable to the usefulness of
mutual association, then this is no longer just. And should the
usefulness which is expressed by the law vary and only for a time
correspond with the prior conception, nevertheless for the time being
it was just, so long as we do not trouble ourselves about empty words,
but look simply at the facts.
38. Where without any change in circumstances the conventional laws,
when judged by their consequences, were seen not to correspond with
the notion of justice, such laws were not really just; but wherever
the laws have ceased to be useful in consequence of a change in
circumstances, in that case the laws were for the time being just when
they were useful for the mutual association of the citizens, and
subsequently ceased to be just when they ceased to be useful.
39. He who best knew how to meet fear of external foes made into one
family all the creatures he could; and those he could not, he at any
rate did not treat as aliens; and where he found even this impossible,
he avoided all association, and, so far as was useful, kept them at a
40. Those who were best able to provide themselves with the means of
security against their neighbors, being thus in possession of the
surest guarantee, passed the most agreeable life in each other's
society; and their enjoyment of the fullest intimacy was such that, if
one of them died before his time, the survivors did not mourn his
death as if it called for sympathy.