Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Plain Living and High Thinking: An Imaginary Interview with the Greek Philosopher Epicurus

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Plain Living and High Thinking: An Imaginary Interview with the Greek Philosopher Epicurus

Article excerpt

* Posterity has seen you as a pleasure-seeker and your philosophy as pure hedonism - the opposite of the truth, since your whole philosophy of pleasure revolves around the idea of moderation. But what is it based on?

Epicurus: Firstly, on the idea that pleasure is the beginning and end of a happy life. We seek pleasure only when we are suffering as a result of the absence of pleasure, and when we are not suffering, it is of no concern to us. Secondly, on an ordering of our desires: some are necessary, others merely natural, and yet others vain. By necessary desires we mean those that relieve some pain, like the desire to drink when we are thirsty; by natural but not necessary desires, we mean those that simply diversify our pleasures without relieving pain - like the desire to drink good wine. Among vain desires is the desire to offer wreathes or erect statues.

Desires which, if unfulfilled, do not cause pain are not necessary. They involve an appetite that may easily be restrained whenever it is hard to satisfy, or when it is harmful. Natural desires whose non-fulfillment does not cause pain and which take the form of a violent appetite are desires formed by an empty mind. Such pleasure as they bring comes not from them but from our vanity.

* In what forms of behaviour is this ethic expressed in daily, life?

Epicurus: The simplest of dishes give as much pleasure as a groaning board when the suffering caused by want is absent. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.