LETTER TO MENOECEUS PDF

Epicurus is referring to pleasure as a state of well-being and not as a temporary state of excitement and sensual stimulus. In other words, to dwell in a tranquil state of mind that is devoid of pain and fear. When an Epicurean chooses a particular course of action over other alternatives, the chosen action is almost always a pleasurable one; not because it gives us immediate happiness but creates conditions for lasting peace and inner harmony. Hence, the pleasure offered by the choice is not inherent in the action per se, but in the overall scheme of things and in the sense of emotional and physical well-being in the broad sense of the word.

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Epicurus is referring to pleasure as a state of well-being and not as a temporary state of excitement and sensual stimulus. In other words, to dwell in a tranquil state of mind that is devoid of pain and fear. When an Epicurean chooses a particular course of action over other alternatives, the chosen action is almost always a pleasurable one; not because it gives us immediate happiness but creates conditions for lasting peace and inner harmony.

Hence, the pleasure offered by the choice is not inherent in the action per se, but in the overall scheme of things and in the sense of emotional and physical well-being in the broad sense of the word. Epicurus also believed that it is intrinsic in us to live a good life — one that is just, balanced and tranquil. This striving to achieve the good life is the prime mover behind human actions and the guiding factor in this pursuit is the pleasure factor.

Does Epicurus think that it is good for us to seek every pleasure? What reasons does he give for his view? Epicurus does not think that every pleasure is good for us. In his letter to Menoeceus, he qualifies the following apparently pleasurable experiences as not true pleasure: frivolous merriment, bodily titillation or reveling in good food. These pleasures are enjoyable while they last, but in terms of their effect over a longitudinal analysis, they do more harm than good.

Epicurus gives the example of barley bread and water. When someone is pampered with sensual excesses, they will lose the capacity to experience more modest pleasures. But it is the modest pleasures that we are to avail in the long term and hence it is prudent to condition ourselves to experience this. And the best way of conditioning ourselves is through moderating our sensual experiences. Epicurus also refers to other similar examples such as unscrupulous debauchery in the form of indiscriminate sexual intercourse, numerous drinking parties and consuming exotic cuisine; all of which will ultimately lead to painful situations in the future in the form of deprivation, longing and boredom.

Does Epicurus think it is possible to lead a virtuous but unpleasant life? Conversely, any action of ours that is based on a striving for pleasure is undeniably virtuous. Hence the author is equating those cherished virtues of sensibility, nobility and justice to the concept of pleasure.

This assertion can be extended to mean that only that which is sensible which brings greater pleasure; only that which is just which is informed by a sense of pleasure; only that is noble which is based on our primary instinctive good.

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Summary of Epicurus’ Letter to Menoeceus

Virtues What to read to know his philosophy? Lucretius is a good source. Several translations are even in the public domain. Any book to compare epicurean philosophy with modern philosophy? Can you recommend any books or articles that give a good introduction?

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Commentary on Epicurus’ “Letter to Menoeceus”

It is to this last letter that we are interested in now. Indeed, it is, for one, neither too early nor too late, when it comes to ensuring the health of his soul. Besides, whoever said that the time to philosophize is not yet come, or that time is past, like the one that says, in the case of happiness, that his time has not yet come or that it is not. So the young man should, like the old man, philosophize in this way, the second, while aging, rejuvenate the past thanks to the property, because he will devote their gratitude, and the first will be at the same time young and far advanced in years, because he will not fear the future. So be what produces happiness the object of his care, as it is true that, when present, we have everything and that when he is absent, we do everything for it. Accustom thyself also in the thought that death is nothing for us, since every good and evil lie in sensation and that death is deprivation of sensation.

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