Epicurus has gotten a bit of a bum rap from posterity. While it's certainly true that he advocated the idea that pleasure was the highest good in life, it should also be noted that Epircurus was quite specific in which pleasures he thought could lead to sustainable happiness. And these were definitely not the kinds of material pleasures that you probably have in mind when you think of the word "epicurean." In fact, as you read Epicurus' "Letter to Menoeceus" and Cicero's "On Final Ends," you might find yourself actually surprised at just how conservative the Epicureans were when it came to the pursuit of pleasure
I. Before reading the selections from Epicurus and Cicero, read some selections from The Greek Anthology, a collection of short provocative poems from ancient Greece that celebrate the uninhibited pursuit of physical pleasure:
From you're reading of the selections included from the Greek Anthology, what are some of the attitudes that ancient Greek hedonists had towards pleasure, the body, and mortality?
Do you think that the philosophy of life described in this poems, if followed, would lead to a happire life for most people? Why or what not?
II. Having examined the attitudes of less sophisticated hedonists, it's now time to explore the more refined form of hedonism advocated by Epicurus and his followers:
What were the two main schools of hedonism in the ancient world? What were the major differences between these two schools when it came to the pursuit of pleasure? (Introduction)
Who was Epicurus, when did he live, and what was the origin of the name of his school? What was his character like? (Introduction)
What is the difference between static and kinetic pleasure? Which form of pleasure does Epicurus promote in his philosophy? (Introduction)
What are the different types of desires according to Epicurus. Which is the lowest type of desires according to Epicurus and why? Which are the highest type of desires? (Introduction)
What are Epicurus' beliefs concerning death? Why does he believe that death is ultimately nothing to fear? (Letter, §2)
What is the ultimate goal of life according to Epicurus? (Letter, §3)
Why does Epicurus believe that a sensible hedonist will ignore many seemingly desirable pleasures that come his or her way? What guidelines or suggestions does Epicurus give for the rational pursuit of pleasures? (Letter, §3)
Read only §8 of Cicero's On Final Ends. What are the arguments given to support the contention that friendship is necessary for pleasure, and hence for happiness?
If you think that you understand the basic ideas in the text, take the quiz for this unit.