Diogenes Laertius Lives of Eminent Philosophers Book X

I know not how to conceive the good, apart from the pleasures of taste, of sex, of sound, and the pleasures of beautiful form. pg. 535

Hoist all sail, my dear boy, and steer clear of all culture. pg. 535

Nay, let them go hang: for, when laboring with an idea, he too had the sophist's off-hand boastfulness like many another servile soul. pg. 537

at all events they were content with a cup of thin wine and were, for the rest, thoroughgoing water-drinkers. He further says that Epicurus did not think it right that their property should be held in common, as required by the maxim of Pythagoras about the goods of friends; such a practice in his opinion implied mistrust, and without confidence there is no friendship. pg. 539-541

Athenaeus quote “You toil, 0 men, for paltry things and incessantly begin strife and war for gain; but nature's wealth extends to a moderate bound, whereas vain judgments have a limitless range.” pg. 541

But as to the conduct of life, what we ought to avoid and what to choose, he writes as follows. Before quoting his words, however, let me go into the views of Epicurus himself and his school concerning the wise man.

There are three motives to injurious acts among men—hatred, envy, and contempt; and these the wise man overcomes by reason. Moreover, he who has once become wise never more assumes the opposite habit, not even in semblance, if he can help it. He will be more susceptible of emotion than other men: that will be no hindrance to his wisdom. However, not every bodily constitution nor every nationality would permit a man to become wise.

Even on the rack the wise man is happy. He alone will feel gratitude towards friends, present and absent alike, and show it by word and deed. When on the rack, however, he will give vent to cries and groans. As regards women he will submit to the restrictions imposed by the law, as Diogenes says in his epitome of Epicurus' ethical doctrines. Nor will he punish his servants; rather he will pity them and make allowance on occasion for those who are of good character.

Epicureans do not suffer the wise man to fall in love; nor will he trouble himself about funeral rites; according to them love does not come by divine inspiration: so Diogenes in his twelfth book. The wise man will not make fine speeches. No one was ever the better for sexual indulgence, and it is well if he be not the worse.

Nor, again, will the wise man marry and rear a family—so Epicurus says in the Problems and in the On Nature. Occasionally he may marry owing to special circumstances in his life. Some too will turn aside from their purpose. Nor will he drivel, when drunken: so Epicurus says in the Symposium. Nor will he take part in politics, as is stated in the first book On Life; nor will he make himself a tyrant; nor will he turn Cynic (so the second book On Life tells us); nor will he be a mendicant.

But even when he has lost his sight, he will not withdraw himself from life: this is stated in the same book. The wise man will also feel grief, according to Diogenes in the fifth book of his Epilecta. And be will take a suit into court. He will leave written words behind him, but will not compose panegyric. He will have regard to his property and to the future.

He will be fond of the country. He will be armed against fortune and will never give up a friend. He will pay just so much regard to his reputation as not to be looked down upon. He will take more delight than other men in public festivals.

The wise man will set up votive images. Whether he is well off or not will be matter of indifference to him. Only the wise man will be able to converse correctly about music and poetry, without however actually writing poems himself. One wise man does not move more wisely than another. And he will make money, but only by his wisdom, if he should be in poverty, and he will pay court to a king, if need be. He will be grateful to anyone when he is corrected.

He will found a school, but not in such a manner as to draw the crowd after him; and will give readings in public, but only by request. He will be a dogmatist but not a mere skeptic; and he will be like himself even when asleep. And he will on occasion die for a friend.

The school holds that sins are not all equal; that health is in some cases a good, in others a thing indifferent; that courage is not a natural gift but comes from calculation of expediency; and that friendship is prompted by our needs. One of the friends, however, must make the first advances (just as we have to cast seed into the earth), but it is maintained by a partnership in the enjoyment of life's pleasures.

Two sorts of happiness can be conceived, the one the highest possible, such as the gods enjoy, which cannot be augmented, the other admitting addition and subtraction of pleasures.

No means of predicting the future really exists, and if it did, we must regard what happens according to it as nothing to us. pg. 661

Peace of mind and freedom from pain are pleasures which imply a state of rest; joy and delight are seen to consist in motion and activity pg. 661

Letter to Menoeceus

Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. 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 is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the 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.

Those things which without ceasing I have declared unto you, do them, and exercise yourself in them, holding them to be the elements of right life. First believe that God is a living being immortal and blessed, according to the notion of a god indicated by the common sense of mankind; and so believing, you shall not affirm of him anything that is foreign to his immortality or that is repugnant to his blessedness. Believe about him whatever may uphold both his blessedness and his immortality. For there are gods, and the knowledge of them is manifest; but they are not such as the multitude believe, seeing that men do not steadfastly maintain the notions they form respecting them. Not the man who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them is truly impious. For the utterances of the multitude about the gods are not true preconceptions but false assumptions; hence it is that the greatest evils happen to the wicked and the greatest blessings happen to the good from the hand of the gods, seeing that they are always favorable to their own good qualities and take pleasure in men like themselves, but reject as alien whatever is not of their kind.

Accustom yourself to believing that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply the capacity for sensation, and death is the privation of all sentience; therefore a correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life a limitless time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. For life has no terrors for him who has thoroughly understood that there are no terrors for him in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer.

But in the world, at one time men shun death as the greatest of all evils, and at another time choose it as a respite from the evils in life. The wise man does not deprecate life nor does he fear the cessation of life. The thought of life is no offense to him, nor is the cessation of life regarded as an evil. And 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. And he who admonishes the young to live well and the old to make a good end speaks foolishly, not merely because of the desirability of life, but because the same exercise at once teaches to live well and to die well. Much worse is he who says that it were good not to be born, but when once one is born to pass quickly through the gates of Hades. For if he truly believes this, why does he not depart from life? It would be easy for him to do so once he were firmly convinced. If he speaks only in jest, his words are foolishness as those who hear him do not believe.

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 blessed 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 for anything else by which the good of the soul and of the body will be fulfilled. When we are pained because of the absence of pleasure, then, and then only, do we feel the need of pleasure. Wherefore we call pleasure the alpha and omega of a blessed 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 whatsoever, but will 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 should be chosen, 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, that 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 once the pain of want has been removed, while bread and water confer the highest possible pleasure when they are brought to hungry lips. To habituate one's self, therefore, to simple and inexpensive diet supplies all that is needful for health, and enables a man 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 revelry, not sexual lust, 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 tumults take possession of the soul. Of all this the beginning and the greatest good is wisdom. Therefore wisdom is a more precious thing even than philosophy ; from it spring all the other virtues, for it teaches that we cannot live pleasantly without living wisely, honorably, and justly; nor live wisely, honorably, and justly without living pleasantly. 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 man? He holds a holy belief concerning the gods, and is altogether free from the fear of death. He has diligently considered the end fixed by nature, and understands how easily the limit of good things can be reached and attained, and how either the duration or the intensity of evils is but slight. 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.

Exercise yourself in these and related precepts day and night, both by yourself and with one who is like-minded; then never, either in waking or in dream, will you be disturbed, but will live as a god among men. For man loses all semblance of mortality by living in the midst of immortal blessings.

Letter to Herodotus

To the former, then—the main heads—we must continually return, and must memorize them so far as to get a valid conception of the facts, as well as the means of discovering all the details exactly when once the general outlines are rightly understood and remembered; since it is the privilege of the mature student to make a ready use of his conceptions by referring every one of them to elementary facts and simple terms. For it is impossible to gather up the results of continuous diligent study of the entirety of things, unless we can embrace in short formulas and hold in mind all that might have been accurately expressed even to the minutest detail. pg. 567

Again, we must suppose that nature too has been taught and forced to learn many various lessons by the facts themselves, that reason subsequently develops what it has thus received and makes fresh discoveries, among some tribes more quickly, among others more slowly, the progress thus made being at certain times and seasons greater, at others less. pg. 605

Nay more: we are bound to believe that in the sky revolutions, solstices, eclipses, risings and settings, and the like, take place without the ministration or command, either now or in the future, of any being who it the same time enjoys perfect bliss along with immortality. For troubles and anxieties and feelings of anger and partiality do not accord with bliss, but always imply weakness and fear and dependence upon one's neighbors. Nor, again, must we hold that things which are no more than globular masses of fire, being at the same time endowed with bliss, assume these motions at will. Nay, in every term we use we must hold fast to all the majesty which attaches to such notions as bliss and immortality, lest the terms should generate opinions inconsistent with this majesty. Otherwise such inconsistency will of itself suffice to produce the worst disturbance in our minds. Hence, where we find phenomena invariably recurring, the invariability of the recurrence must be ascribed to the original interception and conglomeration of atoms whereby the world was formed. pg 607

Further, we must hold that to arrive at accurate knowledge of the cause of things of most moment is the business of natural science, and that happiness depends on this (viz. on the knowledge of celestial and atmospheric phenomena), and upon knowing what the heavenly bodies really are, and any kindred facts contributing to exact knowledge in this respect. pg 607

Further, we must recognize on such points as this no plurality of causes or contingency, but must hold that nothing suggestive of conflict or disquiet is compatible with an immortal and blessed nature. And the mind can grasp the absolute truth of this.

But when we come to subjects for special inquiry, there is nothing in the knowledge of risings and settings and solstices and eclipses and all kindred subjects that contributes to our happiness; but those who are well-informed about such matters and yet are ignorant—what the heavenly bodies really are, and what are the most important causes of phenomena, feel quite as much fear as those who have no such special information—nay, perhaps even greater fear, when the curiosity excited by this additional knowledge cannot find a solution or understand the subordination of these phenomena to the highest causes.

Hence, if we discover more than one cause that may account for solstices, settings and risings, eclipses and the like, as we did also in particular matters of detail, we must not suppose that our treatment of these matters fails of accuracy, so far as it is needful to ensure our tranquillity and happiness. When, therefore, we investigate the causes of celestial and atmospheric phenomena, as of all that is unknown, we must take into account the variety of ways in which analogous occurrences happen within our experience; while as for those who do not recognize the difference between what is or comes about from a single cause and that which may be the effect of any one of several causes, overlooking the fact that the objects are only seen at a distance, and are moreover ignorant of the conditions that render, or do not render, peace of mind impossible—all such persons we must treat with contempt. If then we think that an event could happen in one or other particular way out of several, we shall be as tranquil when we recognize that it actually comes about in more ways than one as if we knew that it happens in this particular way.

There is yet one more point to seize, namely, that the greatest ,anxiety of the human mind arises through the belief that the heavenly bodies are blessed and indestructible, and that at the same time they have volition and actions and causality inconsistent with this belief; and through expecting or apprehending some everlasting evil, either because of the myths, or because we are in dread of the mere insensibility of death, as if it had to do with us; and through being reduced to this state not by conviction but by a certain irrational perversity, so that, if men do not set bounds to their terror, they endure as much or even more intense anxiety than the man whose views on these matters are quite vague. But mental tranquillity means being released from all these troubles and cherishing a continual remembrance of the highest and most important truths.

Hence we must attend to present feelings and sense perceptions, whether those of mankind in general or those peculiar to the individual, and also attend to all the clear evidence available, as given by each of the standards of truth. For by studying them we shall rightly trace to its cause and banish the source of disturbance and dread, accounting for celestial phenomena and for all other things which from time to time befall us and cause the utmost alarm to the rest of mankind.

Here then, Herodotus, you have the chief doctrines of Physics in the form of a summary. So that, if this statement be accurately retained and take effect, a man will, I make no doubt, be incomparably better equipped than his fellows, even if he should never go into all the exact details. For he will clear up for himself many of the points which I have worked out in detail in my complete exposition; and the summary itself, if borne in mind, will be of constant service to him.

It is of such a sort that those who are already tolerably, or even perfectly, well acquainted with the details can, by analysis of what they know into such elementary perceptions as these, best prosecute their researches in physical science as a whole; while those, on the other hand, who are not altogether entitled to rank as mature students can in silent fashion and as quick as thought run over the doctrines most important for their peace of mind. pg. 607-613

Letter to Pythocles

But one must not be so much in love with the explanation by a single way as wrongly to reject all the others from ignorance of what can, and what cannot, be within human knowledge, and consequent longing to discover the undiscoverable. pg. 623

Unless this be done, the whole study of celestial phenomena will be in vain, as indeed it has proved to be with some who did not lay hold of a possible method, but fell into the folly of supposing that these events happen in one single way only and of rejecting all the others which are possible, suffering themselves to be carried into the realm of the unintelligible,. and being unable to take a comprehensive view of the facts which must be taken as clues to the rest. pg. 625

All this, Pythocles, you should keep in mind; for then you will escape a long way from myth, and you will be able to view in their connection the instances which are similar to these. But above all give yourself up to the study of first principles and of infinity and of kindred subjects, and further of the standards and of the feelings and of the end for which we choose between them. For to study these subjects together will easily enable you to understand the causes of the particular phenomena. And those who have not fully accepted this, in proportion as they have not done so, will be ill acquainted with these very subjects, nor have they secured the end for which they ought to be studied. pg. 643

Letter to Idomeneus

On this blissful day, which is also the last of my life, I write this to you. My continual sufferings from strangury and dysentery are so great that nothing could increase them; but I set above them all the gladness of mind at the memory of our past conversations. But I would have you, as becomes your lifelong attitude to me and to philosophy, watch over the children of Metrodorus.

Vatican Sayings

4. Every pain is easily disregarded; for any intense pain is brief, and the suffering brought on by a physical pain that lasts long is slight.

7. For a wrongdoer to be undetected is difficult; and for him to have confidence that his concealment will continue is impossible.

9. Necessity is an evil; but there is no necessity for continuing to live subject to necessity.

10. Remember that you are mortal and that, although having but a limited span of life, you have entered into discussions about nature for all time, and see “all things that are and will be and were before.”

11. Most men are in a coma when they rest, and mad when they act.

12. We have been born once and there can be no second birth. For all eternity we shall no longer be. But you, although you are not master of tomorrow, are postponing your happiness. We waste away our lives in delaying, and each of us dies without having enjoyed leisure.

15. We place a high value on our characters as if they were our own possessions whether or not we are virtuous and praised by other men. So, too, we must regard the characters of those around us if they are our friends.

16. No one chooses a thing realizing that it is evil; but when it appears as good in contrast to greater evil, he takes the bait and is caught.

17. We should not regard the young man as happy, but rather the old man whose life has been fortunate. The young man at the height of his power is often baffled by fortune and driven from his course; but the old man has come to anchor in age as in a harbor, and holds in certain and happy memory the accomplishments which he once could only hope for.

18. If sight, association, and intercourse are all removed, the passion of love is ended.

19. He has become an old man on the day on which he forgot his past blessings.

21. We must not resist Nature but submit to her. We shall satisfy her if we satisfy the necessary desires and also those bodily desires that cause us no harm while sternly rejecting those that are harmful.

23. Every friendship in itself is to be desired; but the initial cause of friendship is from its advantages.

24. Dreams have neither a divine nature nor a prophetic power, but they are the result of images that impress us.

25. Poverty, if measured by the natural purpose of life, is great wealth; but wealth, if not limited, is great poverty.

26. One must presume that long and short arguments contribute to the same end.

27. The benefits of other pursuits come to those who have reached the end of a difficult course, but in the study of philosophy pleasure keeps pace with growing knowledge; for pleasure does not follow learning; rather, learning and pleasure advance side by side.

28. Those who are hasty in making friends are not to be approved; nor should you commend those who avoid friendship, for risks must be run for its sake.

29. To be frank, I would prefer as I study nature to speak in revelations about what is of advantage to all men even though it be understood by none, rather than to conform to popular opinion and thus gain the scattered praise that is broadcast by the many.

30. Some men spend their whole life furnishing for themselves the things proper to life without realizing that at our birth each of us was poured a mortal brew to drink.

31. It is possible to provide security against other afflictions, but as far as death is concerned, we men all live in a city without walls.

32. The honor paid to a wise man is a great good for those who honor him.

33. The cry of the flesh bids us escape from hunger, thirst, and cold; for he who is free of these and expects to remain so might vie in happiness even with Zeus.

34. We do not so much need the help of our friends as the confidence of their help in need.

35. Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things only hoped for.

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

37. When confronted by evil the soul is weak, but not when faced with good; for pleasures make the soul secure but pains ruin it.

38. He is of very small account who sees many good reasons for ending his life.

39. Neither he who is always seeking material aid from his friends nor he who never thinks of such aid as possible is a true friend; for the one engages in petty trade, taking a favor instead of gratitude, and the other deprives himself of hope for the future.

40. He who says that all things happen by necessity can hardly find fault with the one who denies that all happens by necessity; for on his own theory this very argument is voiced by necessity.

41. 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.

42. The time of the beginning of the greatest good [pleasure] and the time of its enjoyment are one.

43. The love of money, if unjustly gained, is foolish, and, if justly, shameful; for it is offensive to be stingy even with justice on one's side.

44. The wise man who has become accustomed to the limits of necessity knows better how to share with others than how to take from them, so great a treasure of self-sufficiency has he found.

45. The study of nature does not create men who are fond of boasting and clamoring or who show off the education 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.

46. Let us completely banish our evil habits as if they were evil men who have done us long and grievous harm.

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

48. While we are on the journey of life, we must try to make what is before us better than what is past; but when we come to the journey’s end, we must be content and calm.

51. [addressing a young man] I understand from you that your natural disposition is too much inclined toward sexual passion. Follow your inclination as you will, provided only that you neither violate the laws, disturb well-established customs, harm any one of your neighbors, injure your own body, nor waste your possessions. That you be not constrained by one or more of these conditions is impossible; for a man never gets any good from sexual passion, and he is fortunate if he does not receive harm.

52. Friendship dances through the world bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness. [or to awaken and give thanks.]

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

54. It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth.

55. We should find solace for misfortune in the happy memory of the things that are gone and in the knowledge that what has come to be cannot be undone.

56-57. The wise man is not more pained when being tortured himself, than when seeing his friend tortured: but if his friend does him wrong, his whole life will be confounded by distrust and completely upset.

58. We must free ourselves from the prison of private and public affairs.

59. What cannot be satisfied is not a man’s belly, as men think, but rather his false idea about the unending filling of his belly.

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

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 a great incitement to this end.

62. If the anger of parents against their children is justified, it is quite pointless for the children to resist it and to fail to ask forgiveness. If the anger is not justified but is unreasonable, it is folly for an irrational child to appeal to someone deaf to appeals and not to try to turn it aside in other directions by a display of good will.

63. There is also a limit in simple living. He who fails to heed this limit falls into an error as great as that of the man who gives way to extravagance.

64. We should welcome praise from others if it comes unsought, but we should also be engaged in improving ourselves.

65. It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he can attain by his own power.

66. We show our feeling for [deceased] friends, not by wailing, but by pleasant recollection.

67. Since the attainment of riches can rarely be accomplished without servitude to crowds or sovereigns, a free life cannot obtain much wealth, but such a life has all necessities in unfailing supply. Should such a life happen to fall upon great wealth, this too it can share as to gain the good will of those about.

68. Nothing is ever enough for someone who regards enough as insufficient.

69. The thankless nature of the soul makes the creature endlessly hungry for refinements in its mode of living.

70. Throughout your life, do nothing that will cause you fear if it were to become known by your neighbor.

71. Evaluate each of your desires by this question: "What will happen to me if that which this desire seeks is attained, and what if it is not?"

73. When we have suffered certain bodily pains, they teach us to prevent others like them.

74. In a philosophical dispute, he who is defeated gains most, since he learns most.

75. The saying, "Behold the end of a long life," shows small thanks for past blessings.

76. As you mature, you are such as I urge you to be, and you have recognized the difference between studying philosophy for yourself and for Greece. I rejoice with you.

77. Freedom is the greatest fruit of self-sufficiency.

78. The noble man is chiefly concerned with wisdom and friendship; of these, the former is good for a lifetime, and the latter is good for all time.

79. He who has peace of mind disturbs neither himself nor another.

80. The first step towards salvation is to safeguard one’s youth and to forestall those [cultural] influences which spoil everything with insatiable desires.

81. The soul neither rids itself of confusion nor gains a joy worthy of the name through the possession of supreme wealth, nor by the honor and admiration bestowed by crowds, nor through any of the other things sought by unlimited desire.

Principal Doctrines

The four-fold cure for anxiety: Don't fear the gods; Nor death; Goods are easy to obtain; Evils are easy to endure

1. A blessed and imperishable being neither has trouble itself nor does it cause trouble for anyone else; therefore, it does not experience feelings of anger or indebtedness, for such feelings signify weakness.

2. Death is nothing to us, because a body that has been dispersed into elements experiences no sensations, and the absence of sensation is nothing to us.

3. Pleasure reaches its maximum limit at the removal of all sources of pain. When such pleasure is present, for as long as it lasts, there is no cause of physical nor mental pain present – nor of both together.

4. Continuous physical pain does not last long. Instead, extreme pain lasts only a very short time, and even less-extreme pain does not last for many days at once. Even protracted diseases allow periods of physical comfort that exceed feelings of pain.

Pleasure and virtue are interdependent

5. It is impossible to live pleasantly 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, one is not able to live wisely, though he lives honorably and justly) it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life.

Social and financial status have recognizable costs and benefits

6. That natural benefit of kingship and high office is (and only is) the degree to which they provide security from other men.

7. Some seek fame and status, thinking that they could thereby protect themselves against other men. If their lives really are secure, then they have attained a natural good; if, however, they're insecure, they still lack what they originally sought by natural instinct.

8. No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but some pleasures are only obtainable at the cost of excessive troubles.

Through the study of Nature, we discern the limits of things

9. If every pleasure could be prolonged to endure in both body or mind, pleasures would never differ from one another.

10. If the things which debauched men find pleasurable put an end to all fears (such as concerns about the heavenly bodies, death, and pain) and if they revealed how we ought to limit our desires, we would have no reason to reproach them, for they would be fulfilled with pleasures from every source while experiencing no pain, neither in mind nor body, which is the chief evil of life.

11. If we were never troubled by how phenomena in the sky or death might concern us, or by our failures to grasp the limits of pains and desires, we would have no need to study nature.

12. One cannot rid himself of his primal fears if he does not understand the nature of the universe but instead suspects the truth of some mythical story. So without the study of nature, there can be no enjoyment of pure pleasure.

13. One gains nothing by securing protection from other men if he still has apprehensions about things above and beneath the earth and throughout the infinite universe.

Unlike social and financial status, which are unlimited, Peace of mind can be wholly secured

14. Supreme power and great wealth may, to some degree, protect us from other men; but security in general depends upon peace of mind and social detachment.

15. Natural wealth is both limited and easily obtained, but vanity is insatiable.

16. Chance has little effect upon the wise man, for his greatest and highest interests are directed by reason throughout the course of life.

17. The just man is the freest of anyone from anxiety; but the unjust man is perpetually haunted by it.

18. When pain arising from need has been removed, bodily pleasure cannot increase – it merely varies. But the limit of mental pleasure is reached after we reflect upon these bodily pleasures and the related mental distress prior to fulfillment.

19. Infinite and finite time afford equal pleasure, if one measures its limits by reason.

20. Bodily pleasure seems unlimited, and to provide it would require unlimited time. But the mind, recognizing the limits of the body, and dismissing apprehensions about eternity, furnishes a complete and optimal life, so we no longer have any need of unlimited time. Nevertheless, the mind does not shun pleasure; moreover, when the end of life approaches, it does not feel remorse, as if it fell short in any way from living the best life possible.

21. He who understands the limits of life knows that things which remove pain arising from need are easy to obtain, and furnish a complete and optimal life. Thus he no longer needs things that are troublesome to attain.

Happiness depends on foresight and friendship

22. We must consider the ultimate goal to be real, and reconcile our opinions with sensory experience; otherwise, life will be full of confusion and disturbance.

23. If you argue against all your sensations, you will then have no criterion to declare any of them false.

24. If you arbitrarily reject any one sensory experience and fail to differentiate between an opinion awaiting confirmation and what is already perceived by the senses, feelings, and every intuitive faculty of mind, you will impute trouble to all other sensory experiences, thereby rejecting every criterion. And if you concurrently affirm what awaits confirmation as well as actual sensory experience, you will still blunder, because you will foster equal reasons to doubt the truth and falsehood of everything.

25. If you do not reconcile your behavior with the goal of nature, but instead use some other criterion in matters of choice and avoidance, then there will be a conflict between theory and practice.

26. All desires which create no pain when unfulfilled are not necessary; such desires may easily be dispelled when they are seen as difficult to fulfill or likely to produce harm.

27. Of all things that wisdom provides for living one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.

28. The same conviction which inspires confidence that nothing terrible lasts forever, or even for long, also enables us to see that in the midst of life's limited evils, nothing enhances our security so much as friendship.

29. Among desires some are natural and necessary, some natural but not necessary, and others neither natural nor necessary, but due to baseless opinion.

30. Those natural desires which create no pain when unfulfilled, though pursued with an intense effort, are also due to baseless opinion; and if they are not dispelled, it is not because of their own nature, but because of human vanity.

The benefits of natural justice are far-reaching

31. Natural justice is the advantage conferred by mutual agreements not to inflict nor allow harm.

32. For all living creatures incapable of making agreements not to harm one another, nothing is ever just or unjust; and so it is likewise for all tribes of men which have been unable or unwilling to make such agreements.

33. Absolute justice does not exist. There are only mutual agreements among men, made at various times and places, not to inflict nor allow harm.

34. Injustice is not an evil in itself, but only in consequence of the accompanying fear of being unable to escape those assigned to punish unjust acts.

35) It is not possible for one who secretly violates the provisos of the agreement not to inflict nor allow harm to be confident that he won’t get caught, even if he has gotten away with it a thousand times before. For up until the time of death, there is no certainty that he will indeed escape detection.

36. Justice is essentially the same for all peoples insofar as it benefits human interaction. But the details of how justice is applied in particular countries or circumstances may vary.

37. Among actions legally recognized as just, that which is confirmed by experience as mutually beneficial has the virtue of justice, whether it is the same for all peoples or not. But if a law is made which results in no such advantage, then it no longer carries the hallmark of justice. And if something that used to be mutually beneficial changes, though for some time it conformed to our concept of justice, it is still true that it really was just during that time – at least for those who do not fret about technicalities and instead prefer to examine and judge each case for themselves.

38. Where, without any change in circumstances, things held to be just by law are revealed to be in conflict with the essence of justice, such laws were never really just. But wherever or whenever laws have ceased to be advantageous because of a change in circumstances, in that case or time the laws were just when they benefited human interaction, and ceased to be just only when they were no longer beneficial.

So happiness can be secured in all circumstances

39. He who desires to live in tranquility with nothing to fear from other men ought to make friends. Those of whom he cannot make friends, he should at least avoid rendering enemies; and if that is not in his power, he should, as much as possible, avoid all dealings with them, and keep them aloof, insofar as it is in his interest to do so.

40. The happiest men are those who enjoy the condition of having nothing to fear from those who surround them. Such men live among one another most agreeably, having the firmest grounds for confidence in one another, enjoying the benefits of friendship in all their fullness, and they do not mourn a friend who dies before they do, as if there was a need for pity.

Epicurus considers things which bring relief from pain as natural and necessary, for instance, drinking to relieve thirst. Things that are natural but not necessary merely vary pleasure without removing pain, such as expensive foods. Neither natural nor necessary are, for example, kingship and the erection of statues in one's honor.

Epicurea (this does not include all of Usener's book)

Plutarch, Is “Live Unknown” a Wise Precept? 3, p. 1129A: {Rhetorically addressing Epicurus} Don’t send books everywhere to advertise your wisdom to every man and woman ... What sense is there in so many tens of thousands of lines honoring Metrodorus, Aristobulus, and Chaeredemus, and published with so much industry that they cannot remain unknown even after they’re dead? Who are you to call for the obliteration of virtue, the uselessness of skills, silence to philosophy, and forgetfulness of good deeds?

Testimonials (Compiled by Hermann Usener) Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.29 (Epicurus): Among the writings of Epicurus, the following are his best ... Principal Doctrines ... Ibid., 138: So then, let us put a seal, as they say, to my entire work and to this philosopher by relating below his Principal Doctrines, closing my entire work by making the end of it the beginning of happiness. Philodemus, On Anger, Column XLIII, Vol. Herc. alt. coll. I.66 p. 143 [Gomperz]: ... like some who, criticizing the Principal Doctrines in their writings, will act absolutely surprised that one might have the audacity to assert that anger, gratitude, and any similar feeling stem from weakness {c.f. PD 1}, while Alexander, who was more powerful than anyone else, was frequently subject to anger and demonstrated gratitude towards innumerable persons. Uncertain Epicurean Author, Column XV Vol. Herc. (2) alt. coll. XI.34, edited by Comparetti, Fragments of Epicurean Ethics, p. 19 [Rivista di filogogia, 7, p. 417]: We must also, accordingly, speak to the matter of external factors which contribute towards fame, to precisely establish what significance they might have to us, as for example: luxury, beauty, wealth in general, and marriage – as we have already mentioned. It is also for this reason also that they are dealt with in the Principal Doctrines, and would also say that... Uncertain Epicurean Author, Vol. Herc. (2) alt. coll. VII.21, Column XXVII: now, as for that which is closest to the matter at hand, we remain faithful to a book, having the title Principal Doctrines. Therein, Epicurus shows that that which is imperishable, by nature, insofar as the end... when he says ... Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, I.30.85 (Cotta to Velleius): In that selection of his concise sayings, which you call the Principal Doctrines, this, I believe, is his first: {proceeds to cite PD 1}. Cicero, On the Laws, I.7.21: Nor indeed can the Epicureans stand it, and will become very agitated, if they hear that you have betrayed the first maxim of that superlative work in which he wrote that “God doesn't trouble himself about anything – neither his own concerns nor those of others.” [PD 1] Cicero, On Ends, Good and Bad, II.7.20: In another book, containing a compendium of his most important doctrines, we are told he had expressed the very oracles of wisdom. Therein he writes the following words, (which surely you know, Torquatus, for who among you has not learned Epicurus’ Principal Doctrines – maxims that, notwithstanding their conciseness, are extraordinary useful for living happily?) [he proceeds to cite PD 10] Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library, XXV fragment 1, Dind.: The philosopher Epicurus, in those works of his entitled Principal Doctrines... Plutarch, Against Colotes, 31, p. 1125E: ... in the first of the Principal Doctrines, [PD 1], they directly subvert it [the social cohesion afforded by religion]. Lucian, Alexander the Oracle Monger, 47: In this connection [railing against Epicurean debunkers] Alexander once made himself supremely ridiculous. Coming across Epicurus’ Principal Doctrines, the most admirable of his books, as you know, with its terse presentment of his wise conclusions, he brought it into the middle of the marketplace, there burned it on a fig wood fire for the sins of its author, and cast its ashes into the sea. He issued an oracle on the occasion: “The dotard’s maxims to the flames be given.” The fellow had no conception of the blessings conferred by that book upon its readers, of the peace, tranquillity, and independence of mind it produces, of the protection it gives against terrors, phantoms, and marvels, vain hopes and insubordinate desires, of the judgment and candor that it fosters, or of its true purging of the spirit, not with torches and squills and such rubbish, but with right reason, truth, and frankness. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.31 (Epicurus): In the Canon, Epicurus specifically says that the standards of truth are the sensations, the preconceptions, and the passions. The Epicureans generally include mental impressions also. His own statements may be found in the summary addressed to Herodotus, and in the Principal Doctrines. [PD 24] Alciphron, Letters of Courtesans, 17.II.2 (Leontium depicted writing to Lamia): How long can one suffer this philosopher? Let him keep his books On Nature, the Principal Doctrines, The Canon, and, my lady, let me be mistress to myself, as Nature intended, without anger and abuse. Ibid., 7: Some flatter him and go about singing the praises of his Doctrines. Aelian (Claudius Aelianus), On Providence, fragment 61 [Suda, under Epicurus and klaein]: And the book had contained the doctrines of Epicurus which he called his Principal ones – Epicurus’ wicked sayings. Among these, indeed, there were also the following claims: that Creation was established by chance and not from the will and justice of God. Then, these rather celebrated atoms, by colliding with one another and then dispersing, formed the air, the earth, and the sea. Then the assemblies and compounds disintegrate and completely disappear, dissolving into atoms. All of creation, then, arises through necessity and happenstance, with no basis in the wisdom of the Creator. Moreover, Epicurus maintains that everything combined itself together without providence, without a helmsman, nor guide, nor shepherd... That one, however, sacrificed to the gods, and sent Epicurus and his Doctrines to the devil.


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.

Will the wise man do things that laws forbid, knowing that he will not be found out? A simple answer is not easy to find.

Prophecy does not exist, and even if it did exist, things that come to pass must be counted nothing to us.

Sexual intercourse has never benefited a man, and he is lucky if it has not harmed him.

It is strange indeed that you were not at all impeded by your youth, as you would say yourself, from attaining, young as you were, a distinction in the art of rhetoric far above all you contemporaries, even the experienced an famous. It is strange indeed, I say, that you were not at all impeded by your youth from winning distinction in the art of rhetoric, which seems to require much practice and habituation, whereas youth can be an impediment to the understanding of the true nature of the world, towards which knowledge might seem to contribute more than practice and habituation.

I do not know how I can conceive the good, if I withdraw the pleasures of taste, withdraw the pleasures of love, withdraw the pleasures of hearing, and withdraw the pleasurable emotions caused by the sight of a beautiful form.

The stable condition of well-being in the body and the sure hope of its continuance holds the fullest and surest joy for those who can rightly calculate it.

Beauty and virtue and the like are to be honored, if they give pleasure; but if they do not give pleasure, we must bid them farewell.

If they have this in mind, they are victorious over the evils of want and poverty.

Even if war comes, he would not count it terrible, if the gods are propitious. He has led and will lead a pure life in Matro’s company, by favor of the gods.

Tell me, Polyaenus, do you know what has been a great joy to us?

This drove him [Nausiphanes] to such a state of fury that he abused me and ironically called me Master.

I suppose that those grumblers will believe me to be a disciple of The Mollusk [Nausiphanes] and to have listened to his teaching in company with a few hard-drinking youths. For indeed the fellow was a bad man and his habits, as such, could never lead to wisdom.

I summon you to continuous pleasures and not to vain and empty virtues which have but a desperate hope for rewards.

I congratulate you, Apelles, in that you have approached philosophy free from all corruption.

If you two don’t come to me, I am capable of being persuade to rush on my own to wherever you and Themista summon me.

Send us therefore offerings for the sustenance of your sacred body on behalf of yourself and your children: this is how it occurs to me to put it.

Oh thou, who from youth has regarded all my prompting as sweet.

If you wish to make Pythocles rich, do not give him more money, but diminish his desire.

We think highly of frugality not that we may always keep to a cheap and simple diet, but as a means to keep us free from hunger.

On this truly happy day of my life, while 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 form your devotion from boy hood to me and to philosophy, take good care of the children of Metrodorus.

In your feeling of reverence for what I was then saying you were seized with an unaccountable desire to embrace me and clasp my knees and show me all the signs of homage paid by men in prayers and supplications to others; so you made me return all these proofs of veneration and respect to you. Go on thy way as immortal and think of us too as immortal.

Launch your boat, oh blessed youth, and flee at full speed from every form of culture.

We have arrived at Lampsacus safe and sound—Pythocles, Hermarchus, Ctesippus and I—and there we found Themista and our other friends all well. I hope you too are well and your mamma, and that you are always obedient to Papa and Matro, as you used to be. Let me tell you that the reason that I and all the rest of us love you is that you are always obedient to them.

A week before writing this, the stoppage became complete and I suffered pains such as bring men to their last day. If anything happens to me, do you look after the children of Metrodorus for four or five years, but do not spend any more on them than you now spend each year on me.

I am thrilled with pleasure in the body, when I live on bread and water, and I spit upon luxurious pleasures not for their own sake, but because of the inconveniences that follow them.

As I told you when you were going away, take care also of his brother Apollodorus. He is not a bad boy, but causes me anxiety, when he does what he does not mean to do.

Send me a pot of cheese, so that I may have a feast when I care to.

You have looked after me wonderfully generously in sending me food, and have given proofs heaven-high of your good will to me.

He shall realize a valuable return in the instruction which I have given him.

I never desired to please the rabble. What pleased them, I did not learn; and what I knew was far removed from their understanding.

Do not think it unnatural that when the flesh cries out, the soul cries too. The flesh cries out to be saved from hunger, thirst, and cold. It is hard for the soul to repress these cries, and dangerous for it to disregard nature’s summons, because the soul accustomed to independence day by day.

The man who follows nature and not groundless opinions is independent of all things. For in reference to what is enough for nature, every possession is riches—but in reference to unlimited desires, even the greatest wealth [is not riches but poverty].

Your anxiety is directly proportional to your forgetfulness of nature, for you bring on yourself unlimited fears and desires.

It is better for you to be free of fear lying upon a bed of straw, than to have a golden couch and a lavish table and be full of trouble.

… remembering your letter and your discussion about the men who are not able to see the analogy between phenomena and the unseen nor the harmony which exists between sensations and the unseen and again the contradiction…

Sweet is the memory of a deceased friend.

Do not avoid conferring small favors: for then you will likewise seem to be open to conferring great things.

If your enemy makes a request to you, do not scorn his request; but keep on your guard; for he is like a dog.

Vain is the word of a philosopher which does not heal any suffering of man. For just as there is no profit in medicine if it does not expel the diseases of the body, so there is no profit in philosophy either, if it does not expel the suffering of the mind.

Nothing new happens in the universe, as compared to the infinite span of time that has already passed.

We shall not be considering them [the gods] any happier or less destructible, if we think of them as neither speaking nor conversing with one another, but resembling dumb men.

Let us at least offer pious and noble sacrifices where it is customary, and let us do all things lawfully while not troubling ourselves with common beliefs about what concerns the noblest and holiest of beings. Further, let us be free of any care in regard to their opinion. Thus, one may live in conformity with nature…

If the gods listened to the prayers of men, all men would quickly have perished: for they are always praying for evil against one another.

The beginning and the root of all good is the pleasure of the stomach; even wisdom and culture must be referred to this.

We have need of pleasure when we suffer pain because of pleasure's absence; but when we are not feeling such pain, though we are in a condition of sensation, we have no need of pleasure. For the pleasure which arises from nature does not produce wickedness, but rather the longing connected with vain fancies.

That which creates insuperable joy is the complete removal of a great evil. And this is the nature of good, if one can once grasp it rightly and then hold by it, rather than walking about tediously babbling about the good.

It is better to endure particular pains which produce greater satisfactions that we may enjoy. It is well to abstain from particular pleasures which produce more severe pains so that we may not suffer them.

Let us not blame the flesh as the cause of great evils, nor blame fate for our distresses.

Great pains will quickly put an end to life; but chronic pains are not severe.

Excessive pain will send you to death.

Through love of true philosophy, every troublesome and disturbing desire is ended.

Thanks be to blessed Nature because she has made what is necessary easy to supply, and what is not easy unnecessary.

It is common to find a man poor in determining the natural end of life but rich with empty fancies. For no fool is satisfied with what he has, but is distressed for what he has not. Just as men with a fever, through the malignancy of their disease, are always thirsty and desire the most injurious things, so too those whose mind is in an evil state are always poor in everything and in their greed are plunged into capricious desires.

Nothing satisfies the man who is not satisfied with a little.

Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth.

Most men fear frugality and through their fear are led to actions most likely to produce fear.

Many men when they have acquired riches have not found the escape from their ills but have only exchanged them for greater ills.

By means of occupations worthy of a beast, abundance of riches is heaped up, but a miserable life results.

Unhappiness comes either through fear or through vain and unbridled desire: but if a man curbs these, he can win for himself the blessedness of wisdom.

It is not deprivation of these things which is the source of pain; such unnecessary suffering arises from vain fancies.

The crude soul is puffed up by prosperity and cast down by misfortune.

Nature teaches us to pay little heed to what fortune brings, and when we are prosperous to understand that we are unfortunate, and when we are unfortunate not to regard prosperity highly, and to receive unemotionally the good things which come from fortune and to range ourselves boldly against the seeming evils which it brings: for all that the many regard as good or evil is fleeting, and wisdom has nothing in common with fortune.

He who least needs tomorrow, will most gladly greet tomorrow.

I spit upon the beautiful and those who vainly admire it, when it does not produce any pleasure.

The greatest fruit of justice is peace of mind.

Laws are made for the sake of the wise, not to prevent them from inflicting wrong but to secure them from suffering it.

Even if they [wrongdoers] are able to escape punishment, it is impossible to win security by escaping: and so the fear of the future which always presses upon them does not suffer them to be happy or to be free from anxiety in the present.

The man who has attained the natural end of the human race will be equally good, even when no one else is present.

A man who causes fear cannot be free from fear.

Happiness and blessedness do not correlate with abundance of riches, exalted positions, or offices or power, but with freedom from pain and gentleness of feeling and a state of mind that sets limits that are in accordance with nature.

Live in anonymity.

The pinnacle of pleasure is the removal of everything that pains.

We must say how best a man will maintain the natural end of life, and how one will not willingly at first pursue public office.

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