Epicurus and Hedonism
ETH62192 Université du Québec à Rimouski December 20, 2002
Epicurus has been praised by some philosophers and utterly denounced by others. he was known for having
Epicurus. a native of Gargettos. The next year. not later than 352. Epicurus became unable to walk due to severe gout. after the death of Plato.
Epicurus was born in Samos about 342 B. 2002 [on line] http://94.C. Nonetheless. In 307 he returned to Athens. His father Neocles. he began to formulate a doctrine of his own.1 As time passed. Much debate over the merits of Epicurus’ hedonism has ensued over the last twenty-four centuries. Stimulated by his studies of Democritus’ writings. where the Platonic school was flourishing under the lead of Xenocrates. Consulted December 4..org/E/EP/EPICURUS. society of men and women. and up to that time unique. Epicurus joined his father at Colophon. which had just been restored to a nominal independence by Demetrius Poliorcetes.Introduction
Epicurus was a luminary in the ancient Greek world. when Antipater banished some 12. There he passed his days as the loved and venerated head of a remarkable.doc
. a small village of Attica.000 of the poorer citizens. At the age of eighteen. Epicurus went to Athens. seven years. famous for his hedonistic philosophy. I will examine Epicurus’ philosophy of hedonism as well as its philosophical bases. had settled in Samos. and there he lived for the rest of his life. The scene of his teaching was a garden.1911encyclopedia.htm
may be desired for itself. or in a high degree.edu/ivan/phil-309/17. things are termed good because they are of a nature to produce something desirable.maintained a cheerful attitude over and above that illness. the perfections proper to its nature. In order to fix its philosophical significance. The garden continued to be used by the school Epicurus had established.2 He died from kidney stones in 270 BC.ets. we may begin by observing that the word is employed firstly as an adjective and secondly as a substantive. or it may be sought as a means to some ulterior end. …Again we sometimes call a thing good because it possesses completely.org/cathen/06636b. Sometimes. That is to say.
"Good" is one of those primary ideas which cannot be strictly defined. This distinction which is clearly marked in French by the two different terms.uidaho. If it is sought for itself. may be preserved in English by prefixing an article to the term when it is employed substantively. Consulted December 2. they are good casually. it is the end of our action.4
Epicurean Philosophy Consulted December 4. 3
Central to all of the ancient Greek philosophies was a concept of “good” According to the Catholic Encyclopedia.htm Epicurus [on line]. it is good because it is an efficient means to obtain a desired result. 2002 [on line] www. good respiration. and therefore desirable on its own account. that is. if it serves the purpose for which it is intended. it is or it is estimated by us to be a good.htm
56525821. We call a tool or instrument good.doc
. bon and le bien. in turn. Good. too. When we take some step to obtain it. 2002 [on line] http://www.newadvent.
Catholic Encyclopedia. as a good painting. The result.
This idea is developed further in the section Quid Pro Quo. gold taken in isolation from what t we can do with it is not good at all. of which I would be ashamed.) We determine whether or not something has an intrinsic value by assessing it in isolation from its results (what it leads to) and its causes (how did it arise). the honorable course of conduct is the one most conducive to my happiness. we note that some things. if you live on a desert island and cannot use at all a treasure you just found. (Otherwise an object may have only. They express the point by saying that to gain wealth in this way will not.doc
. That is. or it is bad) taken in itself.5 For example. gold has merely instrumental value. serve my interests. That is.Intrinsic and instrumental value
From the foregoing. 2002 [on line].
A question arises as to whether the value of human beings should be considered as intrinsic or instrumental. Those things that serve to produce other soughtafter goods can be deemed to possess “extrinsic” or “instrumental” value:
x has an intrinsic value (it is intrinsically good or bad) if an only if it has some value (it is good. Because classical ethics supposes
Intrinsic Value Consulted November 24. can be termed to possess “intrinsic value”. Suppose I find myself in a situation where I can increase my wealth. which can be valued for themselves.
Happiness and Morality
Classical theories typically identify either happiness itself or its dominant component with either the possession or exercise of moral virtue. instrumental or extrinsic value.htm Ibid. they recommend that I abstain from the base action.edu/~sencerz/intrinsic. Since the classical theories hold that avoiding shame takes priority over gaining wealth. at most. http://www.tamucc. then it has no value for you. all things considered. but only by performing a base action.
for example.wlu. 2002 [on line]. Aristotle is the model eudaimonist. and it is wrong (or impermissible or forbidden or immoral) for everyone not to pursue his or her welfare or interests. 2002 [on line] http://www. Eudaimonism.htm
Lecture 2 Consulted December 19.in calculating what is best for us on the whole. Wood.moral self-worth can be treated as part of the same system of evaluation as other goods.newadvent.com/
Catholic Encyclopedia: Hedonism.stanford. and really the founder of eudaimonism.htm
56525821. 2002 [on line] http://home. Yale University Consulted November 28.edu/~allenw/papers/Eudaimonism. when he decides that you are better off suffering injustice than doing it.7
The word eudaimonism is derived from the Greek word for happiness (eudaimonia).http://www.and prevail against them -. they treat it as an object that can be weighed against them -.doc
Eudaimonism Consulted November 24.edu/~mahonj/Ethics/Ethics_Lecture2. It means the state of perfection in which is constituted when he exercises his highest faculty. Kant vs. Consulted December 2. according to which it is right for everyone to pursue my welfare or interests. on its highest good. in highest function.doc
This is the ethical theory that it is right (or required or obligatory or moral) for everyone to pursue his or her own welfare or interests. This is solely a technical term and has no popular equivalent. and refers to
any conception of ethics that puts human happiness and the complete life of the individual at the center of ethical concern.8 The the man its Aristotelian idea is more correctly rendered in English by term well-being. http://eudaimonism.) Ethical Egoism is categorical: you ought to pursue your own welfare or interests! 10
Allen W. (This is to be distinguished from Ethical Egomania. though sometimes humanism comes close.org/cathen/07187a. This is what Socrates does. 2002 [on line].
In these cases. The Cyrenaics were named after their native city of Cyrene in North Africa. 2002 [on line] http://www. Their focus on the pleasure of the moment as the supreme good reflected a general skepticism: Only immediate sensations can be known. Gross excess and reckless abandon in sexuality and the use of alcohol are associated with this particular philosophical principal. and should therefore be avoided. 2002 [on line] http://www.HEDONISM
Epicurus’ philosophy falls into both the categories of ethical as well as egoistic hedonism with certain qualifications.utm. Consulted November 30. Greek religious devotion to the god Dionysius and later Roman celebrations of the Bacchanalia. Concern with the past or the future causes uncertainty and anxiety.com/jenn%20torgerson/epicurus.13
Ethics: Sophia on the web: Articles about Philosophers and Philosophical Topics Consulted November 24. Hedonism. as will be shown. orgiastic festivals honoring Bacchus.angelfire. the celebrant sought liberation from every-day inhibitions and a mystical experience of ecstasy.com/az/experiment/hedonism.htm
Nominis Expers.aol. aided at times by temple prostitutes. and Egoistic hedonism
Philosophers commonly distinguish between psychological hedonism and ethical hedonism.
Development of Hedonism
As a philosophy. Ethical hedonism is the view that our fundamental moral obligation is to maximize pleasure or happiness. Ethical.doc
. hedonism is ancient:
The roots of Hedonism can be traced back to the fifth century BC to the ancient Greek school of the Cyrenaics. the god of wine are similar manifestations of a Cyrenaic-style Hedonism. Psychological hedonism is the view that humans are psychologically constructed in such a way that we exclusively desire pleasure.html
Hedonism Consulted November 30. 2002 [on line] http://members.11 Egoistic hedonism [is] the doctrine that the pursuit of one's own pleasure is the highest good and the criterion of right action.edu/research/iep/h/hedonism.
too much of a good thing is not always a good thing. Contrary to the way many view hedonism. Aristotle argued that the pleasure accompanying a worthy activity is good.14
Epicurus’ brand of hedonism. 2002 [on line] http://hrumachis.doc
. Industrial Religion. sustainable level of happiness and pleasure throughout one’s life. As much as Hedonism is about the presence of pleasure. he was already developing his pleasure-at-any-cost philosophy. In a similar manner. it is also about an absence of pain. since.
Epicurus’ philosophy is a remarkably temperate one.16
What Epicurus advocated was not a pleasure-at-all-costs philosophy:
The intelligent hedonist simply seeks to secure for himself the most pleasure in life and the least pain.15 founder of the Playboy empire.xoasis.html
56525821. He will frequently choose to suffer momentary pain if it enables him
Jay Hanson. 2002 [on line] http://raven. Consulted December 2. Hedonism Consulted December 4. He stresses the limitation of desire as a central means of satisfying desire. concentrating on finding a balanced.edu/departments/comDesign/seminar/newmedia2000/ism/hedonism/index3.
Scott Weinfeld. which could be more properly called “tranquillity” (the closest English word for the Greek ataraxia). but the pleasure accompanying an unworthy activity is bad. which he subsequently marketed.Not all ancient Greek philosophers agreed with the pleasure principle advocated by hedonism:
Plato opposed hedonism by arguing that if a life which includes both pleasure and wisdom is more desirable than one which includes pleasure alone.ubalt. That combination assures a certain moderation.com/industrial_religion. is far removed from the gross sensuality mentioned above as well as the radical form of hedonism propounded by Hugh Hefner.html
At the time my mother knew him (when they were both students at the University of Illinois in the 1940s). then pleasure can't be the only good. as the average college freshman could tell you.
all pleasure because it is naturally akin to us is good. the man is not able to live wisely.19
However. is more than compensated for by the permanently improved health it can produce. therefore. states “Now..”
Eiichi Shimomissé. strictly speaking. and other virtues as morally good and pleasure as.gnome007. Therein lie certain problems (see the following section for a discussion of these issues). for that reason we do not choose every pleasure whatsoever but [often] pass over many pleasures when a greater annoyance issues from them.to gain more lasting pleasure.fsnet. it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life. but that you will have a certain degree of pain: it will hurt you. justice. It is by measuring one against the other and looking at the conveniences and inconveniences that all those matters must be judged. at best. and he will always avoid an over-indulgence of physical appetite or desire that brings an unpleasant consequence. When the dentist says that this is relatively painless what he really means is not that you will have a certain degree of painlessness. http://www. While. 2002 [on line] www. And [often] we consider pain superior to pleasures. but for Epicurus.
We usually think of charity. it encourages them. honor.18
Epicurus’ ataraxia does not preclude the development of virtues. in his work Adunamantic Hedonism (Sydney: Monash University. p..uk/epicphilo. In fact.doc
Dirk Baltzly. The temporary pain of a surgical operation17. painlessness. Whenever any one of these is lacking. but it won’t hurt you as much as some other procedures might. for instance. compassion. [Epicurus] describes quite explicitly the conduct that wisdom… dictates: Even though pleasure is our first and native goal. just as all pain is evil but all pain is not shunned. doesn’t admit of degrees. when. the reasons Epicurus offers for doing so are that it is in our own self-interest to do so. morally neutral.6).co.csudh. Ethics And an Inquiry Into Morality Consulted December 4. wisdom. and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. and submit to pain for a long time when it is attended for us with greater pleasure. behavior in pursuit of pleasure assured an upright life.htm
Epicurus Philosopher. humility. though he lives honorably and justly. for instance.html
56525821. It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly. 1997. Consulted November 24 [on line]. not all pleasure is worthy to be chosen.
newadvent.org/cathen/07187a. the worst reproach that can be addressed to me. and if conduct which leads to happiness is good. Consulted December 2. is that I have made an imprudent choice. no sanction for duty. Pleasure is essentially subjective feeling. universal norms is the subjectivity of pleasure. The Catholic Encyclopedia offers the following criticism:
No general code of morality could be established on the basis of pleasure.20
When the desires of one’s ego constitute the balance by which all things must be weighed. What is more pleasurable for one may be less so for another.21
Catholic Encyclopedia: Hedonism.htm
Ibid. Hence. performing deeds outside of one’s self-interest becomes superfluous:
Hedonism has no ground for moral obligation.Criticism
One difficulty to establishing any consistent. If I must pursue my own happiness. 2002 [on line] http://www. and only the individual is the competent judge of how much pleasure or pain a course of action affords him. however base my conduct may be.doc
56525821. on hedonistic grounds. it is evident that there could be no permanently and universally valid dividing line between right and wrong.
The more one tries to seize it.htm
See the Annex for an imaginary account of how Epicurus would not have benefited because of this flaw of his philosophy. It is like the rainbow which retreats as one approaches it. Epicurus states that human beings merit our good treatment because it is in our interest to be well treated by them. His philosophy fails. on a societal level. however. the less one finds it. 2002 [on line] http://www. Richard Crabtree Secular Threats to Christianity: Hedonism.
…those who follow this way of life face what the philosophers of ethics call "The Paradox of Hedonism. neglected. is we can in our turn expect to be well treated only to the extent that we are perceived to promote the interest of our neighbour.
Quid pro quo
As mentioned earlier. the more elusive it becomes. or 2) to avoid maltreating another if he is not in a position to maltreat us in return." It is this: pleasure is not gained by pursuit. is that the way to manage desires is to simplify and reduce them. This leads to the development of asceticism. to provide us adequate motivation : 1) to do good to another when he is not in a position to advance our aims.doc
Epicurus’ position. however.dabar. We may be ill treated.org/semreview/volume06/issue3/v6i3a1. The more one seeks it. The implication of this.The Paradox of Hedonism
Following desires in an endless desire to pursue them will not result in quenching them. Consulted December 2.23 This allows for the value of human beings to be instrumental rather than intrinsic. or ignored if we are perceived too insignificant to either threaten or
We would be better served by paradigms that specify that humans have absolute (intrinsic) value – thus the need for an ethic that is no longer egocentric. it is advantageous to be content with little. or rather ataraxia. If you are of instrumental value to me. As a basis on which to treat others.
The hedonism proposed by Epicurus certainly has some merit. Individually. and fulfillment in a society that operates exclusively on Epicurean principles.
However. If I should treat my fellow man well because of expected reciprocation. still has its place – but must be subordinate to the intrinsic value that we as human beings deserve. Hedonism. the scope of one’s own personal pleasure (especially the tendency to consider other people and things as having instrumental value) is far too limited and inadequate to bring us security on a societal level. Materialistically. comfort. Epicurus’ philosophy does not address the reasons why I should bother to do so when he can neither threaten or promote my interests. individuals will not necessarily find the security. then I am of instrumental value to you. Unfortunately. therefore neither of us has any basis for security.promote his interest. which seem to operate on such Epicurean norms. this latter case is typical of modern occidental societies. we should try to conduct our lives with a balance that will tend towards contentment. Epicurus proposes certain bases on which we might well find it in our own interest to develop virtues.doc Page 10
. Andy Murphy 56525821.
Annex – Epicurus Drowning
The following24 takes place in ancient Greece. I will certainly reward you. Epicurus is not so fortunate. Perhaps these bubbles contain the beginnings of a new theory about duty and conscience. Epicurus: Your senses do not mislead you. Epicurus died from kidney stones. dear sir. The sceptic manages to regain his footing and grasp the railing just in time. why should I trouble myself? I have no desire to ruin my fine garments. but would you please pull me out of the river? Sceptic: But. Epicurus: Do you place no value upon the practice of virtues – especially generosity ? Sceptic: But. the bridge breaks. Sceptic: I have no need of any rewards you could bestow on me. five philosophers can be found in Athens for only one fancy tunic such as this). is it not? If I am instrumental in ending your suffering as well as serving my own preferences not to ruin my garments. alas. you yourself have said that I have nothing to fear from wrathful gods who would otherwise punish me. I see. Due to a structural defect. Epicurus: If you extend this service to me.
As stated earlier. if you drown. and philosophers are of less value to me than my attire (indeed. is that not so? Epicurus’ answer to this challenge then begins to make its way to the surface of the water in the form of bubbles.
56525821. Epicurus: Save me. Sceptic: You are in a state of suffering. would have been more convenient for Epicurus to have developed at an earlier time. and he falls headlong into the river. my dear Epicurus. This scenario is purely a product of my imagination. not from drowning. am I not? Furthermore. I am serving both your interests and mine.doc
. Epicurus and a sceptic are crossing a bridge over a river. which. your suffering is indeed ended.
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